Saturday, February 6, 2016

Janome Memory Craft 8900QCP

My New Arrival!

I've finally done it. I purchased a new sewing machine and isn't she a beauty!  It has great features and many more stitches I will ever use, But, what sold me was the AccuFeed Dual presser foot that glides through thick and shifty fabrics with ease that came with the machine.

I've waited a long time to invest in a good machine. A few years back the Viking machine I had since I graduated college over 40 years ago, pooped out on me. Given its age I figured it wasn't worth the money to have it fixed, so I quickly purchased an inexpensive Singer to get me through till I purchased a new one. 

Four years later I finally settled on this machine.  When the American Sewing Expo came to my town last fall I used the event to shop all the brands and newest models within my price range. I am glad I did that. It was the perfect forum to try out machines and listen to the sales pitches from all the top companies that ultimately helped me make a more informed decision.

Viking was at the top of my list for the longest time, but after learning ownership has changed hands several times within recent years I became concerned. The same conglomerate also owns Singer and Pfaff.  This raised the question of whether their future was on solid ground or would it mean a decline in quality for the 3 brands.  Of course, this change of hands could be for the better, but it seldom is. So I passed on Viking and Pfaff.

What I learned from shopping around is how small the sewing machine industry has whittled down to.  Brother and Baby Lock are also essentially the same company. While I find the Baby Lock machines to be exceptional, they are simply higher priced versions of Brother models. Not that that's bad, but I wasn't in love with the Brother models I could afford. 

So, that left me with either Bernina or Janome. While there is no question Bernina makes one of finest machines on the market the models I could afford were too basic. The really good ones are simply too high priced for me, so I had to pass - maybe one day if I win the lottery I'll get one. 

I was left to conclude a Janome machine would fit my needs. Its a company that appears to be on solid footing and they make good machines to fit just about any budget. I really liked the new Skyline S7 model and almost bought that one, but settled on this Memory Craft 8900 which in the end despite having a higher MSRP came in cheaper than the Skyline S7. It has all the bells and whistles I was looking for. I sews quietly and smoothing and makes lovely buttonholes - many different ones in fact. 

AccuFeed Dual presser foot

Like I said, I've researched and waited a long time to find a good machine. I just hope this one will also last me another 40 years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016 New Years Re-SEW-lutions

My latest post addresses setting New Year's resolutions, or re-sew-lutions, geared specifically to the sewer. Here is the link: 2016 Re-sew-lutions. Of course, when writing the post I had my own resolutions in mind. Just like everything else in life the new year is a great time to look back on what was, or more likely wasn't, accomplished last year as a basis for what the next year's objectives may be.

Most of the items on the post I have as on my own personal list of resolutions. There are a few more however I would like to add. Just as the post reads, cleaning my sewing studio is at the top of my list, too. My daughter's wedding, or should I say weddings! last year took a toll on my sewing space. In the rush to get everything done for the wedding shower, the wedding in Italy and then the American reception that followed, on top of writing assignments and teaching, my sewing space is in complete disarray. In my haste to keep my sewing table clear I haphazardly stuffed containers and drawers so that now everything is out of place. I can't find anything!

So, while I have a brief pause before my rush of teaching, writing, and sewing begins again, my first order of business is to reorganize all my fabric stash, and sewing supplies.  If I hope to be more productive in 2016 it has to start with a space where everything is in its proper place.

Another resolution I deem to be rather important is that I want 2016 to be a year where I finally sew more for myself.  Wow, it's hard to believe I even have to list this as a resolution, but the fact of the matter is though I sew almost everyday I am seldom sewing for myself.  I can't tell you how many pieces of fabric I have purchased with specific patterns or designs in mind, but never seem to get around to making them. Something always seems to interrupt my intentions. No more! I have made a preliminary list of items I want to make and will hopefully finally get to sew them. After all, what's the point of possessing this skill if I can't use it to my own advantage.  

If you are at all like me you've purchased oodles of classes from I'm  a sucker for buying them when they go on sale, especially at the $19.99 price, so now I have a boatload of them. The problem is I buy them but then don't watch them. Who does that?  So, this month and probably the next, I will commit myself to binge watching as many as I can and not purchase anymore until I have watched them all.  

