“Seeking Inspiration”

I have many projects waiting to be started or in various stages of finishing, but this past week I have had trouble getting myself motivated to work on any of them.  I am definitely a sewer who needs to be interested and motivated to work on any project.  This is probably the reason I am such an eclectic sewer.  If I lose interest in one type of project, I have something from a completely different area of sewing waiting for me.  I find inspiration in many different places.  I often just stand in my sewing room and look around at the different bins of fabric and all the projects those fabrics represent (the curse of the “just in case” rather than the “just in time” buyer!)  This week I found some inspiration watching some videos on different presser feet, accessories and a special easy quilt to try.  I’m sharing them with you hoping you too will find some inspiration.  Happy Sewing!

Husqvarna Viking Facebook Page – please remember the link takes you to the page, not to the individual daily posts. I have given you some post dates I watched and you might find helpful. For instance: October 6th – Mickey Hudson’s post on how to use the quilt binding attachment. Mickey shows how to use the attachment but also shows some advanced concepts on how to adjust the accessory for different binding effects. Those of you who purchased or are thinking of purchasing this attachment might find this very interesting. October 13th – how to add a ruffle to a plain piece of fabric using the Ruffler attachment. October 14th – how to embroider with puffy foam. Remember, you need to use an embroidery design that has been digitized to use puffy foam. September 23rd – a recorded Facebook live program by Karen Charles, educator for Husqvarna Viking. She is talking about different embroidery hoops and stabilizers, but also has a great “trunk show” to share that everyone will enjoy seeing. September 29th – Karen Charles gives some tips on the metal hoops available for hoop driven embroidery machines.

Pfaff Facebook PageOctober 12th – Attaching and using the Quilting Guide. This is usually an included accessory for most machines. October 6th – using the circular attachment to create an original appliqued quilt block using your machine’s decorative stitches. September 29th and October 8th – using the multi-line decorative foot to create interesting original decorative patterns.

A Youtube post from Donna Jordan of Jordan Quilts. This is a great looking quilt, easy to assemble, but striking when done. This quilt, “Dresden Bloom” uses my favorite Dresden template in an original design layout.

“Something Special”

Last week I talked about a needle storage option that works well for me.  I thought this week I would share some of my favorite specialty needles that you may not have known were an option.  There are those that are more readily available, such as twin needles, and then there are the ones that you will probably only find in the shop of an independent dealer, such as Bonny’s Sewing and Fabric.  If you have not tried these options before, you may want to explore a bit.  I have used each one of these options on projects and have been really pleased with the results.  For all of the specialty needles I use, I always slow the speed of my machine and increase the stitch length.  This is not the time to sew at the fastest speed the machine can handle and by increasing the stitch length, the specialty needles I am using really show off the stitches they are creating.  Also, depending upon the specialty needle I’m using, I make sure to stabilize my fabric really well.  Because there are many top threads coming into one bobbin thread, the chances of your top fabric being taken into the needle hole of the zig-zag plate is high.  This will jam the machine and probably result in broken needles.  Since most of the specialty needles have a width to them, you will not be able to use a straight stitch plate to prevent this problem:  thus the use of stabilizer under your fabric to help keep the fabric supported and out of the needle hole.  Happy Sewing!

Here are a few of the specialty needles I have in my needle box.
The twin needle is the most common of the specialty needles. They come in sizes, both in the size of the needle (80, 90, etc.) and the width between the two needles (2.0mm, 4.0 mm, 6.0 mm, etc.) You can find these at most stores that sell sewing machine needles.
The wing needle comes in a single needle (left) or a twin option (right). The wing needle works best on natural fibers and creates holes in the fabric by cutting the fabric every time the needle pierces. These are most often used in heirloom sewing and most machines have stitches created especially for use with this needle.
The triple needle can use three threads of differing colors for stitching. This needle is most often used for decorative top stitching.
My last specialty needle to show you is the double eye single needle.
The double eye needle has a regular hole for thread with another hole just above it. You can use two different colors of thread, but the top hole’s thread will show the most. I tend to use this for top stitching, with two threads of the same color, when I want the thread to be a little heavy, but when using the triple straight stitch on my machine is a bit too heavy.
With all of these specialty needles, it is important to turn off the Deluxe Stitch System (Husqvarn Viking) or the ActivStitch System (Pfaff). You will only be using the tension disks.
To turn this off, get into the Settings Menu of your machine…
…and make sure to uncheck the box so only your tension disks will be working.
In both the Husqvarna Viking and the Pfaff, the stitch system is a grouping of three rollers that portion the thread as needed. With multiple threads going into the top of your machine at once through the multiple needles, the system cannot operate accurately.
For twin needle, triple needle and double eye needle sewing, you will be using both the left and right disks…
…and multiple threads.
For the triple needle, you will need three threads.
To use three threads, you will need some type of specialty thread stand. I use this one.

