It is also the name I have chosen to give my Singer treadle sewing machine. Those of you with very long memories will remember her arrival from here. I was quite excited by her arrival – but knew I was going to take a while to sort her out. Not least because she was locked up solid. Absolutely SOLID! I couldn’t persuade the treadle to move at all and I knew I was going to have to just leave the oil to work it’s magic.
Well, after a long time the poor old dear started to look like this:
Yes, it is too good a dumping ground to waste. And since I couldn’t use the machine I dumped massive amounts of ‘work in progress’ on the top. The only way to stop was to get the old girl up and running.
The main problem (the lack of motion) had been quietly soaking in oil for months, but the cabinet and machine were both in need of a good clean. I have no intention of this becoming a ‘desirable antique’. All I want is a functioning machine so I got going with the well wrung out cloth and gently buffed away the muck of ages.
I was quite surprised at just how much filth came off, and just how good the decal looked when it was clean! It is well worn, you can see exactly how the person who used this machine most leaned in over the machine and rested their forearm on the base.
Once the outside was clean and dry I got inside and brushed away all the lint, dust, and rusted pins before giving everything that moved a little drink. I was able to undo the plate on the front and side but couldn’t move the cover from the feed dogs or back of the machine (despite a lot of lubrication and many unsuitable words of encouragement). Once all the dirt had been transferred from the machine to me I decided to leave the oil to work it’s magic and have a bath.
The following day I was able to gently try out the machine mechanism by hand (purred along beautifully with no ghastly noises) before refitting the treadle belt, which had also been given a drink of oil, and trying to move the pedal. Which moved! It is still a bit ‘dry’ sounding but it is now moving freely and operating the machine as it should.
This was the point I was able to replace the needle (which I had removed whilst I ‘fiddled’), thread up, and try it out on a piece of scrap cotton. After all the time this machine had been unused I was delighted to find that the stitch was pretty much perfect. A few snafus while I got my treadle legs going, but this old lady remembers how it is done. I can’t wait to give her a proper job. I think she really suits her new name, having waited patiently to come back into work.
Flushed with success (and I have to admit having just found the box again!) I put the Singer Auto-Pilot buttonhole attachment I bought on e-bay on my Janome 1580. This is the machine I use as a spare and I thought I could leave this attachment, which has plastic guides to create eyelet buttonholes, set up to use if I needed it. I hadn’t read the advert properly – I thought this would go on the hand crank machine – and it needs to be fitted to a zig-zag machine. It took longer to work out how to disable the feed dogs than to get anything else going – and I think the results are OK. But , I wasn’t able to shorten the stitch length despite fiddling for quite some time. I checked online for help (this box didn’t have any instructions so I am working in the dark here) to no avail. Sewing around the buttonhole several times helps, but some of the stitches just ended up spaced out, but on top of each other. Not quite the effect I was looking for. Does anyone out there know how I get a denser finish with this attachment?
But where did October go? Honestly, I have been working – it’s that time of year when my customers all seem to find that everything in their wardrobe for cold weather needs attention, or replace them with new garments. That need attention. I have been reading recently in magazines and online about how it would be nice to lose the ‘busy’ label and be more relaxed and realistic about our abilities. I think it is truly time for me to take this on board.
As a result of client work I haven’t done much for me but I did make time to have another play with the coverstitcher. Because I bought a binder attachment. Yes, I know I really need to get to grips with the plain machine, but I knew that this would be used major amounts once I had it sussed. So, lets get sussing!
I spent a good couple of hours just fiddling with the buttons and stitching flat fabric, and then decided to put the binder onto the machine. That took a little longer than I expected (it would have taken less if I had not wasted an age looking for a ‘part’ which turned out to be permanently on the machine. Doh!) but once on I was able to start making a mess pretty quickly. It was largely trial and error (mainly error) as the instructions printed on the inside of the packaging are sketchy at best. Help was at hand on You Tube, but in all honesty I just fiddled and saw what happened. I started with the gingham (woven and not too likely to move too much) which worked pretty well. Then the viscose jersey which is very stretchy.
This is more likely to be the sort of fabric I would use so I really wanted this to work. It would have been useful to have been able to buy an extra hand to enable me to hold/manipulate the strip of binding as well as moving the ‘garment’ piece. I think it is always going to be worth doing a sample before I use this on a garment. Despite being short of a hand I thought it worked pretty well so I went on to the garment I was making.
