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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fabric Shopping in Austin

Yes, you read that right. There is now some serious, quality fabric shopping in Austin, Texas.
Mom and I spent the afternoon on Thursday making the rounds to our favorite stores: Sew Much More, The Common Thread and TexStyles.
We hit Sew Much More for the great sale. I ordered a bias binder, Mom got a part she needed for her Elna, a Chalkoner, and we each bought a rolling cart of drawers so I could better organize all my trims.

Our first fabric stop was The Common Thread on South Lamar.
Jeannie has a great selection of quality fabrics--silks, bamboo/lycra knits, quality flannels, organic cotton blends.

Mom picked up an abstract print rayon/lycra jersey, a cotton peacock print from the Victoria & Albert Museum and a GORGEOUS Valentino print on silk charmeuse.

The makeup bag I made for Mom with the peacock fabric. I monogrammed the "S".

The fun flannel print I picked up for a new pair of pajamas.

The amazing Valentino print silk

If you're in the need of some gorgeous fabrics, real petersham, or Russian/French veil, stop by and visit Jeannie. She can also order lots of fabrics if she doesn't have exactly what you are looking for.

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Even Boys Like It!

About 2 weeks ago, my neighbor came by with her son to have me fit a dress for her vow renewal. Her son is about 8, and apparently her stylist. I could tell by the way he looked at her in her dress, clearly looking at the fit and design and how it flattered her, that he has an eye. After the fitting, I set up my 830 to embroider his name since I thought he might get a kick out of it. Well, he was mesmerized. And when it was done, he already had decided which bag he wanted it put on. I told him I would some better ones for him, and here they are:

I realized that kids just don't get the exposure to mechanical things like I did as kid. My dad and brother were always working on our cars, we did most of our own home repairs, and my mom sewed. I think kids are really missing out--another reason for more people to get sewing!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Upcycled Chanel Jacket

My last post showed the first steps of a new Chanel jacket. The original garment was a swing coat my aunt wore in the 60's, probably made by my grandmother. The fabric is a gorgeous classic: a very loose weave mohair houndstooth in off-white and black:

I decide the only way to reuse this fabric was a classic Chanel jacket. I used Susan Khalje's method featured in Threads Magazine issue 121.
I was able to cut the jacket body out with problems, but did have to piece both the upper and under sleeves. I've been watching a lot of Mad Men lately, so decided to go with a shorter sleeve, which I believe is called bracelet length. The sleeves ended up being the same length as the jacket.

I combined purchased trim with torn strips of black silk charmeuse that I ran through the ruffler on the 830LE:

And here's the (almost) finished jacket. (I still need to finish the lining at the top of one sleeve and add the chain along the bottom. I'll probably add pockets as well.  What do you think? the classic 2 large and one small? Cut on grain or on the bias?

Decisions, decisions.

Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In Praise of the Dual Feed

One of the features of the Bernina 830 that I underestimated is the dual feed. I've often wished I could switch out the feet on my walking foot, and the dual feed foot essentially does that. Only a handful of feet are available for use with the dual feed, but they are enough to make me very happy. There are more, but so far I have the edge stitch foot, jean foot, 1/4" patchwork foot with guide and the standard foot that came with the machine. The dual feed makes everything easier, whether it's matching a design, quilting charmeuse to boucle, or stitching seams on a stretch knit.

Below are a couple of shots of the 1D foot.

In the first photo you can see the "arm" that slips between the legs of the foot:

And here you can see the mechanism behind the foot: the whole thing swings down for use and back up and out of the way when you don't need it:

This is the beginning of re-purpose project. I've taken apart a coat of my aunt's from the 60's to make a Chanel style jacket. Can't wait to finish it and for it to cool off enough for me to wear it!
Happy Sewing,

Love my Baby(Lock)

With all my going on about my wonderful Berninas, I realized this weekend that I haven't given any credit/praise/love to my BabyLock Evolution which I bought earlier this year. This is my second overlock/coverstitch combination machine. My first (which I still have) is an ElnaPro DCX 905. It was one of the first home machines to offer a coverstitch. This machine is about 17 years old, so I decided that it was time to look for a newer overlock. I wanted at least 5 threads for a safety stitch + 3-thread overlock, which quickly narrowed the options. I looked at other options, but quickly settled on the BabyLock for its reputation for quality, and the Evolution for the 8 threads that provide so many options.

