“Before the Thread Goes Through the Needle”

If you have sewn for a long time, you probably remember the novelty of thread being sold on cones for the first time.  Years ago, if you were a home sewer and were not involved a sewing business, you simply had never seen thread sold on a large cone.  Since small thread spools were the only way thread was sold back then, if you owned a sewing machine, your only option for top thread delivery was an upright post.  Now, of course, threads are sold in a large variety of spool and cone sizes and shapes so the newer machines reflect the flexibility needed to produce excellent stitches.  If you, for instance, start experiencing top thread delivery problems while using your machine, you may want to change how your thread is moving up to and through the machine.  If your thread is leaving the spool in big loops, you may have the thread positioned in the wrong way for the thread to unwind smoothly.  If your thread is breaking frequently and you have already changed the needle, the thread may be leaving the spool with too much tension causing it to leave the spool in fits and starts.  Take a look at the following pictures and, if you have experienced any of these issues lately, see how you may avoid these annoyances in the future. 

The vertical spool pin on my 1994 Husqvarna Viking was the only type of spool pin available on machines for many years. Since this machine was one of the first embroidery machines for the home market…
…it was the first machine I had ever owned that also had a horizontal spool pin option available. This pin was designed to handle the newest threads of the time; embroidery thread that was cross wound.
With all the newer threads on the market, how you position your needle thread on the machine makes a big difference in its smooth delivery. Did you notice that there are no two spools that are the same size, even in this small sampling?
The vertical spool pin works best for “stacked” thread spools. This means the thread is loaded onto the spool in a stack with each thread stacked on the one below it. These spools generally do not feed their thread well if the thread is laid on its side or if it is pulled off the spool from the top. In fact, pulling the thread off the spool from the top may cause the thread to come off in fits and starts, increasing the likelihood of thread breaks.
The horizontal spool pin is the best option for cross wound threads. If you have an older machine, the spool pin may be on the back, just like on my old machine. But today…
…the horizontal option looks more like this. Did you notice how you can see an X pattern in the thread? This is cross wound thread and it does not come off smaller spools, like this one, in a smooth manner unless it is exiting the spool horizontally. If you try to use this thread on a vertical spool pin, the thread will either loop off the spool in uncontrolled loops or it will catch unevenly, coming off in fits and starts. If you must use this type of spool vertically, a spool cap is almost a necessity.
Although this cone of thread is cross wound, it performs best on a vertical pin with a longer thread path; provided by the thread stand. It works well due to how the thread is loaded onto the cone (at an angle from the top) and also because the thread stand allows the thread the extra time needed for it to relax as it exits the spool before it needs to travel through the machine. Thread cones do not perform at their best when used horizontally nor when they are used vertically without a thread stand.
If your machine does not have a thread stand option, you may want to consider purchasing an after market thread stand. The one on the left is made to fit onto the vertical spool pin of a Pfaff/Husqvarna Viking machine and the thread stand on the right is designed to sit on the table next to the machine. Each gives the thread a longer path to the machine, allowing the thread to relax more. Sometimes, when using a thread stand, your thread may still be a bit unruly, in which case you should also use a thread net around the spool. This is especially helpful with cones of monofilament thread.

I hope you find these examples helpful! Happy Sewing!

“Stable Decision”

I have spoken before on the use of stabilizers for embroidery (see June 27,2021 blog): what kind to use for different materials, when to use it and why.  Lately I have seen several online quilting videos that have talked about the need to stabilize appliques as they are applied to a quilting project and they all mentioned using printer paper as the stabilizer.  For those of you who enjoy paper piecing projects, I’ll bet you can say why paper as a stabilizer might not be the best idea!  Yes, it does a great job of creating a dull needle; fast.  Stitching paper is exactly the same as using your best sewing shears to cut out paper valentines!  Your needle dulls very quickly and needs to be changed often.  The biggest problem, of course, with a dull needle is that it can create pulls in the fabric as you stitch and those pulls, like a run in a pair of pantyhose, will never be able to be fixed.  Once a thread in the weave of a piece of fabric is pulled, it will always show.  It really doesn’t take much time stitching paper to realize this needle dulling effect.  If you are planning to use appliques in your next quilting project, I would like to suggest you use, instead of paper, tear away stabilizer when sewing your applique to your project.  It doesn’t matter whether you are planning to use a straight stitch for a raw edge applique, blanket stitch, zig-zag or a decorative stitch to secure the applique.  Using a tear away stabilizer will give you excellent results, in my experience. 

