“Making Adjustments”

While spending another Sunday afternoon sewing walker bags for my local rehab center, I started thinking about the adjustable foot I was using for the overcasting of the bags and the handles.  I was teaching the second class for “Sewing Machine Basics” yesterday and we were talking about how to adjust this very foot.  Customers who are becoming familiar with their machine and presser feet often ask for specific adjustments when using an adjustable foot and they are always a bit unsatisfied when I answer them with a rather vague answer:  how you adjust depends upon your project and your fabric.  It’s absolutely true.  You have so many ways to adjust your machine; upper tension, bobbin tension, presser foot pressure, Set Menu items, stitch length and width, mirror image as well as adjustable presser feet.  All are designed to give you the opportunity to configure the machine for the exact task you are asking of it.  Take the foot I was using today for example.  I was using foot 3, the adjustable blind hem foot for my Pfaff machine.

By changing the red guide from blind hem position to overcasting position I was able to run my fabric edge quickly through the machine, chain sewing style, with a beautiful overcast.

I was using it to stitch a 3-step zig-zag to overcast the raw edges of the walker bags and handles so fraying would be at a minimum.  Since this is a charity sewing project and since the material is all donated, the quality isn’t always high.  The foot’s original purpose is to blind hem, but adjusting the screw on the right of the foot allows me to line the red guide up with the pin of the foot to run right along the edge of the fabric to give a great overcast that won’t roll to the wrong side of the fabric. 

The presser foot seen from the top, set for it’s intended use as a blind hem foot. Notice the red guide is to the left of the pin that runs along the right inside of the foot.
The blind hem setting as seen from the underside of the foot.
This is how I set up the foot today. I used the screw to move the red guide to the right of the foot’s pin.
This is the overcast adjustment as seen from the underside of the foot.

I was able to run right along the edges so quickly that I was finished with all the overcasting for all 30 bags in under an hour.  Not bad.  If I had had to guide the fabric myself, it would have taken me much more time.

I bring this up because I meet so many customers who say they have never made any adjustments to their machine in the 20, 30 or more years they have owned it.  Many express a fear they will not be able to get their machine “back to normal again” if they make any changes.  Remember, your machine and feet come from the factory set to generic settings.  You paid for the ability to adjust the machine and the adjustable feet, so don’t forget to use those features!

“A Cindy Thing”

While teaching the machine classes I try to share tips that I have found helpful in my own sewing.  Most of the time, I will share with the class the way the manual says something should be done and then I also share the “Cindy Thing”, meaning this is the way I do it, but it’s not set in stone.  If my way is helpful, please use it.  If not, I’ll never know you decided not to use my idea!  One of my “things” is in winding the bobbin.  If your machine uses a bobbin that has a “ledge” on the inside that separates the lower and upper parts of the bobbin, thread can start winding in the top portion of the bobbin first before filling up the lower portion.

Many Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff machines have this “ledge” on the inside of the bobbin.

Since the bobbin sensor only looks at the middle of the lower portion of the bobbin, the sensor can tell you the bobbin thread is running low when it really isn’t. This can be a bit annoying, especially if your machine stops every couple of stitches to remind you the bobbin thread is running low.  I solve this problem by tapping the thread as it is winding onto the bobbin. 

The bobbin is ready to start winding.
Start winding and stop immediately, so the thread is only wrapped around the top portion of the bobbin a couple times.
Gently tap on the thread as you continue to wind the bobbin.
The thread will now start winding on the lower portion of the bobbin first and will make it’s way up to fill the entire bobbin.
This technique gives you a nice full bobbin that will honestly need refilling when the bobbin sensor alerts you.

While watching one of the Heirloom Creations videos, I saw that Sara uses the same technique.  In the linked video, Sara is using the technique while winding a bobbin on a Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2, but the practice holds true for any bobbin that has the “ledge”.  I hope this proves helpful to you!

