Rekindle Your Wild Joy and Deep Belonging to the Earth

Machine Moment September 17, 2015

2face_sewingmachine_behindthevoiceactors.comWe who enjoy material prosperity in the modern day Industrial Growth Society are expected to chuck out imperfect possessions that we don’t use anymore and go buy new ones.

However, I like to repair and repurpose things, so I’ve been doing some mending.

Some of the clothes on the pile are nearly worn out. But that’s because they’re favorites and therefore too beloved to just let go softly into that dark night of the rubbish bin or consigned to a second life as cleaning rags without a fight. Others, I want to alter in some interesting way; to usher their good raw material into a new and more currently useable form.

Even though I’m much more skilled at sewing the archaic way, with a simple needle and thread, I got our old sewing machine out for the first time in many years to make the work go faster.

“Faster,” she said. Ha! As soon as I attempted to begin, the thread snarled up in incredible thick tangles over and over behind the bobbin. This being on the bottom side of the piece, I didn’t notice it until quite a few inches were already sewn and I was congratulating myself on the excellent choice to employ some metallic plug-in help. Then the snarl caught on the foot hardware and everything stopped cold. I turned the work over, and omg. In certain places, what was intended to be a neat row of small stitches was a mass two inches thick and a half-inch deep! What a mess.

I tried a few more times, with no luck. As a last desperate resort, I finally broke down and got out the owner’s manual to try and understand what was happening. Not surprisingly, this helped. Improper settings for the kind of material, thread, stitching style, etc., had indeed caused part of the problem.

But really, getting deeper to the core of the issue, machines have never liked me.

You’d think they would cut me some slack due to my family: my dad, a mechanic, served their kind his entire life. He worked on aircraft, cars, motorcycles, and small stroke engines like chainsaws and outboard motors. He even single-handedly rebuilt three-and-a-half P-51 warbird airplanes from the WWII era, one from a husk found abandoned out in the desert. And my mom cared for this exact same sewing machine for decades. Where’s the gratitude?

But machines don’t seem to think that way. It’s all about their needs and their individual relationships with us soft-bodied creatures, and something about me is apparently just too much water to their oil.

Thinking about it, maybe it’s because I’ve not given this one a name, nor painted Celtic knotwork all over it, or suchlike. I seem to get along better with the machines that I anthropomorphically spoil, or at least art up. Or perhaps it balked because I don’t use it enough, and it feels under-appreciated; without a strong purpose. Hm.

You reading this: how do YOU personally develop a mutually happy relationship with the machines in your life? Inquiring, frustrated minds want to know.

For myself, I think I am better off sticking mainly to simpler tools like the hand needle, thimble and thread. Even with it occasionally drawing blood and me taking a lot longer to complete tasks, there’s less wariness between us. We know what to expect from one another. We can get along.


18 Responses to “Machine Moment”

  1. JGavin Bergstrom Says:

    I’m up late yet again with a blaring noise in my ear and the neuralgia that accompanies. Thank you for the distraction. I should tell you that I own and use an old German Singer with a walking foot. I apply it to upholstery tasks and at times interesting, finagled, completely self guided applications that some call creative. Your machine doesn’t need love or any kind of relationship with you beyond experience. Trust me in this please and know that I as well have at times named my machine for lack of patience (ha ha aha!). Sounds to me from your description, your difficulty is “tension”. Interestingly, “tension” seems to be a state of reality none of us like very much.

    You should have an upper and lower tension adjustment on the machine. Depending on your thread (nylon as opposed to cotton, which you don’t want to use in my observation.) you will want to adjust the upper tension to control the upward lock of the thread after leaving the bobbin. So, turn your your belt knob by hand and make 5 or 6 stitches (easier to see the lock beneath the fabric) turn the fabric over and look at the lock; it should be secure and inline with the next lock. If not it is loose (if the lock is to tight the fabric will bunch up) turn your dial on the upper controller (this is where you thread the machine and should be round with numbers on it) counter clockwise (depending on the machine the numbers will go up or down) in small increments and if it does not tighten, repeat these steps as needed. Not to be too direct, but don’t attempt to make the adjustment while the machine is running (you can turn it on, but turn the the knob by hand) otherwise you may end up with a mess. You might try a little machine oil as well on the moving parts (should be a few little wholes around for that, small amount only). I wish you well with this, there is no better gratification then a self guided process with a positive outcome. I want to share something with you and am new to blog sites and things. So I copied the browser address here: has shared a video with you on YouTube:

    “Brewer and Shipley – Witchi-tai-to” — Originally composed by Jim Pepper, a jazz musician of Creek and Kaw Indian he…

    It was released on an Album in the late 60’s by Brewer and Shipley, it helps me when frustrated. Machines truly have no Conscious value, beyond what we manifest with them. At least for now, we can still call them tools. Which is another conversation all together (Orwell and his rumination).

    I have truly enjoyed your site and look forward to continued visits, if you don’t mind. I’m in a truly bad place and am not sure of myself.

    Thank you
    JGavin Bergstrom

    • Tina Fields Says:

      The tension was indeed the problem, as the manual showed me. You are right. And I’m glad my site gives you some joy.

