Friday, June 28, 2013

Lots of sewing, very little blogging and some summer fun

Three weeks since I wrote about my new sewing machine and then disappeared. No, I have not locked myself in for a long session with my new treasure. But more on that to follow. After all, it is early summer here in northern California, time to get outside and enjoy everything the climate offers. Last weekend was a mini-vacation in the wine country, and a reunion with far flung friends. The occasion was a birthday celebration held at a winery in Calistoga that is a recreation of a Tuscan castle. A slightly Disney-esque spot but a very fun and wine-soaked day both preceded and followed by more fabulous food and wine. Poor me, right?

I realized as I was packing my little weekend bag that the clothes I was pulling out of the closed were all knits. I wore this rayon jersey knit dress which is Vogue 1191, one of my favorite patterns. Here is the link to the original post on this Michael Kors pattern.

Beth outside castle
This has become my go-to item for summer, casual or dressy, it rolls up nicely in my bag, doesn't wrinkle and that twisty draping in the front is perfect when overindulging in yummy things. I keep thinking about making this pattern again but there are so many other things in my queue so I haven't yet. 
In sewing news, I have been super busy with custom work and sewing students so not a lot sewn for myself. Which is probably just as well since I have a wide array of summer stuff already hanging in my closet.  
The new sewing machine is turning out to be quite a treat. That little thread cutting feature is worth the price of admission. OK a bit of an exaggeration but it really does make sewing faster. I am suprised to find that I rapidly adapted to adjusting the stitch length and other features on the digital display and have even used the overcasting feature instead of changing the thread on my serger. All in all I am quite happy with it, but I will never stop using my old Singers. For one thing the buttonholes on the vintage machines are still superior and I like the old style adjustable zipper foot so much better than the type that is on the newer machines where you can't adjust the precise spot of the stitching.  
In process is this Vogue 1353 in a royal blue stretch cotton poplin. Not appearing entirely successful so far, probably due to fabric choice but I will tell all in a forthcoming post. After this dress is finished I have a stack of knits ready to go, for tops and dresses so maybe I will have a new go-to item in the bunch.

                                             Voguepatterns V1353
This weekend we are expecting temperatures way over 100 degrees F, so I plan a little bit of sewing, some lazing by/in the pool with a good book and snacking on my garden tomatoes which are quickly ripening in this heat. I just realized I closed my previous post with the same weather report - it has been perfectly lovely in the intervening weeks so this latest heat wave is just par for the course around here. So many flowers are blooming now including all the gardenias which put out a heavenly scent, you will just have to use your imagination.

happy weekend sewing, stay cool!  

Gardenia 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A new aquisition

It is taking all my will power not to start this post with the phrase "they don't make them like they used to".  Look what I did there, snuck it in anyway.  What does this refer to?

new quantum

My new acquisition. Which is here on approval, at least in my mind. A few weeks ago I had an incident with my very well-loved buttonhole making attachment. After that a little voice in the back of my mind was whispering about a new machine with the built in buttonhole feature.  After some research I ordered this Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 from Costco and few days later here it is. 
I have been playing around with it for 3 days and tonight I made a top from start to finish which came out fine. For the first hour I really did not like the machine at all and was sure that after a week of fooling around with it I would be standing in the return line at Costco to get my refund. I think with anything I buy these days I kind of dislike it on principal and then slowly get accustomed. 
Maybe the reason I dislike new equipment is that I am the person that reads the manual, a study-er of the printed material, a consumer of instruction booklets. From the Cuisinart to the new printer to the Iphone to the assemble-it-yourself stuff from Ikea, I like to open the box, take out the instructions, examine all the pieces and go through the process of setting up or connecting or whatever else is indicated. Totally nerdy, huh?  As compared to family and friends who mostly fall into the "just open it and plug it in, lets see how it works" camp. 
Oh well, for my new sewing machine I could do it my way, and to my surprise after a few days, I think I like it. It may be a keeper. Except for one nagging little problem which I will get to. But I have to say the manual is not very useful. Really skimpy on the explanation of how to use all the myriad features. 
Let's remember that I have been sewing on this machine since I was 8 years old. This very one! In fact I have 2 of them, one inherited from my grandmother and one which used to live at my mom's house but she never used. Plus I have my Singer 503 which I brought back from Hawaii.

Singer 404
Look at that baby...that soothing coffee and cream color, the warm golden glow of the lamp, the nice open deck, the incredible punching power, the easy maintenance.  It is not going anywhere!

All that Singer love was not the reason I chose the new one, it just happened to be a great deal, had all the features and was at Costco (for you overseas readers - a warehouse store with great deals, lots of gigantic bulk packages, and the most amazing return policy ever).

But my lifelong habituation to a straight stitch only machine may explain why I am starting to bond with this new machine. Please don't laugh are some of the gee whiz features that I am having fun with.
  • it cuts the threads
  • push buttons for backstitching
  • slow stitch mode
  • needle up/down button
  • did I mention it cuts the threads !!!
Ok, so as I said these are not exactly new developments in sewing machine technology but they are new to me.  Not to mention all those stitches at the push of a button. So far it is actually quite easy to use, although stitch length of 3.5 lingo is not computing in my brain yet, as someone who thinks in 8-12 stitches per inch.  Can someone translate for me?
There are some things I don't like, the light is kind of glaring, the presser foot is clunky and the 5/8" marking, which I actually use is not easy to see. Also the whole thing feels so plastic-y, which I guess is to be expected.  

Recall I mentioned one teensy problem. Ha, a big problem. So far the buttonholes are  #%*$ (swear words).  Here is a example of my attempts. Mostly they came out like the one in the upper left corner. It does one side then goes up the other side and instead of doing the 2nd half it wants to keep going until I stop it.  I am wondering if the problem is the attachment.  I do notice the little bar gizmo you pull down to engage the buttonholer track is wobbly and doesn't seem quite right. I will play with it a bit more and then maybe decide there is a problem. Also see on the sample buttonholes the bar tack at the end is overzealous, a big lump really so that is not acceptable. Doesn't it just figure that the one thing I thought I wanted is not working properly? Although reading lots of blogs or forums on buttonholes has convinced me that the old buttonhole attachment makes vastly superior buttonholes so that is probably the way to go.

buttonhole samples

This weekend I will play around with it a bit more and see what else it can do. As for actual sewing this time of year I am always busier with custom sewing, so I have been making things mostly for others.
Here is a peek at something I am just completing for my friend Heather. It is rayon jersey that she bought at Britex, kind of light navy blue on white. Super soft and flowy, perfect fabric choice. This Vogue 8787 is a winner in my estimation. For once the construction order is actually reasonable! Also the cowl neckline is very well designed and falls very nicely when worn. I know I will be making this one again. 

                      V8787 blue white knit dressV8787 pattern envelope

I would love to hear your thoughts on new sewing machine selection. What did you choose? and are you happy with it?  Are the old machines better?  (in a word, yes)

Here is an unexpected pleasure in the garden. I used to plant pansies in the late winter but switched to violas (smaller version of this plant) and they are much more hardy, plus reseed all over, in a good way. So this spring I had lots of tiny jewels like this pop up in the lawn.

Viola in lawn

Happy summer sewing. It is supposed to be over 100 F here this weekend so I anticipate a lot of lounging by the pool and not much sewing.  Well maybe a little.