Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

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.

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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:

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:

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:

DIY Serger Trolley

November 25th, 2010 No comments

.  .  . courtesy of IKEA:

It’s their inexpensive, lightweight dolly; handy for everything, and just right for this job, too.   Cheaper and more versatile than the purpose-built carts.  Bungee cords recommended.  I couldn’t find mine, but I didn’t really  need them for this run.

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