White Tree Fabrics – Jersey Fabric and Simple Sew 007 – Part 2

For my next top, made with the lovely jersey fabrics supplied by White Tree Fabrics, I did a bit of pattern hacking with the gorgeous Bella Dress pattern. This was a free pattern with a Love Sewing magazine issue, from Simple Sew patterns. I’ve been wanting to make the Bella Dress for ages but as I hardly ever wear dresses, I thought it would be great as a top. The blue-grey warm jersey from White Tree was the perfect fabric to use.

9070-11-3 Warm Jersey

The Bella Dress is a lovely flattering shape, which comes in at the waist and has back darts which give a wonderful shape. The sleeves are fluted which again gives a really nice shape and the neckline is a slouchy roll neck. I decided to trim the pattern just below the hips to make a long top and I straightened off the curve which goes over the hip, so that the top didn’t pull in at the bottom. I also made the next size up to what I would normally choose for this pattern as it’s a nice figure hugging dress and I wanted it to be a loose-fitting top.

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Making a top from the Bella Dress – free pattern giveaway from Love Sewing magazine

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Some tips on sewing with jersey fabrics: use a ball point or jersey needle in your sewing machine. Use a polyester (all-purpose) sewing thread, which has a little stretch and won’t break easily like cotton thread would. Remember to use a stretch-stitch and use an over-locking stitch to finish all the raw edges. I used my over-locker for the raw edges and main seams and I used my sewing machine for hemming. Don’t stretch the fabric as you sew it, unless your pattern specifically tells you to do so. Just gently guide it and let the feed dogs move it through.

If you want to try using this super-soft, two-way stretch, warm jersey fabric, visit White Tree Fabrics and save some money by using this exclusive discount code which White Tree have very kindly offered my readers: SUSIED

Owl Shoulder Bag – Custom Order

I love this bag, handmade by Denise Hayes, over at Through the Looking Glass. Denise used one of my sewing patterns to make this fab bag, with some great adaptions. Great work, Denise and thanks for sharing!

Front of Owl Bag

Through The Looking Glass

Sometimes I get orders for new items. I don’t usually make bags, but offered to make one for a local lady who already had the fabric. She dropped off the fabric for me and I prepped it.

Owl Fabric Owl Fabric

It was an owl fabric – very cute. However, it was a ‘seconds’ fabric which means that there was something wrong with it. The fabric itself was warped (not straight) and it was cut badly. The owls had also not been printed evenly. After washing, air-drying, ironing and pulling on the corners, it was as straight as it was going to be. If I went by the weave, the owls would look drunk. If I went with the owls I had to decide for vertical or horizontal. I went with the vertical.

Front of Owl Bag Front of Owl Bag

I also decided to patchwork it with some other fabrics I already had to help…

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Quilting Tutorial: Cathedral Windows Part 2 – Making the Windows

This is the 2nd part of my Cathedral Windows Tutorial. See the previous post for Part 1. In this post, I’ve completed the background panels and now I’m going to add the print fabrics and make the windows.

Cut 3” squares from your chosen fabrics. I used a load of different Liberty fabric scraps so that all my windows would have a different fabric but they’d still go together.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 16With a square wrong side up, hold two of the corners down with your thumb and index finger and press over the just the centre of the edge by approx. 1/4”. Be careful the hot iron doesn’t burn those fingers!

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 17Repeat with all the edges and then do the same with all your fabric squares.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 18Place the fabric squares, right side up, on top of each diamond shape of the prepared background panel as shown. Here I’m adding them to a small single row panel. Later on you’ll see my larger panel version too. Pin them to secure in place.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 19Fold each free edge of the background panel over each each of the square. A natural curve will be created due to the points of the background panel being stitched together (see previous post, Part 1). Pin through all the layers to hold firmly in place and ensure that the window is completely filled with the print fabric. Gently tuck the print fabric into the corners, if it’s not sitting right into them.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 20Repeat the folding/pinning process to make all the windows. This is when it starts to get exciting as you see the gorgeous windows forming!

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 21I decided to go one step further and cut small petal shaped pieces of the print fabrics to fill the gaps now formed in each corner of my panel. Aren’t I the show off! The thing is, once you get started on this technique, you don’t really want to stop.

Cathedral Windows technique 22Now it’s time to topstitch along the edges of all the folded over edges. I decided to do double rows around each corner petal shape and single rows around all the diamond shaped windows. Put your machine on a longish stitch, as there’s lots of layers and the stitches also look better when they’re longer. Carefully stitch all the edges, removing each pin as you get to it. When you get to the edge of each fold just continue stitching over to the next one, so you don’t have to continually keep stopping and starting and new line of stitch. Just try to keep the stitching as neat as you can, as you work your way around each one.

