Sewing Machine Madness!

2 DAYS ONLY!!  On December 6th & December 7th we are having a  NO TAX EVENT or 0% financing on all of our Pfaff and Husqvarna sewing machines. The pricing and free giveaways will be amazing.  This sale is factory authorized. We will be having authorized Pfaff and Husqvarna representatives here on hand.  You will not want to miss this special opportunity!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip : How not to break your needles

It happens to everyone.  All of us who sew are bound to break a needle at one point or another.  It’s something we strive not to do, yet somehow, we think we’re better than the rules.

Starting from the beginning, here are things to check:

1. Is the needle inserted correctly?  Most home machines use needles that have a flat back to the upper part of the shank, which means the long groove above the eye will be facing you as you sew.  That part may be obvious and easy.  Next, make sure the needle has been inserted all the way up, and screwed in firmly (no need to over tighten).

Anatomy of a needle (from schmetzneedles.com)

2.  Is the machine threaded properly?  Check your instruction manual, and any numbered/illustrated icons on your machine.  Forget for a moment that you’ve done this hundreds of times before – sometimes thread can jump out of place, especially following a thread jam or break.  Take all your thread out and start from the beginning.

Look at your machine for threading instructions

 

3.  Are you using the right needle?  There are two things to consider when choosing a needle to sew:  what fabric and what thread will you be using?  Heavier threads require a heavier (bigger size & number) needle – the thread needs to fit smoothly into the long groove above the eye, and through the eye without stress or major friction.  The fabric you choose affects the type of needle you should use – knits require stretch or ball-point needles, wovens require sharps.  Universal needles are not quite sharp and not quite a ball point, and like all season tires they’re pretty good in most situations, but not perfect. Click here for a Needle Primer from Schmetz.

 

4.  How is your thread?  Is it seated nicely at the top of your machine?  Are you using a spool cap the same size as the end of the spool?  If not, the thread could be wrapping itself around the spool pin and eventually bending the needle so it crashes into the presser foot.  Thread spools that have a nick in it to hold the tail when you’re not using it can cause similar issues; this nick should be oriented away from the threading path.  Try using a thread net to keep unruly spools under control.

Thread nets can help unruly threads (image from quinchat.webs.com)

 

5.  Are you using the correct foot?  Keep your wits about you when switching presser feet and when changing stitches.  There are feet that are not meant for anything other than a straight stitch – and sometimes it can’t be in the centre position (i.e. zipper feet).  Be sure to buy the proper feet for your machine; that way, the open space for the needle will line up properly with the needle plate.

Check your needle position with certain feet (image from april1930s.com)

 

6.  Are you using twin (or triple) needles?  Please see above.  If your machine has a Twin Needle button, use it.  It’s a safety feature that keeps the machine from making the stitch too wide and causing the needle to strike the foot or plate.  If you don’t have any fancy features, check your stitch width and needle drop before you sew by turning the handwheel manually, and make sure the needles don’t come anywhere near the presser foot.  Adjust your stitch width accordingly.

Check stitch width and needle position when using twin needles

 

Now, to check how you’re stitching…

6.  Don’t sew over pins.  Seriously, don’t.

Your technician says: Not funny. (image from midnightcreations.blogspot.com)

 

7.  Are you pulling the fabric?  Another no-no.  Let the feed dogs do the work – that’s their job.  If you drag the fabric from the front, the feed dogs can’t take as much as they want to.  If you try to “help” and pull the fabric from behind, you can cause extra wear on the feet and feed dogs, as well as bending the needle, pulling into positions it’s not meant to go.  Try using a walking foot for extra feeding assistance.

Try a walking foot for feeding assistance

 

8.  Tackling a thick seam?  Yeah, this can be tough on any machine.  Sewing through too many layers can cause the needle to deflect (aka “bend”) as it struggles to find its way through the fabric, which means its exit point may not be in the hole, but somewhere else on the needle plate (or worse, bobbin area).  Use a sturdier, thicker needle if you’re working with a lot of denim (there are denim needles), and try using a “hump jumper” or compensation plates.  Come in and ask us to explain – or check your instruction manual.  Stitch slowly, and use the hand wheel if you must.

