Friday, June 27, 2014

New Sewing Machine: Pfaff Ambition 1.5

It's official: I'm now a Pfaff owner! 

My Singer Quantum Stylist (only a year old) had a computer malfunction of some sort after I sewed through my finger making a giant teddy bear mat for my God-daughter. The machine had been purchased for $189 on Amazon Gold Box deals for my birthday last year. My mom owns the same machine and doesn't sew during the school year, so I borrowed hers while I figured out what to do.

Let me put it bluntly: Singer sucks at warranty repairs. There is no Singer warranty service place available in any of five states nearest me. I contacted Singer and asked what to do. They informed me I needed to pay to ship it to a warranty repair facility. Huh? Do you know what it costs to ship a sewing machine?

In terms of getting repaired without a warranty, the local repair place wanted $50 to even look at it and said the repair would be a minimum of $100.

And so, I decided it was time to shop for a high-quality machine. These days, I sew daily. It's a frequent refrain for sewing bloggers, but I wish I'd bought a higher-quality machine in the first place.

To start the process, I figured I'd go to a couple of dealers. From scouting around online, I was fairly certain I wanted a Pfaff or a Bernina.

I set my spending limit at about $1,000 and went to see what that would get me.

At Pfaff, that amount of money bought a lot of machine. There was the Ambition 1.0 for $1,000 and the Ambition 1.5 for $1,400, but the saleslady told me she could come down to $1,100 on the 1.5. 

The Ambition 1.5 had a fancy touch screen, more stitches and a few more options. For $100 extra, it definitely seemed worth it.

Next, I visited the Bernina dealer at G Street Fabrics. $1000 gets you a lot less at Bernina. The machine was nice, but had many fewer features. And I didn't think the stitch quality looked any better. And the Bernina didn't have a one-step automatic buttonhole, which is a feature I love. 

The Bernina also lacked a hard cover. Not a deal-breaker, but something I really love to have. 

So the following weekend, I went back to the Pfaff dealer with a handful of swatches -- silk, suede and cotton -- and met with the owner of the store (Sun Sew Vac in Alexandria, Va., if you're interested!) to test my swatches. 

Spoiler: Everything looked beautiful. The secret? Pfaff machines have a built-in walking foot. It is an incredibly beautiful thing. I folded my suede twice, so it was at four layers. The machine went right through it like it was cotton. No tension changes, nothing. Right from silk to suede. And the stitches were perfectly even.

Needless to say I was impressed.

And it turned out that Pfaff had just announced the Ambition 2.0 quilter's special -- and they were discontinuing the 1.5. So the store owner told me I could have the machine for $1,000. Win!

I treated myself to two feet that weren't included with the machine. Above is the rolled hem foot.

And this little lady is a 5/8-inch foot. I had never seen one of these before, but one of the salesladies said she loved it for garment sewing. (Spoiler alert: I used it on a skirt last night -- it's awesome!)

The machine also came with five feet, including this zipper foot. This foot is different from zipper feet I've had in the past and let me tell you. It makes the most invisible zippers I've ever done. The forked part goes toward the back (so you can pull down the walking foot) and you reposition the needle to hit in one of the cutouts. It's amazing.

Needless to say, I'm very very happy with my purchase!

What are you sewing with these days?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Things I've Sewn Lately: New Look 6723 in Liberty Nancy Ann

Lately I haven't felt like sewing anything but cute summer sundresses.

And since they're one of my favorite things to wear, why question a good thing, amirite? 

I started this dress with the intention of wearing it to our wedding rehearsal, but I just couldn't get it finished in the weeks leading up to the wedding. And after the wedding, it took me a little while to want to finish it. I am normally a complete-project sewer. I start one project and finish it before I'll move on to the next.

But then, about a week after the wedding, I finally got my sewjo back, finished this up, and all was right with the world.

This is New Look 6723 in Liberty Nancy Ann. My parents gave me a Purl Soho gift card for Christmas so that I could pick out some Liberty fabric; this was one of my favorites.

