Tag Archive | Singer

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!

Being Biased – Part 3 – Button Fitting

DSCN1300I believe I have fallen in love with bias tape.

Even though, I had a number of trial and tribulations in the making of and the sewing on of the bias tape with these tops, I can see were bias tape can be a fun accent to many sewing projects and I can’t wait to start another bias tape project.

But before I do that I needed to finish these cross back summer tops before the summer has ended so that the girls can actually get some use out of them.

All I needed to do to finish them was to add buttons and buttonholes to the back of the tops and they would be done and ready to wear.

Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Well, I wish would have been as easy as it sounded.

DSCN1303I knew when I cut this pattern out that this pattern does not have a true side seam. I did not think it was going to be a big deal, but it was!

The backs are cut so that the shoulder and side seams are towards the front of the top. There is no seam directly under the armscye or on the shoulder. It is just to the side of the armscye and front of the shoulder.

This pattern also has no indication of where the buttonholes should be placed. So, when it came time for me to determine where to sew the buttonholes and buttons, I had some guessing to do. DSCN1304

I started the guessing by trying to determine where the true side seam would have been on these tops. Should the back come towards the front of the top a little, like 1/2 inch, or a lot, like 2 inches.

Next, I had to determine if the cross over should match at the top and leave a big “V” at the bottom of the back or should the “V” of the cross over be smaller by lowering the top. I spent hours measuring, folding, pinning, and deciding where to put the buttons and buttonholes.

I would think that I had it all ready to sew, then I decided that it wasn’t right and I would start again. After awhile even the husband grew tired of me showing him each variation that I tried. He tried to help, but I just could not make up my mind if I had it right or not. DSCN1302

Finally, I reached a point were I truly believed that I had it measured, folded and pinned where I wanted the buttons to be so I went to the sewing machine. I carefully sewed the buttonholes and buttons in place on both tops.

When I was done, I was quite pleased with myself until I held the tops up and the back curve of the cross over flopped down over one of the special buttons I had paid a lot of money for. Crap! The buttons needed to be higher on the top.

Now, how was I going to fix this? Version 2

My first thought to solve this problem was to sew a hook and eye to the curve which would attach the curve to the back of the top. This would keep the curve from flopping over but that did not work. When the curve tried to flop over, you could see the hook and eye and it looked worse than the flopping curve of the fabric.

My next thought was to use some velcro. As I went to sew the velcro on, the husband asked what I was doing. I showed him the flopping curve and how I was trying to fix it. He said to stop. He said that since girls were sisters they could keep an eye on each other’s backs when they were wearing the tops and if the curve flopped, they could fold a crease in the bias tape so that the curve would not flop as much. This seemed like a reasonable solution to the flopping curve, so I left it at that.

20150530_124144The REAL answer to this whole problem was to have the girls try the tops on before I placed the buttons.

I could have quickly determined where the “side” and “shoulder” seams should be, how big the “V” in the back should be and where the buttons needed to be. But, I had wanted the tops to be a surprise for them so I didn’t. Even though they had picked out the fabric, they did not know what I was making from it. Plus, with them not knowing what or when I was making something, there was less pressure to get the tops completed.

With that all in mind, I determined that the surprise and less pressure to get the items completed were not worth the button/buttonhole headache, and with this lesson learned, the next time I make something for the girls, there will be fittings during the process. Version 2

Upon receiving the tops, their mom says the girls like them and will wear them. I explained to their mom the button/floppy curve issue and she said it would not be a problem.

I don’t believe that the girls were nearly as excited about these tops as they were their fun vests or their Dr Who bags, but that is ok because I learned a lot from these tops both in the sewing process itself and in the process of sewing for others. 20150530_124000

And the next time I sew for the girls, I am getting them involved in the process.

No more surprises!

I want them to pick their own fabrics, colors and styles. I want to measure them so that I have the best fit, instead of using a year old measurement that their mom took (no offense to their mom), and I want fittings and alterations done during the sewing process.

I think I will learn even more sewing for them this way and they will have exactly what they want as well. Plus NO more guessing!

Until then, sew forth and bias tape on!

Being Biased – Part 2 – The Sewing of the Bias Tape

DSCN1308I gave the process of sewing of the crossed back summer tops a lot of thought before I made the first seam.