With the double and triple needles, I want to remind you to go into your machine’s Settings Menu and choose twin needle. The machine will ask you which one you are using. They are referring to the width between the two needles, which you’ll find on the needle package. If you are using a triple needle, don’t worry about it’s size. Just choose the largest option your machine has: usually that’s the 6.0mm.

Especially when using the triple needle, I usually lower my upper thread tension by about two or three levels. This seems to help the thread move through the needles smoothly.
Here are examples of (left to right): The triple needle, a 6.0mm double needle and the double eye needle.

“Needle Tips”

For years I kept my sewing machine needles in a drawer in my sewing cabinet.  Each time I wanted to change a needle, I went through the sizes and types that were lined up in one big row inside the drawer until I found the one I wanted.  As you can imagine, my lineup of needle packages was neat, but it was not in any organizational format that allowed me to access the needle I wanted in a quick and efficient manner.  One day a few years ago, I decided to take the time to organize my needles, not only by size and kind, but by whether or not they were used for sewing or embroidery.  My organization took the form of an inexpensive lock-lid plastic storage box with two Dollar Store baskets inside.  Not much to brag about, but it works very well for me.  If you have been thinking about organizing your own needle collection, I hope this gives you an idea to get you started on your organizational journey!

My needle box keeps everything displayed in a way that is easy for me to see.
By turning the box one way, I see all the needles I use for embroidery…
…and by turning the box around, I see all the needles I use for all my other sewing.
I have the needles arranged by size and type. This is the embroidery needle side. As you can see in the bottom right corner, when I buy needles in bulk, they are displayed with the information facing up so I know what’s in the box.
This is the general sewing side of the box. The dividers were made by cutting off the top of the card stock store hanger. The needles that are along the side of the box also have dividers; it’s just hard to see them from this angle.
Most sewers have 75/11, 80/12 and 90/14 sized needles in their collection. If you are planning to sew home decor or items such as heavy coats or tote bags, I’d like to suggest you have some size 100/16 and 110/18 needles on hand. Going through thick material becomes so easy once this kind of “needle muscle” is used!
I have tried many needle brands over the years and have found, on my Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking machines, Inspira, Organ and Schmetz needles seem to work the best. I have not had success with the Klasse needles. These seem to break more often for me and they tend to produce more skipped stitches.
If you have read my blog for a while, you know I really like to use Titanium and Chrome coated needles. They are a bit more expensive than standard needles, but I find them to be well worth the few cents more. I use them in my general sewing as well as in my embroidery.

After organizing your own needles, please remember to change your needle every 6 to 8 hours of sewing time, if you are using a standard needle. If you are using a chrome or titanium coated needle, that sewing time between needle changes usually stretches anywhere from 20 to 25 hours. As a general rule, if you are breaking the top thread more than twice in a sewing session or if your machine is skipping stitches, you may want to change your needle. Chances are, all your troubles will disappear! Happy Sewing!

“Quilting Echoes”

I told you a couple weeks ago that I was interested in a deeper exploration of the quilting stitches themselves rather than concentrating on the piecing aspects of my own quilting projects this fall.  I really love the embroidered quilting designs my machines can produce for my projects, but I am also interested in what I can do outside of embroidery to really make my projects stand out.  I am the first to admit that I am not an accomplished free motion quilter.  I have not put in the kind of practice time that art form requires, but I can still make quite a statement in my projects outside of my hoop driven embroidery by trying a straight forward technique I know I can do:  echo quilting.  I have been exploring the online offerings lately (what did we do before YouTube and Facebook?) and have found some things that might interest you as you also plan your upcoming projects.  I have included video links as well as links to accessories needed.  Remember, accessories for Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff machines are still 20 percent off through September 30th! 

