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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

The BRILLIANT new Janome M7Continental produces A York Pinafore for Christmas

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

Sewing machine companies are always coming out with new models, most of which are incrementally different from before. But every 10-15 years, Janome re-thinks the machine from all angles and comes up with something that is a major leap–and worth considering adding to your studio. The Janome 6600 was such a machine (circa 2004/5), and the new M7 Continental may well go down as one of The Best Sewing Machines Ever (in any brand!), and given the quality of Janome’s machines that is a high standard.

The Janome M7 Continental is a quantum leap in a sewing machine. Even if you aren’t in a market for a new machine, it is worth taking a look at this model. You might have something new on your wish list!

I have been dying to share with you the things I’ve been making, but most of them are Christmas gifts, so I can’t yet. But I made myself the York Pinafore from Helen’s Closet Patterns, so now I can finally tell you about this wonder with the dress as my example.

In my new “Pinafore” (which I would have called a jumper when I was a kid) in front of the Christmas tree. I’m particularly chuffed about how well the M7 and I worked as a team to get those pockets PERFECTLY placed to have the design flow.

When Janome comes out with a new machine, every single time I think “oh, I can’t give up the loaner I have” (I’m beyond fortunate to be a Janome Artisan so I get to try out their brilliant machines year after year), nothing can be better than this one. And then the new one is even better. Every single time they add new features that make me wonder “oh gosh why didn’t I realize that would be so wonderful.” The M7 is even MORE SO….read on!

The first thing I did, after cutting out the pattern, was to make a lining. I knew that using flannel that I intended to wear over leggings meant that the dress would stick like velcro. Fiddlehead Artisan Supply had a fabric I’ve not used before, Bemberg Rayon, for linings. The bolt end says dry clean, but we all know that can be ignored sometimes. I just bought an extra quarter yard to accommodate shrinkage and tossed it in a wash with hot water wash, cold water rinse, and hot dryer so it would do whatever shrinking it planned to do.

Then I cut, pinned, and started sewing. I probably should have used a thinner needle and the walking foot. I didn’t need to! The feed on this machine is so good that I had no issues going from thick flannel to silky thin rayon! Because rayon ravels, I used the quarter inch piecing foot to create a narrow seam that I turned into a French Seam.

A French seam is really a seam inside of another seam that completely encloses the raw edges. It is typically found in high end garments and used on fabrics that ravel.

Once you have sewn the first seam, you press it as stitched to set the seams. It helps the thread sink into the cloth. Then you press the seam *open* which facilitates turning.

Then you fold the seam right along the stitching to create a “knife edge.” The best way to get the line perfectly on the edge is by pressing open (photo above) and then pressing flat. You can see how crisp and clean the edge is.

I used the quarter-inch foot with the edge guide but moved the needle to the left to 3/8″ from the edge to achieve this perfect seam. In this photo you can see the quarter inch encased and perfect stitching. The rayon won’t ravel ever!

Here I’m matching the scraps and the front of the pinafore so I can cut the pocket pieces to exactly match!

Getting the design lined up perfectly to cut a matching piece for the pocket.

Here I’m stitching in the ditch for the opening of the pocket. I decided to outline the entire pocket with binding. I used the M foot and stitch 15 to overcast the edges as I did the gift bag in yesterday’s post. There are many ways to stitch in the ditch, including an edge-stitch foot that is included with most Janome machines, but personally I find I get my best results using the open-toe F-2 which offers the best visibility. I move the needle to the far right, set the right edge of the foot on the bias, and can get absolutely snug up next to the bias trim.

Now THAT is “stitching in the ditch.”

Throughout the process the M7 handled flawlessly–I mean FLAWLESSLY!

I can’t wait to show you more of what it can do.

Janome’s new slogan is Reliability by Design….I stopped to think about it: I have been sewing on Janome machines since 2003 and not once–let me repeat that, NOT ONCE– have I had an issue that was due to the machine. Once or twice due to operator error, but really, the machines have been utterly, totally and completely reliable. And each one gets better.

Lining done and waiting for the dress to be made.