I used the Burda pattern from February that I knew fitted, only using long sleeves this time. When I say long sleeves I mean long – check the pattern before you cut these out because I chopped off 7cm. I cut the binding strips a little wider than the binder instructions (pffft! what instructions) because I knew that when under tension the jersey gets narrower. This worked well and I was pleased with the way the neckline finished. It even looks good on the inside. I did take a picture but it was blurry so I haven’t included it.
I am happy with the way this turned out, and I am looking forward to making more use of the machine. The problems were all with me. All ‘more haste, less speed’.I have unreasonable expectations of being able to just ‘sit down and do it’ with no practice which never works. Given time (and lots more experience) I can see this becoming a real time saver and very useful machine. Just not yet.
When I haven’t been sewing, and all the sundry other things we ladies have to do, I have finished another pair of socks. These are the ones for my mum and have been knitted almost exactly from the pattern. I say almost as if you had knitted both the same you would not have got a mirror image of the lace pattern on opposite socks. I puzzled for longer than was necessary to get the effect I wanted before realising all I needed to do was start the second sock pattern on row 11 rather than row 1. Sometimes the answers are simple.
In my last post (so long ago) I did mention a new Patrones magazine that I would review. I haven’t forgotten, and it has now been joined by the new Burda and Threads magazines, so I will make a point of doing that this weekend. Sorry for the delay!
Yes, I know I said I loved my coverstitch machine on Monday. And on Monday I did.
But I have been trying to do an alteration to a running top for my daughter and things have not gone well. At all. All I have made in all the time I have been trying to do this is a mess. The seams have all got skipped stitches. Not good news on a coverstitcher. I did think it may be a needle problem as the fabric is 100% polyester but with a good stretch, although I wouldn’t describe it as a jersey.
New needles were sourced and posted to me, arriving this morning. Not the needles – the machine is still skipping stitches with great abandon. I have given up for now and will try again next week when I have had a weekend away (with the daughter – I had hoped to take the top but it isn’t to be) and my brains cool down.
The Management is confident that once the pressure is off the problem will be easily solved. I wish I shared his optimism.
The Management asked for more PJ’s, being so pleased with the helicopter trial pair I made so long ago. Unfortunately I still haven’t found any sensible fabric to make them in so he had these made today.
So…..John Deere tractors this time. Good fun, but still not going to be suitable should he ever have to go into hospital! I really do have to look out for sensible pj fabric. Having said that, this is a wonderful soft, brushed cotton. They will be fabulously warm through the winter.
As I was spending time on something for ‘family’ I took the opportunity to experiment a bit. I used some of the techniques learned in the recent Janet Pray Craftsy course which speeded things up significantly. I also decided to use the chain-stitch function on the coverstitch machine to attach the waist elastic to the pants. Not the neatest job, but I didn’t even trial this. The stitching looks a bit loose when the elastic isn’t stretched but is perfect under pressure. I had to replace the elastic in a pair of Jean Muir trousers (sadly not mine!) recently which made me think how much easier it would have been just to be able to pull the chain-stitch thread loose, which is why this was so appealing. The whole procedure was very quick too. I love this machine!
I used the coverstitcher a couple of days ago to hem a jersey dress for a client. Blogger SDBev has a wonderful site called the 900CPX Cookbook in which she shows all sorts of wonderful things she has been doing with her coverstitcher – and explains how to go about getting the same results yourself. She very recently made something and used the seam guide that Janome intend to be used with this machine. Being a
cheapskate thrifty dressmaker I thought I would try other options before I spent any more money on accessories.
The first option is well known to many dressmakers. Cheap, move-able, and easily available. Yes, the post it note makes a great seam guide.
The second option was the edge guide that is included with the accessories in my Pfaff machine box. It fitted perfectly well into the screw hole on the CPX presser, and could measure out a good few inches before becoming unstable. Although I didn’t try it I am sure this would work to the left of the foot too. I suspect this will be the method I will be using for a little while yet.
I have an alteration project to do for my darling daughter which needs the actual coverstitch function – but I need to work out precisely what I need to do first. I will report at a later date.
Hurrah I hear you cry! About time – Hood has finished her jacket. Yes, this has taken far longer than it should have – but I am pretty happy with the result. It would be good to know how long it took to actually sew it, rather than how long it has taken because of life getting in the way.
Now that the jacket has buttons on, and the total impression is given, I am not too concerned about the ‘correctional facility’ orange. It is pretty bright – no escaping that – but it will be fine if it is worn with a more subdued colour. The buttons (not studs as I had intended) look very good, and the buttonholes were beautifully worked by the old Singer hand crank machine with buttonhole attachment. Beautifully. Better than my computerized Pfaff would have managed despite costing way more than the old Singer.