Cathedral Windows technique

Cathedral Windows technique 2

Cathedral Windows Tutorial Part 1

Now to decide what I’m going to use these panels for. I think they’ll be great made up into cushions with co-ordinating panels. What do you think? Have you made Cathedral Windows before or will you be having a go at making them for the first time?

Quilting Tutorial: Cathedral Windows Part 1 – Preparing the Background Squares

I’ve long admired the Cathedral Windows quilting technique and was determined to learn how to do it. Well, at last, I’ve done it and I loved the result so much that I’m eager to share the technique here with you. If this is something you haven’t tried yet, I definitely recommend you do. It’s one of those techniques that appears really hard to do but, once you get to grips with it, it’s really not as difficult as it looks. Yes, it is time-consuming but it’s so rewarding.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial Part 1

Sneak peek of a Cathedral Windows panel I’ve made.

I used a cream background fabric with scraps of Liberty prints for the windows, which I just knew would make for a stunning effect (if I could complete it anyway!!). As you can see above, I did complete it and loved every minute of making it. So on with how to do it. There’s a lot of pictures but I felt this technique warrants lots of how-to images.

CATHEDRAL WINDOWS: PART 1

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 1These are the Liberty fabric scraps and plain background fabric I used, along with some prepared squares I did earlier.

To prepare the fabric squares: cut the plain fabric into accurate squares measuring, 10” x 10”. Then cut a piece of thick paper, measuring 9” x 9” – this will be used as a guide, see below, to fold over the raw edges by 1/2”.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 2Place the paper template onto the wrong side of a fabric square, leaving equal 1/2” gaps at all the edges. Fold over and press each edge of the fabric as shown.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 2Remove the paper template and fold the square in half, matching up the folded edges, press. Open up and fold in half again, the other way, press. Open back out.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 4Fold one of the corners to the centre point, press.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 5Fold the remaining corners into the centre and press. Try to do this as neatly and accurately as possible, ensuring that the folds butt up to each other and don’t overlap. Take your time, you’ll get quicker with a bit of practice.

SAMSUNG CSCRepeat the folding process, folding one corner to the centre point and pressing.

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Fold and press the remaining corners to the centre point, press. Pin through the layers to hold securely. Fold and press more squares in the same way.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 8Place two of the squares side by side and unpin the flaps next to each other. Pin them together.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 9Sew the flaps, along the crease marks, ensuring they’re aligned neatly.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 10Open back out and unpin the sewn together flaps. Stitch another square onto the panel, in the same manner. Add more squares if you want the row to be longer.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 11Press the sewn together flaps flat again. Make more rows of squares in the same manner.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 12To make bigger panels, join two rows of squares together: place side by side, unpin the adjacent flaps and pin together.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 13Ensuring they are aligned, stitch along the crease mark of the pinned together flaps.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 14Unpin the sewn together flaps and press them flat again. Add more rows together in the same way, if you want bigger panels.

Cathedral Windows Tutorial 15Hand-stitch together, all four points at the centre of a square, so they stay securely joined at the points only. Repeat with every square. Do the stitches small and as neat as possible. Once you stitched the points together, you can remove all the pins from the panels.

That’s the background panels now completed. I just made one small panel with three squares joined together and another panel with six squares joined together. You can make your panels as big as you want. I just wanted to start off small whilst learning this new technique.

See the next post CATHEDRAL WINDOWS PART 2 for how to add the prints and make the windows.

Bag-making Tutorial: How to Topstitch a Bag Opening

I always topstitch around the top, opening edges of any bag I make and I instruct this in my sewing patterns as it makes such a difference to the finish. The topstitching gives a neat, professional finish to a handmade bag as well as being functional, in that it keeps the lining in place and stops the stop edge from being all floppy and going out of shape.

Once you’ve pushed the lining down into the outer bag (pull-through and turn-out method which I’ll elaborate more on in another post) use your fingers to roll the top edges to get the seam sitting neatly at the top edge, or just inside the interior. Keeping any handles and tabs in the correct upright positions, place the bag opening over the narrow edge of your ironing board if it will fit (or place a tailor’s ham or rolled up towel inside the opening). Carefully press the bag’s top edges, all around the opening, adjusting the edge as necessary as you go around it to ensure the seam sits neatly at the top. It’s a good idea to use a pressing cloth, so as not to leave any marks on the fabric. Once you’re happy with the neatness of the bag opening, it’s time to topstitch it.