For hemming, I use the same foot and process, just move the stitch to the far left and adjust the needle drop (the Janome’s have so many needle positions you can get it perfect!). Because I have the rayon lining tucked inside the hem of the flannel outside, and because flannel is loosely woven and really quite stretchy, I use a bamboo skewer to press down on the hem. This compresses the hem, keeps it from rolling up, and controls the stretch. I hold the skewer in place and let the fabric feed underneath it–the tip of the skewer never gets up near the needle. The outstanding feed mechanism on the M7 meant I didn’t need to put on the AcuFeed at all… I couldn’t believe how easy it was!
Here’s the inside: all seams contained between the lining and fashion (!) fabric/flannel. I tucked the lining dress inside the flannel dress and basted at the neckline and sleeves. The pattern calls for using bias a narrow facing, but I chose to go quilty and have the grey accent the edges. Then, very carefully because lining is so slippery, I measured the hem and tucked the lining inside (instead of having it hang loose as is more common) and hemmed the dress.
Dress from the back. If you are curious, put York Pinafore in the search box and Pinterest…SO many cute ideas, fabulous on a wide range of body types, and fast to make. I can see using a quilting cotton for a fun summer dress with tank or T underneath, and corduroy for winter.

This new M7 Continental Janome is really something else, and although I am a Janome Artisan and affiliated, I would say all this if I had bought this machine at full retail. I’ll take you through some of the other marvelous things it can do in January and February. In the meantime, another small but marvelous detail: the thread stand has a COLLAPSING antenna.

Here’s the machine again…it’s hard to see in the clutter of my room, but there is a thread antenna on the right rear of the machine.

The thread antenna is telescoping, meaning you can push it down and then cover up your machine with the very good quality included cover! WOOT! PS: It also comes with a great extension table with a drawer in it, but even with its vast size (more on that later), I wanted to set it into my table. I cut rigid foam core to fill in the gaps. The mother of invention!

Christmas Bag tutorial and fine finishing tips

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019
A quick Gift Bag Tutorial–took about half an hour even *with* being fussy! Used leftover flannel, and a trimmed off bit of fabric from a quilt back or edge as the ribbon! Read on….

Sometimes it is possible to whip up a quick something just before Christmas…I’ll have to back-to-back posts (I hope) about sewing for the holidays that include this tutorial on zipping up a quick gift bag and, next, the wonderful York Pinafore pattern from Helen’s Closet patterns.

Last year Shannon Fabrics sent me a number of different fabrics including Cuddle and Luxe, fleece and faux fur type of fabrics. They sent a vast amount of this soft and silky red (available at Fabrics.com). I’m not positive which color way it was, but it was similar to this one. I finally purchased a flannel sheet, queen size, to make a throw that is big enough for two to snuggle or to use as a cover on a twin bed! It is more than a tad wrinkled here because it has been in recent use…it’s winter in Maine! Thank you Shannon Fabrics!

I needed the Queen Sized sheet so it would be long enough for the red Luxe that is so silky soft. That meant I had quite a bit leftover…so I thought I’d make a garment (next post). Once that was made, I still had leftovers so I whipped up two gift bags and thought I’d share it as a tutorial.

Tutorial:

  1. Cut two rectangles of fabric or one very wide rectangle. Place right sides together.
  2. Clean finish edges. You can use an overcast stitch as I did (photo below) or use a french seam (google it, or I’ll do a tutorial eventually of some basic things every sewist should know). Using the Janome’s “M” overcast foot gave results as good as a serger.
Janome America sent me the amazing new M7 Continental sewing machine (several blogposts in the new year…phenomenal machine!). I used the zigzag overcast stitch and the M foot which comes with the machine to clean finish the edges of the bag.

3. Sew a simple straight seam just inside the overcast edges. Sometimes the contents of gift bags can be heavy, and especially with soft and stretchy flannel, I felt a little extra stitching was a Good Thing.

I’d never used the Lock-a-Matic stitch before because I learned to sew when we were lucky to have a simple zigzag on a machine and not all the bells and whistles.
Janome has designed the AcuSpark software. In the previous photo that QR code I pointed out: use your phone to scan and it will pull up a screen with helpful information. Here, I’ve got the one for the Lock-a-Matic Stitch!

Having started sewing when dinosaurs roamed the earth and you were lucky if your machine did anything besides a straight stitch forward and back, I am so used to just doing the lockstitch or backstitch myself that I likely will keep doing that, but this stitch automatically does a securing backstitch at the start of a seam and, when you press the back arrow, at the end. I had been concerned that it might sew a lockstitch when you pause in the middle of a long seam to re-position your hands, but it doesn’t, which is good!

4. Turn your bag right side out.

Once your seams are finished, turn the bag right side out. I like to fold the corners so that both seam allowances are to one side. My hand is inside and I’m pinching the corner together. Then keeping hold of the seam allowances, turn.