Both Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff have an excellent Free Motion Echo Quilting foot. This foot has markings on it to help you keep your current line of stitching equidistant from your last line of stitching.
Both Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff each have a new Echo Quilting feet set for use on their Platinum series quilting machine (from Viking) or the Powerquilter (from Pfaff)
Check out this short Facebook video posted on September 18th using this foot.

If you happen to own a walking foot, this video by Angela Walters gives some good instruction on quilting using the feed teeth and this foot.

I think you will find this Angela Walters echo quilting video quite inspirational. I know I did!

Happy Sewing!

“It’s the Little Things…”

Now that machines have hoop driven embroidery, the built in stitches that come on our machines, which used to be considered “embroidery”, are now known as decorative stitches.  Whatever you call them, even though they are not, for the most part, as big as hoop driven embroidery designs, they can still make a very big impact on a project.  Brother, Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff all have the ability to sew these decorative stitches as borders, and if you use the programming/sequencing feature on these machines you can create your own patterns, but don’t forget the impact that can be made by using just one decorative stitch placed at just the right spot!  All three of these machines can produce a one-at-a-time striking decorative stitch; they just go about it in different ways.

My Brother and my Pfaff machine have an icon that allows me to isolate just one decorative stitch out of a border and use it as a stand-alone accent.  My Husqvarna Viking goes about the same task a little differently.  Let me show you…

Let’s say I’d like to add just one of these creepy little spiders from my Pfaff onto a project. First, I load the design by selecting it.
Once I have selected the stitch, I touch the Stitch Repeat icon.
Once that icon opens, I choose the Single Stitch Program.
The program then asks me how many spiders I would like to sew. I’ve decided one is more than enough for me!
There he is! One creepy little critter I can sew out one-at-a-time to give my project a little taste of Halloween.
I especially like this technique when sewing maxi stitch accents.
Here I’ve chosen a leaf, then the Stitch Repeat and then the Single Stitch Program.
Once there is just one leaf, don’t forget you can make changes to that leaf with mirror image (up/down and left/right)
These changes can be found in the Stitch Edit.
Choosing the mirroring option allows you to get some great accents, just the way you want them.
I chose the mirror up/down and turned the leaf right side up.
On my Brother machine, once I have chosen the Character Decorative Stitch and have chosen the stitch I want…
…I need to isolate just one of these roses from the border of roses.
In the stitch edit options, I chose the Single Design icon. The three stars in the icon give you the border design and the one star gives you the one design on its own.
Once I have the one rose out of the border…
…I can choose the mirroring icons to mirror in one or both ways the machine allows.
The rose with both mirroring options used.
On my Husqvarna Viking machine, if I want to use just one leaf out of the border, I need to get into Programming mode.
By entering Programming, I can select the leaf and I will only get one.
Once I have the one leaf, I can use the mirroring options to make the changes I want.
I chose to use both mirroring options and …
…this is my result.
Remember to add a Fix and a Stop before you touch “OK” to stitch out your one design on your Husqvarna Viking machine. If you forget this step, you will end up with an endless border of leaves! Yikes!

I hope this gives you something to consider for your next project, big or small.  Remember, it’s the little things that sometimes make the biggest difference! Happy Sewing!

“Gathering Know How”

No matter what projects you like to sew, using gathers in material will, at some point, be included in your project.  If you are a garment sewer, you will use gathers most on waistbands, sleeves and for embellishment.  Home décor sewers will use them on projects such as pillows, curtains and dust ruffles.  Quilters will use them for embellishment; to really make their creations pop.  Gathering by hand or by pulling draw strings is always an option for smaller areas, but there is a special presser foot for the sewing machine that can make such quick work of this often tedious task when tackling larger projects.  With a little knowledge, this Gathering foot can be your new best friend!

