Monday, July 20, 2015

Happiness is A (Practically) New Bernina

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Happy Monday!  I've been up to my eyeballs in packing/life-organizing this month for my big move happening a week from today (merging households with my fiance), but I wanted to share my new baby I came home with at the end of June.  Say hello to the newest member of my sewing machine family, the lovely Bernina 550!

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I wrote a post right before I went on vacation to visit my family in PA of all the things I was looking for in a new machine.  Namely, it came down to what I could afford, but this guy fit the bill with all of the features I was looking for and came in right at my budget.  Plus, this is the exact machine that my mom has at home and I've used it several times, so I knew exactly what kind of machine I was getting.

Technically, this pretty lady is a "pre-owned" machine (a nicer way of saying "used," because she's classy like that).  Apparently, the previous owner only used this machine for six hours before she came back in to trade it in for a newer version.  Some people have more money than sense, I think!  It was alright for me though, it helped to knock down the price considerably,  Plus, I got allllll the feet for this machine (including a walking foot), a carrying case, bobbins, and a stitch regulator as part of the deal.  There's no way I could have gotten this kind of a bargin at the Bernina dealer near me.

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It's so simple, but I love the fact that this has two different types of thread spindles depending on what type of thread spool you're working with: cross-wound or stacked.  In the photo here, I'm working with a cross-wound spool of thread, and having the spindle horizontally makes it a lot easier for the thread to come off of the spool in smooth way.  Plus, I can put a spool of thread on the other spindle to wind a new bobbin and not have to unthread my machine.  Love it!

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I also wasn't sure how the knee bar and I were going to get along, but I became quickly addicted to using it.  How did I sew without one of these bad boys?  It makes it so easy to adjust the fabric while sewing with a quick little bump of the knee to raise the presser foot, and it's great for those times when you feel like you need a third hand to keep things in place as you adjust.

Besides those little details, it comes with a whole slew of stitches that it can sew because this is a quilting edition model.  That wasn't something on my list that I wanted/needed, but I'm sure I'll play around with them.  And this sews like a dream!  The stitching is so smooth and I have much more control over my speed than I ever did with my previous Bernina.  I feel much more comfortable having this machine as the machine I'll be using to sew my wedding dress.


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Deep in the heart of Lancaster County is one of largest, if not the top, Bernina dealers in the United States.  Hinkletown Sewing is where my mom bought the last few of her machines, and they know their stuff there.  Even if you're not in the market for a brand new machine, they have quite a few used machines, and they also have used machines that Bernina sends them to sell, which is why the prices are so great.  They turn through a lot of inventory in this tiny store.

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The sales associate took her time with me and walked me through all of the different options they had on hand based on what I was looking for.  She even showed my mom and I how to use the automatic threading feature, which is a little tricky but we got the hang of it.

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I loved all of the vintage Bernina machines around the shop, it was neat to see how some of the older models were designed.  They even had my mom's Bernina 980 on display that she bought in the 80's when I was born - that machine is such a joy to sew on, and still purrs.

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How cool is this see-through Bernina??

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They're also a long arm quilting machine dealer.  It was neat playing around with this Bernina Q24, definitely not something I'm interested in but it's great to see that Bernina is making a quality long arm machine.  They also had the brand new Q20 which the sales associate demo'd.  Long arm machines are a completely different way of sewing, it's like thread drawing with a machine.

Something else that was great - we ended up dropping off our current machines at the store for cleaning, went to lunch and did some more shopping in the area, and came back in the afternoon to pick them up - they were really busy, too!  What place do you know that does same-day sewing machine cleaning?

All-in-all, I'm pleased as punch with my new machine and already made two garments from it that turned out beautifully, which I credit it to my new machine.  If you're ever in the Lancaster County area, and in the market for a new machine, I highly recommend checking out Hinkletown Sewing Machine Shop!


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Pattern Review - Zigzag Harem Pants [Pattern Emporium]

harem pants v1


Pattern: Harem Pants by Pattern Emporium, via Indiesew
Fabric: poly challis from Burkholder Fabrics

Tee: Banana Republic
Lipstick: MAC Russian Red

Pants are still a garment that I haven't figured out yet, mostly because I haven't taken the time to really try to get a pattern to fit.  Sure, I made some floral pants last year that were pretty close, but I have yet to get a TNT pattern that's a go-to anytime I want to make some pants.  I also wear jeans 24/7 most of the year, another reason I haven't thrown myself into sewing pants.

