Life's a Stitch, . . Let's sew it up!

10.22.17 "Why Change Needle Position?"

Every time I teach a “Sewing Machine Basics” class, I teach customers how to change the needle position for a straight stitch.  Almost every class has someone in it that asks “When would I ever use this?”  The short answer is “Well, I use it every time I sit down to sew”, but that might not really help you understand the reasoning behind my constant use of the feature.  The feed teeth on your machine (picture #1) are in a particular placement under the presser foot to allow the most amount of fabric to come in contact with the feed teeth and the presser foot.  This allows the fabric to be fed through the machine evenly and gives you nice flat seams.  When the fabric is not coming into contact with the all the feed teeth and foot, your fabric will tend to skew off to one side, giving your seam a puckered appearance.  Picture #2 shows the fabric placement to get a 1/8” seam, with the fabric under some of the feed teeth and some of the presser foot.  Picture #3 shows the resulting, puckered 1/8” seam.  Picture #4 shows the fabric placement to get a 1/8” seam, but this time the fabric is covering all the feed teeth, the presser foot is in contact with the larger amount of fabric:  I have simply moved the needle position all the way to the right.  Picture #5 shows the resulting flat 1/8” seam.  (Both seams were sewn on cotton with cotton batting underneath).  Next time you are trying to sew a very small seam, try keeping as much fabric under the presser foot and on top of the feed teeth as possible and just move the needle position (using the width adjustment) to create your seam width.

10.15.17  "A New Trick for an Old Dog"

I was helping a friend sew something for a special occasion and as a “thank you” she gave me a gift.  For years I have been using the “Little Wooden Iron” to press open seams while I am sitting at my sewing machine.  This has always worked extremely well, except that sometimes, I have had a little fabric distortion, probably due to my enthusiasm while pressing the seam (in other words, I am pressing way too hard)!   If you have not tried the “Clover Roll and Press” you may want to add it to your collection of notions.  I am making an “In-the-hoop” table runner so I have been embroidering on the fabric and batting sandwich, then pressing the seams open to add the backing and add the quilting stitches.  Before pressing the seams open and using heat to press them, I have been rolling the seams open with this little gem.  I have had no fabric distortion and the seams have stayed open while I put the press cloth over them to steam (my batting is exposed on the back side, so I cannot press directly on the seams with the iron).  I always find it fun, after so many years of sewing, when I find something that is so simple but works so well.  Best of luck with all your projects this week!

10.9.17 "It's in the Wind..."

I am always looking for a quick and easy project to insert in between my more substantial ones.  Sometimes I just want to start something and finish it in one afternoon instead of creating a long term project where instant gratification will not be achieved easily.  As I was looking around the net recently, I came across the October project for the Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff sites.  Though there is a free design download available for hoop driven embroidery machines, you can make this wind sock on any machine.  This will be the perfect project to try out some of those terrific presser feet you have purchased:  for instance the open toe foot.  The download for the project includes the free design in vp3 for both the PC and the Mac, as well as a pdf of the directions (that includes specific pictures) and an applique template.  I hope a fall wind sock will be in the wind at your house!

10.2.17 "The Perfect 1/4" Seam?"

I enjoy reading technical literature on all aspects of sewing.  It is not unusual to find me reading a book on sewing machine feet or on sewing techniques rather than reading a novel.  Sometimes what I am reading makes me stop and say “hmmmm”, which is what happened to me this week, while reading “The Foot Book for Husqvarna Viking Sewing Machines" (6th edition) from Country Stitches.  On page 21, the authors of the book, Deb Lathrop VanAken and Anita Covert, PhD, wrote about a test for the perfect ¼” seam.  It was so simple and took into account, not only the fabric being used, but also the thread and the needle, which are all factors in the creation of your seam.  The test is as follows:
The ¼” Test
1) Make sure to use the same fabric, thread and needle for the test that you will be using for the project.
2) Cut three 2” X 5” strips of fabric.
3) Stitch them together with your ¼” stitching foot.
4) Open the strips, press and measure.  The piece should measure 5” across now.
5) If the square measures too big; then the needle position must be moved to the left (creating a bigger seam allowance).
6) If it measures too small; move the needle position to the right (a scant ¼”).

