Visually impaired sewing "idiot" - suggestions? - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-11-2009, 01:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am legally blind but have some useful vision. I know people with my level of vision can sew, at least by hand, and certainly knit, crochet, etc. But I am 32 and have no such skills, so I'm really nervous about starting now with this handicap. My blindness is progressive, so I kind of am feeling that if I want to learn, I'd better do it now.

I don't feel too nervous about knitting, and my mother taught me the basic stitch about 10 years ago (and I've long since forgotten, but at least I got the idea). I never made anything, just pretty much knit an unfinished square once. I would need a reminder on the basic knit but also instructions on how to actually finish something - probably a scarf to start with, but I have no concept for how mittens, sweaters, etc. get made and pieced together. Can you recommend any resources or books?

But sewing - I feel sooooo clumsy with it, both in terms of my hands and eyes. I have a quilt, made by machine and totally falling apart, and I started the fairly laborous task of trying to repair it. I am not even trying to make beautiful, unseen stitches but just big ole ugly stitches. After 15 minutes my hands hurt, my eyes hurt, and I just felt like every stitch was clumsy agony. Is this standard for learning to sew, or is this a sign that sewing is just not for me? It feels so different than knitting - knitting I can just take it slow and do each loop just right, but my sewing is horrendous no matter how careful I try to be, and being careful is just not comfortable at all. I am also afraid that a machine wouldn't be possible for me; I'm afraid I'll sew up my hand because my vision wouldn't allow me to watch my hands and also watch what I'm sewing (like turning the fabric or whatever).

Would appreciate any thoughts on that. Right now I'm thinking sewing is just not going to be in my list of talents, but it's too bad, because I would like to start making clothes for myself and my daughter from patterns, and overall just be able to repair clothes and quilts and the like. Knitting I think I can do but I'm just not as interested in making sweaters, hats and mittens as I would be in making shirts, skirts and dresses.

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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Old 03-13-2009, 09:18 AM
 
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So sorry about your vision loss. I have a friend who also has progressive vision loss. It sounds like you've got a great attitude about it.

Y'know, I think you could use a sewing machine. I'm not a great seamstress, but I can make a very simple dress or halloween costume. Machines really are great time/labor savers. It can be agonizingly slow and painful to sew by hand unless you're really practiced. I know folks who do beautiful hand quilting, but for them it must be more meditative. I think I would get very impatient with it. I'm trying to imagine using my very old simple straight stitch machine with my eyes closed and I think I could do it. Threading it would be a bear, but that's going to be the case with a hand-sewing needle and thread, too. It's not super easy to sew through your fingers on a machine. It can be done, but I think if you go relatively slow a case could be made that you're less likely to poke yourself with a machine than you are with hand sewing.

I think where you might run into trouble with a machine is just keeping the fabric lined up and straight. It's worth it to see if you could pick up an old machine for $15 or $20 and sew some pillows or something, though.

With making shirts and skirts, etc, I think I would have more difficulty in cutting out the pattern with impaired vision, but you could probably work around that somehow.

Good luck and give it a try!

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Old 03-13-2009, 11:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the encouragement! I really do feel encouraged!

My mom was the one who discouraged me from using a machine. But then again last Christmas she bought me a little sewing machine (but opened it to use it for a little project she was going to do for DD, and it didn't work, so I don't have a machine still). Maybe I'll tell her again I'd like that if she didn't mind returning it and getting a new one.

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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Old 03-13-2009, 12:05 PM
 
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You also might want to learn crocheting. I can both crochet and knit, and by far I have an easier time crocheting in dim light (say, while watching a movie) than knitting in dim light. I'm sure I could crochet with my eyes closed, doing it just by feel. I can't say the same for knitting- it's too easy to drop stitches if you're not watching, to hard to NOTICE the dropped stitches without looking at it, etc.

I've never sought out the resources, but I'm pretty sure crochet patterns must be available in braille.

I really don't have any advice about the sewing. My biggest concern with the sewing machine is that it's SO easy to sew a seam together incorrectly, and then it's a lot of work to remove the stitches when that happens- work involving looking closely at the stitching with a stitchripper to remove the threads without ripping the fabric. IMO, that task is MUCH harder than sewing by hand, and IMO it's inevitable when you sew by machine, especially for a beginner.

Nor do I have any perspective on what it's like to learn to sew as an adult- I was hand sewing at age 7 or so, and using a machine by 10.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 13(homeschooled)
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Old 03-15-2009, 05:31 AM
 
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Kudos to you for moving in a positive direction with a crummy prognosis!

