Sunday, April 23, 2017

Let's Talk About Thread

Amann Mettler Silk Finish 60wt (My GoTo Thread on 3000yard Cone)
Thread is an interesting discussion.  So many choices, so many types, so many fibers, so many companies.

As you read in my HV Topaz 30 review, I had huge issues with tension, and thread jumping out of the tension disks. That is the reason I decided to discuss thread.

Moreover living in Europe, the choices are different.  The big brands translate over, but the smaller brands do not even think it.
Gutermann Sew All (General Purpose Polyester)

The Big Thread Companies I am familiar with are:  Gutermann, Amann Mettler, Madeira, Aurifil, Superior Thread, YLI, Coats, ScanFil, and Fils Au Chinois.  I am sure there are many many more.

Thread Weight


In my past sewing life, when I had a project I would pick up a matching spool of what ever was on sale at the local Shop, and happily completed my project.  When I purchased my HV, an embroidery machine, things started to change. This machine forced me to look at thread weight.
Aurifil 40wt Cotton (Quilters Favorite)

Aurifil 40wt Cotton (Quilters Favorite)


I have read online or listened to my fellow quilters say some like, "you will want to use a 50 weight thread when you ..."

The Higher the thread weight number the thinner the thread, confusing I know!!!

You must know weight numbers are not always clearly marked.  And many times the weight indication is a fraction, 30/2, 40/2, 50/2, 50/3, 60/2 etc.  The second number is the number of plys that make of the tread strand.  2 mean there are two pieces of thread twisted together.  More strands/plys stronger thread.

Truly understanding thread weight is not universal and only people that manufacture thread really understand the terms like Cotton Count, Denier and Tex.

There is a wonderful blog post on understanding thread weight.
Madame Sajou Thread Numbering System

Superior Threads Understanding Thread Weight

Which Thread To Use

Fils Au Chinois 40wt Cotton
Fils Au Chinois 40wt Cotton
The big question is which thread should I use for my project?  Many say just use a 50wt, Aurifil, Amann Metter, all the major brands have 50wt.  50wt is a great, but not alway the best for a project.

28/30/40wt 

My first thought is Embroidery and Big Stitch quilting.   Machine Embroidery Thread is shiny, and most of the modern embroidery thread is Polyester, Nylon, non natural fiber.  And I prefer natural fibers, Silk, Cotton, Viscose/Rayon, Linen.

Aurifil makes a beautiful 28 weight Cotton, I find it excellent for Big Stitch quilting and Sashiko work.

Sajou in Paris, carries the full line of Fils Au Chinois, they make the most beautiful 30wt Silk thread that can be used for Embroidery, Big Stitch Quilting, Sashiko, project you want the most beautiful shine that only silk can provide

60wt

60wt is my go to thread, I use it for almost everything.  I find it is the perfect thread for my machines and my projects.

Amann Mettler and Scanfil have the best affordable 100% cotton 60wt thread.  I use this thread for piecing, embroidery, quilting, etc.

In piecing 60wt is almost invisible and really reduces bulk so you can piece with tight tiny stitches.  I personally piece using 1.5 mm stitch length.  For quilting it is great, if you use a matching thread to you background you can quilt with a single then triple stitch, and the single stitch almost becomes invisible for that hand look quilting work.  And embroidery, 60wt cotton develops into a fine embroidery, great for Freestanding Lace and other delicate projects.

100wt or finer

This very fine thread has many uses.

Top of the list is Heirloom Sewing, Fine Piecing, Lace Making and hand work.

Fils Au Chinois has a 100wt glove thread, excellent for hand piecing, Applique and small machine projects where invisible stitches are required.  (Note:  This thread is waxed, so you must be careful with using in your machine as the wax can build up in your tension area).
Fils Au Chinois 170wt Lace Cotton

Fils Au Chinois also makes 100% cotton thread for lace making.  You can get their lace thread alway to 170wt.  So fine, find it hard to work with, but beautiful thread

YLI also makes a wonderful 100% cotton thread, excellent for Heirloom sewing and Piecing.

Understanding Fibers

Amann Mettler 30wt Poly Sheen (Polyester Embroidery Thread)

Polyester Thread is the most common, it is inexpensive, and readily available.  There is nothing wrong with using a synthetic fiber based thread.  Polyester is generally used in General Purpose Sewing Thread, and Embroidery Threads for it shine and large number of available colors.  It is just not my choice.  Also you have to be careful as some companies market a polyester embroidery thread a rayon.  Real Rayon or Viscose is usually made from Tree Pulp.
Gutermann Sulky Embroidery Thread (Polyester listed as Rayon)


Nylon is another synthetic fiber thread.  Many people use this as it can be transparent, invisible thread.  Many Long Arm Quilters use these thread types.

