Sewing History, Part IV: The first time I ever got laughed at by adults…

After my mom had found out that I had been secretly sewing Barbie clothes with her old green Bernina (without having ever been taught how to use it) she actually sat down with me and showed me how to sew backwards and make a zig-zag stitch. I think she might have even explained what all the specialty machine feet did and that they were not, as I had suspected, miniature mouse traps.

Knowing that I had her support and I didn’t have to hide my new hobby from her (or anyone else) was quite liberating…

One weekend two of my mom’s sisters (both of whom were avid seamstresses like her) were visiting and the three of them were in the TV room, most likely watching some BBC costume drama, and — surprise! surprise! — I was off down the hall sewing. I had run out of bobbin thread and started winding a new one, which I had always done by hand. As I wound the bobbin — something I’d done seemingly a million times – I had this flash of inspiration: that I would invent a machine that could wind bobbins! Immediately, knowing that there were three very seasoned seamstresses just a few steps away who would certainly be dying to hear this amazing news, I ran down the hall to the TV room — bobbin in hand — interrupted their movie, and boldly announced that “one day I’m going to invent a machine that will wind bobbins automatically!”

They all looked at me and then each other and burst out in laughter. I couldn’t figure out why my genius idea had been met with such ridicule — why weren’t they showering me with praise for the obvious technological advancement I was going to contribute to the world?!

“You’ve been winding all those bobbins by hand?!” said one of my aunts.

“Your sewing machine already does that!” said the other.

I think my face probably went purple and I started to cry. I asked my mom why she didn’t show me this feature when she taught me how to use the backstitch function and everything else; in between her laughter she said that it had never occurred to her that I didn’t know how to use the bobbin winder because I had been doing so much sewing that I must have already figured it out.

They tried their best to restore my bruised confidence and took me back to the sewing room to show me how to wind a bobbin with the machine. I sat there, just thinking over and over again: I wish I had learned this such a long time ago… it would have saved me so much time. And embarrassment!

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