Sewing machines as a religion

This is the story of how I came to own four sewing machines, and how I sometimes want to throw one of them out through the window.

My first sewing machine was a Pfaff Select 3.0. This machine has served me well and has been completely hassle free except for user-induced malfunctions every now and then (for which this machine holds no responsibility). It’s been sewing through everything from flimsy chiffons and silks to eight layers of heavy denim (this was the number of layers I managed to fit under the presser foot). I loved my Pfaff and became a Pfaff convert the day the salesperson in the sewing machine store introduced us.

I read about basic mechanical sewing machines before entering the shop. At the time I only made teddy bears, and I needed a sturdy machine that would handle thick fabrics. The only stitch I planned on using was a straight stitch. Computerized machines scared me, and price was definitely a factor. The Internet told me that Janome Easy Jeans fit the bill. So I went into the shop and asked to see the Janome. What I didn’t know at the time was that the salesperson was a Pfaffist, a Pfaff missionary. He told me politely that the Pfaff was a better machine, praising the integrated dual feed system (IDT), which certainly comes in handy. He then demonstrated the Pfaff and then the Janome with a walking foot attached to show me how quiet the Pfaff was compared to the Janome (it also cost about 40 % more than the Janome). Then he told me about how the Pfaff was used by professionals and was German made (my machine says “made in China”) and that Janome was a lesser brand, made in Taiwan from what sounded like less solid parts. I ended up with the Pfaff and didn’t look back.

Pfaff Select 3.0

Pfaff Select 3.0

I was a happy Pfaff convert and missionary, mentioning the machine and praising the brand whenever I could. And recommending people to stay clear of anything Janome. Whenever I saw someone recommending Janome I considered this to be because they weren’t familiar with the much better Pfaff machines.

When I started sewing clothes, I quicly found my four-step buttonhole lacking. This was especially true when I made one-step buttonholes on the school machines I worked on the year I attended a sewing course. In this course I also discovered a need for having a serger in my sewing room.

I started to look at different sergers. At school we used Janome sergers, which I didn’t care for, as the stitch quality was not the best and I never seemed to manage the threading of these machines. I didn’t consider the fact that these machines had sustained heavy use from users unfamiliar with sergers for many years before I entered the classroom, and just figured that the salesperson who told me to go with Pfaff was right – Janome clearly did not build quality machines. This is the reason why I never considered Janome when I bought my serger. I read about the Pfaff sergers, finding that many reviewers did not care much for them.

I read a bit about coverstitch machines, deciding I wanted this feature as well despite never having coverstitched anything before. The annoying four-step buttonhole and the feeling that I’d somehow outgrown my Pfaff made me scared to buy anything without as many features as possible crammed into one serger. Then I set out to try sergers, having decided I wanted to look at Juki and Viking Husqvarna. I never considered Pfaff, Janome or Elna (Elna being Janome made). The Brother dealer was too far away, and what did a printer company know about sewing anyway? Besides I’d read some dreadful stories about cheap computerized Brother sewing machines. Singer never entered the equation because of their history of making cheap plastic machines in the 80’s and 90’s (my mother owned one of those, and sewing on it was never a pleasure). Bernina and Babylock were out of my price range, and Juki made their overlock machines anyway. They also made the higher end Viking Husqvarnas.

I didn’t like the stitch quality on the Husqvarna combo machine, and frankly, I find the computerized thread tension settings on every Husqvarna I’ve tried is a bit off. Thread tension is something I don’t want my machine to choose on my behalf. Then I met the Juki MO735 and fell in love (or so I thought). I could get a discount if I bought a machine previously displayed in the shop (but never used), and I jumped on this deal way too soon, without trying all the other sergers I wish I’d played with before buying my Juki. It serges beautifully, making lovely rolled hems and even stitches on anything woven. And the shop where I bought it is a missionary site for Juki as they import the machines themselves.

Juki MO735

Juki MO735

I went home with my Juki and loved having a serger which was quiet, sturdy and had the added option of coverstitching. Then I tried to thread it for coverstitch, and found the manual to be lacking. It certainly wasn’t good at explaining serging either, but here I had some little experience to guide me. Coverstitch was new to me, and this combo machine did not make it easy, I tell you. The result was that I didn’t want to touch the machine again for months, and ended up forgetting how to convert it back to serging before I needed to serge a seam again. Much hassle, and I finally managed to thread it right again, happily serging away once more.

This machine is temperamental, and as I found out, doesn’t want to sew medium weight rib knit cotton. No matter what I do (tension, presser foot pressure, cutting width, differential feed, stitch length), the machine stretches the fabric. It sews wovens perfectly, and also handles bathing suit materials and other thin and/or slippery knits, but my favourite at the moment – the cotton rib – it simply cannot do. An extensive online search found that this is due to a construction fault. The problem originates in part from the combo package with added coverstitch, which means having three feed dogs instead of two, with the left (extra) feed dog pulling the fabric away from the needles. The other part of the problem is the multipurpose foot, which is wider than a regular serger foot and has slits where you can add tape and ribbon as you serge. Good in theory, but not well executed, as Bernina and Juki owners have resorted to installing matchsticks into their serger feet. I tried this as well, but it didn’t solve the problem.