Sometimes I think things like this simple test are like the hula hoop…………why didn’t I think of that?  Happy Sewing!

9.25.17 "In Honor of National Sewing Month...Part 4"  If you have become interested in quilting, perfecting your craft is how you love to spend your time.  Choosing color combinations and piecing patterns, selecting embroidery designs and choosing various methods of quilting your creations are subjects that hold your interest time and time again.  Many people have a favorite 1/4” foot that they rely upon to give them the results they are looking for.  If you have never checked out the 1/4” Edge Stitching Foot by Husqvarna Viking or the Perfect ¼” Foot with Guide for the IDT System by Pfaff, I encourage you to take a look and see if this type of foot would work for you.  Piecing feet, generally, can only use the center needle position.  This gives you very accurate seaming of your project with predictable outcomes.  The feet I am talking about here allow you that same degree of accuracy while also allowing you a little more flexibility, allowing you to not only sew accurate ¼” seams, but to sew accurate scant ¼” seams with the same foot.  The feet I am discussing here allow you to change your needle position, within a small range, to give you the ability to create a scant ¼” seam without moving the fabric under your foot to achieve it.  These feet have an oval opening for the needle rather than a circular opening.  Some machines even have a special ¼” straight stitch in their menu which was specifically designed with this foot in mind.  Though the stitch says it is ¼”, it is actually more of a scant ¼” and will generally not work if you are using a center needle position foot.  These feet have a metal guide on the right side of the foot which also lends to the foot’s incredible accuracy.

9.18.17  "In Honor of National Sewing Month...Part 3"  This is the last official weekend of summer and soon a chill will be in the air:  time to start sewing on fleece, leathers, imitation leathers and all those other hard-to-feed-through-your sewing machine fabrics.  This presser foot is just what you’ll need to make sewing those fabrics a breeze.  The Roller Foot is available for both Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff machines and makes a variety of hard to sew fabrics easy enough for even the most novice sewer.  Halloween costumes are an excellent example of working with difficult, sometimes uneven fabrics.  Also, working with vinyl while creating travel accessories, such as cosmetic organizers, is much easier by using this foot.  Fabrics that stick to your metal or plastic presser feet don’t stand a chance against this foot!
As the name implies, this foot uses rollers to help feed the fabric through the machine instead of gliding over the fabric.  The rollers help to feed the fabric evenly when aids such as the IDT system on the Pfaff or the Interchangeable Dual Feed foot on the Husqvarna Viking just aren’t giving you the results you are looking for.  Just one thing:  when working with this foot, don’t forget to pay attention to your presser foot pressure.  You may need to tweak it a bit, up or down, depending upon the fabric on which you are sewing.  (Reminder:  the presser foot pressure, on machines where adjustments are possible, are usually found on a knob at the top or left hand side of the machine or in the machine’s Set Menu.  Check your machine's manual for details.)

9.11.17 "In Honor of National Sewing Month...Part 2" We are continuing our exploration of useful presser feet by spotlighting the Pfaff Pintuck Foot with Decorative Stitch Guide.  It’s a long name, but an incredibly useful foot that makes short work of creating rows of pintucks with or without decorative stitching inserted in between the rows.  First of all, the foot is plastic, so your visibility is excellent.  The foot first allows you to accurately sew pintucks with a spacing of between 5mm and 11mm using a twin needle.  The foot then allows you to precisely space decorative stitching between 6mm and 9mm in width between those pintucks.  Since the foot is a turntable foot (you can attach it to the machine in the direction that meets your needs) you can place your pintucks and/or decorative stitches easily without turning the work itself.  I personally like to use perle cotton to create raised pintucks before inserting my decorative stitches in between the rows.  I like the texture this creates.
 Please remember, you should not be using the IDT system when working with this foot.  Also, pintucks take up fabric, especially when sewing multiple rows, so your best bet is to create the embellished material first in one larger piece and then cut out the dimensions/shape you need for your project.

