What is the right sewing machine for you?

*** Updated 11/15/2017

The short answer: the best one you can afford to buy. Good engineering costs money, plain and simple. If you really want to learn how to sew, you are going to need to invest in a piece of equipment that will make your new hobby enjoyable rather than an exercise in frustration. If you buy a machine for less than $100 don’t complain about it to me. I warned you. Also, buying a sewing machine is like buying a car – it’s personal. I like touch screens and push buttons and hate rollerballs and dial-a-stitch controls, while you might prefer them.

First, let’s talk about some things that make my top 10 7 essential features list for a sewing machine:

  1. Needle up/down control. This is a button that causes your needle to always stop in the “up” or “down” position when you stop pressing on the foot pedal.
  2. Needle position control. If there is one thing I really despise in a sewing machine, it is a couple of stitch selections with preset needle positions (left, center, or right) rather than the ability to move the needle to 5, 7 or 9 different needle positions during sewing.
  3. Automatic buttonhole. One that looks decent, please.
  4. Stitch length adjustment. Another “feature” that makes me scream is a bunch of pre-set stitch lengths. Let me control my own stitch length, puh-leeze.
  5. Stitch width adjustment. Read #4. Ditto.
  6. A motor that is strong enough to stitch through at least 4 layers of heavy denim. I like to make jeans, after all.
  7. Loads of accessory presser feet.

OK, now we can talk about sewing machine manufacturers. Bernina. I like Berninas. I think Berninas are best. I have owned Berninas for almost 40 years. Couldn’t be happier. So that’s my BEST advice. But if you don’t want to spend upwards of $1000 for a sewing machine, here are a couple of other options that might take you a long ways on your sewing journey.

  1. Pfaff and Viking are also premium brands, and there are loads if my friends in ASG who happily own these machines.
  2. Janome. I LOVE Janome, and I think they are the best engineered “lesser cost” machines. Full disclosure, I do own 5 of the now-discontinued Janome DC 2014 model. All of my beginning students sew on these machines, and love their ease-of-use and simplicity. Since I purchased these machines, Janome has discontinued this product line, which is too bad because it was a machine at the just-under-$500 price range that I think was a great value.
  3. Brother is the brand I most often see kids bring into my sewing studio. I am not in love with Brother machines. At all. They are not nearly heavy-duty enough for my needs, BUT if you are willing to spend at least a few hundred bucks, and preferably $300-$400, you can get something serviceable. ***UPDATE 1/21*** One of my most awesome sewing-student-moms informed me that you MUST ask your Brother dealer whether the model you are looking at has internal METAL moving parts. Thank you, HeathC. 😉 Metal moving parts = better engineering = less likely to fail/cause stitch problems = happier sewing student = happier sewing instructor. One quick test for metal – pick up the machine. Metal machines are heavier. Duh.
  4. I am least familiar with Babylock sewing machines, but they make a damn fine serger and coverstitch machine.
  5. Singer. Generally I don’t allow Singers to fraternize with my Berninas.
  6. Toy machines for kids. My comment on those machines cannot be published.

Where should you purchase a sewing machine?

  1. For gawd’s sake do not order a machine on the inter-net. Would you order a car you had never driven from an online source?
  2. Find a great dealer and test drive LOTS of different models. And manufacturers.
  3. Be sure to also test used machines. People trade up for new features, so it is easy to find good quality, used machines from reputable dealers that have been completely serviced.
  4. Craig’s list. NOT! Unless you are really familiar with sewing machine functionality (which you aren’t because you are reading this), you don’t know enough to buy a used machine from someone on Craig’s list.

Oh wait. You want to know SPECIFICALLY what machine to buy? And where? If you live in the greater Seattle area…..

