My Sewing Machines | Bernina

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You can make great things on a simple, inexpensive sewing machine. I started sewing on a Brother CS6000i and it took me through my first four years of me-made items. I made a lot in those first four years, including my wedding outfit, first few quilts, and many, many bags. You do not need an expensive machine to have a rewarding sewing practice. However, if your sewing practice is one that sticks, you feel like you’ve outgrown your intro machine, and you can budget for an upgrade, go for it!

Once I knew sewing was something I’d do for the rest of my life and fixing things on my Brother machine was costing more than its purchase price, I began researching brands and saving. I decided to go with Bernina because its known for its stitch quality, longevity, and several folks in the sewing community endorsed them.

Berninas are expensive. It’s a big deal to fork over several thousand dollars for one machine. After a lot of consideration and saving, I bought my first Bernina from a dealer in the Bay Area. One thing to note is that your local Bernina dealer probably sells at a lower price than what is listed on the official Bernina website. I’ve now purchased three machines at dealers that were $500 – $1000 lower than the MSRP.

Bernina 530 Sewing Machine

Photo from 2017

The quality difference between the B 530 and my Brother was immediately noticeable and my sewing practice really exploded. Everything was so much easier to do. Tension issues were non-existent or easily resolved, buttonholes were BEAUTIFUL and easy, and the edgestitch foot? Holy shit, I love that foot! On my new 530 I could adjust the presser foot pressure, needle positions, sew on buttons, and it could handle thicker projects.

The 530 really sold me on Bernina machines overall, so several years after its purchase, I was able to buy a Bernina serger to replace my temperamental Brother 1034D.

Bernina L 460 Serger

I purchased my L 460 on sale because Bernina was gearing up to release the 800 series several months later. I would absolutely love to own the 890, but that’s a cost my budget and I can’t get behind. I’m also a little wary of combo machines and air threading, but I’m not speaking from personal experience.

The dealer I purchased my L 460 from also includes free classes for it, forever! I was able to take one class before COVID hit and it really helped me understand all of its features and how to thread it. I’m using this online video series to periodically refresh my knowledge. It’s for the L 450, but they’re very similar. Bernina also has workbooks to help you understand just how much these machines can do.

I really love this serger. I feel like when I sit down to use it, I know exactly what’s going to happen and how to control it. With my 1034D it was always a gamble!

Bernina 770 QE Sewing Machine

At work, I get to sew on a B 475 QE and it made me wish my 530 had some of the newer features like the automatic thread cutter, the jumbo bobbin, and the touch screen. So, I decided to upgrade to the B 770 QE. There was a deal to purchase this machine and get either the L 460 or the embroidery module for free. Since I already had the L 460, I went with the embroidery module.

I’m pretty miffed the embroidery module requires $2,500 design software that only works on Windows. Since it was a free add-on, I didn’t really look into it. Should have don’t more research! I haven’t played with the free embroidery designs yet – I’m sure I’ll hate them – so that’s a topic for a later post. But HEY, Bernina! Create a web-based design software and I’ll embroider all the things!

I chose the 7 series over the newer 5 series for a couple reasons. The first was cost, the 590 was several grand more, and the 7 series has a 10 inch workspace – I wanted that extra space for quilting and bag making. And lastly, that freebie deal totally swayed me. I need to make an embroidery learning plan so I actually end up using it. If anyone knows how to turn Adobe Illustrator files into something the 770 can read, please let me know!

I still have the 530 and I plan to keep it for when I’m sewing something with topstitching (a two machine set up is the BEST), when and if I’m using the embroidery module on the 770 and need to sew, and I plan to stagger services so I’m never without a machine. Or I might sell it… I’m not sure!

Bernina L 220 Coverstitch

The year of working from home and never ending loungewear made me decide to buy a coverstitch machine. I found this used Bernina L 220 on eBay. I was super nervous about buying a second hand machine that I wasn’t able to test out, but the seller seemed to only offer sewing stuff, had a high rating, answered my many questions, and offered a 30-day return policy, which also covered the cost of shipping it back.

When I first posted about my ‘new’ coverstitch on Instagram, I got a lot of panicked comments and DMs from folks asking if they should buy a coverstitch machine instead of a serger. They do different things! I wanted a coverstitch machine for hemming knits, flat joining seams on athletic wear, and inserting elastic on swimwear. I have my serger (aka overlocker) for finishing woven seams and constructing knit garments. It has a lot of other applications, but that’s what I use it for the most. Basically, a coverstitch machine is not a necessary machine, but in my opinion, it works and looks a whole lot better than a twin needle.

I’m so impressed with this machine! It handles everything both like a boss and I can’t believe how flat the fabric is in between the stitch lines. I always get so much tunneling and weirdness with a twin needle. It can do a single needle chainstitch, wide and narrow double needle, and a three needle stitch. So far, the only thing I wish it had is the free hand system.

