“That Professional Look”

I have talked many times about sewing projects that can have either a “bless your heart, you made that yourself, didn’t you?” look or a professional look.  Many times, the difference between the two is simply how attentive you are to the details.  For instance, are you using the correct size and type of needle for the fabric you are sewing?  If you are sewing a woven fabric using a knit or stretch needle, you will not be pleased with the amount of skipped stitches you get.  It will probably be so noticeable that you will think something is wrong with your machine!  On the other hand, if you are sewing a knit fabric with a universal needle, you may find the fabric develops little tears or runs in it, like pantyhose tend to get.  There are some fabrics such as vinyl, leather and some less expensive cotton fabrics (such as some Christmas prints), that simply will not heal once you put a pin or a needle through them.  These fabrics necessitate clips, pinning inside the seam allowances or even just holding the fabric as it goes through the machine.

Stabilizers are not just for machine embroiders.  If you are using a thin quilting fabric or you are using any type of decorative stitch or buttonhole, you need to stabilize the fabric in some way.  For example, silk dupioni simply cannot be stitched and have a professional look to it without some attention being paid to stabilizing the fabric:  it tends to pucker.  Knowing your fabric and the end result you are hoping to achieve is important when choosing how you will support your fabric.

Since needles, threads and stabilizers are so important to your finished project, no matter what that project might be I have included some websites that you may find interesting.  Once you find what you like, stick with it! 

Schmetz Pocket Needle Guide

Inspira Stabilizer Guide

Superior Thread Company Education Guide

Happy Sewing!

“Flannel Know How”

Well, I finished all the onesies I started last week and was ready to send them to Germany when my niece called with a request.  She had purchased an irregular sized baby changing pad, different from those sold in the United States and wanted to know if I could make a cover for it.  I was willing to give that a go, so I asked her to send me a picture of the pad with the measurements for the length, width and height.  She wanted the cover made from flannel and wanted it to be more of a pillowcase in style.  This type of project is a little tricky when you can’t see or touch what is being covered and working with flannel can be a little tough but with some know how the task becomes a one day project.

Flannel, when working with small pieces, such as 5” charms, is not tricky to work with, but when you start working with larger items, grain and slipping can be a problem, not to mention fraying.  See if there’s anything I do working with this fabric that may help you.

After coming up with my fabric cut measurements based on the pad’s measurements, I cut out the fabric and pressed in a 2″ hem for the top. I turned a 1″ hem…
…then turned over another inch and pressed with steam. It is much easier to turn and press the hem when the material is flat rather than in it finished form; a circle.
Once the top hem was pressed it was time to overcast all the raw edges of the cover. Flannel frays very easily, so I chose to use an overcast stitch that also has a stabilizing stitch along the side. I used a presser foot that has a pin over which the stitches are formed. This keeps the edge of the material from rolling under.
Once I was ready to start sewing the seams, it was time to pin first. Generally, I don’t use a lot of pins, but with flannel, even using a walking foot or my Pfaff’s Integrated Dual Feed Technology system (IDT system) the fabric tends to want to move unevenly. Pinning and using the machine’s needle down position helps eliminate this expected fabric movement. I made sure to open the pressed hem before stitching the side seams.
I decided not to use the overcast/seam feature for stitching my seams and instead stitched a standard seam of 1/2″. I wanted the seams to lie down flat along the pad and did not want to press the seams to the side as is done in quilting.
In order to have my cover’s seams lie absolutely flat against the pad I used my wooden point presser to press my seams open.
This is the seam before using the point presser…
…and this is the seam after pressing. This seam will now lie absolutely flat against the pad it will cover.
In order to box the bottom end of the cover, I lined up the side seams with the bottom seam and sewed across at a depth of 1/2″.
To finish the boxed corner, I trimmed it and overcast the edges with a 3-step zig zag.
By stitching the corner at a depth of 1/2″, a 1″ boxed corner is formed. I pressed this on the squared end of my point presser and…
…this is how it will look when the pad is in the cover. Notice the seam will run directly down the middle of the pad’s height, with 1/2″ on each side of the middle.
Next to the last step in this process is to line up the side seams with the turned hem and pin. Once both sides are pinned, simply pull the sides away from each other and the rest of the hem folds into place like magic! No struggles to get the hem to lie flat.
In order to get a straight topstitch for the hem, I used the Pfaff Bi-Level Topstitch Foot for IDT System
By running the fabric along the mark on the left and having the needle in the center position, a perfect scant 1/4″ from the edge topstitch is created.
The completed baby changing pad cover.
I had a little material left over from the pad cover, so I made a couple burp cloths.
Once the burp cloths were sewn and turned right side out, I used a decorative stitch to topstitch them. I chose the stitch and adjusted the presser foot pressure as well as the length, width and needle position to put the stitch right along the edge of the burp cloth.
Remember, flannel tends to creep, so I used the needle down feature and stopped frequently to allow the material to relax. This kept the material from developing unwanted tucks.
To keep the stitches straight, I used Pfaff’s Right Edge Bi-Level Foot for IDT System I ran the fabric along the right edge of the fabric and adjusted the needle position so the stitch fell on the very edge of the fabric.
Here’s an example of the finished stitch.
For those of you who might be interested, here are the six onesies I finished embroidering last week, ready for their trip to Germany!