As I had the Singer out I decided to try the top stitching (with the upholstery thread I used) with the old girl. I did the jackets topstitching on the spare Janome machine I keep as I couldn’t get a really good tension on the Pfaff and needed to adjust the bottom tension to get a good(ish) finish. Even having spent a fairly significant time messing with the tensions on the Janome to get the result I wanted I really wasn’t 100% happy. As a result I am afraid I did get a little slapdash, so the topstitching doesn’t stand up to really close examination. Step up the old Singer. Without doing anything to the tensions (and I only changed the needle because I couldn’t physically get the thread through the eye!) the result was amazing. Truly amazing. I am never going to topstitch on another machine again. I know that Melissa had made a comment about the quality of topstitch she got from her old hand crank machine in her jeans post. So what did they know about building machines then that seems to have got lost?
So, what did I get out of this Craftsy course?
- I don’t need to pin the bejaysus out of everything. I now have the confidence to use many fewer pins, even if not going ‘pinless’.
- Rotary cutters are much more useful than I thought. And a gift to sore joints.
- Frixion pens are wonderful. Really, really wonderful. A great new tool in my armory.
- My vision is worse than I thought! Thank you Janet Pray for bringing the magnifying visor to my attention. I have used these on a number of jobs since I had them delivered, and I can’t imagine being without them now. I no longer care about walking the house looking like an alien.
If I hadn’t learned anything from the sewing side the new knowledge about the Rolson magnifyer, and the Frixion pens alone would justify the cost of the course for me. I have sewn since childhood, but always ‘domestic’ methods, so it was good to see the way that Janet batched the processes so that you worked more efficiently. The booklet with the pattern gave most of the information needed to work in this fashion, but the video lessons were great. For anyone who is fairly new to sewing (though I think a certain amount of knowledge would be helpful) this is a great course. Even dinosaurs like me learned new tricks from it.
A little while ago I enrolled on Janet Prays ‘Sew better, Sew faster: Garment Industry Secrets course on Craftsy. It took me a little while to make a start on this as I was a bit peeved to have to pay VAT+Post Office charge on the imported pattern. I should have known that I would have to at some point – but it was galling that the Post Office handling charge was more than the tax to pay. As I bought the course while it was on sale I really have no cause for complaint.
Anyway, I have been threatening to make something for myself for a little while but someone else always seems to jump ahead. I justified this as research. I traced off the size I wanted to use rather than cutting the pattern as I may want to make a different size later. Rather than using the size I thought I should, from my body measurements, I have cut according to the amount of ease I wanted using the finished garment measurement. The size I thought I needed would have ended up with a massive amount of ease!
I have been spending tea breaks and such watching the online classes, and have bought a couple of things that I think may be useful. The first was a Rolson Magnifying head torch thingy from Amazon. Janet uses a professional standard tool called an Optivisor, but this was a fraction of the cost and included a torch on the visor. I have used mine today to unpick some tiny stitches on a linen garment for a client – I think I am converted. This has already proved its worth.
The other thing I bought was a pack of FRIXION erasable pens. Janet uses these frequently to fine line mark points on the garment. They can be erased with a hot iron, but obviously I will need to test them on my fabric before I go wild.
You may remember I recently bought a pair of Gingher shears which I have been very happy with. I was intending to use these to cut out the jacket – but Janet uses a roller cutter with mat. I have used mine just for cutting strips for bias binding and such but never thought they would be very good for an entire garment. Well, some things you just have to try. WOW! I was amazed at how quickly I got used to the pressure needed to cut both layers of cotton twill, and how to work my way around curves. I can’t say I am never going to use shears again but I am seriously impressed with how easy this job was. Like many dressmakers of many years experience (NO, not OLD dressmakers!) my wrist and hand does ache after cutting out and this really did seem to help.
I decided I had done enough tonight so I will cut the interfacings out tomorrow and see how far I get then. I still have reservations about the colour of this jacket but it is a way of trying out this system without being in the least concerned about cost . Or making a cattywompus (which after hearing Janet use the word today is one I will be adopting and making as much use of as I can!)
Whats difficult about that I hear you say? NO problems with that exercise. Though sometimes the fabric doesn’t want to feed evenly when you turn that corner. So I give you….. the beer mat solution.
