Archive for December, 2010

Presser Feet From Budapest

December 30th, 2010 No comments

Ah, Budapest, I love you!  Along with a slew of old Burdas, look at what else I found:

Three new feet for my Pfaff 1229!

This one is a “Knit Edge/Piping/Beading Foot”.  According to my Pfaff accessory catalog, “[t]he Knit edge Foot has sides of different heights, making it simple to sew thick seams on knits and fur”.  The groove in the bottom also makes it possible to attach bead strands and piping.

This one is a 3 mm rolled hem foot.  “[Y]ou can hem light to medium weight fabrics for clothing and home decorating items without having to pre-iron the fabric edges”.

And this one is a 4,5 mm felling foot.  “Flat-felled seams are extremely durable and popular as the typical jeans seams.”  This one is for lightweight fabrics; I’ll need the 6,5 size if I want to sew denim or heavier fabrics.

My Pfaff 1229 takes accessories marked “D”; I was lucky to find a mechanic at the shop in Budapest who knew what I wanted, especially since I don’t speak Hungarian and he didn’t speak English!  I found a machine on the back wall with my shank, and gestured to explain the rest.  It worked out beautifully — there’s a lot to be said for good will and the kindness of strangers!

My Pfaff Accessory Catalogue, gift of another kind (stateside) mechanic, is a treasure-trove not only because it lists the various feet, but because it also includes instructions for using them.  Snap it up if you find one!

Categories: Adventure/Travel, Presser Feet, Tools Tags:

Dear Baby Lock . . .

December 29th, 2010 5 comments

.  .  .  please forgive me.  I have slandered you wrongly.  Or maybe I’ve libeled you.  In any case, I was wrong, dreadfully wrong.  Sigh.

Categories: Machines, Tips, Tools Tags:

Serger Stuff Storage

December 28th, 2010 2 comments

The arrival of my new serger has occasioned a few changes around here:  I’ve been motivated to get a bit better organized, at least as far as my new machine and its ancillary bits are concerned.

I’ve previously ranted about the poor quality of the tool storage case that came with the serger (plastic like cardboard!  and it won’t stay shut without a rubberband!):

I’ve replaced it with a plastic box meant for photo storage:

This won’t last forever, either, as it doesn’t have real hinges, but no matter, it will serve for a long time, and probably be easily replaced when the need arises.  It was under two dollars in the junk craft section at JoAnn’s;  it’s meant for 4×6 photos, and is transparent, flat and slim, making it easy to keep handy, as well as to view everything inside.

PS – Don’t EVER store your photos in plastic boxes!  Worst idea ever! But I digress.

Carrying on with the photo theme, though, I store my serger project cards in 4×6 photo sleeves so that I can see them easily:

These, in turn, are stored in a three-ring binder with an elastic closure, so that nothing pops out unexpectedly:

The serger manuals are in the back of the binder

and so is the instruction disc that came with it

I added plastic dividers for the various sections; they give some needed support to the floppy pages.

Last on my list was thread storage.  I’ve been keeping my serger cones in the bottom drawer of my rolling storage bin, which has always been a bad idea.  It’s open, so conditions are a bit dusty (or fuzzy) at times in those drawers, particularly those closest to the floor.

JoAnn’s sells a plastic box specifically for storing over-sized serger thread cones.   Lucky for me someone had torn the cellophane off one of these, so I trotted over to the serger thread bins to try it out before buying. This turned out to be a very good thing.

Not one of the serger cones sold by JoAnn’s fit into the specialty storage box.  Not one! Could anything better illustrate the JoAnn attitude toward its sewing customers?  I’m so glad I didn’t haul that “custom” box home; I hope the clerk who was spared the horror of running it (and me) through the returns process is grateful, too.

This box was just right and half the price as well as being sturdier and possessed of a better, locking, lid and handle.  Of course it wasn’t designed for cone storage.

I can live with that.  It’s perfect!  As well as dust (and fuzz) free.

Categories: Machines, Tips, Tools Tags:

Felt Gift Bags

December 25th, 2010 14 comments

Just in time for Boxing Day — that is, if you’re doing nothing else today — are these felt bags, shamelessly copied from ones Starbucks sells every December.  (Or, at least, for the last few.)

