Tag Archives: sewing machine

Makeup Bag

I whipped up a makeup bag on Sunday.

Rectangular fabric bag with a metal zipper. There are eyebrow pencils and other makeup items lying on top of the bag.

Designed to be just a bit longer than my eyebrow pencil

It barely took 15 minutes to throw together and the hardest part was locating a zipper foot for my sewing machine. The accessories for my machine are currently AWOL and will probably turn up at the bottom of a stash box one day. The benefit of having a spare sewing machine (or two) is having additional accessories. The drawback of owning more than one sewing machine is sounding like a person who can’t control her impulses but I figure they don’t make ’em like they used to. Besides both of us use them.

Though only only of us sews makeup bags.

How many sewing machines do you own?

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Check out my new Overlocker

That’s a serger to my US friends, I believe.

I’m a big fan of the Aldi discount supermarket chain. A huge fan, especially now they’ve started stocking New Zealand made cookies under their home-brand label. Those Kiwis make some very fine cookies.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Aldi is a German-based discount food store chain. They sell all the basics like flour and honey and cheese at excellent prices and have a wine section (in the state of Victoria but not in other states due to liquor licensing laws.) They don’t stock everything you need in a typical weekly shop but tend to be located near other supermarkets so you can get all your basics at Aldi and then top up on extras at one of the bigger supermarket chains.

Wikipedia tells me they’re the biggest retailer of wine in Germany. Think about that for a moment. Wine. Germany. Biggest retailer. No wonder the founders brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht were Germany’s #1 and #2 richest men until Theo’s death in 2010.

Theo was kidnapped and held for ransom in 1971 and wasn’t photographed again since the day after his release. Imagine being so wealthy that you felt you had be a recluse. I picture that Theo’s life  on his estate (guessing here), with servants (guessing again) and security (seems like a sure thing) as very comfortable, but it sounds lonely. That level of isolation and probably fear sound like a high price to pay for extreme wealth.

Aldi have weekly specials of non-food items, many of which are momentarily appealing but which you probably don’t really need (bread makers, high pressure cleaners etc). Having said that, I’ve bought all sorts of things at Aldi since they opened in Australia, including a camping cookware set and a vacuum cleaner. Oh and an Android tablet which is almost as good as an iPad, but for less than half the price.

A while back the weekly special was overlockers for $200, which is a good deal. Here’s mine.

Overlocker tension dials

These tension dials aren’t the latest design, but that’s OK.

It’s probably a Janome or Brother re-branded as Lumina, which is one of Aldi’s many own-brand labels.

It does the job, even though it’s clearly not the very latest design. These tension dials are the giveaway. The latest designs have done away with those big lumpy dials.

I’m dreading the day when a thread breaks or when I need to change the colour that came pre-threaded on the machine.  Any machine that needs tweezers for threading is the stuff of nightmares.

I have to admit that it took me a while to even open the box after I brought this overlocker home and I still feel a little intimidated by it. I have only used it a little, for tidying up seams, something it does brilliantly.

I have the feeling that there is so much more I could be doing with this device. I know you can use them to attach lace, but I think it’s been at least twenty years since I felt the need to attach lace to anything. Just not my thing, lace. Maybe I should take a class. Or watch a video. Or just keep quilting.

When is a Genuine Part not a Genuine Part?

Side view of walking foot for Singer Sewing Machine

Singer? Walking Foot

My faithful old Husqvarna doesn’t give me a very good result when I’m trying to stitch in the ditch or attach binding. It’s a generic foot. That’s important here. Unhappy with my results,  I decided to invest in a Singer branded walking foot to go with my new(ish) Singer machine. I am not going to name the Melbourne sewing machine retailer that I dealt with, and here’s why.

I rang the retailer last year to get prices and find out what they could offer me. They told me I could have a generic walking foot or a genuine Singer one which would be about $35 (I asked). OK, I thought, not that big a price difference from buying online, so I’ll go ahead. Besides, I have not yet found an online retailer who offers genuine parts and is able to ship to Australia. If you know of one, please let me know.

The retailer rang me during the week to let me know my walking foot had come in so we did a dash to pick it up. The cost: $52.80. Gasp! But I have the pyramids cot quilt to finish and I want to quilt it myself rather than sending it out. Erica’s baby is due in March, so the pressure’s on. I handed over the cash and the retailer handed over a small paper bag.

