Sewing Machines

I’m a bit of a sewing machine hoarder. If you don’t count the one that is Finn’s, I have four. That includes my sewing and embroidery machine combo, but not my two sergers. Also not including the knitting machine, because it knits.

While I’m certainly not an expert, I do have my preferences. I would take a well-built, old metal machine over a new machine any day. Mainly because when they break, I tend to do this:

That is my first sewing machine. It is a Montgomery Ward’s Signature sewing machine from the 60s, I think. I got it from my mom who got it from my grandma. I can’t remember what was wrong with it that time, but it sews nicely now.

The Signatures at that time were made by a Japanese company that specialized in industrial machines, I think for sewing feed sacks. That translates to a heavy duty, domestic sewing machine that will sew through anything. It also has a set of cams. Cams are interchangeable disks that allow it to sew pretty embroidery stitches.

My next sewing machine is another, slightly older Montgomery Ward’s Signature. This one was rescued from a lot of machines that were destined for the junk heap.

I love the blue color! It reminds me of cars from that era.

Like the other Signature, it uses cams. You can see them in the little accessory box. I actually like this one a little better than the other. It sews the prettiest straight stitch out of all my machines and has a cam that stitches a row of teeny tiny hearts!

I’ve never actually made anything on it, though. Unlike the other, this one is in a portable case, which is hilarious. I carry/wrestle a 31 lb. two year old every day and lifting that machine is a struggle. Since I don’t have a dedicated place for it, I don’t have the motivation to lug it out.

My workhorse is a 90s model Kenmore, made by Janome. The case is plastic, but all the internal workings are metal. I know, because I had to open it up when my walking foot vibrated the needle loose and messed up the timing. Photographic evidence on Instagram.

That is the best photo I could find of it. I love that machine because it isn’t as quirky as the Signatures. It also tells me how to thread it right on the machine, and when it comes to sewing machines, threading is half the battle.

My final machine is the Brother SE400 embroidery combo. I keep it set up as an embroidery machine because I have three other sewing machines. Also, it scares me, so I want to risk messing it up as little as possible. I haven’t had it opened up beyond the bobbin area, but I’m guessing there’s some plastic, and I know there is scary electronic components. With the other machines, I am freer to play because I know that if something happens, it’s not likely to be catastrophic. With this, something like a timing issue would definitely mean a big repair bill.

Playing with fonts on my new toy.

A post shared by Charity Maas Sloan (@subearthancottage) on

But, it makes pretty embroidery, has loads of decorative and utility stitches as a sewing machine, and has the most awesome needle threader I have ever seen. Seriously. Finn’s machine has a needle threader that I will never use, because it is complicated and I stabbed myself with it one time. Brother’s needle threader is like magic. It is especially handy when embroidering with multiple colors. Color changes take mere seconds.

Just to show I’m not as much of a hoarder as I could be, here is a photo of the White machine I couldn’t get working and sold on craigslist.

Then, while I was waiting for the buyers to show up, I decided to play with it a bit and figured out what was wrong. I hope they love it, or at least open it up to look at from time to time. Sigh.

 

My New Toy

So, I got a new toy for my birthday:


Yay! Now impatient me with no time and a fear of leaving needles around accidentally in the baby’s reach can do embroidery too! It’s also a regular sewing machine. I’ve never sewn on a computerized machine before. I’ve never sewn on a sewing machine newer than from the early 1990s for that matter. Most sewing machines I’ve used have been older than me. Not that I don’t like old machines. You’ll have to pry my trusty metal mechanical Kenmore and back up Signature(s) from my cold hands.

It’s been fun learning how to use it. I also may or may not be a bit obsessive about switching off the power strip and then going back and unplugging it from the power strip and then making sure I’ve unplugged it again later, lest some random lightening storm attack my precious.

It’s a brother se400. I haven’t done much regular sewing with it yet, so I can’t do a full review. I can say that I worried a little about getting annoyed with all the threading and re-threading involved with a single needle embroidery machine. Brother took care of that by giving it the most amazing needle threader I’ve ever seen. I usually skip “automatic” threaders as I find them harder to use than just sticking the thread through the eye by hand. This one is some sort of magic. Seriously, if you were to stop over, I’d probably briefly introduce you to my family and then insist you come see me thread my sewing machine.

Aside from just playing, I’ve rescued a few shirts from (probably coffee) stains by embroidering things on them to hide the stains. Considering my clumsiness and love of coffee, that alone will probably help me get my money’s worth out of it.

I am looking for decent digitizing software so I can do things like embroider the SubEarthan Cottage logo and make traditional monograms a little easier. Embird seems to be the go-to, but it’s a little pricey. Stitch Era is more my price range, but I’m not sure it’s as user-friendly. I’ve also seen Sew What Pro mentioned, but haven’t looked into it enough to know what it’s like. Any advice on software would be appreciated.


Quick Ironing Board Cover

My ironing board cover has seen better days. It’s not worn, but it has a few scorch marks and B thought it was a good idea to stamp it a few times with my thank-you stamp. Since it is always visible in my craft room, I wanted something more pleasant to look at, so I decided to make it a shiny new cover.

Eww.