  1. Pick something in the 3xx series or higher from Sewing Machine Service, also known as Bernina of Renton. Notice in the lower right corner they were just awarded Dealer of the Year for the western district a couple of years back. Those are MY guys.
  2. I have heard mixed results about Quality Sew and Vac dealers, but I think they might be the only option in our area for Brother and Janome. Go in and try out a few different models, and definitely have them sew through 4 layers of heavy denim. Pretty much any motor can sew through quilting cotton. Try to avoid the Project Runway/Hello Kitty/ or any other co-branded machines. You are paying something for that licensing, and it is not reflected in better engineering.
  3. There is a Viking dealership in Renton, so you could check out Viking and Janome there. No inside info on their customer service tho, sorry.

Good luck, and happy sewing!

Maris

Vintage Vogue 2090: The “Madeline” Coat

Both of my daughters LOVED the “Madeline” series by Ludwig Bemelmans when they were young girls. Well, my DGD shares some personality traits with the intrepid Madeline, so of course I had to make her a “Madeline” coat!

Vintage Vogue 2090 Madeline Coat by Sew Maris

This pattern is Vogue 2090, which is long out-of-print, but still available on Etsy and eBay. This pattern was produced back-in-the-day when patterns were “single size”, instead of the multi-sized patterns we are accustomed to today, so plan ahead when purchasing! I originally bought this pattern when Oona was an infant, in size 3, so there was a some grading required to use it for my now-5-year-old DGD!

Vintage Vogue 2090 Madeline Coat by Sew Maris

One of the perks of being a grandmother is I pay no attention to practicality. A wool coat for a child who will likely grow out of it in a single season. Pffft! Who cares! 🙂 I don’t pay attention to how much garments for her cost, I only spend my time sewing things that we both like; and she loves this coat. When I was a young mother, a wool coat would have been reserved for church and special occasions, but I love that Oona wears Madeline coat to pre-school, the playground, and shopping. Why let something hang in the closet just to be outgrown?.

 

As mentioned, this coat is made from wool flannel that I had in my stash. It was not particularly heavy, so I underlined the entire garment in cotton flannel to add warmth. The pattern also did not call for a lining, so I drafted one because I knew the lack of a slippery lining would be a non-starter. Who likes pulling unlined coat sleeves off, anyway?

Vintage Vogue 2090 Madeline Coat by Sew Maris

Many sewists think making a wool coat is a big undertaking. Well, it can be, but this coat was easy and went together quickly. Of course, I made it more time-consuming by adding flannel underlining and a rayon Bemberg lining, but it was worth the extra effort.

Vintage Vogue 2090 Madeline Coat by Sew Maris

Don’t you love the capelet? Oona does!

Vintage Vogue 2090 Madeline Coat by Sew Maris

My DGD loves all things “golden”, so of course I used shiny gold for the front closure, as well as the decorative-only sleeve buttons.

Vintage Vogue 2090 Madeline Coat by Sew Maris Vintage Vogue 2090 Madeline Coat by Sew Maris Vintage Vogue 2090 Madeline Coat by Sew Maris

As you can see, this coat is not at all restrictive! Tree-climbing, twirling, and jumping are all possible!

Vintage Vogue 2090 Madeline Coat by Sew Maris

Somebody could be a pouty runway model, at age 5, right?

I had so much fun making this coat I already have another planned in fuschia linen for Easter. I am going to combine a couple of patterns for that garment, and I think I will leave it unlined just to see how that works for a spring/summer coat.

Have you ever made a wool coat for a child? What was your favorite coat pattern for a child?

Happy sewing!

Maris

 

 

A Vintage Christmas Dress for Oona

My DGD is 5 this year, and that girl loves dresses. BUT. She has opinions. Sparkly, golden, twirly, not-scratchy are all good things.

Vintage McCalls 9479 by Sew Maris

I used a vintage Nannette pattern for Oona’s Christmas creation, McCalls 9479. I made view the short and sweet dress version from red cotton velveteen with a sparkly red tulle overskirt. There is no such thing as too much sparkle for my gal! Since Oona is a skinny-minny, the size 4 was closest to her body measurements, but since she is also tall I was just able to squeeze another 2 inches out of the yardage for the the skirt length.

