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Oh Brother!

I don’t know how old Mom’s serger is but I do know that it is really old, old enough to have knob tensions and be extremely difficult to thread. I also know that it has been giving her fits for years. It has a hard time holding its tensions and the lower looper thread keeps breaking. She has had it in for repairs and service many times, but it just never seem to be fixed or to work correctly especially in the last several years. It was another phone call from Mom one week before Christmas, bemoaning that fact that Christmas was just one week away and that her serger would just not behave so she could get her Christmas sewing finished, that finally prompted me to push Mom again to get a new serger.

Years ago when mom’s serger started to act up, I tried to help her replace her serger. When I looked into the available sergers at that time, I found there were two types, the expensive ones, $2000 to $3000, with all the bells and whistles, and the cheap sergers, $200 to $300, with no features and that barely serged. What happened to a nice $500 to $1000 machine that had just a few features but still serged nicely? At the time, Mom was not sewing as much as she use to, so she did not want to spend a large amount of money on a new serger, so a Singer serger from Walmart was purchased.

Big mistake! The machine was horrible!

It rattled and vibrated and did not serge well at all! It was not long before mom had pushed that serger into the corner and went back to fighting with her old, original serger.

Over the years, I have kept an eye on the big expensive sergers, hoping that one might have that special feature that would make it worth the dollar amount it was demanding. But, I never found one that was worth the price. So, as mom complained about her serger, I did not know what to say. Now, I love my serger so I decided to try and help mom by finding a used serger like mine. After some time looking, I did not find a good used serger similar to mine, but I did find a lot of useful information about sergers.

It seemed that most of the newer more expensive sergers that were purchased were hated, with many owners regretting their purchase and they were trying to rid themselves of their new serger’s on eBay. Most said that because there were so many special features that the machine did not serge well or even perform the special features well. It was a bad case of featuritus. On the other hand, almost all the reviews for the cheap sergers could be summed up to one phrase – piece of crap. So once again, where were that middle of the line sergers?

This time though I found one of those great middle of the line serger’s, the Brother 3234DT. This serger had several great special features, but none that took away from it’s main function, serging.

I told Mom what I had learned and she decided to take a chance and to get one of these new Brother 4 thread with differential feed sergers. When it was unpacked and the owner manual read, I helped Mom thread the serger. It threaded very easily with color coded lay in threading, dial tensions, and even auto needle threaders. I then showed Mom the adjustable stitch length and width, and differential feed like my serger has. Mom was very excited about these features. But, Mom’s new serger had some special features that mine did not. One of these features is the auto needle threader. Another feature that this serger has is a free arm. The table portion of the serger can be removed and there is a free arm for serging cuffs and collars. Man, wouldn’t that be handy while sewing baby sleepers? An extended table also came with this serger. Once again the side is removed and replaced with an extended table that would come in very handy when serging heavy or large items. I was so excited about the extra features of this serger that I thought for a moment about replacing my serger with one of these, but then I decided that there was nothing wrong with my serger and it did not need replacing. (But, if and when my serger does need replacing, I know which serger I will look at first.)

Mom seemed very happy with her purchase. She has sewn a couple of things with her new serger so far and says it serged like a dream. No more nightmares from using that old serger. I am happy that she has a good working serger now and that she can enjoy sewing and serging once again. Plus, along the way I learned a lot about sergers that I did not know before.

So until next time, sew forth and serge on!

The Peplum Disaster – The Finishing – Part 3

DSCN0959A now a few choice words about inserting the zipper!

After attaching the zipper foot to my machine and placing the pinned front and zipper under the pressure foot, I decided that the needle was not close enough to the zipper, so I moved the needle over to the far edge. When I started to sew, I quickly learned that DSCN0966my seam was too close to the zipper. Because I was so close, I had to sew around the zipper top and bottom, giving me a curved seam rather than a straight seam for attaching the zipper. Also the tension of the seam was too loose because the pressure foot was not in the right spot to hold the fabric and zipper properly where the seam was stitching at. At this point, I stopped and thought about why I had moved the needle and why I wanted a close seam.