      • Thanks Tina. It does make me happy to read your posts and truly it’s a reminder that others exist who share my enthusiasm for Nature. By the way, it’s a machine and there is no “right” (ha ha). Just the way it works as my own has taught me (although, calling it x%#/&& has it’s calming effects).

  2. JGavin Bergstrom Says:

    I apologize, my machine has an internal and external spring, clock wise will tighten the lock on your stitch and counter clockwise will loosen it. Truly, I hope this helps and you try again; The manifestation of your creative mind will be worth it. I know it always is for me.

    Thank you

    JGavin Bergstrom

  3. JGavin Bergstrom Says:

    I hope your not tired of my posts? I looked on youtube and there is a video “How to adjust Tension on your Sewing Machine”. It is a new machine and the example may not be all that helpful regarding hardware. However, the Rep does demonstrate visually the difference between a tight and loose stitch which might be helpful. If the machine was your Mom’s and more than likely was manufactured in the 50’s or 60’s the dial tensioner may not have numbers. In that case as I said in the earlier post; It is best to turn the stitches by hand and make the adjustment slowly. I hope you post some pictures.

    Thank you,
    Jgavin Bergstrom

  4. jeanne bowman Says:

    Like other life, the machines need context and history! Give her a past, as well as a future. ‘She who served my Grandmother well, aka, Grandmother’s Machine’, “Alan’s computer”, which is the one I use, but by having this lovely joint history we get along much better.

    • Tina Fields Says:

      Thanks, Jeanne! So a shared story makes for better community – including with machines. Do you think the machine has its own version? What would it tell? :-p

  5. Tim Lavalli (facebook link) Says:

    You don’t . . .

  6. Morgan Silverlocke (facebook link) Says:

    Speak to them nicely, using their names, of course. 🙂

  7. Brien Engel (facebook link) Says:

    The car gets called “Angel,” but that’s an occasional term of endearment. “Goldie” more formally. Sometimes, ‘the car.’ I try to mix it up.

    Said goodbye to my all-in-one printer last week, too much going wrong with it, even though it lasted many many years and brilliant service once over a massive family archive scanning job. Such a fine worker and friend. It was hard to drive to office supply store for trade-in discount for its successor. But when all-in inkjets go bad, their health care is stupid expensive compared to starting fresh.

    Now in my house recently purchased, I’ve let the air conditioning kick on and off all hot muggy summer. The lights work, the washer and dryer are working. I’ve been a bit work-distracted and it’s basically all going well. But it does make me feel like the house is running itself, I am its guest. There’s a Phillip K Dick story I’m reminded of here. “I hope I Shall Arrive Soon.”

    As to the house and its machines, I’m presently in that ‘thank-you, I’ll let you mysteriously do your thing’ place.

    But Tina, I like the stopping to help idea too and when I do and I solved it, it’s very gratifying! Sounds like you have a caring, diagnostic head which served you part of the way as you put. It’s apparently somewhat more complicated with the sewing machine. I’ll hope if you both are not satisfied and have time, it is worthwhile to make it happier.

    I think there probably is something to the idea of steady use keeping molecules line up optimally, for the machine version of that idea of sliding onto home plate with the ‘whee what a ride!’

    • Tina Fields Says:

      Brien, your relationship with your printer warms the cockles of me heart. Yes, that’s the rub, isn’t it: the cost and unavailability of their health care! Thanks for the reminder of SF stories. Gotta read that Dick story. Two great Ray Bradbury stories tackle the sentient house idea too. Brr.

      • Brien Engel (facebook link) Says:

        The sentience of the ship (in this case) is a fun sideline, the short story is typical PKD hilarious and interesting. I think I know at least one of the Bradbury, that one is definitely Brr.

  8. Marta Restrepo (facebook link) Says:

    I just spent an intimate week with my sewing machine. Yes, there were the few gnarled threads. And at one point the bobbin thread decided to be too tight. No change in materials, the correct needle…??!! I opened it, cleaned it, thanked it for helping me so far and asked what was up? I had to rethread from the top to the needle..?? However, I completed a beautiful Druid robe for a dear friend of ours. It takes time, dedication, care and lots of patience, I guess.

  9. Diana Tracy (facebook link) Says:

    I’m pretty much OK with them, as long as they don’t have brains. Cars are my friends. Computers, cell phones (don’t get me started!!!!), Watches (either mechanical or electronic…..I kill them just by wearing them), etc. are at best barely civil. I’ve opted out of anything computerized if at all possible (Wolf Range….no little lights telling me what to do, Washer and dryer: mechanical. Alarm clock: mechanical, etc)

  10. Jas O'Growney (facebook link) Says:

    3 things: Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance! (Oh, and never buy the cheap version)

  11. Jennifer Bamesberger (facebook link) Says:

    Warning sign: “Caution: This machine has no brain. Use your own.”

  12. Liz McCabe (facebook link) Says:

    When you really understand how something works, you can experience the genius of all the minds that created it… And increase your own in the process. (Yeah, I work in tech!)

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