Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Do you have a favorite feature on digitizing software that you own?

Home embroidery full digitizing software packages have common basic tools: column/column, running, fill.

These are the extra bells and whistles that can make a difference in creating designs that meet your special needs. This is a random sampling and believe me I could write volumes on each software. Pull out your manual and test them out, if you haven't done so already:

Art and Stitch

Art and Stitch has the easiest method for producing beautiful cutwork each and every time.  There is specific tool to automatically create the steps needed for stitching cutwork which happens in a blink of an eye. Same for lace.

The bookmark was created  in very little time and stitched out in less time.

Babylock and Brother 10 Software:

(The plus editing software has it, too!) Read the package to be sure it is listed because not all versions of editing have it.
Brother and Babylock have the this feature:
Photostitch - seeing is believing and I believe that this program built into their software packages produce the nicest quality designs of this type.

Embird software users enjoy a very nice photo conversion plugin to produce embroidery designs

Bernina 7

Bernina's Blackwork run feature rocks! - Create your artwork, enter into the Embroidery Canvas, click on the outline with the running stitch  and apply blackwork run. Voila! the software puts the outline stitching into one continuous run!

More to come! What is your favorite software and which tool makes you happiest? Share it here or on Facebook!

SKETCH IT IN STITCHES! Look through your software and identify your running, column and fill stitch tools and come join me at the American Embroidery Conference, May 27-31.

Let me show you how in the comfort of your home, any time, any day on Craftsy. Here's $20 off my newest class: Artistic Digitizing from Inspirations to Stitch!

Friday, May 1, 2015

What skills are on your list of items to stitch?

Proof of Inspiration
Perhaps a quilt?

Paula Reid arrived at Ashby Sewing for last week's sewing event.  I am not a quilter  because of little free time. I found the presentation engaging, informative and inspirational. I snapped tons of photos while absorbing great tips.
The proof of inspiration is when you act upon it!

Meandering with no bunching on top or bottom, evenly spaced throughout the quilt. I had fun throughout the entire process. Even fixing mistakes was easy!

It was perfect timing as I was in town, having fun testing sewing machines. Attending this event gave me a greater appreciation of a longer harp, (the distance of the arm between the needle and the right inner side of the machine). You can see the photos of the event on Facebook. Paula teaches on Craftsy . You can enjoy the same information. I watched the class again and all the info is there.

To my friends who digitize their own embroidery designs, the tips were great for quilting embroidery display quilts, too.  You know who you are.  They will hang straight and last the test of time by following her tips.

I came back to my studio inspired with fresh new eyes. Monday night, I finished stitching all my leftover strips made from projects of the past into a pieced topper. (Wish I had taken her class before I had done the piecing but a little girl won't notice.) In a couple of hours each night, I finished the quilt.

I layered the quilt exactly as she suggests on my table and used the clipping technique she demonstrates, and pinned with the quilting pins she likes.  I aligned my chair view per Paula's suggestions, chose threads accordingly and it was the best free motion quilting session, ever!  Every step was a pleasure and not an effort.  I'm now the former queen of unfinished pieced tops. I will advance my skills and try all her tips in the class.
The best way to learn anything, is to do it exactly like the teacher and then add your personal touch once you have mastered the techniques. 
I have plenty of room for improvement and I am up for it.  Paula Reid has changed my view on the quilting process and I do have time for it at night as it is NOW relaxing! And I am thinking that a stitch regulator is the ticket for me to enjoy the free motion even more.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Stitching onward in search for perfect stitching on a new sewing stand alone machine...

If you flip the fabric sample over, how would the bobbin stitches rate? If the stitches are off, is it the machine? Or does it need cleaning?
I tested with my favorite fabrics including layered fabrics for auditioning machines.  View of bobbin thread in photo. You might be surprised to see which machines produced these bobbin stitches. Always check the quality of stitches before sewing your garment. Every machine can produce that uneven stitching in those bottom rows without proper maintenance. Clean and oil as needed.

The machines tested were impressive based on stitch quality, lighting, dual feed, stability, and pricing, last week. All the machines were within a fairly close range of each other based on the sale pricing last week except the Bernina 750 which offers an optional embroidery unit and comes with the BSR foot, covered in this post...

The Janome 8900.  11 inches of harp, nice lighting, lovely stitching, knee lift, and more.  I took over this machine for 2 hours and began basic stitching, learning the interface, decorative stitching, buttonhole creations, blind hem, and testing different fabrics. It is a quilter's delight!  Quality neat stitching with every fabric tested: cotton, denim, sheer, and  the bonus is the 11 inch harp.  It does have the Dual Feed (AcuFeed system!) The only thing that was a slight negative but got better with practice is the wheel. It's not a feature on any of my previous machines so it would take adjustment time. I tested this out at Ashby Sewing Machine Co with Elaine. Made in Japan.