9.4.17 "In Honor of National Sewing Month....."  With September now upon us, it’s time to celebrate National Sewing Month!  During the next few weeks, I will be talking about using some of my favorite presser feet.  This week we will be starting with the Husqvarna Viking Edge-Joining foot.  This foot is intended to join two pieces of fabric as they are butted up next to each other, such as is done when joining fabric to lace during heirloom sewing projects.  The metal guide down the center of the foot allows you to place the two pieces of material you are joining in perfect alignment with one another, so you can then use beautiful joining stitches to finish everything off with a very professional look.  Those of you who have taken my machine classes know I am a “guide girl”.  I love feet with a metal guide because they allow me to be accurate while also being quick.  I use the Edge-Joining foot for all my top stitching when I want to top stitch very close to the edge of my seam.  By placing the metal guide in the “ditch” of the seam and changing my needle position, I can achieve beautiful, close top stitching with very little effort.  It’s so accurate I am able to use contrasting thread for top stitching, knowing my top stitching will be straight and even.  Just a note…….depending on the material you are using, you may need to lower the presser foot pressure a little to make sure the metal guide does not “plow” in the ditch.

8.28.17 "For Best Results....."  If you are fortunate enough to have a Pfaff or Husqvarna Viking machine with special technique stitches, you know how beautiful and unique they can be.  Ribbon Stitches and Double Ribbon Stitches on the Pfaff and Applique and Dimensional Stitches on the Husqvarna Viking can be striking on all of your projects.  Some customers have trouble with the stitches not coming out as they had hoped and usually, this is due to the skipping of a very important step.  As you start to sew, the needle up/down feature must be in the “down” position.  This means that every time you stop the machine, the needle will be in the fabric.  This anchors the fabric and gives a guide for accurate placement of the material or ribbon that is being applied to the project.  When the needle stops in the “down” position, the presser foot will automatically lift to the pivot position, allowing you to place the fabric or ribbons right where you want them to continue the stitches.  Making sure to follow this detail will give you beautiful and unique embellishments.

8.21.17  "Back to School Projects"  Each machine class I teach, I talk about going to the Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff websites for project inspiration.  No matter which machine you own, you should be checking in with both sites to see what new projects they have posted.   Sometimes they include free design downloads for your embroidery machine, but most of the time, projects are featured that can be sewn using any machine.  You can download directions, templates and supply lists, everything you need to make the project shown.  With school just around the corner, you may want to take some time to make some fun and useful items for your favorite scholar, each one featured on one of the sites.   On the Husqvarna Viking site, you will find some cute back to school cases on the home page and on the Pfaff site you will find a quilted pen case on the “Inspiration” page under “Projects”.  Both projects are fast and fun and just might help you whittle down your fabric stash!

8.14.17  "Using the Grid"  This weekend I made a hooded bath towel for a family member’s new little baby girl.  I wanted to put an embroidery  design on the hood so I took two separate embroideries, edited them together on the screen of my machine while they were in embroidery edit, printed out a template and embroidered the designs on the gift.  For those of you who enjoy embroidering on projects, this is something you may do often.  For those of you who are new to embroidery, what I did may not be entirely clear.  First of all, I have an embroidery machine that allows me to bring more than one design onto my screen.  I also have a feature that allows my machine to group separate designs together, allowing me to manipulate the multiple designs as if they were one design.  Also, for placement of the designs before grouping, I have a feature that puts a grid on the display screen so lining up designs becomes much easier.  For the Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking machines that have the grid feature, all of the grids are fixed in spacing except for the grid on the Epic.  (The Epic allows the user to choose the spacing of the grid lines for incredibly accurate design editing.)  For those of you who have a machine with the grid feature, it may be helpful for you to know that the grid lines are spaced approximately 3/8” apart.  I hope you are able to use the grid feature to help you expand your embroidery design library!

