Monthly Archives: April 2009


Oops!  I visited Ann’s Gorgeous Fabrics online fabric store and accidentally bought some gorgeous knits.   She’s having an awesome sale right now.  Do you wanna see some pictures of what I bought???  You don’t have to twist my arm.  Here they are…

Clear as...dots! Jersey

Clear as...dots! Jersey


Square Dots Jersey

Square Dots Jersey


Aren’t they pretty?!  I bought 3 yards of the purple print for a top and 5 yards of the aqua/brown print for a dress.  I also bought some plain black jersey, but you don’t need a picture of a black square, do you?  I’ll use it for binding or as an accent fabric depending on the patterns.  I have tons of patterns that will work with this fabric.  Ooooh I can’t wait to receive them!!! 

I also bought some fabric and stretch lace trim for another project.  I’ve been inspired by Dawn of Two on Two Off and Sigrid of Sigrid – Sewing Projects and their lingerie sewing.  Sigrid even started a sewalong on PatternReview.  I am in dire need of some new undergarments (tmi?), and they make it sound so easy.  So I am going to try my hand at it sometime soon.  I bought a purple knit and black and white lace trims.  When I receive them, I’ll take some pics. 

While it doesn’t look like I’ll get my top done in time for the Spring Top sewalong, I will work on it tonight some more.  I am really getting excited about my new Emerald 183 and can’t wait to use it again.

Anyway, happy sewing everyone!

Not much progress, but some success…

Apologies for leaving you hanging after the last post.  I have used my new Emerald 183 only 3 times for 3 lines of stitching only so far.  I know you’re sitting there in disbelief, but honestly, I have been stuck on a certain part of my top for awhile now.  The single fold bias tape was kicking my butt.  Actually, I was all ready to quit on sewing altogether after 2 hours of struggling to get the elastic through the bias tape casing unsuccessfully.  Seriously.

But PatternReview came to my rescue yet again!  I love this site.  I always get fast answers to my questions, no one is ever condescending about my dumb questions, and there are tons of pattern reviews to look up and be inspired by. 

So to catch you up:  I had cut out the pattern and muslin weeks ago.  I had to run out to buy the elastic and single fold bias tape.  Then in trying to attach the bias tape to the neckline to create the casing for the elastic, my Singer 5160 failed me in a very dramatic way.  The hunt for a new machine was on.  This past weekend, I bought my new machine, the shiny Emerald 183, and returned to the single fold bias tape.  I sewed one side on with no problems.  I sewed the other side of the tape no problems.  My new Emerald 183 is great!  That took all of 10 minutes at the most.  The next two long and frustrating hours were spent trying to get 1/4 inch elastic through a less than 1/4 inch bias tape opening.  I tried sewing the elastic to a sewing needle to feed it through; it kept escaping the needle.  I tried a large safety pin; too big.  I tried a small safety pin which worked until about 2 inches from the end when it broke inside the casing; too flimsy.  I couldn’t get it any farther and I couldn’t remove it.  It took me two hours to do absolutely nothing!  I was not a happy camper.  It was day two of owning my Emerald 183 and I was only able to use it on two lines of stitching.  That’s it!

I posted my woes on PatternReview and had a workaround within hours.  One of my rescuers said: “You can *Not* fold under the second edge of the bias tape, leaving a raw edge (since bias doesn’t ravel, you can do this without anything more than a slightly messy inside of your garment that no one else will care about), and this will give you extra room through which to thread the elastic.”

I tried that last night.  I unpicked one of the seams of the bias tape, opened up the fold and stitched it down unfolded to the wrong side of the muslin.  When I was done, I threaded the elastic into a tapestry needle and had that neck band elasticized in about 3 minutes.  OMG was that easy!!!  Of course my muslin is a little beat up now.  Too beat up in fact to use.  I am actually considering ditching the muslin and going straight to my fashion fabric.  Am I crazy?  Should I stay with making up the muslin first?  I really want to finish this top this week to participate in the sewalong.  Am I being too impatient?  Let’s ooh and aah over the pretty fabric again, shall we?cotton-brown-dots-with-flocking2

Ugh.  I can’t decide.  I think I’ll make a game time decision tonight when I get home and get cracking, I mean, sewing. 