Why use a stabilizer at all?  If you have ever seen an applique that is wavy around the edges, not in a good way, you are looking at an applique that was not supported properly when it was being stitched to the project.  Either the fabric stretched while it was being sewn or the stitch was too dense for the material used without using stabilizer.  Now, I’m not referring only to appliques done with an embroidery machine.  Embroiders need to use stabilizer every time they embroider.  This suggestion is for all machine attached appliques whether that applique is on a garment, an item of home décor (such as a pillow) or on a quilting project of some type.  If you are not a machine embroider, you may not have tear away stabilizer just lying around your house, but it is the least expensive of the stabilizers and is worth the investment in your project since tear away stabilizer is meant to be stitched.  It doesn’t cause any problems for your machine or your needle.  It tears away very easily (thus the name!) and creates a supported surface upon which the machine can stitch.  I hope you will give this a try for your next applique project! 

An example of a tear away stabilizer. Tear away comes in a variety of weights and widths.

Happy Sewing!

“What Gives You Inspiration?”

I am always fascinated with how others approach choosing fabrics and sewing projects.  It’s something so basic to the art of sewing but so varied in its execution.  Some people look for inspiration in colors or textures, while others find it in patterns or skills needed to complete a task.  I am a visual/kinesthetic learner, so I want to see different colors and feel the texture of the fabrics.  I like tweeds, batiks and prints that have movement but my fabric collection has a lot of solid fabrics in it.  That’s because I also choose fabrics keeping in mind the embroidery designs I may want to use for the fabric’s embellishment.  For me, the fabric comes first when choosing a new project.  There have been many times when I have chosen a pattern for a garment, table runner or quilt because I liked the finished product pictured on the pattern only to find I am unable to replicate the fabric used.  That’s extremely frustrating for me, so choosing fabric first and then finding an appropriate pattern for that fabric seems to be my best option.  I must admit there are also times when I want to tackle something really challenging in the skills needed to complete a project.  For me, there is a different sense of accomplishment when I finish a complex project versus a simple one. I know that “done is better than perfect” (as quilter Jenny Doan likes to say) but sometimes I really want to shoot for perfection!

I saw this video today and thought you might like to take a look, if you haven’t already seen it.  Donna Jordan owns a quilt shop and produces a lot of tutorials posted on YouTube that let you see the whole process of making a quilting project from start to finish, in a video lasting about 20 minutes.  Oh, if it were only true one could cut, piece, assemble, quilt and bind a project in only 20 minutes!  Anyway, in the beginning of this video she talks about how people make their choices when approaching a new quilting project:  very interesting perspective and outcome.  Take a look and see what you think.  Happy Sewing!

“Nuts and Bolts”

I once had a principal who opened every faculty meeting with something she called Nuts and Bolts.  This was the title of a set of random, yet important, pieces of information that helped our whole school operate more efficiently.  Just like actual nuts and bolts are vital to the stability and longevity of a structure, so these bits of information held our school and faculty together.  Every time I sew, I use my own set of Nuts and Bolts, which I have collected over the years.  I hope the following are helpful to you as you continue your sewing journey.  These are not listed in the order of their importance or in a type of Top Ten format.  They are simply tips I hope will help you as much as they have helped me. 

**Presser feet are used to hold the fabric against the feed teeth as the fabric goes through the machine.  It is really important that your presser foot is using the correct amount of pressure to successfully send your fabric over the feed teeth evenly.  Unless you sew the exact same fabric in the exact same way for all of your projects, knowing how to change your presser foot pressure is a must for the most professional look to your projects.  If you don’t know how to change your presser foot pressure, check your owner’s manual.  Depending upon your machine, it will be a knob or dial on the top or side of your machine near your needle bar that you turn or it will be an icon found in your Settings Menu.