The Starbucks bags are much smaller, made out of much denser felt, and have a slightly elasticized ribbon as the closure.  Apparently, it pays to have a factory at your disposal in China.  (The Starbucks bag, which I bought, sells for only $4.00, so I’m guessing they’re not made by union labor in Seattle.)  I had to make do with plastic bottle felt and OTC ribbons.

The overall design has a nice retro feeling, and the contrast is so much fun:

Fortunately, plastic bottle felt comes in a huge number of bright colors (that’s about all it has going for it!), and is very, very inexpensive (and 60 inches wide).  Each of these bags cost well under two dollars to make, and are a lot less offensive to the eye than the horrible (and pricey) paper holiday gift bags that are ubiquitous this time of year.

Here’s the pattern (yeah, I use the fancy “freezer paper” method):

Drafting this is incredibly easy:  Decide what size you want, draw the front, add quarter-inch seams, then draw the base to fit, and finally, the triangle for the sides.

Stitching is likewise fast and easy; I used the side panel color for thread, and made sure to stitch with the contrast color up so that the stitching line was as even as possible where it was going to be most obvious.

I made myself a little scheme so that I’d remember what buttons I’d planned to pair with what bags:

Do note that there are some more somber combinations here, including a rusty burgundy paired with black, and a dark green paired similarly.  Something for everyone!

These bags were a little too floppy, so next time I’ll double the fabric for the fronts and sides, and stitch around the tops and the handle openings for additional support.  Made more sturdily, these might get re-used, a thought that makes me happy!  Regardless, they’re a quick, simple, and very rewarding little project.

Categories: Bags, Fun Tags:

How To Find Your Bag Anywhere

December 20th, 2010 No comments

When we travel, Mr. Noile and I are not big fans of shopping, unless we’re buying books or food, both of which we like to bring home from elsewhere.  So it goes without saying that we aren’t in the habit of picking up souvenirs as we flit around the planet.  We do, however, find ourselves regularly acquiring the colorful embroidered patches that abound wherever tourists or travelers of any kind congregate.

I’ve always wondered what to do with them, and now I know.  I have a suitcase that came with a protective sleeve, and I’ve begun to sew said patches onto the cover:

I’d never desecrate my car like this, but somehow it seems OK to do this with my suitcase.  And, let’s face it, I’ll always be able to find my black bag in a sea of them, won’t I?  Not to mention the memories, the lovely memories .  .  .

This one is my personal emblem, which evokes, for me, the lovely ruined baths of Budapest, to which I hope to return as often as possible:

It’s decorating the identification flap.  Without it, I’d never remember where my ID is on the cover.

This badge, and a slew of others I have handy, is from a company called Demeritwear, which sells a whole line of somewhat wacky embroidered badges of impeccable quality.  If you want that little bit of je ne sais quois added to just about anything to which you can put a stitch, Demeritwear is your “go-to” place.  At the least, a visit to the site will make you grin.

We first did this on little Noilette’s toddler backpack, which was a great hit with her; kind of a portable scrapbook.  There wasn’t much chance of leaving it behind anywhere when it was such an important part of her well-traveled life, and so easily identified as hers.

Disclaimer: The usual.  It’s my blog, no one pays me for content or supplies it to me.

RelatedCase Mod

Categories: Adventure/Travel, Tips Tags:


December 18th, 2010 5 comments

I finished a whole slew of my very favorite fall/winter tops just before taking a recent trip.  These are polos (those of us in the USA would probably call them “turtlenecks”)  from BurdaStyle’s 09/2010 issue, pattern number 121:

They’re all made in some variation of JoAnn’s silky polyester/rayon knit, which has the distinction of being the only fabric I’ve bought at JoAnn’s that hasn’t had some unfortunate issue.  (The only issue with these cuts was the careless chopping done by the sales person at the cutting table, but that’s for another day.)  These tops weigh nothing, and roll up so compactly that I could have packed ten of them if I’d wanted to!  The colors are deep and rich, and the fabric’s very nice to wear — perfect for everyday or traveling, all-around.

I used my new serger to add stabilizing tape, about six inches of it, to each shoulder seam.  There’s a slot in the presser foot that perfectly feeds 1/4 inch twill tape under the foot so that it’s sewed automatically into the seam.  This process could not have been easier.  Whoo-hoo!

Summerset Banks  has a fantastic (and illustrated!) explanation of a great finish for this collar, and I used it on each of these shirts.  Check it out if you’re making this pattern; you’ll be glad you did.

