• chapelhousecraft

Bedding into Bags: Machine needs to rest. Please wait a moment.

Upcycling polycotton duvet fabric into bags using In-R-Form interlining allows me to make different types of bags for different purposes, but it also changes how I sew. Sewing with a machine is an uneven process. Sometimes fabric glides through the machine, other times it does not. A sewer’s unity with her machine can be disrupted by these moments of uneven sewing. When making the bags moments of repetitive sewing (e.g. quilting the body of each bag) go smoothly (unless I put the sewing foot down in the wrong place). In contrast the bulkier sewing towards the end of each bag feels more like a fight between myself, bag and machine. I have to hold my arms in uncomfortable and ungainly shapes in order to feed the bags through the machine. Too often sewing the bags is not done in unity with the machine as I struggle to feed the bulky fabric through.

The machine I use is a Pfaff Quilt Ambition 630. This is a domestic computerised machine, capable of sewing 201 different stitches. As with other domestic machines it is possible to change each setting: stitch type, length and width, thread tension, position of the dog feeds (which determine how the fabric is taken through the machine), sewing foot type and foot tension (the foot keeps the fabric in place). However there is a trade-off here and the versatility of the Pfaff reduces its stamina. Unlike an industrial sewing machine, domestic ones are light weight and made from more plastic parts. They can perform more functions than their industrial cousins but are not designed for heavy or prolonged use.

The limited durability of the Pfaff is tested when forcing the bulky bag fabric through the machine. If the machine is forced beyond its limits, it risks overheating. The Pfaff has an inbuilt warning when over-used. The machine stops and the digital control panel displays the following error:

The required wait is very short (less than a minute). I usually find the warning amusing; my machine is telling me to take a break. Most of the time I respond with a smile, sit back, and wait for the machine, literally to cool down. But on some occasions, I resent the machine’s limitations that I credit to petulance. Rather than relaxing, the required pause intensifies my frustration.

Sewing the final stage of the last bag, the backpack, requires binding the two main seams with bias tape. This entails sewing considerable bulk over a narrow seam allowance on a curved seam. When binding the first seam the machine makes me wait three times, each time adding to my annoyance that the machine is not doing what I require it to do. However, for the second seam I rethink my approach. I slow down the pace of sewing and through taking a steadier approach finish the binding with no interruptions. The limits of the machine to do what I want requires a recalibration of how I use the machine. The fault is not with the machine rather how I use it.

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