My Sewing Space Tour!

Now that the final boxes have been unpacked (somewhat reluctantly) and my new apartment is looking presentable, I thought that it was about time to give you all a tour of my new sewing room! This move was an exciting one for me, largely because I’ve been living without a creative space for the first half of 2019. While searching for a new place, the need to have a designated work area (however big or small) was at the front of my mind and I really lucked out in finding an apartment that met every single one of my needs. Those of you who’ve been following Sew for Victory for some time may recall the cute and cosy sewing room that I was lucky enough to have in my first American abode. Although on the smaller size, the room was abundant with storage and natural light and ended up being the part of the house in which I felt most completely at home (largely because it was filled with the stuff that I’d paid many hundreds of dollars to ship over with me). Now in my new flat, my sewing room is far more spacious and I’m in love with the amount of room that I have!

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Important to me (although not an essential part of what I was looking for), the wooden flooring combined with the spaciousness of the room gives plenty of space for pattern cutting. This was a real problem in my last place. My sewing room was carpeted and the rest of the apartment, although floored with wood, was bedecked with the kind of original wooden flooring that is both incredibly splintered and not particularly smooth. Anything that can help to reduce my tally of workplace injuries is always good by me and this room’s smooth laminate is just about as perfect as it gets for avoiding splinters whilst still able to lay out large amounts of fabric. You’ll also notice that this apartment is pretty incredible when it comes to natural light. I was slightly concerned about lighting levels pre-move. The apartment is basement-level and its window sills are pretty much inline with the ground outside. Paired with the fact that the building itself is relatively tall, I figured that light was going to be somewhat hard to come by. Fortunately, the angle of the sun works perfectly for giving me plenty of light, whilst avoiding the blinding midday period that made sewing almost impossible in my old space. I’m also lucky enough to have a fountain right outside of the window above my sewing table, making this probably the most scenic place that I’ve had to sew in.

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Happily, there’s also plenty of room right next to my sewing table for my clothes rail and mannequin. This fact is truly testament to the space’s comfortable size. My previous sewing room necessitated a game of real-life tetris as I attempted to fit my (very) large work table in the space, alongside my ironing board, mannequin, and clothing rail. Needless to say, there wasn’t a whole lot of room for manoeuvre. But everything now has a place for itself and I can actually step back to appreciate all of the bits and pieces that I’ve sewn over the past couple of years!

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One of the big downsides of the new sewing room (compared with the one in my old apartment) is the lack of storage. Since this is meant to be a second bedroom, it’s unsurprising that the space comes with a simple, single-sized wardrobe. The problem is that I was totally spoiled in my previous sewing room, which came equipped with the biggest cupboard I’ve ever seen – complete with a small staircase so that you could climb into it. The cupboard was so large that I filled it with my entire fabric stash, all of my other bits and bobs, my entire sewing library, and still barely took up half of the space. To compensate for the lack of storage here, I decided to buy my own. Always enjoying an opportunity to nosy in on other people’s sewing set-ups, I’d noticed that cube storage is super popular as a way to organise everything. So I got myself down to Target (truly my favourite thing about America and the greatest shop in the world) and bought a white cube storage system, to match my IKEA work table.

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I’m absolutely in love with this thing. It has so much space and, although I managed to fill it up pretty quickly, accommodates most of my sewing supply (as well as my continually growing library). Since I’m not allowed to stick anything on the walls here, I’ve also used the top to support my notice board and various trinkets. For now, my fabric stash is confined to the shelves at the top of the wardrobe – until I can search out a better storage solution (probably something that I can fit into the bottom of the wardrobe). Suggestions welcome!

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Given the size of the room and the fact that I’m balancing time between Sew For Victory and my other online endeavour – The Book Habit – I decided to add a reading corner to my work space. This has a couple of functions. Giving me a designated place for reading and writing, it also has a super comfy chair for my husband (or, let’s face it, mostly my dog) to occupy whenever I’m at the sewing table. This was a problem in my old apartment. The room was so small that there was nowhere for either of my family members to perch themselves while I worked and this, in itself, made it so much harder for me to motivate myself while they were around. Having somewhere for them is just perfect – especially while I work to re-establish a sewing habit. We actually picked the little sofa up at a thrift store for $15 and somehow managed to manhandle it into the back of our car (much to the consternation of the shop’s employees). It was an excellent find! The rug was a $20 Amazon find and the favourite purchase of my tiny dog (Miss Elizabeth Bennet) who loves to rub herself all over it. The bookshelves are the only feature of the room that still requires attention. My plan is to spray-paint them white to match the rest of the decor (or, more likely, wait until I have the money to buy new white shelves, since I know nothing about spray-painting).