Personally, I think crocheting is EASIER than knitting, but I know a lot more people who would, say, go to the movies and knit than go and crochet. Of course, that may just be a matter of knitting being the more popular craft!

As far as patterns, I don't know what your visual condition is, but as long as you can access the internet with screen magnification or ... I'm completely blocked--that thing where the computer tells you what's on the screen ... there are tons of patterns available for free online--either for knitting or crochet.

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Old 03-15-2009, 07:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think I can handle the cutting and stuff. My central vision is pretty good. I have zero peripheral vision, though, so if I'm looking at the fabric to run it through the machine, I absolutely cannot see my fingers (and vice versa, if I'm paying attention to my fingers I can't see the fabric). It's kind of like as if you were looking through a paper towel tube, where you can only see what you're looking at, and nothing else.

I do feel sort of encouraged though. I assume I can set the sewing machine on a pretty slow speed. Maybe that's what I need to look for as a feature if I buy a machine? The ability to completely control the speed, including a painfully slow (for most people!) setting? Or is that standard on machines? I don't even know what. My mom had a Singer when I was little (that I never learned to use) and I remember there was a foot pedal to control it. I think she had a great deal of control over the speed. But I don't know if today's machines maybe have a High/Low speed and that's it.

If you had a friend who was just beginning, what kind of pattern would you suggest? Maybe a simple sleeveless sundress?

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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Old 03-15-2009, 08:27 PM
 
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All machines automatically come with adjustable speeds- push down harder with your foot and it goes faster, push down more gently and it goes slower. Unless they've started making super-cheap sewing machines in the past 8 years since I last purchased one? I've never seen one without the foot pedal. I recomend playing around with the machine with just a scrap of fabric to get used to the feel of the machine before sewing any actual pattern pieces together.

IME, sleeves are no harder than making armholes- you need to finish off the arm edge if you don't sew a sleeve on. I personally have an easier time making sleeves than making neat armholes, and I still have trouble with necklines. A skirt would be the absolutely easiest pattern to start with.

If you're able to clearly see within a small area, then you may not have any trouble with ripping out stitches. That's a task that requires intense focus on a small area as you work (and causes eye strain for me, as I'm not used to focusing so closely on so small an area.)

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 13(homeschooled)
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Old 03-15-2009, 08:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by laohaire View Post
Maybe that's what I need to look for as a feature if I buy a machine? The ability to completely control the speed, including a painfully slow (for most people!) setting? Or is that standard on machines? I don't even know what. My mom had a Singer when I was little (that I never learned to use) and I remember there was a foot pedal to control it. I think she had a great deal of control over the speed. But I don't know if today's machines maybe have a High/Low speed and that's it.

If you had a friend who was just beginning, what kind of pattern would you suggest? Maybe a simple sleeveless sundress?
Ruthla is right that the foot pedal allows adjustable speed. But some are a lot better than others. I'm using a 40ish yr old machine right now that I can easily control the speed on. The $130 Brother I was using last year was less sensitive to speed. It would jump from barely moving to humming along with very little pressure. You may like to try a few at a big Joann or another sewing store that has machines set up.

As far as choosing a pattern goes, pick one that's called It's so Easy, Simple, Learn to Sew, something like that. Some brands are easier than others, too. I like the Kwik Sew patterns. Simplicity tends to be easier than say Vogue.

I just started a pr of pj pants from Kwik Sew that is Learn to Sew, and everything is nicely spelled out. Otoh, I just finished a Kwik Sew pattern that was not "Learn to Sew," and while I liked the pattern, a few details were left out. It was a toddler top with elastic at the top and sleeves. The pattern did not specify that I needed to fasten down the hems at the seams when making the casing, so I spent about an hour trying to wiggle the elastic past the seams.

What do you want to make? I don't like looking at pattern books at Joann, so I find my pattern online before I go.
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Old 04-05-2009, 02:36 PM
 
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Just saw this and I wanted to offer some encouragement!

I have vision problems and I sew on a machine, knit and crochet. One of my good friends is legally blind and she sews on a machine too. I see no problem at all if you want to learn. I wish you could come over to my house and I would teach you.

It takes some creative thinking but it is definitely VERY possible to use a sewing machine with low or no vision. If your loss is progressive, may I suggest learning to do it blindfolded from the get-go so you won't have to give it up or relearn later?

