A Rather Mundane Subject

This will be a short and prosaic post.  

I need a new iron. I’m fed up with my current iron not producing enough steam.  I’ve looked at the John Lewis website but the range of irons and steam generators (look like irons but apparently you don’t have to change the temperature……..no I don’t know either) has left me completely bemused. Do I really need to spend £200 or will a £50 job be ok? Surely it shouldn’t be this complicated.

My current iron is fairly new and I think cost around £40, so not the cheapest but not the most expensive either.  I thought it would fit the bill but one tank of water will last several loads of ironing.  The problem is that you don’t really know how these things perform until you have tried them.

Has anyone out there bought an iron recently and do you have any advice?


Christmas Presents

img_0461Look what I got!
It’s a hem marker.  You fill the little cup with chalk powder, adjust the height to where you want your skirt to end, then do a twirl whilst pressing the bulb.  The result is a series of neat white lines on your skirt.

I’ve practised with it once using a skirt that had already been hemmed.  You have to stand quite close which is awkward if you have feet.  The white lines are very clear but I didn’t get them completely straight, probably because I need to stand better.

I think with practice it will work well.  Did you get any sewing related Christmas presents?

Christmas Presents

I haven’t had the greatest of luck with specialised sewing machine feet; the first invisible zipper foot I bought for my Toyota turned out to be too light for the job, later I tried a rolled hem foot which proved to be fiddly and did not give a good result. So I felt some scepticism about the binding foot Hugo gave me for Christmas.

IMG_0653For those of you that haven’t seen these they have a sort of double funnel that you use to fold bias binding around fabric which sits in a channel running down the side of the foot. As you sew you feed the binding into the funnel with one hand and guide the fabric into the channel with the other.

IMG_0652It sounds horribly complicated but is actually simpler to use than you would have thought. I haven’t managed to get a completely perfect finish (you tube videos have been a great help) but I have managed to do this.

What did you get for Christmas?  Have you used a binding foot before?

Janome love


You may remember that a few months ago I had a (significant) birthday.  What I didn’t tell you was that Hugo, my lovely partner, decided to give me a new sewing machine!  I spent a lot of time trying to decide which one to go for and eventually settled on this – a Janome DC3050 from John Lewis.

I chose it because I’d used the same one on a course I did several years ago, at the time I loved the fact that it was easy to control, didn’t run away with me and just did everything I asked of it.  Since then I have found I love several more things about this machine:

  • It makes the most fabulous buttonholes.  Buttonholes on domestic machines are often a bit of a disappointment in my experience.  I’ve read that the industry uses commercial buttonhole making machines and this probably explains why the buttonholes I’ve made in the past just don’t look as good.  This machine has three types of buttonhole and all come out looking wonderful; well defined lines of stitching and fully even on both sides.  The buttonhole foot has a place for you to put your button  so you can be sure you are making the hole the right length (probably common on modern machines but my other electric machines date from the 1980s so don’t have this)
  • Automatic threading  – yes, for those of us with poor eyesight this really is a godsend. There is a little bar that you pull down next to the needle, you pass your thread over the bar and the machine sends a tiny little hook through the needle’s eye which threads it automatically. So clever, I think the machine is worth it for this alone!
  • Auto thread tension – I didn’t really pay much attention to this when I decided to buy the machine, but it is a godsend!  What auto thread tension means is that it handles any fabric without you having to fiddle around with the tension – perfect stitching every time.

 I have had a couple of problems.  Firstly, I tried using top stitching thread and found it didn’t really like it. I put the top stitching thread in the needle but used ordinary thread in the bobbin.  It did manage to get some pretty good stitching but a couple of times it pulled the bobbin up out of the case, which can’t be good.  Secondly I wanted to try using a twin needle, it’s advertised as being suitable for a twin needle but the instruction manual doesn’t tell you how, the big problem is that I can’t see where you put your second reel of thread.  I’m planning to ask John Lewis to advise me on this one.

Anyway I couldn’t ask for a better present and if anyone is thinking of buying a new machine I can definitely recommend this one.

Loving John Lewis

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve written elsewhere about the disruption to my sewing mojo caused by moving within London.  Last week I decided I needed to resolve this once and for all so I set about rearranging the furniture in our drawing room and now I have a dedicated sewing space.  My table is in a light and airy position next to the window, it will be a bit chilly in the winter but in the spring sunshine it is a pleasure to work there.

The other cause of my lack of mojo was my overlocker.  I was given a second hand overlocker at Christmas and despite a few initial misgivings have fallen completely in love with it and the easy finish it gives me.  As the overlocker is sitting in Suffolk this has meant that anything I want to make in London has to wait until I get to Suffolk so I can give it the treatment.  I did try bringing the overlocker up to London, but then I had the opposite problem.  Short of lugging the thing backwards and forwards the whole time the only solution was to get a second machine.  This might sound like a huge extravagance (actually it is) but I have a John Lewis credit card and after years of carefully saving up the loyalty vouchers you are given (alternative view – years of over spending on my credit card) I had enough to get a Janome 9200D.  I could, of course, have spend these vouchers on groceries, but where’s the fun in that?

The 9200D is a basic model very similar to the one I already have but has a slightly different threading mechanism.  It came with a DVD which shows all sorts of different ways of using an overlocker  – gathering, rolled hems and so on, which I’ll have to try.

Anyway, no excuse now not to get on with my sewing.  I am still fitting the toile for my jacket and have also made up a dress which I will blog about once I have photos.



Straight out of the box

My new overlocker arrived on Christmas Eve and it’s been sitting in its box calling to me over the holiday.  Today I had a couple of spare hours so I took it out  and set it up for the first time.