Happy Sewing!

“Two Techniques”

Today I was working on embroidering onesies for my youngest niece, who will be having her first child in July.  I usually use a baste-to-the-hoop method of hooping since the knit material of a onesie tends to stretch and develop a hoop burn when hooped traditionally, but today I used both the baste-to-the-hoop and the direct hooping method to stitch two of the six onesies I promised to make.  I thought I would share the differences between the two techniques with you to see what you think.  I used two different size hoops as well as two different embroidery machines.  I even used a positioning projector and a positioning app!  Let’s take a look and see what technique you might choose to use.

Since I will be embroidering in the center of the onesie, I need to make sure I know where center is. I do this by putting together the underarm seam…
…and the side seams.
Once the underarm and side seams are matched, the center can be marked.
This onesie fits 3-6 months, so I want the top of the embroidery to be an inch from the neckline seam. Measure from the bottom of the neck trim.
For the first example, I will be using the baste-to-the-hoop technique using a 120x120mm hoop. I hoop two pieces of light no-show mesh together with some temporary spray adhesive. This is my favorite brand of spray adhesive because it completely disappears with no washing needed.
Turn the marked onesie inside out….
…and position on top of the hooped stabilizer, using the nibs on the hoop to help you align everything. I go through both the neck and the crotch to make these adjustments, pinning outside the stitch area to keep everything in place until I get to the machine.
Manipulate the onesie through the crotch opening, not through the neck, and clip all the extra material out of the way. Using clips keeps the material only where you want it to be. Time to take this to the machine.
Once the hoop is on the machine, I added a piece of water soluble topper (needed anytime you embroider on knits) and basted everything to the hooped stabilizer. I slow the machine to its slowest speed for this step. For me, onesies require a lot of holding so I don’t leave the machine while stitching is in progress. I increased the machine speed and stitched the rest of the design.
This was stitched on my Brother Luminaire, so I used the positioning camera to place the top of my design 1″ from the bottom of the neck edge.
Once the hoop is removed from the machine and the onesie is out of the hoop, gently pull away the water soluble topper. Any little pieces left can be easily washed away with a wet paper towel. Trim the stabilizer on the back and you’re almost done.
Here’s the finished product. Notice that if the top of the design starts an inch from the neckline, the design itself sits at the correct place across the chest.
Technique #2 involves the same size onesie, marked with the same placement marks.
This time, I take the same two pieces of no-show mesh stabilizer and use my temporary spray adhesive to attach them directly to the onesie that has been turned inside out. Then I turn the onesie right side out.
I used a fabric pen to mark the center, 1″ down from the neckline seam and removed all my pins.
I placed a large piece of clear water soluble stabilizer on the front and hooped everything together. (The outside of the hoop frame is inside the onesie, so the back of the onesie is free). By hooping the topper over the knit fabric, hoop burn is prevented. I used my 80x80mm hoop: the perfect size to fit inside the onesie.
To make sure I would have the top of my design 1″ from the neckline, I hooped the material 1 3/4″ from the top. The stitch field on all Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking hoops allows for 1 1/4″ space at the top of each hoop. This gave me some wiggle room with my design positioning without going outside the stitch field.
Time to take out my Smartphone and open the Sew Notice app. After logging in on both the app and my Pfaff Icon, I chose Design Placement and just followed the directions.
I took my picture of the hooped onesie before I brought all the extra material to the top and clipped it since the app needs a clear look at the hoop. I chose the hoop size, put the placement circles in each corner and sent the picture to my machine.
When the app sends the picture from my phone to my machine, it becomes a background image, just as if I had changed the background color. Can you see the mark from the onesie where the top of the design needs to go?
Now, I simply used positioning to get the design to go right where I wanted it and…
..stitched my design. While stitching this design, I also slowed the machine a bit. Remember, even with the smaller hoop, there is still a lot of holding needed for this tiny little garment.
The design stitched right where I wanted it. Hooping everything at once was much easier than trying to hold everything together while it was basting.
Once I removed it from the hoop, I trimmed the mesh stabilizer on the inside and gently pulled away the water soluble topper from the top. There’s my mark!
With the two designs side by side, I must admit I like the smaller one better. It just looks more in proportion to the baby’s chest. Something to keep in mind.
When comparing the two hoops side by side, it’s easy to see why the 80x80mm hoop on the left is much easier to use in this application. It’s stitch field is 3″x3″. The 120x120mm hoop on the right has a stitch field a little bigger than 4″x4″ (the 100x100mm hoop is a true 4″x4″ hoop), and it wouldn’t fit inside the onesie.
Remember I said that I was almost done when I had trimmed my stabilizer and had removed my topper? The last step is to add Tender Touch or a similar product to the back side of the embroidery. This is a fusible product that covers all the inside stitches, making the garment comfortable to wear without any possible irritation.

