New Notions

I am always on the look out for new tools to help me get my job done better, faster and easier. I previously detailed the notions used most in my workroom in my book and on my resources page. Since then I have added a few new tools to the mix!

“Pizza wheel”

I discovered this one on Claire’s blog and Melissa wrote about it as well. I had wanted to purchase one and when I spotted it at Odakaya in Tokyo last month, I snapped it right up. This tool allows me to easily measure around curves, a great time saver when I need to make pattern adjustments. I love that it measures in metric units – my preference for pattern work. Claire’s blog post has information on how to buy this one. For those who like to work in imperial measurements, the EZ Measuring Wheel is available here.

 

Clover Desk Needle Threader

I learned about this gem at the last Susan Khalje couture class. This needle threader works every time, even through the tiny eyes of the Japanese needles that I love to use. I have three of these in various locations between the studio and my home so I am never without one!

 

Pilot FriXion Point Erasable Gel Pen

Katy & Laney introduced me to this pen by in November while I was shopping at Grey’s Fabric. First of all, I love an erasable pen, but the best feature is that the markings disappear with the heat of an iron. I have successfully used this marker on all sorts of fabrics and the point is nice and fine for precise markings.

 

Pentel Tri Eraser and Tombow MONO Zero Eraser

I always start bra pattern drafting by hand and there are all sorts of little pieces and tiny lines. When I need to erase a mark, I need to be careful and that is where these tiny erasers come in handy.

 

Olfa 18mm Rotary Cutter

Even though cutting with shears is more precise, I still love rotary cutting. This size is perfect for cutting small pieces and tight curves. It handles like a pencil so I have more control when cutting.

 

Japanese Pin Cushion

I like this colorful pin cushion because it reminds me of my visit to the shop in Kyoto that sells handmade sewing needles. The shop was just magical and this reminds of their fine craftsmanship, something I like to keep in mind while working.

A gadget girl at heart, I am always on the lookout for new notions! What are your favorites?

Disclosure: I used affiliate links for the above notions so if you click through and decide to purchase, I will be compensated.

 

Now Available in Print!

When I launched my book last year, I heard from a lot of people who simply insisted they had to have a print edition. Well, guess what? I listened! As of today, my book is available in a lovely full color 8″ x 10″ paperback edition, all freshly edited and formatted. Enjoy!

Welcome Threads Magazine Readers!

I am so excited to have an article published in the August/September 2014 issue of Threads Magazine! It is simply thrilling to seeing my article appear in a publication that I have read for nearly 20 years!

This article was over a year in the making, from the submission of the idea in March 2013, through the writing and sample making, to the final printing. Even despite all the work that went into this piece, until I saw it in print it was simply not real!

If this is your first visit to my site, you may enjoy my list of reasons to sew your own bra and my guide for where to find bra making supplies in New York. Welcome!

The Search for a Sewing Machine

With any craft, it helps to have the best tool for the task at hand. Tools perfectly suited to the job make your work easier and help you complete tasks more efficiently. Recently I started questioning if I had the best sewing machine for my work and started searching for a new one.

To provide some context, I grew up sewing on mechanical Kenmore machines. In fact, my childhood machine which I still own and occasionally use is pictured below, immediately followed by my second machine, a graduation gift that is no longer with me. When I bought my first machine for myself in 2003, I wanted to have the latest technology and every option available so I bought the then top of the line Husqvarna Viking Designer 1 (pictured above). Over the years, I learned a few things that formed the basis for my latest machine search.

 

First, I don’t need every available sewing machine feature. I used the embroidery capabilities of my Viking exactly once: the instructional class for the machine. I never touched it again. I prefer hand embroidery. I am also not particularly interested in machine quilting. The reality is that I sew garments, lingerie in particular. I am also a minimalist at heart and only want what I need and use. This lesson alone helped narrow my search considerably.

Second, the user interface for a machine makes a difference to me. My Viking has multiple menus and lots of stitch options. To access stitches and make any adjustments I have to use the touch screen. Since the time to complete a sewing project is motion driven, this is a time waster since I change stitches and needle positions frequently. I knew I wanted a faster way to access stitches and make adjustments without having to go through menus or touch screen motions.

Third, I frequently stop my machine with the needle down to check my stitching or pivot. I needed to continue to have the ability to do this hands free via a tap on the foot pedal or even a knee lever.

Finally, though I have always wanted an industrial machine, the reality is that they are not a good fit for me. Because bra making uses several different stitches, I would need an industrial machine for each stitch type and there is not enough pure straight stitching through just fabric to justify a standard straight stitch machine. Industrials also fall down on my requirement to be portable, which is important given how many times I have moved over the years.

What really pushed me to buy a new machine was my search for better results with silk charmeuse, especially when sewn on the bias. It just seemed like it took a lot of work to get good results on my Viking. I really wanted to find out if there was a better tool for the job.

After researching and testing the machines I was most interested in (an entire process unto itself!), I was set on getting a Pfaff since I really like their IDT feed system. Also since Viking makes Pfaffs, I was also comfortable with how they sew. However, like the Vikings, the Pfaffs have a screen based menu user interface, one of my biggest issues with my current machine. This ruled out a machine that felt comfortable and handled fabric very well. (P.S. Sarah at Grey’s Fabrics has a great deal on a Pfaff Creative Performance right now).

Back in April at a Susan Khalje couture sewing class I tried out Leisa’s Bernina Aurora 430. While I did not really connect with it, given all the raves about Berninas from Leisa, Sarah and the others in the class I decided to give them another try.

Armed with a bag of fabric samples from my studio, I tested Bernina machines on silk chiffon, silk charmeuse, silk charmeuse on the bias, lace, tricot, silk organza and more. No matter which fabric I tried, I got great looking seams and I liked the fabric handling as well. There is definitely a difference in the fabric feed versus my Viking.

I will skip my least favorite part of the process – getting the best price – to the happy ending. I purchased the Bernina 530! It may not be as pretty as my Viking but it really suits me and my sewing and I am having a lot of fun with it!

What machines are you using in your sewing room? Please share!

Couture Lingerie

 

 

With the graphic designer, artist and pattern grader all working on their parts of the upcoming Orange Lingerie sewing pattern I met up with a great group of women including Leisa from A Challenging Sew and Sarah from Goodbye Valentino to practice couture sewing as taught by Susan Khalje.

Lucky for me, this class came at the perfect time to test different couture construction techniques for the bias cut silk camisole pattern I am working on for release later this year. If you follow me on Instagram you got a glimpse into the process and saw some of the other amazing laces in the workroom like this one:

My favorite lesson was on how to make the ultimate spaghetti straps. Just look at how tiny you can get them! They may look dainty but they are super strong and turn out perfect every time.

Now I am back from class finalizing my first sewing pattern and refining the prototype for the second – both bras. I have learned that it takes at least 6 months to create a sewing pattern because while a sewing pattern could be only a template for the pieces to cut and sew (like Marfy patterns), I felt it was important to provide more with my lingerie patterns.

It is all the additional elements beyond the pattern itself like the instructions for sewing and measuring for size as well as the artwork and packaging that take up a lot of time. Regardless, everyday there is progress and the first pattern will available shortly!