Go slowly over thick seams (image from thriftyfun.com)

 

9.  Doing freemotion?  Good for you!  Now, let’s add a little more technique…it’s all about finding your groove:  your ideal combination of machine speed and hand movement.  You really have to Be The Feed Dogs, and remember that you cannot move the fabric while the needle is in it.  Try increasing the speed of the machine to keep up with your hands.  You may be surprised to find that you can handle things a little faster.

 

10.  Doing embroidery?  Keep those scissors away from the needle!  Unless you’re Superman with lightning fast reflexes (and let us remind you:  you’re not, and neither are we), you cannot snip that thread faster than your machine can sew.  So, stop it.  Stop the machine and take a second to safely trim the thread.  This will save your needles, your scissors, and likely your fingers, too.  Compare this amount of time to how much time and effort it takes to change a broken needle, rethread the machine, and back up your stitches to cover over the boo-boo.  No contest!

 

If you follow these guidelines (rules!) regularly you should be able to avoid breaking needles.  If there’s still some gremlins living in your machine, bring it in to The Tech Shop and we can exorcise those sewing demons (there could be a timing issue, or you might need new parts like feed dogs).

 

Tips & Tools for Accuracy

Quilting is all about the little steps, isn’t it?  First, it’s figuring out what to do, then there’s colour and fabric to consider.  Then, there’s cutting, and sewing, and as part of all of that, there’s ironing, too! Next (or first of everything, really) is the sewing machine and using the right seam allowance.  If you want to start from the beginning with your machine, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of “Instant Sewing 1.0.

When it comes to cutting out for quilting, nothing beats a rotary cutter and quilting ruler.  You can try using an amazing pair of shears, but really, quilt pieces are mostly straight lines, and you will get the best results when you leave the fabric flat on your table.

To use a rotary cutter, you will also need a good cutting mat, so you don’t wreck your dining room table.  Basically, you put the ruler over the “good” part of your fabric, and measure the part that you want to use (say, a 5″ strip), then cut along the edge of the thick ruler.

The trick here is to not let the ruler wobble.  Try cutting in sections, and carefully repositioning your ruler hand without moving the rotary cutter.  There are rulers with non-slip coating on the bottom, and there are also handles to make them easier to hold onto.

image from thecuriousquilter.wordpress.com

 

There are tools to help keep your seam allowance consistent:  presser feet, seam guides, and the little lines on the base of your sewing machine.  Consistency is almost as important as following the instructions in your pattern.  Whether or not your 1/4″ seam is generous or scant really only matters if the finished size of your completed project needs to be exactly the same as the instructions.  

That being said, if your seams are consistently large, you will eat up more of your fabric into your seams, and your finished project will be smaller…possibly requiring more border fabric that you’d originally thought to make your quilt the size you need.

Conversely, if your seams are consistently narrower, your garment may not fit as neatly as you’d anticipated or measured.

Using a 1/4″ foot with a guide is a perfect, no-thinking way to make sure your seams are accurate and consistent.  Just run the raw edge of your pieces against the guide, and keep your needle in the centre position – the foot will keep the seam even!

1/4″ foot with guide

Something else that has an effect on the finished size of your quilt project is how you sew. Thread tension is a big deal when it comes to the proper operation of your sewing machine.  It’s not just about having it set where the technician (or the manufacturer) left it.  The upper tension dial has numbers on it for a reason – so you can see where it is, and increase or decrease by definite amounts.  This isn’t something to be afraid of.

Tension is completely within your control, and you should change it!  If your tension is too tight, this can cause puckering in your fabric, which will mean that not every part is going to meet up properly with its neighbour.

image from squidoo.com

 

Pulling on the fabric as it’s feeding through the machine can cause trouble, too.  Pulling from the front or the rear can cause distortion of the fabric piece(s), resulting in the ends not matching up, or it can make the seam wrinkly and unable to lay flat.