I would think that your local Commission for the Blind would have sewing lessons you could take?

For learning to use a machine, I would place a few layers of masking tape on the guide beside the presser foot to give a nice edge you can feel. Place the edge of the tape at the 5/8" mark (the common seam allowance) and put enough layers of tape that you can feel it easily. Or run a line of fabric puff-paint... anything that's easy to feel for the 5/8" guide.

You'll have to figure out how to thread your machine and needle of course. I have done mine so much I don't even think about it. But read the directions and take it step-by- step. You can buy machines that automatically thread the needle or if it's like mine, which is ancient, just hold the thread-end between two fingers and jam it onto the needle till it goes through... takes some practice but after a while it works really well.

Then start with a scrap of denim or something that is fairly stiff and not very big. Practice running the scrap through slowly with your right hand guiding the edge along the line that you made at 5/8". Hold your left fingers at the place you want to stop and when your left hand hits the underside of the machine you know you're close and you can stop so you don't run your fingers into the needle. As far as safety, always keep your right hand on the safe side of your 5/8" guide line and always keep your left hand aware of the front edge of the under-side of the machine and keep your fingers on the safe side of that line.

Once you feel comfortable with easy fabrics like denim or cotton, move on to the softer, slipperier fabrics.

Just a few suggestions... I know this could never be adequate to teach a beginner... just be encouraged! You CAN do it and if you're like me, you'll get addicted.

As far as knitting, I never look at my hands and find it a relaxing activity because it's one of the few things I can do that doesn't make my eyes tired.

I say absolutely go for it!

ETA: I do find sewing tiring, and I have been doing it for years. It takes a lot of concentration and my back gets tired from bending to see just right. You mentioned getting tired and for me, at least, that's normal. I certainly can't sew for hours at a time, and I enjoy it much more when I set small enough goals for myself that I don't wear myself out doing it!

ETA2: For an easy beginner project might I suggest a cotton nightdress? That would be an easy, simple pattern and if you messed up you could still wear it without the pressure of making it look perfect.

Another fun project is a cute, color-coordinated apron.

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Old 04-05-2009, 08:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks! (I also got your PM so was sure to check the thread). Since I posted this thread, my mother bought me a sewing machine (she lives far away so can't just come over and teach me, but she bought it online and had it shipped). I haven't tried it yet, but feel encouraged enough to get a book from the library and a simple pattern, fabric and thread.

Yeah, I wish I could come over and learn too

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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Old 04-06-2009, 01:12 AM
 
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Thanks! (I also got your PM so was sure to check the thread). Since I posted this thread, my mother bought me a sewing machine (she lives far away so can't just come over and teach me, but she bought it online and had it shipped). I haven't tried it yet, but feel encouraged enough to get a book from the library and a simple pattern, fabric and thread.

Yeah, I wish I could come over and learn too

Wonderful! If you have questions or want more ideas, feel free to PM me.

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Old 04-06-2009, 01:29 AM
 
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Another idea for guiding the fabric through. When you cut the pattern pieces out and set the two right sides together and get ready to sew, try this:

Pin the pieces together all along the seam abut every two inches so they won't slip and you won't have to line them up as you go. Then use a fabric marking pen to draw the line of the seam that you plan to sew. You can find these special purple pens in the quilting section... they draw a nice, dark purple line on the fabric and 48 hours later the line completely disappears. So draw the line and also a mark where you are supposed to stop.

Then when you go to sew you can look at the purple line and the needle the whole time and won't have to look away at your hands or anything else as you feed the fabric through. As the pins approach the needle, you can stop and take them out, or if they are perpendicular to the seam and you are going quite slow, you can carefully sew over them and take them out later.

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Old 04-07-2009, 07:24 PM
 
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At a quilting or specialty sewing store, you can find a 1/4" seam allowance foot. This site also has an adjustable one: http://donssewing.net/accessories/feet.html The special foot might help keep you "on track" You will need to get a foot compatible with your machine.

Just FYI - I can knit while watching TV or looking at something else. "Vision" is needed only to turn corners. You may be happier in the long term with knitting than machine sewing.

I also think the purple pen is a great idea!
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Old 04-08-2009, 11:02 AM
 
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My MIL is blind, she can see some light so her world is not dark, she sewed before she lost her vision but has had to relearn how to do things. She goes to a blind center in her town where they offer all sorts of classes. One is sewing. Have you checked into anything like that?
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