8.7.17  "In the Round"   I started making gifts for people many years ago.  Every wedding, birth, house warming, etc. was an opportunity to give a personal gift from my husband and me.  Many of those creations over the years have been made with the use of the circular attachment for my sewing machine.  Just by varying the size of the circles, the order of the decorative stitches and the types of decorative threads I used I could make some stunning projects with more fun than effort on my part.  Just remember that when you use one of these attachments, you will be left with a hole in the center of your project.  Depending upon the fabric you are using, that hole may or may not heal completely.  It is for this reason I always have something planned, usually a monogram of some kind, to be placed in the center of the circle to hide the hole.  It is also best to use decorative stitches that do not have a lot of backwards motion to them as these types of stitches have more of a tendency to distort as the stitches navigate the circle.  As with all projects, you will want to do some kind of test piece first which will give you an idea of the type of stabilizer you should use and the type of stitches you think will look best in your new circular creation.  Not sure which attachment is right for your machine?  Give “Bonny’s Sewing and Fabric” a call and we would be happy to help you!

7.31.17  "Hoop Clips"  If you have invested in a sewing machine that has hoop driven embroidery capability, you probably love your large hoops.  The potential size of the embroidery field is sometimes the determining factor for many of our customers when buying an embroidery machine.  It is very convenient to cover a large area of fabric with beautiful embroidery with a minimum need to re-hoop the fabric.  It is very important, when using a larger hoop, to use the metal hoop clips that are available from Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff.  For many of you, those clips came with your machine.  (If they did not come with your machine, they are not very expensive to purchase separately.)  For hoops that have the clip slots along the inside of the top hoop, the clips work beautifully and are easy to attach and remove from the hoop.  The clips keep your fabric and stabilizer from moving while you are stitching out your designs.  The bigger the embroidery area, the more need there is for using the clips.  Not using them can cause your top thread to break more often due to the “flagging” of the fabric up and down as it is being stitched and can lead to the fabric becoming “slack” in the hoop if your stitch count is rather high.  Since they only take a minute to install, they should always be within easy reach, ready to be clipped onto that great big hoop.  Happy stitching!

7.24.17 "Quilting Pressure"  Many of our customers spend enjoyable hours piecing beautiful quilt tops, but a growing group is also using their sewing and embroidery machines to help them do their own quilting of the finished product.  Some of our customers are using free motion quilting and do not use the feed teeth of their machine, dropping them and guiding the fabric by hand.  Others are experimenting with quilting using the Interchangeable Dual Feed (for Husqvarna Viking) or the IDT system (for Pfaff).  If you are using a dual feed and have found that the top and backing fabrics sometimes do not feed evenly, even with the special tools and features of the machines available, it may be because the presser foot pressure is simply too great. Dual feeding of fabric works extremely well when there are two layers but when you add a third layer (the batting) it’s advisable to lower the presser foot pressure.  This keeps the presser foot from “plowing” in the fabric and batting sandwich.  If you are finding the layers of your quilting project shifting even though they are pin basted properly, try lowering the presser foot pressure to 3.  Remember, depending on your machine, if you are able to adjust the presser foot pressure, you will find the presser foot adjustment knob on the top or side of your machine or you will find the adjustment option in the “Set Menu”.

7.17.17  "Flat Construction"  I have been sewing most of my life.  My parents were experts in the craft and they taught me.  Even as a young beginner I was experiencing garment construction from every angle.  I have always followed written patterns, learning the pattern lingo and following it to the letter.  It wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that I heard of “flat construction”; the assembly process used in the ready -to-wear industry.  Simply put, you sew the garment in an order that allows you to sew as many seams as possible while they are flat, before they become round (this is not always in the order given in the written pattern).  Example:  I no longer put sleeves in round sleeve openings.  I sew the shoulder seams first and insert the sleeve before I sew the underarm seam.   I then sew the garment from the bottom hem to the wrist.  Another example:  I press up all the hems for a garment as I unpin the garment from the paper pattern.  I find that when I press the hems while the garment is flat, I get a much nicer crease and once the garment is constructed the nicely pressed hems are much easier to sew.  I hope you give this a try on your next garment!

