Tag Archive | tension

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!

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Pepper And Piper

DSCN3431 (1)Squeals of delight rang from my sewing room when I saw the pattern for these penguins. They were so cute, and the pattern showed pictures of endless possibilities in colors and variations for making a whole colony of penguins. I could not wait to get the crocheting started. I envisioned making several penguins in a variety of colors and belly spots.

DSCN3439 (1)I decided to start with a basic penguin with a gray body with no belly spot and black feet and beak. Crocheting the pieces went smoothly. When it came time to crochet the different colors of the head, I decided to cut and tie each color change. The last time I made a multi-colored head for Charlie the horse, I carried the yarn across the color changes instead of cutting and tying each color change, and I had to work very hard to keep my tensions even. Cutting and tying the color changes was easier than keeping an even tension, but it was time consuming, so it slowed down the crocheting process.

DSCN3438 (1)Before I stitched the first penguin together, I crocheted the next penguin in the colony. This time the penguin would have a gray body with a white belly spot and yellow feet and beak. Once again, I cut and tied the color changes in the head and now the body. If you look closely at the pictures, you will see a small “birth mark” on this penguin’s belly. I miss counted and did not notice my mistake until a couple of rounds later after several cut and ties were completed, and I did not want to undo all my work to fix that one stitch, so I am calling it a birthmark. It adds character to the penguin and in no way decreases his cuteness. Soon enough, I had all the pieces for the second penguin crocheted and ready to stitch together.

DSCN3436 (1)I picked up the yarn to start crocheting the next penguin in the colony, but then I decided to complete the first two penguins, whose pieces were already crocheted up, before starting another. The stitching together of these penguins was much easier than the stitching together of most my amigurumi’s. Because of the multi colored head, there was no question as to where the eyes were inserted, or where the beak DSCN2730was placed. On the second penguin, I had left a long piece of gray yarn from the head to stitch the head and body together. When I came to the white of the head and the belly spot, the gray stitches stood out badly. I had to stop the gray yarn and start a piece of white yarn to sew the white areas together and then return to the gray yarn to finish stitching the head and body together. On the first penguin, I had left I long black tail for sew from the body. This blended in well with both a gray and the white of the head. The color of yarn I leave for stitching is something I will have to keep in mind when I make amigurumi’s with multicolored heads and bodies in the future.

DSCN3432 (1)Because of the black heads, I stuffed the penguins a little lighter than most of the amigurumi’s I make. Usually, I over stuff my amigurumi’s. They say the stuff settles over time, so to over stuff at first. But, when you’re working with a dark color and white stuffing, the stuffing really shows through as the stitches are stretched by the over stuffing. Although, I really like no stuffing showing through the black stitches of the head, it was very hard for me stop stuffing before I thought the pieces were completely stuffed.

DSCN3434 (1)Feeling his head now that he is stitched together, I wish I had added just a little more stuffing to the first penguin’s head, especially in the back, but the second penguin is stuffed just right. The husband likes the less stuffing. I explained to him about the stuffing settling over time, but he still said that he liked the lighter stuff and he felt that the penguin’s still had enough stuffing to withstand the settling and a lot of be played with. It will be interesting to see if that turns out to be true or not.

DSCN3433 (1)With these two penguins completed, I picked up the yarn for the next penguin in the colony and asked the husband what color beak and feet I should crochet for this penguin and should it have a belly spot or not. The husband rolled his eyes and reminded me about all the fun patterns I have yet to crochet. And, he was right, I had already made this pattern, twice, and it was fun and the finished amigurumi’s were just adorable but other just as fun patterns are waiting in the wings.

I quickly named the two penguins Pepper and Piper and they are now waiting for a good home to go and live at.

I have tucked this pattern close to the front of my crochet pattern stash, and if and when the day comes that I want to complete the penguin colony or I just need a fun and simple amigurumi that turns out super cute, I know which pattern to reach for.

Until then, crochet forth and colony on!

The Main Reason Is the Mane – Part 2

DSCN0257As I worked my way down the horse’s head filling in the mane, I learned why the author said to use just one strand of yarn instead of two. My horse’s mane was becoming way too full and starting to look too bushy, so I started to put less stitches per row and just spread the strands of yarn out over the head. I also started to space the strands out to help thin out the hair some. At the top of the head I used 14 inch long strands of yarn but as I moved down the head I decreased to 12 inches and then to 10 inches and so on. I saw no need in wasting yarn by using 14 inches lower down on the head and then just trimming it off later.