The instruction manual said the easiest way to thread it was to tie the new thread to the old and pull through all the loops.  Sounds good, but unfortunately this machine wasn’t threaded when it arrived so I had to do it the hard way.  Actually that’s no bad thing as it helped me get to know what was under the cover and where all the pieces were.  The first couple of threads (loopers) were very fiddly to set up but the upper threads were relatively simple.  I used different colours so I could see the effect each thread had on the final seam – this is an idea I got from Sam’s “serger series”.


All threaded up

Attempt one

Attempt one!

Attempt one was not successful and re-reading the manual I realised I had missed one step in setting up the first looper thread.  Unfortunately they only way I could see to fix it was to remove all the threads and start again.


Attempt two

Attempt two was much better and produced a lovely neat line of stitches.  I had a bit of a play withe the knife and the different stitches before the green thread (looper thread one again) ran out.  So I rethreaded the whole machine again, this time using large spools of white thread that were in the box with the machine.  I am quite pleased with the final result and can’t wait to try it out on an actual garment rather than just an old scrap.



A friend of a friend has an overlocker which is no longer used and has offered to give it to me! Whilst this is undoubtedly exciting news, after the first rush of enthusiasm, I was a bit worried that I might not make best use of it and won’t really know what to do with it.

I’ve seen on the internet lots of garments with beautifully neat overlocked seam finishes and I’ve heard they are perfect for use with knit fabrics, but is that all they do or is there more to them than that? How will I cope with sewing seams that look like they can’t be taken apart? As self-confessed Queen of the Unpicker how do I get confident enough go be able to know that when I sew a seam I won’t be pulling it apart ten minutes later because I’m not happy with the way it looks or because there’s a problem with the fit?

I had a look on Amazon and can see there are numerous “complete” guides to overlocking or serging but the problem with these books is knowing how useful they will be. I really don’t need a tutorial in making napkins as one book promised!

Do you have any advice that could help me? Have you found any books particularly useful? What do you use your overlocker for?

O Brother!

My Father has suggested on several occasions that I might like to take my Mother’s old sewing machine; last weekend I finally dug it out and here it is! I learnt to sew on an old Toyota that must have been bought in the early sixties and that is what I expected to find in the bottom of the cupboard this was housed in. I had forgotten that Mum replaced that machine with this newer Brother model shortly after I bought my Toyota in the late ’80s.

I assumed I would need to give it a service (or at least a good clean out) but it actually works perfectly. It has a good sturdy cover which has kept it free of dust and Mum was always good at keeping it clean and well oiled when she used it.

It runs much more smoothly than my Toyota and so far it hasn’t eaten any fabric or just plain refused to go on. The stitches are neat and even, even when sewing over lumpy bits. I need to do another search of the cupboard to find the accessories box as at present I am missing some of the pieces. Fortunately it takes the standard bobbins I use for the Toyota and although the foot is a clip-on one I think I can probably change some of the bits around so it fits the invisible zipper foot I have for my Jones machine.

I was thinking of replacing the Toyota (or at least buying a new machine) at some stage in the future as it can be a bit temperamental and I’m always worried that any fine or delicate fabrics will be snagged. Maybe I don’t need to do that now!

Hello Dolly!

I spent a fun Saturday with my friend making Dolly. The instructions were from Thread magazine and to make her we used about a kilometre of duct tape, a coat hanger, a tall cardboard tube, one table leg and a breadboard (yes that made for an odd shopping list).

This is how we did it:

1) Drink, eat and wee before your start (once you get going you won’t be able to move enough to do any of these things)

2) Put on some decent underwear (i.e. a good bra) and cover that with an old t-shirt that you don’t mind doing without, wrap any bits that this doesn’t cover in cling film (neck and lower hips)

3) Cut your duct tape into various lengths – I used two 500m rolls of silver tape.  I understand that there is a danger that some types of tape shrink but Threads did recommend Duck tape which you can buy in the UK from B&Q.  You will need some really short bits and some longer bits (say up to half a metre in length).


4)  Get someone to wrap the tape around you quite tightly.  We wrapped it horizontally around my waist and hips and crossed it over the bust area, using smaller bits to fill in the holes and crevices.  You need to put about 3 layers of tape.  We finished with a bit of white tape to mark my waist, shoulders and centre back and front.

A Jane Suit

5) Carefully cut up the back through the duct tape and the t-shirt (avoiding your bra and any bits of flesh that might be in the way) and remove.

6) Make two notches at the top of the cardboard tube for the coat hanger to sit in and tape securely.  The tube we used was a bit shorter than me (you need one at least as tall as your height to the base of your neck).  The base of the tube is supported on a stand made using an upturned table leg screwed onto a bread board.

7) Tape shoulder pads into the shoulders and lady lumps to keep their definition, then place the dummy over the coat hanger and tape up the back.

8) Stuff the dummy as tightly as you can.  She turned out to be very greedy!

9) Check the dummy’s measurements against your own before finishing her.  I found the waist on my dummy was quite a bit bigger than my real waist. I think because I had been moving around as I was wrapped.  To remedy this we cut darts into the tape shell to reduce the size and then re-taped the holes back up.

10) Cut bits of cardboard to go into the arm, neck and hip holes and taping them securely in place to stop the stuffing coming out.

11) Compare your height to the base of your neck to that of your dummy and alter the length of card board tube to match.

It took us the best part of a day to make her.  The wrapping didn’t take long at all but the stuffing was quite time consuming and  fiddly.

I’ll probably have a go at tidying her up and decorating her when I have a chance but in the mean time I was glad to see she fitted into my new Beignet skirt beautifully!