How to Topstitch a Bag Opening 1

Remove the sewing table to reveal the free-arm (narrower sewing table) and place the bag opening over it. The right side of the bag should be uppermost. Start at a side seam, sinking the needle directly into the seam joining. Pull the threads out to the back to ensure there’s no slack. Adjust the stitch length to 3 or 3.5 – the thickness of the layers require a longer stitch and it looks nicer as well. Line up the edge of the bag with the correct seam allowance. I usually use a 1/4” seam here. Stitch a couple of stitches forward and then back-stitch a couple before going forward again, to secure the stitching. Carry on around the bag opening, ensuring you keep any handles, tabs or flaps out to the right and straight so that they don’t get caught up in the stitching. When you stitch over any thicker areas, which have the ends of the tabs or handles inside the top edge, increase the stitch length slightly to cope with the thicker layers and to keep a consistent finished stitch length.

Tip: Use a matching thread, if you’re new to topstitching, (just a slightly darker shade than the fabric) this way it won’t show up any flaws in the stitching too much. Once you get confident with the topstitching, try using contrasting threads which really show up against the fabric as it adds a lovely decorative feature.

How to Topstitch a Bag Opening 2

Once you’ve stitched all around the bag opening, and come back to the seam you started at, stop right on the seam and back-stitch a few stitches before going forward to stop at the seam again. Remove from the machine and very carefully snip off the excess threads as close to the fabric as possible.

How to Topstitch a Bag Opening 3

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Learn more bag making techniques with my easy-to-follow patterns at www.susieddesigns.co.uk and on Etsy

Beginner’s guide to threading a machine – needle thread and drop-in bobbin thread

I’ve been asked to do a tutorial on how to thread up a sewing machine and so I’ve done this based on my Frister & Rossmann QE404. Most machines will thread up in a very similar manner but consult your manual if need be.

First of all, if you’ve had the bobbin case out for cleaning, make sure you’ve replaced it correctly – the two little notches, (A) and (B), toward the front. (note: this is a drop-in bobbin type of machine, check your manual if yours isn’t)

Sewing machine bobbin case

To thread up the bobbin:

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Drop the bobbin into the case, with the thread coming out from the back of the bobbin and going to the left. See the wrong/correct diagrams below.

Correct way to load a bobbin into sewing machine

How to thread a sewing machine 2

Pull the thread around to the front and guide it through the right-hand (A) notch.

How to thread a sewing machine 3

Pull the thread gently to the left and guide it through the left-hand (B) notch, bringing the thread toward the back of the machine.

How to thread a sewing machine 2

Let the thread go and replace the see-through plastic cover.

To thread the upper needle thread:

How to thread a sewing machine A

Put the thread onto the holder and bring the thread over the top of the machine to go under the hook (marked 1 on this machine).

How to thread a sewing machine B

Bring the thread toward you so that it goes down the groove (marked 2 on this machine) and out toward the front.

How to thread a sewing machine C

Bring the thread right down the groove at the front of the machine, underneath and round the bottom (marked 3 on this machine).

How to thread a sewing machine D

Bring the thread up, through the other groove and catch the thread around the back of the ‘take up lever’ at the top of the machine (marked 4 on this machine). Note: use the hand wheel to ensure the ‘take up lever’ is at its highest position, so you can easily hook the thread around it from right to left.

How to thread a sewing machine E

Bring the thread toward you and back down the same groove (marked 5 on this machine) to bring the thread out at the bottom. Hook the thread behind the horizontal metal arm – sliding it in from the right-hand side.

How to thread a sewing machine F

Hook the thread behind the small thread guide at the top of the needle shaft – slide in from the right-hand side.

How to thread a sewing machine G

Thread the needle, from front to back.

How to thread a sewing machine H

Keeping a hold of just the needle (upper) thread, hold it out to the left – leave the bobbin thread laying where it is. Turn the hand wheel toward you, to take the needle down and back up again. Pull gently on the needle thread to bring up the loop of bobbin thread that it will have caught around. Pull both threads through and to the left of the presser foot. Ensure there’s enough excess thread of both needle and bobbin threads (10 – 15cm) and lay them toward the back of the machine.

Start Sewing

To start sewing without the threads bunching up: place the fabric under the presser foot at the desired position and seam allowance, bring the presser foot lever down and bring the needle down into the fabric (using the hand wheel). Pick up the excess needle and bobbin threads and gently pull on them both, to ensure there’s no slack. You should be able to start sewing now without the first few stitches getting all tangled up. Start slow and build up speed as you go.

Tension

If you find that the threads get bunched up, tangled or they’re not even on both the front and back of the fabric layers you’re sewing, the tension needs sorting. The needle thread and bobbin thread should lock together between the layers so that the stitches look even, smooth, with no gaps, on both sides. The diagrams below (from my machine manual) shows this quite well. When adjusting tension, the higher the number the tighter the needle thread. Different fabrics and layers will require different tension settings, check on layered up scrap pieces before you start the real thing.