Try a walking foot if you’re not pulling anything and your layers finish unevenly. If you are finding that you have to pull on your fabric to keep it moving straight, or to keep it moving, there’s probably something wrong with your machine, and it needs a little visit with a technician.

 

One of the most important tools in your sewing room is your iron.  Whether or not you use steam is really up to you, because there are pros and cons on both sides.  The main benefit to using an iron while quilting is to aid in accuracy and consistency. For help finding a good iron, check out Consumer Reports.

If you want your quilt to look presentable, you must press your fabrics and seams into submission every step of the way.  Next time we meet, we’ll discuss how best to accomplish this task.

 

 

Gorgeous Tapestry

Have you seen the gorgeous gold and green tapestry hanging in The Quilt Store?  It’s new, and it’s beautiful, and you could make one for yourself.

 

Ours was stitched by Sandy Donaldson, an avid embroiderer and regular visitor to our shop.  She’s a member of the Anita Goodesign Platinum Club, and jumped right on board with the special edition CD, Golden Tapestry from Anita Goodesign.

The CD cover doesn’t show the beautiful borders, how they look like gold leaf, but Sandy’s quilt certainly does.  She used Gamut embroidery thread in a gold colour (not a metallic), and the stitching just glows.

The Golden Tapestry designs are created as rectangular tiles, and come in a variety of sizes to fit in hoops from 5×7″ to 8×12″.  As with every Anita Goodesign collection, there are file formats to work with almost every brand of embroidery machine out there.

Here are some tips for creating your own Golden Tapestry:

Follow the instructions.  Anita Goodesign is very good about including complete instructions with all of their projects.  Read them and follow them.  Once you have completed a quilt-as-you-go in-the-hoop project and experienced the whole process from start to finish, then you may go ahead and make adjustments to your liking.

When working with silk, we recommend using a soft, iron-on interfacing applied directly to the back of each piece of silk, in addition to the required stabilizer and batting.  We like Presto Sheer (TQS#1926) because it does not change the hand or drape of the silk, but it adds a little stability and keeps the fabric from puckering excessively during handling and embroidery.

Change your needles.  There is a lot of stitching in these designs.  Don’t be cheap!  Treat your machine to a few fresh needles during the course of this project.  Old needles can create puckers or runs in your fabric, loops in your stitching and can shred or break your thread more often.  This tapestry project is a big investment of your time, energy, thread and fabric, so it’s best to do everything possible to make it a success.

Use proper bobbin thread.  As we mentioned, there’s a lot of stitching here, and you certainly don’t need the extra bulk of thick thread on the back of your work.  Bobbin thread (sometimes also called Lingerie thread) is finer than regular sewing thread, and it is what your embroidery machine expects – the tension settings were calibrated based upon the use of bobbin thread – so using anything else will have an adverse affect on your tension.

Consider using a tool from HoopSisters, called the Trimmer by George (original or 2.0).  this tool will help you easily remove the excess batting and stabilizer from around the outside of your stitching, without trimming any of your top layer of silk fabric. Click here to watch a video tutorial on the Trimmer by George 2.0.  This will make it easier to sew each block together without bulky seams.

Trimmer By George 2.0 from HoopSisters – with edge slipped under top layer of fabric; flip ruler down on top of embroidery to protect top layer, and trim off under layers

 

Just to add a little more presence to your modern work, check out some background info on the history of tapestries:

http://www.tapestry-art.com/history.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapestry

Making Samples and Turning Twenty

Our staff at The Quilt Store are working hard and having fun.  Yes, we’re helping you make decisions and colour choices, but we’re also making quilts!

Our newest staff member, Ann-Marie has been playing with her new baby, the Janome Horizon MC 8900 QCP, learning all its great features and enjoying its speed and precision, all while stitching up two great examples of the projects in our latest arrival, Turning Twenty : Stained Glass & Scraps.

