read the instructions!!
That is the big lesson of the day. The context for that pearl of wisdom is that in the 13 years since my lovely ex-mum-in-law gave me her old Janome sewing machine I have always assumed that the machine's particular quirk was that it liked to chew up stretch fabric. As a consequence, I've steered clear of all delicate and stretchy materials and stuck with good, reliable cotton.
But when I was tidying my craft room last week, I came across the instruction book for the sewing machine, and like a prize fool I realised that the dear thing does in fact sew stretch material - it just needs a special needle to do it! So I bought the special needle, dug out a length of pretty rose print stretch fabric that has waited patiently among my fabric stash, and made a comfy little gathered top.
And the moral of the story is that from now on, I will always read the instructions whenever I get a new appliance.