Summerset also suggests tagging the back of the shirt, which is good advice, since it’s almost impossible to tell the fronts from backs at first glance.  She uses a little bit of folded ribbon, but I dislike tags, so I just added a short, white, line of zigzag stitches.  I can spot these easily inside the tops.

This assembly line was also a chance to use one of my ancillary presser feet:  Pfaff’s “seam guide foot with IDT”, which  made short work of my hems.  It’s got a small blade-like edge on one side, and seam allowance markings all along the very wide foot:

I wouldn’t call this exactly a necessary accessory, but it really is an incredibly efficient way to keep my hem stitches the same precise distance away from the edges.  When whipping out multiple items as rapidly as possible, this is a great advantage.  If things get too rote, my mind tends to go numb; this is an antidote to forgetting exactly where I should be stitching that hem.

Related: Burda “Polo” #121 09/2010

Categories: Tips, Tops Tags:

What’s Wrong With This Picture? (UPDATE)

December 18th, 2010 6 comments

(Other than the fact that what’s wrong is not too obvious from my less-than perfect photo?)

12/29/10 — UPDATE:  OH, SO MUCH LESS IS WRONG THAN I THOUGHT!!!!  Friends, I have wallowed in ignorance, and I have whined and puled about this screwdriver unfairly.  MEA CULPA!  And, to Baby Lock, my sincere apology.

This screwdriver is NOT supposed to fit into the rear screw on my serger.  The rear screw is a stabilizing device, used solely to hold the plate in place.  When changing the plate, one unscrews only the front screw, and lifts the plate upward without disturbing the rear screw.  Somehow I missed this.

Learn from my mistake — take the free class offered by your sewing store.  And don’t write any blog posts until you have.

This is the screwdriver that came with my Baby Lock Lauren serger.  It’s a little difficult to see here, but you can’t actually fit the supplied screwdriver into the rear screw.  That’s because the screwdriver is too long, and can’t reach the screw without banging into the serger.  (12/29/10 — AND, DUH, IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO REACH THE SCREW!  Sigh.  I’d really rather be infallible, but hey .  .  . )

You can completely forget about fitting the screwdriver blade into the screw; that’s not going to happen — and if you jam it in partway, at an angle, to make it fit, and try to use it like that, you’re risking stripping the screw head, which is not good.

My screwdriver is probably just like the one supplied with your serger, and just about as useful.   Nicely done, Baby Lock; this is truly idiotic.  Is there some law that requires manufacturers to just throw any old screwdriver into accessory kits?  I’m quite sure that Baby Lock is not alone in committing this particular transgression.

Here’s what you need instead. It’s called a “thumb screwdriver”, and it’s perfect for tight spaces just like this:

You can get them at any hardware store, and they aren’t even expensive.  Just really, really useful.  Mine takes drill bits, so I can slap in whatever screwdriver size or type point I want to use.  I’m propping it up for the photo, but, of course, you’d normally hold it between thumb and index finger and just turn it.

This one is  made of metal and has a nicer-than-most gripping surface; it’s a little harder to find than the ones with plastic handles, but a generally better tool.  Worth the search, in my book.

An alternative is the “angle screwdriver” which usually comes with a slot head on one end and a Phillips head on the other:

It’s not quite as easy to use in a space like the one on my serger, but it will work in that kind of small space, and it’s very handy around the house in general, as well as in the sewing room.  Also available everywhere, except, of course, in your mfg-supplied sewing machine accessory box!



Project Records for My Serger

Categories: Machines, Tips, Tools Tags:

Project Records For My Serger

December 10th, 2010 1 comment

I vowed that I’d really get to know my  new serger this go-round, and have been devouring various resources.  Much to my surprise, my low-bump Baby Lock Lauren serger came with an excellent DVD, which I’ve watched, and found very helpful.  But the best resource has been Nancy Zieman‘s Serge with Confidence which has languished, unread, in my library for several years.

In Serge, Zieman suggests using “Serger Reference Cards” to track projects.  She shows commercial cards in the book, but I can’t find them on her site, and have never seen them in a store.  I thought these were a good idea, though, so I whipped up my own, tailored to my specific preferences:  That’s my card in the photo above, hot off the printer.

