Introducing Suki: My Juki TL-98P

I love my new(ish) Juki! Her name is Suki, I bought her second hand about a month ago after debating for some time about upgrading my current machine, a Brother NS50. She’s now my main machine and gets to sit out on the dining table all the time. It’s a long story but with a happy ending, if you’re keen to find out more about the Juki and my experience, you might want to grab a cup of tea and get comfy.

Yesterday was the first time in a month that I’ve needed to zig zag stitch, I’d taken in a top and wanted to tidy up the seams, and wanted to experiement with making frankenbatting (which was awesome by the way) so I had the two out together, below you can see them side by side.

Juki TL-98P (right) and Brother NS50 (left)

The Brother NS50 is a great machine, it was simple enough to get started on with a few fun features for me to grow into from when I first began sewing. It does all the utility things I might need (button holes, overcast, zigzag, fancy stitches, has a free arm) so I’ll be holding on to it for some time still. I should probably name him to…

After quilting my first lap sized quilt and getting a really sore wrist while doing it I thought there’s no way I’m going to get anything bigger under here or have enough space to be able to free-motion quilt comfortably. I’m not saying it wasn’t possible, it just wasn’t easy. I want to be able to enjoy quilting and I know that sewing and quilting are going to be something I’ll do for a long time so about 2 years after I started on the Brother I was ready to invest in a machine that would make things a bit easier for me.

I’ll admit, I’d been sucked into the hype about Bernina’s and started investigating those after trying out a 440 during a free motion quilting class. It was as if the quilt was floating over the surface. I knew they would be expensive but I was prepared to make an investment so I started looking around. Turns out, the larger machines that would meet my number one request of more throat/harp space were beyond what I was ready to invest, and I didn’t see it as good value, I didn’t need more stitches and all the other nice-to-have features that were only a bit of an improvement on what my Brother could already do.

That lead me to put together the wishlist below of the things I really wanted/needed to make a new machine worthwhile.

  1. More throat space for machine quilting
  2. Needle down on stopping
  3. Knee lift for the presser foot, so I could keep my hands on what I was sewing
  4. Nice straight stitch
  5. Walking foot, 1/4″ foot and free motion feet included would be a bonus
  6. Extension table would be nice to have while I sort out my furniture situation (I hope to eventually have a drop in table, but don’t think I’ll be cutting a hole in my dining table any time soon).

Juki TL-98P

I’ve been seeing and hearing so many good things about the Juki TL98 machines, and the newer TL2010 machines, mostly from my favourite bloggers and while reading reviews. It’s pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t love their Juki or who has had issues with it.

It ticked all the boxes, and then some. It has a thread cutter with a button on the foot pedal, I didn’t think I needed that but now I’ve used it a bit it sure does come in handy. It’s got a reverse lever and feed dog up/down switch on the front where it’s easy to access. Foot and thread tensions will take some getting used to but surely can only improve my stitches. It also came with a knee lift, extension table and quilting related feet as standard. While it has all these great, relevant, features, it’s a really simple machine, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that I didn’t need or want, another huge plus for me.

It wasn’t long before I was convinced this was the machine I wanted, and I didn’t look any further. It’s a mechanical, semi-industrial machine (Juki make a lot of industrial sewing machines) it also goes really, really fast. I would have liked a speed limiter, I use that a bit on my Brother, but that was only introduced on the 2010 model which is not available here, so I’ll just have to learn to control my foot pressure, not a bad skill to develop.

My biggest issue is they’re not easy to find here in Australia. Over here we only have the TL-98P (Perfection), which I believe is the equivalent to the TL-98Q feature wise, but it’s built for 240v power supplies, used here and also in Europe. There aren’t any local dealers, when I contacted Juki there were only 2 authorised sellers listed and they were in different states. I have since found a couple places in Sydney that stock Juki and I didn’t get around to arranging a trip up to test drive any when I came across the listing for mine.

I ended up purchasing Suki from Sewing Machine Warehouse via eBay. She was a trade in from another customer who had a frame setup for quilting, tried it out for a little while and then decided to upgrade to a table top mid arm machine instead. I have to say, I was hesitant about buying a machine, particularly a second hand one, online without getting to try it out first, not even a new one of the same model. I asked questions about the machines history and saw a lot of good reviews for the seller, being a physical store as well gave some reassurance and ultimately the price was too good to pass up. They were easy to deal with and took extra care when packing the machine for delivery.

I bought my current machine new from my local sewing machine shop Vera’s Machine Center and couldn’t have been happier with the help I received in choosing a machine, learning to use it, and when taking it in for servicing. I’d absolutely recommend finding a good local dealer and buying from them if you can. In this case I couldn’t find the machine I wanted locally, but I’m hoping I can get my machine serviced through them and hope to continue that relationship.

So far, I’m really happy with my Juki. I’m still figuring out a few things and looking at a few additional accessories, extra bobbins etc and hope to share more as I get to know her better. If you have any questions about the Juki TL-98P ask away and I’ll try to answer them as best I can. It wasn’t easy to find a lot of information about the machine and how to purchase one in Australia so I’m happy to share what I know and hope it will help someone else.

Ada’s Quilt: Step Down Piecing with Wombat Wonderland

This sweet little quilt combines a whole lot of Aussie inspiration. The fabulous fabrics are from Saffron Craig’s Wombat Wonderland collection which are 100% organic GOTS approved cotton. The pattern is a technique from Sarah Fielke’s Craftsy class, Big Techniques from Small Scraps. How adorable are those wombats?!

Ada's Quilt - Step Down Piecing using Wombat Wonderland by Saffron Craig

The larger squares were fussy cut from Wombats in my Garden and complemented by Sunrays, Flower Spot and (my favourite) Triangles. The smaller dark squares are from Wombat Lovehearts, there was the occasional bit of wombat surgery, creating some of my favourite details with wombats wandering in and out of their little windows.