The dress is lined in nude cotton batiste I got from G Street with a coupon.

I chose New Look 6723 because it was a basic dress block with princess seams and a gathered skirt. New Look patterns tend to fit me a little better than most Big Four patterns and they're cheap, even when patterns aren't on sale. The pattern comes with this boat neck option as well as a notched neck option with a sort of sweetheart look and a couple of sleeve options. 

The pattern came together quite easily with my usual modification of cutting an 8 at the bust and grading out to a 10 at the waist.

Really, the only thing this dress is missing is POCKETS. Wish I'd added some.

Since the print is mostly white and busy, I just serged the hem and then did a tiny quarter-inch-fold machine-sewn hem. I didn't even bother to hem the lining. I just left the edge serged and called it a day. Really, I don't see a reason to hem lining if you're finishing with a serger. No one will see it (unless you're showing your dress lining to the world on your blog) and it just adds bulk.

The invisible zipper, I am realizing now that I'm looking at these photos, is not super invisible. What a bummer! I purchased a new sewing machine (more later this week!) and it does fantastic zippers, so I may resew this one at some point to make it a little more invisible.

In fact, we took these pictures walking along the waterfront in Alexandria after we went to the Pfaff dealer for the first time (I visited a few dealers before deciding on a brand and a machine.)

Currently, I'm trying to bang out a few work staples for my new job before I go back to sundresses, but I definitely sneaked another one in this week. Woops!

I've also been furiously knitting away at Andi Satterlund's Myrna sweater. I started a couple weeks late because of the wedding, but I'm trying to catch up to the Outfit-Along! Cross your fingers I can make it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Home Sewing Is Easy! (And it keeps the home fires burning!)

First off, I suppose I should mention that Greg and I were married two weeks ago!

I made my dress, and you can definitely expect a post on it soon! I am planning to team up on a blog post with our fabulous wedding photographer (since I didn't take any pictures!) so once he finishes editing, I'll get that up. 

While you're waiting for my wedding dress, I thought I'd post a super fun dress I made a few months ago: the Home Sewing is Easy dress!

Greg gave me this fabric for Christmas and I made it up in time for the last NYC meetup I went to. I think this fabric was pretty popular among the home-sewing crowd -- it seems everyone at the meetup had a couple of yards! 

The print is based off an old illustrated instruction manual that, I think, must be from the '40s or '50s since it mentions that sewing "helps keep the home fires burning." 

I lined the dress with plain flesh-toned cotton batiste. 

The pattern for this dress is New Look 6223, which I've made up before

Since I'd made it before and been very pleased with the fit, I decided to just go for it this time.

At the time I made it, I didn't blog this dress because I wanted to take the bodice apart and redo it, but I've since worn the dress several times and have decided to ignore its issues.

The bodice, I think, is slightly over-fit. It's a little snug. I have no idea how this happened either. Fabric differences? Maybe I cut a little extra off by mistake? 

Mysteries of the universe. It's one of those "feels fine until I eat something" dresses. 

But aside from some snugness in the armholes and the waist, it's a really fun dress to wear. And I  get lots of compliments when I wear it, which is always a bonus.

I spent a lot of extra time cutting this dress to be sure there wouldn't be anything questionable in inappropriate places.

And I tried (with limited success) to match everything across the invisible zipper.

But overall, now that I've worn this dress in public several times, I've decided to love it.

I know novelty prints aren't for everyone, but they are a fun talking point and a lot of fun to wear!

I also know that many people think quilting cotton isn't acceptable for garments and, to be honest, I can't imagine why. As with anything, high-quality quilting cotton has a high thread count. This dress barely wrinkles after a trip through the washer.

Greg just found an old "Where's Waldo?" bedsheet that I'll likely turn into another novelty dress soon. But first I need to sew some work clothes. And I'm totally about to buy some cotton with happy sushi on it. Because why not?

How do you feel about novelty prints?