Compared to the Elna, the BabyLock seems very low tech, but looks can be deceiving.

My 17+ year old Elna:                                              
The pretty new BabyLock (photo from BL site): 
The cover stitch on the BabyLock is beautiful. I love that there are 2 widths, though I've had some trouble with the wider one tunneling on light fabrics. I just used the narrower one to apply elastic on a peasant top. So much easier and faster than sewing a casing with a regular sewing machine! I was able to sew the entire top on my BabyLock, and the air threading makes switching between overlock and cover stitch even easier.

This is closeup of  both the right and wrong side:
...and the finished top, dyed:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Making Room for Baby

This past weekend my supportive, wonderful husband extended my work table for my Bernina 830LE.  It was fine for all the standard hoops, but not deep enough to use my mega or jumbo hoop (just got an email that it's in!)
We added 6" to the front, reinforced with dowels and high impact plastic panels that were left over from another project. We also added "desk grommets"--those capped holes in most modular office furniture. Since my work table is at bar height, I had to put my machines right up on the front edge of the table. The desk grommets let me set the machine a little further back and gets all the cords off the work table. Finally, I covered the tables with a black leather texture contact paper. It's not perfectly smooth, but it does cover up all the snags and rough areas and saved me from a few days of painting.

Here's a pic of the new work table. Hopefully you get the idea...
Happy Sewing!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More 830 Awesomeness

I only got about half a day in the studio yesterday--too many other things to wrap up before I start my new job on Monday.

I'm working on a KitchenAid mixer cover for my mom, and of course, *had* to do embroidery on it.
Here are some of the really cool features for embroidery on the 830:

  •  The machine stops immediately when a thread breaks or runs out, so no need to back up and much less time lost from "threadless sewing".
  • When you combine designs onscreen, you can combine colors with the touch of a button. Ex: you choose two designs, both use 3 colors. Click the reduce colors button and the machine combines the similar colors so you have half as many thread changes and faster stitchout.
  • The start button does everything: If you need to raise the presser foot to clean out the bobbin case or rethread, you don't have to lower it to get going again. Just hold the start button, and the machine lowers the presser foot and resume stitching.
Here are a couple of pictures of the embroidery. I'll post more pics when the cover is done.

Happy Sewing!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 3 and still in Heaven....

My good friend Mimi came over today so we could "play" in my studio. She wanted to embroidery a large tablecloth she's making. After catching up and showing her some of the awesomeness of the new machine, we picked 3 Shashiko designs from the LE embroidery CD.

Here's the final product (well, part of it, anyway):
One of the advantages of keeping my 730, is that I have now 2 each of the standard hoops, so I could hoop the next section while the last one was stitching out.

Here's a shot of the machine's screen while it was stitching:

I was hoping to get my jeans done (I only have the belt loops, waistband and hems to do), but didn't, so here's a shot of the back.
I used the dual feed quite a bit--it is so easy to engage. You just pull down a lever in the back of the machine, and swing under the foot. SO much easier than trying to attach a walking foot, and more options for presser feet, too.

Finally, I thought I'd show you some more coolness on the machine. When you do something like open the bobbin door or start to thread the machine, animations are displayed on the screen to show you what to do. It's really handy since it keeps you from having the pull out the manual so much. Here's what the screen looks like when you start to thread the machine.

And when you've threaded the machine, the needle threader button lights up (lower left corner). Yeah, this machine threads the needle for you, too. (does not work on double & triple needles and needles size 8 and smaller, but come on, this is still a really awesome feature)

Tomorrow I plan to do some machine embroidery/applique.

Happy Sewing,

Bernina 830 Dual Feed

Yesterday was my second full day with my new 830LE. I don't have any photos I can share since I was finishing up two challenge entries and cannot post any photos until after the judging has been done.
I did start on a pair of jeans, and will post photos when they're done.

