Monday, 4 March 2019

Guess What Followed Me Home!

Changes to Blackwood Cardigan (tester version)

I previously blogged about my test Blackwood cardigan, which I love - and which fits so much better than the original. I now have the modified pattern - modified after tester feedback but I may stick to the tester version (that way I don’t have to stick together another PDF pattern!)
Finished tank and Blackwood cardigan on Madame

However, I hadn’t finished the inside with overlocking as it was a test garment and I didn’t realise it would fit so well! I think I mentioned that the sleeve was a little tighter than I would like when worn over a sleeved garment. One of my sleeve seams came apart a bit - I’d used too large a stitch in it - I'd forgotten I had just machine basted to see if the width was okay. At the time, I thought it was.  I took the opportunity of the small separation in the sleeve to partly dismantle the cardigan and re-sew and overlock the raw edges - just looks so much nicer. I also took out the large stitching in the sleeves and re-sewed and overlocked with a slightly narrower seam allowance to give that touch of extra space. I didn’t touch the shoulders, however. That was a step too far.

Also, to properly overlock the front band, I thought I would have needed to take out all my top stitching and I decided that wasn’t necessary - so the band wasn’t going to be neatly overlocked to the cardigan. However - see later - my topstitching on the tank wasn’t going to match so I wondered about taking out the top stitching on the cardigan to take the opportunity to overlock the band. I decided against that!

I wore the cardigan and was very conscious of the unfinished inside, which was liable to be exposed if the bands folded back. So last night I ended up overlocking the raw edges as best I could with the top stitching still in place. Not ideal, but a big improvement.

The inside is now overlocked rather than having unfinished edges
Sneak preview of tank!

Tank for Blackwood cardigan

I had a little - not a lot - of fabric left over. I decided I would like to make a tank for underneath it. I looked at two possible patterns I had - Kwik Sew 3232 (bought primarily for the skorts though I love this outfit for golf)  and a Simplicity pattern (sorry, forget the number and can't lay my hand on pattern today) to see what would be better. With Lyn’s input, I chose the S rather than the KS.

The view I chose was sleeveless with a scoop neck. The armholes to be finished with facings and the bottom hem to be turned over.

The amount of fabric I had available really limited the length I could make the top in order to keep the grain in the same direction as the cardigan and the pattern horizontal. I found the back of the top was extremely wide - I folded out a 1” tuck on the pattern, so taking 2” out. I realised that I wouldn't have enough fabric to make the front if I went by the sizes on the envelope. However, I looked at the size of the cardigan, in the same fabric, and decided to go down 2 sizes and cut the seam allowance to ⅜” instead of ⅝”. I had enough fabric for this.

I cut out the top, back and front only and tried on for size. I thought it was fine. I had taken to class and the others thought it was too short, saying that I would feel really uncomfortable. As a result, I accepted the advice and made a band for the top to match the bottom edge of the Blackwood cardigan - extending the length of the top by around 2.5 inches. I didn’t, unfortunately, have the cardigan with me that day - turned out the top was now far too long for the cardigan! I also found it heavy and bulky with the additional double band so I decided to remove it.

After trying to remove the 4 thread overlocker stitch and getting a bit frustrated, I decided just to cut off the overlocking - much faster!! Now everyone felt that the top was the correct length for the cardigan - no band at all needed. It will just be turned and hemmed with a twin needle. I don’t have a coverstitch machine - David was going to buy me one but I didn’t think I’d get enough use out of it. Was I wrong? Perhaps - I’d certainly have liked it here. I started doing a lot of coverstitch machine research. I was tempted by Juki and BabyLock but that’s megabucks.

Anyway, I was really short of fabric as I had mentioned. This top should have had facings on armholes and neckline. I redrew the facings as the ones in the pattern were not the correct size after my alterations. I found the changes needed were going to be ore than the changes I had made, which surprised me. Then I found I didn’t have enough fabric to cut out facings without a lot of piecing. Of course, the obvious solution was bias strip facing. Lyn recommended that I use self fabric facing rather than commercial bias facing. The long band I had made for the bottom and no longer needed came into its own.

I failed rather spectacularly in stitching the bands and the hem. I didn’t have any more of the thread I used to top stitch the cardigan - the number was missing and I couldn’t trace more. I decided on dark grey topstitching for the tank, which will match with the design. I wondered if this was telling me I should take out the top stitching in the cardigan and redo with grey!

I’m getting ready to topstitch the bias facings on my tank but am just wondering how best to do it. Zigzag stitch? Twin needle? I’m not sure so at the moment I’m procrastinating by writing this! (Though I don’t know when I will post it!)

Fabric tunnelling

I previously posted on IG photos of the most dreadful tunnelling with a twin needle on my stretch fabric (I'm not sure how to repeat them here). I was - am - making a tank to go with my Blackwood cardigan and ‘just’ had to finish the hems and neckline.

Because of the difficulties I was having with tunnelling using a double needle, I decided to research how to improve it.

