Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Pressing Matter

Yes, that's a very corny title, I know. I've been intrigued by the idea of using a press iron ever since I saw one on the website from the shop where I ended up buying Phoebe. The really pretty fancy-dancy red one shown in that video is the one in the pic from my sewing machine store but they don't actually carry that model. Just as well because I believe it runs for around $1,200. The model they do carry is "marked down" to $600, although a quick internet search has it showing up from a number of U.S. retailers for $400. But once I add the Cdn conversion, shipping and duty charges there's not much of a difference in price.

My mom has an old cast iron model that she lent me to see if it is something I really want to get. I did struggle with getting the "perfect" press I wanted out of her press, but I think that is party due to not being able to press hard enough on hers and partly due to a lack of experience on my part. Which still left me with the dilema of whether to fork out a rather large sum of money for something I still wasn't sure I wanted or needed. Enter Ebay.

You are looking at an Elnapress 2000, vintage unknown. (That is the Ebay pic, and therefore not my ugly shag carpeting lol) From what I can find out online the Elna's seem to be the best on the market. With a pull of a handle they apply 100lbs of pressure. My "local" dealer (2 hour drive away) is getting rid of the Elna line and only has one left in stock. It is the lowest model with no steam or any other extras. I got the impression the lack of steam is why he is no longer carrying them. He is the one who said that the sexy red top-of-the-line machine is about $1,200. He is replacing them with the "Reliable" brand which does have steam and also has a bigger bed for the same price as the Elna. I initially thought this was the way to go (the bigger bed would be a very nice feature) but then I've read a lot of people talking about the steam hole "witness marks" left on the fabric from machines with built-in steam, even when using them dry. This makes sense to me because this happens with a standard steam iron if you don't move it around. So rather than built-in steam you just use a spray bottle. Also I can't find anything in the Reliable literature that speaks to pounds of pressure. I suspect it is one where you just hold the handle down and that's a hard as you can press it. So the Elna really seems like the way to go after all.

The Elnapress 2000 is a higher-end machine. It even has the built-in sleeve board, currently only available on the high-end presses. The Ebay ad said that they plugged it in and it got "very hot", so hopefully it works for me. This also makes me think it came from an estate sale or something. If it does work then I saved myself at least $500 which makes the cheap bastard in me VERY happy. I really want to try it for all of my ironing, but for the price I paid, even if I only end up using it for interfacing and pressing napkins I'm good to go. For what it's worth I use perfectly pressed napkins daily in my fantasy life (but not so much in my real life).

The tag shows it is made in Switzerland, which is what you want it to say.  I don't have any way of understanding the code, but I do wonder if the "1984" in the I.D. number is the production year. With any luck this will be a unit previously owned and lovingly cared for by someone who took care of their things. I am always the optimist!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oooops! Or... The Style Arc "Ann" Tee

Thor loves a good photobomb

Well, here's the first incarnation of the Style Arc "Ann" tee.  Let's see if we can count how many ways it went wrong.

This was a downloadable pattern being offered for free for a limited time.  Style Arc is a popular indie pattern company out of Australia, and they have a strong following.  It's a scooped neck tee with side ruching on the front. The pattern prints out with full front and back (rather than half cut on the fold).  This was my first time with this and a bit of an adjustment for cutting out.  I used the 12 because that is what my measurements called for, compared to the 14 I use in "Big 4" patterns.  I need to fold the pattern in half to compare it to my TNT NL6735.  It didn't seem too big until I started sewing it together.

To be honest I think most of the problems came from the fabric.  This is a thin mesh polyester knit.  I bought it because I loved the pattern on it.  And because the cheap bastard in me loved the $3/meter price.  As you can see it is too see-through, at least for work.  But the biggest thing is you would think I sprinkled fertilizer on this fabric.  The more I sewed with it the more it grew.  And grew.  I had to remove the neckband and take out a full 10".  And as you can see it then still stretched (again!) to unwearable proportions after putting it in a second time.  I was originally thinking about using a cowl neck collar, but I'm really glad I decided to do it "as is" for the first go-round.