However, I'm really digging this whole "track pants" thing, and I've seen some cute printed pants around the office that look easy-breezy to wear on hot summer days.  The Hudson Pants are a great knit track pants pattern, and I needed one for woven fabrics, like the Harem Pants that Allie made recently.

Honestly, there's not much to say about elastic-waist pants other than they are ridiculously comfortable to wear!  The sizing was a little weird on these - looking at the finished pattern measurements, I cut out a 10 in the slim version of the pattern since it matched my hip measurement, but they ended up being waaaaay too big in the hips and waist.  This version is a size 8, and it's spot on.

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I like that there's a section of the instructions that show you how to customize the pants with different types of pockets, a drawstring option, and hem lengths.  I opted for the angled pocket option and decided to leave the hem open at the bottom instead of using elastic to gather the cuff.  The pockets bow out a little bit at the hips, but that's probably my fault when I basted them down to the side seams.

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One of my hesitations with elastic-waist pants is how the butt is going to fit as well as the elastic waistband being bunchy around the middle.  No problem here!  I was pleasantly surprised with how well-drafted the back is - plenty of room to sit and I don't feel like I'm wearing some lumpy old-lady pants, these are nice and sleek.  If I make another pair of these, which I probably will since they're a snap to make, I'll attach the waistband differently - I didn't care for the exposed edge inside and would rather have a cleaner, more finished looking waistband.

On a side-note, I was quite happy with how my french braids turned out on my first attempt braiding my hair last weekend.  I don't think I'll be wearing my hair like that anytime soon during the week, but it was a fun alternative to throwing my hair up in a bun when it's hot!  Hmm, how old is too old to wear pigtail braids...


Monday, July 6, 2015

Pattern Review - Chambray Dress [McCall's 7081]

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Pattern: McCall's 7081, view C
Fabric: cotton chambray from Metro Textiles

Sandals: B.O.C
Bracelets: J Crew

Behold, the first garment hot off of my new sewing machine (more on that to come soon)!  On my last day of vacation, I decided to throw caution to the wind and cut out this pattern with no muslin to test the fit.  It was a bold move...and it almost was too small for me in the waist because I didn't pay attention to the finished measurements on the pattern piece (the usual size I cut was about 1 1/2" too small, whoops).  But I recut the waistband and was good to go.  Whew, close one!


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I love love love this dress.  Usually I'm not one for circle skirts, but there's something about this silhouette with the nipped in waist and the full skirt that feels ultra-feminine and is fun to twirl in, an added bonus.  After seeing gal-pal Karissa's version on Instagram, this pattern skyrocketed to the top of my sewing queue.

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The pattern is really straightforward to make - the bodice has some pleats in the front, a surplice faux wrap (which I tacked in place at the neckline to keep things modest), side zipper, and a real collar with collar stand.  The skirt is a full circle skirt - let me tell you, it was a bitch to hem, but that's the nature of circle skirts amiright?  Lots and lots of fabric in that skirt, but the method to hem circle skirts on the Coletterie was a sure-fire way to get a professional, neat-looking hem.  I cut out and assembled this dress in an afternoon and evening marathon sewing session, and then hung the dress up overnight for the hem to settle and spent the following evening hemming and hand-sewing the rest of the dress.

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If I had actually sewn a muslin, I could have corrected the fit in the back, which I didn't notice until I looked at these photos.  I think the bodice may be a little too long, which is a problem I haven't encountered before with my sewing.  If I choose to make this dress again, which I probably will because it's a great pattern and would look spiffy in a printed fabric, I'll need to make that adjustment.

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And lastly - chambray, why have I never sewn with you before??  So easy to handle and work with, and really comfortable against the skin.  I love that it's denim-like in appearance, but much dressier feeling.  This is a great dress to wear to work (and it hides a full tummy after a big lunch)!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Time For an Upgrade!



Tomorrow is a big day - I'm visiting my family in PA this week, and tomorrow we're trekking out to Amish country so I can buy a new Bernina! I'm very excited since this is something I've wanted for a long time (about five years?) and the timing couldn't be better as I start to sew my wedding dress. My OG machine above, the Bernina 1005, will be going in for a check-up and cleaning and will hopefully have a new friend to come along on the car-ride back to Boston this weekend.

I had to explain to Chris the concept of having more than one machine, he didn't understand...oh grasshopper, you have much to learn! I tried to put in terms he'd get: "you have your twelve-string guitar, your electric, your mandolin..."