In summary:

  • I read lots of articles and watched YouTube 
  • I consulted my tutors
  • I asked my dealer, who telephoned Bernina head office for advice (2 mm needle; loosen bobbin tension a lot). Only 2.5 and 4 mm needles are available in stretch twin needles.
  • I tried all of the following (all of which various people and sites had recommended even though some are in direct opposition to the others). I tried them on their own and in combination.
  • I tried a 2.5 mm and a 4 mm twin stretch needle
  • I tried shorter and longer stitches
  • I tried loosening the top tension - and increasing it
  • I tried stabilizer
  • I reduced the bobbin tension
  • Some said there would always be tunnelling
  • I feel there were other things too but I’ve forgotten now!
  • Some were worse than others but all had tunnelling
  • The best finish was actually with a single needle doing a fancy stitch, but I didn’t feel it looked very professional and wasn’t carried through to the cardigan.

I don’t have samples - or rather I do and can’t remember which was which! None was satisfactory.

I bought a second bobbin case as I didn't want to start adjusting the one I had in case I had problems getting it back to where it was.

Before I changed the settings on my new bobbin case, I marked the starting point with permanent ink. I thought I had loosened it a lot - around one and a half full turns - and didn't see any difference. I decided to look at my original machine bobbin case to see how it looked in comparison - and found a crack in the spring where the screw gets loosened/tightened. I was most concerned about this - and wondered whether this was the cause of all the buttonhole problems I’ve been having. I had found that even on free areas where there should be no problem with the buttonhole, the thread would start stitching all in one place and the foot would not move. Very difficult to unpick!

A trip to my dealer was called for. He’s relatively local but transport and parking costs are such that I had asked for the previous items to be posted to me as that worked out cheaper (another reason was to avoid seeing coverstitch machines!!)

I had, therefore, two reasons for visiting
  1. The crack in the spring of my bobbin case and
  2. Advice re twin needle sewing in order to avoid tunnelling 
  3. Look at coverstitch machines (yes, I know that’s a third!!).

In order:
I took the offending item to my dealer who agreed the crack was a problem and could possibly be part of the reason I've been having so many problems with buttonholes. He replaced it for me from another case he had available as this is classified as a consumable item and not replaceable under warranty as he found when he was trying to get a replacement under warranty  - my machine has a 7 year warranty.

I didn’t take my machine with me - the Bernina 750 QE just isn’t one you carry around unless you really have to!  At this stage, I’m not sure whether the bobbin tension is okay for normal use as I’ve still to try that. 

I assumed that there would be a machine in the shop on which he could demonstrate the twin needle sewing (I had taken my fabric, twin needle etc). However, as mentioned before, he phoned head office for advice and loosened my spare bobbin case a lot more than I had. I have yet to try that.

Coverstitch machine

My dealers (a family business now with two brothers) had previously recommended the Janome CoverPro 2000cpx; they said it was an easy recommendation and an easy choice. I have 3 friends who advised against Janome; 2 of them have BabyLocks, the other has a Juki but none live near me (one in Canada and two on the south coast). They were recommending that I get a Juki as the BabyLock, although great, is rather pricey, to say the least. I trust their views.  My dealer actually sells all of the brands I was looking at - Juki, BabyLock, Brother and Janome but not all are kept in stock or are available for testing.

I couldn’t trace a Juki dealer with the coverstitch machine available for testing - apart from the dealer my southern friends used. I phoned lots of Juki dealers whom I could conceivably visit. Cost wasn't a key issue or certainly not for David though I was thinking of price per use to some extent. The Janome is just over a third of the price of a BabyLock, with the Juki sitting in between. I felt the Juki was where I wanted to aim - if, indeed, I went for one. I was unable to visit the Knitting and Stitching Show (end Feb/beg March) and can’t visit the Sewing for Pleasure Show (mid March - this weekend coming, in fact)

When I was in the shop, I asked about the Juki and BabyLock coverstitch machines. Of course I did!! John could get both machines in for me. Despite being a Juki dealer, he didn't tend to run with the Juki due to few sales of it. It's a small dealership. He was recommending the Juki over the BabyLock because of easier and faster access to accessories and parts. He said they had sold lots of the Janome machines and had not had any problems. He would have recommended that but felt I might not be happy with it having heard some reports about skipped stitches from my friends.

He took the Janome off the shelf and demonstrated it. He used my fabric and it hemmed it beautifully. The hem was very stretchy and I could not find fault with it. The machine sounded nice, threading was straightforward, it had a bigger throat space and a free arm. Most importantly, it was being recommended by a dealer I trust and who is local. I could've seen the others elsewhere but would not have wanted to buy from elsewhere so this isn't really fair. I most definitely wanted to buy locally. In the UK prices are the same everywhere so there is no advantage to going elsewhere based on price and certainly not when you consider transport and access to a local dealer.

David has wanted to buy me a coverstitch machine for a while and I have said no. I don’t sew that much stretch fabric, though it is increasing tbh. I thought of the space it would take up - of the cost per use - of the learning curve.