It isn't hemmed yet.  Although I prewashed the fabric I may throw it in the wash again to see what happens.  With the free pattern and $4.50 in fabric I really have nothing to lose other than my time.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Posting Links on Pattern Review

Some folks find it challenging to post links on Pattern Review.  Since I spend so much time there I thought I'd do a bit of a tutorial to help those who like visuals.  Hopefully this doesn't make it even more confusing! lol

First you need to get the address for where you want to link to.  I had been looking at sewing videos on Youtube so I am using that in this example.  Go to that page and copy the address information from the bar at the top of the page.

Next go to your Pattern Review page where you are posting your message.  Click on the http:// button.

Then paste the address into the window that opens up, being sure to remove the http:// that is already in the box.  One thing that messes some people up is that they don't remove the http:// that is already in the box when they paste in their address which leaves the address with two sets of http:// at the beginning and will end up with a "broken link"; the link won't work.  There needs to be one and only one http:// at the beginning of the address.

Now that the address is copied into the box you can click on "OK".  Another window will appear with "My Webpage" in it.  You can type over "My Webpage" with whatever you want to call your link.  Or you can leave it as is if that's what you want to call it.  Click on "OK".

Now your screen will look something like this.  I changed "My Webpage" to "Example Link" in the above step, and you can see that below at the end of the coding that appears in the box where you type your message.

And there you have it.  I hope that helps!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sure is Quiet In Here!

I went to the local public library after work yesterday, something I rarely do now that I read books on my Kobo ereader. The place was really quiet - not quiet because it's a library and no one is talking, but quiet as in there were only three other people there, and one of them was a staff person. I hope that doesn't mean we are going to lose the library, and maybe it means I need to go there more often to throw them some business. I really do like reading on my ereader, but some books require big glossy pics to look at. Like sewing books.

I was specifically hoping to find some more serging books but they are mostly out at other branches, but when I went online to reserve them I got the dreaded "your privileges are expired" message, meaning I needed to go there to renew my card. I was still able to find some stuff to keep me busy. Here's my haul:

Style Evolution: How To Create Ageless Personal Style In Your 40s And Beyond

Timesaving Sewing - Singer Sewing Reference Library

Sew, Serge, Press: Speed Tailoring in the Ultimate Sewing Center

The Perfect Fit - Singer Sewing Reference Library

Design It, Sew It, and Wear It: Clothes from Patterns You Make Yourself

I get to keep them for three weeks but I don't know how much I will get through them. It could be worse - there were at least three more that I put back on the shelf!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Getting The Most From My Brother 1034D Serger

There have been a lot of posts on Pattern Review lately about some of the newer high-end sergers, and I have to admit it's hard not to get the bug for a "bigger better" machine. Before plunking down $1,300 - $2,400, I thought I should at least see if I'm getting the most out of the 1034D that I curently have. Although I bought it at least 8 or 9 years ago (probably more - the video tutorial was on VHS lol) I have only really been using it for less than a year. I set it up to the recommended settings in the manual and left it at that. I've never even oiled it!

I spent the last weekend going through the manual and started reading The Complete Serger Handbook. I am using a more critical eye to look at my stitches and noticed that I have stitching beyond the edge of the fabric rather than the stitches hugging the fabric snugly. On the weekend, working with knit fabric, I adjusted my stitch width which improved things a bit. Then last night, working with a woven fabric, I tweaked my tension settings for my upper and lower loopers up a setting and couldn't believe the difference (pics to follow). My stitches now looks perfect! Next up is to start playing with the differential feed to get rid of the slight waviness I get when sewing knits. My Mom recently told me of a method for inside curves where you pull your fabric front and aft to make a tighter turning radius. As a tighter turning radius is the main feature I am looking for in an upgrade I need to try this on my 1034D.