I hope this helps you if you are also called upon to embroider onesies. They are a bit tricky to handle due to their small size, but they are beautiful when finished and can add such a personal touch. If you are interested in the 80x80mm hoop, follow these links for more information. Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking Happy Sewing!

“Acquired Knowledge”

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you seem to learn, or re-learn, a lot about sewing?  This week seemed to be one of those weeks for me.  In the re-learn category, I had to remember to lower the presser foot pressure when quilting on my Husqvarna Viking with the Interchangeable Dual Feed (lower to about a #3 to avoid “snowplowing” of the fabric) because, of course, my material started to snowplow!  Thank goodness I had remembered to turn my fabric often while quilting (see last week’s Stippling blog) or I would have also been dealing with a fabric skewing problem.  In the new knowledge category, I did not know that the industry standard for stabilizing machine embroidery designs is to use one layer of stabilizer per 25,000 stitches.  I knew my stitch-outs looked better when I used more layers of stabilizer but I was not aware there was a formula I could follow.  I also learned, when using no-show mesh stabilizer (my personal favorite to use on garments) it needs to be preshrunk.  I just never thought about it since it is a non-woven stabilizer and I didn’t remember reading anything about this in the directions, but my lack of preshrinking explains a lot of wrinkles in my finished embroideries though the years after I have pressed them!  From now on I will use a press cloth to iron the stabilizer, using plenty of steam, before hooping it or hold the hot steam iron about an inch from the stabilizer and shoot it with steam and see if that fixes my problems.  Be careful if you try this because the stabilizer is not a woven fabric and may tend to melt if it actually touches the hot iron for any amount of time.  (Think of how nylon doesn’t like a hot iron!)  

I hope you have had a week of new or remembered knowledge.  All of our projects should be better for it!  Happy Sewing!

P.S.  Here are some Karen Charles videos (SVP Educator) and Amy Baughman videos that I viewed on YouTube this week.  Maybe one will be of interest to you.

Karen Charles: 1/4″ seam allowance

endless embroidery hoops

metal embroidery hoops

ribbon embroidery attachment

Amy Baughman: stabilizing dense embroidered quilt blocks

“Stippling”

In honor of National Quilting Month, I thought I would talk briefly about the art of stippling.  Stippling is the bread and butter of the free motion quilter; usually learning to master stippling before all other free motion skills.  But what about a machine stippling stitch?  Is that something that can really be used in a project?

Many free motion quilters are not thrilled with a sewing machine’s stippling stitch due to its linear nature.  The machine needs to create the illusion of meandering while, at the same time, stitching in a straight line, which is what machines do.  How does one get around this problem to use the machine stippling stitch successfully without the project having that “bless your heart, you made that yourself, didn’t you?” look?  Take a look at my sample and see what you think.