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So there we have it! This sewing room definitely makes the wait for a new place totally worth it and has already proved a sufficiently inspiring space in which to work. While two years into my American adventure and still searching for a sense of home, having a space like this is one of the most important elements of grounding myself in a place that remains incredibly foreign. Much of my sewing collection has travelled with me across continents. It’s moved with me from home to home, occupying each of the five places that I’ve lived over the past 2.5 years. Much the same as I feel when it comes to my book collection, my hobbies and their accompanying inventories of stuff have been some of the few things that I’ve been able to carry with me as I’ve uprooted my life and worked to establish a new home for myself. Having this sewing space and being able to share it with you is such a joyous thing. It’s less about the space itself and more about what it represents – a sense of home and belonging that can often be incredibly hard to achieve. Whether your creative space is an entire room or the corner of a dining room table, whether it’s full of fabric or confined to a single box, I hope that it fills you with the same sense of contented joy and grounding that I feel whenever I look at my own.

Topstitching Triumph?

As you all know from my most recent ramblings, I’ve been working away at my Ginger Jeans. This is my first foray into the jean-making world and, given the amazing reviews of this pattern, I’m hopeful that they’re going to be fantastic.

One of my favourite things about making jeans is the amount of topstitching. I love topstitching! I’m not sure if this is a popular opinion, but I genuinely find it so satisfying. Plus it looks super decorative and professional! The Ginger Jeans are presenting so many opportunities to practice a bit of topstitching. Although I will admit that constantly changing threads between my regular stitching thread and my contrast topstitching thread is a pain, I’m definitely enjoying myself. Maybe one day I’ll have two machines so that I can just move back and forth!

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An added bonus is that the white topstitching looks so cute with the anchors!

However, I am encountering a bit of a problem. At a couple of stages, I’ve had to topstitch adjacent to an inner seam line (as opposed to an edge). Whilst topstitching next to an edge is relatively simple since you can just use the guides on the sewing machine to judge the 1/8″ and 3/8″ lines, topstitching in the middle of fabric is turning out to be a nightmare. In case my inadequate description is posing problems for you visualising what I’m talking about, here’s a picture…

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Obviously, in this case, the fabric is obscuring the seam gauge lines on the sewing machine, making it impossible for me to measure. Although the actually foot has lines of its own (which are fine for following 1/8″), anything beyond the width of the foot is proving tough. I’m basically having to make a rough estimate of where the line should be – which doesn’t feel very good when I’m trying to get some perfect topstitching going. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to address this? I’m genuinely at a loss for how anyone manages this kind of scenario without some guesswork as to where the topstitching line should fall. For reference, here’s a pic of what I’m working with:

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Now the obvious solution would be to draw the line onto the fabric before stitching. I’ve avoided doing this because I’ve had such unfortunate encounters with unreliable fabric markers – ones that have come very close to ruining garments because I can’t get the marks to wash off. I’ve tried a few different methods but haven’t found any that I’m comfortable marking onto the right side of my fabric. If the only way to take the guesswork out of my topstitching measurements is to mark onto my fabric, I’m definitely going to do more investigations to find a trustworthy fabric marker!

Sorry for the ‘Dear Diary’ nature of this post. But you lovely people always have excellent sewing advice so I’m hopeful that, with your help, I can find a way to make my topstitching even more triumphant!

Vintage Sewing 101: Care And Use Of Your Sewing Machine

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Welcome back to Vintage Sewing 101! Last week we got acquainted with the well-equipped 1950s seamstress and found out that, in comparison, my tools come up a little short (quite literally, since my main problem seemed to be insufficiently lengthy rulers). This week, I’m continuing to build my foundational 1950s sewing knowledge with a look at how to care for and use my sewing machine. Although a lot of this information feels somewhat self-explanatory (particularly to anyone with basic sewing knowledge), I’ve decided that my mantra for this series of posts is ‘Take nothing for granted’. In that spirit, we move forward!

