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The Learning Curve

Updated: Mar 29

So, the other day I was scrolling through Instagram reels to get a few laughs. I stumbled on one talking about the construction of a plumbus (jean jacket) using a Rick and Morty cartoon audio clip (I don’t know who they are either). The reel went over how to use dinglepops (scissors), sleems (ribbons) and shlamies (sewing machine)- all nonsensical words – in the quilting construction of a jacket. It was funny because I’ve experienced this bewilderment many times in my life when I have learned a new craft or skill that had its own set of terminology. And it’s a bewilderment I am experiencing right now!

I think that learning the specific terminology of any craft is a big part of the learning curve. It is further complicated by the use of commonly used words to mean something else. For example, take the art of spinning. Spinning is not what you do on a stationary bike. Drafting is not done with pencil and paper. Attenuating is not a stretch- well, sort of... Twists and wraps are measurements, not candy and tacos. Spinning from the cloud does not need the internet. A walking wheel does not move. Irish tension isn’t political, neither is scotch tension. Once you wrap your mind around all these new meanings, then you add a bunch of new words- treadling, draw-in, mother of all, maiden head, and all the names of the weights of yarn to name just a few examples.

The same thing happens when we consider weaving. Again, you find words you know with a new meaning and just plain new words. Reeds are not an instrument, but a length of metal with dents. Dents are not depressions but holes. Picks are not for a guitar but are a measurement for the number of threads in an inch. Shuttles don’t go into space but are boats that float on the warp (not water). The boat needs to pass thread through the shed (which is not a hut in your back yard). Beating a warp does sometimes include a tool but is a very specific movement just not giving the fabric a good whaling; that would actually be called fulling (which is done with wool). You warp a loom (but don’t do this by soaking it in water) and then create the weft (a pretty unique word) by weaving.

So now I’m trying purse/bag construction which has its own language as well. It also is different from spinning and weaving as I am learning that our handbags and backpacks really are an engineered precision product that require attention to detail and strict adherence to the pattern. Yikes, what was I thinking! But I’m persevering. I’ve moved up to an industrial sewing machine. It is a Juki 1541s (yes, they make so many models that the numbers are necessary). It’s like driving an A license 18-wheeler instead of a motorcycle. Instead of the purr of the sewing machine it sounds like a sledgehammer. Even on the slowest setting! And this machine has a clutch which needs resetting every time my incredibly strong thread breaks the needle which throws off the bobbin timing; it sounds like a vehicle, doesn’t it? I’m so thankful the machine is attached to a large metal table so that I can’t pick it up and throw it when it screws up. It does that a lot- no user error here.

But to keep the machine threaded and running a whole new set of words need to be learned. My first subscription to a You Tube channel was Juki Junkie, which takes you through every possibly problem through hundreds of videos. But I am learning – and have more learning on the way. I presently have a needle felter and wet roller in boxes waiting for space to be set up and mastered. I’m sure I’ll be adding more words to my vocabulary. And in the spring, I have five new machines arriving to handle the processing of sheep wool. A big plus is that they are also too big to throw. I’m hopeful that the machines will have similar terminology so that moving from my small home machines to much larger industrial machines will be easier to accomplish. Stay tuned!

Beverly in her studio working with her Juki sewing machine.

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