The Husqvarna Viking Gathering foot
The Pfaff Gathering foot

There are a few tricks to using the Gathering foot to your greatest advantage.  I have included a YouTube video done by Sarah from Heirloom Creations for a complete demonstration.  (Even though the demonstration is on a Husqvarna Viking machine, the same information applies to any machine.)  The first thing you need to remember with this foot is that once you sew the gathers, you will not be able to adjust them.  For this reason, the Gathering foot is best used on larger projects where a lot of gathered fabric is needed in a specific size.  Trying to use this foot to gather the material to fit into a sleeve opening, for example, would simply not be practical.  (If you are really interested in this foot, you may want to check out the September 2nd Facebook Live post by Husqvarna Viking’s Vanessa Dyson on the difference between the Gathering foot and the Ruffler foot.)

You will need to decide how much material it will take to make the amount of gathers you will need.  I usually use a few 10” long pieces of the actual material I will be gathering to test and create all my machine settings.  Since gathers look best when they are two to three times greater than what they are attaching to, you will want to use these 10” test pieces to decide your stitch length and upper thread tension.  I use 10” long pieces of material for my tests simply because it makes the math really easy.  For example, if I gather my 10” long piece of material and, when I’m finished, it is 7” long, I know my machine’s settings are gathering my material by 30%.  I can calculate the amount of material I will need for my gathers based on that information and the size of my project.  Increasing stitch length creates more gathers and decreasing stitch length creates fewer gathers.  Increasing upper thread tension creates more gathers and decreasing the tension creates fewer gathers.  You can use a combination of stitch length and thread tension to create the exact gathered effect you want.  Once you have created all of the machine’s settings for the perfect gathers for your project, don’t forget to save them to your machine’s memory!  I also tend to write down my information so I don’t inadvertently erase my settings in memory by saving over them at a later date (just ask me how that could happen!).

Remember, if you think this accessory might be helpful to you, all machine accessories for Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking machines are on sale for 20% off all during the month of September!  Happy Sewing!

P.S. In last week’s blog I was talking about using the Circular Attachment for quilting purposes. Check out this Pfaff Facebook post from September 11th on using the Attachment for another clever piecing use!

“Ruler Work Without the Ruler?”

This month is National Sewing Month, which got me thinking about new ways to use some of my favorite accessories.  Some years ago I purchased the Husqvarna Viking Circular Attachment to help me stitch accurate circle appliques for a project I was working on.  It did a great job and the gift was well received, but I must admit, I have not used the accessory much lately.  On Facebook, there are a number of videos showing how to use the attachment to make, not only circles, but a four and six petal flower, usually as an applique.  As I am planning my fall quilting projects, I’ve decided to explore more of the quilting itself rather than have all the attention on the embroidery, applique or the piecing and this provides a perfect format for that.  So… the question becomes, “What if I used the flower template from the circular attachment to simulate ruler work?”  This is how I answered that question.

This is the Circular Attachment. This baby can do so much more than just make circles!
The attachment comes with three templates, an instructional DVD and the tool that attaches to your machine.
For this demonstration, I used the four petal flower template and watched the DVD again, just to make sure I remembered how to mark the fabric.
The other materials I needed were some fabric, batting and some temporary fabric adhesive: in this case, KK2000.
After spraying my batting with the KK2000 and smoothing it on the back of the material, I marked the flower size I wanted, according to the directions. I wanted a 5″ finished block so I used a 4″ flower (10 cm).
In order to use this accessory, your machine’s needle plate must have these holes next to the feed teeth.
If the prongs are inserted into the holes correctly, the attachment will lie flat on the needle plate.
Once secured to my machine, I set the circular attachment for the size I wanted for the flower: about 4″ or 10 cm.
I’m almost done! Remember to choose a stitch that does not have a lot of backwards motion. The stitch I used is the triple straight stitch.
As you start each new “petal”, remember to press the stitch re-start button, especially if you are using a stitch with a specific design.
Here’s the finished product ready to get squared up!
I lined up my flower to the center and to the 45 degree lines on my ruler for a straight flower in my block.
Ta-da! Ruler work without the ruler!

Now, for this demonstration, I used only one block that was not attached to anything else.  My plan is to piece the project first, leaving 5” plain blocks where the four petal flower stitching will go. (I could even do some free motion quilting inside or outside the flower for a very different effect!)  Once the blocks are pieced and the quilt sandwich is basted, I can use the circular attachment to create the four petal flowers in random blocks, filling other blocks with other quilting stitches; either free motion or embroidery.  Maybe you’d like to give this new quilting option a try.  Accessories for both Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff are on sale for 20% off during the month of September!  Happy Sewing!