Pretty good corner, and I haven’t even eased it out yet!

5. At the ironing board, use a point turner to coax the corners out to perfect.

I have several point turners. This is one I bought just this year. Make by Clover, it is beautifully smooth, and has a Hera Marker (sharp edge for marking lines on cloth) on the other end. It is longer than most point turners, curved to fit the hand nicely, and I like it better than any others I have tried.

Lookit how perfect that corner is! Square as can be! I created this method for corners when doing custom home dec work for an interior designer. Some of the upholstery fabrics were so thick that I was afraid if I clipped the corner, the old school way to deal with bulk, the fabric would unravel and ruin the project, and the fabric was crazy expensive. This is secure and gets even better results.

6. Hem the open end. The interior designer I worked for taught me about using poster board (or tag board or an old manila folder) to make templates for turning hems. When making curtains, the extra weight of a doubled hem helped them hang well. I called it the turn-turn hem, since you turn up two full hem-depths.

This is the first turn. I’m showing the poster board 1″ wide strip I have used –I am not exaggerating same piece of paper– for over 17 years. Place your fabric right side down on the ironing surface. Fold the hem up over the poster board, lightly snugging the board into the fold with your fingers. Press. Steam is fine–use it all the time and the poster board is still in great shape. You can also use the Dritz EzyHem tool, available everywhere. The metal is nice because it gets hot which helps set the crease, but it is short, maybe 6-7 inches. The poster board is fabulous for things like curtains and custom sheets because you can get a really long run done all at once without wobbles.
Then you turn the hem up again. Usually I keep the poster board inside the first turn and just roll it up, but for photo purposes I wanted to show you that it is the same idea.

7. Press your seams to one side. Using a seam roll –in this case a piece of cheap stair handle from the big box DIY store. Dressmaking suppliers sell beautiful hardwood (maple usually) seam rolls for Lotsa Bucks. This pine stair rail handle was a few dollars for 24 inches. Sits flat on the ironing surface and does the trick.

You can see the flat end of the stair-rail-as-pressing-dowel. I’ve got the seam centered on the top and have pressed the first part of it. This set up is perfect when you don’t want the edges of the seam allowance to show through to the front of your fabric.

8. Give your bag a final press, tuck the goodies inside, and tie shut. I think, having found that strip of green, that instead of buying ribbon I might “make” some from leftover bias bindings (unfinished on the edges) or making some straps (turn seam allowances under, sew folded edges together) to use as ties for future years. Here’s that original photo again:

Someone has a special surprise inside!

Jiminy Christmas!

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

Happy winter folks!  Egads….time whizzing by, change in the behind the scenes stuff on my website so trying to write a blogpost is totally unlike what it has been for 14 years…. I’m lost!   Don’t even know how to add a photo.  Well, it has been busy as usual what with massive house cleaning, getting ready for the holidays and all that.  I’m also starting a newsletter, so there is a new sign  up button on my home page and, if I can figure out how, I’ll put it in here, too. 

 Here is a snapshot of the house so far..Eli came home from college last night so we can finally finish trimming the tree this weekend.  We are due to get snow tonight and tomorrow, but after a cold and wintry November it is warming up in December so I don’t think we’ll have a White Christmas (but I’ve already watched the movie for the season!).

So it looks like I added a photo, now what…gosh I hate when things change so radically!   Trying to decipher MailChimp has been hard enough for the morning.  So here’s a quick peek at what I’m doing in the studio:

The start of a rose hip……

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?  When I grew up we made candy and delivered it as gifts, but haven’t done that in decades.  In the interest of fitting into my clothes, I am restraining myself.  But I love remembering who gave me various ornaments or where we went that year.

Here’s an ornament made by my friend Deborah Boschert, an angel that was on a gift from my cousin Anne sometime in the mid 60s (for anyone from southern California, probably it came from Pic N Save!), a spider web in glass from my first tour in the Foreign Service in Toronto (and miraculously not broken despite traveling around the world for umpteen years) and my two beautiful Lalique discs, at the top of the tree out of pet danger.

and here is an attempt at a pop-up sign up for my monthly (or maybe every other month) newsletter…I’ll fine tune formatting another day, ahem. now, I need to figure out a logo!  Give me suggestions LOL! PS–scroll down, I can’t figure out why so much blank space.

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Call me a Shannon Cuddle fan!