I also had the pleasure of auditioning the Pfaff Creative 5, at Discover Sewing with Linda who provided a well guided demonstration on the machine.   Nice interface, ease of use, knee lift, 10 inch harp and  the IDT (Dual Feed).  The stitches sewed nicely on top and bottom. Good interface with a tabbing system that I found very easy to navigate through.  Learn more here on the Pfaff website. See the photo there, it's very attractive. The harp is roughly 10 inches. Nice lighting and the best feature is the straight stitch sensor plate - NO MORE BROKEN NEEDLES.  I forgot my camera and didn't take picts with my phone,  so look on the website. German engineering, assembled in China.

A dress rehearsal for the Bernina 710 and 750: Both are being replaced 740/770 in the line with a few added stitches and improvements. The staff provided a great demo and then a hands-on play hour. Nice interface on both.  The stitches are very nice, easy interface, wonderful lighting, knee lift, the new Dual Feed is fabulous.  10 inch harp.  You can add the Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR) to the 710 as an additional option which is a small compact unit that works really well. The 750 comes with the BSR and has the option to add an embroidery unit.  Thank you to Carol and Dianna at Atlanta Sewing Center in Duluth! Swiss engineered. Assembled in Switzerland.

You may ask, why haven't I written about the Brother/Babylock machines.  I own one with an embroidery unit! Downside when mine is embroidering, my sewing machine is unavailable.  If you purchase a new Brother/Babylock - get that pivot feature. I use the pivot for garment and all kinds of sewing projects. Mine can be seen on youtube: Meet your Feet,  in action stitching with various feet. The playlist is further down the list just below sewing matters! Assembled in China.

If you own any of these sewing machines listed above, what was the key feature that guided your purchase decision?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Need a new machine? In search for perfect stitches, taking the first steps!

Bernina Active 145 S - 2003 nice button holes

the journey begins.

With older technology leaving and newer technology making great advances, these questions still come to mind: Do we still sacrifice some stitch quality for a computerized machine? Is the stitch quality improved by using a dedicated sewing machine without any provisions for embroidery included?

The first step in the process is to assess your own sewing needs which includes machines and types of sewing you are planning to do: garment, quilting, home dec and/or accessories.

The second step is to take an inventory of current equipment. Be brave and pull those sewing machine kids out of the closet and add them to your list. How do the lists compare to your present and future plans?

Write up sales ads for the closeted sewing kids right now. You will use the money for future investments and the closeted kids need to be appreciated and used daily!

The third step is preparing practice fabrics made of content that you normally sew on and test them first on your best sewing machine.  Bring the same practice fabrics to the sewing stores for auditioning potential machines. Regarding budget, remember that new machines come out in the fall and those who love to own the latest and greatest begin selling machines in May. A lightly used machine may truly be the best solution.  Someone's Ovation was my Evolution :)
Type faster mommy!

Join me in the process!

Step One: My own history of machine acquisitions. The Bernina 1230 was traded in for a 180, a lovely swiss made Bernina which made embroidery awkward to start the embroidery process and did this loud burping sound before beginning any sewing stitches.  It was very slow to load a embroidery design with an hour glass across the screen.  The embroidery stitch quality was very nice, but the sewing stitches were not as fine as the ones on my previous Bernina 1230. In fairness, I was told at the time of purchase that to add embroidery there would be a trade off. It was all so new!

Bernina Activa 145 S 
I quickly, that same year, looked at other less expensive but nicely made machines from Japan that offered embroidery. The Brother 8500, I later traded for the ULT and Babylock Ellageo which all loaded designs quickly. The screen interface felt easier to navigate.  These machines embroidered beautifully and the sewing stitches were nice for the dollars invested.

I "rationalized" that a back up for my sewing needs should "Nina" get sick was "vital". Imagine ballerinas without tutus at the dance troupes and worse! Some stitch quality and sewing feet options were sacrificed but the ease of embroidery made these machines winners.  Embroidery was to be my new interest. I began sewing on the 180 and embroidering on the Brother and Babylock machines.  I was happy. Sound familiar? I never sewed on the embroidery machines until Nina actually needed a repair, one year later.  The sewing was fine but I wasn't scrutinizing the stitches because I knew Nina would be home shortly. I was satisfied and felt the machines provided a lot for the investment when comparing feature to feature for embroidery.

I purchased a small Bernina Activa 145 to take quilt piecing classes and could use some of the 180 optional feet.

In one decade I went from my favorite 1230 to an Armada of Machines to cover all the features I missed in my quest to add embroidery: 180, 8500, ellageo,  ULT, 145S are a sampling of what I owned.

During the same decade, manufacturers that had produced my earlier machines began transitioning some of the lines from Switzerland to Thailand and Japan to China.   I missed sewing and I moved up to the Ellisimo (Brother Quattro equivalent) as it had many sewing features added. My 180 was obsolete for embroidery. The Ellisimo and Quattro machines were introduced and both were equally nice. I had found a lightly used machine at a show. Bonus, it would be upgradeable!  That's all old history but it reveals flaws in my original thinking/shopping process.

Step Two: Evaluation of Current machines with past, present and future needs yet to be made: Babylock Ellisimo (embroidery/sewing), Brother 655 (professional stand alone embroidery machine), Activa 145 (portable sewing), Babylock evolution (serger).  The distance of the arm matters to me. The harp on my Activa 145 is very small which makes it impractical for my current sewing needs and for tomorrows, too.  I will sell it to someone who wants nice stitches and for piecing and taking classes on garment sewing. Translation: No Closet sewing children allowed without guilt.

Step 3: Make a stack of fabric samples that you tend to sew on.  to stitch and compare with your best sewing machine in your current inventory.  I want to do it all and my sample pack is extensive. Be fair to your machine before stitching the samples, check this bulleted list.
  • Stitches always look better when you keep your machine clean and oil where indicated by the manufacturer on a regular basis. I clean mine after every garment completed.
  • Fresh needle for the fabric also provides that perky clean straight stitch with each new project.
  • Make sure that the threading is done securely through the tension system and same for the bobbin.
  • Stitch the samples and bring extras to the dress rehearsals at your local dealers.
I don't recommend internet purchases unless you do not have a good dealer within traveling distance. Dealer support in your area is invaluable because you may need classes, accessories and help when learning a "new to you" machine.  Dealers do sell traded machines and are helpful in most instances. It is fair to ask a dealer with a trade in, what is the condition of the machine and whether they as a dealer maintained the machine under the previous ownership.

Off I went:

ULT/elageo Book covers both
Research Question, do we still need to compromise seam lines for embroidery? Here are some of the responses by sales people I have received: hooking system, needle bar, off shore production, and consistently flawed needles was my personal favorite. Hmmm, apparently embroidery needles don't suffer from this.

I studied as they pointed to the needle bar and could see their thoughts, I studied the bobbin casing and hooking mechanisms as they explained the process both pros and cons. 

A fan on Facebook said it best, my idea of a lovely stitch may not be the same as your idea of the perfect stitch.  But I am sure all of us can agree on that a nice straight stitch is pretty on top and on the bottom without "wobbling" thread.  So that is my barometer for selecting a lovely stitch. Straight is preferred. Consistent smooth stitching whether angled or straight is a must.

 I would really like to know who has a sewing machine purchased after 2012 that they can brag about? Go to post of 4/17/2015 and brag on about your machine to be automatically entered into a drawing.  Details in that post.

There are plenty of awesome embroidery machines...  I am in search of perfectly sewn straight stitches!

Friday, April 17, 2015

In search for the right sewing machine? Me, too!

The perfect stretch stitch for Lycra 1230
Do you feel that you own a sewing machine that gives you bragging rights because of the wonderful way it sews? Share about it in the comments area of this post. Those that post will be put into a drawing for an opportunity to win a Sock Easy plus Sock and Tee design set.  Winner to be announced 4/24/15 on Facebook and Blog.  48 hours to claim prize once announced on blog and Facebook.

How this topic came up:

There are times when sewing a garment that my current machines really do not produce that perfect little stitch that is so nicely aligned. I remember the joy of my Bernina 1230, where all the stitches of the straight stitch were so perfectly placed.  I haven't owned a machine with such detailed stitching in a decade.  I fell in love with machine embroidery and sewing moved over to the side along with costume making.

Invisible zipper 1230 insertion
I was reminded of the differences in todays sewing stitch quality, just last week, while looking at cottage industry paperback covers being sold at a bookstore locally.  The smaller sized covers didn't look homemade. I knew they were because the store keeper shared the story behind them. The small covers had uniform perfect stitches lined up so beautifully. I could feel myself literally fighting back tears of remorse of having sold my Bernina 1230. It was my first "perfect" stitching machine.  I picked up a larger book cover and it was clear that these were made on a different sewing machine.  The stitching was acceptable but certainly not "exceptional" as on the smaller covers.

Embroidery lured me in
Like me, perhaps this "unknown" seamstress wanted a machine that could do more embellishing, like machine embroidery.  The trade off in the hooking system was apparent between the small and larger book cover that I was examining. More considerations passed through my mind about the "unknown" machine that produced the larger cover sewn:  Was there also a change in the quality of parts or how the newer machine was made? Or perhaps the machine needed a new needle, good cleaning and oiling? I left the store with no book, or book cover instead motivated to do research and update my own sewing system having returned to garment sewing. Observing classmates struggling on machines in a recent design class, I set my goal:

In search of perfectly sewn stitches on a dedicated sewing machine...

I would really like to know who has a sewing machine that they can brag about? The focus being sewing stitches for garments, accessories and not embroidery.  If your combination sewing and embroidery machine produces a beautiful set of sewing stitches, and seams to die for, share that too.

Be automatically entered into our Friday 4/24/15 drawing by posting bragging rights in this post about your fabulous sewing machine, 48 hours to claim prize once announced on blog and Facebook.

Next post, let the search begin!