For this exercise, I used my Pfaff Creative Icon. I went into the stitch menu and chose the Quilt category, section #2, stitch #9. This is a standard stippling stitch that uses the 1A presser foot.
The default settings for this stitch are an 8mm stitch width with a 21 mm stitch length. That setting was a bit too close for me so I changed the settings to…
…9 mm stitch width and a 30mm stitch length. (These changes are my aesthetic and have no bearing on the rest of the exercise.) The two dots under the width (9.0) tell me there are more options. If you touch this icon it will allow you to move the needle position for the entire stitch. I chose to stay in center needle position.
For this technique you will need to know where the side to side mirror image icon is and…
…where the stitch re-start button is. I used both of these features to help in my sample.
My sample is two pieces of quilter’s cotton with a piece of batting in between. Step one is to stitch one row of stippling down the center of my sample. Since my sample was so small, I did not use any pins. In a actual project, I would pin the layers together. As I start the second row of stippling, with the machine in center needle position, I lined up the left side of the far left marking on the foot…
…with the stitches on the right of the first stippling row. The alignment allows the stippling stitches to stitch very close together but never cross. Since this is precision sewing, I did sew a little slower than I normally do, but after all is lined up, you can go a little faster (as you are comfortable and accurate).
Once you complete your first stippling row, touch the re-start button and then select the side to side mirror image to sew the next row.
By using the stitch re-start and then the side to side mirror image, the thread from the beginning of the previous row can be used to line up the stitching for the current row. Can you see the two rows line up and touch but do not cross one another?
By accurately lining up the mark on the presser foot with the previous line of stippling, the definite lines of stitching start to disappear. Now it’s starting to look more like very consistent free motion stippling.
Here is a close up of the rows of machine stippling. This is facing in the direction in which it exited the machine (the direction in which it was sewn).
Here’s a close up of the same sample turned 90 degrees. Now the stitching lines are running horizontal.
Remember, I said I did no pinning before starting my stippling? My fabric slipped, even using the dual feed, because I didn’t pin and…
…because I didn’t turn my fabric often enough between rows. If you start in the middle of the piece and keep sewing to the right until the fabric edge, then turn the fabric and sew until you get to the other side of the fabric edge, your fabric will skew: every time!
This skewing is very noticeable if the fabric is turned 90 degrees. I did this purposefully to demonstrate a problem. You avoid this issue by sewing no more than two rows in the same direction before turning the fabric 180 degrees. It especially matters if you are stippling over a print or a fabric where grain matters for the overall finished piece. Skewing one little square is one thing. Skewing a square that is already pieced into a larger work is quite another!
Once the piece is squared, the skewing issue is no more in this sample, but you may not have the luxury of trimming away your error! Be careful and turn your work often!
Be aware that using the side to side mirror image feature may produce some unintended secondary patterns. This can also happen in free motion. Just be aware and adjust your choices concerning how often to use side to side mirror image in your project.
Just an example of machine stippling in the sewing machine cover I made for my Designer Diamond Royale. This was added through the embroidery side of the machine to fit into the spaces I had available. The machine cover was quilted after it was pieced and not as separate blocks.
Note to self: the vertical nature of the machine stippling is enhanced when using a variegated thread. Oooppps!

I’m not at all suggesting that the machine stippling stitch should replace free motion quilting.  I am suggesting there might be a time and place for this stitch to be useful in a future project.  Happy Sewing!

“The Envelope, Please”

I started sewing when I was a small child and began by sewing garments.  My parents both sewed and they taught me.  I remember being shown how to find the information I needed on the pattern envelope and what it all meant.  If you are starting your journey into garment sewing or if you are planning to use a commercial pattern for a home décor project, I thought it would be helpful to know a few things before purchasing your pattern so you too would know what the pattern envelope says!

Commercial pattern envelopes, either from a large company or from a independent designer give a wealth of information if you know where to look.
It’s good to know that pattern envelopes are rather standardized, so once you know where to look, you will always find the information you need in the expected place. The upper right corner of the envelope displays the size of the included pattern.
In the upper left hand corner of the envelope you will find the pattern’s catalog number and the name of the design company from whence it came. In this case, the B6099 stands for Butterick pattern number 6099.
The front of the envelope shows the artist’s rendering of the garment in several “views” or variations. Each of these views is designated by a letter: A, B, C, etc. Choosing the view you would like from the front of the envelope helps you decipher information on the back of the envelope.
On the back of the pattern envelope there will be a written description of the envelope’s contents. It will tell you what the pattern makes (in this case a tunic) and will give other important information. It will also get specific as to the differences between the different views: A, B, C, D.