**Needles are sized according to a standard set of numbers.  Whether you use the European or American numbering system, really doesn’t make that much difference (for instance, a European size 75 needle is an American size 11).  What is important to remember is that the heavier the needle, the larger the number.  I own needles ranging in size from European size 60 to 120.  (The size 60 needles are used for very thin materials such as chiffon.  The size 120 is used for some of the upholstery fabrics I sew).  Also important to remember:  if you have a needle threader on your machine, it will work with needles down to a size 75/11.  Trying to use the needle threader on needle sizes smaller than that may damage your needle threader since it is too large to go through the eye of a smaller needle.  This can lead to a costly repair!

The size 60/8 needles are the thinnest needles I have. Notice how small the needle eye is. I usually use size 100 thread with these needles.

These size 120 needles are the largest needles I own. I use them for heavy fabrics such as upholstery fabric. You can probably easily see the size of the eye of the needle. These really pierce the fabric!

**Universal needles are general needles.  They are kind of the jack-of-all-trades of needles.  They are fine for general sewing on common materials, but if you are using something other than quilter’s cotton, you may need a specialty needle.  For instance, if you are sewing on a stretch fabric, use a ball point/jersey/stretch needle (all three names are common).  This needle type has a rounder tip and will push the fabric’s threads aside rather than a sharper needle, which will pierce the threads of the fabric and give you undesirable results on stretch fabrics, such as snags, runs, puckers, etc. depending upon your material.  If you are sewing on leather or vinyl, choose a leather needle which acts more like a knife to cut the material rather than simply pierce it.  When using embroidery or universal needles, I usually opt for titanium or chrome coated needles since they are better at shedding heat from the friction of going up and down through the fabric.  They tend to last much longer than a non-coated needle.

Non-coated needles should be changed about every 6-8 hours of sewing (basically, every new project should start with a new needle). Chrome or titanium coated needles can usually be changed every 15-25 hours of sewing, depending on your material. Quite a difference!

**My last tip today concerns thread.  Thread size is also expressed in numbers, just as needle sizes are, but thread numbers are the opposite of needle numbers.  In thread numbers, the smaller the number, the thicker the thread and the higher the number, the thinner the thread.  On a home sewing machine, the thickest thread that can be used is a size 12.  This is most commonly used for top stitching, since it is very thick and is very pronounced on the fabric.  The thinnest thread I have used is size 100.  This is a very thin thread and works very well on thinner fabrics such as chiffon and organza.  All-purpose thread is generally size 50, embroidery thread is usually size 40 unless your design is digitized for the thicker size 30 thread and quilters tend to like size 30 or 40 thread for their quilting, depending upon how much attention they want paid to the quilting itself. Keep in mind that pairing the correct needle with the correct thread weight is key. This may take some experimentation on your fabric, but test sewing is never a waste of time!

Happy National Sewing Month and Happy Sewing!

“Shopping in the Closet”

After sewing almost exclusively for charity, family and friends for the last year, I find myself in the unfamiliar position of having time to sew for myself!  I will be going back to work outside the home in October and I don’t think my comfy home bound wardrobe will do 🙂  I talked about my sewing room closet a couple weeks ago and thought, since I was moving everything from in front of it today, you would like to see what’s going on in there!  The closet holds my materials that have been in my sewing queue the longest.  This is the storage place for the fall and winter fabrics for garments and home décor, storing a lot of material for coats and jackets as well as the majority of my woolens and fleece.  Today I was looking for materials for an outfit I would like to color block with navy, greys and blues as the focus of the hunt.  A tool I have used for years to make sure the fabrics I put together actually do coordinate is an Ott light.  If you don’t know what and Ott light is, it is a light that gives you a true light on your fabric without coloring that fabric with the different colors that other light bulbs can emit.  For example, did you know that whites, blacks and navy blues tend to have varying degrees of purple in them?  The Ott light shows this clearly, making choosing a matching or coordinating fabric so much easier than using a regular light bulb.  The fabric stores generally have fluorescent lighting which makes choosing coordinating fabrics more difficult, so having the lights at home ensures that the pants I make will coordinate with the top I make.  I hope you have time to start a special project this week.  Happy Sewing! 