DSCN0967The reason I moved the needle was that I thought too much of the zipper tape would be exposed if I did not have the needle close to the zipper. What I learned was that not much of the zipper tape would have been exposed with leaving the needle where it was suppose to be. Plus, the amount of the zipper tape that was exposed was a nice look and gave it a little bit of style, especially since I was using a contrasting colored zipper. Also, with the seam not that close to the zipper, there was less chance of the fabric getting caught in the zipper when the jacket is being zipped up. Fabric catching in the zipper was not that much DSCN0956of a concern with the big molded #3 zipper I was using with this fleece but it would be something to consider with other zippers and fabrics. A straight seam would look better than the curved seam and it would be easier to sew, and the tensions would be correct it the needle was not moved. So, lesson learned. Don’t move the needle to the far edge to sew the zipper on even if you think that is how you should do it.

DSCN0962Because the jacket did not turn out as cute as I envisioned, my plans to embroider several designs on the front and back of the finished jacket dwindled quickly. But, the jacket was still going to be a wearable item so I wanted to embroider a design of some sort on it. It was not difficult to pick the Smirk design that I stitched on this jacket. I love the design’s simple look and it’s few colors and I think it looks great on the jacket. For me, it gives me something fun that I am happy about and it gave me something fun to look at, rather than focusing on the messy peplum I had made.

Now that this jacket is done, I am happy that I competed it and have a wearable item rather than tossing it in the UFO pile with the peplum problems I had with it. I don’t think that the problems that I have with the jacket will effect how it wears and I hope that some little girl will enjoy a new jacket to wear.

Until next time, sew forth and peplum on!

The Peplum Disaster – The Gathering – Part 2

DSCN0701My sewing plan for inserting the zipper into the peplum was working fine as I gathered the peplum’s top and bottom, sewed the gathered top of the peplum to the hem, sewed the zipper on and then added the facings, but the plan fell apart at the last step.

DSCN0704Upon lifting the gathered bottom to the gathered top, something wasn’t right. My intensions were to fold the gathers of the bottom over, pin in place and stitch in the ditch on the top and have a nice clean finish on both the outside and the inside. The folded gathers of the bottom placed on top of the gathers of the top were just too bulky. I could not fold over the gathers of the bottoms for a clean finish. So, how could I finish the bottom edge? I know, I would do it as I normally would finish a edge, with the serger. I would finish the bottom edge with the serger and still stitch in the ditch. I would just have a exposed serged edge on the inside.

DSCN0944But my gathers did not withstand the serging. The serger stretched the gathers out. I adjusted my serger’s differential feed and I tried to keep my gathers together as best as I could while serging . But when I was done serging, I had a terribly messy serged seam. Despite the bad seam finish, I sewed on. I folded up the bottom edge and started to pin the peplum into place for the stitch in the ditch seam. I learned quickly that this was going to be a terrible looking seam as well. Gathers on top of gathers are not a good idea. There were several options for fixing the messy serged seams but fixing it would not solve the gathers on top of gathers problem which was the real point of failure with my “inserting the zipper it to the peplum” plan.

DSCN0952At this point I felt I had learned the sewing lessons from this sewing project as best I could and I had no desire to finish this jacket. Should I call the lessons learned good enough and throw this jacket away or continue to sew on it and have a complete wearable item? I’m not a quitter so I decided to keep sewing.

DSCN0950Between the lost gathers in the serging, the poor serged seam and the gathers on top of gathers, the stitch in the ditch seam was a real challenge. I finally muddled my way though this seam and finished the peplum with the zipper inserted inside it. I have a terrible mess on the inside of the top, but luckily the outside does not look that bad. The gathers look stressed and misplaced but still ok. And the peplum is more of a ruffle than it is a peplum. The inside seam though is nothing short of a disaster.

I have a few more things to tell about this sewing project but I will save them for next time.

Until then, sew forth and peplum on!