Thread tension on sewing machine

If you find that the bobbin thread is showing through on the top (little bumps between each stitch), then turn the dial to a lower number to reduce the needle thread tension.

reduce needle thread tension

If you find that the needle thread is showing through on the bottom (little bumps between each stitch), then turn the dial to a higher number to increase the needle thread tension.

needle thread tension adjust

The bobbin case also has a small adjustable screw on it. I’ve never had to adjust mine yet but here’s the manual’s diagram of this should you ever need to:

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I hope this post helps if you’re new to using a sewing machine or if you’re having trouble with the machine not stitching properly.

A few other things to keep in mind…

It’s essential to clean any fluff build-up from the bobbin case/shuttle every now and again, using a soft brush. Not being kept clean can cause all kinds of problems like the stitches getting all tangled up or breaking. It can also cause a knocking noise – a good sign that you need to stop and clean. Also change those needles on a regular basis so that you’re always using a sharp, straight, clean needle – old needles can again cause stitching problems and ruin your fabric. Lastly check that you’re using the right size needle for the fabric you’re using.

Happy Sewing!

Where to get Vilene Interfacing Products in the UK

I have written a few posts now on using interfacing for bag making – Using Interfacing and Interlining When Making Bags and More on Using Interfacing and Interlining in Bag Making. I’ve been asked many times where to buy Vilene products. Due to popular demand I’m now stocking Vilene products at www.susieddesigns.co.uk

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I won’t say much more about using the actual interfacings here, please see the previous posts above, but I will sing the praises again of Vilene products. They really are an excellent choice and well worth spending a little extra money to get the quality that Vilene provides (really, I should be getting commission from them!) You will not regret trying Vilene, I promise! I will say though, that the USA equivalent to Vilene is Pellon products, which are also very good to use in bag making but mostly just available in the USA. If you’re here in the UK though, I highly recommend Vilene which is widely available here.

 

Vilene S13 sew-in interfacingThe products I like to use for my bag-making are:

Vilene H250 (Pellon equivalent 808 Craft Fuse) – a medium-weight fusible non-woven interfacing.

Vilene F220 (Pellon equivalent ES114 Easy Shaper) – a light-weight fusible, non-woven interfacing.

Vilene G700 (Pellon equivalent SF101 Shape-flex Woven) – a medium-weight fusible, woven cotton interfacing (my favourite! I’ll have this in stock soon)

Vilene H630 and Vilene H640 (Pellon equivalent 987F Fusible Fleece and TP971F Fusible Thermolam) – low / medium / high loft fusible fleece.

Vilene M12 and Vilene S13 (Pellon equivalent 930 Sew-in / Pellon 40 and Pellon 50) – medium and heavy-weight sew-in interfacing / interlining.

Instructions for the Frister and Rossmann QE404 Sewing Machine

Following on from a previous post, reviewing the Frister & Rossmann QE404 sewing machine, I’ve been asked loads of times if I have any instructions for it. My instruction book is an English translation and not a very good one at that, so it took a while to decipher some bits. So I’m writing some of my own instructions here for some of the machine’s functions. I hope you find it useful.

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1 – Needle position button 2 – Reverse button 3 – Start/stop button

The first set of buttons shown above do the following:

1. When you press the needle position button (indicator light on) the needle will go into the down position (into the fabric) before you start sewing and, whenever you stop sewing, the needle will stop in the down position. This is really useful when you need to stop to reposition the fabric, turn corners etc as the fabric will be held in place without having to use the handwheel. When you’ve finished sewing and ready to remove the fabric, press the button so that that the needle goes back into the up position.

2. When you need to back-tack at the start and finish of the sewing, press and hold this button to sew in reverse. Release to go forward again. (only works with straight stitch)

3. The start/stop button is for sewing without the need of the foot pedal. Ensure the foot pedal is unplugged and press the start/stop button to start sewing, press again to stop. Takes a wee bit getting used to but you can adjust the speed the machine is sewing at by using the speed adjustment lever (see no.16 on image below). When it first starts sewing, it will start slowly and then will get up to the speed you’ve selected.

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LCD Screen Operation Buttons

1. Pattern group selection button
2. Mirror button
3. PES auto stop button
4. Pattern group indicator – group 1 (see image below)
5. Pattern group indicator – group 2 (see image below)
6. Pattern group indicator – group 3 (see image below)
7. Memory mode pattern indicator
8. & 9. Stitch length setup button (also page down/up when selecting stitch pattern)
10. & 11. Stitch width setup button (also left/right button when selecting stitch pattern)
12. Memory mode edit button
13. Delete setup button – memory mode (also used to reduce pattern elongation)
14. Insert setup button – memory mode (also used to enlarge pattern elongation)
15. Pattern selection confirm button
16. Speed adjustment lever

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How to setup your chosen stitch selection:

Note: the numbers in brackets refer to the LCD screen operation buttons shown in the second image of this post.