I’m so excited again.  I don’t know why I became so discouraged right away.  I just have to ask the gods at PatternReview and I receive.  It’s awesome!!!

Till next time, happy sewing everyone!

Drumroll please…

I know you all have been anxiously awaiting this post all weekend, right?  😉  Well, it is with mixed feelings that I unveil my new sewing machine:  The Viking Emerald 183.emerald183


The long of it:

The moral of this story is to PHONE FIRST!!!!!!  I don’t know why I didn’t do this, but I didn’t.  I was going to hit two different dealers in NJ this weekend near my friends’ house.  As we started driving to the first dealer, we thought to call them for exact directions, but found out that they no longer sold sewing machines.  Scratch that dealer.  Then we drove out to the one in Whippany.  This dealer was recommended by Wendy of W38th St.  Their online listing advertised several different kinds of sewing machines but their name was Viking Sewing Machine & Vaccuum Center.  Should have taken a cue from that, but didn’t.  I walked in and that’s all they sold.

I had not researched this brand at all.  My mom has an expensive Husqvarna and has had nothing but problems since she bought it.  I didn’t even consider Husqvarna/Viking because of that.  Well, there we were and there was no more time to drive all over NJ looking for another dealer, so I sat down and learned about the Viking machines.

The dealer gave me his spiel: basically they have two levels of sewing machines; the ones made in Europe or the ones made in Asia.  The European models are better but very expensive (we’re talking thousands of dollars).  Well, I am definitely not in the market for that kind of spendy.  So I tried out the two Asian-made models.  There was a mechanical and digital version.  I thought they were basically similar in feel, in terms of how it felt to sew, but the digital, the Emerald 183 had a lot more bells and whistles, like:

  • 83 stitches — I really only need straight and zigzag but who am I to argue with a few more.
  • up and down needle button — love this!
  • fix and stop buttons which tie off your stitches at the beginning and end of your stitching — very cool!
  • alphabet in upper and lower case and numbers — probably won’t use this but never say never.
  • 3 1-step buttonholes — LOVE this and I will have to play around with them to get them looking just right.
  • drop in bobbin — I’ve heard a lot of people on PR prefer this.
  • 10 presser feet — 10!!!  I bought the invisible zipper foot too.
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure — Yeah!!!

I demo’d the machine I ended up buying with a heavy denim and a knit fabric with a variety of stitches through thin and thick layers as well as made different buttonholes.  The machine handled everything I threw at it really well.  I bought a slightly used machine for $50 dollars off the sale price.  Apparently a woman had bought the Emerald 183 a few weeks ago, but then wanted to upgrade right away to the European made model.   Since I tried out her machine and it worked great, I thought it would be ok.  And I asked the dealer point blank if she turned it in because it was a lemon; he said no.  We’ll see…

Now to the misgivings or second thoughts I’m having: While at the dealer, I thought I should just walk out when I found out that he only sold Vikings.  How could I buy a machine that day only trying one brand?  And a brand that I hadn’t even considered?  I hadn’t done any research on the brand at all.  I felt naked without PatternReview backing me up.  The only Emerald 183 he had in stock was the used one.  And I really wanted to buy a machine that day.  Put into the equation that I don’t own a car and all the dealers are outside the city and can only be reached by car, and I was in a quandary.  I felt like I was forced into buying that machine by my circumstances, so it’s hard for me to enjoy the actual purchase.  Why the pressure to buy a machine right away?  Well, I want to sew darn it!  I want to sew right away!  I want to sew my spring top for the sewalong which is ending this week.  AND I WANT TO SEW!!!

