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Yesterday my sewing machine had a conniption fit, and I didn’t know why.

I was starting to sew a wearable test of a knit top.  Actually, the third version of this wearable test, which was already testing my patience.  The stitching in the shoulder seams looked so weak I thought I’d better stop sewing this top immediately to investigate.

The samples I ran looked like this on the needle side…

The stitching looked okay on this side.

…but like this on the bobbin side:

Even a nonsewer knows this isn’t normal.

I was in a heap of trouble.

I’ve had the same sewing machine since 1986 and it’s held up well all these years, with not much time in repair shops at all.  I haven’t mistreated it but also can’t claim to know much about how sewing machines run, either.

Yesterday I found myself in a new quandary, created by the stay-at-home order in Ohio: If I couldn’t solve this thread tension problem myself, could I find a local repair person willing to work on the machine?

Or, if it was time to shop for a new machine, what should I do? I’d want to test-drive machines.  Maybe I could borrow or rent a machine to tide me over.  Would anyone be willing to lend me a sewing machine?  What’s the etiquette for borrowing a sewing machine during a pandemic?

Another question has arisen during this lockdown time:  Should I be making face masks? We recently purchased face masks from an instructor at Sewing Hive, Columbus’s new place to learn sewing and pattern-fitting.  But the way things are going, I should probably look closely at my stash for face mask fabrics.  I may be setting up a face mask-making project pretty soon–it could even become part of the rotation in my project daily challenge.

I have been wondering, also, about whether we will see a surge in novice sewers and returned former sewers coming out of this health crisis.  Stay-at-home orders, face mask-making, and the sudden mainstreaming and glamorization of a skill that had been marginalized by many just might combine to tip the scales.

I hope that more than a few people whose first experience at a sewing machine was making face masks will think, “That was interesting!  What else shall I make?” and stick around long enough to find out.

My final questions are for those of us who already know that sewing is as useful and life-enhancing a skill as cooking: Will new and returning sewers find the encouragement and practical, ongoing support that’s essential to reap the greatest rewards?  If social distancing becomes a new fact of life, in what ways can we form a community?

As for my sewing machine problem, an article, “How to Achieve Ideal Sewing Machine Thread Tension”  on the Threads magazine website led me to inspect the tension discs. Dust and debris turned out to be the culprit.

A gingerly applied brushing, and balance was restored–in more than one sense of the word.

A balanced stitch: back to equilibrium.