Vintage McCalls 9479 by Sew Maris

The construction was fast and simple. I decided to line the bodice rather than use facings for a cleaner finish on the inside. A scrap of white cotton from my stash fit the bill for that job.

Vintage McCalls 9479 by Sew Maris

I love the finish on the sleeve hem. The sleeve facing makes the curved hem lay flat, and a quick hand stitching around the top facing edge makes the sleeve finish smooth and pretty on the outside, too. Winning! Isn’t it funny how little details like a faced sleeve hem excite us sewists? Try explaining that feeling at your next cocktail party!

I gathered the tulle and the velveteen together for the skirt, but kept the tulle as a separate overskirt so someone could not complain about any tulle itching on the inside, See, I am learning. Both layers are stitched to the bodice first, and then I serged the edges to control those pesky velveteen ravels. The skirt is very wide, so all the bulk of the gathered velveteen made the skirt super twirly. Bonus points!

Vintage McCalls 9479 by Sew Maris

Oona cooperated for a fitting session, and I was shocked that the dress was barely long enough, even with the addition of 2 inches to the skirt hem. Soooo, I cheated on the hem finish and used my serger to run a narrow 3-thread stitch along the hemline. I figured a rolled hem would be too wonky on velveteen, and I have found the narrow 3-thread stitch looks very similar to a rolled hem and isn’t so fussy to make. And with the tulle overskirt my “fake hem” doesn’t show at all. Sorry Shirley, I know you taught me better. But tough times call for tough solutions!

Vintage McCalls 9479 by Sew Maris

I couldn’t find a single ribbon I liked for the dress that was the width I wanted, so I stitched some Christmas plaid to a red satin ribbon. And that narrow 3-thread serger stitch? It creates the perfect belt carriers. A quick hand stitch to tack the carriers to the inside of the bodice and the ribbon sash stays in place, even when twirling!

I originally had made a summer dress for Oona’s mother using the same pattern,  but view B with the scalloped hem and collar. It was really a fun memory to make a dress for Oona with a pattern that I had originally used for her mom!

 

Best.Interfacing.Ever SALE!

Have you ever tried interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply? If you are still using that papery stuff (you know, that name that rhymes with felon), do yourself a favor. Buy the good stuff. You are worth it, and your garments deserve the best.

From now until December 3rd the uh-mazing professional interfacing is 15% off. The sale applies to all colors and styles in stock, up to a maximum of 5 yards per product. Don’t delay too long, as some products sell out during the sale period. I use the Shirt Crisp in all the shirts I make for the men in my life, and I use Light Shirt Crisp in my shirts. I love the Pro-Tricot Deluxe Fusible for knits, and I also use it for lightweight wovens.

Have you tried any of the interfacing products from Fashion Sewing Supply?? Which one is your fav go-to interfacing product?

Happy sewing!

Maris

 

 

Pattern Review: McCalls 5591 + Butterick 6182

I am pretty sure I am in love.

McCalls 5591 & Butterick 6182 by Sew Maris

Bottom first. McCalls 5591, with pretty soft pleats and POCKETS, is definitely the fav skirt in my closet right now. Add the fact that I made it from the leftover yardage from my crazy-linen-pants-making-marathon this summer makes me feel absolutely parsimonious. “Frugal” + “Maris” + “anything-related-to-sewing” are not normally combined in a single sentence. Oh, and did I mention all the fabric (black linen, white linen, and black stretch lace) was from my stash? That’s right. Extra points for frugality! 🙂

McCalls 5591 & Butterick 6182 by Sew Maris

I made view A of the skirt so I could make good use of both pieces of leftover linen, and also get that classy hem band finish. Black and white is my favorite color palette anyway, so naturally this combo was my jam. I wore the heck out of this skirt over the summer, and loved it more each time I had it on. It is very Kate Spade, don’t you think? Polished, sophisticated, comfortable, feminine…..really, I can’t think of anything bad to say about this skirt. Except maybe the fact the pattern is out-of-print now. Good luck with Etsy and eBay!