Tricia Cribbs has released the eighth book in her Turning Twenty series of pattern books, and this one is even better than the rest.  There are five exciting new quilts to choose from, with something for every taste.  Whether you like Sports, Cowboys, Asian fabrics, or love the look of Stained Glass with batiks, this book has something for you.  If you’ve got a great panel or an exciting piece of fabric that you simply cannot bear to cut up, use it as a centre piece, and collect some scraps or Fat Quarters to build a brilliant border.

Her instructions are clear, and make every step easy and fun.  In fact, these patterns are perfect for Fat Quarters and other pre-cuts!  (Read Our Blog In Praise of Pre-cuts for more information.)

Not only is Ann-Marie keen, she’s quick and talented, too!  Have a look at the rich red Stained Glass sample she’s made:

And the bigger version, using several batik Fat Quarters and plain black Kona cotton:

 

Trish has been working away, too, doing free-motion stitching on the Handi Quilter HQ Sweet 16 which comes with a Tru-Stitch stitch regulator for happy, perfect stitching:

And check out the beautiful baby pink “bus quilt” Trish made from Windsor Lane pre-cut charm packs.

 

The “bus quilt” idea is from Wendy, who came up with the design for her own quilt, and has recreated it using Double Chocolat charm squares and jelly rolls.  She’s embellished the quilt with decorative stitches on the Bernina B580E.

Wendy also whipped up a “Baby Blue Quilt” from a Windsor Lane Junior Jelly Roll.  Isn’t it pretty?  You can get your own free pattern from our Free Projects page.

Yeah, there are pictures here, but you really do have to see these beauties in person to really appreciate all the detail and the work involved.  Drop in and have a coffee while you admire these quilts…and find inspiration for your own!

Stay tuned for more quilts and projects made by our staff….

 

 

Tech Tip : No Tape!

Welcome to a new installment in our series of Tips from The Tech Shop.

Tech Tip for December

Direct from the mouth of our technician:  please, don’t put tape on your machine!

“But, why?” you ask, “it’s just tape, it’s not permanent.”

Lloyd sees lots and lots of machines each week, and he would like to inform everyone that tape – no matter what kind – marks up your machine, decreases its value, and invariably makes it difficult for him to get into your machine to clean it because you’ve taped the front and back covers together, or covered screw holes or overlapped your stitch plate.  So, he takes it off, and spends time cleaning up the dried-up, super-stuck-on adhesive, and does his best to get your machine running and looking like new.

The very same rule goes for markers, too.  Put down the Sharpie, and step away from your machine.  Head directly to The Quilt Store (do not pass Go) and pick up the right tool for the task.

 

If you need a hem/seam guide, check the accessories that came with your machine.  It’s very likely that you have one in your collection.  We have them at The Tech Shop starting at $1.99.

If it looks like the photo above, a metal piece and a screw, then you will find a hole in the bed of your machine and, placing the bent part nearest your presser foot and the slot somewhere over the hole, insert the screw through the slot and tighten.  You will be able to slide the metal guide left and right, adjusting the width of your seam by using the measured markings on your needle plate.  Run the cut edge of your fabric against the bent edge of the guide to ensure even seaming.

image from michelequigley.com

Be careful when moving the guide close to your presser foot.  Make sure the guide isn’t hampering the movement of the feed dogs.  Use the hand wheel to check that the needle bar or screw doesn’t hit the guide.

 

You might even want to look deep inside the box your machine came in, because you might have a weird looking piece of plastic that you’ve never used.  That thing is a seam guide for your extension table.

Attach it to your extension table or the bed of your machine, and slide it along to the measured marking that you need…even bigger than the markings on your needle plate.  Voilà!  Easy, no-thinking-required, perfect hems…and you may even be able to put the guide to the left of the needle!

