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!

 

Progress

I didn’t just move my home across the country, I also moved my work into its own separate studio! One thing about moving that I discovered is that it makes you look at things from a different perspective. It is a happy side effect that the move made me take a fresh look at my work.

Preparing to launch a line of lingerie sewing patterns, over the Summer I designed, drafted and graded my first pattern release. I was all set to move on to the next steps of the process when I learned we were moving to Boston. After we set up our home and my new studio last month, I reviewed my work plan and realized that instead of continuing to complete the original designs, I should be creating what the readers of my book are actually asking for: a really great bra pattern. So in case you were wondering, yes, I really am listening!

I have been solely focused on creating a sewing pattern for a bra that incorporates the style lines and features that I found consistently produced the most flattering fit and support for my custom clients. With the change in plans, the pattern won’t be available until next year but I promise it is worth waiting for!

Welcome to The Lingerie Addict Readers!

 

As a reader of The Lingerie Addict, I know you love lingerie. I have a number of articles on lingerie as well as some pretty pictures. I hope you stay awhile and enjoy them all!

Expect the Unexpected

What is the line about the world laughing at you when you make plans? Well, that saying exactly sums up my month. At the beginning of August, my husband and I were planning to move to an apartment in the East Village neighborhood in Chicago. We searched for and found an amazing apartment and spent time negotiating the lease. Then, the day we were to sign the lease, the unexpected happened.

My husband was offered a great career opportunity. In Boston. Just to complicate matters we could not start the moving process or even share the news broadly as his company went through their process to finalize the arrangements, filling these last few weeks with a lot of uncertainty. At last everything has fallen into place and I can finally share the news. We are moving to Boston!

I am not going to lie, moving cross country is highly disruptive. It is not just the move itself but the fact that all of our belongings will be in storage for at least a month while we find a place to live. While I am working hard to keep my projects on track it could take a bit longer than I expected to release my first pattern. You see, not expecting three distraction filled weeks and the Boston move, I got ambitious and decided to make a set (bralette and matching knickers) for my first pattern.

Luckily the pattern has already been graded and digitized and most of my test sewing is complete. Who knows, the move could lead to an unexpected increase in productivity since my stash of fabric and tempting extracurricular sewing projects will be temporarily out of reach. Now off to decide what can be temporarily exiled to storage and what I can not live without.