Husqvarna Viking Circular Attachment (page 38)

Pfaff Circular Attachment (page 32)

“Why Won’t That Hoop Fit My Machine?”, Part 2

Last week I used three embroidery hoops in different sizes as examples to demonstrate one of the most obvious reasons why every embroidery hoop will not fit onto every embroidery machine.  Each hoop I used was the same in height (360mm or 14”), but they each differed in their width. 

In my 5.3.20 blog I talked about the machine embroidery hoop size in terms of the usable area inside the hoop.  The discussion today pertains to the outside of the hoop.  Specifically how far a hoop can go to the right of the needle and not hit the side of the machine, while still maintaining the allowances needed along the three sides and the top of the inside of every hoop.  This space issue is one of the most obvious reasons why a hoop will or will not fit on a particular machine.  There are other factors, such as the size of the embroidery unit itself, but this factor of the space to the right of the needle is very clear to see and understand.  Remember, each hoop must have enough space to move so it can maintain a ¼” allowance along the bottom of the hoop and the two sides and 1 ¼” along the inside top (see the May blog for pictures and examples of this).

On each of the hoops I used for this demonstration, I marked the left side allowance so it was clear what was needed for the embroidery foot in each hoop.
Let’s start with the 360 x 200mm hoop that came with my Designer Diamond Royale (DDR). This hoop allows for the 1/4″ needed for allowance to the left of the needle…
…and does not hit the right side of the machine, so I am able to use this with my Husqvarna Viking DDR.
My Pfaff Creative Icon (CI) is a larger machine overall and can easily use the same 360 x 200mm hoop with clearance to the left of the needle…
…with a much greater amount of clearance to the right of the needle than I had with my DDR.
The next size hoop is the 360 x 260 mm hoop that came with my Pfaff CI. As you can clearly see, I can’t even get the hoop close to the foot on my DDR from the left…
…because it hits the machine to the right of the needle.
The same 360 x 260mm hoop in the Pfaff CI easily fits to the left of the needle…
…and clears the machine to the right of the needle.
Last hoop to try is the 360 x 350 mm hoop, which fits both of my machines. “Wait a minute!” you might be saying about now. How can a 360 x 350mm hoop fit on the DDR when the 360 x 260 mm could not? It can because it’s a turn table hoop. The machine only has to accommodate 175mm across at a time. I used this acrylic rod to mark the center of the hoop.
So, my DDR only has to use half the hoop (175mm) and then I turn the hoop around to stitch out the other 175mm of design.
When the 360 x 350mm hoop is stitching on the DDR, there is plenty of clearance to the right of the needle.
Using the same rod to show the middle of the 360 x 350mm hoop on the Pfaff CI…
…you can see it easily clears the machine to the right of the needle.

For each hoop, no matter what the size, realize that designs are always going to be a tad smaller. For example, designs for an 8″ x 8″ hoop will only go to 7.90″ x 7.90″. This is to allow for moving the design for precise placement on your project.

Remember, if a particular embroidery hoop is supposed to fit your machine, but your machine will not recognize it, try updating your machine from the website (at the bottom right of the Husqvarna Viking or Pfaff homepage named “Machine Updates”).  Just follow the given instructions, or have Bonny’s Sewing and Fabric install the update for you during your next machine service.  Happy Sewing!

“Why Won’t That Hoop Fit My Machine?” Part 1

Buying a sewing machine or sewing/embroidery machine, for most of us, is an emotional as well as intellectual decision.  When you create on this machine, you will be giving a piece of yourself to the project, whether or not it is for yourself or for a gift.  That’s why we all like as many options as possible to come with our machines, to give us as many choices as possible, and tend to feel a bit disappointed if we don’t have everything we want.  On the other hand, sewing machine manufacturers tend to market machines based on features, so they make it very tempting to move up the line of machines to get as much as possible.  It’s human nature to want the most! 