I had read the pattern instructions, but I wanted to sew the top together with fitting in mind. I wanted to sew the seams so that the minimal amount of unpicking would be necessary if I needed to alter the size of the tops for the girls later. So, my plan was to start with sewing on the bias tape before sewing the shoulder seams or the side seams. After the bias tape was sewn on, I would sew the bias tape together with the shoulder and side seams as one single seam. That way if I had to alter the shoulder seams or the sides seams of the top, I only had to unpick a little bit of bias tape to get to the seams. This was a great plan until I thought about how I wanted to sew the bias tape on.

DSCN1298In deciding how I wanted to sew the bias tape on, did I want to sew the tape to the right side of the fabric and then fold it to the wrong side and stitch in the ditch on the front so that no seams were showing? Or, did I want to sew the tape to the wrong side and fold it to the right side and then stitch the tape with a decorated thread or stitch?

Since I was already mixing colors by using the pink bias tape on the purple top and visa versa, I choose the second option for sewing the bias tape on. So, my final sewing plan went as follows: I would sew the bias tape to the wrong side of the fabric and would then fold the tape to the right side after sewing the bias tape together with the shoulder and side seams. I would then top stitch the tape with the opposite color thread, i.e. sew the purple bias tape on with pink thread and visa versa. Sounds like a solid plan, right?

Well, this did not work as planned.

DSCN1295Because of how I had sewed the bias tape on, when I folded it to the right side the bias tape was needed to be sewed together opposite of the shoulder and side seams. If I had sewn the bias tape the other way that I had thought about doing it and folded it to the wrong side, my seams would have worked. But, instead of my plan working, I got to unpick several inches of each piece of the bias tape so that I could sew the bias tape together, then I could sew the shoulder and side seams together and then sew the bias tape back in place on the wrong side. Finally, I could fold the bias tape to the front and do the top stitching. All these little seams were flustering and extremely time consuming to sew and lets face it, not a lot of fun to do! But, I finally got it done and I had completed the sewing of the first top.

DSCN1306I wanted to sew the second top with the bias tape folding the same way as the first so I returned to the pattern’s instructions. I started by sewing the shoulder and side seams together first and then I sewed the bias tape on the wrong side of the top. Next I folded the tape to the right side and then top stitched the tape on. This went much faster and easier than the sewing of the first top had with no little seams to deal with. An with that the second tops sewing was complete.

I had four opportunities to learn the best way to start and stop the bias tape. I tried several ways but the way that folded and stitched the best for me was to leave a small piece of bias tape unstitched where I started. When I reached the end of the seam for the bias tape, I folded the ending piece of bias tape back on itself. I then laid the starting unstitched piece on top of the folded ending piece and then sewed this in place. When I folded the bias tape over, the starting pieces folded into the folded ending piece to make a finished start and stop of the bias tape.

DSCN1313The idea of sewing the bias tape to the wrong side of the top and then folding the bias tape to the front and top stitching in a contrasting thread sounded great, but in reality, sewing the bias tape on the right side and folding it to the back and stitching in the ditch with a matching thread would have hid a lot of sewing sins.

The top stitching looks good for the most part, but anywhere were my seams were not exactly straight, the contrasting thread announces the wavy seam LOUDLY. Also the starting and stopping of the seams don’t look that good. This is especially true where I was learning how I wanted to start and stop the bias tape.

DSCN1299The sewing of the tops would have been a lot easier and cleaner if I had sewn the bias tape the other way, sewn to right side and then folded to the back. I also could have followed my fitting plan. But, I had sewn the bias tape the other way and many lessons were learned, so it made the whole experience a good thing. Plus, the tops were looking good with the contrasting colors and threads. So, with the tops sewn, it was time to add on the buttons and buttonholes.

Join me next time to see how they turned out once they were completed!

Until then, sew forth and bias tape on!

Being Biased – Part 1 -The Making of the Bias Tape

IMG_1621My coworker’s tween girls are using and enjoying their Dr Who bags and it does my heart good for someone to enjoy and use something that I have made.

So much so, that it was easy to find another pattern to sew for them next. This time I made them a summer crossed back top from some sugar skull fabric that they picked out. I found this crossed back top pattern on line for free. It looked like a fun summer shirt, easy enough to sew and the right size for the girls.

I gave the girls their choice of a couple of fabrics that I had in the stash and they both picked the sugar skull fabric. I did not have enough sugar skull fabric to made both shirts so I planned to piece the tops with some black fabric from the stash.