By the way, at the end of the pictures today, you will find a couple pictures of the pink baby bunting I put the zipper in last week, just in case you were interested in seeing the finished product.  Happy Sewing!

Getting into the sewing room closet is not a two minute activity! This is what the closet looks like most days, with a large assortment of stored items in front of it.
Once I move everything to the center of the room….
….I can access the sewing room closet!
The top of the closet is stacked to the ceiling with woolens, knits, sweatshirt materials and fleece.
The bottom of the closet holds remnants of past projects as well as materials for more coats and suits. What can’t be seen are the shelving units and trunks that are also inside the closet holding even more goodies! Can you tell, over the years, I have enjoyed my trips to the fabric store???
The view when looking to the right…
…and the view looking to the left.
This is the material I decided upon today. Navy blue pants with a navy and floral color blocked top.
Once my shopping trip was over, everything went back into place. Did you notice the blue and pink striped fabric on top of the storage box of serger thread? Yep, that will be a new blouse next week!
My favorite Ott light is attached to my sewing table. It’s small and lets me put my fabric underneath it for close up inspections.
My other Ott lights are floor lights and table top lights. I find that these lights not only help me with color identification, but are great lights to help reduce my eye strain while sewing.

As promised, here are the pictures of the finished baby bunting from last week’s blog.

The finished product. The bunting is made of fleece. The flange and neck binding is left over from the Winnie-the-Pooh changing pad cover and hooded towel I made for the same baby about a month ago, before her arrival.
Though the embroidery design is not an official Winnie-the-Pooh design, I thought it looked like an adventure Pooh would enjoy!

“Zip It Up”

Today we learned that my niece and her husband are coming back to the U.S. from their tour in Germany.  They will be coming back in the next two weeks and are bringing their new 6 week old baby to see the family for the first time!  Since they will need to wait until October/November for the military to move their things, I got busy today making more changing pad covers and a new fall bunting for the baby.  Many of our customers are intimidated when it comes to inserting zippers, so I thought I would share the zipper insertion for the bunting to see if these tips might help you the next time you have to insert a zipper into a new project or replace a zipper in an older item.

This is the bunting I am making for the baby. Just about anywhere there is a seam, a zipper can be inserted!
If you are inserting a zipper according to a pattern, make sure to mark the end point for the zipper’s bottom. If you are inserting a zipper on your own, make a mark where you want the zipper to end.
I will be using a standard 14″ zipper.
Any zipper longer than 7″ will have one or more creases in it from the packaging.
Steam press the zipper tape, but don’t press the zipper coils. They could melt!
The most important result of inserting a zipper is that the tops of the zipper tape match. You can be off by a tad, but if you are too far off, the zipper will be skewed and won’t close properly. There is 5/8″ of zipper tape at the top of every zipper.
When inserting the zipper, you want to make sure the bottom of the zipper (the metal stop) is below your end mark. You don’t want to sew on the metal stop when inserting the zipper! I usually don’t like the metal stop to show in my finished project.
Let me say, right now, there are many ways to insert a zipper. This is just my “go to” method. If you have something that works well for you, bravo! To begin the insertion, I need to sew the seam up to the end point for the zipper. The seam in this garment is 5/8″.
After sewing up to the end point, I press the rest of the seam not yet sewn so it, too, is 5/8″.
I typically do not use pins to hold my zippers while sewing. Pins can create bulges in the fabric which can sometimes distort the fabric and make a smooth insertion nearly impossible. I have much more success with clips. I use both large and small clips for this job.
Since I work one side of the zipper at a time, I keep the zipper closed and line up the top of the zipper with the top of the garment and clip them together using a small clip.
I then line up the zipper under the fabric the way I want it to look when it’s zipped and clip it in place using my large clips. Notice my fabric is running along the middle of the zipper teeth.
I’m now ready to go to the machine, so I put on my zipper foot and lower my presser foot pressure about 1 to 2 numbers lower than normal. This keeps the top fabric from extending past the zipper tape when I’m finished sewing. (Today, I actually lowered my pressure 3.5 numbers lower than normal since I am sewing on a very lofty fleece).
No matter what material is being sewn, you need to start sewing your zipper from the bottom to the top. This prevents a pucker at the bottom of the zipper.
If you want your seam closer to the zipper, move your needle position. I wanted about 1/4″ distance from the zipper, so my foot is a little further away from the edge with my needle in center position.
Since I cannot sew next to the closed zipper pull without it distorting the fabric, I need to stop…..
…pull it behind the zipper foot and then continue sewing. Depending on your fabric, you may have to leave your needle in the down position so nothing moves while you are sliding the pull.
Now that one side of the zipper is finished, I switch the zipper foot to the other position and start sewing again from the bottom. I join with the first stitching, then go across the bottom of the zipper. I usually turn the needle wheel by hand for this operation because I know I will be sewing over the zipper coils. By doing this by hand I can feel the coils under the needle and I can ease over them without breaking my needle.
Time to start sewing up the other side of the zipper. I usually don’t use pins or clips for this; I just guide it with my hand. Remember, if you pull the fabric, it will skew everything. You are just guiding the fabric.
Since I cannot sew past the zipper pull without distorting the fabric, I, once again, stop well before getting to the top so I can move the zipper pull behind my presser foot. This time I left the needle in the down position so nothing moved.
Now that I am finishing, I can see the two sides of my zipper top meet. Take a victory whenever you can! Remember, they don’t have to be perfect. They will be hidden in another seam, but they should be really close 🙂
Zippers inserted into fleece can be very tricky. They do not like to cooperate, so I would not suggest you use this type of fabric to insert your first zipper! Overall, looks good from the front…
…and the top of the zipper and the flange across the front both match, so I’m golden! (In full disclosure, the right of the zipper is 1/16″ higher than the left, but that will not be noticed when the bias binding goes around the neck edge). I told you, fleece is very tricky!