The Butterick pattern company, in particular, gives a lot of clues as to what you are getting by sewing this pattern. The envelope tells you the pattern is easy, which speaks to the level of sewing experience you will need to make it (it has no linings, zippers, pockets or anything considered more advanced) and that it is loose-fitting. A loose-fitting garment generally has 9″ – 12″ more ease in it’s fit than a regular fitting pattern.

The next section suggests what fabrics could be used to make this pattern. It’s very important to pay attention to this information! Not only will the garment look best in these fabrics, but it will also drape properly using these fabrics or equivalents.
In this same area you will find information concerning what is not suitable to use when sewing this pattern. If it says the pattern is unsuitable for obvious diagonal prints, that means the prints will not be able to be matched when the garment is sewn. Talk about a garment that will look homemade!! Yikes!
This area also tells you how to buy your fabric: with nap or without nap. Nap affects yardage needed. With Nap always needs more fabric since the pattern pieces all need to be cut facing the same direction.
Remember I said you needed to choose your view from the envelope’s front to get the correct information from the envelope’s back? The yardage is given by the view chosen, either with 45″ or 60″ wide fabric and by size.
Once you decide on the view and the width of your fabric, go over to the size you need and find the yardage needed.
It’s important to know the width of the fabric you are buying since this significantly affects the amount you need. The top number in every group is for fabric that is 45″ wide and the bottom number is the amount needed if purchasing 60″ wide fabric. Depending on the cost of your fabric, this can be a significant piece of information!
As an example of more information, this area of the pattern envelope is telling me how much fabric I will need to make view C in the main fabric as well as how much fabric I will need for the contrasting area of the garment. It also tells me how much interfacing I will need (this is for the collar and collar stand), depending on its width. Did you notice that I can use a fabric with or without nap for the main fabric and for the contrast fabric for view C? It has */** in the yardage area.
Going down the envelope, we now find the Notions area. This tells you what views need what notions. For example, views A, B, and D need 7 half inch buttons, but view C needs just 3. Read this area before leaving the store or you’ll be making another trip!
Depending on the pattern and on the pattern company, you will generally find some garment measurements on the envelope. This tells you the measurement of the finished tunic from the base of your neck to the hem of the tunic by view and by size. On the pattern pieces themselves will be found other measurements such as waist, hip, etc.
On the envelope back will also be found a line drawing of the garment with both a front and back view. Always look at this and not just at the views on the envelope’s front. The colored art on the envelope front is meant to draw you in. This line drawing on the envelope back will let you know what the lines of the garment truly are, letting you know what might be most flattering to your body type.

Happy Sewing!

P.S. For those of you interested, here are two videos you might enjoy.  The first is Soni Grint, SVP educator, in a January Facebook Live session demonstrating the new subscription embroidery software.  The second video is on how to fix an embroidery hoop that has come apart.  This is valuable to watch since, if you embroider, this will probably one day happen to you!

“Complimentary Software?”

When purchasing a new machine, even the most stoic among us have a bit of “I can’t wait to get home and try this out!” going on in our mind.  When purchasing a new embroidery machine, while still in the store you will be imagining all the items you will embroider when you get home.  Basically, if it doesn’t move, it’s getting embroidery on it somewhere!  It’s the nature of the purchase and that excitement is such a joy.  But, as I have written here before, I am all for getting and using all the features that come with my machine’s purchase, so after bringing my Designer Diamond Royale and my Pfaff Creative Icon home, I went directly online and downloaded the free software that came with those machine purchases.  I wanted my embroideries to be placed perfectly so I wanted to make sure I could make templates of all the designs I wanted to use, just as I had seen used in the many online tutorials I had been viewing pre-purchase.  In case you have an embroidery machine and have not downloaded the free software, I wanted to give you some quick guidance on where to find it and download it.  The complimentary software, though limited in its features, is also a fun way to preview the more feature-rich software before making an additional purchase.  Most of the pictures in my explanation below will have a link to the page shown.  Please look through all the pictures first before clicking on a link so you end up going directly to the page you wish to be on without winding your way through the entire given path.  I hope this helps. 