A Jacket Fur You

IMG_4778Is it possible to serge fur? Or better yet, should you even attempt to serge fur? Or I guess the real question I am asking is, how would you finish the edges of your fur projects? I know that is what the lining is for, but since I had never lined a jacket before or anything as complicated as a jacket, these were just a few questions I was facing at this point in the continuing construction of the fur jacket.

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My next step probably should have been to do an internet search or by looking at one of my reference sewing books to learn how to sew a lining into a jacket, but I decided to just to wing it instead. That and to use any sewing intuition that I may have, and just see what I would end up with.

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IMG_4776So I started by sewing the shoulders of the lining together, and then sewing the lining to the top and collar of the jackets. This worked out great. It finished the edges of the collar and the top of the jackets. So far, so good. Next I sewed in the sleeves on both the fur and the lining and then the side seams. Ok, that was done, but now the finishing work started.

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IMG_4781I needed to finish the facings and then do the hems. Normally this is the easy part and I just start serging. So I grabbed some scraps and started to serge to see what I would end up with. I was pleased with the way the fur serged. I thought I was in for a big mess but the fur actually serged really well. The one thing I did learn about serging fur, was that when serging where the hair of the fur was longer than the backing of the fur, I had to make sure that I was serging the backing and not just the hair of the fur.

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Deep in the back of my mind, I knew that I did not need to serge the fur, and that the answers to my questions was to turn the fur and then hand stitch it to the lining. But I really HATE to hand sew anything if I don’t have to. The thought of spending hours hand stitching all of the hems and facings about left me to believe that the finishing of this jacket, no less the construction of a fur jacket for me, was a doomed project and that I should just give up now. But wanting to finish what I started, I went ahead and serged the facings and hems of the jacket and then decided to cheat and just turn them as I would any other project.

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P1020655This seemed to work out ok for the facings, but I did break down and hand stitch the top edge of the facing to the lining, since a very minimal amount of hand stitching was involved. I also decided to tack down the lining at various points inside the jacket before stitching the hems to help hold the lining into place while I stitched. I then folded up the hems and stitched away. Of course the hem line could be seen from the fur side where it stitched over the fur and matted it down. To fix this, I took a needle and pulled the hair of the fur out from underneath the stitches so that the hem was not as noticeable. When it was all done, I thought that the hems looked fine from the fur side of the jacket but I did not like the look of the serged edge of the fur at the hem line on top of the lining. It looked sloppy and unfinished, not the look one would want or expect a fur jacket to have. But this was how I had sewn this jacket and I was not inclined to unpick my hems and try something different. Plus the little neighbor girl wouldn’t really care what the inside of her fur jacket looked like.

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P1020658P1020664Once I had it all done it was time to try it on! The jacket fit the little neighbor girl well and I think she looks just adorable in it. She wore it to preschool the next day and her mom reports that all the teachers just loved it. I really don’t know if I am ready to make my jacket yet. I think that I will do some more research into lining a jacket and see if I can get a better, more professional finish before I start my jacket. Hopefully, I can find a lining technique that does not involve tons of hand stitching but will still solve most of my current problems and dislikes. The husband suggested that I should first make the little neighbor girl a vest with the fur next. And I think this is a great idea! I can try lining the vest differently and see what works, plus I could add some pockets and see what works there as well. So, stay tuned for more furtastic fun!

The Jacket

This jacket is the first item on my list  that I created from the inspiration from the baby sleeper construction of a few weeks ago. I bought this polar fleece recently at Joann’s on sale for a great price. I was only looking for fleece for baby blankets. This piece caught the husband’s eye but I told him it was too dark for a baby. He liked the piece enough to say, “Go ahead and get some. You’ll find something to do with it.” Yes, this came from the guy who constantly asks if I am sure that I need anymore fabric, so I knew I had to make something fun with it.

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I have made a couple of kid’s jackets before with some success, but only out of sweatshirt fleece. This was my first try of making a jacket out of polar fleece. Thinking back, I believe this is my first garment out of polar fleece that I have ever made.