As I said earlier, there are many different ways to insert a zipper. This just works best for me. I think the most important tips are to use clips instead of pins, always sew from the bottom up on each side of the zipper, turn the wheel by hand when going across the bottom of the zipper and lower the presser foot pressure by one to three numbers from normal. These tips should have you inserting zippers like a pro in no time! Happy Sewing!

“Familiar Feature”

If you’re like me, you have been getting quite a few emails from Husqvarna Viking talking about a feature called Stitch Positioning, found on the newest machines.  It is great to be able to place decorative stitches exactly where you want them on your project with accuracy and consistency, which is what this feature does.  Did you know that if you own certain older models of machines, both Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff, you may already have a version of this feature?  In past machine models, being able to place a decorative stitch where you want it was accomplished by using the Alternative button or icon (presented as Alt or a picture representation).  On the newer machines, this feature may be seen as a new type of icon on the display screen, but the effect is much the same.  Essentially, the machine decides which decorative stitches can be positioned to the left or right of center needle position based upon the width of the stitch.  For example, if the decorative stitch is wider than the stitch plate allows, the Stitch Positioning/Alternative feature will not be available.  If the decorative stitch is able to be reduced in width, the machine will allow you to have more flexibility in the stitch’s placement on the stitch plate by moving the stitch’s starting point to the left of center needle position or to the right.  My Husqvarna Viking machine has a plate opening width of 7mm and my Pfaff has an opening of 9mm.  If I would like to position a decorative stitch, it must be a smaller width than 7mm on my Husqvarna Viking or 9mm on my Pfaff.  Take a look on your machine or in your owner’s manual to see if you have this terrific feature.  If you do, see if you can use it on your next project! 