 

If you don’t have one of those handy things in your kit, there are proper removable, reusable products you can stick on your machine.  For example, Sewing Edge is, as the packaging states, a reusable vinyl stop, available at The Quilt Store for only $5.99 (a package of 5 strips).  When you place it on your machine, do trim it in sections if it covers your bobbin cover or accessory tray – you want this to help, not hinder, your sewing.  Click here for a Sewing Edge video tutorial.

 

If you need a place to stick your pins as you remove them – like every good sewist does – or even a spot to hold your scissors, you still don’t need to employ adhesives, just suction, with the Pin Place/Scissor Spot.  It sticks to your machine (or other surface) with a clear suction cup, and holds your snips with a magnet.  This is better for your machine, as the magnet is further away from its moving parts.

 

Tape and markers may be cheap, but they cause more damage than they help.  There are several affordable options available to aid in perfect seaming, that do the job properly.  If you expect quality results for your work, treat your machine like the valuable assistant it is, and use the proper tools for the job.

 

The Tech Shop has moved!  We are now across the plaza, behind door #14.

Tech Tip : Walking Foot

Welcome to a new installment in our series of Tips from The Tech Shop.

Tech Tip for November

50 walking foot smThis month’s tip is about the Walking Foot.  Sometimes a mystery, sometimes a saviour, this sewing machine accessory can be a little confusing if you haven’t used it before.  The walking foot is designed to help feed multiple layers of fabric as you sew.  There are feed dogs underneath your presser foot which push against the bottom of the presser foot and slide the fabric along.  The walking foot has teeth or pads that press downwards and work with the feed dogs to grip the fabric on the top and the bottom.

Typically, we recommend using the walking foot for quilting.  You can also use it for any tricky or unco-operative fabrics like plaids, minkee or fun fur.

A recent article from Interweave‘s Sew Daily newsletter hits it right in the ditch:

The walking foot helps keep thick, slippery or sticky fabric layers from shifting as you sew.

When is a walking foot “Optional”?

This knit on this raglan sleeve
was topstitched without
the benefit of a walking foot.
Look what a difference using
a walking foot makes!
Comparison photos courtesy
of The Sewing Workshop.
If the designer is a little more opinionated, it may read: “optional, but helpful …”
So what does this odd-shaped foot do, and is it: “optional, helpful, or … necessary?
Basically, the walking foot provides a gripping action from the top of the fabric which coordinates with the grip of the feed dogs which are built into the bed of your sewing machine. As the bottom feed dogs pull—or feed—the fabric under the needle so that even stitches are created, the walking foot is gripping and pulling the fabric through from the top.
So when is a walking foot “Optional”?
•  If you’re working with two layers of a fairly stable woven fabric, there is very little need for a walking foot. The pressure of your feed dogs against a standard foot provides all the friction necessary for the fabric layers to move through smoothly.
What are the “Optional, but Helpful” uses?
•  When working with laminates or oilcloth, a walking foot definitely helps to keep these “sticky” fabrics moving.
•  If you have several layers of fabric or heavier, canvas-type fabrics, it’s often difficult for the machine foot to provide enough pressure to keep the fabric layers from shifting. Frequent pinning may solve the problem, but a walking foot is, well, helpful.
And is there a “Necessary” category?
•  If you are quilting layers of fabric with batting, a walking foot keeps all the layers stable and moving smoothly. This is true whether you’re making a bed-size quilt or a small tote.
•  And here is a little known—but my new favorite—use for the walking foot: topstitching on knits. You no longer have to watch the knits creep and bunch as you topstitch seams, finish neck edges, or stitch up the hems. I learned this trick from Linda Lee of The Sewing Workshop and now can’t imagine working with knits without my walking foot.
That being said, may I also say that I’m always a bit hesitant to use the word “necessary” when talking about sewing supplies? I’ve done a tremendous amount of fairly complex sewing on an old Sears machine which has no bells and maybe one whistle. So when I use the word “necessary,” I don’t mean that it is absolutely impossible to complete a project without it. It is simply that the process is so much less laborious and the results are so much more successful with the foot than without it.
Walking feet are not inexpensive, but depending on the type of projects you work on, your sewing can be a lot more pleasant when you use one.
walking-foot-compare
  • If you’re working with two layers of a fairly stable woven fabric, there is very little need for a walking foot. The pressure of your feed dogs against a standard foot provides all the friction necessary for the fabric layers to move through smoothly.