“Specialty Pressing”

When I started sewing, I had very few pressing accessories.  Now, years later, I have many.  There are two aids that I use frequently and if you do not have them in your collection, you may want to consider adding them.  I’m talking about seam rolls.  Of the two I own, one is made of two different types of fabric filled with sawdust and one is made of wood.  Why would they be needed?  Each time you press a seam there is an impression of that pressed seam on the front side of the fabric.  This is because the top “right side” of the fabric is thinner than the “wrong side” with the seam layers.  When the seam is pressed the impression of the bulkier seam shows up on the thinner, one layer of fabric.  A seam roll, because it is round, allows the seam to be pressed without putting pressure on the thinner top side of the goods.  You will end up with a sharply pressed seam on the wrong side that has no impression made on the right side.  Why do I have two kinds?  The fabric and sawdust seam roll absorbs the steam and sets the seam.  The wooden seam stick is made of hardwood that also absorbs the steam, but gives a much harder surface over which to press.  Because the pressing surface is harder, the pressing is very crisp.  Since different fabrics absorb steam differently, it’s nice to have the option of both pressing tools.

Both of these seam rolls do the same job. Which one I use is fabric dependent.

“How You Unwind”

Each time I teach the “Sewing Machine Basics” class, there are customers who are surprised that how your needle thread comes off the spool matters to the machine.  Each machine has a particular direction the top thread should come off the spool as it’s threaded into the machine.  Some machines like to have the thread come off the front of the spool and some like it coming off the back of the spool. 

Some machines like the thread to come off the spool from the front, like a waterfall from the spool.
Other machines like the thread to come from the back of the spool.

To find out how your machine prefers to have the thread leave the spool, check your owner’s manual in the section on threading and bobbin winding.  Once you have that specific in mind, you then need to know if your spool of thread is a stacked or cross wound spool. This makes a difference in whether or not the thread should leave the spool in a horizontal or vertical orientation.  Stacked thread spools have no X’s visible in the thread and do best if they are used on a vertical spool pin.

This is a spool that is a stacked spool. The thread lies in even “stacks” along the spool.
Stacked spools do best on a vertical spool pin. The constant tension on the thread from the vertical orientation keeps the thread from falling down and collecting at the base of the spool pin.

Cross wound threads display a clear X pattern as the thread is wound on the spool and do best when they are placed on a horizontal spool pin or on a thread stand. 

The thread has visible X’s on the spool. These threads like a horizontal orientation or…..
… for threads, such as those that come on the cones, do very well when used with a thread stand.

If you would like to read more about this important detail to give you the best stitch quality from your machine, read Sara Snuggerud’s Heirloom Creations blog for her clear explanation of this often overlooked subject.

“Planning Ahead”

This hot weather has had me thinking about cooler days ahead, looking forward to the brisk days of fall.  I got an idea for a table runner, so I started planning and programming today.  I, probably like many of you, don’t tend to use the decorative stitches on my machine to their fullest potential.   I decided to use those stitches, both on the sewing side of my machine as well as on the embroidery side, to embellish my runner.  I decided to use the words to a poem I used to teach my second grade general music students as the background for my blocks as well as for a thin inner border.  For the inner border, I used the sewing side of the machine to program the poem’s words in a straight line. 

Check your machine manual to see how large your program can be.
My machine has a “horizontal view” option. Very handy!

Most machines have the ability to program or sequence letters ranging from 60 to 99 stitches, depending upon your machine.  My Designer Diamond, the machine I’m using for this project, will handle 99 stitches with a length not to exceed 500mm (roughly 20”).  

Notice my program is 492.5 mm long by 10.5 mm wide.

Once you complete the program, remember to save it!

I saved it twice for good measure! Slot #1 is a tad shorter than the program in slot #2.

Next I started working on the blocks in two hoop sizes; 360 x 200 mm (about 14” x 8”) and 100 x 100 mm (about 4” x 4”).  These blocks also use the words to the same poem as their background, but this time the poem is not going to be stitched out in one line.   Instead the poem will move line by line down the block.