This is what the Alternative feature’s icon looks like on my Husqvarna Viking Designer Diamond Royale. Usually, if the icon is on a display screen, it will appear next to or close to the width adjustment icon. Some of the older Pfaff machines have this feature in the actual function buttons that are on the front of the machine.
When the icon is activated, it turns what used to be displayed as a 7.0 into a 0.0 display. Also, you will notice that the plus and minus on either side of the 0.0 is not active. That’s because, as the stitch is loaded onto the machine screen, it is already at a 7.0mm width. My Husqvarna Viking cannot stitch greater than 7mm, so in order to activate this feature, I will need to decrease the width of the stitch.
This is what the icon looks like on my Pfaff Creative Icon. This stitch width of the loaded stitch is 9.0mm. See the two circles under the number 9.0? The first circle is activating the stitch width feature…
…and the second circle activates the Alternative feature. Both the plus and minus on either side of the 0.0 are inactive because the stitch itself is 9.0mm: the maximum stitch width for my machine.
Let’s take a closer look at this feature. On my Pfaff, I have chosen the stitch I would like to position.
The stitch is 9.0mm in width, so in order to position this to the left or right of center needle position, I need to reduce the stitch’s width.
If I reduce the stitch width from 9.0mm wide down to 6.0mm….
…the plus and minus (denoting left and right of the center needle position) become active. I can now move the entire stitch to the left or to the right of center needle position.
In this case, the -1.5 is showing that I have moved the entire stitch 1.5mm to the left of center needle position. Why would I want to do that? Maybe I would like to sew this stitch right along the very edge of my fabric for a decorative finish. If I don’t move the stitch placement, my presser foot may run off the edge of the fabric and leave me with a puckered and wavy stitch. By moving the stitch, I can sew with my entire presser foot on the fabric, giving me a professional look.
On my older Husqvarna Viking machine, I have chosen a stitch that is 7.0mm wide. When I touch the ALT icon…
…the plus and minus on either side of the 0.0 are inactive. Why? You got it! Because my stitch is already at a width of 7.0mm: the maximum stitch width my machine can handle.
If I go back to the width adjustment and change the stitch to a width of 5.0mm, I am now 2.0mm smaller than my maximum plate opening, so….
…the plus and minus on either side of the 0.0 are activated. I can now move my stitch to the left or right of center needle position.
The -1.0 shows I have moved the stitch 1.0mm to the left of the center needle position. I must admit, I use this feature mostly to move my stitches to the left of center needle position. I usually am guiding my fabric along the right side of my presser foot, so moving the stitch to the left just works for me.

Remember, this feature allows you to move your stitch on the fabric without moving your presser foot. That’s a really big deal! You will always get a much cleaner stitch if your presser foot is moving along completely on your fabric. This allows the fabric to move through the feed teeth in a straight line with the least amount of distortion possible. Whenever your presser foot runs off the fabric, you can be sure there will be trouble ahead! Happy Sewing!

“How’d You Figure?”

My nephew’s seven year old son is starting second grade tomorrow and has let me know (today) he would like me to make him something to keep in his backpack where he can keep some extra masks so he doesn’t have to wear the same mask all day.  Makes sense:  timing a bit late!  Anyway, this evening I will be working on his mask carrier and I will get it to him after school tomorrow.

Whenever I make clothing, I always use a pattern.  I just don’t have the knack for creating garments with the correct proportions unless I do.  When creating home décor and accessory projects, I often go without a pattern.  If you have never tried something without a pattern, let me give you a guide to help you have a much greater chance of success.

First thing to do is to decide how I would like the finished product to look.  In this case, I will be creating a quilted, lined bag that will open in the middle (think facial tissue box style), with no zipper.  This will make the masks easy to get into and out of the bag.  I will be using bias tape on either edge of the opening so there will be a clean finish.  I want the bag to measure slightly larger than the masks so getting the masks in and out will be very easy for a seven year old to manage.  After deciding this bag needs to be made from super hero fabric, I am ready to start from the finished product and go backwards to get the measurements I need to start. I measured a paper mask and it measured 7” x 4”, minus the ear straps.  I will make the 4” measurement twice that since I want to wrap the two halves of the bag to meet in the middle.  Since I want the masks to go in and out easily, I will add ½” to each of those measurements.  This ½” extra also allows me to box the corners to, again, make getting the masks in and out easier.  Next to consider are the seam allowances.  I will use ¼” seam allowances everywhere, so each cut piece gets another ¼” larger.  I’m now at a cut size of 7 ¾” x 8 ¾”.  Last thing to keep in mind is that this will be a lined, quilted bag.  Quilting, depending on the density of the quilting, usually takes up fabric, so I will add another 1” to each measurement to account for this fabric shrinkage.  I’m now at 8 ¾” x 9 ¾” for my initial cut pieces.  I always err on the side of too big, so I will make my cuts at this guesstimate size and cut down the finished quilted material to 7 ¾” x 8 ¾” when I am ready to construct the bag.  The sewing sequence will, again, be worked out from the finished product back to the beginning.  I will cut then quilt the fabric, trim the fabric to my 7 ¾” x 8 ¾”, sew the bias strips to each side of the opening, sew the ends closed and box the corners.  If I have measured correctly and sewed consistently, I will have a quilted bag for our second grader’s big year!  Happy Sewing!