What are the “Optional, but Helpful” uses?

  • When working with laminates or oilcloth, a walking foot definitely helps to keep these “sticky” fabrics moving.
  • If you have several layers of fabric or heavier, canvas-type fabrics, it’s often difficult for the machine foot to provide enough pressure to keep the fabric layers from shifting. Frequent pinning may solve the problem, but a walking foot is, well, helpful.

Is there a “Necessary” category?

  • If you are quilting layers of fabric with batting, a walking foot keeps all the layers stable and moving smoothly. This is true whether you’re making a bed-size quilt or a small tote.
  • And here is a little known—but my new favorite—use for the walking foot: topstitching on knits. You no longer have to watch the knits creep and bunch as you topstitch seams, finish neck edges, or stitch up the hems. I learned this trick from Linda Lee of The Sewing Workshop and now can’t imagine working with knits without my walking foot.

That being said, may I also say that I’m always a bit hesitant to use the word “necessary” when talking about sewing supplies? I’ve done a tremendous amount of fairly complex sewing on an old Sears machine which has no bells and maybe one whistle. So when I use the word “necessary,” I don’t mean that it is absolutely impossible to complete a project without it. It is simply that the process is so much less laborious and the results are so much more successful with the foot than without it.

~ Rose DeBoer, Stitch magazine

_6600p-accufeed

Savvy?  Your next question might be, “So, how does this compare with my built-in feeding system?”

There are several machine brands that offer a built-in walking foot.  If it has only one “toe” – whether it be in the centre or on the side – it will definitely offer higher visibility of your stitching while you work.  However, if it’s only the single feed, it isn’t as aggressive as having a set of two upper grips.

If your built-in system has an independent motor, it may be able to feed both frontwards and backwards, allowing for its use with decorative stitching.  Typically, the standard walking foot only works in frontwards-motion stitches, and is not recommended for detailed decorative stitching.

Both the built-in feeding system and the walking foot are helpful, and they will each work better in different situations.  You can do a whole lot with just your regular sewing foot, but there are presser feet designed to do specific tasks better.  Sometimes a small investment in a new accessory will repay you endlessly with sewing happiness.  We’ll wager that the walking foot is one of those.

 

The Tech Shop has moved!  We are now across the plaza, behind door #14.

Tech Tip : Classes

Welcome to a new installment in our series of Tips from The Tech Shop.

Tech Tip for October

The Quilt Store is proud to offer in-house technical service, cleaning and repair for sergers, sewing and embroidery machines.  It is important to us that your experience with your machine is enjoyable from start to finish.  Part of the technical service that we offer is introductory machine classes.

Now, we know many of  you have been sewing for years, and you have plenty of completed projects under your belt.  We have no doubts that you are a talented and capable sewist.  However, we will still recommend that you attend the Basic Machine Intro class that we offer to you for free with the purchase of your new machine.  Here’s why:

  1. We want you to be happy with your new machine.
  2. There’s good information in the class about the care and cleaning of your machine.
  3. The class also covers information about needles and thread, which you may not have known or have forgotten over time.
  4. There’s always new innovations, features and buttons on the machine that we think you should know about.
  5. Our technician teaches the class.
image from sownbrooklyn.com

image from sownbrooklyn.com

1.  Happy = comfortable.  In our minds, it’s easiest to be comfortable with your machine when you can play with it yourself.  During the demo in the store there are a lot of features discussed very quickly, and it’s easy to get distracted by excitement.  The Basic Machine Intro class provides you with a chance to get comfortable with the way your new machine looks, sounds and functions.

