Archive for the ‘Machines’ Category

Addi Express Circular Loom

January 14th, 2022 No comments

Years ago, Mr. Noile and I saw a demonstration of a vintage circular sock loom at a crafts exhibit, and we kind of fell in love with the idea of using an ancient device to make something at once so practical and so luxurious.

We soon learned that sock looms — the metal, ancient, venerable kind — are pricey, and that they can be a tricky item for a novice to buy. And that vendors tend to have lengthy waiting lists for the few that become available. So we let the idea simmer. Until now, when I wanted something new to learn to wrap up the year.

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Categories: 2021, Addi Express, Machines Tags:

Presser Foot Storage

January 16th, 2011 3 comments

My Pfaff 1229 has storage for the five most commonly used presser feet on the top of the machine, but over the years I’ve acquired quite a few more of these handy accessories.  I store them in a double-sided box meant for fishing tackle:

I’ve tucked the labels for each foot into the corresponding slot, or provided labels for those that came without.  I might go a few years without using a specific foot; this ensures that I’ll have a clue what I’ve got when I go hunting for the right foot for a rare task.

There’s a loop in the end of this particular box, which makes it perfect for hanging up behind my machine:

That hook solves one of the banes of sewing — not being able to find the tool you want when you most need it.  I find, too, that I’m more likely to use my “library” of presser feet if they’re handy; that’s made my sewing easier and more efficient.  And more fun, too!

By the way, if you own (or acquire) a wonderful Pfaff 1229, presser feet and accessories marked “D” are the ones that fit your machine.  I’d suspected this for years, but many of my feet also fit other machines, so I wrote to Pfaff customer service recently, and they confirmed my suspicion.  Although my Pfaff is 25 years old, a surprising number of these accessory feet are still available, as they’re also compatible with much newer machines.

Categories: Machines, Organization, Presser Feet, Tools Tags:

Felting, Of A Kind

January 9th, 2011 8 comments

This presser foot is called a “couching/braiding foot”.  It’s one I haven’t used before:

It’s got a loop in the front through which to feed braid (or thick yarn), and a groove in the back so that the braid/yarn can be grabbed with the walking foot and feed straight through.

I want to do a subtle embellishment on an upcoming garment, so I played around with this foot a bit, using a variegated bouclé  yarn applied to plain, solid gray, plastic-bottle felt.  The results surprised me:

It looks like needle felting, doesn’t it?  And, wow, does it make that horrible, plasticy, felt look good!  And, oh boy, is this presser foot  fun to use!

For better or worse, I won’t be applying the bouclé to felt of any kind for my next project, so I’ve still got some experimentation to do on other fabrics.  This is a very encouraging preliminary result, though.

My Pfaff 1229 doesn’t have much in the way of what anyone would call truly decorative stitches, so I wondered if I’d find one that worked for this type of thing.  I ended up using stitch 24:

I was mostly concerned that the stitches would be too obvious, and overwhelm the yarn.  I hadn’t counted on the felting effect.  This presser foot is going to be a great tool for the upcoming project, and for a bunch I can imagine in the future, too.

NoteI forgot to engage the walking foot when I took the first photo — it would normally be “standing” on the yarn directly behind the presser foot.

Categories: Machines, 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:

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:


November 28th, 2010 2 comments

It’s official:  My 25 (or so)-year-old White Super Lock 523 serger is dead, in spite of a valiant attempt at resurrection by a diligent craftsman, and two decades of faithful service.  I may buy a Juki MO 654 DE in a few years, but right now I went for another model that’s just as basic as my White was:  A Baby Lock BL 450A  — which has been newly re-named “Lauren” by Baby Lock.

Here’s the printing on the box.  Is it really necessary to have so many names for one product?  It’s not just a Baby Lock, it’s a Baby Lock BL450A, and not just a Baby Lock BL450A, it’s a Baby Lock BL450A A-Line, and it’s not just a Baby Lock BL450A A-Line, it’s a Baby Lock BL450A A-Line named “Lauren”.  Are we confused enough yet?  This doesn’t making finding reviews, or identifying models, very easy for a poor woebegone consumer.

So far, I’ve only set it up and given it a very brief trial run.  Threading is almost identical to my White, and, although everyone seems to complain about threading sergers, it’s really never been much of a problem for me.  As is usually the case, this one shipped with threads in place, so I just grabbed each thread, attached the thread from my own spools, and patiently pulled the strands through.  (Always do the needle/s last!)  Tying the threads together works a treat, and I was ready to go instantly.

So far, the Baby Lock seems to function identically to the White, except that it’s a 2/3/4 thread instead of just a 2/3.  The 4-thread seam was a big surprise — it’s snug and perfect on knits, with just the right amount of elasticity.  It should be perfect for my turtlenecks now, and for knit tops and dresses in the spring.

It does have one feature my White didn’t have (and one that I’m thrilled about):  A slot on the presser foot through which to feed stabilizing tape, or ribbon.  Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah!  I’m going to like that; it should make stabilizing the shoulders on my favorite turtleneck a cinch.

