I am, by nature, a dive-in-and-figure-it-out sort of technology user. This may come from my early days as a computer user, when my then room-mate and sometime business partner dropped a box on my desk and said “we’re doing a user’s manual for X Corp. Can you learn this” — this being PageMaker, the forerunner of InDesign, a page layout program–“by next week? I should have copy for you then.”

Reader, I did not rise up and slay him; I learned the program, eventually well enough that I taught classes in it. I still use those skills:  one of the things I do at my day job is to use InDesign to produce the posters, ads, and other marketing materials that the museum I work at needs for promotion. But–more to the point–I learn best by doing, and only rely on the manual when there’s something I cannot figure out on my own. This leads, of course, to inefficiency and occasional tearful hilarity, but it is also the way I learn best. I once knew someone who read the entire manual for any new piece of software or equipment before she started to use it… I admire this, but it is not my way.**

Which brings me to this morning. I am making a vest for a friend; she bought a couple of pieces of gorgeous hand-marbled fabric, but cannot sew. I, for certain values of can, can. As with computers, I am a self-taught seamstress. I like knowing how to do things, and while I don’t make clothes for my every day wear, I have for years sewn costumes and other around-the-house items. So I was rootling around looking for a bobbin of appropriate thread, found the one I needed, and then realized that it was tortuously badly wound–like, unusably so. I had to cut the thread off it and rewind it. But first I wanted to figure out why it had gotten so bollixed up in the first place. So I resorted to the manual.

This is my second sewing machine, and significantly newer than my old one, which I passed along to my older daughter. I started using this machine pretty much out of the box, and according to the ways of my old machine (and the machine I had prior to that, which was my grandmother’s, and may have been the first portable Singer ever made). It turns out that Life and Technology had moved on from those quaint earlier days, and in winding the bobbin the old way–using the foot pedal to power the winding–I was Doing It Wrong on an epic, possibly damaging, scale. It turns out that if you press a button the machine will wind the bobbin for you perfectly, with nice even tension. All you have to do is thread the thing and voila! it is wound.

Which leads me to reflect that sometimes it is smart to Read the Fucking Manual* before moving forward with the old ways. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, but for now, my bobbin is wound and the vest proceeds apace.


**I am told I am very Sagittarius in this regard. Or something.

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About Madeleine E. Robins

Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, available from Plus One Press). Her Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, The Heiress Companion, Lady John, and The Spanish Marriage are now available from Book View Café. Sold for Endless Rue , an historical novel set in medieval Italy, was published in May 2013 by Forge Books


RTFM* — 3 Comments

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  2. I’m also a “roll up my sleeves and dig in” person when it comes to software. I’m currently rebuilding my website, using a new-to-me template with a totally different interface than I’m used to (Divi, for those who care…) I’m about a week into the enterprise now, and I’ve learned *so* much, but I’m afraid I’ll forget it all within days of getting the new site up!

    Show us a picture of the finished garment!