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I got out the pattern I used previously, but it was only a size 1, 2, 3. I wanted a bigger jacket so I went to my children’s Kwik-Sew book to look for a pattern. I found the style I wanted by combining details from several different patterns and making a few things up along the way. Although, I really just wanted to cut and sew a jacket, it was fun to spend the time in designing the details of the jacket too. I tried not to rush the process, spending the time to think the design through. The pockets were the most difficult to decided on. At first I was going to do welt pockets but decided they would be too bulky with the polar fleece. Next, I decided to put the pockets in the side seam, but rejected that idea and in the end I decided to make patch pockets to take advantage of the frogs on the fabric.

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After finishing designing my pattern, the cutting and the sewing went together nicely. I was surprised how nicely the polar fleeced stitched in the serger. I thought I was going to be in for a fight. My made up pattern did well except for the collar. I did not really have a pattern for the collar  to take inspiration from and I cut it too short, so in the process of attaching the collar, I had to stop and cut a longer collar. Not really a problem, just an annoyance.

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This biggest fight I had in the construction of the jacket was the button holes. Not having sewn much with polar fleece and especially since it would be doubled layers at the jackets facing, I figured the button holes were going to be a little tricky. I did some practice button holes on some scraps and my machine stitched just fine. I then stitched two of the three button holes on the jacket and they were perfect. But on the third button hole, my machine just decided to shorten the button hole by half. I unpicked the button hole, not my favorite thing to do, reset my machine and did another practice button hole and it stitched great. I then tried the third button hole on the jacket again and the machine once again stopped and finished the button hole at half the size.

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I tried this all over again with the same results. The only thing I can think of that would cause this problem is that the jacket was catching on something while stitching the button hole and stopping the process, but I could not find what the problem was. After the third time, the fabric was starting to show signs of being unpicked so I decided just to finish the button hole manually. It turned out pretty good. I actually think it stitched better than the second automatic button hole did.

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The end results are very acceptable and the jacket turned out to be very cute. With the completion of the jacket, I went back to the list to see what my next project would be, but once again, I can’t decide what to do next. Do I do the next thing on the list, or make another jacket? Possibly with a zipper and pockets in the side seams? Oh, decisions, decisions.

My Sewing Machines – Part 1: The Beginning

craftroom

My Sewing Machines – Part 1: The Beginning

(Updated: June 13th, 2105)

Someone asked in one of my previous posts comments what equipment I was using was in my sewing studio.

I thought about this question for awhile and I decided that it would be better to delve into this question a little deeper and not only answer the question of what I currently use but why I currently use it.

It will also give a good overview for anyone considering purchasing their own embroidery machine and the many joys, pitfalls, and costs of ownership of this type of equipment.

This information will be broken into several parts and posted over the next several weeks. It is a lot of information to get typed up and will be a lot of information for the reader to digest.

I hope it is helpful to some of my readers.

This will probably be more information than you wanted to know, but as long as I’m telling the story, I thought the beginning was a good place to start.

My mother taught me to sew starting at age 8 through a series of 4-H projects. If you don’t know what 4-H is you can check it out here.

As a young kid with very little interest in sewing, it was no fun and I struggled through the projects.

As I was doing the projects I thought to myself, my mom is an excellent seamstress, so why did I have to learn? Couldn’t she just sew it for me?

I also knew that I was going to be a professional career woman when I got older and of course, I would never have to sew for myself. I would be able to pay someone to do that for me.

It sounds like famous last words doesn’t it?

Oh how young, silly and naive I was!

Every year before the new school year started, my mom would sit us down with the pattern book and we would pick out a school wardrobe for that year and she would start sewing them for us. Mom would do her best to try and get us involved in this sewing, but it was easier to say, “No Mom, you just do it and I will fix dinner”, or I’ll do the laundry or whatever else so I didn’t have to sew anything myself.

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As strange as it may sound, it was my first trip to a big and tall store that got me into sewing. 

My husband and I had just married and we were going to college, poorer than church mice, and he needed some dress shirts for work. I did not even have a sewing machine at the time or really know what to do with one, but after laying out that kind of money for a few of his dress shirts, I decided I wanted, no make that NEEDED to be a seamstress and soon!