When it comes to sewing/embroidery machines, we tend to advise the customer to buy the machine you can afford to buy that accommodates the largest hoop size.  There are several reasons for this.  First, generally, the larger the size of the hoop, the more stitches you can use in your design.  Entry level machines usually have a stitch limit of about 50,000 stitches, which sounds like a lot, but in the world of embroidery, is an average amount of stitches.  Second, the larger the hoop the less hoopings will be required to complete a design group.  This saves you time, both in stitch out and in design placement and composition.  Third, who doesn’t love those large, eye-catching designs?  Designs are sold by their size, so a small hoop limits what designs you will be able to purchase and use.

So, when a new hoop comes out, why can’t every sewing/embroidery machine use it?  There are several reasons a hoop will not be compatible with all machines, but one of the most obvious reasons is the distance between the needle and the inside arm of the machine body.  The smaller the distance to the right of the needle, the more hoop size is limited.  For example, look at the pictures below.  I used three hoops for my demonstration:  the 360 X 200mm hoop (14” X 8”) that comes with many machines, the 360 X 260mm hoop (14” X 10”) that fits the Husqvarna Epic and Epic 2 machines and the Pfaff Creative Icon, and the 360 X 350mm turntable hoop (14” X 13”) that fits the top of the line machines.  Look for part 2 of my demonstration in photos in next week’s blog.

The three hoops I used for this demonstration. The pink tape on the left side of each hoop is 1/4″ allowance needed for the stitch out area on the left inside of the hoop.
The 360 x 200 mm (14″ x 8″) hoop comes included with many embroidery machines.
The 360 x 260 mm (14″ x 10″) hoop fits the Husqvarna Viking Epic, Epic 2 and the Pfaff Creative Icon.
The 360 x 350 mm (14″ x 13″) turntable hoop fits most top of the line machines.

While waiting for Part 2 of this blog, check out these chart links based on your sewing/embroidery machine (Husqvarna Viking or Pfaff) to see what fits your specific machine.  When buying a new machine, no matter whether or not it has embroidery, the best advice is to buy as much machine as you can afford.  Once you have the features, you will use them all!  Happy Sewing!

Husqvarna Viking Hoop Chart (the link will not take you to the exact page. You will need to go to page 88 of the flip book. Sorry!)

Pfaff Hoop Chart (the link will not take you to the exact page. You will need to go to page 76 of the flip book. Sorry!)

“More Space”

Each of us has purchased our machine for our own reasons; taking into account what projects we hope to work on most.  Every machine sold by Bonny and Frank comes with an accessory tray that can be removed to expose a free arm, making sewing small round areas, such as sleeves, a little easier.  We are all able to sew with the machine the way it comes; with the accessory tray and the free arm, but we may want to add something else that can give us more sewing space.  A way to extend the area around the needle is very important to almost every type of sewing I know.  Having the ability to support your project’s fabric so it does not pull or distort as it leaves the needle gives a much more professional look to the finished project.  I have three different types of extensions that I use on my machines.  If you have not used an extension before, I hope this helps you decide if this optional purchase may be just what you need to give your sewing that extra bit of ease, enjoyment and professional appearance.

The three types of extensions available as an aftermarket purchase are the extension table made by the machine company, an extension table made by a third party or a sewing machine cabinet.  Over the years, I happen to have acquired one of each of these (says the “just in case” instead of the “just in time” buyer!), so let’s give you something to think about if you have none.

My Husqvarna Viking Designer Diamond Royale with it’s included accessory tray.
My Pfaff Creative Icon with its included accessory tray.
The Designer Diamond with the accessory tray removed and…
…the Icon with its tray removed.
I use the Icon with an extension table made by Pfaff for this machine.
This extension table gives me approximately 7.5″ more space to the left of the needle and…
…about 12″ more space front to back.
For my Designer Diamond Royale, I have a Sew Steady extension table.
This third party table is ordered and made for your specific machine model. It gives me about 11.25″ more space to the left of the needle and…
…about 17.5″ more space front to back.
Both of these extension tables attach around the free arm of the machine and have adjustable legs that allow you to level the extension table. I find both of them to be very sturdy while sewing. The great thing about these tables is they are able to move with the machine should you need to take your machine out of your sewing space.
My oldest machine has its own cabinet. Not very portable, but a great space for larger projects. If you can get a sewing cabinet with a quilter’s extension for the back….well, now you’re speaking my language!!

Happy Sewing!