1. Press the ‘pattern selection confirm button’ (15), to enter the pattern selection screen on the LCD display.

2. Press the ‘pattern group selection button’ (1) to light up the indicator next to the pattern group you want to select from (4, 5, or 6).

3. Press the ‘page down or up buttons’ (8 or 9) to scroll through the available patterns shown on the LCD screen.

4. Press the ‘right/left buttons’ (10 or 11) to choose a pattern from those displayed on LCD screen.

5. When chosen pattern is highlighted, press the ‘pattern selection confirm button’ (15).

6. The LCD screen will now show the pattern selected, a picture of the recommended presser foot to attach to machine and the stitch length/width at recommended settings.

7. Ensure you have the correct presser foot attached and adjust the stitch width/length if required – note: certain stitches will not go above/below certain widths or lengths. It will beep if you can’t adjust it anymore.

LCD screen on QE404

The LCD display screen shows normal straight stitch selected from group 1 of the pattern list.

zig zag stitch selected on QE404

The LCD display screen shows standard zig zag stitch selected from group 1 of the pattern list.

pattern selection for the QE404 sewing machine

A snapshot from the instruction booklet.

Using the PES Auto Stop Button (3) and Mirror Button (2):

Note: the numbers in brackets refer to the LCD screen operation buttons shown in the second image of this post.

Some stitch selections can be used with the ‘PES auto stop button and the mirror button. When the symbol < is displayed at the middle of the left-hand side of LCD screen then you can press the PES auto stop button (3) to make the machine automatically stop stitching when it has finished sewing the selected pattern. The indicator light will be lit up at (3) if you’ve selected it.

PES Auto button on QE404

A snapshot from the instruction booklet.

When the < symbol is displayed at the top left-hand corner of the LCD screen, you can press the ‘mirror button’ (2) which will make the selected stitch pattern sew a mirror image of itself at the same time.

mirror button on QE404

A snapshot from the instruction booklet.

Decrease/Enlarge Size of Selected Pattern (13 & 14):

Some of the stitch patterns can be enlarged up to 5 times by pressing the ‘Insert’ (14) button. Reduce back in size by pressing the ‘Delete’ button (13). The patterns that have this function are shown below, they are in the group 2 section of the pattern list:

Stitches that can be enlarged on QE404

Patterns that can be enlarged up to 5 times.

How to use the Alphabet/Number stitches and how to set up the memory for words/names, etc:

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As you’ll see from the images above, the alphabet stitches are a bit limited. There’s just the one style, capitals and this is how it will look once you’ve snipped away the joining stitches between each letter. You could leave it as is if you want but I find it looks and reads better without these excess stitches.

Note: the numbers in brackets refer to the LCD screen operation buttons shown in the second image of this post.

To stitch one or more individual number/letter/symbols:

1. Press the ‘pattern group selection button’ (1), until the indicator light for group 3 is lit (6).

2. Press the ‘pattern selection confirm button’ (15).

3. Use the ‘page down/up buttons’ (8 or 9) until you can see the number/letter/symbol you want.

4. Use the ‘left/right buttons’ (10 or 11) to highlight the number/letter/symbol you want.

5. Press the ‘pattern selection confirm button’ (15) to select your chosen number/letter/symbol.

6. If you want a mirror image of the number/letter/symbol, press the ‘mirror image button’ (2).

7. If you want to stitch just one of the chosen number/letter/symbol, press the ‘PES auto stop button’ (3). If not selected you can continuously stitch the number/letter/symbol over and over again.

To set up the memory to stitch a sequence of numbers/letters/symbols:

1. Press the ‘pattern group selection button’ (1), until the indicator light for MEM (the memory) is lit (7).

2. Press the ‘Edit’ button (12). If something was saved to the memory before, keep pressing the Delete button (13) until it’s cleared.

3. Press the ‘pattern selection confirm button’ (15) and use the ‘page down/up’ (8 or 9) and the ‘left/right (10 or 11) buttons to choose a number/letter/symbol. Press the ‘pattern selection confirm button’ (15) to select the one you’ve highlighted.

4. Add another number/letter/symbol by repeating step 3 and keep repeating this step until you’ve completed your selections (up to 30).

5. If you’ve made a mistake, use the ‘left/right button’ (10 or 11) to highlight the wrong one. Press the ‘delete’ button (13). To insert a new number/letter/symbol, make a space where it should go, by using the ‘left/right button’ (10 or 11) to highlight the correct position and press the ‘insert button’ (14). A space will appear and you can now repeat step 3.