I’ve read that the Juki MCS-1500 and MCS-1700QVP (only available at a dealer) is essentially the same coverstitch machine as the Bernina L 220, which is sadly no longer in production, if you’re in the market for a coverstitch.

Studio | part 2

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11.5 months later, I’m back with part 2 of my studio update! If you saw part 1, you’ll notice quite a few changes. The main update is, like a lot of people, home is now where I work. And my work involves a lot of filming equipment. Equipment that takes up a lot of physical space… and mental space. Anyway, all of the extra stuff and well, *gestures broadly at everything* I just didn’t feel inspired to share. But I want to now!

This corner is no longer home to my horrible exercise bike, but instead a bunch of plants, UFOs, and occasionally a yoga mat.

Artwork (upper left corner) by Avery Williamson.
Artwork by my mom!

I’ve wanted to sew curtains inspired by this artist for ages, but decided to purchase some simple shades. I’ll eventually finish those curtains, but flashing my neighbors was getting old and I was having to tape paper over the windows to film.

There’s a lot more stuff on the walls now too. I hung IKEA pegboards, art, and made two bulletin boards out of homasote and canvas. The board pictured here is holding a project that will one day be a quilted jacket. The top shelf of my cutting table stores a bunch of tripods and lights (hidden by other stuff), batting, yarn, and fabric scraps.

Large woven scraps are folded and stored on one of the open desk shelves and the small pieces live in these baskets. I can easily pull them out when I’m working on one of my two long-term quilt projects. You can see how I store my fabric stash in this blog post.

This dress form is from my vintage selling days. She’s definitely not my size, but it’s fun to hang an in-progress project on her. The baskets hold printed patterns and fabric on rolls. I went with Husky workbenches to hold my sewing machines. They’re really sturdy, easy to move around, height adjustable, and have two drawers for storage. I didn’t really think through the drawers and the free hand system of my machines, but whatever.

I love this old banker’s chair. I thrifted it for a cool $15 in Tulsa, OK and it’s the best for rolling back and forth between my sewing machine and serger. The machine pictured here is a Bernina 475 and it’s from work. My personal sewing machine is a Bernina 770 QE (hasn’t arrived yet, upgrading from a B 530) and my serger is a Bernina L 460 (currently getting serviced), which is why they aren’t pictured.

Oil paintings are from my graduate program. I’m hoping if they’re in my face, I’ll pick painting back up.

This board is the second homasote and canvas board and I’m using it to plan projects. Once a project is finished, I’ve been trying to add both the drawing and swatch to a notebook with a few notes about it. More plans can be found here.

The IKEA cart holds distilled water for my iron, spray bottle, lint rollers, a handful of Pyrex saucers I sometimes use as pattern weights, hand sewing supplies, and supplies for the quilted jacket project.

I recently bought this ironing board. I had to upgrade because the one I bought from Target 12 years ago was completely rusted and started staining anything I pressed. Really happy with this upgrade! It’s wider, has a special place for my iron, and a handy shelf, which I’m using to hold WIPs and pressing tools. Can you spot Otis?

Here’s a closer look at the big board. The little light and Herman Miller chair used to be my grandfather’s. The block printed bag holds scraps that are too tiny to be turned into anything and are destined for the trash.

Artwork by Marsha Robinson.

This IKEA cart holds a bunch of stuff. Top shelf has tools, a Gutermann thread chart (highly recommend getting a thread chart during quarantine), an RK Kona cotton swatch book, my classwork from GarmentWorks, and my button stash. Middle shelf has rolls of elastic, muslin scraps, and mask making supplies. Bottom shelf has fat quarters for that previously mentioned curtain project, more elastic, and a bowl of Petoskey stones! This section of pegboard is home to my block printing supplies. The closed cabinets hide a mess of random stuff and more filming equipment.

Artwork by my mom!

This is another quilt project and it lives in this IKEA drawer thing. Whenever I cut out a woven garment project, I also cut out as many 2 x 2 inch squares as I can to reduce waste. Here’s an idea of what it’ll look like once it’s assembled.

Thrifted artwork.

I love this space and I’m super grateful to have it. Anything else you want to see? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!

New Studio | part 1

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29 weeks ago we started updating the second floor. It began with electrical – not a single outlet (in the entire house) was grounded, there was only one very orange light fixture, the ceiling was… bad, and two wall mounted electric heaters needed to disappear. Then came duct work, which meant dismantling a weird built-in cabinet in a closet on the main floor, followed by more demo upstairs (groovy glass partition, framing, and ceiling tiles – goodbye!).

