“Why Should I Buy an Optional Foot?”

Today’s sewing machines come with a variety of useful presser feet. Some are for general sewing and some are for specialty techniques. During the machine classes, my students and I often get side tracked talking about optional presser feet. Often the question is asked, “Why would I need that?”

Optional presser feet give you options you just can’t get with the general presser feet. Some of them have metal guides on them allowing for faster and more accurate sewing. Some of them allow you to perform specific techniques, such as rolled hems, that you just cannot do with a general foot. Usually, they allow you to have more choices for your project and allow your work to have a more professional look. Case in point: The ¼” seam for piecing; the mainstay of quilting. I decided to compare three feet to see just what the difference would be for creating a ¼” seam on the edge of a piece of cotton twill. I used three Husqvarna Viking feet (I own a Designer Diamond Royale): the A foot (multi-purpose foot that came with my machine)

the optional Clear ¼” Piecing Foot with Guide 

and the optional ¼” Edge Stitching Foot .

For the first three examples I sewed with the needle in the center position. In the fourth example, I used the ¼” Edge Stitching foot, just as I had done for example #3, except I moved the needle to the farthest right position. The first two examples show what the difference is in the seam between the included utility foot A that came with my machine, and the optional

Clear ¼” Piecing Foot with Guide .

You will notice example #1, sewn with the outside right of the foot along the edge of the fabric and the needle in center position is a wider seam than the one sewn with the Clear ¼” Piecing Foot with Guide, also with needle in the center position. Example #3 is sewn with the optional ¼” Edge Stitching foot with the needle in the center position and that seam allowance is even more narrow than the first two. Lastly, example #4 uses the same foot as example #3, but moves the needle to the farthest right position. This produces a scant ¼” seam. The last picture shows the three feet and the four seams at one time.

The bottom line……….whether or not you need an optional foot is project dependent. Your results will be directly linked to the tools that you use. Optional feet can be terrific tools to get you where you’re going. Happy sewing!

“Grading Your Sewing”

If you are a garment sewer, you are very familiar with grading your seams. The technique is commonly used to reduce bulk in seams that are straight or curved. It involves trimming one side of the seam allowance, making it smaller than the other side.


For instance, if your seam is a 5/8” seam, once you finish sewing you trim one side of the two layers about a ¼” smaller than the other side. This leaves you with one side of the seam at the original 5/8” and other side at the trimmed 3/8”.

This technique is not only useful in garment sewing. For quilting or home décor, or when using very heavy fabrics, grading seams can produce a much more professional looking project. Once pressed, the seam lies very flat.

Cutting away excess batting in the seams of a quilt as you go project gives a much crisper look to your seams.  If you then pair grading seams with the use of a clapper, the results are wonderful. Lastly, if you are planning to sew a flat-felled seam,  grading the seam will allow you to press everything to one side and get results that rival that of the best ready made clothing.

“Twin Needle Sewing”

Warm weather brings breezy cottons and beautiful linens, the perfect fabrics for embellishments with your favorite decorative stitches. Using a twin needle gives even more options for these beautiful stitches. As I talked about in the January 22, 2018 tip, twin needles are sized according to their thickness (90/14, etc.) and their distance apart (2.0, etc.). You will need to set your machine for twin needle sewing in your Set Menu and tell your machine what the distance is between the needles.

Each machine is a little different in how it likes to handle twin needle sewing, but just about every home machine on the market today can do it. You will need to turn off your Deluxe Stitch System if your machine has that feature (that is done in the Set Menu). 

You will be threading through and using the tension disks, both the left disk and the right disk.   You will need to consult your owner’s manual for exact threading directions, but essentially, you will keep the threads separated while threading them side by side in the two tension disks. This is why you cannot use the Deluxe Stitch System. The threads cannot slip against one another while sewing or you will not get an excellent stitch quality.  Once the threads are at the needles, you will run one thread through the needle guide and one outside the guide. You will not be able to use the automatic needle threader, so plan to thread each needle manually. 

You are now ready to choose some beautiful decorative stitches. Your machine will allow you to use stitches that are narrow enough to fit both needles into the needle space on the needle plate. 

