Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New equipment and PR Weekend Portland

I have been busy collecting new equipment/gadgets in the last month, and as you can imagine playing with them is way more fun than blogging. No offense.

The first piece I need to share is this Elna Alize ironing press. I bought mine from sewinginusa.com, they are one of the few etailers that carries Elna presses. You can't type 'ironing press' into google without hitting a million Simplicity presses, but it took some work to find the Elna. I was looking for a dry press as well, which also made it hard. Most of the presses on the market now come with steam, which means holes in the pressing surface. Tiny holes, but holes. Since I mainly planned on using it for fusing interfacing, I wanted as smooth a surface as possible. The Elna had good reviews on patternreview.com and the price was right, so I went with that.

Features I like:

  • 10 second timer that activates when you close the lid. My favorite interfacing needs 20 seconds, so I close the lid twice and I'm done. :-)
  • Pressure! Lots of it. (100lbs) I'm convinced this really helps the adhesion of fusibles.
  • Heat! Well duh. But it advertises 392F and it definitely gets hot on high.
  • Sturdy, it's got locking handles to move it around and rubber feet that don't slide on the table.
  • Board is made of Finnish birch, so no warping. At least not yet. (All the other presses use steel mesh). I prefer the way the steam permeates through the fabric with a wood board. The metal mesh on my ironing board isn't the same.
  • FUSING AN ENTIRE PIECE OF INTERFACING AT ONCE! (yes you need to get one of these)
Features I don't like:

  • It's 20"x9", and when you are fusing interfacing bigger is better. I can fit two collars, or two cuffs, but not both. it's not long enough for an entire waistband, but it really isn't too hard to move the fabric once part of it is fused. It's still light years better than using an iron. But to go bigger I would have had to get a steam model.
  • Not really a big deal, but having to use a spray bottle for steam. I mean you have to spray interfacing or a press cloth anyways when fusing, but when I use it to press shirts or something it does slow you down.
  • It came with a spray bottle, which leaked from day 1. I threw it away.
After I had my press for a few weeks, I was reading a blog post by Kathleen Fasanella at FashionIncubator.com about 'the annoyance factor'. She was talking about how to lower your expenses by examining seemingly low cost processes, and although it's aimed towards production sewing it rang a huge bell with me. If you can save yourself even a few minutes on a task that is done repeatedly, or streamline your process to make it require less work or more enjoyable, the benefit can be a huge bump in productivity. I used to hate fusing interfacing so much I'd put it off or contemplate skipping it. Now I'm looking for the next 'bottleneck' to fix.

After scouring Craigslist.org for a used industrial sewing machine for several months, I finally found one in San Francisco at the beginning of May for a good price. I've been picking up a lot more 'for hire' sewing projects and the allure of an industrial machine, with all it's capabilites and attachments, was too tempting. It was quite the fiasco picking it up at 6 pm on a Friday night, in the rain, lining up movers to carry it down 3 flights of stairs (one flaked, DH had to stand in. OMG), driving a full-size truck with a utility trailer through downtown SF, and unloading it into the house. Whew! But it's here. And it's awesome. :-)

It's a Juki DDL5550N-7 computerized single needle lockstitch with a servo motor. Features:

  • Adjustable speed servo motor, from turtle to rabbit-on-Red-Bull. (holy cow who sews that fast??)
  • Auto thread trimmer, activated by depressing the back part of the pedal
  • Auto back tacking at beginning or end of a seam (or not at all)
  • Reverse
  • Knee lifter

Control panel. Does anyone know how to use the thingie on the right, or what the 'eye' and 'fan' buttons do? No idea. LOL

I've only made a couple garments with it so far but the fabric feeding is so much better than my Janome, you can adjust everything (love that), I've decided life before auto thread-trimming sucks, and you can probably buy an attachment that does your laundry and cooks dinner for you. I bought some basic feet (left and right cording, zipper, invisible zipper) and a binder so far and am hooked.


So the reason for the haste in picking up the machine was the next weekend was PR Weekend Portland and I didn't want to miss out on the deal. I had a fantastic time with the ladies of Pattern Review, and enjoyed meeting some new faces as well as spending quality time with Cidell and Christina. I didn't take nearly enough pictures but here's a few plus some borrowed ones, as well as the fabric stash I came home with.

Fabric-Tan Burberry stripe raincoating, L-R silk charmeuse, cotton shirting, silk jersey

Me, Cidell, and Christina

Cidell trying on my Burberry trench. Don't you hate it when other people look better in your stuff than you do?

Fitting/Tailoring seminar with Pati Palmer

Poofy skirt and twisted band tee

What do you get when you combine lovely fabric bought with a gift certificate (thanks A.!!), a new industrial sewing machine to play with, a 4-day weekend, and plenty of sewing mojo after a trip? Finished garments. :-)

Copied from RTW top, self-drafted embroidered lawn skirt, Coclico shoes
I knew I wanted something short and poofy with this cream embroidered cotton lawn, but didn't really have an exact pattern in mind. I decided to just make it up as I went along, only deciding on the width of the waistband and the fullness of the skirt. The pieces are all rectangles so it's not hard. I wanted the embroidery pattern on the horizontal so I had to cut the fabric on the crossgrain. Then it's just gathered to the waistband and lined, add a zipper and voila! I had to adjust the side seams on the waistband to really make it hug my waist, but that was it. The skirt and lining only have one seam, in the center back. I serged the edges, then sewed the seams and pressed open. I hemmed them before attaching the waistbands, using a scroll hemmer foot. If you don't have one of these then get one!! No pressing, no marking, just feed the fabric into the foot and get a perfect 1/4" hem (or 1/8"). It worked really really well, although I did pop the fabric out of the feeder and form the hem by hand when going over the side seams. But compared to my usual method of ironing the hem first and using two passes of stiching, this was a breeze.

1/4" scroll-hemmed lawn and batiste lining

Seam finishes

I inserted the invisible zipper using my new Juki and a cording foot (the invisible zipper foot I got doesn't work very well, probably operator error).

Lining/facing all finished by machine

I saw these two fabrics laying together and liked the colors, so I made another one of these tees from a taupy gray rayon/lycra knit It was copied from my favorite RTW v-neck, and I added a twisted binding to the neckline to make a little more interesting. I haven't found a favorite method for attaching this yet, this time I serged it on, folded it over and lined up the offset, and stitched in the ditch from the right side to anchor it. I also serged the raw edges of the hems, folded up and topstitched. This jersey was very flimsy, and the edges kept wanting to roll. I knew if I even attempted my usual double needle approximation of a coverstich it would tunnel like mad.

A little note about the construction order though, I notice a lot of RTW tees/tops do this:
  • Sew one shoulder seam
  • Bind the neckline
  • Sew the other shoulder seam
  • Sew down the seam allowance at the neckline from sewing the last step
  • Set the sleeves in flat
  • Sew the sleeve/side seams
  • Hems
Binding the neckline while it's still flat makes it easier to handle at the machine, and you also don't have to figure out exactly how long to make the binding before attaching it. I like to stretch mine slightly as I sew to make it hug the neck. You will end up with a little seam allowance on one side of the neckline, so it doesn't look quite as nice as setting in binding traditionally, but for quickie tees and tops I think it's perfectly acceptable.