Drywall was installed directly over the OSB because it was easier than tearing it down and that kept it out of the dump. The contractors said they were going to use 1/4″ drywall, but slapped up 1/2″, which you can really feel in the stairwell. The room is super insulated now, I guess!

Once the drywall was up, it was immediately brighter, but it revealed just how off the walls were. It took quite a lot of mud to get the lines straight-ish and the corners’ angles to not look too wonky. I think at some point during the drywall install, we also had the floor tiles inspected for asbestos in preparation for the new flooring. Thankfully, no asbestos was involved in the making of this hideous room.

Once the drywall was in and the mudding was finally done, I made the mistake of painting, thinking it would be easier to do so before the flooring and new lighting fixtures were installed. DON’T EVER DO THIS unless you’re the person carefully installing shit. Contractors touch everything with dirty hands and swing their tools around. Also white paint chips all look the same in a room with weird brown flooring, so I accidentally painted the entire room a light yellow. I shudder to think about the amount of money I’ve dropped on paint alone.

But after what felt like 59 layers of paint, a whole lot of caulk, learning the importance of quarter round, and yep, you guessed it, more paint – it’s almost done!

Can you see all of the crap on the floor back there? I’m still painting! But the main focus of the picture is my BEAUTIFUL fabric stash. I used the comic / magazine board method and sort of grouped them by color. I love it so much, I almost don’t want to sew it.

The largest part of the room is now home to mega desk. No more cutting things out on the floor because this back won’t do it and this table is massive. It’s the FINNVARD & LINNMON desk combo from IKEA (measurements available on the IKEA website). The carpet and chair are vintage. The cutting mats are from Joann and I used a 60% off coupon for both.

I’m really loving how clean and bright it is up here now. So far I’ve hung up just one piece of art, a painting by my mother. I’m still trying to figure out the space and its different “zones”. I’m planning to hang pegboards, but I’m just not sure where they want to live yet.

Here’s my computer / non-sewing, but still creative work desk. My husband I used to share it in our old house. The fuzzy chair was rescued from my grandparents’ basement and has lived with me in four states now.

If I’m honest, this corner is probs gonna change. This bike, although it looks cool, is so loud and so hurts my body that I rarely use it. But the intention is there. I’m planning to reupholster two chrome art deco chairs for a lovely little seating area here.

I think my favorite thing about this space is the countertop. It’s concrete and beautiful. I scored that Schoolhouse Electric pendant light at Hippo Hardware in Portland and the fans are Hunter.

I’ll share my sewing set up once it’s presentable!

Make Space Tour

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I’m one of those people who moves stuff around a lot. Organizing and rearranging truly brings me joy. I did a little refresh before Spring Break ended, so I thought I’d snap some pics and give a tour. You can see what the room looked like two years ago on our Apartment Therapy home tour here.

I share this room with my husband, but my making definitely takes up the majority of the space. The table I use the most is part IKEA (FINNVARD adjustable height legs), part Home Depot (painted wood table top), part Joann (cutting mat). The table top isn’t ideal – the original IKEA top didn’t allow the table to fit into that space, so I had to return it and improvise. It’s super bouncy, so I can’t use my serger on it, but otherwise it serves its purpose. The cutting mat is awesome and also spends a decent amount of time on the floor when I need to cut out large projects.

The three lamps are 100% necessary. Doing anything with dark fabric at night is rough, and these lamps have made mistakes a thing of the past. I do prefer working when the room filled with sunlight, but most often that just isn’t when I’m able to.

The pegboard is from a local hardware store and the corkboard is from Muji. I spray painted the pegboard a light gray and recently added the little shelf to display my ceramics. This area is ever evolving as things are easily rearranged and I reassess what needs to be super accessible. Having thread and certain tools within arm’s reach has been a total game changer.

I have two of these RASKOG rolling carts from IKEA. Until recently, both were right next to my table and just crammed with both sewing and painting/drawing/printmaking stuff. I pared things down and now this one is right next to the ironing board. It holds my hams, seam gauge/point turner, distilled water, lint roller, pressing cloth, and some other bits and bobs that are handy to have right next to the iron. The pin cushion pattern is from Noodlehead’s Handmade Style book.

The other cart is adjacent to the table and holds WIPs, printed PDF patterns I haven’t assembled yet, my sewing machine manual and accessories, and block printing supplies.

The ironing board was just moved in front of the window. I’m hoping now I’ll be able to roll right to it from the machine, or stare out the window when ironing lots of yardage.

The ironing board used to be right in front of the bookshelves and I’d tuck things like the hams in between books when I was ironing. I think I’m finally at the point where I’m okay with the ironing board being set up all the time. Before I’d hang it up in the closet with all its knick knacks and need to schlep everything out if I wanted to sew.