Before we delve into the content, however, I thought it would be a good idea to check out what the typical 1950s seamstress would be using to sew. Since the sewing course specifically mentions the Kenmore machine (made by the producers of the course – Sears, Roebuck and Company), I thought I would have a look at those. Kenmore machines were run on electricity (rather than with a foot peddle). The most popular model in the 1950s was the Kenmore Model 117-169, made out of aluminium and relatively lightweight in comparison to other models. However, the Kenmore Zig-Zag Automatic 117-740 – released in 1956 – was the most up-to-date in its technology, offering the ability to zig-zag stitch (and so sew stretch fabric). Pretty revolutionary at the time! If you’re interested, there’s a great Youtube video showing how a 1950s Kenmore is threaded and used – plus it will give you a good idea of what the machines actually look like.

In comparison, I have a Janome New Home Machine with at least a thousand stitches and just about every bit of technology available to modern sewing machines. It comes with a digital screen and stitch selection and all of the standard operations. Suffice to say, my experience of getting to know my sewing machine will not be quite the same as for someone sewing with a 1950s machine. But no doubt I still have much to learn! So onto the course instructions…

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The sewing course places a LOT of emphasis on the sewing machine instruction book. Now, I’m not the best when it comes to reading manuals. I’m much more of a ‘throw myself in head first, whatever the consequences’ kind of girl. Since I’m a big believer in learning from my mistakes, this philosophy tends to really help me learn. But, true to my pledge of following this 1950s sewing course through from beginning to end, I dusted off my sewing machine manual and sat down for a read.

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In all honesty, I can’t quite meet the standards of Sears, Roebuck and Company who insist that I must “Keep this book in your sewing cabinet – and refer to it frequently until you know its contents by heart.” The Instruction book is 54 pages and, quite frankly, who has the time. That said, I did read it through and discovered a whole lot of stitches that I didn’t really know existed on the machine. So I must grant Sears et al a victory on this front since there are clearly some benefits to reading the manual before jumping in.

After getting to know the truly insightful Instruction book from beginning to end, it’s time to learn about cleaning our machines. I feel as though this sewing course is already beating it into me that I’m not the best or most attentive sewist. I very rarely (*read never*) clean my machine. I know. It’s not good. But, thanks to a forced perusal of my machine’s Instruction book, I am now armed with the knowledge on how to go about giving my machine a good clean. Trying to bring myself up to the rigorous standards laid out for the 1950s seamstress by the (now, in my mind) dictatorial Sears, I took to giving my machine a thorough cleaning – hook race, feed dog, and all…

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A clean machine is a good machine (Big Brother is watching)

With a clean machine ready to go, now it’s time to actually get to grips with using it. Since I don’t want to test your patience too incredibly, we’ll skip over learning to thread the machine – after two years of sewing, I’m pretty sure I’m doing this right. So we’ll hop straight on to learning to control and stitch. The manual first instructs that “Smooth (not jerky) machine operation is one of the ‘secrets’ of even, flat stitching.” I’m not quite sure why this is such a secret since it feels pretty self-explanatory. I will confess, however, that I had the biggest trouble with not jerking a sewing machine around the first time I sat down at one. I think I was about 12 and learning to use a sewing machine at school. I was so terrified of sewing over my fingers that I went at snail’s pace the entire time and, even then, took my foot off of the pedal every five seconds. Apparently I’ve grown out of this fear, although it’s pretty miraculous that I ever decided to sit at a machine again. Therefore, I can definitely verify the truth of what the manual is telling us – indeed, as the course promises, controlling speed on my sewing machine is now “as automatic as striking the right key is to a typist.” So I guess there’s hope for everyone.

Now onto stitches…

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We begin with a bit of straight line stitching. According to the sewing course, it is incredibly important that we first learn to position our hands correctly on the machine. I demonstrate:

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DON’T [emphasis mine because I feel this is how Sears et al would desire it to be read] place the hand that is guiding the material directly in front of the needle. You might get careless and run it under the needle! Keep it off to one side where it can’t be hurt.”

It’s strange to me that the course is referring to your hand as something of a separate entity. But I do agree with this very common-sense approach to sewing with your machine. It is, after all, a really bad idea to run your hand under the needle – as my 12 year old self would agree.

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DON’T reach around and pull the material from in back of the needle. This can bend the needle so that it doesn’t go down into the hole meant for it, and it may snap in two.”

I’m not even going to try to be facetious about this advice because, for quite a while when I first started sewing, I did have a habit of pulling the material through. I guess I thought that it would speed everything up. It didn’t.

