It’s not long until Christmas, and 13 women already know what will stuff their loved ones’ stockings.
They were in the home stretch of a hands-on seminar called Sewapalooza on Wednesday afternoon, stitching pieces of fabric together to make a relatively simple billfold.
What wasn’t simple was the sewing machine itself.
Many of our grandmothers may have used a foot-powered treadle sewing machine to craft children’s clothes, quilts and hem napkins. Modern-day machines have more in common with computers.
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At Quality Sewing and Vacuum in Federal Way, these women, most at or near retirement age, had paid $129 each to learn the features of the Bernina B 800 series sewing machine.
The model the women worked on Wednesday sells for around $10,000. Class instructor Shelly Fitzgerald said the two-day class and sewing machine purchases are the equivalent of an expensive but rewarding hobby a spouse might have.
“This is their bass boat, their golf cart, their Harley,” said Fitzgerald, who travels all over the country teaching classes for Bernina. “These are the things we love.”
Rather than moving a lever to select individual stitches and their widths as was common in machines decades ago, students learned how to navigate the Bernina’s detailed touch-screen interface. Users can upload an embroidery pattern to the machine via USB drive.
Seasoned sewers attended this class, some with many decades of experience behind the needle.
“These machines can do just about anything but make coffee,” said Irene Moss of Auburn. Now a retired middle and elementary school teacher, Moss said she began sewing at 6 or 7 years old.
She ticked off the machines she has at home on her fingers — more than half a dozen. And with five children, 10 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, Moss said all will receive a hand-crafted gift this winter.
Making quilts, sometimes of her own design, is a favorite. Moss enjoys selecting fabric for a special project and seeing the joy in the eyes of the recipient.
“It’s very rewarding, especially when they aren’t expecting it,” she said.
Reva Flood, education manager for Quality Sewing, said sewing has become less of a necessity.
“People don’t sew because they have to. They sew to express their creativity,” Flood said. Back in the day, making a piece of clothing or a bag only required the seamstress to sew in a straight line. Machines these days are more complex — and more automated — than ever before.
Terri Boerwinkle of Kent said she’s been sewing for all but 10 of her 69 years. These days she knits or crochets afghans and sews quilts for critically ill children through the nonprofit Project Linus; she’s done around 100 in the past three or four years.
While she doesn’t have a Bernina machine herself, “the techniques you can transfer to other things.”
Many, including Boerwinkle, said they’ve also gotten relatives hooked on the hobby.
When Boerwinkle visited family in Denver, she taught her 12-year-old granddaughter how to use a machine, who then quickly pieced together a skirt and a top with a sweetheart neckline.
Quality Sewing and Vacuum hosts regular education events at all of its stores. For more information, visit qualitysewing.com/sewing-classes.html and click on your preferred location.