Then I thought about it being summer. DSCN1296These were summer tops made to be worn in the heat of the summer months, so how could I make them from black fabric? So I dug through the stash and I found some nice pink and purple that would match the sugar skull fabric.

I decided to make one top from the pink and one from the purple so the girls would not have to match. I know that teens are image concious that way. The pattern is only two pieces, a front and a back, cut twice. Based on the girls measurements, I cut the front and back 1/4 inch wider and 1 inch longer than the pattern called for. The pattern also called for 3 yards of 1/2 inch double folded bias tape. I

f I had been making the tops with the black fabric, I would have bought the needed bias tape, but since I was using the pink and purple fabric, I decided to make the bias tape. 61NeRAwqLEL._SY450_Then I had the idea of using the pink bias tape on the purple shirt and the purple bias tape on the pink shirt to give them some great contrast, so I would definitely be making the bias tape myself. Plus, it would give me the opportunity to make bias tape again, and as you know practice makes perfect and I don’t use bias tape all that often.

Now, I thought I had the process down for making bias tape from the last time I made it for another project, but I was incorrect. I had a lot to learn and relearn while making this bias tape. I started out by cutting 1 inch strips on the bias. When it came time to sew the bias strips together, I knew that they needed to be sewn at a 90 degree angle, but I kept sewing the strips together backwards, one seam up and then one seam down. After much trial and error, I figured out that I needed to sew one strip on top, then the next strip on bottom to keep all the seams all on one side. 71f-MxnZmTL._SY450_

After getting all the bias strips sewn together correctly, I started to iron and shape them. I used my 1/2 bias tape maker and was making some beautiful bias tape, when I realized that my bias tape was only single fold.

What? Darn! I needed double folded bias tape!

So I folded my beautiful 1/2 single fold bias tape in half and got 1/4 inch double folded bias tape, half the size of what I needed. Crap! I seriously thought about just using the 1/4 inch double fold bias tape that I had made but I decided against it and started all over again.

This time, I cut 2 inch strips on the bias, sewing them together correctly as I had learned to do earlier, and I prepared to iron again, but not until I purchased a one inch bias tape maker.

Looking on Amazon for bias tape makers, I found two types, Singer brand made completely from metal, and several third party brands made of metal with a plastic insert.

Which was better? DSCN1310

After reading many reviews and pondering the question, the husband rolled his eyes and ordered me both the Singer and another brand with the plastic inserts. After trying both styles of bias tape maker, I decided to use the Singer metal ones. Even though both worked fine, I just liked the Singer ones better. They seem to fold the fabric more evenly and were easier to push the fabric into the maker when starting out.

After a fair amount of ironing, I had 4 yards of 1/2 inch double folded bias tape in both pink and purple, ready to sew on. I made 4 yards of each color rather than 3 yards like the pattern called for because I had increased the size of the tops slightly from what the pattern called for.

Now it was time to sew the bias tape on to the tops.

Stay tuned for the construction of the crossed back summer tops in my next post!

Until then, sew forth and bias tape on!

My, How Times Have Changed

So it was my day off from having to go to work. And I am sitting in front of my sewing machine, just sewing away. I am still dressed only in my bathrobe and I still have bed head hair. There is fur growing on my still unbrushed teeth.

Dirty dishes from last night’s dinner are still stacked in the sink. The first batch of laundry is going in the washer, but laundry is a long, long way off from being completed and put away. Last weeks ironing is waiting patiently for me, and the dust bunnies in the corner are laughing at me as I stitch along. Just then the husband enters the sewing room and hands me this picture.

.My, how times have changed. I got a good hearty laugh from the picture and then promptly continued to ignore everything else around me as I returned to my sewing. How times have changed.

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 3

If you missed Part 2 of this series, you can find it HERE!

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 3: Creating a digitized design using Bernina Artista Designer Plus Software

(Updated: June 13th, 2015)

As I mentioned in my previous post I’ve tried most of the embroidery digitizing software out there over the last 10 years or so, and even after trying the latest greatest I always tend to come back to my stand by software, Bernina’s Artista Designer Plus. In this post I will take you step by step how I use it to create my own custom designs which are then stitched on my latest sewing projects.

Step 1: Get ready! Get set! Start your software! GO!

Do you have it up and going?

Great! Here we go!

You will notice that when Artista starts up it will be in freehand stitch placement mode where you can just draw stitches or shapes in freehand mode. This is the mode most embroidery software starts in.