It's already two weeks into the year and so far I'm on track. Can you say the same?


Monday, January 4, 2016

Pillows From Mom

The holidays can be especially tough after a loved one has recently passed. That was the case for my niece Carol whose mother passed away earlier in the year after a long illness. To help keep her mother's spirit a part of the season she asked me to make pillows and scarves out of some of her mother's favorite clothing items. They would be presents to her two sisters, her son and daughter, as well as her nieces and nephews. Just a little something to keep their mother's and grandmother's memory alive. It was such a lovely and heartfelt request I simply could not refuse her.

For the girls pillows were made in a variety of throw-types sizes from a couple of favorite sweatshirts and fleece jackets. I also made several small sachet-style ones filled with lavender.  For the boys I made gaiters out of a favorite fleece jacket. They all turned out nicely and I hear all were well received with lots of tears and smiles.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jeff's Slippers

I have a student who has been trying to learn to sew and his project of choice has been slippers. He made a pair last year for a friend that has Multiple Sclerosis. A few weeks ago he contacted me to help him make another two pair for the same friend in time for her birthday next month.  His schedule unfortunately, became too demanding so he asked me to make them for him. These are the results. Aren't they cute! 

They were made from this pattern downloaded from the internet and is available on Here's the link:  J Howell Recycled Slippers

The body of the slippers are made from recycled wool sweaters that have been felted. Of course lots of other types of materials can be used, like fleece or regular woolens.  The pattern comes with the pattern pieces needed for several men's or women's sizes and instructions for both how to felt the wool and construct the slippers. 

Its a basic slipper design that works quite well but I would make a few modifications. Only the sole is lined so I would adjust the pattern so the upper is lined as well. It also doesn't include instructions for an interlining to cushion the sole, which I would add as well. But, other than that its a good pattern for a basic slipper. 

Jeff selected the fabrics which look ok, but weren't what I would have chosen. The upper on both pairs are made of recycled wool sweaters, one felted the other left as is. The brown pair features leather soles which worked out great. The grey ones used a suede like material, also a good choice.  What I really didn't like was his choice of material for the cuff and sole lining,. He purchased fake fur, one in ivory and the other in black. What an unbelievable mess these fabrics made. I have fur literally everywhere in my workroom and in and around my sewing machine!  The end results look pretty good, but neither fabric had the stretch or loft needed for a pair of slippers. 

The most difficult part of making them was dealing with the bulk the felted wool presents. Joining the upper with a back seam and adding a tag along that seam were particularly bulky.  Since the felted wool didn't fray I lapped the edges and stitch over it with a decorative stitch that literally fused the two fabrics together. 

The other issue I had was sewing with the leather. Pins became useless so I used binder clips to hold the layers together.  The added bulk combined with the leather also made it difficult to sew as the presser foot continued to stick. Fortunately my new sewing machine has a dual feed foot that solved the problem. Awesome feature!!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fall Placemats

My latest blog post - making placemats

My series on making seasonal table decor finished with my post on placemats made from fall inspired fabrics. I made four 12" x 18" placemats out of fabric in two fall themed prints. 

These were especially fun to make and look great on my kitchen table along with the matching napkins I made a few weeks ago. I'm not one to do this type of thing as I typically focus my time on making garments, but this was a pleasant diversion I am pleased to share with the sewing community.  

The method I used is very basic and will work for making placemats to fit any occasion or theme - Christmas, spring, Easter, etc. My take on doing the mitered corners is different from most, but I believe produces the best and sharpest looking corners -- you'll see! 

Here is the link to the post and happy fall. 
Fall themed placemats 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fall Inspiration

My Latest Craftsy Blog Posts - Easy to make Tablecloths & Napkins

Every time I shop the fabric stores I can't pass up the opportunity to indulge in some of the latest season's cotton prints. They are fun and make great seasonal items for the home. So inspired by the choices this fall I did a series of posts for Craftsy on making tablecloths and napkins out of fall inspired prints. 

These are some of the easiest sewing projects for the home to make.  With precise cutting and some know how on how to achieve the squarest mitered corners, they can be made in no time at all.   