I used the dual feed for the first time yesterday, and anyone who has worked on stretch denim will appreciate this feature. If you aren't familiar with dual feed, it is essentially a built-in walking foot. You need to use special feet (D) since the dual feed pops down right behind the needle. Yeah, I know, more feet and Bernina feet are so expensive, but hey, they work really, really well, and most dealers have regular sales, so you can save if you plan well. Sure the feet for my older Elna were a fraction of the cost, but they didn't work anywhere near as well. It always took 2 passes to insert an invisible zipper, and I could never get a rolled hem right. This just isn't the case with my Berninas.
The 830 does come with 2 dual feed feet, 1D and 4D(zipper foot) and I purchased the D version of my favorite foot, the 10D, edge stitch.
I ended up using the dual feed for most of the sewing on these jeans since it really helped minimize distortion when edge and top stitching, and even seemed to help on the seams.
The machine was a little fussy with jean thread in the needle, but slowed down and was careful when starting seams, and we got along fine.

I embroidered the pockets, and though I think I've already mentioned it, the auto-stop when a thread breaks is really nice. My 730E just keeps going for a bit, so I always have to roll back to where the thread broke. The speed control on the front of the machine is nice, too.

My dear friend Mimi is coming over today to work on a table cloth, so I'll have more to report later today.

Happy Sewing!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Most Awesome Bernina Ever

I never thought I'd make this move, but I may be able to blame it in part on the temporary insanity and general disorientation caused by being suddenly out of a job. Of course, that whole event is what made this possible in the end.
Short story: I got laid off (first time in over 20 years) but found a new job in less than 2 weeks, so my husband declared the severance pay I received as "found" money. I had already planned to attend a Bernina Pillow Party at my dealer's store, but really didn't think I'd be buying one any time soon. The marketing geniuses (I am not being snarky here--rare, I know) at Bernina host these workshops at dealers everywhere. They send brand new machines which participants get to use, and provide all materials. You spend about 3-1/2 hours being walked through a project where you do decorative, embroidery and quilting stitches. We even did buttonholes. It really is a brilliant idea--what better way to see you on a machine than letting you do a project on one?
So here's the real hook: Because these machines are now used, they are offered at a discount. They offer financing (I got 36 months no interest), and bonus accessories. In my case I got a jumbo hoop and a 30% one-day shopping spree. Since I bought the Limited Edition, I also got a USB stick and 1000 embroidery designs which don't come with the regular model.
So, finally, in true techy nerd tradition, I documented the unboxing. I love electronics, but nothing is better than sewing electronics.
The Bernina 830 comes in two big boxes. I'm not a wimp, but I could barely get the machine box up the 6 steps to my studio.  I think the machine must weigh over 40 pounds.

Here you can see the extension table, box of presser feet (9, including 2 "d" models for use with the dual feed) and collector's tin with thread(Bernina colors) and a Limited Edition USB stick.

Inside the tin and box of presser feet.
The boxes underneath contain all the manual, CD, accessories pamphlets, etc.

Underneath all the other goodies is the machine!
I was a little disappointed that this machine did not come with a case, but the cover is pretty serious--thick, padded and possibly even insulated. Meh, I'll be making my own cover anyway, and I used the 30% off to buy the Tutto case set.

...and the rest of the goodies from the main box: accessory "wardrobe", box-o-tools, BSR foot, etc.

And the embroidery unit goodies--3 hoops (the Jumbo Hoop is on order).

and finally, everything set up and ready to go:

Getting a little crowded on my machine work table:

I'll have more details on the machine and my favorite features (it's a long list!)

Happy Sewing,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Vintage Apron

I recently tried out a vintage pattern that came from my grandmother. The date stamped on one of the pattern pieces is "1916". The pattern pieces have no printing, only punch holes and notches. The "instructions" are printed on the back of the envelope--about 3 sentences for each view. No details on finishing seams, applying lace trim or sewing the straps. The view I chose has a bib, but no neck band since one is clearly expected to pin the bib to their clothing.
Image to follow...