If your machine says a stitch cannot be used with twin needle (and it’s not a buttonhole or an overly large stitch), try a needle with a smaller gap between the needles and the stitch should work out great. Remember to properly stabilize your fabric so the stitches do not draw the fabric up and you should be ready for some one-of-a-kind embellishments!

“Corded Buttonholes”

As the warmer weather approaches, it’s time for me to make some knit cardigans to throw over my shoulders when I go into overly air-conditioned buildings. The knits are warm without being heavy and always go with any outfit. When adding buttonholes to knit fabrics, I always opt for the corded buttonhole. It allows me to have a buttonhole that will not stretch out and will look good through multiple washings. In order to create corded buttonholes, I need two things: 1) pearl cotton (I like to use no. 5) and 2) my manual buttonhole presser foot.  Follow these simple steps and, with practice, you too will be making corded buttonholes for your next project.

  1. Use the manual buttonhole presser foot. You will need to measure your button, mark your fabric for both the start and the stop for the buttonhole and remember to use the reverse button to sew each part of the buttonhole.  
  2. Stabilize fabric appropriate to the weight and type of fabric and cut a piece of pearl cotton about 10” – 14” long. (I used 10” for this 1” buttonhole). After attaching the foot to the machine, insert the pearl cotton over the nib on the back of the foot and along the guide channels on the underside of the foot.  
  3. Sew the buttonhole while lightly holding onto the pearl cotton with your fingers. The pearl cotton on the right side of the foot will begin to pull out of your fingers and that’s okay.   
  4. As you come down the right side of the buttonhole in the stitch sequence, you will have developed a loop of pearl cotton at the top of the buttonhole. When you get to the point where the right side of the buttonhole is even with the left (my blue threads in the examples), stop with the needle down and pull the pearl cotton so it disappears into the buttonhole bar tack at the top of the buttonhole. Cross the pearl cotton strands before stitching the last bar tack and hold while you stitch the final bar tack.  
  5. Cut off the long pearl cotton strands and tuck the stray pearl cotton into the threads of the buttonhole. If you use the same color pearl cotton as you do construction thread, you will not even notice the pearl cotton. The buttonhole will simply look raised.

The last picture shows the three stages of the buttonhole with the pearl cotton loop, with the loop pulled through the construction threads and crossed before the last bar tack and finally with the finished product.

“Baby Shower Gift-Part 2”

With the receiving blanket and burp cloth finished it was time to start on the hooded bath towel. Again, this blog entry is not intended to teach you how to create this project in a step by step manner. It is meant to share with you some tips on how I handle making this project using techniques I have found to be most helpful.