Update - I am now the proud owner of a coverstitch machine. I have a bit of a learning curve ahead of me. I'm not too sure how to adjust sewing order etc to take account of using a coverstitcher.

I bought the Janome. I am happy with it. I have also been in virtual contact with others who love theirs too. 

I had read only positive comments about the Juki and the BabyLock. It seemed that the Janome was a bit of a Marmite machine! I joined a Coverstitch FB group and watched a number of videos, some specifically for my machine and read articles of a slightly more technical nature on (written by the main administrator of the Coverstitch group- Hilde). I discovered that many of the people who had said they were getting slipped stitches had not threaded their machine properly! This is of course crucial, as is using the correct needles, adjusting tensions for the fabric used etc. Now, I’m an instruction book reader - you guessed that, I’m sure! However, I do better having things demonstrated as I don’t always follow the little diagrams in the manuals. I had misthreaded my machine! I had missed an important part of the thread path of my looper. I thought I had threaded, but it hadn't caught - and it seems that some others asking questions or commenting on the videos (The Last Stitch) had done the same. It’s not the most obvious thing - and I found it difficult to get the thread to catch behind the hook, though now that I know how to do it, it should be easier (it was!). I made the previous samples and adjustments before I discovered this so they needed to be redone.

That pesky tank

My first try at hemming the tank with the coverstitcher wasn’t successful.  My hem, having had the overlocking cut off, was rather narrow in places such that some areas were a single layer of fabric and others double, with some borderline. That is, the hem was raggy with an uneven allowance. In coverstitching, the hem really needs to be even. There was a bit of tunnelling with the narrow coverstitch at those single fabric points, only (but see above  - I had misthreaded the machine) - I read about the technical reason for this and how to adjust the machine (altering the tension in the one needle off the fabric, though I didn't need to do that). On a properly turned hem, there would be no problem. On the positive side, I got to find out first hand how easy it is to remove the coverstitch, except at those places with the minor tunnelling.

The triple needle looked great but I decided that wasn’t what I wanted for this tank. Oh, I used a matching thread to the cardigan, a pinky cream - I bought 4 cones of this thread in Dewsbury Market on Wednesday past. The inside of the tank and the cardigan are overlocked in dark grey.

Narrow two needle coverstitch on neckline

Narrow two needle coverstitch on hemline

After a lot of thinking about how to do the hem on the tank, I decided that I wasn’t going to add a facing or a bias strip, which I had considered as this would maintain the length yet allow an even hem allowance. I decided to even up the hem even though that meant shortening it further. Overall it’s probably ½” shorter.

Tonight (Saturday) I successfully modified the hem fold and - yes - coverstitched the hem with the narrow two needle setting. No problems. I had tested tensions etc on spare fabric.

I unfolded the bias strips on the armholes and coverstitched them too.

Flushed with success, I coverstitched around the neckline, without unfolding the band. I'm not sure if this was sensible - but it worked!

Inside the neckline

This all went well.

I used the narrow two needle stitching throughout though realise that I could have used the wide needle two needle version. My machine does have three needles.

I tried on the tank and am afraid it’s not the most attractive item I have! David said it’s too baggy - and he’s right. I think this is partly because I’ve lost a stone in weight since I started making it! But only partly. It’s also a bit shapeless and boxy - I definitely need more waist shaping. Considering I started with two sizes smaller than recommended for my sizes AND took 2” out of the back, I find this surprising and certainly wouldn't recommend the pattern and won’t be making it again. However, worn with the cardigan, it’s fine. I won't be wearing it on its own.
Rather cropped and boxy for my liking#Not another loose thread in the photo - how come I don't see them in time?

I might have lost a stone but it sure ain't from my rear!!
The tank looks lopsided here but I think it's too wide at the shoulders and across the back despite my changes

So I have another twin set. I love them, as I’m sure you’ve realised by now! At least I love these ones. I'm putting this forward as my entry to the GBSB Sewalong - not because I think it's great but simply because it's finished, and in the correct timescale. Although I started previously, it has been finished today, in the week of the sewalong which is the important thing. It's finished and it's wearable. Another UFO off my books.

Another twin set

Noting else to say!

Back view of cardigan

I like the coverstitch machine too. I will get around to constructing something in the best way for optimum use of my overlocker and coverstitcher. I've pre-ordered a book on coverstitching Master the Coverstitch Machine: The complete coverstitch sewing guide which comes out on Monday 18 March - less now. It's written by Johanna Lundström,  who also authors the Last Stitch blog and videos. I'm hoping this will help me master the machine.


Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. Please leave a comment. I welcome each and every one. I value criticism (constructive of course! ), love hints and tips and would appreciate suggestions for future direction.

Update and Continuing with Machine Embroidery Course

I haven’t been sewing anything recently. I’ve managed a few alterations and repairs and a little bit of machine embroidery - though I’ve f...