“Display Screen Calibration”

If you own a Husqvarna Viking or Pfaff machine with an interactive display screen that uses a stylus, you may find that the screen can become a little less responsive over time.  This may just mean it is losing its calibration.  You will usually find it easy to tell if you are having an issue with calibration by the way the machine is responding to the touch of your stylus.  For example, when you touch the display screen with the stylus, the machine does not answer the command or when you touch something in one place on the screen, something unexpected happens on another part of the screen.   Before you assume you need to take your machine in for repair, try calibrating the machine yourself.  If it’s been awhile since you took your “Sewing Machine Basics” class, you may want to grab your owner’s manual to remember how to get into your Settings Menu.  It’s usually an icon that looks like some tools or gears on the Pfaffs and is usually found on the Husqvarna Vikings with a tool icon found after touching your machine’s “gem” (the Sapphire, Topaz, Ruby or Diamond).  Once you are into the Settings Menu, go to the Screen Settings or the Machine Settings page, depending on your machine.  This page usually allows you to change the lighting settings, the screen saver and the lock screen features of your machine, among other options.  On that page you will find the “Touch Screen Adjust” or the “Screen Calibration” area.  Once you choose this area, you will be given a screen that has crosses on it (usually three to five, depending upon the machine).  Touch each cross, in the center with your stylus, just the way you plan to touch your display screen.  This gives the machine the chance to learn how you use the stylus and will help the machine interpret your touch.  Once you have completed touching all the crosses, you should be able to use the display screen with no other issues. 

My Designer Diamond Royale uses a stylus to interact with the display screen.
Since my machine is part of the “gem” series of machines, I need to touch the diamond to access the Settings Menu.
Once I touch the diamond, the Settings Menu icon appears.
In my Settings Menu, I find the calibration ability on the last page, the Screen and Light Settings page.
Once I touch the “Touch Screen Adjust”…..
…the machine begins the calibration process. Make sure you touch each cross in the center.
The calibration usually ends with a cross in the center of your display screen.
Once you have finished the calibration, you are good to go, so touch “OK” on the Husqvarna Vikings or the “green check mark” on the Pfaffs to exit the Setting Menu and continue your project.

I usually do this, even if I’m not having any issues, about twice a year.  It helps the machine stay calibrated and saves me the frustration of a machine that doesn’t respond to my input!  I hope you find this tip helpful.  Happy sewing!

“The Valuable Dual Feed”

For anyone who sews, a dual feed, or what used to be called a walking foot, is a very valuable tool to have.    For many years, the only sewing machines that came standard with a dual feed were the machines in the Pfaff line.  In recent years, more and more machines have begun to come with an attached dual feed system, but many still use an optional foot for the job.  For the most part, no matter what you sew, a dual feed can be used pretty much all the time for straight piecing, as long as your fabric moves under the foot well (for example, silky materials can sometimes snag more on a dual feed foot).  The foot or system’s job is to keep multiple layers of fabric from shifting against one another as they move through the feed teeth under the presser foot (the feed teeth are the metal teeth that grab the fabric from the underside as you’re sewing).   Without a dual feed foot or system, the bottom fabric layer tends to get pulled along by the feed teeth underneath the fabric faster than the top layer of material gets fed against the presser foot.  This results in an overhang of fabric at the end of the seam.  This is especially bad if you happen to be sewing a fabric that has a stripe, plaid or pattern that needs to match precisely or if you are sewing two pieces of fabric that have seams that must match up exactly.  Dual feed capability is important whether you are sewing garments, quilts or home décor. 

My dual feed feet through the years. From left: 1994 Walking foot from Husqvarna Viking, 2015 Interchangeable Dual Feed foot from Husqvarna Viking, 2019 Muvit dual feed foot from Brother.
The dual feed system or IDT on my 2019 Pfaff. The black piece at the back of the presser foot feeds fabric from the top at the same rate as the feed teeth feed from the bottom. This feature does not detach from the machine, but can be disengaged if it’s not needed.