The fabric on the batting is the cut piece and the fabric on the right is how I will be folding the fabric to create the opening. I used both pieces, wrong sides together with the batting in between for the quilting.
I used a simple serpentine stitch for the quilting. I used my quilting guide bar to quilt 1/2″ apart.
Once finished quilting I was ready to cut the excess batting and fabric away.
I then sewed the 1/4″ single fold bias tape to the two sides of the opening. Almost done!
This is how I will sew the bag together. The two strips of bias meet in the middle. Time to turn the bag to the inside and sew the ends shut.
Time to see how I did. The bag of masks should fit inside my quilted bag with no struggle.
The finished product fits a whole package of paper masks easily. It’s off to second grade we go!

“Creative Shaping”

I have mentioned, many times, the fun of exploring the different features of your machine.  You paid for the features your machine has, so it’s my opinion, they should be used whenever possible.  If you purchased an embroidery machine that is top of the line or close to it, you probably have two features in the embroidery mode that sound as if they are very much alike:  Shape Creator (Pfaff)/Design Shaping (Husqvarna Viking) and Applique Creator (Pfaff)/Design Applique (Husqvarna Viking).  Actually, the two features are quite different. The applique feature on both machines allows you to create a traditional fabric applique for your project from a library of different shapes that can be varied in size and accomplished in the hoop.  The Shape Creator/Design Shaping feature may not be as instantly familiar, but is a feature that holds almost unlimited uses for original embroidery projects.  The ability of Shape Creator/Design Shaping, when embroidery machines were in their formative years, was only able to be accomplished by using powerful embroidery software.  Lately, that creative ability has been added to the machine itself.  Depending on your machine, you can choose one design and, through shape manipulation, create a whole new design in a matter of minutes.  Take a look at the following pictures for a brief outline and, if you’d like to learn more, click on the Sewing Mastery links to see a more detailed tutorial (the tutorials I chose to link to here are for the Epic 2 by Husqvarna Viking and the Creative Icon by Pfaff).  While on Sewing Mastery, see if your machine is listed and see if your machine has this fun feature. 

On my Pfaff Creative Icon, the Shape Creator feature is found in the lower toolbar while in Embroidery Mode.
Once Shape Creator is open, the shapes for this feature can be found with this icon.
For this example I chose the circle that will place the designs on the outside of the circle going in a clockwise direction.
This is the circle my chosen embroidery design will be added to. Please remember that these shapes are usually quite large, so you may want to edit their size.
When you are editing the size of the chosen shape, somewhere on your display you will find the size numbers. The numbers here mean my design will be about 5″x5″.
For this example, I am using this mini design built into the machine. You can also use a design you purchased or even a machine stitch from the sewing side. This is a very versatile feature!
Once I load the design, you may think “well that’s not very impressive!” But just wait….now I can start to add to and edit the design. Okay, the technical term for that is Play!
Since I am creating this example to be a frame for a monogram, I increased the number of designs I used to fill up the circle…..
…and then I changed how they were positioned on the circle (the designs are no longer standing up; they are lying on their side).
Now the circle of designs more closely resembles a vine. Time for the monogram in the center!
I now get out of Shape Creator and go back to Embroidery Edit. Time for the lettering.
I centered the letter and did a final check to make sure all was the way I wanted. I could have stitched out the design immediately but I chose to save it to the cloud for use later. The most challenging part of the process is choosing which design to use!

If you would like to learn more about this fun and rich feature, go on over to Sewing Mastery and watch the excellent tutorial on either Shape Creator (page 5, video #112) or Design Shaping (page 4, video #97). Happy Sewing!

