Sunday, November 6, 2016

Happy Ever After Follows a Very Frustrating Sewing Week.

Before I start this post, I just want to thank you all for your comments on my last two posts.  Unfortunately I am just too busy at the moment to reply to comments.  Next week things will start settling down again, and hopefully my usual blog habits will resume.

As you know, my big sewing machine declared itself unable to sew last Friday, with the reverse and stitch length lever firmly stuck:

I had no idea how to fix this, nor did I want to force the lever or cause any further damage. So I called in the sewing machine mechanic - luckily there is one in town that does home visits, and as this machine weighs 35 kilos, the man comes to the machine, the machine does not go to the man.  I had to wait all week, because he was busy servicing the machines in the schools this week.  He was due Friday afternoon, and finally came about 5:30 pm. Well, I am not sure what he did, other than giving it some sort of robust shake around and it "came good".  He said the machine will probably last all my life, barring mishaps that might need spare parts - this machine is not made anymore.  He noted that I was oiling well, and said that he did not need to service this as I was doing all that was needed. He showed me where I was not clearing lint out well enough, and also showed me how to take the bobbin apart if I needed to - sometimes things can get caught in the bobbin holder.  I don't think I would want to do that, it looks fiddly!  

He asked if I had any other problems - apparently, domestic machines are much more likely to cause problems!  Also, he taught me how to check whether my overlocker blade is still sharp - mine failed the test. I'll organise a service and blade resharpening in due cours - after I have dug out my retired overlocker so that it can go to work again during the absence of my current overlocker.

I did find that I was really agitated during the week, with my big machine out of action. I really do need to sew - I have been sewing since age 5, self taught.  I could not be stopped - I'll tell you one day about my sewing history. So I looked at the options available should this ever stop. This chewed up quite some time, but I know a lot about machines on the market now!  I can get an industrial lockstitch/zig zag in Australia, and the mechanic says he can put it together if I ever need to replace mine.

So, I was reduced to my domestic machines, which I really only purchased for sewing buttonholes or for the elastic stretch stitch or other stitch capabilities.  Not for my everyday sewing.  I don't tend to use them much, except for buttonholes and sometimes the stretch stitches.

This week I decided it was a good idea to start exploring these machines and figure out how to use them.  I decided to start with my mechanical cheap machine, I pulled out my Brother JS 1400, which retails about $269.00 but you can often get it for $149.00 .  I purchased mine for $99.00 about three years ago.  I usually use it for the 4 step buttonhole, when I want to make more secure buttonholes with more bartacking than is the norm with the automatic buttonhole function on my electronic Janome.  I also purchased this as an emergency back up machine, and for travelling.  I have only used it for buttonholes so far, so this week it got a work out!

I decided to make a rayon top - I had a $1.60 remnant so decided that was a good piece to use - no loss if I mucked things up.  It was sold as 80 cm, but this was because the piece was cut so crookedly, that only 80 cm lined up - it was a rhombus shape, about 105 each side.  I thought with some judicious juggling I could cut a top with little sleeves.

I used New Look 6461 as the basis for the top.  I shortened the bodice quite considerably.  I thought the hem was curved, and was too lazy to redraw a new hem line, so I just folded the length out. This made my finished A line shape very wide and swingy. The front had to be quite short so that I had enough for the sleeves. I added 5/8 inch to the length of the sleeves- I find the cap sleeves are just a bit short otherwise. I didn't bother with any sort of pattern arrangement as there was not enough material. As it so happens, the resulting pattern layout actually looks a little planned, which is just luck.

The sewing process was an Exercise in Frustration.  I found the machine very small to use, and very slow.  The presser foot does not have the weight and hold that I am used to.  I thought I would adjust to the machine quickly, because 25 years ago I had to use a small machine like this.  However, I don't remember the foot being quite the shape of the Brother foot.  It obscures the sewing line, which is okay if you are lining up with the markings on the plate, but not if you want to stitch back over your stitching.  And, I also like to see where I am going!.  Eventually I twigged, and changed the foot to the clear one supplied with the Janone.  I don't think it helped that I was sewing this top on Wednesday, with arborists outide cutting down and pruning trees and mulching the remains - here - 8 hours of noise and diesel fumes.  I got a nasty headache and felt  very drained  the next day too!  Still, that big  tree job is now done, ready for replanting with things I want. I am tired of maintaining a garden I dislike.

Anyway, I don't think I gave the Brother a fair trial with all this going on, but it did manage to make this top.  It's full of mistakes as I was not always right with the stitching and it is a bit wonky, but somehow wonkiness was the theme of the week. So this is my wonky top, but I love it anyway and it will make a great weekend who cares, I'm relaxing, sort of top.  Life's too short to worry about a bit of wonky sewing.  I even managed to get the back right hemline half an inch longer thant the left.  Not a mistake I normally make, but it sort of goes with the up and down-ness of the wonky top, so I am not going to let it bother me.  

It swings up at the front, or rather I think it dips quite a bit at the side- I did figure out later that the hem was cut straight, which means the A line was created by adding to the sides, and not slashing and spreading.  I'm seeing quite a bit of this look out and about, so I assume this is deliberate. 

I am going to make a second rayon top on the Janome, just to see how that operates next.  This is also my November Make a Garment a Month project:

Then I will be glad to get back to my beloved noisy big old Bernina 217N.  She can do 2800 stitches a minute, so I find sewing a little quicker!  I am starting to plan what to make, but with lots of choices, that can take time!

Thank you for your comments, and again, I apologise for not replying at the moment.  Any time I have for comments I would rather use commenting on your blogs at the moment.

Have a great week everyone, 

Sarah Liz


  1. Enjoyed reading about your sewing machines. Like your "wonky" top.

  2. Your wonky top doesn't look at all wonky, in fact it's very pretty.
    I bought an inexpensive Elna machine from Spotlight as an emergency back-up to my Janome of 19 years. The Elna sews quite well but its biggest drawback in my view is the lack of needle-threader and drop-in bobbin. Having to remove the free-arm and fiddle every time I want to change the bobbin thread and squinting at the needle is a definite "Exercise in Frustration" to borrow your words. :)

  3. My treasured Pfaff is being difficult after it's recent service. I miss the reliable dependable machine it was once.

    I can't imagine what swapping from one machine to another would be like, sounds like you are very adaptable.

  4. So glad your Bernina is feeling better and back to normal! Our machines are our friends and can understand your concern when she was not 'well'. Your lovely top looks quite chic and stylish on you, especially paired with those pants. Don't see any wonkiness at all. Wishing you a more quiet and peaceful week ahead! :)

  5. I would love to hear about your sewing history. When you have time, please do share. =)

    I'm also glad your Bernina has been repaired. Having a simple top being made a sewing frustration due to the machine does not make sewing fun! If there are any mistakes or wonkiness, no one can tell! =)

  6. So glad you have your primary machine back and can get back to the sewing that you really enjoy. To be fair though,the wonky top doesn't look wonky at all.

  7. I'm glad you have your machine back and fully functioning. I'd love to hear about your sewing history - and also how to check whether your overlocker blade is sharp. I don't like using class machines.

  8. So sorry about your machine. Great top!

  9. Such a pretty top. Love the high low hem and it looks great on you. Glad to know your machine is back :)