Real Men Don’t Sew!

TreadleSewingMachineActually, sewing is a valuable skill to have any time, but more so in a grid-down world.

In his book Time Enough For Love, Robert Heinlein had his character Lazarus Long say, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” Somehow, Heinlein left out sewing, but I’m sure it was only an oversight.

Come to think of it, I need to go back and read that book again.

I learned basic hand-sewing, and some very limited sewing-machine use from my mother. After I got out of the Navy and returned to the University of Texas, I decided to buy an inexpensive sewing machine and take a sewing class that I saw advertised in a fabric store.

When I showed up for class, I realized why the lady who took my money and signed me up looked at me a bit funny.

I ended up spending 4 two-hour sessions in about the most comical situation imaginable. Me, the 6-ft, bearded, chubby guy in my mid-20’s. The only male in the class. The only student over the age of 10. If I was to do something like that today, I’d probably get arrested.

The only pattern that the teacher had for the class was for some women’s short-shorts, which was the one item she had prepared to teach a class that she assumed would be full of young girls. Obviously, she was not expecting me.

I obtained measurements from a girl in one of my university classes, and made her a pair of pink short-shorts.

In the process, I managed to break a needle, puncture my finger (twice), and learn a bit about sewing. I don’t think that the girl I built those short-shorts ever really appreciated what I went through.

I’m not the world’s best “seamstress” but I can figure out a pattern and construct some basic clothing if I have to. I can also thread a machine and spot & clear the basic problems one is likely to encounter. It’s actually easier than clearing a jammed Glock.

Most of my sewing has been with hand-held needle and thread, though. More portable than a sewing machine, and I have not seen a treadle-operated sewing machine in over 50 years — which is what you will need if the grid goes down.

Sewing is not all that tough as long as you don’t get too uptight about your result not looking all that great. Basic needle & thread sewing is something a guy of average intelligence should be able to learn in less than an hour (assuming a bit of help from somebody with experience), and get relatively good at with about 10 hours of practice. All that said, I’m happy to have my sewing done for me by my mother and my wife.

P.S. A high-quality heavy-duty sewing machine is worth the extra money. Unfortunately, this sewing machine (pictured at the top of this post) does not include the treadle — you are on your own to find that. Come to think of it, if you should find a new treadle, please let me know.

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1 Response to Real Men Don’t Sew!

  1. Howard says:

    Lo, and behold, I found an outfit that makes treadles. They put them into really high-quality cabinets and sell them for nearly $800.

    Mind-boggling. A treadle just can’t be that hard to make. My grandmother owned one, and she was from a family of subsistence farmers, so it couldn’t have been very expensive. I remember playing with it as a kid, and it was sturdy enough that Grandma wasn’t particularly concerned as long as the belt was disconnected.

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