Tuesday, 26 May 2015

New Machine!!

Week off work!! Woke up fairly early today so that I could drive to J&B Sewing Machine Co in Newport and pick up a new machine - the Janome DXL603. Was all very exciting - which was just as well because I needed something to look forward to while driving there (I always get flustered in Newport and find it really hard to navigate for some reason).

Anyway, it was worth the wait. The salespeople were lovely and even though it was quite busy there I wasn't waiting too long. There was an 8 year old girl being bought her first machine, which was really lovely to see. Her Gran had rung last week to ask which machine they recommended and had also managed to negotiate a little off the asking price!

I had a thorough demonstration of the newer features of the DXL603, as I have previously used a Janome CXL301 which is a cheaper version of the machine with slightly less features. My machine is currently on offer until May 30th so I had it for £349 instead of £399, with a free quilting pack which includes an extension table, walking foot, 1/4 seam foot and three others. I'm yet to play with those feet although I used a 1/4 seam foot when making the tote bag in a class recently.

Here are an awful lot of photos of the new addition! Sorry, but I wanted to record details such as tension dial settings etc. and compare it to my old machine.




These are the 5 extra feet included in the quilting pack. The walking foot retails for £40 according to the salesperson. I'm also very grateful for the inclusion of the 1/4 seam foot as I found it very useful before and is around £10-15 in different shops. The extension table will probably be the most used item in the pack, however I have been buying fabric with the intention of making a quilt over the last year or two, so watch this space!


The instruction manual is very clear, easy to follow and full of helpful information - totally different to my old machine's manual! The extended warranty extends the warranty from 2 to 5 years, for £60. I'll probably be doing that, but I need to wait to see what my funds will allow. 



These are the accessories included with the machine. There's a 4th bobbin already in the bobbin holder. The machine doesn't have two spool holders built onto it (like my old one), but has an additional one that can be inserted into a square hole located at the right hand side of the top of the machine. This allows a second reel of thread to be used if I wanted to use a double needle, or if I wanted to wind a bobbin without un-threading the machine.










It's a really simple thing, but I LOVE the thread cutter built into the side of the machine. Makes it so much simpler because I'm forever hunting for my thread scissors.


New Janome DXL603 on the left, EnR Classic (Toyota import) on the right. Both machines are similar in size, however the EnR is slightly heavier. 



The Janome curves backwards more, which gives the impression of it being a larger machine than it is. They are similar size width. 



Guess I can't blame the machine for wonky lines of stitching any more! This baby will take fabric through in straight lines, as opposed to my old EnR machine which liked to curve fabric to the back left as I was sewing. The only time that was ever good was hemming a full circle skirt!


I had a fun afternoon messing around with some of the different stitches and feet. The engineering that has gone into the overcasting foot astounds me! I love watching the needle dance over the two metal prongs! Pretty sad really... I also love how simple the machine is to use, lovely fabric feed, no thread jams at the start of each line of sewing. It's super quiet - Craig has commented that he couldn't tell that I was using it. Turns out he could hear the old machine despite him being downstairs and behind a closed door!

Happy girl today :)

Monday, 18 May 2015

Zipper Pouch


Following on from the tote bag I made in TSB last week, I decided to watch the Craftsy class on reversible tote bags & zipper pouches. I signed up to Craftsy about 2-3 years ago but this is the first time I've actually used it! The class was really easy to follow and it was nice to see people's comments, showing pictures and asking questions.

I was watching the class in bed (lazy Sunday lie in!) at my parents house, and once we got back home to ours I waited a polite amount of time before excusing myself and locking myself in the spare room with my sewing machine.


I've not used a normal zipper before - I'm not even sure what its called? I've only used invisible zips before for the dress & a skirt that I started making 3 years ago and doubt I will ever wear/finish. I only had an 8 inch zip so reduced the pouch width by 1 inch, but I needed to redo the left side as there was a gap showing to the right of the zip stopper. I sewed the seam around 0.5cm closer then trimmed off the excess. 



On the whole I'm pretty pleased with this, it was quick and easy. I should probably elongate my stitches for next time, rather than using a 2mm width. I had a lot of issues with thread jams though, I'm glad the bag is lined! 