By putting a beer mat (free from most public houses – just buy a drink!) behind the fabric, to support the foot, the feed dogs work well and can feed your work evenly through the machine without that ‘bunched thread’ that sometimes happens when you try to do this. It also helps when crossing a seam that has lots of bulk.
The mats can be stacked up to the height needed to cope with whatever thickness your work is – and they are kinder to your needle if you happen to catch them than a commercial ‘hump jumper’.
And the commercial product (the grey gizmo on the left) is no good for putting your end of day reward on!
Do you have any ‘non standard’ gadgets in your work space that you couldn’t do without?
Bev made me do it. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it!
Having left my own little sanctuary in Penzance last Saturday I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I had admired these coverstitch machines from afar and swapped comments with Bev who was using her own Janome to very good effect. There was a little surplus in the coffers after all the work done recently so I decided to treat myself to it! Hurrah!
The machine arrived this afternoon and I have spent about half an hour after finishing client work testing it out. Well, fiddling to be precise. I think this may take a bit more getting used to than I had hoped but with the benefit of the overlocker course on the Craftsy site, which includes a little about coverstitch machines, I think I will get to grips with it. (Look out for desperate e-mails Bev!)
I have some client work that I must finish during tomorrow and Friday but I think this weekend may turn into a ‘busmans holiday’ and I will repeat the wonderful Burda top from February 2013. I loved the original version I made in black and will shop the stash to find another fabric to try it using just the overlocker and coverstitcher.
Hopefully I will have something to show you by Sunday!
Today I feel like a complete idiot. I have been sewing for decades, using all sorts of thread but largely Gutterman. Today I was shown that the bottom end of the spool (with the thread trap) can be pulled out so you can find the end of the thread without spending an age trying to pull it out.
Am I the only twerp that didn’t know?
I hadn’t considered doing any ‘tutorial’ type posts – and I am still not certain that I should – but I had a comment by someone who was having problems turning their rouleau and thought that having made what seems like miles of this spaghetti over the past few weeks I would share my method. I don’t say that it is the right way, certainly not the only way, to make it – but it is the method I have used successfully for a long time. If only one person is helped by this then it is probably worth it – if you feel I am trying to ‘teach my granny to suck eggs’ I apologise.
First step is to put the cat out – even if he is a neighbours cat and shouldn’t really be in at all!
Next cut your strips on the cross grain. I use a very lazy method of cutting a true cross using a book or magazine to get a 90° angle, and then cut strips 4 or 5cm wide. This does mean that you end up cutting away an excess after sewing – but I can’t imagine trying to sew using strips just wide enough to turn through.
Fold the strips in half and find a guide mark on your machine foot that gives the width you want to sew. DON’T SEW THAT DISTANCE ALL THE WAY DOWN! Start off a little away from the guide line so that you sew a ‘funnel’ shape at the very top – this will help you to start the turn. Then sew another line close to your first line of stitching. I think that this helps you to turn more easily, prevents the seam from bursting out along the tube, and also fills the tube nicely so it isn’t too flat.
Once you have done the sewing, press gently and trim away the excess close to your seams. If you now cut the funnel (which will look like the one on the left in the photograph) into a point (like the right) it is easier to turn through. Push the rouleau turner into the narrow end, pushing until it pops up through the funnel. I like to try and save an edge that has the selvedge to it, if you catch that edge with the hook on the turner it is less likely to pull through the edge of the fabric half way through the turn. Ask me how I know. I also like to get the turn started and try to get as much fabric pushed up onto the wire turner just in case it does break part way, that way I can get the leading end out through the hole as quickly as possible and lessen the risk of losing the piece. Unless you need to have a long piece for spaghetti straps I prefer to make several shorter lengths which are less likely to go wrong.
I have made bodices which needed lacing to match the fashion fabric and by far the easiest way is to make your own. It probably takes less time than trying to find a ribbon to match.In this case I use the length of the fabric to cut a strip before I cut out the garment so I don’t need to join it and risk it breaking when worn. As these tubes are wider I find it easier to use the ‘bodkin’ style turners which have an eye that can be used to sew it (securely!) to the end of the tube (with the ball inside) which makes it easy to turn. Once turned you can put on some good music and spend an age with your iron and pressing clapper making it look like tape.
I hope that explanation is clear- it is late and I have been sewing all day. If anyone would like me to clarify anything please ask – I am sure I could have been clearer but at the moment I can’t see where.
I am getting to the point where the work pile is hill sized rather than mountainous now – I am looking forward to being able to have a complete day off soon!
Happy sewing everyone.