My husband purchased me my first sewing machine as a Christmas gift that year. It was not the smallest Brother sewing machine they made at the time, but it was the next step up from the bottom of the line model and I was so excited to get it!

A few days later my mother in law called and said she was getting rid of her serger and her sewing box and asked if I would like them.

Yes!

The serger she gave me at the time was just a three spool, but any thing was better than what I had which was nothing. Sergers also cost a lot more than a sewing machines did at the time so I was very grateful to have one.

Her sewing box was filled with many notions, pins, needles, bias tape, buttons, etc. so I was on my way.

At the time all of my sewing equipment was stored in the living room coat closet of our tiny apartment but I made do with what I had.99cents

The next big help for me in my sewing endeavors was a part time job I got at a fabric store. I got the job just for the extra money, telling them that my sewing skills were not very good, but they hired me anyway. I loved the job and enjoyed cutting fabric all day and talking to the customers about what they were going to make with their purchases. The other ladies that I worked with at the store were all so helpful and gave me great sewing advice as we worked together.

The store had inexpensive fabric at $2 a yard or less and the employees got a discount on everything and thus became the start of my fabric stash. The store also gave free fabric and notions to their employees to make fun projects for the store to display.

After being displayed in the store for 30 days, the display projects were yours to take home and keep. I made all kinds of fun stuff for the store displays that I would have never spent my own money on.

Once our schooling ended and we started our full time jobs we moved to a bigger apartment. With that my sewing equipment was moved to a larger closet in the spare bedroom. My ingenious husband got me a folding table that looked like an ironing board that fit in the closet. With my sewing machine on one side and the serger on the other, plus shelves on the side, my first sewing room was born.

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While out Christmas shopping one day, we saw a demo of the Viking Huskylock 1001L sergers from Husqvarna and I was in love with the 4th and 5th spools, differential feed, auto thread tensioning, and all the other great new features it had over my old 3 spool model. After listening to the lady’s sales pitch, we told her we would love one but just could not afford the machine at it’s current cost of just under $3000.

She told us if I did not mind a used one, that after the demo was over, she was instructed to sell the demo models at a discount, and would sell me one for less than the regular price. I was thrilled at this and agreed to purchase the demo model for just under $2000 with very little use on it. And it is the same serger that I am still using today.

Over the years, I have looked at the new models of sergers as they came out and debated about an upgrade, but decided against it since the only feature that I would gain that I might use is the cover lock stitch.

Serger and sewing machine technologies don’t seem to move very quickly forward as it turns out.

Speaking of sergers there are two types of sergers you can purchase.

There is the $200 kind at discount store like Wal-Mart or the $1500+ kind at a sewing machine shop. If you are a casual sewer the $200 models will probably work for you for occasional use, but if you are serious about sewing your money will be better spent on getting the more expensive models as they are built better, work better and will last you for a much longer time.

My Viking serger I mentioned above it over 20 years old now and I haven’t had a single problem with it in all those years.

I continued to use my little Brother sewing machine to sew curtains, sleepers, pants, shirts, bedspreads, comforters, etc. for many years until the arrival of the combo sewing and embroidery machines.

Stay Tuned for next weeks post: My Sewing Machines – Part 2: The Embroidery Machines

My Sewing Room and Me


Hi! My name is Lanita and I just love to sew.

Sewing is just a hobby for me, no professional sewing here. I have three machines. I have a Brother ULT 2001 that I use for my sewing machine, and a Brother Innov-is 4000D that I use for my embroidery machine. Both machines are usable as sewing and embroidery machines, but each has features that I like better for either sewing or embroidering. My third machine is my serger, a Viking Huskylock 1001L. It is an older serger, but it does a great job, so I have seen no need to upgrade.

My sewing table is new, and I am totally enjoying it. I got the cabinets and counter top from Home Depot. My custom made table was a little expensive, but it was still less expensive than the manufactured sewing tables that come in sizes and shapes that you cannot choose.

My machines are protected by Norbit, the sock monster. He keeps the dust bunnies away.