This is for the 360 X 200 mm (14″ X 8″) hoop.
This is for the 100 X 10 mm hoop (4″ X 4″). When I used the black background with the white lettering, it was much easier to see.

This took a bit more time to program, but I’m pleased with the result.  Since these blocks needed to be created in embroidery mode, I saved this to my USB stick and then went back to the sewing side of the machine and programmed the quilting stitches for the outer border using the Omnimotion stitches on the machine.  Since this program will be a repeating one, I only had to program a few stitches, making sure my program ended with a stitch that would connect with my first stitch to create the appearance of a continuous pattern of designs.

The design for the outer border. I’ll use my endless hoop to stitch this.

So there you have it!  The beginnings of a completely original table runner.  Now I just need to find the designs and/or appliques that will be in the foreground of these blocks……Back to work!

“Sewing Nerd”

I freely admit that I am a sewing nerd.  I enjoy reading technical information on sewing related topics, just for fun.  I have multiple books discussing a wide range of sewing topics.  Some of the information I have learned I use all the time.  Other information I have never used, but I find others have needed the information and I just happened to know it.  Anyway, today I was reading the education section of the website for the Superior Thread Company.  If you have never been to the site, you may want to visit.  Bonny got me started using Superior Thread’s “Bottom Line” 60 weight thread  for my embroidery bobbin thread and I love it, but this is the first time I have visited the site.  Using a thread of high quality really does make a difference in the appearance and in the overall quality of your project.  I still use inexpensive thread for projects, such as my charity sewing of walker bags for my local nursing and rehabilitation center, but even my machine seems to know when I am not using “the good stuff”!  Anyway, go to the site and look at the right side of your screen where you will find the “Education” button.  Click to find articles on everything from thread to needles to quilting as well as videos and other fun stuff.  Happy reading!

“A Follow Up”

During May and June, Bonny’s  Sewing and Fabric ran a special pre-sale on the new quilt binder attachment for both Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff machines.  Many of you took advantage of that sale, so I thought you would like a follow up on that attachment with some recent videos posted to YouTube.  I wasn’t able to find videos using Pfaff machines so all of the videos I found are using a Husqvarna Viking, but the process is identical.  The only thing you will find a bit different between the attachments for the two machines is the included special foot.  The videos from “Mira Stitch and Post” use the special foot that comes with the attachment.  The videos from “B BLTWear” makes a different decision you might find interesting.  Of special interest might be instruction on how to turn corners!  I hope these videos are helpful to you.

“Mira Stitch and Post” Unboxing the attachment, attaching the binder to the sewing machine, another video attaching the binder, the binder in action, turning the corner

“B BLTWear” attaching the binder to the machine, turning the corner

“An Important Review”

If you have taken a machine class with me, you know we cover a lot of material in a fairly short amount of time.  In fact, there is so much information coming at you that it is understandable if things are forgotten over time.  If you have not been there lately, I would like to suggest you visit the website Sewing Mastery. Sara Snuggerud, the instructor, owns an independent dealership of her own in Sioux Falls, South Dakota named Heirloom Creations.  She is an excellent online instructor and has all of her machine videos indexed to make viewing time efficient and informative.  Some of you may have visited her site when you took your machine class, but I would encourage you to revisit the site to refresh your memory.  She has instruction on the following Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking machines, with more videos in the planning and production stages as new machines come into the lines.

Husqvarna Viking: Designer Series:   Epic, Diamond Royale, Ruby Royale, Topaz 20, 25, 30, 40 and 50, and the Jade 35.  She also has instruction for the Sapphire 960Q and 930, the Opal 690Q, 670 and 650, the Jade 20, the H 100Q, the Emerald 118 and 116, and the HClass E20 and E10.

Pfaff: Creative 4.5, 3.0, and 1.5, the Performance 5.2, Quilt Expression 4.2 and the Expression 3.5, the Quilt Ambition 2.0 and the Ambition 1.0, the Ambition Essential, the Passport 3.0, the Select 4.2 and the Smarter 260C.