My best friend Cayce asked if I felt like I had to buy that sewing machine because of a self-enforced plan or due date, pointing out that it was not exactly necessary.  I admitted that yes, I did feel that way.  She also kindly mentioned that my single-mindedness could be an asset in most circumstances, and then said something about “J personalities”…  But I digress.  I most likely will not regret this purchase.  I have no doubt the Emerald 183 is significantly better than the Singer 5160, and it has many more features that I know that I like and will use.  I just don’t think I made an informed purchase and that makes me feel uneasy.  Of course, the first thing I did when I got home was to check the reviews of this machine on PatternReview right away.  And it looks like this is a love it or hate it machine.  The reviews are either glowing or snarling.  But let’s just go with the glowing and call it a day, ok?  😉

In case you’re wondering, I did try out the machine last night, but that’s a tale for another post…  I know that’s mean, but this post is already too long.

Until next time, happy sewing!

Ahhh, the weekend…

I’m really looking forward to this weekend.  The weather here in NYC is supposed to be glorious.  I am going sewing machine shopping tomorrow and spending the entire day on Sunday with Jack outside.  CAN’T WAIT!!!  Hopefully I’ll have a new sewing machine and will have sewn up some of my muslin for the Spring Top Sewalong in which I’m participating.

To hold you off until the next post…  here’s a pic of the Whisper Cardigan progress since last time.whisper-progress

And, because I can’t resist…  A shot of Jack from last weekend.  We were at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and he just loved running on the grass and doing “Lazy Town” (he tries to imitate the gymnastic moves of the lead character, Sportacus, all the time).  So cute, if I do say so myself.IMG_3016

Happy knitting and sewing everyone!



I couldn’t resist showing a progress report picture of my shrug.  It’s going along rather quickly now and I wish I could work on it 24/7 until it’s done.  But this stupid work thing keeps getting in the way!  😉

Whisper Cardigan Sleeve

Whisper Cardigan Sleeve

This time around the measurements are right on gauge!  I guess sz 5 needles were the ticket.  I have my knitting group tonight and can’t wait to go and knit. 

I might have to go late though as I have to make some food for Jack for tomorrow.  Let me tell you though… I have not had any cooking mojo for quite some time now.  I just don’t know how my mom had a fresh dinner on the table every night.  It takes herculean efforts for me not to call for takeout.  My sister is great at getting fresh, exciting food on the table every night too.  While I can cook rather well, it’s just not my focus right now.  I am way too obsessed absorbed with knitting and sewing.


Good news!  I am going to test drive some sewing machines this weekend.  My friend Rachey (Rachael) and her husband are driving out to NJ this Saturday.  I, of course, invited myself casually mentioned that there were some sewing machine stores in that area that I’ve been meaning to check out.  Woo hoo!  They’re picking Jack and me up Saturday morning and I could come back early that same evening with a new sewing machine!!!  I could maybe even finish my top for the Spring Top Sewalong on time.  Wouldn’t that be nice!  The only fly in the ointment is Jack’s nap.  I am hoping we can time it so that he can nap in the car.  Here’s to hoping!


There’s a new class at Sew Fast Sew Easy that I am considering taking; Kenneth King is teaching a 5-class series on Moulage for a pant pattern.  The only pre-req is the class I already took, but I’m not sure I have the kind of sewing perspective or experience for this course.  What do you think?  Am I being a wuss?

Happy knitting and sewing!


Apologies for the lack of posting here, but I have been on the hunt…. for a new sewing machine.  You see, I was under the impression that it would be easy and fast to buy a new machine.  Oh how naive I am.  *sigh*  I have been furiously researching on PatternReview, scouring the internet, and asking fellow bloggists (thank you Carolyn, Wendy and LindsayT!).

And now I am going to ask you!!!

I have narrowed down my prospective list to the following machines:

Janome 625E

Janome 625E


Kenmore 16231

Kenmore 16231


Bernette 82E

Bernette 82E


Bernette 66

Bernette 66


Bernina Activa 230

Bernina Activa 230

What do you think?  I know they are all very different and the prices are not all comparable.  My main sewing goals are garments, with maybe some crafting/home dec thrown in occasionally.  And I definitely want a 1-step buttonhole function. 