If you are using a dual feed presser foot, remember to lower the presser foot pressure before you start to sew.  Usually the directions that come with the foot give you a specific level of presser foot pressure to use for your specific machine.  Changing this pressure is an important step that helps the foot perform its function with your fabric.  If you have an attached dual feed system that never detaches from your machine, you will generally not have to adjust your presser foot pressure.  The stitches automatically set themselves with the presser foot pressure needed to sew successfully with the dual feed system working.

Included below are some Youtube videos that may help you learn about the foot or get reacquainted with the foot you bought years ago.  If you have any questions about the correct dual feed foot for your older machine, contact Bonny and Frank and they will be happy to help you.  Happy sewing!

Pfaff’s IDT System operation

Husqvarna Viking Walking foot

Husqvarna Viking Interchangeable Dual Feed Foot

“Decorative Stitches and Stabilizer”

Many times, the use of stabilizers is equated only with machine embroidery.  Stabilizers are for machine embroidery, but they should also be used anytime your project will be using decorative stitches.  Stabilizers do just what their name suggests:  stabilize the fabric.  There are as many different types and weights of stabilizers as there are projects, so when purchasing a type of stabilizer, it is most economical to purchase the type you will tend to use the most.  For example, if you will be using the stabilizer for decorative stitches on or around quilt blocks you will want to use a light weight stabilizer that is a cut away, such as a no-show mesh.  This will stay with the quilt after the stitching is finished and will become a part of the finished quilt.  If you are using the stabilizer in a project made from a fairly hearty woven material, it may be just fine to use a water soluble stabilizer that will disappear when exposed to water.

 I do not recommend using a tear away stabilizer of any kind if you are using it for decorative stitches.  Decorative stitches often distort when tear away stabilizer is removed.  Also, since tear away stabilizer is usually more like paper in texture, the stitches often don’t seat themselves as well into the fabric as when a cut away is used.  Decorative stitches tend to go back and forth and/or side to side which puts a lot of stress on the thread and the fabric.  Using a stabilizer that stays under the decorative stitches especially if the project will see frequent laundering, is best for the long term good looks of the stitching.

Along with the stabilizer, consider using starch or a starch alternative such as “Best Press” to give the fabric even more stability before stitching.  If your fabric has a tendency to slip under your presser foot, you may want to consider using a temporary spray adhesive, such as Sulky’s “KK2000” to hold the stabilizer and the fabric together securely.  It is important that any temporary spray adhesive be sprayed on the stabilizer and not the fabric.  Some adhesives can leave a stain that will not come out if they are sprayed directly onto the fabric.

Lastly, when starting your line of decorative stitches, make sure to hold both the top and bobbin threads, with your fingers or under the presser foot, for the first two to three stitches.  This will eliminate the chance of developing a bird’s nest of thread on the underside of the fabric at the beginning of the pattern.  Slowing your machine’s speed will also help to ensure your decorative stitches look their very best.  Happy Sewing!

“It’s My Tension Again?”

Many times, when a machine is having trouble with its stitch quality, people think they need to adjust the top tension on their sewing machine.  They are sure that will make everything better.  Before you reach for the tension dial, let me give you some things to check first that you may not have thought about. 

First and foremost, make sure you have threaded your machine properly.  I know it sounds like a “no brainer” but I can’t tell you the number of times a machine has had a problem and the owner swore the machine was threaded correctly only to discover it was not.  The bobbin tension and upper thread tension work as a team to create the stitch and if one of those team members is not in the correct position, things are not going to get better the longer you sew!  Even if you think all is well, but there is a stitch quality problem, take out the bobbin and top thread and start again.  A bobbin that is in backwards will produce some pretty strange results and even skipping one area in the upper thread path will cause chaos for your machine.