Here is the link for making tablecloths which provides instructions on how to measure tables properly to determine fabric yardage along with helpful tips for sewing a simple cloth:
how to make a tablecloth 

And, here is the link to learn how to make simple square napkins:  how to make square napkins

Sneak peak: the series continues with a post on making place mats. Look for it in the coming weeks. 

I don't often make much for the home these days as I concentrate most of my time either teaching or making clothing, but these were a fun diversion. Every once in a while you need to step out of the box and do something different. 


Monday, September 28, 2015

Connie Crawford

A Pattern that Fits -  Hip Hip Hoorah!

This past weekend the American Sewing Expo was in town. Sewers and quilters from cities and states in and around Michigan converged to see the latest in the home sewing industry. On most visitors' agendas were oodles of classes and workshops they could participate in taught by the industry's top sewing experts and what I like to call, sewing celebrities. 

This was my second time visiting the show. My mission there was to shop for a new sewing machine and to take a full day workshop. The class I chose was a custom fit and design course taught by Connie Crawford. Since fitting continues to be a challenge for me and is something I am committed to mastering for myself and my students, this seemed like the appropriate workshop to sign up for.

I was familiar with Connie's name from her Butterick patterns and various articles I've read from her, but aside from that I had no real knowledge of who she was or what contribution to the home sewing industry she had to offer. 

Boy, she is impressive. Connie's professional experience is noteworthy and extensive. She was an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles and worked as a pattern maker, grader, design consultant and designer for real fashion businesses. All this has contributed to her ability to truly understand how to make patterns that actually fit real women.

As I have aged getting commercial patterns to fit me well has been a struggle. Getting darts or princess seams to target the bustline properly, resolving gaposis issues and trying to get the armhole and sleeves to fit me right has been a challenge. I'm sure there are lots of women who face the same dilemma and understand the struggles we go through. I have to make muslin after muslin which adds cost and unneccessary time to any project I start. Not anymore!

Connie's vast experience has indeed made her an expert in pattern making for real women. Unfortunately, she had very little good to say about the commercial pattern industry. Her contention is that they have failed to adapt to today's trends  -- I totally agree -- and do not make patterns that trully understand the female body, especially the aging female body -- here here. As a result their patterns are not truly designed to fit, something, I'm sad to say, speaks directly to me. 

She spoke directly to the issues that I face everyday with every commercial pattern I use.  She explained how commerical patterns are designed and the where and why they fail to fit properly.  Key among those reasons is that most in that industry have had no real experience making patterns for fashion houses that must design clothes that actually fit or they don't survive as a business for very long.

During the class she fit a few students with sample garments made from her line of  'master' patterns. These students were like you and me, with lumps and bumps everywhere. The samples fit these women like gloves. No gaps, perfect armholes, perfect necklines on not so perfect bodies. I was amazed. 

The following day I visited her booth at the show to be fitted with one of her samples to see if these so called 'master' patterns would work for me. Hip hip hoorah indeed! Like a glove, they fit me better than any pattern I have had to work hours to adjust. 

Connie's master patterns work like slopers or blocks. These are basic silhouettes that can be used as templates for designing new styles, a concept I believe in strongly and recently wrote about for Sew News magazine (Core Wardrobe Patterns). More importantly, they will be used to correct the fit of any commercial pattern I use from now on. 

I purchased three of her 'master' patterns. The basic side bust dart/waist dart bodice, a princess seam bodice and a bodice pattern for knits  -- essentially a T-shirt pattern. From these I can make almost anything.   I also purchased her latest edition book on patternmaking. I've only just begun to read this 500 page bible and so far it is wonderful. Written primarily as a textbook for fashion design students it is comprehensive, very carefully detailed to minimize any misinterpretations, yet easy for any sewer to implement. 

This was the first time meeting Connie and I am so glad I did. She has been in very poor health and is facing a slow and long recovery. As a result, she announced the class I attended was be the last all day workshop she would conduct out of her home state of Washington. She would have to limit her extensive travel demands and stick closer to home so she could restore her health.  My very best wishes to her in her recovery as she has a lot to offer the sewing community. And, my sincere thanks for having been among the last few to benefit from her workshop.