Category Archives: sewing

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.

It’s a wrap

Now that spring has sprung and we’ve had the occasional day of warm weather I’ve finally had the chance to wear my wrap skirt again.

The fabrics are from the Aviary 2 line in Granite by Joel Dewberry. The main skirt panels are Sparrows in Cavern, and the hems & ties use Damask in Granite. Not my usual colours (the yellow) so I would have looked straight past it without help from the Kelani Fabric stall at the Quilt and Craft Fair last year. The skirt pattern is The Versatile Wrap by Toni of Make It Perfect, who was also kind enough to offer advice on using a one directional print. She’s also made a skirt using Aviary 2 Sparrows in Mustard.

The Versatile Wrap skirt in Aviary 2 fabricsThe Versatile Wrap skirt in Aviary 2 fabrics

Through most of high school I pretty much refused to wear skirts and dresses, I’ve been slowly coming around ever since. It helps that this wrap skirt is too easy to make and really comfy to wear, it works with tights and boots when it’s cool to.

Now that I have the pattern pieces cut it should only take me a couple of hours to whip up this years version, I have some gorgeous Saffron Craig fabric ready to do just that.

Craft Show Catch Up

The Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair 2012 has come and gone, it was my third time visiting the show and each year I learn more ways to make the most out of a day there. There’s so much to see and do (and buy) it can be a bit overwhelming but you can only do so much, you just have to work out what you’ll get the most out of. This year I also went to the Craft and Sewing Show at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse, it’s a smaller show so I felt like I got all the way around quite comfortably. If you don’t love huge crowds and getting lost it might be a better alternative if you want to see what a craft show is all about.

For me, the most rewarding part of a show are the hands on workshops. Most go for 1 hour, cost around $15-$25 for a small kit or materials and you get to learn something new with an expert there to help and guide you. There’s plenty of inspiration on offer throughout the various talks, demonstrations and at the stalls, but I always find I’m much more likely to really give something a go when I’ve got someone there to help me through those first steps and I don’t have to think about getting all my bits and pieces organised. I’ve even finished off a few of the small projects that I’ve started at the shows!

Sashiko Sampler Scissor Pouch

Sashiko Sampler Scissor Pouch - FrontSashiko Sampler Scissor Pouch - Back

The kit for this project came from a 1 hour sashiko workshop run by Indigo Niche at the Sydney Craft and Sewing Show back in March. Sashiko is basically a running stitch technique used for hand quilting and embroidery. It comes from Japan and traditionally uses white thread on Indigo fabric.

I enjoyed this workshop so much I also bought a couple of other samplers with the pattern already marked on the fabric, and a beautiful variegated thread to use. I’ll be sure to share some photos once the first piece has progressed a little further.

Felt Applique Needle Book

Felt Applique Needle Book - Marg Low DesignsFelt Applique Needle Book - Marg Low Designs - Inside

This little needle book was from a felt applique workshop with Marg Low of Marg Low Designs. She was absolutely lovely and gave us lots of great tips, by the end of the workshop I had the 3 flower pieces stitched on to the front, and I added the decorative stitches on the inside page on the train home. The next day I stitched on the inside fabric piece which also functioned as the binding, attached the inside felt page and voila!

There were a number of times while making this little needle book that I would pause while getting the next piece of thread ready and think, “Now where should I put my needle so I don’t lose it?” Duh… in the needle book perhaps? Handy little things they are, and super cute with a little felt applique.

English Paper Piecing

English Paper Pieced Hexagons

I’ve heard a lot about paper piecing so thought I’d find out how it works. This workshop by Blue Willow Cottage was a great introduction to hexagons, and the kit provided the fabric scraps and 7 pre-cut papers (enough to make a flower) as well as a template for cutting the fabric hexagons and the cutest little cutting mat (3″ square) and mini rotary cutter. As with all the workshops it was a great little taster to learn the basics and get me interested in trying some more.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with these when I’ve got all 6 petals on my flower finished but it will probably be appliqued onto a background fabric to then use.

So that’s my craft show catchup, there are actually more little demo projects from the Quilt and Craft Fair, but I’ll spare you for the time being and save those for another time. If you get the chance to go to a craft or sewing show be sure to check out the website or brochures before you go to see what demonstrations and workshops are on offer and GET IN EARLY to book as I’ve found the workshops fill up really quickly. You’ll have to race me though!

Phoebe & Phoebe

Phoebe & Phoebe - Elephant Softies

It’s about time I introduce Phoebe & Phoebe. These gorgeous elephant softies were made using the “Phoebe” pattern from Melly & Me.