The last couple of weeks I have once more tried my hands at coverstitching, which made me just hate the machine all over again. I never should have bought such an expensive machine, let alone a serge-and-cover-combo. After much hassle, I’ve finally gotten a decent coverstitch out of it, thanks to hours trying different settings, a massive online search and JLX2 needles. I’m on the fence as to whether I’m selling the machine.The coverstitch looper has to be threaded from the back of the machine and along the left side, and the schematics and explanations are just not good enough for someone on my basic level of understanding such a machine. I’ve started reading owner’s manuals on coverstitch machines and see now that a stand-alone coverstitch is so much easier to thread than this combo. Time will show if I buy one or not, but I’m leaning towards a coverstitch with a bias tape binder attachment which looks so fun to use!

Enter my third machine, the Janome MC6300 Pro. This machine moved in with me after my search after a machine that did a good straight stitch and a beautiful automatic buttonhole. After buying the Juki, I was biased toward this brand, and checked out the HZL300 and HZL600 (which are really expensive here in Norway!). Then I started entering sewing machine shops asking to be shown the machine which did the best buttonhole. I read a lot online, and I found that the Janome was on sale. I never expected to be a Janome owner, as I still believed the crap about them being a lesser brand etc,  but this machine and I bonded instantly. I got to play with it and the manual at the shop (if the Juki was not my best buy, I certainly learned my lesson!), and then the machine went home with me the same day. I still love this baby, and just looking at it makes me happy.

Janome MC6300 Pro

Janome MC6300 Pro

My third round of sewing machine gazing really made the concept of sewing machines as a religion hit home. In every shop the salesperson would show me their favorite brand, their religion. Whether it was Juki, Pfaff or Viking Husqvarna, they all praised “their” brand as the highest power to be. Me? I’m a sewing machine geek, I love reading about them, looking at them and playing around with them. I’m certainly biased toward Janome after my last shopping experience, but all the big brands have their strengths and weaknesses. After what I’ve read during the last couple of years, I’m cautious about the PVS (Pfaff, Viking, Singer) company as I’ve read a lot of lemon reviews. Still I try to keep an open mind, as my closed mindset is what led me to the serger-cover-combo fiasko (at the price level of the Juki I want the machine to do everything well!). And I’ve come to understand that I very well could be one of those five-machine-owners, as I really like planning and actually buying new machines. However I recognise that sewing machines, and especially brands, are certainly a widespread religion.

And what of the serger? I mentioned I was living with four machines at the moment, didn’t I? Enter my new Elna 664Pro. I went about and tried sergers in multiple shops, ending up at the same shop where I found my Janome. I tried the Elna and the Janome 644D, which are both made in the same Japanese factory. In the end I went with the Elna, which has all the seam settings built into the machine – just roll a wheel, and the correct setting pops up. I love the simplicity of this machine, and look forward to taking her for a spin. The fact that the machine is quiet and cost about 20 % less than her Janome sister didn’t hurt either.

Elna 664 Pro

Elna 664 Pro

I very much hope I will have an ending to my serger woes, as I didn’t try to get the best serger ever made this time around – I tried to get the best serger for me.

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An update on my fabric shop project

It’s been crazy busy these last weeks. The entire shop has been expertly painted and the floors are professionally cleaned. I’ve bought new shelfs, I’ve been gifted some beautiful pieces of used furniture from another shop that’s been redecorating. I’ve moved all the items around a dozen times, give or take. The electricians have worked their magic, and there was light once more. The shop opened Tuesday March 31, and after the big opening sale was done, things have calmed down somewhat. This may  be a result of the great weather we’ve been having lately, and I was expecting to experience a spring/summer decline in shoppers. Still, the first weeks of having an open fabric shop have been very rewarding, and I love all the sewing related discussions I get to have with my customers :) Now I have to find ways to bring new customers in, order any notions currently out of stock in the shop and make plans for the future. There is so much I want to do, and patience not being one of my virtues, it’s a little hard to focus and not start doing everything at once. I really hope this shop will become all I want it to be! Now some pictures to show how the shop’s progressed toward possible-to-open-material. And soome pics of my lovely selection of fabrics and haberdashery. Enjoy :)

The shop:

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Look at all my pretty fabrics and notions!

The cleaning and organizing continues, and by the end of the week, this was the result:

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To see all the inbetweens since last update, check out the posts at Sysprasjon.

Now to the lovely fabrics I’ve discovered in the past week:

Check out this pearl embroidered silk chiffon…

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…this photo printed polyester chiffon with German phrases…

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…the polyester lace with pearls…

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…the black viscose with purple polka-dots…

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…fabric to make your own golden bikini

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…the fur of Labbetuss (Norwegian kiddie-TV-hero)…

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…and this lovely viscose chiffon with crystals and velvet print:

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I even started doing a notion of the day series:

A belt buckle…

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…rainbow-colored ric-rac…

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…multi-colored hooks (the eyes seem to have been misplaced)…

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… and a jacket zipper with stripes:

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This is both exiting and exhausting, and I’m really looking forward to open shop!