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So, what’s the right way to do things? The sewing course informs “When the machine is running, material travels through without help from you, but your hand is needed to hold it straight. Preferably use your left hand, keeping your right hand free to straighten folds of the material in front of the machine, to hold the wheel for stopping at a point…and for similar tasks.”

My first thought reading this is that the end of the sentence feels incredibly ominous. Why the ellipsis? What other tasks is it referring to?! Am I right to slightly afraid of what Sears has planned? Otherwise, all good advice.

Now that we know how to position our hands, it’s time to stitch. The manual recommends that we start out with the very basics – learning to stitch in a straight line. As instructed, I didn’t draw lines on my piece of fabric and instead followed the seam guides on my machine. I was concerned that, after basically mocking the course for the entirety of this post, it would turn out that I actually couldn’t sew in a straight line. But I actually did ok.

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I even did two lines – one at 3/8″ and one at 5/8″ – just to show off.

That’s all very well and good, of course, but are curves such an easy go? The course says that I should follow the same technique as before.

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Granted, this is a pretty steep curve. I wanted to get more ambitious just to check my skills but the sewing course warns against this. It suggests that, when I become more advanced, I might “practice following wavy lines, then tight curves and lines like those used in an embroidery pattern.” But “don’t draw lines for the first stages of practice.” To avoid getting too big for my britches, I thought I should calm down and stick with some nice, calm curves.

Having mastered most of the basics, we now have just a couple more skills to learn (thankfully) – the joys of turning corners and learning tacking!

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Learning to turn corners was one of my favourite skills when I first came to sewing. I still get a strange instinctual satisfaction from pivoting my fabric and sewing a right-angle. It’s just so neat! I particularly enjoyed how emphatic the course gets when talking about turning the corner – “Again stitch a straight line; but this time, stop exactly at a desired point (right hand on wheel) with the needle down.” I choose to read this as the course instructor being incredibly excited by the upcoming pivot because, if you haven’t felt the joy of a needle pivot, you just haven’t truly lived.

To stop myself getting too overly excited about right angles, I only sewed one…

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And, for the first time, I was also able to backstitch at the end of my line. I’ve avoided doing so thus far since the course is very clear about skill-building in the appropriate way (and apparently tacking is the pinnacle of basic sewing techniques). Despite leaving it until the very end, the course is detailed on the importance of learning to tack. I will say that, on this point, I truly understand how much easier we have it with contemporary machines. Where the sewing course presents a few different options for tacking at the end of your stitches, for most of us it’s simply a manner of using our reverse stitch button. What a miracle this button is! I won’t take it for granted again.

Thankfully, Sew with Distinction has now talked us through all the basics of caring for and using our sewing machine. It closes out with an emphasis on learning to use machine attachments (I’m skipping over the diatribe on not wasting thread. To paraphrase – “save thread”) and, since I’m now so well acquainted with my sewing machine’s Instruction book, I’m off to get to know each of my attachments and what they actually do (since I only use about three of them on rotation). The next Vintage Sewing 101 post will take us away from learning the sewing basics (hallelujah!) and onto assessing our bodies for pattern making – a quick spoiler, “Are you tall?” and “Are you short?” are key phrases. I feel that this is where the course really comes into its own. So join me next week as I continue my 1950s sewing adventures!

My Sewing Room: A Tour

Unless this is your first time reading Sew for Victory (in which case, hello and a massive welcome to you!), you’ll know that I only recently moved to the US and in to a new apartment. After many months of the nomadic lifestyle, I’m finally settled in one place and have actually managed to set up a permanent home for my sewing projects. It’s amazing how much it has transformed my motivation to sew. Big tip – if you feel yourself losing that precious sewjo, it is always a great idea to revamp your sewing space. However big or small the changes (and however big or small the space) some adjustments can make it a far more attractive place to be. Paint your table a new colour, add some inspirational pictures to the wall, find a new storage system – there are so many quick and inexpensive things that you can do. If you have any particular tips, feel free to share in the comments!

Now that everything’s finally in its place, I thought I would share some pics and details with you all. I hope that you enjoy!

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The table (a LINNMON/FINNVARD combination) and chair (a VAGSBERG/SPORREN combination) are from IKEA, of course! A wedding present from my lovely brother and his girlfriend. The table I picked was their longest variation – I had some concerns that it would look far too long but it actually allows plenty of space for my sewing machine and serger, as well as lots of room either side for my cutting mat and other bits. It also makes for a great cutting table, given the length. I’m honestly so happy with it. And the chair’s surprisingly comfy, too!