The only thing I don’t like so far?  The lever used to lift the foot is the cheapest, flimsiest piece of plastic imaginable:

Worse, it isn’t even firmly anchored; it just flops in place.  (It appears to be intentionally designed that way.  Phew.)  I’m sure it will serve just fine, but that’s one place where a quality piece of metal would have enhanced my user experience — hundreds of times a month.  I’m a bit annoyed about that; it seems like an unnecessary bit of cheapness.

I think the accessory box is made of the same plastic, only much thinner and, incredibly, flimsier. At least this matters a lot less than the lever.  The box looks and feels as if it will bio-degrade on my sewing table within the week, which also means that it’s nearly impossible to close effectively, since it buckles when touched.  Wonder why it came with a rubber band around it?  I expect I’ll have to work out some other way to store the accessories, or risk having my aesthetics offended on a daily basis.  Not to mention regularly enduring the suspense of wondering if the box will evaporate one day before my very eyes.

But those are minor quibbles.  Will I regret not going for the Juki?  I made a similar gamble two decades ago, and won it handily when I bought my White, which, though a bare-bones model and inexpensive, gave me more than my money’s worth.  My serger needs are still very much the same, and are still so basic, that it’s quite possible that I’ll be as fortunate with this new machine.  The isn’t the kind of gamble I usually take with tools and equipment, and only time will tell, but so far, so good.

I miss my pretty little blue White, though.  And I hate the “Lauren” logo:  It’s half of a wench (waist to toes) in a skirt and high heels.  Right.  How completely characterless, banal and kind of retro-loathsome, not in a good way.  Not to mention that not all male sewers have an identical cousin like Peter’s Cathy.  Those who don’t are probably going to love this logo just as much as I do.  I’m so not impressed!

Note: A 35-minute DVD came with the machine.  It’s from 1997, and is described by the presenter as a “tape”.  It’s ever-so-fuzzy, but it is an excellent as an introduction to using the serger. Now that was impressive!

Categories: Machines Tags:


November 23rd, 2010 3 comments

I’ve got the pockets done on my ABdPM jacket; the body assembled; the sleeves attached.  (Yeah, I’m a little behind on posts.)   I’m merrily serging along, finishing the armholes, getting them trimmed neatly and finished.

And then, this:

Well, it wasn’t just this.  First the needle broke.  Have I before broken a needle in my serger?  I don’t think so, but swapping it out for a new one was easy, until I realized what had happened:  That cute bird’s eye above?  It’s supposed to be behind the arm it’s in front of.  Instead, it’s at a crazy angle, and blocking all the nifty little arms and gadgets that make my serger, well, a serger.

I’m hoping that the stem the bird’s eye is on is attached by a screw that has simply slipped, either through age or from the effort of pushing through the humongous number of  fabric layers in my jacket.  My serger isn’t a particularly fancy one, nor was it particularly expensive, but it has been a good friend forever, and more than adequate for my needs.  We work together well, and I don’t want a new one.

Tomorrow morning, ASAP, I’m running it down to the fellow who may be able to fix it.  I’m really, really hoping he can give me the prognosis before the holiday starts; Monday seems a long, long time away.

I’ll be picking up some heavy-duty  needles for my Pfaff.  The jacket is so close to being finished; a little zig-zagging will do, if it has to.  I hope.

Categories: Machines Tags:

Pfaff 1229 Repair Update

October 13th, 2009 No comments

This post is actually an old one.  A recent comment from a reader reminded me that I had left a bunch of stuff dangling.  (Life does interfere with blogging now and then.)  There are quite a few posts in my drafts folder that never saw the light of day.  I’ll be going back and posting them as I get the chance.  In the meantime, here’s the follow up on my poor, broken Pfaff.   This one’s from July, 2008:

Mr. Noile and I have been traveling, theoretically on vacation. While Mr. Noile has been spending his time doing academic research, I’ve been having various sewing adventures, most, if not all, of which will be revealed in time. The best one, though, came about as the result of an accidental phone call when I was looking for a replacement check spring for my Pfaff 1229.  My machine and I ended up at Smith-Owen in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

so-ext-400The technician I spoke to wasn’t satisfied just to give me what I said I wanted. Instead, he asked me to tell him exactly what was going on with my machine.  I mentioned that our travels would take us to northern Michigan, and he suggested that I drop the machine off — saying that he was pretty sure that he could have it fixed by the time we left the state.

So, on the way to Traverse City from Ann Arbor, we detoured to Grand Rapids and left my well-loved machine with Brian. He called us in northern Michigan days — that’s right DAYS! — later to report that all was well, and that I could pick it up.

I’d left samples of my stitching disasters with him, along with a piece of the most troublesome fabric. He returned a swatch with perfect stitching on it, along with another test piece that demonstrated that all was well with my baby once again. And my self-diagnosis? Not quite right — somehow the throw of the zig zag wasn’t quite traveling the way it should, and that was the source of the problem.

No more — my wonderful 1229 is purring along as if it were brand new. The bill? Just under $80 for a new life and a tune-up. I was so thrilled and relieved that I bought every single accessory foot Smith-Owen sold for my machine. (More on that later.) And two copies of a wonderful, inspiration reference/tutorial (ditto).

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