Cotton is a natural fiber that is sustainable and renewable.   But Cotton is a little more expensive than the synthetic threads.  And cotton is not as strong as the synthetic fiber threads.  But it washes and wears naturally with your finished project.
Fils Au Chinois Rayon/Viscose

Fils Au Chinois Rayon/Viscose
Fils Au Chinois Rayon/Viscose

Rayon/Viscose is another natural fiber usually made from Tree Pulp, or Hemp.  It is mostly used in Embroidery thread, again for its large number of available colors.  This thread can be expensive.  But it does have silk finish or shine and feel.  But be careful many companies sale synthetic fiber threads as Rayon.
Fils Au Chinois 30wt Silk
Fils Au Chinois 30wt Silk

Silk is the most beautiful threads with the most beautiful colors.  Most everyone would agree.  But 100% silk thread is expensive.  But there is nothing like it.  The best silk embroidery thread I have found is from Fils Au Chinois make a 30wt silk thread.  It stitches out beautifully.  There are many companies that offer 100wt silk thread used for Piecing and other find projects, Superior Kimono Thread comes to mind
Fils Au Chinois Metallic

Fils Au Chinois Metallic

Fils Au Chinois Metallic

Amann Mettler Metallic


Metallic thread is a special thing.  It is gives your project a rich and luxurious look,  Metallic thread is usually a foil wrapped polyester cord.  The thread gets twisted and breaks easily.  It is very hard to work with, you need special needles and to really slow your sewing machine down to use these threads. But for embellishment there is nothing like using a gold or silver Metallic.  Amazingly beautiful  

Closing


There is no right or wrong thread for any project.  It is about the look and feel you are wishing to achieve in your project.  I prefer natural fiber thread.  But that does not make synthetics bad.  It is your choice.  But as long as you understand that pros and cons of each.

Wishing you all the best in your sewing project




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Husqvarna Viking Topaz 30


Husqvarna Viking Topaz 30

When I first had the idea to start quilting again, and having lost the ability to hand sew.  I started looking for a sewing machine that could help me on this adventure of adapting to a new way of doing things.

There are no blogs out there discussing how a person with difficulties can sew. So I started this blog.

Well my first machine was the Husqvarna Topaz 30.  It had all the features I thought I could possibly ever want or need.  And it came previously loved at a really good price.  So it was an investment, however if I discovered this would not work, I would not be devastated at the investment for an experiment.

Well I discovered I could use a sewing machine.  I still have many difficulties and future posts will discuss how I have overcome these issues.  But now let's discuss the Topaz 30.

This machine came with a great deal of baggage, there are many horrifying reviews on this machine.  But since this was a path of learning and discovery, and the price was right, I decided to go with my Dealers recommendation.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pfaff Performace 5.0

An early Christmas Present to myself (2016).  I purchased the Pfaff Performance 5.0 (P5).  I have admired this machine for months.  But found it a little costly for someone that did not know if they could actually use a sewing machine.  
The Pfaff Performance 5 (P5)

This machine was perfect for me, my dealer (Naaimachine Huis Haarlem) gave me a excellent deal (50% off), as this was the last model in stock, the new Performance 5.2 had been released. 

I looked at Bernina, Janome, Husqvarna Viking, Brother, Juki and others.  I liked the quality and weight of the Bernina. However, the Pfaff and Husqvarna just seemed to work for me. The others were nice but the feeling was just not right.  I purchased a previously loved Husqvarna Viking Topaz 30 as my experimental machine.  I found I could sew with all my limitations.  

So after several months I realized I wanted a second machine.  A sew only machine.  So my search began.  I was seriously looking at the Husqvarna Sapphire 960q.  But when I was offered the deal, I choose the Pfaff P5.  I have not regretted that decision.

The last few months, I have used my machine almost daily.  Being a Quilter, I have pieced, Appliqued, and quilted.  This machine is wonderful.  I am going discuss the technical and my personal feelings on why I love this machine.  



Technical

Features
  • More than 300 utility and decorative stitch options
  • 4 alphanumeric fonts
  • Maxi and Monogram stitches up to 48mm wide
  • Tapering
  • LED lighting
  • 3 free motion modes
  • Pfaff exclusive IDT [Integrated Dual Feed system]
  • Needle up and down
  • Start/stop button
  • Mirror imaging
  • Sensormatic buttonhole
  • Bobbin thread sensor
  • Variable speed control slider
  • Immediate tie off
  • Straight stitch needle plate sensor
  • On board stitch selection guide



Accessories
  • 10 snap on presser feet
  • Quilting bar
  • Lint brush
  • Seam ripper
  • Sensormatic buttonhole foot
  • Spool pins
  • Spool pads
  • Detachable accessories case
  • Extra needles
  • Bobbins
  • Screwdriver
  • Hard cover
  • Extension Table (I purchased separately)

The P5 is very user friendly.  Adjusting stitch length, width and even density is easy with the included stylus and the well light touchscreen.  The stitch quality is excellent, the tension is always spot on, and the electronic pressure foot works flawlessly.  It also includes a knee lift (Bernina Style), which I do not use, due to physical limitations.  