One issue was I didn’t have anything in my wardrobe that I thought was the perfect topper for this perfect skirt, tho. And who wants a lonely orphan skirt hanging in the closet?

My eldest DD owns a pretty black lace top, and I tried it on once my skirt was completed, just to see if the look/length/etc. were right. Yep, winner-winner-chicken dinner!

McCalls 5591 & Butterick 6182 by Sew Maris

I hemmed and hawed about which pattern I would use to try to re-create my DD’s top, and finally decided to hack Lisette’s B6182. If you check out the technical drawings on that pattern, you will see darts in the center front seam. I pinned those out, and set the front pattern piece on the fold instead of creating a center front seam line in lace. I did sort of just smash the tissue flat while I was cutting out the lace, which of course is not-great-patternmaking-practice, BUT. It was a knit, ladies! Definitely easier to break the rules with knits, and I took full advantage.

McCalls 5591 & Butterick 6182 by Sew Maris

I used bias strips of the leftover black linen to bind the neck and hem, and also cut the cuffs from the black linen. I already had a short black cami to wear underneath, and a couple of shoe options, so outfit complete. BAM!

I finished this outfit in July, and yes it is crazy that it took me so long to blog about it. But if you can find the skirt pattern, or are lucky enough to have it in your stash right now, MAKE.THIS.SKIRT! Then we can gush together about how great we lookit is.

Happy sewing!

Maris

First Choice Boxers: Good Pattern!

Sewing clothing for guys is fun, even their underwear!!

First Choice boxers by Sew Maris

I found this awesome Washington state fabric at Pacific Fabrics, one of my local fabric stores, and I just couldn’t resist making my husband a pair of First Choice boxers. Isn’t it great? Look at all these images of iconic Washington state places, animals, and plants; Mount Baker, eagles, tulips, Walla Walla sweet onions, moose, Mount Rainier, and loads more. Perfect for a guy born, raised, and happily residing in Washington!

First Choice boxers by Sew Maris

I love these boxers, and my husband thinks they are pretty cool, too. I think the 5-panel styling makes this pattern especially roomy and comfy to wear, although I can’t really say they were a fast and easy make. Definitely a bit more fiddly than one might think to assemble. Flat felled seams, after all. Thank goodness I have a felling foot. It makes felling so.much.faster! (But really hon, anything for your comfort. 😉 )

First Choice boxers by Sew Maris

You could, of course, skip the felled seams and serge them instead, but I thought I would try making this pattern with all the bells and whistles at least one time. No promises for any future pairs tho, as I could totally see banging out a few boxers quickly on my serger assembly-line style.

I do like that the waistband comes out very clean and flat, but it is fussy too. Pressing the top edge down. Four rows of stitching on the elastic. No picture of it, but the join of the elastic is covered with a bit of fabric to keep everything flat and nicely finished. Fiddly, but definitely finished well.

First Choice boxers by Sew Maris

Fiddly or no, I will definitely make First Choice boxers again for my DH. I have quite a few pieces of leftover cotton shirting that will make scrumptious, silky boxers for him, and at the same time help clean out some of my overflowing stash. Win-win!

For the next iteration, one thing I do want to work on is the topstitching around the fly.

First Choice boxers by Sew Maris First Choice boxers by Sew Maris

See what I mean? You don’t see this kind of topstitching on RTW boxers. It might involve a pattern drafting change, but I think the right side of the fly looks unprofessional, don’t you?

Have you ever sewn boxers? What did you like, or not like, about the process? Do you have a favorite pattern?

Happy sewing!

Maris

 

Label yourself

I have been wanting woven labels for my garments for a long time, but somehow the task of finding just the right company to order from never got to the top of my to-do list.