I’d seen a few good reviews and great results from these patterns, the softies look really impressive! I was feeling quite intimidated initially but wanted to give one a go so chose the elephant as I thought the few large pieces would hopefully be a bit easier to manage than a lot of small fiddly bits.

Phoebe & Phoebe - Elephant Softies

These two were made for my nieces for Christmas (yes it’s taken me some time to post about them). The fabrics are from the Hoopla for Moda range that I picked up, along with the pattern, from Kelani Fabric. Niece #2 was born in the days leading up to Christmas, we didn’t know she was going to be a girl so I had the ears sewn on to both elephants, and was waiting for the news before sewing the blankets on. Had she been a boy they would have gone the other way around but the plan for two girls was to mix them up. They also have their initials embroidered into the inner side of a leg to save any fights in future about whose was whose.

The pattern requires a mix of machine and hand sewing, and I chose to blanket stitch around the applique felt toes and eyes by hand using 2 strands of embroidery cotton. There were a couple parts that I found a bit tricky or would do a bit differently next time…

  • I found there were some seams that could have been a little wider or used a bit of reinforcement, particularly the curves between the front and back legs on each side and the front and back where four seams met.
  • I may have done something not quite right but the plaited felt tails aren’t particularly strong, which I found out when my two year old niece used it for carrying around her elephant (as you do when you’re two) and it didn’t last long – hers now has an adorable stubby tail.

Phoebe & Phoebe - Elephant Softies

Overall I absolutely adore these softies, and have had many kind comments about them. I’ll definitely use this pattern again in future (in fact I have just made another one which I’ll be sharing) and would love to try some of the other patterens by Melly & Me, perhaps Bubbles the Unicorn, Dawn the Deer Foal or Mrs. Perkins the Giraffe, to name a few.

Zippers for Bags Class with Nicole Mallalieu

Nicole Mallalieu & I

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to take part in a day class with the Queen of Bag Making (amongst many other things), Nicole Mallelieu from You Sew Girl!

First up, a huge thank you must go out to the team at Peg’s Pieces in Kirrawee for organising Nicole’s visit, especially our host Bernadette who was also our fabulous “gofer”, tea lady and colour matching assistant all day for us.

Zips really don’t have to be that scary, it can seem that way if you’ve never been shown how to sew one in but as Nicole said, “it’s only fabric and haberdashery”. I was shown during a lesson after buying my sewing machine, and there are plenty of great tutorials out there for little zipper pouches that are great practice. Having had that bit of practice behind me I wanted to see how to go about using them in a bag, I love bags with lots of pockets for organising things.

The Zippers for Bags class was perfect as it focused on the different options for using zippers to customise and add pockets to a bag. We got all the way through making two of the options for our bags, with great notes for a few other options as well. The rest of the bag is still to come but when it’s done there will be pockets for everything! Almost.

TopstitchingZipper bag gusset

It was an incredible day, and absolutely exhausting jamming all those great tips and ideas into my head before driving home in the wind and rain but I loved every minute and would jump at the chance to take more classes with Nicole. Sounds like great excuse for a trip to Melbourne.

In preparation for the class there were a few things I needed to get my hands on. Things I’d never used before but are surely going to become two of my favourite new toys:

Vliesofix T 6 – this is a roll of thin (6mm) fusbile tape with paper on one side so you can iron to one piece of fabric, rough side down, then rip off the paper and iron to the other side. It’s really handy instead of trying to use pins for holding together little fiddly edges and small pieces before stitching, I’d run out of fingers trying to count how many times “Vliesofix it!” was called out during the day. I found mine in Spotlight (last box!) but it was also available at Peg’s Pieces, and hopefully somewhere near you.

Vilene S320 – This is an amazing fusible non-woven interfacing, when ironed on to the back of fabric it adds support and helps improve accuracy for beautiful crisp edges and corners. It was a little tricky to find and nearly all references to it online were from the You Sew Girl site and blog. So where can you buy S320? I got mine before the class from Voodoo Rabbit who stock a great range of You Sew Girl products in their online store. Peg’s Pieces also had it available along with other You Sew Girl items and recommendations, both stores are super friendly and helpful if you’re after anything to help you make beautiful bags.

If you’ve ever wanted to try making your own bag or purse keep an eye out and if Nicole Mallalieu is ever doing a class near you, jump on it! If you can’t make it to a class, try one of her patterns or kits, they come with really detailed instructions that are almost as good as having her there to help you out.

Zipper Gusset