“Speedy Button Sew-on”

For years I used a sewing machine that was a straight stitch only machine.  It would go backward and forward but did not have the ability to zig-zag.  Once I got a zig-zag capable machine, the ability to sew on buttons by machine became a reality.  Nowadays, the only buttons I sew on by hand are those with a shank on the back side, which is the only kind of buttons you cannot attach using your sewing machine.  Sewing on buttons by machine may seem intimidating at first and if you have never tried it, you might be a bit leery, but once you get the hang of this feature and you have confidence, you won’t sew on another 2 or 4 hole button by hand again!  This feature is not only good for creating a new project that uses buttons.  It is terrific when you are facing that basket of clothes that need repairs (we all have that pile) and you find most of the to-be-repaired items need buttons sewn on.  Almost all Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff machines have an icon of a button somewhere on your display screen or on the machine stitch selection area.  If your machine has the ability to automatically drop the feed teeth when you push the icon, great.  If not, make sure you lower the feed teeth before sewing on your button or the button won’t stay under the needle!  By dropping the feed teeth, the button under your presser foot won’t move.  Check out the following pictures and see if you would like to give this feature a try the next time you need to sew on a button. 

This weekend I was sewing charity walker bags again for my local rehab center. I was putting together 9 bags this time which meant 18 buttons! Once I have the buttons lined up with the straps, I mark all four holes with a fabric marker. This makes lining up the button on the marks a breeze when I’m at the machine.
I always try to use a colored marker that will show up easily against the fabric.
This is what the button sew-on icon looks like. All the Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking machines use this same picture.
I also use the mirror image icon so I can check both holes of the button before I start to sew. Again, all Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking machines use this same icon for mirror image.
If you have a display screen, this is the picture that shows up for sewing on the button. Usually the needle will start in the left position. If your feed teeth don’t drop automatically, please remember to lower them!
The width adjustment is set with a default width of 4mm because that is the generally standard distance of the holes for most buttons. Remember, if you change the width, you will be changing the width as the needle swings left and right. If you adjust this, make sure you test out your adjustment on your button.
This number 8 refers to the number of times the needle will go back and forth to sew on your button. I usually use 10 to 12 times on the walker bags. More than that tends to build up thread and deflect the needle.
For the walker bags, these are the settings I used for the oversized buttons. These buttons are bigger than the standard size, for sure!
At the machine, I line up my button with the marks I made on the fabric. I lower the presser foot and check to see if the needle will fit into the hole. (Remember, during this step, do not pierce the fabric with the needle. Once you do that, you will not be able to make any more adjustments!) Once I’m all set on the left…
…I use the mirror image button to move the needle to the right. If I’m okay here too, I start sewing the button. I use the start/stop feature for this, but you can also use the foot pedal. Remember to hold your thread as you start or you might find a nice nest of thread on the back side of your material.
You want to have a secure place on the button for the presser foot. If you need to turn the button to sew in all four holes, then do that. These buttons are big enough that I can hold and support the button with my fingers without turning the fabric. I sew the holes furthest away from me first…
…then move the button so I can sew the holes closest to me. This whole operation, beginning to end, usually takes me about 30 seconds a button. I finished the buttons for my 9 walker bags in about 10 minutes.
The finished product! I leave the thread tails on and knot them in the back to give a little more security to my stitching.
Once I finish sewing on the buttons and tying the threads, I add some seam sealant to the threads. Seam sealant is usually good for about 50 washings, so on these walker bags, I consider the seam sealant to be permanent.
If you tend to sew on a lot of small buttons, like for blouses or shirts, you may want to invest in the optional Button Sew-on foot. It allows you to line up those small buttons with ease and will hold it for you as you sew. The one pictured here is for my Pfaff machine. Husqvarna Viking also has one for their machines.
Just for fun I thought you might get a kick out of the tag that came with the donated fabric I used for the bags. This fabric was purchased a long time ago from a store now gone. I thought the tag might bring back fond memories for any of you who may have been in the Bronx and shopped at this store.

If you think you would like more instruction in this button sew-on feature, take a look at Sewing Mastery, find your machine and watch the video. Happy Sewing!