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We need to change it to picture mode so we can load our previously touched up artwork and trace the bitmapped image using the auto trace tool. To do this click on the picture tab up at the top of the design screen. Then click on the icon in the left toolbar that looks like a flower coming out of a folder. This is the Load Picture tool.

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When the file browser comes up you can select your touched up artwork saved in a variety of formats like BMP (Bitmap), JPG (Jpeg), PNG (Ping), etc. I will be using my Mickey Indy Graphic that I touched up in Part 1 of this blog series. Click on the one you want to digitize and then click the Open button in the file browser and your design screen should now look like this.

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The next step is to use the built in Artwork Preparation Tool on the left toolbar as shown below. Once you click on it the Artwork Preparation window will pop up and show you the number of colors in your design as shown below. You want to choose an amount of colors that still gives you good detail of the design, but no more than necessary. I never use more than 16, but I usually try to stay around 4-8 colors if possible.

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Once you choose your number of colors and click on ok Artista will decrease the number of colors and smooth any lines in your design it can. It will also create large single color blocks if possible. This will provide the auto digitizing function with less work to do in the next step.

The next step is to take your prepared artwork and use the auto digitizer tool to insert stitches over your artwork. To do this click on the Design tab at the top of your design window as shown below. Then click on the Select Tool in the left toolbar. Next click on the prepared artwork image on the right. This will select it so it can be auto digitized. To do that click on the AutoDigitizer Tool on the left toolbar. It looks like a paintbrush with multicolored paint on it.

At this point you will see an AutoDigitizer window pop up where you can change your Fills and Details stitch types. I normally leave these settings at their defaults but you can use the different stitch types to create different looks for your designs. Choose your stitch types or leave it at the default and click on the OK button.

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Now you should see the bar at the bottom showing that the AutoDigitizer is creating the different stitch objects of your design. Once it has finished your design window should look like the screen below.

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If you click on the Artistic View tab you should now see a 3D representation of your completed auto digitized design as shown below.

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This is all looking pretty good at this point except you will notice that it automatically digitized the white background of the design.

I don’t want this to stitch so it needs to be removed.

So I click back on the Design Tab up at the top of the design window. Then I click on the object Select Tool on the left toolbar (it looks like a white arrow). Then I click on the edge of the portion of the white background and it will be selected and turn to a pink color to show it selected.

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Then I just hit the delete key on my keyboard and POOF it’s gone! It should now look like the screen below.

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You can click on the Artistic View Tab at the top again to make sure you are satisfied with the results. Now make sure and use the File/Save As menu option from the top to save your design. Artista offers several design formats to save to so choose the one your embroidery machine uses. I always save in the PES format since I have Brother machines.

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That is it! You are all done! Now you can change thread colors or resize your completed design to make it larger or smaller or rotate it, mirror it, or whatever else you would like to do with it using the built in tools.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post series, I sure had a lot of fun creating it!

Please let me know if you would like to see other topics covered or if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer.

If you missed Part 2 of this series, you can find it HERE!

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of this Series, you can find it here.

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2: Which Digitizing Software should I use?

(Updated: June 13th, 2015)

First let’s get a few things out of the way.

The software you use to digitize your designs probably isn’t going to be a very important decision for you.

At first glance this might come as a surprise. But the reason I say that is simple.

Most of the embroidery machine makers usually have their own in house software that is made by a third party company for them. They don’t make their own software in house. There are only 2 or 3 major embroidery software creation companies in the world that create this embroidery software for them so they will all pretty much work the same way and have most of the same features.

So no matter what brand of embroidery machine you have, you can usually use whatever digitizing software you like or that suits you best for the job at hand.

Now they will tell you that you have to use their software so that you have the proper hoop support or the right thread colors, etc. but that is all bunk.

They are just trying to lock you into their particular product so that you always have to purchase their support, their updates, their supplies, etc.

Don’t buy into their hype and sales pitch.

I’ve been using a different manufactures brand software than the one that made my embroidery machines for over 10 years now without any problems whatsoever so use what YOU want to, not what they want you to use.

I have always only owned Brother embroidery machines (for why read this previous blog post),  but I dislike their PE-DESIGN embroidery software that comes with their machines. It’s seems too simplistic to me, and it will not allow me to do some things I like to do, the way I like to do them, so I use Bernina’s Artista (Now called Bernina Designer Plus) software instead.

Why do I use this particular software rather than another?

Well for me, it was because I spent a lot of time at different sewing machine stores trying out everything they had in software (digitizing software) and hardware (embroidery machines) before I purchased anything.