Here are the three models I'm considering. Of course, price will really be the determining factor:

530 - probably as basic as I'd go. All of these have an automatic button-hole feature, which is a HUGE deal for me, but I like that this one doesn't have all of those fancy embroidery stitches (don't need), has needle up/down, can wind a bobbin while sewing, etc. Pretty much all of the modern functions of sewing machines out there that I'm dying to have!

560 - this one is a little fancier than the 530. It stitches faster, has a touchscreen, automatic thread cutter, tutorials, and a USB. Not must-haves, but nice-to-haves.

710 - ooo baby, this is a Cadillac of a sewing machine. What's nice about this model is the longer arm, which would allow me to try some machine quilting without bunching up the project too much, or would just be helpful with a bulky garment. It stitches 1000 stitches/minute, has all of the fancy features of the above machines with LED touchscreens, stitch memory, and adjustable presser foot pressure. What really takes the cake is the Bernina Dual Feed - essentially, it has the capability of a built-in walking foot. How cool is that?? One of the reasons for upgrading to a new machine is that it's virtually impossible to find a walking foot for my model (nope, don't want one of those generic "converters" off of eBay). This would be so great to have...but it really comes down to price and what deal I can get. When I called the store they said they had this, but it was a floor model and was being discontinued...so maybe I can get a deal!

Do you have any of the above Bernina models? Wish me luck tomorrow!


Monday, June 15, 2015

Giraffes For Work

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Last week, while packing for three back-to-back meetings in three states in the midwest, I came to the realization that I have very few summer clothes that are "work appropriate" for hot weather.  I lived in graphic tees, shorts, and tank tops last year when I worked from home (and could wear jeans and sneakers to see customers), but now that I'm in the office and in front of large customers on a regular basis, I need to step up my game a bit!  Cutesy sundresses just aren't going to cut it.

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Patterns:  top - Linden, view B; skirt - Magic Pencil Skirt, reviewed here
Fabric: top - poly knit jersey from Grey's Fabric; skirt - ponte from Fabric Place Basement

Sandals: Franco Sarto
Bracelets: J. Crew

With my hectic travel schedule lately, I'm tackling quick-and-easy projects during my downtime that also serve as stash-busters, in preparation for my big move to my fiance's condo at the end of next month.  This Maggie London giraffe print has been hanging out in my stash for a year and a half mainly because I wasn't sure how to use it.  I bought enough yardage for a dress, but the funny thing I didn't realize about the fabric is that if it was cut with the greatest direction of stretch going across the body, as usual with knit fabric, the giraffes would run horizontally across instead of up and down.  Weird, right?  The Linden top is perfect for this fabric because it's not fitted, but there's just enough stretch in the fabric to pull it on and off comfortably.  And I love the drape of this top!  It's so different than the other Lindens I made with sweatshirt fleece this past winter.

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I'm now in love with Steam-a-Seam tape - how have I sewn knits for seven years and never used it?  Combined with my standard twin-needle hemming technique, it gave a crisp, perfect finish to the hems and neckline.  This is now my go-to for any type of hemming on knits without bands.

This is also my first "high-low" hem garment ever in my closet - I was so anti these types of tops,dresses etc when they first came out a few years ago.  This is a subtle high-low hem, so it doesn't bother me as much, and I think it works nicely on a loose silhoutte - it's more subtle.  The skirt it's paired with is a high-waisted skirt, so I'm curious how this will look with my normal mid-rise jeans.  This gal does not flash her stomach anywhere that's not a pool or beach!

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If you're looking for a quick, mind-numbingly easy project, I highly recommend the Magic Pencil Skirt pattern.  After making your first version and getting the fit down, you can easily whip out one from start to finish in a little over an hour.  I made the skirt and the Linden top between late Friday evening and Saturday morning - it was the top that took the longest because I wanted to do a nice job with the hems!

Everything looks so much more profesh with a label #sewing #stashbusting #handmade


Also note - "designer" label inside.  This top looks totally profesh, amiright?

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Usually when wearing a skirt like this, I pair it with a fitted top.  This combination of a loose top with a skirt pushes me outside of my dressing comfort zone, but the silhouette also feels a bit more modern with the boxy fit and dropped hem of the top.  I think I like it!  I was also relieved that along with being very comfortable to wear, the top also hid the mimosas and apps my friends and I indulged in at a bridal show this weekend.

And now, to pack my suitcase for a trip to Texas this week.  The travel never ends!