In my experience, the needle causes more than its fair share of issues in the sewing machine.  A dull, bent or burred needle can cause a whole plethora of issues that changing tensions just will not fix.  I start every project with a new needle, no exceptions.  A new needle is about $1.00.  My project material, time and energy are worth much more to me than that.  Even if I have just replaced the needle with a brand new one and it causes me trouble:  out she goes!  For this reason, I tend to use regular universal needles for my everyday sewing.  They are reasonably priced and tend to last about six to eight hours, which is about what my project tends to need.  Remember, that six to eight hours is actual sewing time, not the amount of time the machine is turned on or the time it takes you to finish a project.  A project that requires a lot of detail work can actually have a surprisingly small amount of machine time.  If you have a machine that allows you to track your time, set the timer and see what I mean (you will find this in the Settings Menu if your machine has this capability).

Next, make sure you are using a good quality thread.  Less expensive threads tend to have irregular areas or small “nubs” in the thread that create problems as they go through the tension disks.  The type of thread; be it cotton, polyester, a combination thread or a specialty thread, doesn’t really matter.  What matters is the quality.  If you got a great deal on thread and paid only $1.00-$2.00 per spool, you can just assume that you did not really get as great a deal as you may think.  Some bargin threads may not even be able to go through a machine’s tension disks without breaking due to their lack of strength.  Just ask me how I know this!  Once you understand value versus price, you will steer clear of the bargin threads and only use high quality thread for your projects.

Lastly, make sure your presser foot pressure is correctly set for the material you are using.  Having the pressure too high can cause the fabric to feed too slowly and having the pressure too loose can cause the fabric to barely feed at all.  If you have a Husqvarna Viking, make sure you refer to the Sewing Advisor for all the correct settings.  If you have a Pfaff, you can check your machine under “i” for information.  Other makes of machines will usually have some type of information in the owner’s manual to help sort out the best presser foot pressure for the type of material you are using.

I hope these ideas are of help to you the next time you feel you need to reach for the tension dial on your machine.  If you really do have a tension issue, head on over to Sewing Mastery and look up your machine to see if Sarah Snuggerud has a video showing what you need to do.  This particular video comes from the series for the Pfaff Performance 5.2. 

Happy Sewing!

“Embroidery Hoop Anatomy”

I am a visual/kinesthetic learner.  Put simply; I need to see and do in order to learn.  When I first started machine embroidery, I had a hard time remembering that the hoop area I saw was not the hoop area I would get to use.  Maybe you have also had trouble reconciling the inside of the hoop you see versus the inside area of the hoop you get to use.  Let me break it down for you.

For my example I am using the 120 x 120 mm square hoop.
The 120 x 120mm hoop is often referred to as the 4″ x 4″ hoop, but it’s really a little bigger than that. The 120 x 120mm hoop measures 4 9/13″ x 4 9/13″. If you want a true 4″ x 4″ hoop, try the 100 x 100mm hoop.
For this explanation, I traced the inside of the 120 x 120mm hoop to demonstrate the inner area. The hoop size refers to the inside area of the hoop.
Though this is supposed to be a square hoop, the inner area doesn’t look very square, does it?
There are four nibs on each hoop; one on each of the sides and one on the top and bottom. These nibs allow you to center your fabric to place the design just where you want it.
If I draw a line vertically and horizontally from these nibs, they create a center point. Still doesn’t look very square.
Once I draw the allowances for the embroidery foot, you can now see an exact square. This is the actual area you have available for the embroidery design. This area measures 4 9/13″ x 4 9/13″.

The embroidery foot needs room to move around the hoop, thus the allowance of 1/4″ on three sides and the 1.25″ on the top. When you purchase a design or use one from the built in designs on your machine, you will notice the size is never as large as the stated hoop size. This is done to allow you to use the positioning feature on your machine, placing the design exactly where you want it. If you are looking for the most exact measurements, remember to use everything in metric. The conversion to inches leaves a little “fudge factor” just because they are not the same measurement systems. I hope this makes the embroidery hoop a little easier to understand. Happy Sewing!

