Thursday, June 01, 2006

On Thoreau and Embroidery Machines

I'm not sure when sewing became all about the technology. At what point did the precarious slide from needle and thread to high tech machinery get totally out of control? All I know is that lately it has become increasingly difficult to get anything done in the sewing room without spending countless frustrating phone hours talking to technical support personnel or surfing the internet for do-it-yourself solutions.

It all started with a rather mindless desire to embroider a simple little ladybug on the bodice of a simple little sundress. I remembered a sweet little book of redwork transfers I had on my shelves somewhere. I should be able to knock out a simple outlined ladybug in the time it took to watch an episode of Seinfeld. However, the book of embroidery transfers was nowhere to be found. Aha! I remembered that I was the very fortunate owner of one of those new-fangled embroidery machines. With the aid of this new technology I should be able to embroider a fancy-shmancy ladybug in the blink of an eye. Even better!

However, the software for this program had been installed into a now defunct computer. No problem, I'd simply reinstall it onto our new computer. Mission accomplished in about 20 minutes. I set off on my merry way, happily shopping for ladybug designs on the internet. Dozens of free ladybugs were found. I narrowed my choice down to one lucky lady and downloaded her onto my hard drive. Now on to yet another piece of technology, the Embroidery Design Transfer System (SmartBox). This was necessary to change my ladybug design into the right file format for my particular embroidery machine. Another 20 minutes had now gone by. It occurs to me that I could have hand-embroidered my bug by now, but I brush that aside reassuring myself that this elaborate ladybug would show-up a simple redwork design anyday! My ladybug is now properly formatted and ready to load onto the rewritable memory card which I will then carry downstairs to the sewing room and feed to my machine.

Another snafu emerges. For some reason I cannot load my design onto the memory card. I keep getting messages that the computer cannot access port com 1. I have no idea what this means, but it sound serious. It's time to call on the higher powers, which in this case means my 18 year old son. He tells me that since my software is several years old that I most likely need to download an update from the SmartBox people. So back online I go to see if the SmartBox website offers an software updates. No problem! A whole webpage is devoted to updating software for people like me who refuse to buy a new $300 Embroidery Design Transfer System every year. I download the new software. Another 15 minutes has passed, but I should now be good to go.

I STILL cannot get the design to load onto my memory card. But at least the error message has changed which, starting to feel slightly desperate, I decide to take as a good sign. I trot back down to the basement where my son is semi-permanently ensconced in his computer studio and let him know that his suggestion has failed to produce the desired results. He sighs and gives me "the look", the one that means that people my age should not be allowed to operate heavy machinery. He promises to "come take a look" as soon as he can. By now, however, I have moved beyond slightly desperate and am heading towards full-scale impatience. I could have sewed an entire wedding trousseau by now! I charge back up the stairs determined to solve this once and for all.

I begin Googling like a madwoman. I turn up an obscure message board where tormented textile techies like me gather to plan their defense against rebellious 7-thread sergers and computerized embroidery machines and digitizing software! On page 5, I find a cryptic allusion to an incompatibility between Microsoft's XP operating system and Simplicity's not-so-SmartBox. I follow a series of links through smoke-filled backrooms till I stumble across a potentially nefarious patch that promises to solve the problem. I am skeptical, but by this time completely frenzied. I throw caution to the wind and beginning downloading with reckless abandon. More than 90 minutes has now passed. Precious minutes that I could have spent at my sewing machine instead of trapped in a technology wasteland!

With trembling hands, I insert my memory card into the obstinate SmartBox. I position the cursor over the Load button and holding my breath, offer a tentative left click. Wonder of wonders! It loads! After almost two hours of blood, sweat and tears, I have managed to transfer a 3 inch ladybug from the internet onto a plastic card about the size of a Peanut Butter Reese's cup.

I must end here. It is too painful to tell you about the SIX hour unsuccessful battle to get the ladybug from plastic card to sundress bodice. All I can say is...I think Henry David Thoreau had it right when he said, "Men have become the tools of their tools."



Michelle- This One's For The Girls said...

Hey Charity!

I've been reading you on CHF for years and now I've discovered through Kate's blog that you blog! Yeah!

Just stopped by to say "hello!"

Michelle Ray-MO (as I'm known on CHF) :)

cmarie12 said...

Charity, and this is why the embroidery element in my machine lies dormant to this day! I want to create not struggle with technology. To not think about the extra money I spent on the machine, I remind myself that it does do a wonderful straight stitch and it does have a myraid of built-in stitches that have added hours to my sewing pleasure - NOT!