The expensive fully-featured machines have a very strong fan base, I think at least in part because many people don't want to have to think about the settings and just want to sew - and that is a perfectly legitimate standpoint. But I have read of more than one sewist with a top level serger who is disappointed with the results of the automatic tension. These generally seem to be sewists who have learned to perfect their stitches with the manual adjustments rather than just taking what they get out of the machine (as I had been doing up until now). I think it benefits those of us who have manual settings such as on the 1034D to learn how to adjust those settings in order to to produce nicer work.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

NL6735 B5493 Mashup

NL6735 Bodice B5493 Cowl
First up is this pretty blue and white number.  This is a mashup of New Look 6735 and Butterick 5493.  I Bought 5493 because of all the different neckline options.  I didn't realize it was intended for a stretch woven fabric, and all the PR reviews talked about it being quite a loose fitting top.  I wanted to use these collars to add variety to tees so I decided to adapt my TNT (tried and true) 6735 to accommodate the collar from 5493.  It turned out pretty good, don't you think?

I really wrestled with how to finish the edge of the cowl neck.  The pattern calls for a double folded very narrow hem.  I played with the idea of using the coverstitch to do a single fold hem but thought that might be a bit big for the application.  Then I did a sample with a serged rolled hem but I thought that would be too obvious.  I even thought about leaving it raw because it is a fine knit but the edges wanted to roll up.  So in the end I did as the pattern suggested.  I still get a bit of turning up near the shoulders which I am going to resolve with a little hand stitching to tack it down.

The last time I made this top sleeveless I narrowed the shoulder width and used banding on the armholes.  This made it more like a tank top.  This time around I left the width as it was and did a double fold to the seam allowance.  I think this little big of extra coverage makes this top more work-friendly.

I now want to experiment a bit more with cowls - both the added on collars and the slash-and-spread styles - to add a little interest to my tee wardrobe. 

Changing gears here, I've been thinking about getting a new serger.  Not that there's anything wrong with my Brother 1034D, it is an excellent little machine.  It was cheap (what's not to like about that) and has proven to be quite reliable.  I really don't have a lot of problems threading it since I labeled the machine (at work that's called "visual factory") and I definitely don't "need" a new machine, although the bells and whistles on the higher end machines would certainly be nice to have.  I've been spending too much time on Pattern Review reading serger discussions and all roads seem to lead to the Babylock Enlighten.  The big selling features about this machine are the air-threading (ok that would be cool but like I said I'm ok threading my Brother), the "wave stitch" which is some specialty embellishment stitch that I would probably never use, led lighting (definitely a plus), and here's the biggie - a tighter turning ratio.  This is the feature that got my attention.  I have found a passion for sewing with knits.  Particularly knit tops.  I learned the method from Lynn Rowe's knit sew-along of sewing the sleeves in flat and then doing the sleeve seam and side seam in one go.  This has been pretty much foolproof for me.  But there can be a pretty sharp turn going from the sleeve to the bodice, and sometimes the Brother jumps off the road at that intersection.  I then have to go back and reinforce with Phoebe.  This is where the tighter turning ratio would be beneficial.  The downside?  The Enlighten is being sold at my local dealer for $2400.  Ouch!  Yet the reviews on the Enlighten are all singing its praises.  Is it a kool-aide thing because people want to justify having spent so much money or are the machines really that good?

I could go down a model to the Imagine for $1800, but that one doesn't seem to have the tight turning ratio or the led lighting - the two main features I am looking for.  Not much point in spending that kind of money on a machine that doesn't do what I want it to.

This morning I read about the patent expiring on the Babylock air-driven threading system, and how other brands will now be incorporating this feature. Juki already has with the MO-1000.  This seems to have all the same features as the Enlighten such as the tight turning ratio, led lighting, and air-driven threading.  The only thing missing is the automatic tension.  This machine is selling for $1300.  But the reviews are mixed.  It has only been out for about a year and it has had some teething pains.  Also, I'm not aware of a local Juki dealer.  I believe I'd be able to pick one up at the Novi Sewing Expo in September, but I wouldn't have a local dealer for service.  And that can be a big deal.  I need to decide if it is a $1100 big deal.