  1. First of all, I cut all the pieces, this time using a ¼” seam allowance for all edges. Since I didn’t want any sharp corners on the towel, I rounded them all using the curved template I use for pockets and other areas where I want uniform curved corners. When rounding the corners, I switched to the smallest rotary cutter I own. I find it’s much easier and more accurate to use the smallest blade size when using this template.  I used the 3cm side of the template for a more gradual curve.
  2. After all cutting was complete, I took time to thoroughly clean the bobbin area of my machine. I had just finished sewing on cotton flannel which is quite linty. I changed my needle from a Universal 80/12 to a 90/14 Titanium embroidery needle and changed to the straight stitch needle plate. I left the auto cutting feature on since the design back would not show on the final project.
  3. After choosing all the colors to go with the flannel I would be using for the binding, I hooped a piece of Cut Away stabilizer and marked one layer of the hood using the template. For placement, I referred to my favorite book, “A Comprehensive Guide to Machine Embroidery”. I placed the bottom of the design 1 ¾” up from the bottom cut edge, lining up the vertical center of the hood piece with the template.
  4. Since the terry cloth I was using for the towel would hoop burn, I used the “baste to the hoop” technique we learn in the Embroidery Basics class. I added a water soluble topper so the foot or needle would not have a chance to snag any of the terry cloth. The topper also kept the stitches from sinking into the terry cloth. It sure doesn’t look much like a whale yet!
  5. The last color I used was a metallic thread, used for the bubbles in the design. I changed from the embroidery needle I had been using to a metallic needle. Also, I turned off the auto cut feature in the Set Menu since my cutters and metallic threads don’t usually get along. I also threaded the needle by hand because automatic needle threaders, of all makes and models of machines, do not handle metallic threads. I also slowed the machine’s speed to make sure the thread had plenty of time to relax as it came through the machine. Voila! Not one problem embroidering with the metallic thread!
  6. Before removing the work from the hoop, I removed all basting stitches. It’s much easier to take out the basting stitches while the work is still held taught in the hoop. Now it looks like a whale!
  7. When I removed the embroidery from the hoop, I used the applique scissors to trim the stabilizer from the back. I left about ½” around all edges by folding the stabilizer back on itself before cutting. This ensures I would only be cutting the stabilizer, not the fabric. I also rounded all the corners of the stabilizer so a noticeable square would not show through on the right side of the work.
  8. After switching my straight stitch needle plate back to the zig zag plate, I sewed the two pieces of hood together, wrong sides together using the Husqvarna Viking ¼” Edge Stitching foot  with the needle in the furthest right position. This allowed me to sew the two pieces together with the smallest seam possible. I sewed the pieces together so nothing would shift when I attached it to the towel. Terry cloth is a stretch fabric that I had cut on the bias. Yikes! Pin generously!
  9. All binding, since it would be going around the curved edges, had to be cut on the bias. For this reason, even when attaching the binding to the straight edge at the bottom of the hood, I pinned generously. Bias binding is very easy to stretch without even realizing you’re stretching it.
  10. When attaching the hood to the towel, again I pinned generously so the corners matched perfectly.  I used a Clapper to flatten the binding at the edges of the hood so they would be as flat as possible when I attached the towel’s binding over those edges. Before attaching the binding, I changed my needle to a 90/14 Microtex needle and changed my Sewing Advisor to heavy woven. When I attached the binding in the next step, I would, in places, be sewing through up to five layers of fabric.
  11. After attaching all binding around the towel (and it goes without saying…..pin generously!), I turned the binding and used my Clover clips to make sure everything looked good before I used my Interchangeable Dual Feed foot to stitch in the ditch (remember to lower the presser foot pressure to 3 when using this foot). All that pinning and clipping really paid off!  
  12. And that’s it! Receiving blanket, burp cloth and embroidered hooded bath towel were done with time to spare!  I hope you gleaned some tips that might be of help with your next project!

“Baby Shower Gift – Part 1”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the best way to show you what I have been doing this week and I decided that I would use mostly pictures with captions. This blog entry is not intended to teach you how to make this project. It is meant to give you hints, tips and tricks that I use when I am creating something in my sewing room. As I said last week, if you are not used to working on projects of this kind, I would highly recommend the use of a commercial pattern to guide you in more of a step by step manner.

  1. The material I chose for the receiving blanket and burp cloth is 100% cotton flannel, pre-washed to rid it of sizing and other chemicals that might be irritating to a baby’s sensitive skin. Since the fabric has a noticeable stripe, I needed to cut the two layers out one layer at a time.
  2. When cutting printed or striped fabric, place the cut piece on top of the uncut piece, right sides together. This allows you to line up the fabrics in the way in which they will be sewn.
  3. I made the decision to use a decorative stitch around the outside of the project as  topstitching. The decorative stitch is 3/8” wide, so I chose to add a 3/8” seam allowance to the blanket and the burp cloth instead of ¼”. By using a 3/8” seam allowance, when I turned the blanket and burp cloth right side out I was able to stitch the decorative stitch without adding any stabilizer to the underside of the project. The four layers of fabric created by sewing the seam and turning it were plenty of support.   
  4. After cutting the blanket and the burp cloth, I pinned generously to make sure the material did not shift and throw off the matched pattern. I know the matching will not show a lot, but I didn’t want the finished project to have that “Bless your heart, you made that yourself” look if the goods were folded on themselves. Don’t forget to leave an opening to turn the project right side out!    
  5. To ensure exact seams, I used the Husqvarna Viking Edge Stitching foot for sewing the seams and the Pfaff Right Edge Bi-level foot for sewing the decorative stitch on the finished edge. A close up of the Edge Stitching foot shows how it maintains the 3/8″ seam.                                                                                                                           A close up of the Pfaff foot shows the front & back.          Using this foot kept the decorative stitch very close to the edge.
  6. I lowered my presser foot pressure to 3 to allow the fabric to move smoothly under the foot.
  7. When finished with both the blanket and the burp cloth, I used ribbon to tie them together and I’m ready to start the hooded bath towel!