6. Once you’re happy with the selections, press the ‘Edit’ button (12). Now your ready to sew. Your selection set will automatically sew as soon as you press the Start/Stop button or the foot pedal. The machine will automatically stop sewing when the set is complete. Remember, when using the numbers/letters/symbols function, it’s going to sew in the usual sewing direction (towards you), so the finished set of numbers/letters/symbols will be on their side, like below (so watch how you position the fabric you want to sew on):

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Errors displaying on the LCD screen:

Here’s some of the usual errors that will pop up on the screen and what you need to do to rectify the situation:

1. This will appear when the lever on the top of the machine is set to the right (for winding the bobbin). Return it to the left when not winding the bobbin.

2. This might appear whilst your sewing, and the machine will stop – usually when it gets jammed. Turn the hand wheel on the right-side of the machine to solve the torque problem.

3. When this displays you need to correct the presser foot position – say if you’ve forgotten to put the presser foot down before you start sewing.

4. This displays when you have pressed on the foot controller by mistake or if you’ve pressed on it too quickly and the machine doesn’t sew. The foot pedal needs to be pressed down gently when you begin to sew.

5. & 6. This indicates that the buttonhole lever is in the wrong position, either down when it shouldn’t be (push up out of the way) or it’s up when it should be down (for when you’re using the button hole feature). Pull it down if needed. I have a tutorial for using the buttonhole feature here.

Error messages QE404 sewing machine

I think that’s most of the major functions explained, if there is anything else you need to know leave a comment and I’ll do my best to add to this post. I hope you find these instructions of some help.

Happy Sewing! 🙂

New Look Sewing Pattern 6356 – a new top and some sewing tips thrown in!

My first top, finished at last! So, my lovely new Lady Valet dress form has been patiently standing in the corner, looking ever so pretty covered in the new fabric I’d got. I’m making some tops from Simplicity’s New Look pattern 6356, which has 5 nice variations for a ‘simple’ top and boasts that it’s an ‘easy2hour’ job! Hmmm, maybe for some but it’s been years since I’ve made any clothing items. It’s been all bags, bags and more bags…

The fabric I chose for this top is called Josephine by French General for Moda Fabrics. I adore old-fashioned style fabrics and this is just so lovely, with it’s deep red floral design on an oyster background.

Fabric - Josephine from French General for Moda Fabrics

Fabric – Josephine from French General for Moda Fabrics

I’d forgotten how vast clothing pattern sheets can be, I was a bit overwhelmed for a little while! So first of all I zig-zag stitched all the pieces to keep all the edges nice and neat. I stay-stitched the neckline (straight stitching within the seam allowance of the neckline to stop this edge from stretching) and stitched the bust darts. It really helped having a tailor’s ham here for pressing and shaping the bust darts. A new book I’d got recently – The Complete Photo Guide to Clothing Construction by Christine Haynes – has a good section on pressing and shaping darts properly; such as pressing the dart on the wrong side first and then pressing it on the right side and shaping the tip of the dart around the ham. Another useful tip for sewing darts, to allow them to lay flat, is don’t back-stitch or tie a knot at the end of the dart; instead change the stitch length down to 1.0 as you approach the point and stitch off the end. Trim the excess threads off. The stitches are secure because of the tiny size and you’ll have no lumps and bumps!

Pressing darts using a tailor's ham

I’m glad I’ve inserted quite a few zips before, otherwise I think I would have struggled with the next bit. I strayed a bit from the instruction here though and did the zip in a slightly easier way. I used a long basting stitch to sew up the zip opening, pressed the seams open and laid the zip on top of the fabric’s wrong side with the zip face down. I lined up the teeth with the seam and pinned in place, stitched around the zip (I did a double row to reinforce) and then I used a seam ripper to remove the basting stitches. Yippee, a neatly installed zip!

Inserting a zip into a top

A zipper installed into back of top

Once I’d sewn the front and back pieces together, it was time to add the facing around the neck line. I was a little nervous about this bit as wasn’t sure if I’d get the under-stitching right. I ended up forgetting to turn the top right side out and began stitching the facing on the wrong way around! Out came the trusty seam-ripper. Try again! Got it right this time and, after pressing the facing (with the seam allowance pressed toward the facing), I did the under-stitching – short straight stitches all around the facing, staying really close to the seam line. Then the facing was pressed to the wrong side of the top and the neckline was pressed so that the under-stitching of the facing was just inside. Phew, did it!

Stitching facing around the neckline of top

Under stitching the neckline facing of a top

The neckline facing under stitched and finished

Front of neckline facing with under stitching

Now for setting in the sleeves, another little wobble here! I didn’t get the easing in exactly right as there’s a couple of little puckers but overall I was quite pleased. They’re not perfect but I’m happy with them and both sleeves look pretty even.