Custom labels by Dutch Label Shop for Sew Maris

And then I received a lovely email from the Dutch Label Shop, offering me complimentary labels in exchange for reviewing their product. I jumped!

The Dutch Label Shop offers several options for brand labels, which is exactly what I was looking for. You can either go for a “stock” type label that offers a set of fonts, colors, and  symbols, or you can upload your own custom logo label. They also offer care, hang tags, and stock labels, but as I am not selling any of my creations, I have no real need for these items.

You can start off very simply (like I did), and select the basic woven label option. Next you just choose the label size, color, font, and an image from their “symbol” library, and BAM! You almost have a label! Type the text you want to appear (up to 3 lines), and then check the preview to make sure the label will look as you intend. Pretty awesome, and definitely straightforward, right?

Custom labels by Dutch Label Shop for Sew Maris

I ordered two sets of labels. My first choice was the 2.4x.6 inch size, and as you can see, I picked red. Kind of a no-brainer as that is one of my brand colors. 🙂 I was also super jazzed that Dutch Label Shop has a button that looks just like the one on my logo, so I added that cute little symbol. I love the clean, simple look of these labels!

Custom labels by Dutch Label Shop for Sew Maris

I also ordered a set of the 2.4x.8 size labels, just to see if I preferred a larger size. I will have to see after I add them to a few garments, but at first blush I think I prefer the smaller size, since I have a minimal amount of text on my labels. What do you think? Is bigger better? I was also a teensy bit disappointed in the shade of blue—I was expecting it to be more turquoise. Darn computer monitors! I think this is something to keep in mind when ordering your own labels. If you want a really specific color (or 6!), the best option is to upload your own logo artwork. Lesson learned, and I plan to correct this on my next order.

I am very pleased with the quality of these labels. The woven design looks crisp and clean, and the fabric feels smooth and soft. If you have been considering ordering custom labels, I definitely recommend that you give the Dutch Label Shop a go. They were nice enough to pass on a savings to all you awesome readers, so be sure to use the code “sewmaris” and save 15%. Have fun labeling!

Happy sewing!

Maris

Up Your Shirt-Making Game

You can make a nice, tailored shirt for your man (or yourself!)……

Tailored mens shirt by Sew Maris

or you can make a damn great SHIRT!

Tailored mens shirt by Sew Maris

It’s all in the details, isn’t it? Love that contrast fabric on the inside of the cuffs and collar stand.

Tailored mens shirt by Sew Maris

Ohhh, check out that perfectly matched pocket. With contrast piping. And the upper pocket edge set on the bias. And lower pocket edge shaped to mimic the cuff edge diagonal shape.

Tailored mens shirt by Sew Maris

Love how a bias yoke looks on plaid shirts!

This navy/burgundy/royal plaid is by far my favorite made-by-me shirt. I had such fun designing all the little touches that make this shirt one-of-a-kind, and I really hoped my son would like it, too. I sent both the navy plaid and the black/grey stripe to him for his birthday in February, and he loved them both! The stripe is perfect for appearing in court (he’s the attorney, not the defendant! 🙂 ), and the plaid for grabbing a beer and pizza after work with his girlfriend. Win/win!

(BTW – don’t men’s shirts look funny on women’s dress forms? What’s a gal to do tho? None of my guys are very willing models,  and neither of my sons live close by either. So, ignore the, ummm,  shaping. 😉 )

Happy sewing!
Maris

 

Jalie 3353: Almost Instant Gratification

Sometimes all you want is a fast and easy-to-sew project.

You might need to fill a “hole” in your wardrobe, or maybe you want to use up a fabric from your stash. You could even be sick of fiddling with a complicated project that just won’t sew itself!

Jalie 3353 by Sew Maris

Enter Jalie Cocoon cardigan. Just 4 pattern pieces; front, back, sleeve cuff, and circular band. A few instructions that you barely need to reference (sew front to back at shoulder/sleeve seam, sew sleeve/side seam; apply cuffs, sew band pieces into a circle and attach to sweater) and this baby is done and done! Not even 1 hour of sewing time!