“Mending Tears”

After the last month of sewing nothing but face masks for donation, I decided I really needed to try to empty the mending basket that sits in my sewing room.  Anything that needs mending gets tossed in the basket to be mended in a concentrated mending session.  My machine makes the job fairly quick.  Almost every sewing machine has some type of mending stitch that can be found in the utility stitches that are built into the machine. This stitch is found in every machine in the Husqvarna Viking line from the Opal on up and in the Pfaff line from the Ambition on up.  It’s a great stitch for fixing a tear in the fabric that needs a strong hold.  There aren’t many directions as to how to use the stitch, so I thought I would give you a short lesson in case you also have some clothes in your mending basket that could use some attention!

On every machine you will find the mending stitch in the Utility Stitches.
My machine has several choices, but the stitch on your machine probably has this icon.
When I choose the stitch, my machine gives me some information on how to use the stitch. Your machine may or may not have this feature.
The red mark on my fabric represents the tear. This fabric is quilting cotton, so…
…I would want to give the fabric some extra support before the sewing begins. I always put a piece of matching fabric under the tear and then use a piece of cut away stabilizer to support the repair. If I can’t match the fabric exactly, I look for something close in color and of equal weight.
The machine is going to lay down rows of stitching to go over the tear. I put the tear under the middle line of the foot so my stitching starts on the undamaged fabric. This gives the repair support. I start my sewing a bit above the beginning of the tear.
I keep sewing my line of stitching down the left side of the tear, keeping the tear under the center red line on the foot. I usually stitch a bit beyond the bottom of the tear, again to give the repair support.
Once I reach my desired stopping point, I press the “Reverse” button on the machine. Just press it once. This tells the machine how long you want the repair stitches to stitch as it makes its pattern. My machine goes through nine rows of stitching before it ends the repair. Keep your foot on the pedal and don’t let up until the machine stops.
I didn’t need to do much guiding for this mend. The stitch starts at the far left red mark on the foot…..
…and ends when it gets to the far right red mark. Just keeping the tear under the center red mark on the foot gives you the perfect mend.
This is the finished mend. I have done this in contrasting thread to make it easy to see clearly. If matching thread is used, the repair blends in very well.

This stitch is best used on firm woven fabrics. It is not intended to be used on knits or stretch fabrics due to the amount of stitching the machine uses. A stretch fabric would tend to “cup” under the amount of stitches and the repair would stretch out the fabric.

I hope this tip gives you some confidence to use this stitch from your machine! Happy sewing!

“Now, the Cleaning!”

After making all those face masks for the last few weeks, I have become very adept at cleaning my machines!  I have to admit, I have not been using the most expensive cotton fabrics for all those masks and so the lint build up in my machines has been rather significant.  If you have not cleaned your machine for a bit, you might want to take a few minutes and give it a once over.  Lint build up in machines can lead to skipped stitches and stitches of poor quality as well as the failure of functions such as “low bobbin” indicators to let you know when you need to replace the bobbin.  As long as you are cleaning, you may want to replace your needle also.  Every 6 to 8 hours of sewing for a regular universal needle is about as long as you want to go before replacing the needle.  It’s really the least expensive item your machine uses, but can cause a multitude of more expensive problems, both in your fabric and your machine.

The following pictures show my Pfaff Creative Icon, but most machines will look about the same.  Check your owner’s manual (it’s usually the last chapter in the manual) for the specifics to your machine.

First thing you’ll want to do is raise your presser foot, then remove the foot and make sure the needle is in the highest position. You may even want to drop the feed teeth.
If your machine has a built in dual feed like mine does, make sure it is up and out of the way.
Open the bobbin cover.
Remove the needle plate. My machine uses the included screw driver, slid under one side of the plate and then twisted to remove the plate.
Remove the bobbin.
Remove the plastic piece that lays in front of the bobbin cover. This just lifts out….
…and cut the needle thread. Pull the thread out through the needle so lint does not go back up into the machine.