The dress form is from a brief stint selling vintage and although she’s a bit smaller than my measurements, I like to throw WIPs on her. I’m hoping that once I take a draping class, she’ll prove more useful. I added a 3M hook to the side of my cart to hang my rulers, which once took up a lot of pegboard real estate.

The previous renters painted a few things with chalkboard paint, but we’ve only kept it on this door. I’m trying out having an illustrated ‘To Make’ list on it. The patterns include:

  1. Kalle Shirt by Closet Case Patterns
  2. Persephone Pants by Anna Allen
  3. Fairfield Button-up by Thread Theory
  4. Making Backpack by Noodlehead & Making
  5. Burnside Bibs by Sew House Seven
  6. Willow Tank (hacked into a gathered dress) by Grainline Studio
  7. Hemlock Tee by Grainline Studio
  8. Lark Tee by Grainline Studio

I guess I’ve sort of solidified my Make Nine plans here!

Behind the chalkboard door is a tiny closet. To the left there is a large boxed in vent that makes the only hang bar pretty much useless. I really wish I could hang up my patterns and quickly flick through them to find what I need, but this closet just can’t do that, or I’d have to sacrifice shelving on the opposite side.

In the closet is my fabric stash, my other machines, and notions/tools I don’t need constantly. The plastic buckets on the black shelf hold leftover fabrics and quilting experiments.

Fabric is mostly contained to the shelves on the right. It’s more or less organized by type and by my overall excitement to use them. The top shelf is thrifted bed sheets for quilts or muslins. The next shelf down in knits for tops and flannels for all those shirts I’ve promised my husband. The third shelf down is knits for bottoms and special fabrics (mud cloth and baoulĂ©) as well as interfacing, which I keep in a bucket. The next shelf down is jeans/bottom weights, linens, and cottons. The bottom shelf is a hodgepodge of canvas for bags, batting, and thrifted sheets that don’t fit on the top shelf.

The fabrics on this shelf are my next up projects. The rope baskets hold pattern weights (vintage saucers!), extra pattern hooks, thrifted vintage zippers, and machine parts. The wooden drawers are a catchall and have bias tape makers, printer paper, and jeans making kits among other things. I’ve had these drawers since college and painted them several times (not recommended), which makes them stick. I would like to replace them with something else at some point. Perhaps a bunch of these?

I’ve been really struggling to find the best system for pattern storage. I tried keeping them folded in drawers, rolled up in drawers, hanging on nails, hanging in the closet (until there were too many to fit in the 1′ hang space), and now they’re on hooks on the doors. It’s still challenging to find the pattern I want and they’re not in any sort of order, but it’s better than the drawer system. Some not quite finished makes also hang on the picture rail.

I’m slowly getting to where each pattern also has a pattern card with relevant info and fabric swatches. The one above is my culotte design from my patternmaking course.

The bookcases are primarily my husband’s but I have three shelves. Most of my art and making books live here. The top shelf now houses a lot of the drawing/painting/printmaking supplies that used to be in one of the rolling carts.

I’m liking that these items are now a little more visible on the shelves.

There are definitely things I’d like to change and I’m constantly fantasizing about designing a studio in a house we own… BUT I’m really grateful to have to have this space. For my fantasy studio, check out my Pinterest board: Making Space.

Block Printed Sewing Machine Cover

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, buying my Bernina 530 was a big deal. I bought better thread (never again, Coats & Clark!), learned how to actually clean and oil a machine, and began planning projects just for her.

Although she came with a very fancy carrying case, she didn’t come with a cover. Since her purchase, I have resorted to throwing pieces of fabric over her in between makes.

The scrap fabric was a fine temporary solution, but she deserved something better.

Before my dear, sweet dog bear Ollie died, I had planned to make him a fancy block printed crate cover. It didn’t come to fruition before he passed, but I did make the lino blocks and thought the design would work well for the sewing machine cover.

I didn’t quite get the measurements right on this first iteration so it doesn’t fit with the slide-on table attached. It’ll work until I make a larger one! I’m also scheming a cover for my serger with a different print design.

I flat felled the top and side seams, and left an opening at the top for access to the carrying handle.

I used Speedball fabric ink and although I let the print rest for 24 hours and heat set it with an iron, it smeared while sewing. I had a minor panic attack when I noticed the ink rubbing off on my machine, but thankfully a magic eraser wiped it off. Any seasoned block printers out there have tips for setting prints on fabric?

Here we go.

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Hello. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I should have a space outside of Instagram. But the problem is, I LOVE Instagram. It’s a form of expression that’s mostly visual. Creating and maintaining a blog feels like such a commitment. And the words. Oh, the words. However, I’m setting the intention of creating a space that’s sightly less curated when it comes to photographs, better documents my makes and what I’m learning, and helps me connect and interact with other makers and artists. Here we go.