2.  Care and cleaning isn’t something we generally think about.  In the class, you will go through the steps of taking your machine apart and cleaning the necessary areas…with guidance and assistance, and someone to help if you get flustered.  Most likely, you will be surprised at how easy it is to take care of modern sewing machines.

image from buzzle.com

image from buzzle.com

3.  Needles, thread and tension are the foundation of sewing.  There are many variables involved in the combination of these three elements, and no matter how long you’ve been sewing, it’s good to have a refresher as to how each affects your sewing.  You will learn how to troubleshoot your own sewing difficulties and make simple adjustments to improve your stitching.

4.  New machines have new stuff.  Even though they’re supposed to make your sewing easier,  sometimes all those buttons can be daunting.  Allow us to walk you through some of the new features and how they will work for you, not against you!  Even if it’s a simple, basic machine, it’s new to you.

5.  Our technician is the teacher.  Who better to learn from than the one who fixes your machines?  If you’re afraid of breaking something, this is the time and place to get over your fear:  if something happens, the technician is right there to help.

They say we learn more from our mistakes…but wouldn’t it be better if you could avoid some of the embarrassing little ones?  Our Basic Machine Intro class – and Serger and Embroidery classes – will arm you with good, solid, basic information that reinforces the foundation of your sewing knowledge.

Just for the record:  our Intro classes are also perfect for refreshing your memory if it’s been awhile since you’ve sat down at your machine.  We really do want you to sew happy!

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* The Tech Shop has moved!  We are now across the plaza, behind door #14.

Tech Tip : Innovation is Good

Welcome to a new installment in our series of Tips from The Tech Shop.

Tech Tip for September

We love our machines, all of them.  There are some truly amazing old beasts out there that sew the cleanest stitches ever made, and there are some incredible new machines that perform beautifully (and quickly!).  Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and, dare say, so is nagging!

Quilters are a particular bunch of sewers with specific needs and wants, and most are not shy about it.  They want perfectly straight stitches, unwavering 1/4 inch seams, and consistent stitch length even while sewing without the aid of the feed dogs.   The original straight stitch machines did nothing but straight stitches, and remain the most reliable – provided they’ve been taken care of over the years.

vintage bernina

Newer demands have been for more space and more thread capacity on the bobbin.

Lots of machine manufacturers have answered the call for “more space”.  Bernina is the one company who has also developed ways to get more thread onto the bobbin.  Their innovative 8 Series machines introduced a huge new bobbin case that rotates to present the bobbin to the user, then rotates back into the machine for sewing.  This Jumbo bobbin holds 40-60% more thread than conventional bobbins.

8 Series bobbin area

Now Bernina has come up with another new bobbin system with their 7 Series, called the B9 Hook.  There’s lots to love about this one, so let’s start with the most obvious:  it holds up to 80% more thread than conventional bobbins.  Yup, even more than the 8 Series Jumbo bobbin.  Seriously.

B9 hook -7

It’s impossible to insert the bobbin incorrectly.  You can’t even put it on the winder the wrong way – it only fits one way!  This means you don’t have to worry about where the thread is dangling before you put in the bobbin, nor which way it spins when it’s in the case.  It only goes one way.

It comes out easily, too.  Just a gentle push on the metal bar, and the bobbin case pops out.  Replacing it is equally simple, too:  it only clicks into place one way.

The  B9 Hook system works to make it safer to use.  The bevelled edge is designed to push the hook outwards in the case of a thread jam, rather than locking the bobbin and case inside the machine.  This makes clearing jams much easier.

Speaking of easier…there’s an oil well that provides even and regular lubrication to the hook, so you don’t have to worry about oiling it too much, too little or in the wrong spot.  There’s two little circles inside the hook for oiling, and one reservoir beside the feed dogs, underneath the stitch plate.  That’s it.

More good news:  the hook is magnetic.  That crazy circular piece of metal that never seems to stay put when you’re putting your machine back together now goes in easily, and sticks with a magnet in the proper position.