Even if you are not going to replace the needle during this cleaning, you may want to remove it anyway so you don’t get stuck! Ouch!
Remove the bobbin case. If you are nervous about doing this, take a picture of your machine before the removal. That way, you can compare before and after cleaning placement of the bobbin case.
Now, get in there and let’s get cleaning!
Remember to clean both sides of the bobbin case.
Also remember to clean the feed teeth and the needle bar. Once everything looks clean, it’s time to re-assemble!
At this time it is very important to make sure the needle is in its highest position. This means you can see the take up lever. If the needle is not in the highest position, the bobbin case will not fit back into the machine properly.
When replacing the bobbin case, make sure it lines up properly. The bobbin case should not be able to spin all the way around in the opening; it should only move a bit.
Replace the plastic cover in front of the bobbin case.
Next, replace the needle plate. This will be a bit stiff to push back into place. Make sure it’s lined up and then snap in place with confidence!
Replace the bobbin, and the needle if you removed it, and re-thread the machine. If you dropped the feed teeth, raise them. Remember, they won’t come back up until you take a stitch.
Once the bobbin cover is back on, you are good to go.

Now that you’re all clean, it’s time to start a fun new project!  Happy sewing!

“Substitutions”

For the last few weeks I have been sewing nothing but face masks, as I am sure many of you have been as well.  As I near my 100th mask, I am running very low on supplies.  Not low on fabric:  I was sure I would be in the top five of those who die with the most fabric, but the elastic has become as scarce as toilet paper, all over the world!  As I was contemplating what to substitute, I remembered the stash of pre-fold bias tape I inherited from my mother in law when she passed in 2013.

This is box #1 of the two boxes of bias tape I inherited.

For the last 7 years, I have wondered what I would do with all that bias tape and now I have a great use for all of it!  She would love the fact that her bias tape was being used for such a worthy cause, so I made some adjustments to my favorite mask pattern, broke out my adjustable bias binder presser foot and got started.

Husqvarna Viking Adjustable Bias Binder foot.

The Husqvarna Viking Adjustable Bias Binder is made with pre-folded bias tape in mind, though you can use it with bias tapes you make yourself.  The pre-fold tape goes into the binder foot and you adjust the screw at the side of the foot to the size the tape will be when folded.

The single fold bias tape is 1/2″, so it becomes 1/4″ when folded. That’s where the foot adjustment is set.

Since my tape was ½” single fold tape, when I folded it to encase the mask, it went down to ¼”, so that’s where I set the foot.  I changed the stitch out order of the mask I’ve been making and away I went! (Pfaff also has a bias binder foot, but it is not adjustable and it is made to apply bias binding of just a bit less than 1″ unfolded.)

I first cut my fabric pieces to size and sewed just the short sides, right sides together with 1/4″ seams.
Next, I turned the material right side out and pressed the seams to lie neatly.
I then pressed the mask in thirds to make the pleats.
Each pleat is 1/2″ deep.
I then top stitched the pleats 1/4″ from the edge on each side.
With the mask’s construction complete, it was time to add the bias tape.
I cut two pieces of bias tape, each 42″ long, and folded and pressed about 6″ of one end to make it easier to get it started in the foot.
I pinned the middle of the bias tape to the middle of the mask and got ready to apply the bias tape.
I threaded the bias tape into the foot before attaching it to the machine and began to sew using a narrow zig-zag to hold everything in place.
Once I reached the mask, I inserted the long end of the mask into the slot on the foot so the bias tape would encase it as it went through the foot.
The finished mask. The hardest thing about using the foot was trusting that the foot would do its job without a lot of help from me!
The zig-zag stitch I used was exactly the width of the tape. I’m very pleased with the neat appearance.

I included some other mask making videos this week, in case you are interested.  Happy sewing!

Video #1 and Video #2

“More Masks?”