There is also just so much natural light that I barely have to use my overhead light (unless it’s dark, of course). Such an advantage of the apartment’s massive windows.

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Since we rent, I can’t actually paint any of the walls. So I’ve compromised by decorating with my favourite inspirational pieces and some pretty stickers. The noticeboard has also come in super handy as somewhere to hang postcards and my favourite packs of buttons. I’ve been using some heart pins that I got from Joann’s to stick things on the board and they’re working super well. Plus they’re incredibly cute!

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The parts of my sewing library that I use pretty regularly are on my windowsill. I also have some bits and pieces (mostly older books and magazines that I want to protect from sunlight) in my massive cupboard.

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Side note: a regular book holder (I got mine for about £2 on Amazon in the UK) is AMAZING for patterns. I love being able to have my pattern propped up and so accessible. It’s far easier to use than having it lying flat on the table, since you can actually read it and sew at the same time. If your pattern instructions are in a book, it works even better! Honestly one of the best investments I’ve made.

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I bought a cheap stand-alone clothing rail for hanging my me-made clothes. I found the lack of a designated rail such a problem in my previous sewing spaces. I would hang everything in the wardrobe and, since I’m constantly making alterations and changes on things, I found that I was constantly having to go back and forth to the bedroom to pull garments. With the clothing rail, I have all of my clothes and ongoing projects in one place. I also have a built-in rail inside my sewing room cupboard, which I use for hanging non-me-made clothes that are in my alteration or fixing pile.

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One of the biggest selling points of this apartment for me was just how incredibly this room was suited to sewing. The cupboard, especially, was ideal storage. It came with a cork board already installed on the back of the door which I’ve been using to hang my threads and bobbins (the hooks are long enough that I can fit both the thread and its matching bobbin on there, which is a great way of keeping them together). Obviously my thread collection is being rebuilt since all of my notions had to stay in the UK, so there’s not much going on right now!

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I love love love this cupboard! The apartment itself is from the early 1900s and this cupboard totally speaks to that. It has steps built in and many shelves far above where I’m currently storing. There is just SO MUCH SPACE. At the moment, I’m working on rebuilding my fabric/notions collections so there’s still plenty of room. But I love that there is so much potential and it makes everything so easily accessible!

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So that’s about it! It’s been a journey to get to this place and my husband has been so incredibly understanding of my need to have a designated space for my sewing – in fact, he never questioned what this extra room would be used for! I’ve worked on my sewing in such an array of places – a dining room table, a narrow hallway, an annex. It is just such a luxury to have somewhere to go and sew without interruption.

I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to share my space with you. If you have links to any blog posts or photos of your own sewing area, definitely drop them in the comments. I always love to have a nose at other people’s spaces!

Meet My New Serger – Brother 1034D

Obviously the past few weeks have been replete with a whole host of different developments for me – most of which have made it to Sew For Victory in one form or another. There have been so many new experiences – moving country, getting married and, most dramatic of all, setting up a whole new sewing system in the US. I brought what I could with me in my transatlantic move but shipping is so expensive that all of the big stuff – my sewing machine, work table etc. – had to stay in the UK. So I’m faced with the task of rebuilding my sewing space and my supply of tools. At the moment, I’m in a temporary living situation. My husband (it’s still super weird typing that) and I are staying with my parents-in-law while we look for an apartment but we’ve now found one we love that would also give me my own perfect sewing space. So keep your fingers crossed for us and hopefully I’ll be giving you a tour before too long! I’ve also introduced you to my brand new sewing machine, Agatha. She and I are having a great time working hard on new projects and I can honestly say that the Janome DC5100 is the best machine I’ve ever used. Definitely check out my review (linked above) if you’re on the lookout for a new machine.

But I’ve been keeping from you one of the greatest sewing developments that has occurred since I arrived in the US – I have a serger!! Meet my Brother 1034D

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Please excuse the table mess. I’m set up on the dining room table right now and working out of boxes and bags!

I’d never really thought all that much about getting a serger. I know a lot of people rave about them but I’d always felt pretty content using the overlock stitch on my old sewing machine. It did the job and, honestly, I was intimidated by what I thought would be an intense threading learning curve. But, after the move and seeing the extent to which my half-finished wedding dress had frayed, I thought that a serger might be a necessary investment. If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you’ll already know that the wedding dress project went bust but I’ve been using my serger on my on-going projects and it has honestly been pretty revolutionary to the way I finish my garments.