What I found by doing this was that after using Bernina’s Artista, Brother’s PE-DESIGN, Husqvarna Viking’s 4D/5D, Janome’s Digitizer/Customizer, Pfaff’s Creative 4D/5D, Singer’s PSW (Professional Sew -Ware), and several others along the way, I just liked the way the Bernina Artista software worked the best.

More than anything it fit the way I seemed to want to work. So many of the embroidery software packages I tried just kept putting up road blocks and getting in my way. The Artista software never seems to get in my way, it let’s me get in and get what I need done, get out of it and get on with actually stitching out the design on my machine.

Most of the embroidery software comes in what they call modules. What that means is if you want to do resizing you have to load a single program to do just that. But then say you need to change the colors or maybe digitize something? Well that will require that you close the program you are in and load another one instead. And you have to continue to re-load the same design into the different modules over and over again.

That was a real pain in the keister!

The Viking and Pfaff software really suffer from this since the same company makes them both. I think they have something like 14 modules in all to let you use all of the different features they offer.

The Bernina Artista software has all of the modules built in to the same program and will allow you to switch modes by just clicking a button in the toolbar. Simple, reliable, and easy to learn.

Bernina’s software is created by the world leader in embroidery software Wilcom, who also makes their own commercial software called Wilcom Embroidery Studio (Wilcom ES) for the big embroidery houses to which they happily charge $5000.00 PLUS for a license to use it. I’ve used a demo of the Wilcom ES software and I can’t see anything I’m missing in my Bernina Software. Not for a personal home user anyway.

Now I am sure many will disagree with my choice of software and will say how much they love this one or that one because of this or that feature.

And I won’t disagree with them. I’m sure they love what they use.

I am just telling you why I use the software that I use. I’m not saying that it is better than one software or another, just that it works best for me and how I like to do things.

I should mention at this point that I am an Apple Mac user and that most of my embroidery software is used on my Mac using Virtual Machine software running Windows XP.

Unfortunately for us Mac users, there is very little native Mac compatible embroidery software available, and the Mac compatible software that is out there is VERY expensive and is only made for commercial embroidery designers.

There are a couple of bright spots on the horizon though.

A friend of mine, Matthias Arndt, in Germany has for the last few years, been creating a Mac compatible embroidery software capable of letting you resize, recolor, flip, convert designs between several different formats and much more. His software is called StitchBuddy. It still will not let you fully digitize designs but it may in the future. It is shareware and can be tried out for free before you need to purchase it at a cost of $50. I was a beta tester for the early versions and I think it is coming along fine. He seems to add new features to it a couple of times a year. He also makes a Quick Look plugin and a Spotlight Importer which he provides for free to let you view your embroidery designs and search for them in the Mac’s Finder. All very, very cool tools and they have decreased my need to start up Windows on my Mac far less than I previously needed too.

One other company called BriTon Leap has recently started converting their Windows embroidery tools to the Mac, but they are close to 3 times the cost of Matthias’s Mac tools. Still they are much less expensive than something like PE-DESIGN or Bernina Artista, etc. They make a Quick Look Plugin called Embrilliance Thumbnailer, a design converter called Convert it, mac, and what seems to be the first steps of a full blown Mac compatible digitizer called Embrilliance Essentials.

BriTon Leap also has a new product called StitchArtist which runs on the Mac and will let you do more complete digitizing than their Essentials product will. I have not reviewed this product yet, but once I do I will add my thoughts on it here.

They also have a demo that you can download to try out their software before you have to pay for it. Clicking on any of the links above will take you directly to their respective websites for more information on their products. I wish I could say I was making money by linking to them here, but I’m not. I’m just trying to help out some friends I believe in and pass the word to other Mac users.

Ever since the smartphone (iPhone and Android)  and tablet revolution (iPad and Android) of a few years back, there have been several new tools released to help you digitize and convert designs on your smart phone or tablet. Both Matthias Arndt with his StitchBuddy HD and BriTon Leaps AirStitch app’s look interesting. I am currently trying out several of these new app’s and I will report back here and in a new post reviewing those tools specifically at a later date.

Stay tuned for part 3 of this series where I will take you step by step through a typical (for me anyway) digitizing session where I take the touched up artwork I created in part 1 and convert it to a fully useable, stitchable design.

If you missed Part 1 of this Series, you can find it here. Part 3 of the Series is here.