Jalie 3353 by Sew Maris

Cocoon sweaters are “in” again this season, and for a good reason. They are comfy, can be made from a variety of knit fabrics, and the shape can be adjusted slightly to flatter most figures. Oh and yes, they are a very quick sew!

While I do definitely like cocoon sweaters, I am not a fan of the styles with wide, batwing-ish sleeves. Too.Much.Fabric. The slimmer silhouette of Jalie 3353 works just about perfectly for my design aesthetic.

Jalie 3353 by Sew Maris

One thing. I did find the sleeves on this pattern to be a bit short and wide for my taste. After shooting these pix, I removed at least 3 inches from the lower sleeve circumference, and added a longer cuff to get the overall sleeve length I wanted. The sleeves was just too floppy, IMHO.

It is an easy pattern change – just remove an equal amount from the upper sleeve seam and the lower sleeve seam. I determined the amount to remove by basting first, trying on for fit, and then serging off the excess width.

Jalie 3353 by Sew Maris

I plan to make this sweater again using a yummy, red bamboo sweater knit currently resting in my stash. This pattern is a great topper for  pants and a tee, and provides just the right amount of warmth. I think it is a keeper!

What do you think of this silhouette? Have you ever tried wearing or making a cocoon-style sweater?

Happy sewing!

Maris

Vogue 1043 Review

There are times when a pattern just calls your name.

Vogue 1043 by Sew Maris

You know what I am talking about. Those times when a pattern can transport you to a different life. In this case, one that does not include washing dishes or cleaning bathrooms. But DOES include wearing crinolines. 🙂

Vogue 1043 by Sew Maris

I don’t really have that many occasions to wear a silk “party” dress. But at a recent ASG dinner we were hosting some lovely ladies from McCall’s Pattern Company, and had been asked to wear a garment made from any of the McCall’s family of patterns. Vogue is usually my McCall’s pattern company of choice, and since I had the black silk dupioni, Bemberg lining, pattern, AND vintage mother-of-pearl belt buckle in my stash, how could I resist?

Vogue 1043 by Sew Maris

This pattern is really an easy sew. I have only made one other vintage reproduction pattern, and found it to be easy to assemble as well. The one change I did make was to fully line the top, rather than applying facings. I decided not to line the skirt, because as usual I was short on construction time and needed to get.it.done. I may go back and add a skirt lining later, but those big ole almost-circle-skirts take a lot of fabric and I am not sure I want to use up my Bemberg lining stash for this dress.

Vogue 1043 by Sew Maris

I hand-picked the zipper in place, mostly because I was terrified to machine stitch over the folds of the tuck on the bodice. That just seemed like a hot mess waiting to happen. With all the texture on silk dupioni no one could tell if my stitches are even and consistently placed or not. Winning!

Vogue 1043 by Sew Maris

Love the sleeve gussets. A little fiddly to set in, but not that bad. Of course because I lined the bodice I got to do it 4 times instead of just 2. Serves me right, eh?

The one fitting/wearing issue with this dress is keeping the upper front edges of the bodice laying flat and smooth. Part of this issue I probably created myself by pulling the stay tape a bit too tight. You know me – if a little is good, more is better, right? I added a small section of boning to each side after construction (stitched to the seam allowance), but I don’t think it helped too much. Maybe more boning? This is a good application for body tape, which I did wear at the Sew Expo dinner. I will try it once without tape, and see how annoying it is before attempting to redo the boning. Talk about fiddly!

Vogue 1043 by Sew Maris

I.LOVE.THIS.DRESS.

Vogue 1043 by Sew Maris

I would love to make it again in a light cotton voile for summer. A Liberty fabric would be gorgeous, but would cost a fortune to make up.

Have you ever sewn a vintage or a vintage reproduction pattern? Do you consider “vintage” part of your style?

Happy sewing,

Maris