“A Project Begins….”

For the past 2 years, I have written a tip each week dealing with a variety of sewing related topics. This week I will be doing something a little different. I will be documenting a project from beginning to end. I am hoping that over the next week or two, after reading about what I am doing, you will find some aspects of my project that will prove helpful to you in either a current project or one that is upcoming.

I have been invited to attend a baby shower given by a dear friend of mine who is anticipating a new grandson. Since the shower is in two weeks, a large project is out of the question. I have decided to make a flannel receiving blanket with a matching burp cloth as well as a terry cloth hooded bath towel for the gift. The theme is whales since the new parents are avid sailors. The receiving blanket and burp cloth will be made of a double layer of flannel while the hooded bath towel will be made of white terry cloth with a binding made out of that same flannel. The icing on the cake will be a happy little whale embroidery on the hood of the towel. I bought the fabric today, overcast the cut edges and am washing and drying all the materials just the way I think the new mom will. Since everything is 100% cotton, I will dry everything in the dryer on high, hoping any shrinkage will occur before I start to sew. I have purchased extra material to compensate for this possibility. Tomorrow I will cut out all pieces and begin sewing the blanket and burp cloth together. The blanket will be 36”X36” when finished and the burp cloth will be an 18”X8” oval with a slight contour at the midpoint to fit nicely over the shoulder. The hooded bath towel will also finish at 36”X36” with a hood in one corner measuring about 11” from the top corner. I am not using a pattern since all the pieces are either squares or ovals, but if you have never done anything like this before, I strongly suggest you purchase a commercial pattern to help guide you. Below you will find the first couple pictures of the material and the embroidery design. I’d better get to work!

“Machine Quilted Sashing”

This week my nephew’s little boy had his fourth birthday party. He wanted a special blue table runner for the party, first with trains and monster trucks, and then later, with just trains. Ah, the mind of a four year old! Anyway, after I had embroidered the three 8X8 central light blue blocks, I pieced in the darker blue sashing that would divide the blocks. I then added the end borders. Before piecing the other two horizontal border sections, I decided to quilt the sashing and end borders. This turned out to be a great decision! I cut the backing and the batting much larger than the finished size of the runner, about 6” larger on all sides. Before adding the 4” horizontal borders, I had plenty of room to embroider the quilting stitch without getting too close to the edges of the project. My hoop fit beautifully with no hooping obstacles around which to work. After finishing the quilting on the sashing and end borders, I finished piecing the longer horizontal borders. I stitched them directly to the backing and batting, which from the back, looked as if I had simply performed a “stitch-in-the-ditch”. I then finished quilting the two horizontal borders, trimmed and trued up the runner and added the binding. I honestly had never considered this option in past projects simply because that is not the way I learned to piece the tops of quilted projects, but I will definitely use this technique again on future projects. I hope this helps with your next quilted project!

Sashing section after quilting

Template on end border

Finished table runner

By the way, you will notice some wrinkling on the light blue blocks.  They have around 56,000 stitches per block, embroidered on batting using a mesh stabilizer.  This is noticeable in the photo, but not when looking at it on the table.

“Bargin vs Value”

During “Embroidery Basics” class this week, a random discussion started about machine embroidery designs. We were talking about matching appropriate designs with appropriate fabrics and the topic of purchasing designs online came up. I have been involved with machine embroidery since 1994, so I have seen the market change over the years to meet customer needs and trends. I have designs in my collection that have come from all different companies and sources, but what surprises me is customer willingness to buy from unknown sources. By this I mean buying from individuals where there is a digital download only with no customer recourse should the design not stitch out the way it should. Just as in any area of life, there are people who are very good at what they do and there are those who are not. Digitizing designs for the home embroidery market usually does not require any specialized licensing, so anyone who has purchased digitizing software can create designs for sale. This is not a bad thing by any means. In fact, this type of autonomy from a large company can get an artist’s work into the market place much more directly than ever before. As a consumer, I just caution you to do your homework before buying designs online. In my experience, most reputable online sources usually offer a free embroidery design so you can practice downloading from their site and so you can test their quality before you make a purchase. If I am new to a site, I download the free design and stitch it out before I make a purchase. Just remember that the old adage “You get what you pay for” still holds true in this digital age.