Recently I have had reason, yet again, to be extremely thankful to have my day job. Not only are group benefits amazing, but last year we paid off our ESOP note and became employee owned. This means that a few times a year we get bonuses from these funds. I had already earmarked most of this summer’s bonus for paying off some surgery bills, but with the rest of it I planned to upgrade my sewing machine.
For years I have been irritated with sewing at home because my skills surpassed the abilities of my machine, particularly when it comes to sewing anything large, heavy duty, or miniature. I was SO tired of the machine eating the small hems and seams that are necessary for sewing small things, that I have a whole bag of cut out projects that I was putting off sewing. I learned to sew at a very young age on my mother’s old Bernina, and knew that was what I wanted for my own when I upgraded to a real “grown up” machine.
And here she is! Meet Sewfia, my brand new Bernina 330 (and a couple of little nekkid friends awaiting new wardrobes). The main appeal of a Bernina for me is the quality. Bernina is a 4th generation, family owned company based in Switzerland. While most of the well known high quality sewing machine companies have outsourced their machining and assembly to Asia, Bernina is still Swiss made and finely machined for absolute precision and lasting use. They make machines ranging from $800 to tens of thousands of dollars, for fully computerized, long arm quilting machines. Talk about intimidating! When I went shopping at our local dealer, I laid out my wants and needs and asked for a recommendation. The 330 turned out to be the right fit! Not too big, not too small, not too computerized for my analog brain. I knew I wanted an accessory called a straight stitch plate. This plate is engineered for straight stitches only, which allows for the hole that the needle passes through to be shrunk down to a tiny round opening. This means that small hems and seams will not get sucked down into the machine! I also bought an extra presser foot, recommended by the salesman. Foot number 37 – this foot is sometimes called the quarter inch foot – it is intended for detailed quilting, and because of that, it is narrower and shorter than the standard presser foot. This is yet another tool to help me with small seams and hems! I am so excited to sew doll clothes now.
BUT, doll clothes are not what I started with. Months ago I stumbled upon a picture on pinterest of a dress I really liked. I discovered that the dress is a creation of Rae Hoekstra, of Made by Rae. Rae is a blogger, and sewer, and sells her patterns for women and children on her site. The Washi dress is just my style. Pull over, no closures, fitted to the underbust, then floats away…something necessary for a pear shaped person like myself. On a whim I bought both the basic pattern and the expansion patterns too. I went to the really nice ($$$) fabric store in town and bought a beautiful cotton lawn. I taped all of the pattern pieces together, traced out my size, cut out the fabric pieces…and then everything sat in a pile for months. My hang up with the old machine got to me and I had no confidence that the drop in bobbin housing could handle the elastic thread needed to do the shirring. SO the first thing Sewfia got to do was sew my first Washi dress! This project is my “first” of many things: first time shirring, first time fitting a muslin on myself, first time cutting bias tape, first time sewing bias binding, first time sewing pockets, first time sewing actual human clothing – not a costume. SUCCESS! I have a couple of alterations to make to the pattern, but I LOVE how it turned out.
I decided to replace the zipper in this cute thrift store dress next. The original zipper was an invisible zipper, and had started pulling away from the zipper tape near the waist seam, making it impossible to get the zipper past that point. Once you are confident sewing in a zipper, this is a fairly easy part to replace, so I ripped out the old one and replaced it. I didn’t have an invisible zipper in an acceptable color, so I just used a normal one. It’s navy blue like the background of the print, so I don’t mind that it shows a little. I liked that the original zipper was bound in strips of the dress fabric, so I ripped off the binding and sewed it on my new zipper too. I will probably remember this for my next zippered project.
When I bought the Washi dress pattern, I combed through many other sewing blogs and youtube videos to see if I could find any other patterns I might like. One of my favorite doll youtubers mentioned ordering a pattern from 100 Acts of Sewing. Sonya Phillip set herself a goal of sewing 100 dresses for herself in one year, including drafting and publishing patterns for tops, dresses and pants. I love all the facets of sewing and consumption that she addresses in her creative statement. She sells the print patterns in her etsy shop and I ordered dresses 2 and 3. This is my first iteration – Dress pattern 2 in royal blue rayon crepe, bound in purple jersey binding. This is a bit of a challenging fabric combination – crepe is a woven fabric that has a rough texture and stretchy hand because of the overly twisted threads it is woven from. I didn’t want to cut facings, and I knew I would have trouble with a normal hem because of the curved edges. Because it’s so woodgie (this is a technical costume shop term, I assure you), I needed something stretchy to bind it with. For the neckline and sleeves, I stretched the knit binding slightly while sewing, so it would draw in the openings a bit. I like to be able to push 3/4 sleeves up to my elbows, and this allows that to happen. For the hem, I did the opposite – I stretched the crepe as I sewed, to make sure the knit binding would not draw in the fabric at all. I love the slight wave this gives the hem, and the weight of the jersey keeps the dress from being too floaty. This dress will be a fall and winter staple with a vest or sweater, leggings and boots.
Just last night I decided to try out a crafty project…and sew some leather! I’ve been making my own leather covers for notebooks for awhile now, but had a pile of notebooks set aside for a friend since Christmas. I couldn’t find enough time to make this for her last year, but with the new machine I was done in about 10 minutes. It took me WAY more time to pull out and choose the leather! Sewfia has a much heftier motor than my old machine and she powered right through the layers of leather. I even machine sewed on the elastic loop closure, and sewed a pen loop and paperclip holder (yes, those are sloths) inside the back cover.
Of course my studio buddy Gigi kept me company through all of this. She and I both stared entranced as I set the machine to auto-sew, and tested out the alphabet. As I watched it stitch our names (seriously, I could not think of anything else to type in), I started thinking about all of the potential uses for this stitch. I could make a bag or dress in a nerdy themed fabric and topstitch a facing or hem with a quote. I could make labeled bags, tags, gifts, etc… There are so many possibilities!
This is the fabric for my next Washi dress. I can’t decide if I will do a maxi dress length, or a hi/lo hem instead. I definitely want to do more exposed bias binding, maybe in a solid gray or green to match the fishes. I have so many dolls that need wardrobes, clothing patterns I need to try (organic cotton underwear anyone?), bags and other projects for friends, and my brain is brimming with other possibilities. I haven’t even taken any of my classes that came with the machine yet – I am sure all of the things I learn there will spin me off into even more new tangents. I hope to keep you all updated on my sewing adventures over the next few months. Sewfia and I have a lot on our plates!