Setting a sleeve into a top

To finish off the top, I decided to stray from the instructions again and did a neat rolled hem around the sleeves and the bottom of the top – the narrow hem sewing machine foot is a fantastic accessory, makes it so easy to sew a barely-there seam; although it’s fiddly to get the fabric to go into the foot at first as you need to roll over the beginning edge and feed it into the slot. The pattern suggests slip-stitching the hems by hand but I prefer to stick to machine sewing where ever possible.

I really enjoyed making this top (took me most of the day though, where do they get 2 hours from?) and I have some fabric lined up for the next one, which I think I’ll do with either a rounded or squared neck this time. The pattern is quite easy to use and follow, once you get to grips with it, and I’ll definitely be using it again to make more. So here’s the finished top!

View C Top - New Look sewing pattern 6356

View C Top - New Look sewing pattern 6356

New Look Sewing Pattern 6355 - Back View

Bookazine Giveaway! Pro Guide to Sewing

Have you seen the new bookazine Pro Guide to Sewing? I was so pleased to receive a review copy last week, courtesy of Future Publishing, and I can honestly say that it’s well worth getting your hands on. It’s packed with great projects and ‘how to’ expert guides, covering a wide range of sewing techniques. What’s more, I’ve got an extra copy to give away! If you’d like this fab publication to land on your doormat please leave a comment. I’m happy to post it anywhere in the world, by the way. I’ll pick a name out of the hat on Friday 14th March 2014.

Pro Guide to Sewing Bookazine

Pro Guide to Sewing is a 160 page ‘bookazine’ (more than a magazine, almost a book) which includes a wide variety of projects and a range of advanced techniques to learn. When I first pulled this from it’s envelope, I was really impressed. It felt almost like a book! Lovely quality and thickness to it.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the projects or techniques, you know what it’s like when you’re promised ‘expert’ guides? Well, I was pleasantly surprised at the challenges the projects offer and the expert guides really are just that – advanced techniques which are clearly explained and have helpful diagrams to elaborate. I really liked the fact that, following each technique guide, there follows an exciting project to try out the new skills you’ve just learned (or improve on skills that you already have).

Pro Guide to Sewing Bookazine - Contents Page

Pro Guide to Sewing Bookazine – Contents Page

The expert guides have step-by-step illustrations and teach a range of advanced techniques such as seam finishing, zips, piping, interfacing, frills & pleats, buttons & buttonholes, elastic – gathering and smocking, embroidery, quilting, applique, bag making and stuffed toys, all with lovely projects to have a go at too. The 24 patterns have been selected from the best books, blogs and industry insiders.

Bookazine - Pro Guide to Sewing

The Pro Guide to Sewing Bookazine is available from WHSmith and other newsagents, priced at £9.99, or you can get it online (post free) by visiting My Favourite Magazines. If you’re in Europe, the price is £10.99 and for the USA and rest of the world it’s £11.99 (all post free!)

If you’re just starting out in sewing, there’s also a Beginner’s Guide to Sewing bookazine available. It has 28 projects to make!

Beginner's Guide to sewing

FYI – I don’t get any commission for this post or the links it contains, just my complimentary copy of the bookazine. I’m genuinely enjoying this new publication and just wanted to share it with everyone. Also I’m chuffed to be able to offer someone else a free copy too. I’m sure you’ll love it!

Remember to leave a comment if you’d like a chance of winning a free copy of the Pro Guide to Sewing. I’ll be posting it to one lucky reader (anywhere in the world) after I’ve randomly drawn a name on Friday 14th March 2014. Good Luck!!

Sewing Tutorial – Sewing Buttons with a Sewing Machine

Using your sewing machine to stitch buttons in place is so quick and easy. If you hate hand sewing buttons, this little tutorial is for you. Practice these steps on scraps of fabric before doing the real thing though.

sewing machine button presser footThe button presser foot.

machine sewing buttons 2Remove the presser foot that’s currently attached and attach the button presser foot.

machine sewing buttons 4Lower the feed dogs – if you’re machine doesn’t have the facility, use a cover over the feed treads.

machine sewing buttons 3Once you’ve marked the button position on your fabric, place the fabric under the foot and then slide the button into position (ensuring you have at the correct placement). Lower the presser foot lever to hold button in place, with the two holes of the button visible between the cut out space at front of the button foot. The stitch width needs to be adjusted to correspond with the distance between the button holes. (see next step for checking this)

machine sewing buttons 5With the needle in normal straight stitch position, use the hand wheel to carefully bring the needle down into the left-hand hole (adjust fabric/button position if need be). Bring the needle back up and adjust the stitch width so that the needle can now also go down the right-hand hole. Using the hand wheel, double check that the needle goes through both holes without hitting the button. Slowly stitch back and forth 6-8 times.

machine sewing buttons 6Lift presser lever and gently remove the fabric/button. Trim away the excess threads. Ta Da! One button done!