Ok let the debate begin!

To gauge or not to gauge…

I bet you thought I was going to silently slink away and never mention the Whisper Cardigan from Interweave Knits again, didn’t you?  Well, truth be told, I almost gave it up after ripping it 4 or 5 times, but I really want one.  And since sweaters don’t knit themselves, I guess I have to knit it! 

So yesterday I did some research on Ravelry to see if others were working on this pattern and if any of them had had any problems.  Well it turns out, a lot of them did!  Oh and can you believe there are 441 Ravelers working on this pattern right now?  Wow!  3 people are using the same yarn as me, albeit in different colors.  And all three had to go down in needle size to get gauge.  Aha!  I knew it!

I did a gauge swatch (again!) last night in the smaller needles (US 5) and reached a gauge of 6.75 stitches per inch.  The pattern calls for 6 stitches per inch.  So I think the difference is negligible enough to just forge on ahead and cast on for the medium size.   Here’s a picture of the bland glory that is my gauge swatch!

Gauge Swatch with US 5 needles

Gauge Swatch with US 5 needles

Wish me luck!

Pictures of projects past

As promised in my Backstory post, here are pictures of my past finshed objects (FOs) and the quilt my Mom made for little Jack.  I forgot to take one picture though, but I’m sure you’ve all seen pillows before.  LOL.

First up is the quilt my Mom made in celebration of Jack’s birth.  I asked for blues and looked through various quilting sites for a pattern.  Of course I picked a really difficult one as I have absolutely no knowledge of quilting and how hard it is to do pointy piecework; now I know.  I think it’s really beautiful and Jack still asks for it to be laid down on the floor for him to play on like when he was an infant.  He has a memory like an elephant.quilt-1

Next up on the “slideshow”  are my own FOs.  So first is a picture of my now extremely dirty totebag that I made at the Purl sewing class.  I made longer straps than the pattern called for, much to my regret.  I should have left well enough alone.  😉  I chose the fabrics from Purl and love the combo for the outside/lining if I do say so myself.  Construction details included fusible interfacing for the straps and the snap area, a snap, and an interior pocket.  I also completed a zipped pencil bag, but forgot to take a picture of that.

Tote Bag Exterior

Tote Bag Exterior

Lining w/ interior pocket
Lining w/ interior pocket
Detail of snap and interior pocket

Detail of snap and interior pocket

Now we have FOs from my class at Sew Fast Sew Easy.  First on the docket is the skirt.  Construction details are stretch woven from Kashi at Metro Textile, elasticized waist, handsewn hem with hemtape,  and skirt vent fused.   Here are some pics:black-skirt

Elasticized waist interior detail

Elasticized waist interior detail

Skirt hem handsewn with hemtape

Skirt hem handsewn with hemtape

Next up is the tshirt I made in the same class.  Please excuse the mysterious stain on the front; I have no idea what that is and it won’t come out in the wash.  The collar and seams were serged, but a sewing machine was used to hem the sleeves and hem.   Not sure why since a straight sewing stitch has no give, but it’s still a great shirt to sleep in. tshirt-1


As I mentioned earlier, I forgot to take a picture of the home dec pillow which has a most excellent invisible zipper installation.  We also completed a small tote bag, but I gave it to a friend of mine, Nikki, so I don’t have any pictures of it to show you all.  Maybe Nikki (hint hint if you’re reading this) will supply the picture in the near future.  Well, that’s it for today’s show and tell. 

In sewing machine news today, I am considering buying a new sewing machine.  Any suggestions?  I am interested in a machine that is great for garment sewing.  I’m not really interested in machine embroidery at this time, so that kind of functionality is not needed.  I want a machine I can grow into, but isn’t too much for my beginner level.  Most especially, I want a machine that allows me to just sit down and sew without any troubleshooting for hours on end each and every time I use it.  The only caveat is I don’t want to spend thousands of dollars.  Is that asking too much???

One fat mess

First, some blog business before the actual post:  I haven’t uploaded pics yet to my last post.  Sorry the holiday weekend got away from me.  I promise to update it soon.