My word processor  has a template for index cards, three to a standard (US) 8.5 by 11 inch page, so that’s what I used, filling in the fields as I liked, and leaving a space at the bottom for samples of the work in question.  Once they were printed, I cut them with a guillotine-style paper cutter; scissors would have worked, too.

My template wastes paper, but did allow me to avoid creating my own index-card-table-template, which would have been a pain, especially in my somewhat kludgey software.  I might do that later on — in the meantime, let’s just say that I’m not going to be running out of bookmarks in the near future.

I use a Linux computer, which isn’t particularly user-friendly for these kinds of features (but wonderful for the important stuff!).  If you use a more common OS, you might have a more sensible index card layout in your word processor software.  Or not  .  .  . but it might be worth checking to see.

Just for fun, I used font colors corresponding to the colors on the tension dials for the needles and the loopers on my serger in the place on the cards where I’ll record the tension settings.

I printed the cards on cardstock (a heavier weight paper with a very slightly slick surface on one side).  Cardstock is available at any office supply store and makes for a heavier, more durable “index” card.  That might matter if you’re attaching samples to the cards.

To finish them off, I used a “decorative corner punch” to round the corners.  That’s a “fun” thing, too, but also sensible, as squared-off corners are likely to fray and get sloppy over time.  Eliminating them means that I’ll be able to handle these cards without making a mess of them.  I’ve left enough room at the bottom for stitching/fabric samples.  Here’s the first one I used, with sample attached:

Many people find sergers to be overwhelmingly frustrating, and having this kind of tool to refer to is just the ticket to reduce some of that frustration.  I’ve never found my serger to be particularly frustrating, but I have found it a pain to have to re-invent settings for new projects when I can’t remember settings that were second nature say, last year.  Now I’ll have documentation:  Perfect!

If you’re eager to develop the best possible relationship with your own serger, I highly recommend Serge with Confidence.  The projects might not send you — they’re not particularly to my taste — but you’ll be amazed at what you can do with a serger, and Zieman will walk you through every thing you could conceivably need to know about using one.   If you’re thinking about buying a higher-bump serger than I did, you  might want to take a look at  Serge before you shop; it would be a great tool for evaluating your needs and desires before you and your wallet step out.

Categories: Books/Magazines, Machines, Tips, Tools Tags:

ABdPM 20013: C’est Fait!

December 5th, 2010 16 comments

This pattern, my first Au Bonheurs des Petites Mains, was all about experimentation, and it has been a wonderful experience all around.  Not to mention that I love, love, love this jacket!

The lower fastener is drooping a bit; I didn’t catch it when I took the photo.  This is probably due to the fact that the dummy isn’t fully dressed beneath the coat.  It doesn’t seem to do this on me; if it did, of course, it would be an easy matter to tighten up the elastic.

The first part of the experiment was translating the directions from the original French, an effort that was not wholly successful.  Then I changed some things that may or not have been addressed by the instructions (it was hard to tell).

There were all kinds of fun challenges along the way, every one of which was even more interesting because constructing this pattern involved thinking that was so different from my usual methods and approaches.  Now that it’s finished, I’m still not sure exactly how it’s meant to be made!

I think, for example, that  this jacket is meant to have elastic strung through the hem, giving it a slight “bubble” effect.  I didn’t do this; I think this makes my jacket longer than ABdPM’s, a length I prefer.  Skipping this step also gives my jacket an A-line shape, kind of like an abbreviated “swing” jacket, which I like very much.

Choosing the closures was a whole adventure of its own.  In the end, I strung ceramic beads on oval elastic.  Loops on each end go around filigreed metal buttons:

So that I don’t lose them, these fasteners are attached on one side, under the buttons.

The cuffs are caught up by elastic that loops over slightly smaller buttons:

I love the curve of the yoke on the back, and the big, wacky hood:

The hood is wonderfully, insanely, bizarely huge:

It’s kind of Grim Reaper, isn’t it?  But you wouldn’t wear it this way, of course.  To wear it,  you’d turn the front half of the hood back, which works perfectly, and is necessary if you expect to see where you’re going. Amazingly, the back part of the hood fits my head perfectly, and it stays in place very nicely even in a brisk wind.

This is a faux facing that I added so that I’d have a firm anchor for the chain, and a showcase for the ABdPM label:

The vertical line below the facing is the pleat I added to the lining.  It’s sewn closed under the facing, and below the waist to the hem.  Did you note the label?