White cardboard box with an illustration of a walking foot

Believe it's genuine? I have a bridge I can sell you.

I took the chance to open the bag when we stopped for some morning coffee. As soon as I saw the cardboard and the print quality on the box I was suspicious. Low gloss cardboard, no branding and no graphic design on the box. No place of manufacture either.

I opened the box. Same story, no branding. Looks to me  a lot like the generic low shank walking foot that I’m unhappy with on my Husqvarna.

Back we go, “There must be a mistake.”

“You can have your money back but I assure you we (the retailer) ordered this foot for you direct from Singer. All sewing machines are made in China these days, you know.”

Yes, I do know and I decided to keep the  foot. I need it, and I believe the retailer’s response to be genuine.  My best guess is it’s a matter of margins. The retailer gets stock from a distributor and if the distributor sources genuine parts, there isn’t enough margin in it, either for them or the retailer. If they stocked genuine parts, most likely they would be so expensive no-one would buy them.

I just hope the foot works. I’ll let you know.

Christmas Tree Block and an Impluse Purchase

10 inch Christmas Tree BlockThis 10 inch tree block is NOT a keeper but I do recommend these directions for making the Christmas Tree block. Mine, in the picture to the left, has puckering and uneven stitching. I can do better and I will do better. Here’s how this one came into being.
In an impulsive moment on the internet a couple of weeks ago I found my way to the Greys Online auction site, which is an online marketplace where businesses get rid of excess stock, much of which is in the industrial arena. They sell diamond rings but also more interesting stuff like tug boats. Yes, really.

The day I placed the bid on a new computerised sewing machine I could also have bid on a tug boat which was, if I recall correctly, excess stock from Shell’s offshore drilling operations. As tempting as the idea was, I decided not to bid on the tug boat. Instead I bid on a Singer 7422. I’d had the idea to get new sewing machine and wanted to try a computerised one, thinking that a new mechanical machine would probably not be that much different or that much better than my beloved 1970’s chocolate brown Husqvarna, which was the top of the line machine in its day.

I placed my bid at the minimum and decided that I would let fate decide. It someone else bid higher, it would be theirs.

No-one else bid higher and it was mine. It arrived at my door about three days after the auction closed but I decided not to pull it out of its box until I’d read the manual. Isn’t that so like a woman? I know no men who would think that would be a good idea.

It took me the best part of an evening to get it set up, the bobbin wound and the tension working correctly. For the first many, many lines of stitching I thought the machine had been a bad choice as the tension was totally off. After much re-reading of the manual though, I worked out that the problem lay in how I had inserted the lower thread through the bobbin case. Once I re-threaded it my problem was solved.

The next challenge was how to adjust the needle position to get an accurate quarter inch seam, which is where the Christmas tree block comes in. I decided to make a ‘real’ block as a proof of concept. But the seams were too wide and the block ended up a little less square and a little more rectangular than it should have been. But the lesson has been learned and I think I have the quarter inch seam width nailed.

Likes and dislikes and observations so far are:

  • The new machine is very light and portable
  • Every component seems to be made of plastic, which I hate
  • The new machine won’t probably last long but if it gives me three years of service I’ll be happy
  • There’s something to be said for baked enamel, even if it’s chocolate brown baked enamel. The Husqvarna is built like an automobile and that’s impressive, even if it does add (a lot of) weight
  • Learning to listen for a beep to know the machine has accepted your key press is a bit weird. If it doesn’t beep at you the computerised machine probably wasn’t ‘listening’
  • The ability to select and move the needle position (right, left) is handy
  • I look forward to more experimentation and hope to resist the temptation to buy accessories for the new machine. I don’t need to spend another $50 for another walking foot. But I may well make the Christmas tree block again, perhaps surrounded by stars as a Christmas wall hanging. Or with some ground below and stars above.

    Update April 2016: Seems my comment about the machine not lasting long was prescient. The machine failed in 2015 as I was trying to hem some fabric for shibori scarves. The professional repair quote was exorbitant, so we took it back from the repairer. My beloved had a go at fixing it and found a big fur ball under the bobbin case. But there’s still a problem and I’ve run out of patience with it. So I shall send it to its next life and remind myself that I was expecting three years and got five. I shall declare myself happy and wiser. Never again a modern Singer.