On the site you will also find videos for machines from other manufacturers as well as videos on the operation of selected sergers from various companies.  You can also view a wider range of video topics by going to Sara’s YouTube channel. There you will find presser feet and accessory demonstrations, quilting rulers and techniques as well as videos of her store’s events.  Happy viewing!

“Buttonhole Tips”

Each time I teach one of the machine classes, I have a customer tell me they never use their machine’s ability to make buttonholes.  I personally use them in home décor (custom shower curtains, throw pillows, etc), quilting, garment construction; in other words, all the time!  In case you would like to add some buttonholes to your next project, here’s a quick review.

Since my Designer Diamond and my Creative Icon are both currently set for embroidery, I’m sewing on my Brother Luminaire today.  I tell you that because the buttonhole foot might look a bit different, but close enough to the one you probably have with your machine for you to follow along.  If you are making buttonholes for shower curtains, pillows or garments, start by marking the center buttonhole and work your way out from there.  Generally, you will find it pleasing and useful to make your buttonholes about 3 inches apart.  If you are making buttonholes on the front of a blouse, mark where the garment falls on the bust.  Making a buttonhole on this stress point will prevent a gap from developing in the middle of your garment.

When making buttonholes in garments, start from the stress point.
I usually put a small dot at the top of the buttonhole so the buttonhole covers the stress point of the bust line.

Once you have marked the buttonhole placement, select the buttonhole you wish to sew, make any length or width adjustments you’d like, line up your buttonhole foot and sew.  That’s all there is to it! 

Choose the buttonhole and then adjust the length and width.
Line up the buttonhole foot over the mark you made on the fabric. Remember, if you are using the automatic buttonhole foot, the buttonhole will usually begin by sewing backwards.

Once all the buttonholes are sewn, it’s time to mark and sew on the buttons, unless you are making a shower curtain.  Buttonholes on this home décor item are for the shower rings.

Sewing on buttons is really easy with a button sew on foot!
Line up the button’s holes with the red marks on the foot and you’re golden!

Whether you are using buttonholes as a construction component or as a decorative finish, I hope you will take advantage of your machine’s capabilities and the ease of use.

The finished product…a new summer cotton shirt.

“Blind Hem Option”

As a part of the “Sewing Machine Basics” classes, I go over a number of different sewing techniques that we feel are the most commonly used by our customers.  One of those techniques is the blind hem.  Who hasn’t needed to have something hemmed and have had to take it to the cleaners or some other professional, paying to have the adjustment made because you didn’t know how to do it with your machine?  It’s probably the most useful technique I teach!  During class, we use the blind hem foot that comes with your machine, but did you ever wonder why there is an optional foot for this technique for Husqvarna Viking machines?  Positioning the stitch correctly to form the blind hem is so important to make the hem’s stitching truly “blind”.  Line up the fabric too far to the right of the foot and your hem is anything but blind whereas too far to the left of the foot means you do not catch the fold of the fabric at all; thus no hem.

Pfaff’s included accessory foot allows you to precisely line up the folded edge of the fabric along the moveable guide, allowing you to stitch exactly where you want the stitches to fall. 

Turning the metal screw on the right of the foot moves the red guide to the left or to the right for exact stitch placement along the fold of the blind hem.

The Husqvarna Viking included accessory foot D, a fixed position foot, also allows you to line up the edge of the foot along the edge of the hem’s fold, but the optional foot allows more accuracy with that alignment.

The fold of the blind hem runs along the inside right of the foot.
By turning the red dial on the right of this foot, you can adjust the entire foot to the left or to the right.

This is accomplished by turning a dial to move the entire foot to the left or the right without needing to move the fabric.  I purchased this Husqvarna Viking optional foot when I was hemming drapery.  It saved me time by allowing me to set the foot exactly where I needed it, maintaining that same setting through the yards and yards of material for each drapery panel.  If you own a Husqvarna Viking machine and will be doing a lot of blind hems, you may want to consider this optional foot for your accessory box.