Fortunately I don't have to make any decisions today, I will continue doing my homework.  All this thinking about a new serger has me focusing more on my serging technique and questioning if I am making the best of what I currently have.  I always use the factory settings and recommended tension.  I have never bothered to make up a sampler with different tensions for different fabrics.  I probably should do that.  In the meantime I have been noticing that there is a bit of loose thread at the edge of my seams when serging thin slinky knits as shown in the top example on the left.  I just narrowed my stitch width by one notch and got a better finish right away as you can see on the dotted fabric.  This is what I should be doing more of instead of drooling over new machines!


Friday, August 08, 2014

Simplicity 3956

Simplicity 3956 View A

I am so pleased with this top - probably more pleased than any normal person should be.  That's because there's a backstory to this.

For whatever reason I happened to be at the fabric store with my mother probably 8 or 10 years ago.  This was in the middle of a very long sewing drought, and even back when I did sew I had much more ambition and enthusiasm than actual knowledge or talent.  I saw some denim coloured printed crinkled cotton that I fell in love with, and thought it would make a perfect S3956.  My measurements fell between two sizes so to be safe I went with the larger - an 18.  To put that into perspective, I have since learned that I wear a 14 in Big 4 patterns (I have a whole rant about Big 4 sizing but I'll save that for another time).  I can remember sewing this at my kitchen table, really challenged by this top and putting a lot of effort into it.  I vaguely remember having problems keeping the crinkle cotton from stretching out even with staystitching and fighting to make it match up with the lining.  When it was finally done I swam in it.  It was unwearable.  Needless to say I was SO disappointed and swore off sewing forever.  Or at least sewing clothes.

Simplicity 3956 View C
My mom took it home and took it in at the sides of the zippers for me, and tried to adjust the front so that it didn't gape so much, but it never looked right.  It looks much better on Gertrude here than it ever did on me.  And those sleeves!  The couple of times I tried to wear it around the house - just to justify the time and money invested in it - the sleeves were constantly in the way, hanging in my dinner or the dishwater or whatever.  But I just can't let things go.  I decided I would take it apart and remake it a size down.  Then when I pulled out the pattern pieces I realized I'd made it two sizes too big.  Well that explains a lot!

The (hard to see) tie
I had recently looked at the reviews for this top on Pattern Review and noticed a number of people made this up in a knit - and I really liked how that looked.  I happen to have a fair knit stash so I decided to make a new one rather than fight with the old one.  This really was an effort in faith because the instructions are MIA and I had to wing it.

The banded neckline doesn't gape at all
This time around I made View A.  The pattern is cut on the bias, but since I was using a knit I felt that wasn't necessary.  I cut the pattern pieces as if they were on-grain and I got this top out of a little more than a meter of fabric (the pattern calls for 1.9).  I eliminated the bodice lining and finished the neckline with self-banding.  By stretching the banding a bit when sewing it in place I have no gaping at the neckline even when bending over.  I found it a bit challenging attaching the skirt to the bodice because, including the ties, I was wrangling with 6 and 8 layers in some parts of the front of very slippery slinky knit fabric.  But in the end I got it all together and I am REALLY happy with the final result.  And the bonus?

I had enough fabric left over to get another New Look 6735!  Woohoo!  And I may still try and do a remake of the original version.  I am nothing if not stubborn.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

McCalls 6966

Mallory helping with sorting the pattern pieces
 I haven't been much of a skirt or dress girl for many years.  I work six days a week in a strictly jeans environment, even though I occasionally go all out with a pair of cargo pants.  Then I generally tend to continue the jeans theme or even jammies on my day off.  So I have to say that I was really glad to see skirts and dresses coming back into style, and have been determined to wear them more this year - even if it is just to the grocery store.
Mallory holding things down in case of a sudden strong wind
I really like the maxi trend and was very happy to see it being worn locally.  McCalls 6966 seemed to fit the bill for a casual maxi with some interest.  It is a pretty basic skirt to put together. I bought a basic polyester striped knit, cheap and cheerful.  The problem for me is that the pattern pieces are so big that I initially laid it out on the floor.  My arthritis soon put up a major argument to that plan, so I then tried to manipulate it one piece at a time on my cutting table.

