Creative Problem Solving: Partner Work

Wheel cover closeWheel_Table_Cockpit_Teak cupholder_InstrumentsRaftOffThere was a time I sewed most of my clothes. No one knew unless they were an accomplished seamstress themself and noticed telltale signs such as the plaids all matched. I knew which patterns fit me best. Butterick was first, followed by McCall’s, but Simplicity was better for a taller, thinner seamstress. Vogue seemed to have more complicated and sophisticated patterns. I knew to adjust the pattern and shorten it about a ½” to ¾” between the waist and hips so it fit me well. I designed and made my own wedding dress. I modeled it later in a fashion show and was asked to rent it out. (No) I took a couple tailoring classes and made dress pants for my husband. Occasionally, I made coordinating outfits for our young sons – coordinating, not matching. I recall one with marine blue shorts and multiple, primary colored, striped knit for the shirts. I made myself a skirt with a sailboat applique in the same fabric. We looked so fresh and nautical, of course.

Once a busy family and full time work were our focus, sewing became relegated to repair projects. With our sailboat in The Chesapeake Bay, the intense UV rays eventually took their toll on canvass and thread. A few years ago, the canvass and sails needed some repairs so I borrowed a heavy-duty sewing machine designed for sailors. As a paraplegic, I no longer sail but when our sailboat was launched this year, my husband mentioned that the seam on the wheel cover ripped and needed repair. I told him to bring it home and I’d give it a look. Well, stitch-in-time-saves-nine was not utilized. I realized it was simply a matter of the sun’s UV rays destroying the thread. The French seam hadn’t ripped; it has simply separated for about a 4’ length. It was a simple fix – if one had a foot to control the electric sewing machine pedal and two free hands to maneuver the fabric into place.

You need to picture the wheel cover. On a 36’ sailboat, the helm station is mounted on a stainless steel, tubular tower 5’+ tall. It holds the compass, several navigational aid monitors, GPS & radar charts, and the steering wheel which has about a 4’ diameter. There is a teak, 4-cup holder mounted high on the stand, opposite of the wheel. Best to keep the crew hydrated while sailing and the water bottles or soda secure. Below that we added a teak table which we could raise perpendicular to the floor, with sidepieces that fold out on hinges so our family of 4 could eat once we were back in port. It was a wonderful set-up for our decades of family sailing in Lake Michigan. Of course, sailing The Bay in more recent years, with regular raft-offs, the setup served well for happy hour as well. My point in the description is that the cover for this is a pretty large, fairly heavy, cylindrical piece of Captain Navy, Sunbrella fabric. When I was an in-patient in Mary Free Bed Rehab Hospital, I made a pillow cover in recreation therapy. I used the power, foot pedal on the table to the right of the sewing machine so I could power up with my right hand and guide the fabric with my left. Sewing those four straight seams on the pillow seemed quite simple even when compared to the kitchen towel and skirt I made in first year 4H. However, much of adjusting to new ways of doing things is the opportunity to try it out and give one the encouragement and confidence to take on a project, making any necessary adjustments as they come along. I made a pillow! Whoo-hoo. Why not take on the wheel cover repair project.

My husband and I decided we could handle this project between the two of us. I pinned the fabric back into place for the French seam, closing the 4’+ gap. I placed a hard, flat surface between the layers of fabric on my lap so I could carefully, neatly, and securely hand-baste the fabric in place without catching the backside by mistake.

Alan got out the portable sewing machine and placed it on our dining room table. I was delighted to notice that I had a large spool of heavy-duty, Captain Navy, thread and special needles for extra heavy fabric left from supplies I had bought when we borrowed our friends’ sail, sewing machine. We were going to be in great shape. I filled the bobbin and threaded the machine. I moved the foot pedal to the right side of the sewing machine and my husband and I wrestled the fabric under the sewing arm and needle to where it belonged. Since Alan had never used a sewing machine, we talked through how he would help me guide the fabric and keep it away from getting caught under the needle or moving mechanism. This would be an unwieldy project but we had a plan. I explained my goal in keeping the various sides of the pressure foot specifically where on the seam. The fabric was so heavy that I needed my right hand on the power foot and my left hand temporarily pushing the flywheel to get it started. Once running, we used our three hands to guide and move the competed fabric out of the way. In this manner, we managed to stitch along the right side first and then the left side, topstitching the French seam as intended. They were far from the straightest seams I had ever sewn and I wouldn’t have gotten a top rating in 4H at the local, county fair, but who really notices navy thread on navy fabric when you’re on a sailboat anyway, right? This was special thread designed to be resistant to the sun damage and it would hold for years to come. We had accomplished our goal! It definitely took teamwork and some creativity but isn’t that what life is about anyway? Mission accomplished!

Count your blessing, especially the little ones.

Shalom, Collene



9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Eunice Bossenbrook
    Jun 07, 2016 @ 19:31:43

    Well done! I didn’t know about your expertise in sewing. You are a woman of many talents. I took 4-H too and started with a dish towel. I did make a jumper for myself in 9th grade, but after that–other than a few Halloween costumes–I gave up sewing. I admire your persistence and creativity on this project. Hope to see you and Al this summer.



  2. Carol Ketterer
    Jun 07, 2016 @ 20:08:54

    I am so impressed! Is this Alan’s new boat! I am also a seamstress from long ago, but in recent years, every project has resulted in a jammed up bobbin and a lump of thread on the back. Maybe I need another pair of hands, too! Hope you are enjoying your sumner. Chilly here in northern WI!



  3. FastHugs
    Jun 07, 2016 @ 20:43:48

    Actually this is Mariah, our beautiful sailboat that’s for sale. I went to the marina with Alan last week and waited on the dock as he washed her. She sure is beautiful and we sure had hours and hours of great times on her.



  4. Elly
    Jun 07, 2016 @ 20:53:31

    Bravi,, Collene and Alan. Sometimes is takes a village. Sometimes it takes two persons coordinated. (Great observations on the sewing patterns. Never saw a more astute assessment.)



  5. debbidoo1
    Jun 07, 2016 @ 21:11:47

    Fabulous! Love the teamwork. Chip and I can’t make dinner together without arguing about something. Lol.



  6. Dottie
    Jun 08, 2016 @ 10:51:38

    Such a great story! You are an inspiring writer, Collene. As a former seamstress, I could picture every move you had to make. That kind of thick, bulky project is difficult enough to wrestle without the additional challenges! Your story reminds me of a time in high school when I was making myself my first pair of jeans. There was so much wrestling going on under the presser foot that I ran the needle right through my thumb! No one was home, so I detached the needle from the machine and ran four blocks up the hill to my friend’s house. Luckily her mother was home and pulled the needle out with a pair of pliers.

    Seamstresses are tough, and so are you. Cheers to knowing you will conquer many more such challenges in many areas of your life. I would love to read your writings about them all.



  7. Eleanor Murray
    Jun 10, 2016 @ 13:17:48

    I need u to sew a bra. Can u both do it

    Sent from my iPhone




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