Who knew there was so much involved in getting more bobbin thread?  Thank goodness there are some very smart people out there.  Innovation is good.  Bernina is a very innovative company…and they listen to what their customers want.  That’s a very good thing.

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* The Tech Shop has moved!  We are now across the plaza, behind door #14.

Tech Tip for August : Service

Welcome to a new installment in our series of Tips from The Tech Shop

Tech Tip for August :  Service, Service, Service.

 

Do you remember the last time you took your machine in to The Tech Shop?  It’s a good start if you do, and even better if it was within the past 12 months.  We’re not just nagging you when we suggest you bring your machine in, there’s good, solid reasoning behind our comments.

 

Whether or not you use your machine a lot, Lloyd suggests that it be serviced at least every two years — even if you don’t use it very much.  Why?  Well, let’s consider some comparisons. 

300px-Berlin_marathon

If you ran a marathon 5 years ago and were in tip-top shape, fit and strong, but for the past four years, you’ve done little more than the occasional walk around the block.  Could you be expected to run a marathon tomorrow?  No.  Your muscles have tightened and haven’t been exercised in ages, and although you likely remember how to run, you certainly can’t do it as fast or for as long as you once did. 

Now, machines don’t have muscles that tire.  But they do have oil that can settle and harden, lubrication that can stiffen, and rubber and plastic parts that can turn brittle with time.  Ever discovered a rubber band in the junk drawer that just crumbles in your hands?  Yup.  That can happen inside your machine, too.

Regular maintenance will keep the oil and lube from seizing, and it will give you a heads-up on the parts that are cracking or drying out. 

 

Tip 3 sh FLUFF

What if you’ve been using your machine for years, here and there, and it’s been working perfectly fine since your grandmother gave it to you, and now all of a sudden it’s not stitching correctly?  This can be compared to a car that’s just driven to the supermarket and back, with no long trips to rack up the recommended 5000 kms needed to justify an oil change.  Even if you’re not putting the mileage on your car, it’s still best to get an oil change with the seasons.

Short jobs can put more stress on your machine because it doesn’t always get the chance to “stretch its legs” and get some speed and endurance training.  Regular use and cleaning will help keep things from getting clogged (like fluff in your bobbin area, and thread bits in the tension disks).

 

car mechanic

One more car comparison:  regular oil changes do not a service make.  As you know, your brakes need to be done at least once in the car’s lifetime with you.  Bringing your machine in for “just a cleaning” doesn’t mean that your feed dogs aren’t wearing out.  You should treat your machine to a good service appointment, where it will be checked and fixed from end to end, inside & out.

 

spa

If you’re running your machine like a fiend, fast and furious, five days a week  (or more!) you must know that it will need an occasional trip to the spa, just like you!  Everyone needs a good relax and a good scrub and rub-down.  So does your machine.  A quick, professional cleaning will help keep you and your machine happy, because your technician will be familiar with your machine and how you use it, and will be able to recommend repairs before they wreck your machine and your plans.

 

The Tech Shop is happy to receive your machine anytime.  In fact, if you cannot make it in between 9 and 5, Monday through Friday, you are welcome to drop your machine off at The Quilt Store on Saturdays, and Lloyd will pick them up on Monday. 

You can also book an appointment — which is highly recommended if you’re unwilling or unable to part with your baby for an extended period of time.  Just call The Tech Shop at 905-853-6532 and we can arrange a mutually convenient time when you can drop your machine off, and it will be turned around in 2-4 days (pending technician’s approval).

If you’re one of the people who can’t remember the last time your machine was serviced (or worse yet, know that it’s never been done!), you can get an estimate done for $55, just so you know what needs to be done, and if it’s worth doing.  If you decide to go ahead with the repairs, that $55 will be applied to the service.  Otherwise, you’ve done some valuable research and not wasted any time finding out that you need to buy a new machine. 

And we’re happy to help you with that, too.

 

* The Tech Shop has moved!  We are now across the plaza, behind door #14.