I used my quilting ruler to align the grainline of the pattern 90 degrees to the stripes on the fabric.  I didn't spend a lot of time trying to match up my chevrons.  The only place to do this was at the side seams because the angle is off to do it on the blocked pieces.

Add caption
All in all I am very happy with this skirt. I feel very feminine and comfortable in it. It is perfect for sitting in the sunroom, hanging by the pool or going to the grocery store or Costco. I haven't hemmed it yet because I know it will stretch. I had to recut the waistband by about 8" because it stretched so badly when I serged the top seam. Click on the pic to get a better view of the skinny stripes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Another NL 6735

I know I made a dedicated post for New Look 6735, but I just had to show off this fabric.  It's one of the fabrics I bought with my coupon from Fabricland.  It is a medium weight knit synthetic of some sort with a bit of lycra.  It feels beautiful to the touch and is a nice weight for a fall/winter top, but what I love most is that colour!  I would call it a burnt orange, but it is absolutely delicious.

I took the time to trace the grainline because (a) I really like this fabric and didn't want to screw it up and (b) because I thought it would be obvious if it is off grain because of the microscopic striping in the knit.  Having said that the striping made it very easy to trace the grainline (actually the cross-grain line) with the use of my lighted magnifying glass.

The other change I made was to shorten the pattern.  Now that I have a coverstitch machine I find I only use a 3/4" hem turned once rather than the 1 1/2" hem allowance on knit patterns.  So I've shortened the pattern by the extra hem allowance as well as some of the length of the tee because I think it was just a little too long (I did lengthen it an inch when I first traced the pattern).  I think the new length looks pretty good here.

I am very happy with this top, except... I didn't put quite enough stretch into the neckband.  It gapes a little bit when I bend over and I can notice it gaping even as I just sit here at the computer.  I think I will rip it out and do it again.  It's definitely a learning curve because each fabric seems to have its own amount of stretch which makes a difference in how long you cut the band.  I will report back.

Ok, I'm back lol.  It took me about 45 minutes to pick out the old neckline - not bad considering it was serged (4 thread) and topstitched.  And I managed not to cut any holes in it!  I cut out about 2 1/4" of the neckline, then sewed it back in with a straight stitch (in case it needed to come out again), then sewed a second stitch line and finally topstitched.
Here's the result:

You really can't tell the difference in the pics, but it fits better.  It doesn't gape when I lean forward.  It has been pressed flat so it will probably gape even less after washing.   Also, the neckband has a more consistent width, which is often a challenge for me.  So in the end it was worth fixing.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


I'm not very happy with two recent tops I've made. Both of them have bust details and both of them look a little... frumpy. When comparing them to my standard tee they definitely left something to be desired. If I can't feel good wearing them I won't wear them. So I pulled out my pattern for NL6735 and started hacking away.

First I decided to have at
New Look 6940.  I began by taking in the sides to match 6735 which meant taking it in by more than an inch each side for a total of 4".  This really helped keep the empire seam where it is supposed to be instead of it riding up.  Then I shortened it by about 4".  I probably should have only chopped off 3" but it's done now and I can live with it.  I think it is much better proportioned.

Then, feeling inspired, I decided to take New Look 6977 in an inch each side, again for a total of 4".  And again, the bust gathers seem to sit better without riding up so much.  Not to mention that I was able to get rid of that nasty underarm bump from trying to fit the sleeve better.  So it seems to me that in order to make these bust features work the tees need to be quite fitted.  Not to mention that I think a fitted tee is more flattering on me.  So hopefully I will get more wear out of these two tops now that I don't feel quite so - frumpy!