I've been looking at buying a new sewing machine and I'm thinking of taking the plunge and going for the Janome DXL603. I want to try it first though, but it's currently on offer for £349 rather than £399, with an extension table & quilting feet thrown in for free. It's very expensive, but I'd rather upgrade to something with room to grow into, than buy a £150 machine which I then have to replace again in a few years time.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Tote bag, Arielle skirt and a cushion!

Last week was a bit of a full on sewing week. I finished nights 8am on Tuesday morning and went straight to a sewing class for 1.30pm!

I booked onto a tote bag masterclass at The Stitching Boutique back in March but due to a shift change had to rearrange at fairly short notice. Tamzin was really lovely though and organised a class for me to attend so that I wouldn't miss out. There were 3 of us in the class so we got to relax and ask as many questions as we liked while sewing. I need to take some photos of the bag I made, waiting for a bit of sun as our house can be fairly dark. I used Lotta Jansdotter fabric, with a grey outer and inside pocket, with a contrast yellow fabric for the inside bag.

I was 'in the mood' when I got home (plus if I'd stopped I'd have fallen asleep) so after eating I went straight to the spare room which is where I do all my sewing and made up a second Roald Dahl fabric cushion, in the brilliantly named 'Wondercrump Spot' colourway. I bought another cushion insert at TSB, which was only £2.50 and is really lovely and squishy. I somehow managed to line up the fabric perfectly, so that Matilda's toe spans the closure of the cushion - something I couldn't have done if I'd tried!

On Wednesday I spent the afternoon cutting out the pieces for a black cotton twill Arielle skirt, having received my pattern a week or so ago. I had some grey anti-static dress lining that I picked up on eBay quite cheaply so decided to make the lined version. I HATE the dress lining. It frayed as soon as I started touching it, so I think the skirt already has a finite life span unfortunately.

I picked up quite a few pin injuries trying to cut the pieces out this time. I cut out the blue skater dress using my rotary cutter, but cut out Arielle using my fabric scissors. I'm going back to the rotary cutter next time, much quicker and easier on my wrists.

I finished the skirt Friday evening then sewed the buttons on Saturday morning, just in time to drive to West Wales for the weekend. I really like the skirt, but I'm not 100% happy with the construction of the front right wrapover piece as I cut the long version then decided to hack 4 inches off the hem after already having finished the lining (which really screwed things up and I do not recommend it!) so will ponder how to fix that a little longer before posting photos on here!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Anna dress

Evening!

I'm on my last of 3 night shifts tonight. I've been reading Dolly Clacketts blog recently, which I found via By Hand London's blog post about the varieties of Anna dresses people have made. If you visit Dolly Clackett, you'll see she's made quite a few!

Long story short, I bought the pattern. In an earlier post I mentioned a dress that Deborah wore on GAS was an Anna dress too, and I like the versatility of it so bought a PFD download yesterday.

I'm still undecided what to use the pear patterned Ikea fabric for, but it needs to be used soon or I have a feeling it will languish in my stash for years. Best to sew a summery dress while we're coming into the summer!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

I did it!!

I finally finished my Sew Simple #006 skater dress on Wednesday, just in time for Me-Made-May!


Please excuse the awful photo! I've not been brave enough to post a photo of me online before, but I am proud of this dress.

The dress was still unfinished at this point, but we had a gloriously sunny day on Tuesday so I thought I'd make the most of it - hence the squinting! You can see the hem isn't finished, but you can't see the pins holding the back closed!


This is it all finished - it was only at this point that I noticed the hem isn't straight! However, I have a bit of a tummy bulge so when its on it actually evens out that dip at the front.


The pattern called for sleeves down to the elbows but I prefer sleeveless dresses. Having never made anything before, with sleeves or without, I ended up spending a lot of time reading blogs and trying to work out how to convert it to sleeveless. In the end I used Jennifer Lauren's tutorial on how to make bias binding then followed Indiesew's tutorial post on how to use it.

Making it nearly stumped me! Ended up calling the bf in to help me try to get a 45 degree angle as I was using a bizarrely shaped offcut to try and save fabric. Took me 2 hours but I got there in the end, over a metre of bias binding with slightly wavy edges! I think the wavy edges is why my stitching is showing as either single or double lines on the dress, but tbh I'm just happy that it worked! That is an improvement for another time :D

I also ended up hating the neckline facing for the dress as it's prone to peaking out, especially in the back as it's V shaped. So I stitched along the neckline to help hold it down. I got too excited and did this before inserting the zip however so the zip really isn't very neat at the top as the facing should be lying over it. 


I am super pleased with how the zip turned out though! This was my first attempt at putting it in and it's quite neat. I swear the top matched when I was pinning the zip in, cos I took ages lining it all up before pinning the second side of the zip. However, I did double the fabric then cut the back bodice parts at the same time, so the fabric probably wasn't cut very accurately and that's what I think has caused the misalignment. 


I wore the dress to a course yesterday to test it out and I bloody loved it! The skirt is very full and swishy - and I love a swishy skirt! It was probably a bit much to wear on a work course tbh, but it made such a nice change from wearing uniform! Plus it was 01/05/15 and after keeping an eye out for Me-Made-May for the last 3 years it's so nice to be able to take part for once! 




This is the next fabric I have lined up for a project. I bought 3.5m from Ikea on Monday at £3/m. It's 100% cotton and feels like the same weight as the blue Ditte fabric that I made the blue skater dress from. Having done some reading, it seems that the fabric is considered heavyweight or quilting cotton, so I'll try to pick something appropriate. Craig thinks I should make the skater dress again with a longer, below knee length but I think the full skirt will work against that. 



I recently bought these Simplicity patterns in a Minerva Fabrics sale, and I bought the pear fabric intending to make a pear (sorry!) of PJ bottoms. However Craig has an almost 3 year old niece that I also think would rock a pear dress, so I'm unsure. 


I've just this morning bought 2m of black cotton twill fabric from eBay to make an Arielle skirt. Hoping to crack on with that on my off-duty days next week. It'll be a nice treat to make up for working night shifts this bank holiday weekend!

me-made-may'14

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Progress on the skater dress

Progress update on my skater dress.


I decided to be brave, or foolish(!) last night and cut out the pieces for the dress in the blue fabric I wanted to use. It took far longer than I wanted it to, but I didn't want to screw it up. The fabric is more brighter blue but my camera doesn't pick it up very well!


I've sewn all the darts, then zigzagged the raw edges of the bodice. I prefer sleeveless dresses so I've also done the raw edges of the shoulders. I'm planning on using bias binding to tidy the armholes. I may play around with cutting more of the fabric away though, I'm not sure yet. 

I need to recut the facing neckline piece. On my toile I noticed that it came up short on both shoulders so that the seams weren't aligned once I sewed the facings to the bodice. This time I cut the piece longer but while pinning thought it was fine and cut it to match the length. Once again I screwed it up, because once I'd the sewn the seam it's too short again, so I need to recut with an additional 1.5cm on each side.

I started zigzagging the raw edges of the skirt pieces, but I'm struggling with the curves as its making the edge flute in some places. My machine chews up the fabric quite easily so I've had to zigzag further away from the edge than I'd like but it's still within the seam allowance. The fluting is worse on the areas where I veered too closely to the edge, but I might have stretched it as it's on the bias of the fabric. My bobbin ran out in the middle of the front skirt piece so I decided that was enough for one day! I'm on nights this week so won't be able to do quite as much as I'll have less time and focus/concentration during the day after sleeping. 

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Fitting & tension issues

Well, I hate zips!!

I've had no end of trouble inserting an invisible zip, I finally got it on the third attempt. I managed to do it fine the first time except that it wasn't lying flush with the bodice and it was altering the fit, so I redid it. I also added the facings as I hadn't bothered initially.

On the second attempt I managed to sew one side of the zip the wrong way round! Right side to wrong side... then spent ages wondering why I couldn't do it up! Finally inserted it correctly on the third attempt, it's still not perfect but it's a lot better than it was!


Oops! 


I'm still having problems with the fit of the shoulders, I'm just not sure if taking it in at the seams will make it lie flat or shorten the bodice too much. I also had problems with getting the facing of the neckline to fit properly, pinning it flat to the neckline ended up shortening the overall thing by an inch and a half so my shoulder seams aren't matched and don't meet at the back of the bodice.

Having finally sorted out my tension problems this zip completely screwed things up and I've not been able to fix it since. These are the loops on the underside of my stitches, which I believe means that the top tension is incorrect. I just can't seem to win, I've tried all of the tension settings for the top needle now and nothing has worked.


Top tension set to 8.


Top tension set to 2.


If anyone has some advice I'd be very grateful!