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

A heavenly combination: my studio, my Janome 9400 and Shannon Fabrics cuddle fabric–I’m ready for winter!  This fabric is so soft you just want to pet it, snuggle under it, and not give it away as a gift!

Last May, Janome America had its first ever Janome Education Summit, and one of the presenters was Shannon Fabrics.  From the kit they provided, I made the lovely summery top in this blogpost.  But they also shared samples of their fabrics, including these two.  True confession:  I have this Elmer Fudd-esque love affair with red and black buffalo check.  When I got home from the Janome event, I searched for the cuddle buffalo check on the internet wanting to buy multiple yards of it it but couldn’t find it anywhere, so contacted the presenter from Shannon Fabrics, who told me it wasn’t available until summer for the new fall season.  I ordered some other Shannon Cuddle and Luxe Fur from Fabric.com (still waiting to make that up, stay tuned in December).  Mid summer I still couldn’t find it, so I wrote to her again, and she SENT ME a big box to make not one but TWO projects.   This throw is SO fast and easy and it would make an awesome holiday gift. Literally, I made it in a short afternoon!

Me by the fireplace, wrapped in my jumbo throw. This is big enough for two people on a sofa. Or one person a cat and a pug in a chair. Ahem (photo below).

 Here’s what and how:

The two fabrics pictured are available at Fabric.com here/minky buffalo check and here/Studio minky forest park, both in the scarlet color way.  It is also available in a blue version, and there is a lovely silvery gray and white buffalo check too.  I used two yards of each, but had a little of the print leftover–gonna make a hat out of that!  You’ll also need some thread–color doesn’t really matter as it disappears into the pile, but I did use red. If I had found the Shannon free pattern and video (keep reading) I would have ordered 2 1/3 yards of the check since you need a little extra to wrap.  Instead, I trimmed down my white print to work.

A blogpost with lots of pictures is better. Here is the throw on the love seat / reading zone in my basement studio. You can see how large it is!

TIPS and HINTS for working with Cuddle, Minky and Luxe Fur:

  1.  The BEST tip for minimizing lint came from Ellen of Shannon Fabrics in May:  you know you when you cut Minky and similar fabrics you end up with little bits of fluff EVERYwhere forever?  Not any more!   First, especially with the long fur-like fabrics (in my upcoming December project), cut your fleece from the back cutting only through the knit backing.  This minimizes the snipped bits of fluff.  You can also do as I did with the regular pile cuddle (what I used here) and use a rotary cutter.  Then scoop up ALL the pieces (including leftovers if you keep them for small projects later), perhaps into a basket or large plastic bag, and take them to your DRYER.  Yes, the clothes dryer.  Tumble on no-heat for about ten minutes, then CLEAN THE LINT FILTER. About 80+ percent of that fluff will end up in the lint filter and not all over your sewing space and house.  OMG it really worked!
  2. There is no stretch on the lengthwise grain.  At all.  If you make a garment (my next project) make sure you keep grainline in mind when fitting the garment.
  3. The fabric DOES NOT RAVEL.  At ALL.  That means you don’t have to turn under edges!!!!!!  That means these projects are FAST!
  4. Stitch length:  The fleece will hide your stitches.  That means it will be challenging if you decide you need to remove any of the stitches, so pin carefully to avoid ripping out!   Also, it is good to use a slightly longer stitch length.  I used a 3.0.
  5. Best stitch for seams on knits: For garments, using a zigzag or “lightning” zigzag will at a 1.0 width will look like a straight stitch seam from the outside, but adds a little bit of flexibility and therefore helps avoid popping stitches in the seam.

Shannon Fabrics has many free patterns available.  I used this one for my throw, a youTube video called Cuddle Self-Binding Blanket from Shannon and FleeceFun.com.  I hadn’t found this video when I requested my fabric.  If I had, I would have ordered 2 1/3 yard of the buffalo check and 2 yards of the forest park print and had a slightly larger (better!) throw.  WATCH the video before you order fabric…it is only 7 minutes long and will help you.

I used a serpentine stitch on my Janome 9400, an “S” shaped stitch to sew down the edges. You could also use a blanket stitch or a 3-step zigzag (the one that takes three stitches in one direction, then three stitches the other way).  I mean, you can’t even SEE the stitches.

Here’s what the serpentine stitch looks like from the back. I used red thread and you can’t even SEE the red on the black square!

