Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What about thread?

I was thrilled to finally get my new machine back home late last week!

Another lesson I received at my sewing tutorial was the value of good thread, or rather, a scolding for using cheap thread!

I had Coats & Clark, Dual Duty thread, in my machine.  The instructor taught me that was probably the reason my machine was making a clacking noise and that the repairman would probably scold if he saw that thread.  

As an easy guideline:  Don't buy the cheapest thread at the store unless they only carry Gutermann-type quality threads.  My drawer is full of Coats & Clark which, it turns out, is made with a mix of cotton and polyester.  Ahem.  The polyester in it stretches and stresses your sewing machine.  If you try to break the thread or just try to pull it between your hands, you will easily see it stretch. 

The top thread especially is under tremendous pressure because of the stretch, and you will get better results and keep your machine in better shape if you spend a little extra on higher quality, all-cotton threads.

I had that graphically illustrated to me this weekend.

I decided to make a Valentine's Day pillowcase with an appliquéd heart for my son in California.  And I wanted to make it RIGHT NOW while watching Minions with my family.  I cut 25 2 1/2" squares to piece into a heart.  I placed them in 3 rows of 6, 1 row of 5, and one row of 3 and cut a paper heart pattern to fit that.  

Unfortunately I realized that I didn't have a contrasting thread to appliqué the heart unless I drew from my Coats & Clark stash (where I found a perfect color.)  Before reaching the halfway point around the heart, my Janome began making the clacking sound again.  Ugh.  I finished the border stitching but selected off-white Gutermann thread to quilt the heart--not what I had initially planned to use but among the three colors I had available.

I also learned that those who have been freehand quilting for awhile make it look much, much easier than it actually is (so don't look too closely at it!)  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Things to remember from my sewing lesson

Last week I had another sewing lesson at Luke's Sewing Center and realized that I should have been signing up for lessons much more frequently than I have!  I learned a few tricks too.

One of the most important for piecing quilts is that you can use your 1/4" foot (please do!) but then you can fine tune the measurement by moving your needle!!!  I had been very frustrated because the sewing machine directions did not tell me to do that and the foot itself, even with moving the needle to the right-most position was still too big so I had to eyeball it.  Sometimes I was right on, sometimes I wasn't.  My Janome allows me to edge the needle both right and left by fractions at a time so I can get the scant 1/4" necessary for a successfully pieced quilt top.  I would take a picture, but I also left my machine at the shop for the 1-year cleaning before my membership expired and I would have to pay for it myself.

Needles.  She suggested changing needles after every project.  If you hear a slight thumping sound, it could be a blunt needle driving through the fabric.  Not good on either the fabric or machine.  She said Organ needles were good and cheap enough to replace frequently.  She also explained the need to use the proper needle per the fabric being sewn.  I have been good about that! She also scolded me for using Coats and Clark thread.  Apparently it stretches and causes issues with the machine because of the stretching and it will also cause a funny sound as the sewing machine works. It also is more likely to pucker due to the stretch factor.

Another thing the instructor taught me was to work through each pre-programmed stitch on white fabric tape (not sure what it's called so I'll add a link tomorrow), playing with the length and width of the stitches, and then placing each one with the exact measurements I had used (written on the fabric tape) inside a photo album so I could see what each looked like to choose what to use on a particular piece.  I'm thinking a notebook with baseball card holders would be perfect.

She also taught me to use a stabilizer whenever sewing two pieces of fabrics together, sometimes a tearaway, sometimes wash-away, sometimes neither.  I had not known there was such a thing as a wash away, but the stabilizer keeps puckering at a minimum, especially when using a walking foot to join the fabrics.  (This includes hemming although I don't think you'd use the walking stitch there.)  The wash away stabilizer would be invaluable when sewing a rolled hem on fragile fabrics.

I also picked up some fat quarters at Joanne Fabrics to make a quilt for the Ronald McDonald house last week.  I feel very blessed to never have needed them but I think what they do is amazing.  Luke's Sewing Center has a sewing meet-up every month to make them quilts so I bought this for a quilt top.

Since my machine is still at the shop, I have not been sewing but I have been reading!

I read this tutorial on making absorbent burp cloths this morning and plan to make them for the next baby arrival!  She includes a link for the pattern template as well as excellent directions too.

I also read this book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman, this last weekend and loved its attempt to bridge the gap in cultural insensitivities.  How much better would our world be if we loved first and left judgment to later?