One comes with every pattern  — it’s a superb finishing touch!

Here’s the comprehensive list of what I changed:

  • did not use contrast for hood and front bands
  • lengthened jacket by about an inch; did not elasticize hem which probably made for another inch or two increase
  • made my own lining pattern; added center pleat for wearing ease; cut back lining all-in-one instead of separate yoke piece
  • made welt pockets instead of using welt-trimming on each pocket edge
  • added loops for hidden security pockets

The elastic closures on this jacket mean that it will always shift a bit in wearing, as you can see here:

This jacket is really easy to wear, and the shifting doesn’t bother me a bit; it’s just part of how “free” this coat feels.  However, it would be simple to add a button or two on the inside, or to replace the elastic cords with, say, flaps and toggles, if that’s what you preferred.  That would make the coat look much more conventional, but it would keep the front in place.

Aside from the closure and the hood, there is one other unusual thing about this jacket. The wide front bands are not at the center of the jacket.  Instead, they overlap each other completely; the seams where the bands join the front of the jacket are actually right at the center front, so there’s a double (really quadruple) layer down the front.  Very nice in cold weather!

Although he likes this coat, Mr. Noile says that the elastic toggle on the top of the hood looks silly.  And it does, when it’s sticking up straight.  You can’t really see that here (or even the toggle itself, but I’m a little burnt out on photos here), but here’s how the hood looks in back when the elastic is drawn up:

It would be easy enough to put the toggle at the other end of the elastic, near the curve of the hood if you preferred.  I don’t mind it all at all — it is covered by the fold when the hood is up, and is unobtrusive when the hood’s down.

The pattern itself is well-drafted, although there was a minor issue at the front center neck, easily seen and resolved before cutting.  I didn’t care for the “use the exterior pattern pieces for the lining” instructions, so I made my own lining pattern, which was easy enough to do.

Then there’s this curious anomaly:  ABdPM calls for a contrast fabric for the hood/bands.  I skipped this, because if I’d used their pattern piece, the outside of the hood would have been in this contrast fabric.  But look at the ABdPM photograph:

You can hardly see it, but under that top fastener is a seam.  A seam that would have allowed using the contrast as a simple lining for the front band only, not for a one-piece band-and-hood.  Hmmmm.  Looks as if a little something got left on the drawing board.  It would be easy enough to alter the pattern to allow this small change, and much nicer than having the contrast as the exterior of the hood.  I can’t find any reference to this seam in the printed pattern, but that could be a language issue.

I had two minor problems while making this:  One was inserting the elastic into the hood, which was due, at least in part, to the thickness of my fabric, but might have been easier if I’d fully understood the French directions.

The second had to do with the hood/front band pieces:  When I lengthened the body of the jacket, I lengthened the band as well, but something went wrong, and the band ended up an inch shorter than the body. Here’s the bottom of the bands, with the lower edges of the fronts lined up.  (The band’s the fuzzy part.):

I could have fixed this by simply shortening the jacket, but, as it is, I’d probably make the next one two inches longer than this one.  It would be more flattering, for example, if the hem didn’t hit right at the widest part of my hips, so shortening was not an option.  Instead, I just left it as it was.  I don’t think it materially harms the appearance of the jacket, and I would have been very unhappy with it shorter.  Was the problem with my math?  Was it because the body was supposed to have a wider elastic casing?  Or is it an ABdPM error?  I think my math was fine (it was easy math, after all!), but I’m not sure what happened here.

Bottom line:  An experienced sewer will have no trouble with this pattern, but may have to work a little harder than usual to get through the project (unless fluent in sewing French).  But it’s so worth it:  As Mr. Noile said “It really looks French!”.  I think so, too.

You won’t see another one of these on the streets of New York — unless someone reading this gets cracking!  And please do — I could see this jacket made so many different ways.  In cotton twill, for example, and unlined.  In two shades of light linen, or a coordinating print and solid in a light linen.  What about pinwale corduroy?  Or canvas?  Or in solid wools, say fuchsia and a purple for the contrast version that I didn’t make?  Oooh-la-la!



ABdPM 20013:  Fit and Interlining

ABdPM 20013:  The Hood

ABdPM 20013:  Miscellaneous Report

ABdPM 20013:  The Lining

Categories: ABdPM, Jackets Tags: