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IKEA Sewing Machine

May 27th, 2012 10 comments

May has turned out to be a heavy-duty travel month Chez Noile. Some was planned, some not, and some is not yet finished.  Whew!  I’m just surfacing for a moment because of an unexpected discovery; otherwise, it will be the second week in June before I’m back to posting again.

We’ve been hearing for a long time that IKEA was going to offer a sewing machine in the USA, and a machine has finally arrived.  The website says that it will only be around as long as supplies last — that’s kind of how IKEA works — but this cute little device is now in stock for only $59 (USD).

No one who shops at IKEA is likely to believe this is a precision machine, but there might be some valid uses for it, including teaching kids to sew, or as a basic travel machine, for example.   A blogger called icatbag has a rather thorough review; scroll down, as the first part of the post has to do with what IKEA does to our brains when we walk in the door.

The machine is called Sy — actually, all IKEA’s sewing notions are called Sy, so that’s perhaps no surprise. Patient searching on the Internet will reveal a number of other comments by happy users; again, this is not a precision machine, but within its limits, it seems to be a perfectly adequate machine.

I’ve seen one in person, and can report that it seems surprisingly solid.  The reverse lever is a perfect size for use by children, and has a positive spring return.  (Adults will find it quite satisfactory, too.)  Removing the sliding accessory box reveals a free-arm bed (pretty cool, no?), though removing the box requires some dexterity, and, as icatbag notes, you’ll need to keep the accessories in the plastic bag they came in, since otherwise they will spill when the box is removed.

In a departure from IKEA tradition, the manual is written — yes, words and pictures!  Even more surprisingly, it seems to be quite complete, so operating this little machine shouldn’t prove at all mysterious.

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Rolled Hem Foot

May 3rd, 2012 14 comments

To hem my cycling vest, I used a rolled hem foot for the first time.  I used to love the  Kleibacker finish, which involved running a line of stitching incredibly close to the edge of filmy fabric, trimming it, and turning it again. That method makes a very light, beautiful hem.

But I have several damaged fingers, and can’t do things like that anymore.  Of course my rolling hem foot doesn’t do produce exactly the same result as the Kleibacker method, but it is a great take on it, and the foot is extremely easy to use.  You just guide the fabric into the front of the foot  (practice first — I did!), and it does the rest.

You’ll need to keep the tension fairly even on the fabric in front of the foot, and in back, but that’s easy enough to do, with just a light touch at the back.  Do hold onto the threads when you begin, and pull gently backward as you begin to stitch.  The result is very nice::

Corners are tricky, and they may not be perfect unless you practice a lot.  I did the long edges of the ties on my vest first, cut the threads, and then did the short ends.  It’s trickier feeding the hemmed edges through the foot; I had some trouble, and one of my ties has a fairly messy corner as a result.  I just kept reminding myself that it’s a utility vest, but for my next project, I’ll probably demand better results.

The foot here is a 2mm foot; it’s strictly for the thinnest fabric; this very light poly knit, or a chiffon, silk, or things of that ilk.  They’re available in various sizes — I have a 3mm that I haven’t used yet, for example, and it looks as if it can handle a slightly thicker fabric, and will make a slightly wider hem.

Related:  Sailor Cycling

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BurdaStyle Personal Measurement Card

April 22nd, 2012 5 comments

Burda offers a print-your-own Personal Measurement Card on their website. (That’s a direct link to the .pdf, which is hard to find on their website. Clicking will invite a download of the .pdf file.)

I’ve printed it out on cardstock, and keep it handy when I can’t quite remember all the picky little measurements that are essential when sewing.  It’s also useful if you are pattern shopping far from home, and considering an independent pattern purchase.  There’s space for measurements in both inches and centimeters; I write out both, which saves a lot of conversion grief.

I cut the two cards out, fill in the data, and then laminate them together.  (Burda measures the body in slightly different ways than I am used to.)  Sturdy is better in my sewing room, and a stiff card is a lot harder to lose in piles of scraps than a sheet of paper, or cardstock alone.

Never once, in my entire life, have I remembered my sleeve length; I love having that information at my fingertips, so to speak.

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Replacement Rods for “My Double” Dress Form

April 19th, 2012 7 comments

A commenter left a tip for me, so I was able to buy an incomplete set of fitting rods for Miss Bedelia (thanks, Janice!).  Once I saw them I was able to figure out how to make replacement rods of my own.  The original rods are in two pieces, and slide to adjust.

There’s a little button that fits into a slot, once the right size is reached.  Inside each end is a brass-colored tab of soft metal (likely brass, in fact) that secures each rod end onto part of the dress form.  You can probably just make it out in the image above.  (I forgot to take a picture of the rods before I used them.)

I made mine of 3/8th of an inch wooden dowels, large brass fasteners from an office supply store, and tape.  (I used the cable ties to hold the top of the frame to the shoulder rod.)  After fitting the dress form to my body, I ran the dowels through the areas where the supporting rods belonged, per the instruction booklet.  I then cut each dowel just short of that length, and capped one end with a brass fastener.

Keeping the “legs” of the fastener along the dowel, I taped just under the fastener’s cap, attaching it to the dowel.  I used two pieces of tape, for extra security, and then ran the dowel through the dummy.  (Most rods must go through an eye bolt; the dowel is small enough to do that, but the brass fasteners are not.)

Then I attached another fastener to the other end of the rod, pushed it back into place, folded the ends of the fastener up, and wrapped them around the My Double shell.  Voilà!

Replacement rods for the My Double forms are hard to find, and, typically, expensive.  Rods are essential, though, and keep the dress form surprisingly stable.

Do remember to move or turn your dress form using the long vertical center rod — turn it by reaching into the neck — because the mesh will deform in unsupported areas if you aren’t careful.

My rods came in this charming box.  (It’s rubber-stamped with the name of the person who did the quality inspection — back in the days when people, not numbers, checked things over before they were sold.)  I’m happy to have it, but I’m even happier that I won’t be paying a fortune for the rest of the rods I wanted.

Total cost for my supplies?  Less than seven dollars, including the brand new roll of tape.

Related:

“My Double” Instruction Booklet

Miss Bedelia: My New Dress Form

A Tale of Two Dummies

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A Tale of Two Dummies

April 17th, 2012 6 comments

Now that I am finally the size I was meant to be (and was, for what were previously the healthiest years of my adult life), I thought it would be interesting to compare my “dummies”.  I haven’t been the same size as my Duct Tape Dummy for a long time, but it was still a shock to see the difference between the two:

Miss Bedelia, the My Double dress form, is set at my actual height.  My unnamed Duct Tape Dummy is higher, but it’s still possible to compare the shapes.  You can see that they are essentially the same; the DTD is just, well, thickened everywhere.

There are only ten to twelve  pounds difference between those two dummies, but on someone as relatively small as I am, that’s a big difference.  It’s probably closer to an extra 20 or 30 pounds on someone with a larger frame and larger bones than I have.  Here’s the back view:

When I was a young girl, I took one semester of classes at a very good dancer’s school in San Francisco.  (Childhood wasn’t so competitive then; they’d let anyone in.)  All I remember from that course was my report card, in which the instructor had written something like “Noile must learn to pull in her derrière”.

I had to laugh when I saw these dummies side by side — it’s not so obvious in the well-padded DTD, but, oh, yes, there is that derrière!  Though my upper body posture has improved in the last few years, I’ve clearly still got some work to do when it comes to tucking in that backside:

Can we say “swayback”??  Yikes!

Fitting the My Double dummy took two of us; it’s virtually impossible to do it alone.  (We’ve done it twice, now.)  Mr. Noile pinched, pushed, and pulled very patiently, and then we unsnapped it and sprung me from the carapace.

Mr. Noile was impressed when we were done:  “The amazing thing”, he said, “is that it looks just like you!”.  He’s right; it really does.  Or rather, it would if I were made of wire mesh.

When I reassembled Miss Bedelia on her stand, I checked the waist against my own measurement, and quickly realized that she was about two inches larger all around than my own body.

That made sense.  You can’t really press the wire sufficiently into skin in order to replicate a body perfectly.  However, you can get the basic shape, so all I did was evenly pinch out the extra inches where shaping was not an issue (mostly, that is, in the sides).   I checked every measurement carefully against my own as I worked, and soon Miss Bedelia was ready to go.

Related:

“My Double” Instruction Booklet

Miss Bedelia: My New Dress Form

Replacement Rods for “My Double” Dress Form

(Yes, the weight loss was deliberate, and very slow, over many months. I decided that I didn’t want to age with the burden of additional weight damaging my joints, affecting my coordination, and limiting my ability to be active and flexible.

Yes, it’s a pain.  Yes, it requires constant attention, and a complete review of what “portion size” means to those of us who live in the abundant USA.  But it is worth it.  It’s also worth doing it very slowly.  Unless you change habits, no “diet” will prevent weight from returning.

No “diet” here, by the way.  Just eating reasonably healthy food, recording everything I ate — accountability makes a huge difference — and  controlling portion sizes without fail.  I used the budget plan — so many calories a day to “spend”, and nothing eaten after that total was reached — three meals and a small snack, and no eating after 7 PM.  If I stayed up too late and wanted a snack, I reminded myself that I’d have another chance to “spend” calories tomorrow.  This is the lifetime plan, not the get-skinny-for-the-next-event plan.

The trick was finding out what worked best for me, long-term, not trying to adapt to someone else’s idea of what you might find satisfying.  The difficult part for me was identifying which tastes I love; I had a hard time, at first, learning what I enjoyed tasting, since I used to eat without paying much attention.  Then I gradually began slipping these new, enjoyable, flavors into my diet, and training myself to notice and enjoy them.

Oh, also critical for me:  identifying non-food rewards.  If over-eating is how you get through the day, it makes a big difference if you replace detrimental choices with other interests or diversions. Just eliminating bad food choices usually isn’t enough, long-term, for people like me who, for instance, tend to think of sugar as the food of the deities.  It’s really important to replace bad choices with good ones; just trying to eliminate the bad choices/habits usually doesn’t work too well for humans.

By the way, a fascinating book about related issues is “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.  It’s a great read for anyone who wonders why habits are so hard to break.  However, I think the oft-mentioned Target anecdote — it’s about a teen pregnancy — is probably apocryphal.   Just my opinion.)

Categories: Fun, Tips, Tools Tags:

Jezebel Dress Form, Part 2

June 1st, 2011 Comments off

It’s up:  The Jezebel dressmaker dummy tutorial, part 2.

Love these articles!  Once I get a weekend to myself (and *cough, cough* Mr. Noile gets some free time), I’m going for it.

I love the shoulders, by the way.  They’re going to cause some problems when constructing garments (that’s why über-expensive Wolf makes “collapsible” forms), but I’ve minded much more having ill-defined shoulders on my current dummy.

Related:  Did you Say “Jezebel”?

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Did You Say “Jezebel”?

May 21st, 2011 2 comments

Well, yeah, I did.  The Internet’s a strange place.

Still AWOL over here, I’m afraid.  Various projects have left our house a disaster (and will continue to do so for another couple of weeks), and I’ve spent a week in New York City in the meantime (can you blame me??).  But I’m back just for this post because the website Jezebel (weirdly!) has what looks like a great tutorial on making a dress form.

Today’s post is only part one, with part two promised for next week.  Except for the time involved, this looks surprisingly “doable”, and should result in a dummy that replicates your shape better than anything you could reasonably buy (or make via other methods), and with what I hope is a sturdy foam core.  I’m seriously tempted to try it, just as soon as I have fifteen hours to myself.  Oh, and a house again.

Related:  Jezebel Dress Form, Part 2

Categories: DIY, Tools Tags:

Tinted Bobbins

February 2nd, 2011 2 comments

I found these at a fabric store I was in recently:

They’re tinted bobbins for my Pfaff.  At first glance, I thought they were a dumb idea, but then I remembered how many times I’ve reached for a bobbin filled with topstitching thread when I really wanted standard weight.  I’m using these now, and I really like catching the error before I get the bobbin into the machine.  It’s not a critical time-and-frustration saver, but it’s still pretty nice!

I’m not sewing much with silk or rayon thread these days, but having a second (or third) bobbin color would be useful for “tagging” those threads, too.

Pfaff also makes them in yellow.  Beware, though, that they come in at least two sizes, so make sure that you get the ones that are right for your machine.  Here’s the UPC code for mine, which is an older machine, a 27-year-old Pfaff  Synchrotronic 1229:

If you’re looking for them, this might come in handy, as there’s no useful name on the package.   Maybe somebody at Pfaff has been spending too much time at IKEA lately.

Categories: Tools 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: