Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Stepping up my Sewing Machine Game

I decided to value my sewing and myself by buying a new sewing machine this year. My first and only machine is a Baby Lock BL2100 that I purchased in 1993, and it has been a workhorse for thirty years. It was a basic Baby Lock beginner machine. It did have a drop-down bobbin and a one-step buttonhole, but no other bells and whistles.

It served me extremely well, but in the last few years frustrated with some things and then not eager to get back to sewing because I had to fix something. So, I've been sewing for over 30 years with the same machine I bought when I was 19. I deserve a treat, but how much of a treat? I sew quite a bit of my wardrobe. How much of a machine do I need, the decorative stitches on my machine are fine, but I never use them. Gaining more than 100 stitches, can I justify that? Should I have to justify that?

I started looking at machines under $300, and the closer I got to $150, I felt better and less anxious. You see, at the same time, I was looking at getting a laptop. I'd been without one since 2019. I use a MacBook Pro at work (and all through 2020 during work from home) and was tempted to get one for personal use. Therefore, I was looking at $1,000 for a MacBook Air computer. However, I rarely blog now, don't edit photos or videos, and don't game. Why spend the expense for all that power I won't really use while limiting the cost of my sewing machine (which I use for my favorite hobby) to a quarter of that price? 

So, I did not get the computer and instead got a more affordable tablet. Then I took some of the difference from the money I was going to spend and added it to my sewing machine budget, which could now increase to $600. That increase meant I could look at Baby Lock, bernette, Brother, Janome, or PFAFF. My first concern was if something went wrong, did I have a dealer nearby? That eliminated Janome and PFAFF. That still left Brother and Baby Lock. I have been impressed with how durable, and long-lasting my Baby Lock machine has been, so perhaps the quality is the same, and I should get another? Unfortunately, while offering me more stitches and buttonholes, their $600 machine, the Baby Lock Jubilant, would not provide me the auto features I could get with cheaper brands. If they did, it was not highlighted on their site. Also, $600 and only 80 stitches?

Regarding the stylish and cool-looking bernette 37, their under $500 machine offered less than other lower-costing brands. The cost of additional sewing feet ($$) and any future repairs would be more expensive than I want to spend. Their next model increased the b37's 50 stitches to 394(!)but also jumped in price to $700!!! Why is there no middle ground, bernette?

My internet research led me to sewing machine comparisons and trying to find out what machines other bloggers owned. On Instagram, many people were going for the Singer Heavy Duty machines. Although I may make a pair of jeans one day, I was not interested. 

I started a spreadsheet (of course, I did!) where I could keep track of the attributes of each machine, including their weight, the number of stitches, the number of buttonholes, etc. Those reviews and comparisons kept bringing me back to Singer. Over the years, I have disregarded Singer, maybe because I always see it in Jo-Ann's and thought of it as nothing special. However, the Singer Stylist 7258 and Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 were getting great reviews. Once I saw the Singer Owner YouTube video series for each machine, I was excited. There will be a learning curve with so many buttons and instructions, but with the videos, I can handle it. 

I was now looking at computerized machines, something the younger snobbier me said I never wanted. I liked being contrary in my youth. Also, I deserve this and the proof that this was the right choice? When I placed my order on the Singer site, I received a 15% discount I didn't even know was being offered! So the machine I thought I was buying for $449 came in before tax as $382.49! Happy holidays to me!

I am now the proud owner of a Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 with a detachable quilting table, 600(!) stitches (including multiple stretch stitches,) 13 one-step buttonholes, 13 sewing feet, auto needle threader, auto thread trimmer, stop/start and up/down buttons, LED task light, LCD screen, and a speed of 850.

For your information, the closest contenders were the Singer 7258 Stylist, mentioned above, and the Brother CS7000x. The Brother has a detachable quilting table, and it was $220 for 70 stitches, 7 one-step buttonholes, and 10 sewing feet. Still, it did not have an auto thread trimmer and had a slower speed of 750. It would have worked perfectly fine, but why not go for better than that? I may still feel guilty about the money, but I'm a person who will always feel guilty about spending money. 

It all comes down to this: thirty years with a no-frills sewing machine that helped me create 70% of my wardrobe, from wool coats to silk dresses to stuffed animals to pillows and slipcovers. It is about time. 

*The Quantum Stylist 9960 also comes with a detachable quilting table. I've only made one quilt (which I love), but that table also means easier handling of big and bulky projects.

Friday, May 06, 2022

The Power of Hope and Delusion - My Pattern Stash

Despite a belief that I've been good pattern-wise for the last few years (After the 100+ pattern purge of 2019*), I looked around and found I had accumulated a lot more than I thought.

Here's a tally of patterns I bought in the last six months at the same time that I had little to no motivation to finish my existing projects:

Vogue 1663 by Kathryn Brenne - This pattern is for the hopefully perfect knit bootcut pant. I've been wearing two pairs of Ponte pants I bought from NY & Co that match the pattern illustration. I originally thought I would frankenpattern this myself, but who was I kidding? The cut pieces are currently sitting on my ironing board waiting their turn.

Butterick 6858 - I bought this on sale (of course!) under the delusion that the pockets in the skirt and pants were functional. They are not. I should have taken the pattern back but I got lazy. Again, I thought I would draft the pocket pieces I  needed but I'm not that excited to make my own walking/workout pants. Now I have this pattern, does anybody want it?

Vogue 9361 - This pattern will hopefully fill my non-elastic waistband wide-leg pant needs and become a favorite.

Simplicity 9471 - A cute jeans-styled pant with great topstitching potential.

Butterick 6249 -  This is a great possibility for swishy mid-length skirts w/o an elastic waistband, my go-to lately. This has been on my wish list for years but a $1.99 sale caught me at the right moment.

Simplicity 8747 - This is a vintage skirt shape I've wanted for years. I finally bought it with a certain Halloween costume (and stashed fabric) in mind.

Seamwork Clarke Top - I've always wanted the True Bias Ogden Cami, I loved the flowing shape and the slightly curved v-neck but knew the narrow straps were not-bra-friendly. The Clarke has a similar vibe but corrects that issue.

Vogue 9299 - This pattern is one I kept talking myself out of buying (to recreate View B) until that same Halloween costume idea required a blouse just like View C.

True Bias Salida Skirt - This is another potential mid-length skirt for more structured wovens and with more jeans details. I already have stashed fabric ready for View A, the shorter slim skirt.

Simplicity 2406 (OOP) by Cynthia Rowley - My goal is to recreate this favorite dress (View C) that lives now as a top because the hips only fit me for a short time. I tracked down the pattern in a larger size and Joanns still sells the same fabric eleven years later!

Cashmerette Concord T-Shirt - I'm so excited about this pattern! After years of altering every t-shirt pattern to fit my new-to-me larger cup sizes, I decided to get some help from a professional. I can't wait to try this out! It is next in my queue. My dream is to have a wardrobe of sleek long-sleeved tops to coordinate with the bootcut pants from Vogue 1633 and trousers from Vogue 9361.

Cashmerette Rivermont Dress and Top - Yes, I bought even more professional help! My hope is this can become a knit sloper I can adapt to different styles. I have a Big 4 straight-sized sloper pattern (McCall's 7279) for wovens but this could simplify the process, boobs-wise. I will start with making a top from stash fabric as my muslin.

Do you ever feel that your stash of patterns and fabric grows because a part of your desire for a project is appeased or satisfied once you have them in your possession? Why else wouldn't we finish them all? 

Watch this space for actual sewn projects. I swear they're coming!

*Yes, they did leave my sewing room and my house but they are still in the trunk of my car! I want them to end up with interested sewists so I keep resisting dropping them off at Goodwill.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Vanilla Village Wench Blouse - Adrienne Blouse

Pattern: Friday Pattern Co. Adrienne blouse (2018) 

Pattern Description: Slightly cropped knit top with statement sleeves gathered at shoulders and hems with elastic.

Pattern Sizing: XS-4X, I cut out an XL, easing to size XXL at the waist and hips

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? As you see below, it looks exactly like it!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes! This was such a quick and straightforward top.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I fell in love with the neckline, the gathered shoulders, and the drama of those full sleeves.

Fabric Used: 57" Birch solid Modal blend knit (49% Modal, 45% Polyester, 6% Spandex) from Joann Fabrics, leftover plush back bra strap elastic from the stash, Dritz 1/2" braided elastic for sleeve cuffs, Gutermann 100% polyester thread in Ivory, #800.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I traced the bodice pattern piece into a full pattern piece, which made it easier to cut out.

According to my measurements, I cut this in the XL size (bust = 40" to 43"). I made a 1/2" full bust adjustment (FBA) using the instructions in the pattern booklet. However, I could have done more; I underestimated how much of an adjustment I needed. I was unaware that I had gone up a few (!) cup sizes to a DD. That was quite a surprise!

I had cut the XL for my measurements, but after trying on the sleeveless bodice, I decided to decrease the side seam allowance to 3/8" to cut down on the cling factor.

The pattern describes this top as "cropped." That is baffling to me because I felt it was long. I suggest that before making alterations to the pattern that you hold the tissue up to your body or compare to a favorite top. At 5' 4," I cut more than an inch off and it is still long enough to tuck into pants or skirts.

Those cuffs!

Those shoulders!

I removed 1/2" from the pattern's measurements for the wrist and neck elastic lengths. This was an improvement in fit that I learned from wearing my muslin which felt too loose.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, most definitely! This is a great pattern; all the examples out there prove how attractive and romantic it can be.

Conclusion: I love this pattern and how it looks. I made the right size and alterations this time, and I will definitely make it again. I already plan to make some in print fabrics like so many of the examples I've seen on the internet. I would also love to make a dress version in a stretch velvet or velour.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

The Sea and the Soil - Style Arc Bob Woven Pants

Pattern: Style Arc Bob Woven Pants (2019)

Pattern Description: A uniquely balloon-shaped pant with an elastic waistband and inseam pockets.

Pattern Sizing: Sizes 4-30 (32"-61" hips) There is 7" of wearing/design ease between body measurement and finished garment measurement. Ideally, I would choose a size 18, but I printed this pattern months ago, so it was a size 16.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? 

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, I thought so. Style Arc is known for sparse instructions; they do not hold your hand. However, in this pattern, they also split the construction steps into two places: the written instructions and the multi-color illustrated ones on a separate sheet. Only by reading them both do you get the complete process. Other than that, the instructions are adequate if you're an intermediate sewist but may be frustrating if you are a beginner. 

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the shape of the legs; they give the pants a modern vibe.

Fabric Used: Pair A) An old cotton/polyester sheet, Dritz 1-1/2" soft waistband elastic, Gutermann 100% polyester thread in no particular color; Pair B) 2 yards stretch cotton poplin in Chocolate from Fabric Mart, c. 2014 ($1.99 a yard!), Gutermann #100 polyester thread in Charcoal, #125, and Dritz 1-1/2" soft waistband elastic.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: For the muslin (A), as I was dealing with a smaller size than I would have liked, I changed the seam allowance to 1/4" and crossed my fingers. In the end, I might have been okay with 3/8", but it saved me some stress. In my second pair (B), I chose to throw caution to the wind and sewed a straight size 16 with the recommended seam allowance.

Attaching the waistband elastic

I liked the instructions for the waistband, which allow for equal distribution of the elastic and eliminates the possibility of twisting. However, I regret following those instructions on the muslin (A) because it denied me the option of adjusting the waist, which came out 1/2-1" too loose. (Actually, I think I used the size 18 length for the elastic, oops!) I like the technique; however, I suggest that you try on and adjust the elastic before you attach it to the waistband and the pants.

I read in other reviews that people were changing the pocket draft because the pockets were floppy. I understand that, but I feel that the pattern addresses that issue if you follow all of their instructions. The only sewist review I've read that understood the instructions the same as I did was Sewslowsarah. Hi, Sarah!

The illustrated portion of the instructions

Anchoring the pocket direction

In my second pair (B), I used the shorten/lengthen line to remove 1/2" in length. My blue pair were long enough to make the ballooning sides collapse on themselves; you can clearly see the shape in a slightly shorter length.

Hand sewing the inside waistband

Another change was how I handled the waistband for B. I decided to follow the first few steps of sewing the ends together and folding and pressing them in half. However, before attaching the elastic, I sewed one edge of the waistband to the pants. I then laid the elastic loop inside the fold and stitched it on with a wide zigzag stitch. From that point, I needed to either slip stitch the other edge to the pants or stitch-in-the-ditch. I chose to hand stitch, of course.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, In fact, it was only a week before I cut out the second pair; I have never done that before! I also want to try them in a thicker fabric like corduroy and a fabric with drape like a rayon.

When I wore this ensemble to work a coworker thought I looked like Han Solo. What do you think?

Conclusion: These were better than I expected. I will be making more!