I forced myself to face my intimidation of the single fold bias tape last night.  I’ve been procrastinating thinking about the process of sewing the last week or so, hence the lack of sewing posts of late.  I’ve had the muslin cut out for about two weeks for the Spring Top sew along and it’s been glaring at me accusatorily from the dining room table ever since.  The pattern calls for single fold bias tape to make a casing for the elastic so that the neckline and hemline are elasticized.  See picture below…

HP 101 No Sweat Easy Sew Bubblelicious Top and Skirts

HP 101 No Sweat Easy Sew Bubblelicious Top and Skirts

My question is why use bias tape to encase the elastic when you could use the fabric?  I am using this pattern not only to create a top for me to wear, but also to learn to sew, to increase my skillset.  So I am going to do the muslin exactly as the pattern says to sew it.  However, I reserve the right to change it on the final fashion fabric version later (try saying that last part 10 times fast). 

Back to last night’s adventure…  I read the instructions for the bias tape attachment.  Of course they didn’t make sense at all to me until I had read them about 40 times, but who’s counting?  The first thing I notice is that they have you stitch the crease of the bias tape to the seam line (5/8 seam allowances) and then have you trim the excess seam allowance.  Why not properly size the pattern so you don’t have to trim?  Seems like an unneccessary step to me.  Can anyone tell me why?  So I obediently in a dog-like manner (no offense to dogs), pin my bias tape crease a 5/8 inch away from the edge of the muslin and go to my Singer 5160.  I have black thread in the bobbin and needle, but who cares; it’s a muslin, right?  I check my stitch and tension settings and rethread my needle just in case.  And I start to sew.  Well, except that my needle jumps to the side about 2 inches into my line of stitching.  Why you ask?  Well just take a look…one-fat-mess

That hot mess, my friends, is what my sewing machine wants to produce.  That’s what comes from the bobbin thread.  I checked my bobbin several times.  I changed the tension.  I rethreaded.  I prayed to unnamed gods.  I watched tv.  I took a sip of coke.  I had some parmesan cheese (did I mention my addiction to parmesan cheese yet?).  I rethreaded again and played with the tension for the sheer fun of it again.   And nothing worked!!!!!

Why can’t I just go to the sewing machine and sew?  Why is it I am always troubleshooting?  This might be a serious killjoy for me.  Is it the machine?  Or is it user error?  Should I get a new machine?  Is the Singer 5160 a piece of junk?  I searched on PatternReview for a review of it and couldn’t find any. 

What do the people say?


Way back in January, Lindsay of Lindsay T Sews (Again) wrote her sewing backstory and asked other sewing bloggers to tell theirs.  Well, I don’t have much of one and after reading so many blogs for so long now, my story is probably not going to compare, but here goes…

Both my grandmother on my mother’s side and my mom sewed.  My grandmother used to work at a furniture manufacturer, now defunct, Homer Brothers.  I vaguely remember them.  She sewed upholstery.  However my mom remembers that she used to sew dresses for her daughters as well.  Mom doesn’t remember how Grandma learned to sew.  Grandma didn’t sew after she retired from the factory I don’t think.  And since then, her eyesight has deteriorated from macular degeneration.  So she couldn’t sew if she wanted to now.  😦

My mother started sewing for herself, her sisters and me when I was about 3 yrs old.   She taught herself from patterns.  She said the first thing she made for me was an Easter cape.  She made prom dresses, fully lined (!), for my aunts and dresses for herself.   Mom stopped sewing when she started working full-time and when we kids started becoming a lot more active in after school activities.  However, when I was in high school, she took out the sewing machine again and made one of my prom dresses.  I still have it!  It’s a beautiful teal, watered taffeta, single shoulder strap (correct term???) full length dress.   When I was still singing for a living, much later, I used it as recital gown; it’s a timeless style.  Note to self, take picture of it tonight.  (ETA: ACK!  I can’t find the dress!!!  I must have given it away in one of my many moves in recent years.  I know I brought it with me to NY though.  SO SAD!!!)  She’s taken up quilting in the last few years and makes beautiful quilts for all the grandkids.  I will take a picture of Jack’s quilt tonight and add it to this post later. 