First, you’ll want to head on over to your machine manufacturer’s home page. This is the one for Husqvarna Viking.
Once you are on the Husqvarna Viking homepage, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click on Machine Updates. I know there is a Software option in the menu at the top of the homepage, but it does not allow you to download the complimentary software from there.
Once you have clicked on Machine Updates you are given a list of machines. Choose your machine to continue. For this example, I chose the Epic 2. The following links may be different for you depending upon the machine you chose.
The Epic 2 link brought me to this page. To move on, click on Learn more.
By clicking on Learn More, I was taken to the download page. This tells me the software’s features and lets me decide if I want to download to a PC or to a MAC.
You’re almost there! Once you decide if you will be downloading for PC or MAC…….
…you will get a login page. This is where you fill in your email address and password you created for the account you used to register your machine for its warranty. If you did not create an account, please do so in order to register your machine and take advantage of its warranty provisions.
The process for downloading the complimentary software for a Pfaff is similar to the Husqvarna Viking process. First, go to the Pfaff homepage.
This time, stay at the top of the homepage and go to Support and Updates. Do not click yet. Once you hover on Support and Updates a drop down menu will come into view.
Slide your mouse over the Complimentary Software and click.
By clicking on Complimentary Software you will be taken to the page that explains the features of the software. You will not be asked to choose a machine, but you will be asked to choose whether you are downloading for a PC or a MAC.
Once you decide if you are downloading to PC or MAC, you will get the login page. Again, this information is from the account you created when you registered your machine. If you have not registered, please do so in order to take full advantage of your warranty, should you need it.

Happy Sewing!

“Storing Feet”

There are so many really useful storage options for your machine’s presser feet, some that come with your machine and others that are optional.  The whole point of these storage items is to keep your presser feet organized and handy, all in one place, so you don’t spend your creative time searching for the different tools you might need.  If you are new to sewing, I would suggest you invest in one of these after-market storage options so you can keep, not only the feet together, but all of the user information items with them as well (the instruction sheets that come with each new optional foot) so you can refer to them as needed.  I have boxes and accessory trays that came with my machines, handled totes and specialty cases that I have purchased from Bonny’s as well as plastic storage items I have purchased from other retailers that I have made use of through the years.  I have made my storage decisions based upon where I will be keeping my machine and ease of use.  Suitcase style storage for accessories is even offered frequently as part of a gift bundle when buying a new machine, as with the Pfaff Creative 4.5 throughout the month of February 2021.

I have also made use of storage options from crafts other than sewing.  For example, I wanted to take just a few presser feet and my machine with me to a friend’s house to work on a project.  I was going to take my extension table and would not be taking my machine’s accessory tray, so I looked in the jewelry making department in a local craft store and found a very compact tray that had a locking feature so I would not lose the few feet I took with me.  Perfect!  Bottom line, find something that works for you and that keeps you the most organized.  There is nothing more frustrating than finding yourself in the middle of a project in need of a specialty foot you know you have but are unable to find. 

The storage for my many presser feet that go with my Husqvarna Viking Designer Diamond Royale. This sits on the table next to the machine and is very handy. The drawers are filled with feet by category and by their use.
Manufacturer box storage works great. The box on the left is from 1994 and the one on the right is from 2019. No doubt there are more accessories available these days!
Brother’s storage is tiered so, literally, everything fits into their storage box except the embroidery hoops!
This is my little jewelry making department find. It’s about the size of a day-of-the-week pill container but with a push lever that activates a locking mechanism.
Since you can choose which compartments to open and which to lock, there are no feet spilling out unexpectedly.

Happy Sewing!

P.S. In honor of National Embroidery month, I thought you might like to watch some recorded Facebook Live presentations that aired this past week.  The Husqvarna Viking presentation is on embroidery hoops and the Pfaff presentation is focused on machine felting.  Since the hoops and felting attachment are the same for both machine brands, you will find useful information in both presentations!

“Thread Delivery”

Machine sewing is all about thread delivery and thread tension.  The top and bottom threads must be kept at just the right tension to allow them to intertwine with one another to create a stitch.  The bottom thread (the bobbin) depends upon a spring through which the thread goes to keep tension on it while sewing.  This spring is either found on the metal bobbin case or in the thread path of the bobbin thread, depending on your machine’s make, model and age.  The top thread must pass through a metal tension disk which is found in the top thread path of the machine.  All machines, no matter the manufacturer or age, have tension disks.  Almost every machine has a right and left disk so you can use twin needles while sewing.  When threading the top thread, it really doesn’t matter whether you use the left or right tension disk, but usually the left disk is a natural for the thread to find.  The tension disk is the reason the presser foot must be in the “up” position while threading.  This opens the tension disks, allowing the thread to seat itself inside, creating the tension while sewing.  If you have a more advanced machine, you may have something called “deLuxe Stitch System” (Husqvarna Viking) or “ActivStitch Technology” (Pfaff).  This is a system of three rollers that portion the thread in the exact amount the machine needs for every stitch.  Because the thread is going through a series of rollers and not a tension disk, the thread is not being pulled through a “clamp” by the machine.  This is important for tricky specialty threads, such as metallic threads.  If you try to sew with a metallic thread running through a traditional tension disk, you have to do some fancy adjustments and sew very slowly to keep the friction from breaking the thread.  (The experience will probably be one which you will not want to repeat anytime soon!)  The roller system allows the metallic thread to run through the machine with enough tension on it to engage correctly with the bobbin thread to create a stitch, but with less friction so the thread has less chance of breaking.   Although I always slow my machine’s speed when sewing with specialty threads and I use a needle meant for sewing with metallic thread, the breaking issue virtually disappears when the roller system is engaged.  If your machine does not have this feature and you are considering buying a new machine, you may want to keep this feature in mind as something that would be valuable to have.