Wombat Wonderland

I used strips of the same range for the back, including Sunflower Garden which was too pretty to cut up for the front.

Ada's Quilt Back

I finished up the top a couple of weeks ago, you can read more about the technique and the rest of Sarah’s class in my previous post. The top came with me on a long weekend away where it was basted and I began the hand quilting, approximately 1/4″ inside each of the squares.

Hand Quilting & Embroidery

The quilting was done in bursts over a few weeks, once I started each session I didn’t want to put it down. I really enjoyed this process and found Sarah’s technique easy to pickup and really enjoyable, when you get into a groove it is quite meditative. The result of using organic cottons and hand quilting is a beautifully soft baby quilt.

I love the striped binding, reminds me of liquorice all sorts (yum!)

Stripey Binding

This quilt was gifted to a work friend whose baby girl arrived in January. In place of a label I hand embroidered her name and the year. I hope it’s used and loved for some time to come.

Ada's Quilt

Lucky Stars BOM: March

The March block for the Lucky Stars club is a ninja star!

I enjoyed sewing the foundation paper pieces for this block, nice and simple on their own so they came together quickly. When it came to joining the four squares and matching points, I had to slow things down, pinning, unpicking and trying again so that the long lines would flow across the block joins. I think I did ok, I’m sure I could do better with practice.

Lucky Stars BOM March

I had it in my head that this block would use purple, which unfortunately doesn’t contrast much with my navy background, so that went in the middle. Then I put my other constant, the white, followed by orange which gives a nice bit of pop.

I like it, I don’t love it, but I’m sure it’ll look nice amongst all of the other blocks at the end. I’ve had the opposite reaction to last months block which I wasn’t sure about, then loved once I had it together.

I do love this pattern and hope to try it again, perhaps using graduating values of the same hue radiating out.

This block was finished in mid-March, the month it came out, yeay for staying on track! Only problem is now I have to wait a couple weeks for the next one. Maybe I’ll keep up momentum by trying some of the 6 inch blocks, as each pattern comes with templates and a cutting guide for both 12″ finished and 6″ finished blocks.

Lucky Stars BOM: February

There’s nothing like getting the next month’s block pattern in your email to spur you on to finish the previous month’s block! I had played with colour options for the February block in Illustrator and had all my pieces cut out for a couple weeks but only got to put this together one afternoon on the first weekend of March.

I wasn’t in love with this block before I started, I liked the shapes but just couldn’t get the right parts to shine. Once I started sewing the pieces, the colours just popped and now I love it. This block is definitely better in fabric than it is on paper (or screen) for me. And check out those points! I’m so proud of this block, and happy that I’m seeing improvements in my paper piecing.

Lucky Stars BOM - February

I’m really looking forward to the March Ninja Star. I have my colours picked out already. I’ll be sure to have that one done by the end of the month with the Easter long weekend as a last resort.

Thanks again to Elizabeth of Don’t Call Me Betsy for organising this Block of the Month program and for sharing these beautiful stars with us all. The instructions are great and the pieces are easy enough for someone completely new to foundation paper piecing to follow, yet the finished blocks are so effective.

Quilting From Little Things

Continuing on with the Craftsy love from before (I sense a theme developing here), I signed up for Big Techniques from Small Scraps, or Small Stash as is my case so far, with Sarah Fielke and am really loving it!

I had the class in my Craftsy wishlist for a few weeks, thinking I’d have another look when I had watched and worked on a bit more of the Machine Quilting Negative Space class with Angela Walters. I was tempted by a couple of the sales, and then got an email from Craftsy offering a really good deal on the class to treat myself because it was in my wishlist, and that I did. That was pretty awesome of them, so thanks Craftsy!

Honestly there were maybe two techniques I was initially interested in and thought I wouldn’t be as keen about the rest, boy… was I wrong. I watched the first few classes and wanted to try them all. I think that seeing the techniques demonstrated for you is a huge advantage. I’m sure I could figure it out from a book or magazine with good written instructions but then I find the photos of the finished item have to really pull me in to want to try it. If the colours or prints aren’t really my style sometimes it’s hard to look past that. In this case, seeing the individual techniques is what convinced me to want to try them and make something, it wasn’t all about the finished item but learning how to do something new.

I settled on the Step Down Piecing technique first as I was planning to make a baby quilt anyway, and had the perfect 50cm pack for it. The fabric is the 100% organic cotton, GOTS certified range Wombat Wonderland by Saffron Craig. It’s beautiful fabric to work with, I was lucky that the smaller wombats on the dark purple background were the perfect fit for the small squares, both in size and contrast.

Step Down Piecing Top

I decided I wanted the top ready to take away with me to hand quilt a few days later so I got stuck right in, I probably spent more time fussy cutting the wombats than sewing. I only got it finished late the night before I had to leave, hence the bad night lighting in the shot above.

The Step Down Piecing technique is really interesting and not all that hard in terms of sewing. Laying out the pieces first is a huge help, putting the first few pieces together was a bit tricky but once you get going it comes together easily. I found that it was a bit like free motion quilting, 80% of the technique is just knowing where to go next (something I’ve picked up from Angela Walters’ class).

I’m currently hand quilting the quilt after seeing another little promo video by Sarah which you can watch below. Seeing someone demonstrate what are quite simple steps makes something seem so much more achievable. If you’re a visual learner, Craftsy classes are perfect for you.

Next on the list is needle turn applique, I’ve got my little kit of Sarah’s recommended supplies and her book, Quilting from Little Things, for eye candy. This book has most of the same techniques in small and large project pairs. Can’t wait to start my next little project.

Sarah Fielke Applique Kit