I came into sewing a bit sideways.  I was never interested in taking a sewing Home Ec class in Jr High or high school.  Nor did I take any interest whenever my mom sewed.  Never.  I made really bad curtains once for an apt back when I was still in Chicago (by bad, I mean that I didn’t take into account that you need more fabric when you gather the curtain).  When I moved to New York, I was making mosaics and taking classes from a mosaic artist in the city, Valerie Carmet.  Still no interest in sewing although I thought I could tackle a slipcover for my grandmother’s couch.    LOL   I bought my Singer and 12 yds of home dec fabric at that time with the intention of making the slipcover.  I made it as far as sewing 1/2 a muslin mockup and then just gave up.  I even found someone on Craig’s List who was willing to give me sewing lessons at home and helped me start the muslin, but I think that project killed my sewing enthusiasm for a while. 

I have knitted for about 6 years and have even started garment knitting (as opposed to accessories, such as scarves).  But still no interest in sewing.  Then I started reading a ton of craft blogs.  Not sure how that happened, but it did.  And then the list of blogs gradually morphed into mostly sewing blogs by sometime in 2008 (I know, I am so exact in my timing here).  I recall that the sewing blogs became a priority for me after I sewed aprons for all the women in my family for Christmas two years ago.  A friend of mine, Leslie, sewed the difficult parts held my hand throughout the process and I was very pleased with the aprons!  I wrapped them around cookbooks like wrapping paper.  I loved making those gifts.  The whole process, from picking out the fabric for each person to figuring out how to size each apron appropriately and sewing each stitch, just mesmerized me.  I was hooked.  That’s when the frenzy of sewing blog reading really reached a pitch fever.  My blog roll is so long!  I had to start using a blog reader to get me through it all each day.  LOL. 

The next step in my sewing evolution was a totebag making class at Purl.  I use my totebag every day.  I bought the fabrics there, both the lining and outer fabric.  The teacher was young, creative and she took time to answer all of our questions.  Then I took a beginner’s sewing class series called Stitch and Bitch University at Sew Fast Sew Easy.  I think it lasted 10 weeks with a class per week.  I reviewed the class on Pattern Review, so you can read the details there.  I’ve also taken some classes online with Pattern Review, Serger 101 and Techniques for Underlining, both very good! 

With all these classes under my belt, I am off to a good start.  If only I had more time to sew.  I am a slow sewer, especially if I don’t have any visual instruction.  Reading directions is challenging for me as I usually can’t visualize them well in my mind’s eye.  I usually accost my co-worker and friend, Victoria, every morning with questions on directions or sewing/knitting in general.  She’s very knowledgeable; she used to sew and still knits quite a bit.  I am working really hard to convince her she needs to get back into sewing again.  Anyway, I may not be prolific like other bloggers, but I will keep chugging along. 

My main purpose with learning to sew is to make my own clothes.  I would love to be able to sew my whole work wardrobe, including suits, but hand tailoring is a bit scary to me.  I have never even attempted pants.  I wish I could keep taking classes, but it’s expensive and the babysitting fees are killing me.  Hopefully I can teach myself like my mom did.  But I’m worried that my understanding directions “impairment” will hamper my efforts. 

I’m also not a fashionista like my friend Victoria or my fellow bloggers,  Cidell or Mica, but hopefully I will avoid making any fashion faux pas like a floral jacquard blazer or something equally horrific.  😉  I wear suits to work almost every day because it’s like wearing Garanimals as my friend Cayce calls it; you don’t have to put an outfit together.  Maybe sewing my own clothes will actually make me more fashionable?  Who knows?  Stranger things have happened. 

So, there it is, my backstory (apologies for the length).  How I came from professional singer to part-time mosaicist to humble beginner sewist.  I will add some pictures either tonight or later this weekend.  So check back!

Happy sewing everyone…