Lao Women Make It Look Sew Easy: My First-World Handicraft Fail

lao weaving loom

Photo: Amy Kitchener

My Lao homies over in the motherland are weaving gorgeous tapestries and works of silk-woven art and I’m over here struggling with a straight stitch on my sewing machine. Did you know that the elaborate tradition of Laotian hand-weaving was practically faded out with its Communist rule in 1975? Enter refugee camps and it seemed the centuries-long craftsmanship was no longer necessary to culture or country. Recently, that has changed thanks to tourism and the rightful desire to reclaim the intricate culture of the hand-woven trade, which dates back to the 14th century. I’m truly inspired by that rich history through one piece of cultural connection to me is the sinh, a silk tubular skirt commonly worn by Lao women. So when I received a hand-me-down sewing machine, I made the naive assumption that sewing would be easy with a machine. “Hey, weaving is in my blood, right? What can a sewing machine do to me?” Well, roles switched and the machine is making me into something.

First: Excited! First, I was super excited to do all sorts of cool shit: fix shit up, make shit for people, any kind of shit I can add on top of my Pinterest.

“WTF is this?” I did the honorable thing and took the time to get familiar with it before diving in. I read the manual, checked the parts, and even looked up YouTube reviews. I had a doozy trying to figure out what to type in Google how to use the “mini pizza cutter thingy.”

It’s called a hand-me-down for a reason My mom’s co-worker was retiring and gave away a Sears Kenmore Model 385. I couldn’t locate the year in the manual but it’s pretty ancient judging by the old ass diagrams. Plus, there weren’t any touch screens so I was all, “I’m out.”

I had one job The very very very first thing before firing off all these projects is, of course, threading the needle. I can’t even do that. I did the bobbin, easy. When it came time to wind the top thread, I could never get it to be taut so as I was winding, it would just keep pulling from the spool and look like a limp ass.

top thread too loose

Unraveling confidence I wanted to get to the projects I had in mind but I can’t properly thread it right for some reason. When your ‘practice stitches’ look like a preschooler’s craft-gone-wrong, your craft ego will plummet quicker than winding a bobbin. Just when I thought I threaded it right finally, my machine tells me, “not so much.” Literally tells me because it made this scary noise when it jammed!

sewing machine jam

Money down the drain I’ve just about ruined the few fabric scraps I had laying around and I can see how costly (and addicting) this can be! I just want to…

sew all the things.jpg
Final: Scrap it all! I’m just ready to give up until I can find out what exactly I’m doing wrong. I have no clue what I’m doing wrong. It’s 2013! Am I that far behind in self-sufficiency that I can’t operate a machine?

fuck you sewing
Help My aunt, who lives locally, has offered her help and she’s made cool shit. The lady has made several hooded towels for the kids as baby shower gifts! It took me a few days of seamstress fail after fail to appreciate the practical gift. I remember my little cousin, who made her own skirt, was taught by her mom and my cousin is like a baby so, help me!

You can follow my sewing pins here: She Sew Cray Cray

Have you taken up a handicraft and failed?


13 thoughts on “Lao Women Make It Look Sew Easy: My First-World Handicraft Fail

  1. I just bought myself a sewing machine with vouchers for Xmas & I am paralysed by fear! I’ve no idea what I’m doing. My mum’s a dressmaker but somehow that hasn’t translated to me showing any skill further than pinning pretties. Hope you conquer it with your Laotian genes & show it can be mastered! Good luck!

  2. I’m pretty sure I have a cross stitch project I started in kindergarten…no joke!

    My sister in law took her sewing machine to a place in our area, I’ll have to get the name. She said the guy was about 107 years old, but knew everything about sewing machines and helped her a ton…and didn’t charge.

  3. So hilarious. My mom can make pretty much anything: knitted scarves and hats, pillows, sheets, embarrassing floral print dresses for me as a kid… I mean, I sewed a Halloween costume once and it was wearable, but the stitches were whack if you looked closely.

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