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Getting a strong finish on my makes has always been a bit of a problem. I’ve never been totally happy with the way the inside would look a little jerry-rigged in comparison with the outside. The edges were usually a bit ragged or, at least, sufficiently insecure that washing machines had become my nemesis. Using my sewing machine to overlock was a good interim measure but still didn’t give a totally neat, clean finish. Enter the serger! The Brother 1034D defied my expectations in that it actually wasn’t too tough to get to grips with. I used a number of resources to help guide me in learning how to thread and use the machine (listed at the bottom of this post for anyone interested) and, after a few test runs, I felt confident in my abilities! If you decide to invest in a serger, definitely don’t let yourself be intimidated by the potential learning curve. As scary as the machine looks, it’s really not much trouble.

I will add that the Brother 1034D comes with an excellent guide on the various components of the serger, how to thread, and how to operate. There was also a separate booklet demonstrating the different kinds of problems you could potentially encounter and how to determine threading issues by the way the stitch looks. I trawled through this and it has been incredibly helpful already. Since you’re working with four separate threads that all do different things, it’s important to know what does what. Of course, there are endless video and blogger tutorials to help with this too.

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Threading the left and right needle is pretty similar to threading a regular sewing machine. Pulling the cover back shows the threading system for the upper and lower looper.

One thing I will mention is the tension wheels at the top of the machine. As with a sewing machine, you use these to dictate thread tensions. Since you’re juggling four threads with a serger, it can obviously get a little more tricky determining appropriate tensions. But using a good guide (check the list at the end of the post) can help solve any issues on this front. That said, I spent a good couple of hours re-threading because I couldn’t get the stitches to come through correctly, only to realise that I had jogged one of the tension wheels. The tensions wheels aren’t like those on a sewing machine in that they don’t click in place. They move very easily and, when you’re threading or manipulating your spools at the back of the machine, it’s incredibly likely that you’ll accidentally move the wheels. So just be sure to bear that in mind and, if there are any problems with your stitch, those wheels are a likely culprit. Because of these issues with tension – and the fact that the necessary tensions will vary pretty dramatically depending upon the type of fabric you’re using – it is always worth doing a test run on a spare square of your fabric. Keep testing until you get the tensions right and the threads are sitting where they should on the stitch.

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This is a pretty good representation of how the stitch should look and what each thread does. The threads consist of left needle (yellow), right needle (red), upper looper (green), and lower looper (blue).

I’ve also found that judging where to place the edge of the fabric can be a bit of a challenge. For those not familiar with sergers, they come with an attached upper and lower knife on the right-hand side of the foot. As you serge your fabric, these knives operate to trim off any excess fabric. The knives made me incredibly nervous when serging seams because I was perpetually paranoid that I’d end up taking off too much excess and then stitching over my seam. The stitch itself is pretty wide so, where the seam is already sewn in, it can be a bit tough to judge how far in the stitch is going to reach. However, this is entirely a confidence and experience issue. The more I’ve worked with the serger, the easier it has become to make those judgements. And with typical seam measurements (I’ve serged both 5/8″ and 3/8″ seams), there are not problems with stitching over the allowance.

Even though learning to use a serger is undoubtedly a case of sitting down, watching videos, and troubleshooting a host of inevitable problems, it’s totally worth it. I’m currently working on my first pair of trousers (SO excited to share these with you!) and it’s made such an incredible difference to the way that the inside of the garment looks. Not only does it give a wonderfully neat finish, it also gives the edges enough security that I can finally pop my me-made clothes in the washing machine without being scared that they’ll fall apart. It’s honestly been such a worthy investment!

For those of you interested in learning to serge or looking for help with your serger, here are a few great resources that I’ve been using:


A side note – the Sew For Victory Book Club is making a return this month. I’ll be posting about the book at the end of July. For anyone who wants to read ahead, July’s pick is The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.

For those who have doubts about the relevance of this choice to the content of the site, I actually got half way through before deciding to make it the July selection. Not only is it an incredibly important feminist tract (which alone makes it SO worthy of reading), it is hugely insightful in terms of women’s lifestyles during the 1950s and 1960s. So for anyone with a particularly keen interest in reading about the female experience (disclaimer: this book does not do a great job of being intersectional, so I use the term ‘female’ to refer to an incredibly specific type of female experience), The Feminine Mystique is a must-read. I hope you’ll join me!