If your machine has this capability, it will be stated on the front of the machine. This is my Husqvarna Viking machine.
This is my Pfaff machine. The two tension systems are exactly the same, just with different names. This logo is located on the lid of my machine.
This is the right tension disk….
…and this is the left tension disk. The thread is held between the disk and the metal plate that is located between the two disks.
The thread portioning system is located just below the tension disks. It is a system using three rollers that portion the thread for each stitch. Two rollers are on top of one another and the third roller is to the right of the roller stack.
The top thread always goes through the tension disks and the portioning rollers. The machine decides which system should be engaged for the best stitch quality.
The system can be engaged and disengaged in the Settings Menu. If the system is selected, the machine can decide when to use it. If it is disengaged, the tension disks are the machine’s only option.
If you own a newer machine, the system is able to be activated as either a default setting or as a temporary setting.

If you’d like to learn more about how this thread portioning system works, check out this video. Happy Sewing!

“Finishing Touch”

In last week’s blog, I talked about the Ruffler and said I would be making some pillows this week that would have ruffles as an accent.  Ruffles are a great accent, but do you know how to finish them so they disappear into your project?  Do you know how to make basically, an infinity ruffle?  Here’s a quick picture tutorial.

My task is to make a pillow from this embroidery and add a ruffle around it.
Remember to round the corners so the finished pillow appears to have points in the corners. I know, it’s counter intuitive, but it works.
I didn’t erase the mid-point mark from my embroidery. I wanted to join my ruffle in the middle of the bottom edge of the pillow.
This is the type of project that needs accuracy to look good, so I pinned the ruffle onto the pillow top…
…and ended my pinning 1.5″ on either side of the center mark. This is where the ruffle will be joined together later.
Time to sew the ruffle to the pillow top, so I changed my needle position to the right….
…to sew using a 3/8″ seam. My final sewing of the pillow front and back will use a deeper seam, thus hiding this stitching line.
After I finished my sewing, I cut off the excess ruffle, leaving about 1″ to finish and create my “infinity” ruffle. I always start with more ruffle than I actually need. It’s always best to cut off excess rather than come up short!
Start the finishing touch by sewing a 1/2″ seam, back of the ruffle together.
I move my needle position to give me a 1/2″ seam allowance. I then trim this to 1/4″.
I now turn the ruffle, right sides together (the side that shows on the front of the pillow) and encase the raw edges in my new seam.
I create that seam allowance by keeping the needle position unchanged and moving the material over. The distance between these two marks on the foot is 1/4″.
This is how the encased seam looks from the back of the pillow…
…and this is how it looks from the pillow front. The seam becomes hidden in the ruffle giving the appearance of a ruffle with no beginning or end!
All that’s left to do now is to sew the pillow back to the pillow front. I change my needle position a little to the left…
…to increase my seam allowance from the 3/8″ I used to attach the ruffle to the pillow front to a 1/2″, putting the whole thing together.
Since I’m sewing two pieces of material together with a two layer ruffle in between, I lower my presser foot pressure from 6.5 to 5.0. This keeps the presser foot from “snowplowing” the top fabric. Stitching all the layers together should be done with a walking foot or dual feed. I am using my Pfaff’s IDT system and pinning generously to keep the uneven layers from shifting.
The finished product, ready for it’s pillow form!

I hope this gives you some inspiration to try a ruffle in one of your projects. Happy Sewing!

By the way, this is completely off my blog topic tonight, but I saw it this week and thought you might enjoy this art project! Karen Charles