I went with supplies I had on hand and used the ironing board itself to measure, so I don’t have exact measurements. You should be able to adapt from what I did easily, though. Keep in mind that this is just a cover and not the padding. I put mine on right over the old one. If you want to replace everything, you’ll have to find a replacement for the pad, too. (Layers of quilt batting and topped with Insul-brite maybe?)

Supplies:

Enough fabric to go over the top of your ironing board with about a 3 inch overhang on all sides.

Extra-wide double fold bias tape or blanket binding (2-3 packages)

Thin elastic. The bias tape or binding serves as a casing for the elastic, so make sure to choose an elastic thin enough to be threaded through easily.  Mine is 1/4 inch elastic.

Thread.

How to:

Cut the fabric with a 3-ish inch overhang. The easiest way to do this is to put the fabric on the floor, then the ironing board upside down on top and cut around it, eyeballing the overhang.

For this tutorial the pointy curved end is the top, the short, straight end is the bottom and the long edges are the sides. There’s going to be a gap in the bias tape/binding at the bottom, so you will want to finish it some way. If you have a serger, just serge straight across the bottom. If not, you can either zig-zag stitch over that edge or fold over 1/4 inch twice and hem. It doesn’t have to be exact, just make sure when you cut initially that you account for the hem on that end if you go that route.

Find the middle point of the bottom edge. Measure about 1.5 inches on each side of the midpoint and mark. These are your starting and ending points for the casing.

Leaving the three inch space at the bottom open, sew the bias tape/ binding on being sure to enclose the edge of the fabric. Unless you have a really long strip of binding, you’ll probably need to piece the binding together. When you get a few inches from the end of one bias strip, stop sewing and join the new strip by opening the ends flat, overlapping and sewing across. Refold and continue sewing around the edge of the fabric. Stop when you reach the end point.

What happens when you don’t have enough blanket binding on hand? This. This is what happens.

Thread the elastic through the binding all the way around leaving several inches hanging loose at the beginning and end. This works best if you attach a safety pin securely to the leading end of the elastic to help guide it through.

Fit your new cover, pretty side up onto your board and pull the elastic snug.

Tie the elastic securely, trim the ends if necessary.

Admire your new cover.

Questions? Ask in the comments and help me expand on my clear-as-mud tutorial.

Random Sewing Tip- Painless Prewash

You know how you need to prewash most fabric to keep your finished project from being a shrunken, lumpy mess? If you just toss it in the wash, though, it comes out a stringy, tangled mess.

If you have a serger, serge the cut edges before washing. I usually just leave the thread tails long and they don’t unravel enough to be annoying.

With a sewing machine, you can sew a quick zig-zag or similar stitch along the cut edges to prevent fraying. Even a straight stitch would probably work, although I haven’t tried it. You will probably need to back-tack or knot the ends to keep it secure through the wash.

This also lets me see at a glance which fabric was prewashed by looking at the edges.

And I know 90% of the people reading this are thinking “Duh!” because it’s such an obvious fix. The other 10% are wondering why they didn’t think of that, much like myself when I first learned the trick.

Nap Time Yoga Pants Refashion

This morning I threw on a pair of black Danskin boot cut yoga pants for the walk to school. They were some of the first new pants I bought after Beckett was born. They fit a little big now, except for the length. They were now cropped in a less fashionable, more “look at my ankle” sort of way.

After seeing some pants to leggings tutorials, I decided that was the way to go. With fall arriving any day now (please!), leggings will get more use for under skirts and with tall boots.

I didn’t take any before pictures. This is the inspiration tutorial. Instead of only trimming from the inseam, it looked better if I took some from along the outside, too. To keep it even, I did one leg, tried them on to make sure it fit, then folded them in half and used the finished leg as a pattern for the other leg. I had planned to add a cuff using the fold over waistband. It was black on one side and grey with multicolored stripes on the other. I thought it would be cute and add length. I tried it on one side, and decided I didn’t like the way it looked. With the tighter fit, they actually stay down at my ankles anyway.

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The left leg is rolled up to show where the yoga pants were hitting me. Not a flattering look with a boot cut.

One thing that’s really nice about making the leggings this way is that the yoga pant’s fabric was heaver than most leggings, so they offer more coverage as long as they don’t get stretched too tight. Definitely cut a little bigger than you think. You can always take more off easier than fixing something that is too small.

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Side note about the shirt I’m wearing: I really want to do something to make it less boxy, but I can’t. I’m afraid I might make it un-wearable. Normally that wouldn’t matter too much with a free t-shirt. This one is special, though. Right after Beckett was born, Finn and my mom went to the grocery store to get a few things we needed at home. Someone offered Finn a free t-shirt. He politely turned it down, but then said that maybe his mom would want one, so they gave him one for me. For a while afterward, any time I wore this shirt, his face would light up and he’d say “You’re wearing the shirt I got you!” So, yeah, I will probably wear this shirt as-is until it starts falling apart. Then I’ll turn it into a pillow or something to keep forever.

Also, Beckett just woke up from his nap, hence the no-pants look.

I did learn just how sharp my fabric scissors are while working on this project. I was snipping some threads at the end and managed to catch my finger. I can totally vouch for their razor-sharpness.

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