Meet My New Sewing Machine – The Janome DC5100

Happy June, lovelies! I’m back after a bit of radio silence. For those of you who have been following this blog from the beginning, you’ll know that I am now nearly at the end of four years of working to be permanently with my fiancé. I am finally in the US and in the process of putting together a wedding that will be happening in exactly one month. It’s been a hectic few weeks of paperwork, immigration interviews, and travel! Needless to say, Sew for Victory has fallen ever so slightly to the side – but never far from my mind. Now that I’m starting to find my feet, sewing has returned to its usual front-and-centre position in my life. I’m still working on finishing my wedding dress but am also just beginning a new project that I’ll be previewing on the site soon! Most importantly, though, a new country means a new sewing machine! Introducing Agatha (obviously named after one of my favourite authors):

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When I realised that it really wasn’t feasible to ship my UK machine over (not only because of the shipping cost – which was more than the cost of a new machine – but also the need for a voltage converter in order to make it run), I started a search to find a machine that was roughly equivalent to my trusty Constance. I knew that I wouldn’t find the same machine in the US since the Britannia brand is limited to the UK and, even there, is not a common make to come across. I wanted to find a machine that could work with a wide range of fabrics, offer a variety of stitches, and – I’d say most importantly – run incredibly smoothly. There are so many well reviewed machines out there that these requirements obviously didn’t narrow my search down too tremendously. But after searching for lists of ‘intermediate’ sewing machines, the Janome DC5100 caught my eye.

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The machine ticks all of my boxes. It’s got 167 stitches (all of the essentials, plus a lot of decorative stitches that the realistic part of me tells me I won’t use) and five button-hole options. The LCD screen and touchpad also make it incredibly easy to use. For those who need the facility, the DC5100 also has a memory function. I haven’t yet sewn up a complete garment but I’ve tested the machine out and used it to make a bit of progress on my wedding dress. Although I had taken time to read through the manual, there was no real learning curve with the machine. Threading is simple, stitching is simple. Admittedly, I haven’t used a whole lot of the machine’s functions yet but first impressions certainly speak to an incredibly well made and well running machine.

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The other big plus side of the DC5100 is obviously the look. I love the pink accents, although pink is pretty far from my favourite colour. It’s undeniably a sleek and well designed machine. Does it justify the cost though? The machine certainly comes in relatively steep – I found it for $649 (on Amazon, with a bundle of extra goodies), which is a roughly equivalent cost to the ££ of the Britannia. But for a mid-range machine with this many functions, the cost is actually very reasonable and certainly on the lower end of what I was finding for alternative models. Although the machine is one that I think would be easily useable for those new to sewing, as well as the more advanced, the cost may very well be prohibitive to beginners. Unless you have the money to spare, I would recommend starting out with a machine both cheaper and with fewer functions. I’ve only been sewing for 18 months or so and, were I presented with this type of machine so early on, I likely would’ve been incredibly overwhelmed – not to mention I would never have used half of the DC5100’s capabilities. But for those who consider themselves advanced beginners or beyond, the model is utterly perfect!

The final word of this post should, however, go to Constance. My beloved Britannia Instyle 65. All boxed up in her prime. Hopefully she will go on to bigger and brighter things, once I finally get round to putting her on eBay! Thank you, beautiful Constance, for being such a trusty sewing companion over the past year. I’ll miss you!

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Meet My Machine

Constance

Well hello there, beautiful.

What better way to start out than a post celebrating the wonder that is my new sewing machine? My previous sewing adventures have all happened on a less-than-friendly Brother machine – literally the cheapest one I could find on Amazon. But with my recent successes and determination to conquer the sewing world, my wonderful (patient) fiancé decided that I could invest in a good upgrade. With that the lovely man swept me off to the local sewing machine dealer, for a long lesson in the sewing machine market (I now know so much – go on, test me!).

I’d totally gone in with the idea that I’d come out wielding a much better Brother machine, or perhaps a Janome. But after trying the amazing Britannia Instyle 65, my mind was made up. Whoop! So here she is. My new baby, christened Constance (after my hero Constance Lytton – I will explain at a later date!). I am looking forward to this new partnership, which I think of as something like that of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain (I am, clearly, the comic relief).

See you soon, with an update on my ongoing projects!

Laura x