7.10.17  "Floating Trim"  In past TOW’s I have talked about creating your own trim.  I enjoy using custom trims on my projects for that one-of-a-kind look.  If you have not tried couching before, you may want to consider it for your next creation.  Couching is simply the technique of attaching decorative threads, pearl cotton or top stitching thread for example, to the top of your project using either decorative thread or monofilament thread to hold everything together.  If you choose to use monofilament or clear thread, your trim appears as if it is floating on the surface of your fabric.  Both Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff have a special foot and guide that make this technique a breeze.  Simply decide where you would like your trim to be on the project, mark it with a fabric marker, attach the presser foot/guide and use a beautiful satin stitch (if you are using decorative thread in your needle) or a zig-zag stitch (if you are using monofilament thread in the needle) just wide enough to cover the thread you are couching.  Couching works well on quilts, home décor, garments, tote bags, placemats, anything.   Pfaff calls this technique couching or braiding and Husqvarna Viking calls it gimping.  All three terms mean the same thing.

7.3.17  "To the Point"  If you have ever needed to sew something into a point, say for a dart, you know it can be quite tricky.  Seems simple enough to sew a wider seam at one end of the work and gradually make the seam allowance smaller, but if you just sew as you do for every other seam, you will not be pleased with the end result.  Sewing to a point on a piece of fabric can cause the fabric to pucker at the point. 

This can be particularly unflattering for garment darts, such as a bust dart.  Nothing says “I made it myself!” quite like puckers in your work!  When I sew to a point, I do my back stitching at the widest part of the seam to reinforce the work, but when I get to the point, I do not back stitch.  Instead I decrease my stitch length to the least amount possible.  I stitch with this decreased stitch length until I am finished, leaving a long thread tail.  I remove the work from the machine, make a double knot by hand with the long threads and cut them off.  I trim and press the dart on a pressing ham to maintain the natural curve of the dart and I’m set!  In the pictures, I started with a stitch length of 2.5.  When I was about 1/4” away from the point, I reduced the stitch length to .5.

6.26.17  "Saving Thread"  Anyone who sews has a collection of thread in a wide variety of colors and types.  Each project requires just the right shade of thread to match or compliment it.  Construction thread is one thing but add to that collection quilting and embroidery threads and now you’re speaking my language!  My collection of thread is something I’m not sure my husband has a complete grasp of.  To say it’s a substantial collection would not be a lie.  Over time, every thread degrades so how do you keep your thread in like-new condition, ready to use when you need it?  I keep my threads sorted by type and color in clear plastic bins.  My embroidery thread is almost all rayon, so I keep those spools in their own bins, sorted by color groups in zippered plastic bags.  All of my thread is stored out of direct light sources to keep the colors alive and beautiful.  Specialty threads, such as monofilament, wash away basting thread and metallic threads all have their own zippered storage bags that are kept in drawers so no light gets to them until I need them.  Storage is important, but it is equally important to recognize thread that is no longer suitable to use in your projects.  When you pull on the thread, does it break fairly easily?  Does it look dry?  Has the deep rich color faded a bit?  If you have a “yes” to any of these, thank the thread for its service and throw it away!  Your projects will be at their best with thread that’s been kept in excellent condition!

Here you will find our "Tip of the Week" or TOW that is published each week in our customer email.  Tips cover a variety of topics of interest to our customers and speak to all areas of the art of sewing.  We hope you find this page helpful and informative.  (Tips are found by the date they were included in the weekly email.)

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