Go on, give it a go!

If you’d like to see how to use the automatic buttonhole facility on your sewing machine, head on over the my previous post.

Sewing Tutorial – Using the Automatic Button Hole Facility on a Sewing Machine

Here’s a little tutorial on how to use the automatic button hole facility on your sewing machine. With a little bit of practice, it’s fairly easy and even quite fun! Practice the steps below on scraps of fabric, before doing the real thing. Please note that your specific sewing machine might do button holes slightly differently, always check your manual first if required.

Button hole tutorial 2Mark the button placement with chalk or air-erasable fabric marker – place the button at required position, mark small horizontal lines at the top and bottom of button, move button out of way and join up the marks with a vertical line down the middle.

button hole tutorial 1Place the button into the holder of the button hole foot – push the side tabs together to hold button in place.

button hole tutorial 3Remove the current foot that’s on your sewing machine (press the small button at back of foot, the foot will just fall off)  and replace with the button hole foot (most have the universal bar that you clip the presser onto by lowering the presser lever). Consult your sewing machine manual on changing presser feet if required. Take the thread through, under and out to the side of the foot as shown above.

button hole tutorial 4Pull the button lever down (it hides up in the machine workings and should be to the back left of the presser bar). When you pull it down it will more than likely end up sitting behind the back tab of the presser foot, as shown above. THIS IS NOT THE CORRECT POSITION, SEE NEXT IMAGE.

button hole tutorial 5You need to ensure you move the button lever to sit in front of the back tab of the presser foot, so that it’s now sitting in between both the sticking out tabs, as shown above. These tabs (and the lever stopping against them) are what makes the stitches go down one side of button hole and then back up the other side, so that’s why the position of the button lever is vital.

button hole tutorial 6Change the settings on your sewing machine to the button hole settings (consult your manual if need be). Place the fabric under the foot and line up the needle with the BACK horizontal bar that you marked on the fabric. Lower the presser foot lever and begin sewing. Gently hold the fabric so that it doesn’t go off-skew but don’t stop it being pulled back and forward by the machine. You should get an indication of when it’s finished stitching as it will probably slow down (or stop) the stitching at the last horizontal bar.

button hole tutorial 7When you stop stitching and pull up the presser foot lever, the button hole lever will spring back (ready to sew the next button hole). Gently pull the fabric away and out. Above is what you should end up with, whoo hooo! Honestly, the first few times you do this, that’s how you’ll probably feel, it’s so cool! (My kids would probably say I’m so ‘uncool’ for saying that!) Anyways, trim the loose threads off.

button hole tutorial 8You can use a sharp pair of scissors to open up the button hole, being very careful not to cut through any of the threads. I find it easiest to use a seam ripper. Place a pin through the fabric at the top horizontal bar of the stitching (to stop the seam ripper running away from you and ripping through those stitches, yep, I’ve done that!)

button hole tutorial 9Yay! One button hole!

button hole tutorial 10Check that the button fits through it, another good reason for doing a practice button hole before attempting the real thing.

Hope you find this useful. I think the thing that baffled me most when I first attempted sewing button holes, was the position of the button hole lever. It took me ages to work out that you need to place it in between the tabs. I’d assumed that because it pulled down to rest behind the back one, that must be the correct position. Once I’d worked out that little technicality, button holes became a breeze.

If you’d like to see how to use your sewing machine to sew on the actual buttons too, check out my next post.

If you hate hand sewing buttons into place, you’ll love using the machine for it. So quick and easy!

Great British Sewing Bee Series 2 Episode 1 – Nightgown Patterns

Did you see the first episode of the new Great British Sewing Bee series? I really enjoyed it and looking forward to seeing next weeks challenges.

Sew Sensational

The-Great-British-Sewing-Bee-Judges Last night my Twitter feed went crazy as the first episode of series 2 of the Great British Sewing Bee hit our TV screens here in the UK. Despite achieving fairly poor ratings and reviews last year when the series premièred, the BBC have (rightly) chosen to bring the sewing contest back for a 2nd year – and 3rd year if the online call for applicants is anything to go by!

In this episode the new contestants had to make items based on thee of the most common fabrics we sewists generally have in our stashes – cotton, wool and silk. This included a sleeveless top each, the customisation of a long wool skirt and the request to create a unique silk nightgown for a real-life model (who, might I add, are not ‘model proportions’ but actual real-life women).

This episode seemed to spark a lot of interest in people…

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