I have been sewing face masks all week, as I’m sure many of you have been as well.  I was originally making masks with the thought they could be used by health care professionals or caretakers who might need them.  I shifted my focus this week, realizing the masks I was making were better than nothing, but certainly not an excellent source of protection for caring for the sick.  I decided to concentrate my efforts on those who may need a mask to go to those everyday places, such as the grocery store, pharmacies, etc. and who may not have time to make a mask to comply with the new CDC recommendations that we all wear some type of face covering when we go out in public.  I began to concentrate my efforts on family, friends, and businesses that are essential such as my dog’s veterinarian’s office (the 12 employees who work there, for example, got two masks each so one can be washed while the other is being worn).  I’ve been offering masks rather than just dropping them off and everyone I have contacted has been eager to get them.  In that vein, I thought I would give you some links for a variety of mask patterns and tips.  As I said last week, there are as many mask patterns as there are places to donate them, but I hope you will find something here that fits your needs.  I have included links to videos that show masks being made using elastic as well as using fabric ties.  If you have tried lately to replenish your elastic stash, you know there is a shortage of ¼” elastic.  Who knew a month ago that would even be a problem?  Anyway, see what you think of the videos.  They include patterns that are extremely easy to ones that are a bit more complex.  Remember, if you are planning to donate your masks, please contact the intended recipients first to make sure your efforts are needed in that location and that you’re making what they need.   Stay safe and thank you for using your talents for others!

Very easy mask

Batch sewing masks

Free Mask pattern from The Washington Post

Free in-the-hoop embroidery mask

Shaped denim mask from JoAnn Fabrics

Mask making tips from JoAnn Fabrics

Face mask with filter pocket

“Mask Tips”

There have been many requests in the last week for sewers all over the country to make masks for our first responders, medical personnel and care givers who simply don’t have enough of the supplies they need during this difficult time.  Maybe you too are making masks to send someplace where they are needed.  I routinely make walker bags for my favorite rehab center, about once every other month.  I usually make them in batches of about 20 and March was my month to sew bags.  I thought with this month’s batch, I would also include some handmade masks in case they are needed by the therapy department, or by anyone else at the rehab and nursing facility.  There are as many patterns for masks as there seem to be places to send them, but I liked the pattern that came to me this week in an email from Husqvarna Viking.  I am not in a sewing group and the pattern that they sent seemed as if I would be able to make quite a few masks on my own.  I found I could get three lined masks from a fat quarter, so I pulled some fat quarters and elastic from my sewing room and began cutting.  I followed the pattern from the video, but I thought I would share a few tips I used to make my sewing a bit faster.

I had quite a few left over fat quarters from my zippered bag project for Christmas 2019, so here was a perfect use for them.
From my first skein of elastic I was able to get 42 seven inch cuts….enough for 21 masks.

First of all, I pulled enough fat quarters to make about 60-70 masks.  From my first skein of ¼” elastic I was able to get 42 seven inch cuts, enough for 21 masks.  So, for my first batch, I cut enough fabric to make the 21 masks and I went to the sewing room.

Fat quarters are 18″ X 21″, so after cutting the fat quarter in half for the 9″ cut, I cut the 7″ sections. Once at the 7″ mark….
…one at the the 14″ mark…
…and one at the 21″ mark.
I’m using two different colors for each mask: which side is worn facing out is the user’s choice.

The pattern showed pinning the elastic to each mask.  I decided to chain piece the masks, sewing the elastic in a ¼” seam.  Once I finished the elastic for both sides of the masks I cut the chains apart and continued on with the construction of the mask as shown in the YouTube video.  With the elastic chained to each mask, sewing was very fast and I was able to completely finish a mask in about 10-12 minutes.

I marked 1/2″ from the top and bottom of the mask so I could chain piece the elastic to each mask.
Chain piecing the elastic to the short sides of the masks was very easy and time efficient.
The finished chain before cutting them apart….
…and after cutting them apart. The masks were now ready to assemble quickly.

Second thing I did was to not wash my fat quarters first since none of them had a noticeable smell of sizing.  Instead, I steamed them very well before cutting.  The steaming should help the masks to hold their size, even if they are washed and reused, though I suspect they will be used once or twice and then thrown away.  Last tip…. I used my ¼” piecing foot for the seams and set my needle to the “Needle down” position at each stop.  This allowed for fast pivoting when I got to each corner.

My completed mask.
My completed mask with the tucks unfolded. This is how it will fit over the mouth and nose.

I hope you are able to find a way in which you can use your talents during this trying time.  Take care, stay well and happy sewing!