Learning new tricks...

You may remember that a few weeks ago I purchased my much-researched sewing machine and today I went on the course that was provided by the shop with my machine purchase. I went on a similar course run by the same lady when I bought my overlocker which was really helpful, particularly as I'd never used one before and just learning to thread one alone is hard enough. However, having used a sewing machine for as long as I can remember and almost daily for at least the last year I had wondered whether I would learn a great deal. But I was quite wrong. I have had the most lovely day and the teacher was, again, absolutely wonderful. Just like being taught by your mother or grandmother, her teaching was peppered with the kinds of tricks and tips that you simply can't learn by reading a book. She was able to answer all the little questions I had (like why is there sometimes more than one thread coming up from the bobbin race when I take my material away from the machine) and also steer me away from some of the mistakes that I was making unwittingly just through spotting them in conversation. One example of this is that I had been using Coats invisible thread in my machine when I was stitching together a contrasting-coloured lining and top fabric where I didn't want the differently coloured threads to show up on the wrong sides. I hadn't realised that this could have broken my machine. The invisible thread has so little elasticity in it that it pulls at the parts of the machine rather than snapping or stretching. If it gets tangled up in the race it can apparently be near impossible to get out (and it does tangle more than normal thread - I can vouch for that). What I should have been using was the Gutterman Skala thread shown below. It comes in white and black, but somehow cleverly picks up the colour of whatever it's held against (use the white for light colours, black for dark colours).

We did small things like finding our individual machines perfect settings for different stitches...so even though I have been happily using a satin stitch for a long time we were shown what to look for in the stitch to make sure it was as perfect as it could be.

You may also remember that I chose a machine that had no decorative stitches...but we were taught how you can go about creating some of our own by winding the stitch width dial backwards and forwards as we sewed...silently counting to try and produce an even decoration (top photo...no, they aren't perfect or quite what a machine with decorative stitches could produce, but I had no idea that I could even attempt that on my machine and was surprised at what could be achieved in the two minutes we had to play with the technique.)

We also learnt how to make cord (the yellow cord above, making it was a bizarrely aerobic activity) to use in corded buttonholes. I've only ever created normal buttonholes before, but making a corded buttonhole is much easier than I'd imagined. She also taught us a fantastic way of seam-ripping your buttonhole accurately. You'll see that I've placed a pin over and in front of the bar tack - if you start in the middle of the buttonhole and keep the unpick perfectly straight you can rip right up to the pin without risking ripping on through the bar tack. Once you've done one end, repeat the process for the other end.

I am so looking forward to using all her tips and tricks which will just make everything a little easier. Zebra-girl and Dinosaur-boy also had a fantastic day with their grandmother who came to babysit for me. She arrived with huge rolls of wallpaper for them to decorate and I returned home to find that I was the audience for a show that they had put together complete with recitals of poems from Roald Dahl stories, dancing and a gallery featuring homes for pretend guinea pigs (obviously!).


  1. Just look at that beautiful buttonhole! Have fun breaking it in!

  2. Sounds like such a wonderful day! I bet I would learn a lot about my machine too by taking a course (though, I plan on upgrading soon so I'll just wait for that :).

  3. I recall feeling the same way after having a lesson when I purchased my new overlocker. There were so many hints & tricks to learn - all the things that years of experience of others can teach us. Enjoy your new machine!

  4. That sounds great - I could do with a lesson like that for my machine. Your buttonhole looks immaculate! You should write a tutorial!

  5. How interesting......I shall definately be buying some Skala and playing with my tension knobs!!
    What a great day out:)

  6. I'm going to take a sewing course soon--because I'm not getting anywhere trying to teach myself!

  7. Fantastic! I found the same thing with the recent machine quilting class I did. We learnt about different cottons, different sewing machines, different batting and all sorts of things I wasn't expecting. Jenny (who owns the shop I work at) found out she had a needle down button on her foot pedal - and she has had the machine for nearly 10 years!!

  8. Wow are you ever going to have fun with your new friend!

  9. I broke my mum's machine with invisable thread during my degree show. That is when my sewing days came to an end, if only I had known about Gutterman thread! Sound like you had a wonderful day and fab holiday!

  10. I'd not come aross the trick with the pin and the buttonhole before. That could come in handy. Sounds like a lovely day out.


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