I have been a Janome Fan-Girl for 15+years now.  I am now a Shannon Fan-Girl too! I’m finishing up a winter jacket with more of the buffalo check and a cream cuddle fleece lining, and will share something else that will be a gift for Christmas–perhaps in late November which is plenty of time for you to whip up a few of them in time for holiday giving.  Or keeping.  Ahem!

This is what I expect to look like most evenings in winter: in my chair in the living room, me and pug under the throw, cat checking things out, ready to make a dent in my pile of reading!

And because it is boring, this photo is last, but it shows the throw out flat.

THANK YOU SHANNON FABRICS for this fabric which I was totally prepared to order!   I have purchased more of their fabrics own my own and know I will be using it again.  If they ever make their “Spa” line in some bold colors (not pastel, not purple) I am so gonna make a bathrobe…..in the meantime, I have more snuggle quilts and gifts to make to keep me plenty busy.  And as always, Thank You Janome America for making the best machines EVER!

laid out flat on my studio floor (cement painted green!)…big, warm, SOFT. And did I mention, SOFT!

 

Spiderweb TableRunner Free Pattern for Halloween!

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

This tablerunner was featured at the Janome Institute late this past summer and it is now featured on their blog, here (scroll to October 15, 2015) and here on their projects page.  And I’m sharing the pattern with you here as a Halloween Treat!

Spiderwebs table runner (c) Sarah Ann Smith 2015.   Featured on the Janome America website/blog on October 15, and on Sarah’s blog.  Photo (c) Janome-America; used with permission and thanks!

Spiderwebs table runner (c) Sarah Ann Smith 2015. Featured on the Janome America website/blog on October 15, and on Sarah’s blog. Photo (c) Janome-America; used with permission and thanks!

For many years now I’ve been fortunate to be associated with Janome America.   I have been sewing on their machines since late 2004, moving up the product line so I’ve had a chance to test machines at all levels.  And in about a week  I will review here my test-drive of the reasonably priced Skyline S7, a brand-spanking-new machine (and to spill the beans–I can’t believe how much you get for the price!).  Anyway, I occasionally do projects for Janome.  Although this tablerunner was made on a top of the line Janome 15000, all you need is a machine that does a straight stitch.  If you have the triple-straight-stitch also, that’s good because it gives you a “bold” line on the spiderweb, but it isn’t necessary.  Even the most basic sewing machines (as long as they are not straight-stitch only) have this stitch (look for three vertical lines next to each other).

Most of my work is very involved and advanced, and the projects Janome features tend to be easier, so I drove down to one of my favorite local shops, Alewives Fabrics (here).  I found the fabulous Halloween fabric, and I’m not usually a major fan of decorating for this holiday.  But I love the ghostly dresses and the “polka dots” on the black that are really little skulls!   I also adore spiders (anything that eats mosquitoes is a friend of mine) and spiderwebs.  The green cotton-linen blend was perfect!

Detail of the spiderweb block.

Detail of the spiderweb block.

Spiderwebs for Halloween Table Runner  is the PDF for the pattern (also available on the Janome projects page, see link above).  Yep–this is a total freebie, including a full-size page of the spiderweb design which, of course, doesn’t need to be just like mine!   A friend had a great idea which I wish *I* had thought of:  to include a line of glow-in-the-dark thread with the stitching on the web!   If I were to make this again, I would feed the two threads together as if one (Thanks Lutra!)  through a large needle (size 16 or maybe even 18) to do the spiderweb stitching.

I always love the backs of things:

The quilting on the back of the tablerunner, so it is reversible if you want.

The quilting on the back of the tablerunner, so it is reversible if you want.

The fabric requirements on the pattern are SCANT–they are what I had, and I used every tiny little bit!   If you find you need to square things up a lot, buy a little more than I suggested.

Spiderwebs table runner (c) Sarah Ann Smith 2015.   Featured on the Janome America website/blog on October 15, and on Sarah’s blog.  Photo (c) Janome-America; used with permission and thanks!

Spiderwebs table runner (c) Sarah Ann Smith 2015. Featured on the Janome America website/blog on October 15, and on Sarah’s blog. Photo (c) Janome-America; used with permission and thanks!

An extra thanks to Taylor D. and Janome America for letting me use some of their photos (the nicely staged ones on the table)–I forgot to take nice photos before I sent it off to them for Institute!   And as always, thanks to Janome for having me in their Artist-Teacher program for so many years.  I truly appreciate it–and best of all, for making such great machines.  Yes, I’m affiliated, but I’d say the same things if I paid full MSRP!