DSCN0217When the husband saw the horse at what I considered half way done, he yelled, “Whoah! that’s enough hair.” It was enough at that point, but I had planned to do a couple of more rows so that if you pushed the horse’s mane back, you did not see such a bald head. But, the husband was right. This horse needed no more hair. I did add some short strands to the front of the horse’s head to make some bangs on her forehead. So, as long as the horse sits with her mane brushed nicely around her head, she looks great, but lift her mane and she has some bald spots. The next time I will believe the author of the pattern, and just use one strand of yarn.

DSCN0236The husband helped me give the horse a hair cut, and I called her mane complete. Her tail was easy to make especially after completing the mane. I simply cut some strands of yarn and knotted them in a row to the behind of the horse. Then, I followed the picture in the pattern and braided it followed by a little trimming. I tied the end of the braid of with a piece of yarn to hold it tight, then add a red ribbon for fun.

Unlike most of the amigurumi’s I make, this horse took on a feminine personality. Usually my amigurumi’s are male. I wanted to give her a boyish name though so I picked the name Charlie. Even with her bush thick mane, she turned out just adorable. I would gladly make another horse from this pattern. Hopefully, Charlie can find a good home soon and a friend to play with.

Until next time, crochet forth and mane on!

The Main Reason is the Mane -Part 1

DSCN0264Why was my next amigurumi a horse? Well, not to mention the fact that the pictures on the pattern were absolutely adorable, or that the pattern is well written, or that it would be fun to make, the reason for this horse was to try a mane, or long hair. I have over the years made a couple of amigurumi’s with hair, like Woodstock, but nothing as elaborate as the mane of a horse. I have been a little apprehensive about trying hair but it was now time to learn how to do it.

DSCN0196I started the crocheting of this horse with her arms and legs. I love the three color combination of her arms and legs. Next came her body, muzzle and ears. I saved her head for last because of the dual colors of the face. As I started the cream colored yarn on the face, I decided to carry the yarn rather than cut and tie each color change on each row. I thought carrying the yarn would be easier than cutting and tying but it really was not. I had to be careful not to pull the yarn too tight as I worked. I did not want to pull the head together as I crocheted. In fact, I purposely left the carried yarn with some slack to prevent any pulling. This made keeping tensions tight while crocheting a little difficult but I managed to make it through, and soon had all the pieces for this horse crocheted.

DSCN0204The stuffing and stitching together of this horse went smoothly and soon enough, I had a hairless horse. Now the fun part began. The author of the pattern used the same color combinations from the arms and legs for the hair. I really like the multicolor look and decided to give my horse the same color of hair. The pattern did not give much help with the design of the mane. It simply said to do whatever looked good. One thing that the pattern did advise was that the horse pictured in the pattern had two strands of yarn per knot of hair, but that after the fact, the author decided one strand of yarn would have been better. The pictures were so cute that I decided to try two strands and see what I liked better. I picked a starting point on the top of head and knotted two strands of yarn to the right of that point and one strand of yarn to the left. The strands are attached with a latch hook knot but made with your crochet hook, really quite simple to do. After attaching several single and double strands of the mane, I took a look at the one strand versus two strands. I liked the rich full look of two strands instead of just one strand, so I took out the single strands and made them all double strands.

Since this mane was going to take some time to make, watch for the completion of it in part 2.

Until then, crochet on and mane on!

Black Bobbin Thread

It’s always the little things, isn’t it? The simple act of changing the color of bobbin thread used on an embroidery project made all the difference in the world and gave a perfect end result. I am so excited about this little change that made such a huge difference in my last project.

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I wanted to put a simple black outlined design on my latest sewing project. I have used my machine to embroider red work a couple of times in the past. It has usually been a fight to get the tension just right so that the white bobbin thread is not pulled up into the design. I have even gone as far as to dab the white thread with a black sharpie pen to hide the white thread in the design before. For this design, I finally wised up and used black thread in the bobbin instead of white. This time when the bobbin thread pulled up into the design you could not see it. It blended in perfectly. The design came out rich and full and all in sharp black.

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Excited about these results, I had to try it again so I grabbed a bib towel from the closet and stitched another outline design and the results were once again rich and full.

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Now, why I did not think of using black bobbin thread years ago, I will never know. I have known since day one of embroidering that they make colored bobbin thread and that if your stitching a monogram on towels you can even use your top embroidery thread in the bobbin so the design looks stitched on both sides. But, it just never dawned on me until now to give it a try. I am so excited about the results that I plan to use a lot more black bobbin thread in the future. I am planning on using black bobbin thread on more than just outlined designs too. I plan to use it on all my dark designs and to even switch out bobbins on lighter colored projects when it is time to stitch the outline of the design.

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Stay tuned for the results.