Have a great week!

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Dude, I’m starting a fabric shop!

I guess the title says it, but I also have pictures to share :)

The day after I quit my job, I walked into an old fabric shop with a sign outside stating that they was going out of business. I asked the owner, who is about eighty years old, if it was true, that the shop was closing. He told me he didn’t have the energy to keep at it anymore, but that I was welcome to give it a go myself. You can imagine the though carousel going around in my head all through new years? After talking a bit more with him and agreeing on the price for all the fabrics and notions he still had in the shop come February, I started my own company. Syspirasjon (that’s Norwegian for sewspiration) was founded by myself, my hubby and my father, who wanted in as a silent partner on January 19. Check out the website (it’s in Norwegian, but I’m updating every day I’m at the shop with pictures).

Currently I’m sorting through kilometers of fabrics (that’s no overstatement, I promise – the shop is full of fabrics), cleaning up a bit and planning to redecorate the facilities, which I suspect have remained the same for decades. It’s a lot to do, but I think it’ll be great when I’m ready to open my shop :)

You want pictures? Have a look at my last week:

Day 1, Monday: 

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Day 2, Tuesday: We had stared sorting through some of the fabrics

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Day 3, Wednesday: The day began with a table collapsing. This actually turned out as a blessing in disguise, as we cleared much needed floor space.

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Semisorted fabrics

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My selection of knits so far – more to come

Day 4, Thursday: I’m introducing the fabric of the day

I’ve found a selection of plisse fabrics while sorting through the shop. I’ve got plisse jersey, both solid, plaid and velour

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Can you believe such a fabric exists?

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Day 5, Saturday: We took apart a homemade piece of furniture consisting of eight sections with twelve drawers each to make room for redecoration of the place. Also: Fabric of the day is a lovely pure wool damask.

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Before (look at all the lovely zippers!)

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After

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Isn’t this just beautiful?

I’ll try to update this blog once a week just to show you the shop. And after the opening in March, please visit me in Sandvika (15 minutes west of Oslo) if you’re in the area :)

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Happy new year!

I went quiet again – this fall proved to much for me and the blog suffered. I didn’t get to sew as much as I’d liked to, and I had trouble finding my place at the lab I started working in back when September was new.

I got some great news just the day before New Years Eve, which I’m aching to share, but afraid to jinx it, I’ll keep quiet for some weeks to come. Let me tell you, though – it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and I feel that all stars must have aligned or something for this big a coincidence to happen. I promise I’ll tell you the whole story when my plans are finalized :)

For now – let me wish everyone a happy and creative year to come :D

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Stitching in the ditch

Lately I’ve played around a lot with ideas for different sewing projects. I think in part this has kept me somewhat sane during my first two months at work, and I really look forward to do some sewing again :)

One of my ideas includes my whole stash of fabric scraps and a stitch-in-the-ditch foot. I think this whole scrap project was born when I saw how the scrappy teddy bears turned out. Plus I have one of those large blue Ikea bags filled with various scraps that I haven’t managed to throw out – I hate to waste good fabrics, though most of these scraps have been sitting around for ages.

Enter the ditch-stitch-foot and the decorative seams on my lovely Janome, and multiple ideas about decorating garments were born.

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Obviously I need to practice and play around with this some more, but that’s what scraps are for :)

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Scrappy bears

Based on the same pattern that I shared on the blog back in 2012, I finished three teddies in various fabric combinations last month. I had enough of one fabric to make one bear, and the other two had to be made from various scraps of fabric.

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Number one is made from thick golden mohair with a brown backing and thinner, curly mohair with almost the same brown backing. I chose brown plush for the paws, olive green eyes to set off that darling pink face, and a soft yellow bow for this one. Hopefully the firstborn daughter of my friends in Germany will like her new teddy bear.

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The second one is meant for the newborn boy of another friend. I had the exact same mohair in two different colours – blue and orange curly mohair with dark tips. As neither scrap of fabric was actually big enough, I had to be creative with this one in order for the bear to have a head, body and all limbs in place. It turned out as somewhat of a blue-and-orange panda hybrid, and I love how the contrasting colours play together. As there already was so much happening with this one, I opted for black eyes and an organza bow in the same light blue colour as the blue mohair so as not to make the bear too wild colour-wise. I hope the little guy will enjoy his new play mate.

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Finally the third bear is  made from one fabric only, a beige brown-tipped mohair. This one got a pair of “buzzard” eyes, which gives it a somewhat wilder look than the other two. I think it turned out as a teddy bear with some badger in the mix. The red bow makes it ready for Christmas :) Hopefully Grandma’s little neighbor will be happy with this one.

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Here they are together – one pattern makes three very different teddies.

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