The very bright colored touch screen, with Stitch Controls

I choose the P5 because all the controls and screen are on the main machine arm.  This have been a very intuitive placement. I can glance up from the stitching area and see all the information my machine has to offer on its colored touch screen.  I like the Needle Up/Down, Pressure Foot Up/Down, Thread Snips, Speed Control, and the Fix function buttons on the main sewing arm.  This allows for plenty of space for each button.  After a few hours of using the P5 you instinctively know where every button is placed.  You do not have to look or guess, just reach up and push.  
The excellent spaced Control Buttons (Needle/Pressure Foot UP/Down,
Fix, Thread Snips, Speed Control, and Start/Stop Buttons)

Next I find the automatic presser foot up/down to be perfect for me.  When the needle is in the down position, the foot rises a little to turn or adjust your project.  If you press the thread snips the pressure rises up to remove your project.  This feature is great for me, as it allows total focus on my stitch line and the project.  
The Automatic Pressure Foot


Sewing

Straight Stitch is effortless. 

I have used the Patchwork Memory Feature to program the stitches to perfectly piece 2.5 inch blocks.  Starting a 1/4 from the edge, the program stitches 3 fix stitches, sews a perfect 2 inch seam with a 1.5 mm stitch length, and the ends with 3 fix stitches and snips the thread. This gives your piecing an excellent hand stitched look.  It has never missed a beat.
Also have used the Foundation Paper Piecing Method, in the Quilt Shows 2017 Sue Garmon Block of the Month.  Using a 1mm stitch length, the paper almost falls off after piecing. Funny I was distracted while paper piecing and the P5 sewed right across the head of my Clover Flat Head Pin, used to align the seams.  The P5 did not miss a step.  I sewed through the tough hard plastic head at 1mm without breaking or bending the needle.  I found that unbelievably amazing.  
The Pfaff Performance 5 sewed through the head of a pin

I have used the free motion setting to practice and play.  No serious work.  But it just worked for me.  Did exactly what I wanted when I wanted.

Decorative Stitches unbelievable.

I have used the Blind Hem, Blanket Stitch on applique. Amazing! Using the open toe applique foot and the stitch in the ditch foot, I have not missed a step.  The P5 is easy to use.  The sewing area is highly visible and well light.  I do however use alternative lighting connected to my magnifying glass.  This helps me see the details. 
My Personal Sewing Area Setup

The Satin Stitch is beautiful.  For various projects, mainly Applique, I have used a 1mm to 9mm wide satin stitch.  Every stitch as beautiful as the next.  

I have also used the decorative stitches including the Maxi Stitches in my quilting.  Using my Circular Attachment I have created perfect 20 to 40  mm wide Maxi Stitches in a circle and bordered by a Candlewicking Stitch.  This makes WholeCloth Quilting Fast Simple and Easy.  


Conclusion


I find the P5 to be the perfect machine for individuals with limitations.  The wide stitching area makes it easy to access your project at any time.  The LED lighting is excellent.  The control buttons and screen location is perfect for arthritic hands and limited vision.  The colored touch screen is easy to read and adjust with my fingers or the included stylus.   The automatic pressure foot is excellent as well for limited mobility and arthritic conditions.  
The wide and easy to access sewing area. Perfect for Quilting

The only feature I have found unuseful on my machine the Pressure Foot Knee Lift.  My Arthritis makes it painful to use.  So I use the automatic feature.  But the option is there for the person that can not live without it.  

I can envision myself creating beautiful quilts on this machine for years to come.  Thank you VSM and Pfaff for making such a machine for me.  


Video Review


The best Video Review of the P5 is from Village Sewing, excellent overview of all the functions on this machine



Saturday, February 11, 2017

Let's Begin

Years ago as a young boy, I spent many hours with my grandmother.  She was an avid seamstress.  She made Cabbage Patch Dolls.  She also used a Pfaff 230.  As she grew older she was not strong enough to lift the machine to change the bobbin or raise from the cabinet.

My job was to help her by lifting the machine.  While waiting, she helped me develop my quilting skills.  I was a hand piecer even though I did not know the name, I did enjoy the tasks.  As my skills developed, I was taken to my grandmothers Sewing Circle.  And with many older seamstress in the group my skills increased.

Life got in the way, I stopped quilting and sewing in general,  Work School Life all interfered.

However, several years ago, I had a minor stroke.  As time passed I learned little consequences of the damage.  Loss of concentration and trimmers were the biggies.  The Trimmers cause great difficulty in hand work, my hands shake.

So I tried machine quilting.  Amazing something I could do!!!

Over the last year I have been trying different techniques. A few have not gone well  Many have opened doors of possibility.

This blog is about my journey.  I hope to review various equipment, techniques, the why and why nots of each,  I will start by reviewing the machine and equipment choices.  As well a discussion on what techniques and styles work well or not so well.

My goal, hopefully helping others with limitations, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Stroke, and other issues that hamper movement and coordination

So let's begin !!!!!!!