Never say never. And yet, I said it. I ate my words within days of encouraging my granddaughter Courtney to use the sewing machine.
“I will get hurt,” she said.
“No way! I have been sewing for years. I have never been hurt. That is impossible.” She cautiously entered the room and sat down.
“Practice sewing straight lines on this page,” I handed her a page of school paper.
She stitched several lines. I promoted her to fabric.
“You could make this Christmas stocking,” I pulled out a printed fabric panel. She cut out the printed stocking. I cut out the lining.
Courtney sewed lines veering deep into the stocking. “Keep to the edge. Wait, I need to draw lines for you to sew.” I grabbed a pencil and began sketching a seam half an inch or so from the edge.
With some help she completed the stocking and took it home to show her family.
I cleared the clutter from the stocking and pulled out the quilt I was making. I changed thread on the machine and began sewing. Setting the fabric under the needle and presser foot, I stepped on the pedal. The tip of my finger went under the presser foot. The needle nipped into my nail and finger.
“Ouch!” I pulled back quickly, dashed to the bathroom and found a Band-aid.
Recently, I joined a sewing group on Facebook. A member asked, “How many have stitched through your finger on your machine while sewing?”
I posted, “Yep, I have. Right after telling my granddaughter I have never been hurt by a sewing machine.” Over 100 responded on the original post, including only a few who said, “Not, me. Never.” The rest reported their experiences. These are my favorite stories from that online discussion.
“I have a little blue dot on my finger still from it.”
“Around six years old, after being taught to sew using the treadle machine, Mum showed me how to operate her new Alfa electric machine. She told me not to use it while she made a cup of tea. Of course, I knew better and wanted to show her how clever I was. I did not feel so clever as the pliers cut the end of the needle, so that it could be removed. Lesson learned, the hard way.”
“With a hand crank machine through the middle finger and nail. We were poor. My mom pulled it through the other side with pliers.”
“I needed surgery to get the needle out!”
“I was at work using a fast industrial machine. My boss told me I better not get blood on anything. It happened very quickly. It really didn’t hurt, but the needle was hot and it burned.”
“…into my right index finger. I turned the hand wheel with my left hand. Then I had to get the needle unscrewed from the machine so I could pull it out. New needle, rethreaded, and kept sewing.”
“My mom did. She pulled the needle out with pliers, dunked her finger in alcohol, put a bandaid on it and got back to sewing.
“My mom worked in a lingerie and a dress factory. She did this multiple times with the fast industrial machines. Industrial machines make 1900 stitches per minute enough to make one complete stitch into a finger.”
“I was at home. My five year-old son had to turn the hand wheel to free my index finger.
“I worked for Singer Company selling sewing machines. While demonstrating a machine I sewed through my finger.
There are so many stories legitimizing Courtney’s fear. If I had known, I never would have said “Never.”
Joan Hershberger is a former staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and other columns from the El Dorado News-Times.”