A Travel Sewing Machine

As I was carrying my sewing machine up the steps a few weeks ago, it occurred that the price of repair for my shoulder (if I hurt it, which I haven’t yet) would be a lot more than the price of a lighter sewing machine for travel. Of course, I have a wonderful rolling travel case for the heavy machine, but that case doesn’t do stairs.

I considered for quite a while, since it seems to me that my home already contains enough “things”. I decided that, since I’m planning more sewing travel in the coming year, a lighter machine was worth the investment.  (A little more self-justification: I was the only serious sewist I know who owned only one machine!)

After some research, I settled on a Bernette 33, which is made by Bernina and sold by my Bernina dealer.  It is just what I was looking for:  smaller, lighter, with no computer parts to worry about.

Bernette 33, my new travel companion!

So far it performs just fine.  I’ve mainly used it for piecing, since that is most of what I do when I go to sewing gatherings or teach.  It certainly doesn’t feel as sturdy or sew as smoothly as my Bernina, but I think it is “just right” for travel.  And the price was right, too.

Of course I made it a cover to match the bag that carries its accessories:

This fun fabric came in prints of two sizes, so I had one of each to use

How many sewing machines do you own?


An Experiment in Quilting on the DSM

I’ve quilted a number of quilts, large and small, on my home machine (Domestic Sewing Machine, DSM) with the variable results that might be expected 😉 I now do mostly small pieces and send the large ones to long arm quilters.
Then last fall I saw this quilt by my friend Diane Ramsay.

Detail of Dutch Holiday by Diana Ramsay

In addition to thinking it is a wonderful quilt, I particularly liked the grid pattern of the quilting. So when I needed to quilt fabric for a project recently, I gave it a try.

First I spray basted the fabric really well.  It’s small, only about 13 x 18 inches, so it was pretty easy to spray baste.  I then marked a line with 1″ painter’s tape and quilted along both edges of the tape. tape guide for machine quilting

The rest of my lines were spaced by simply moving the tape every time.  Again, the piece is small, so I only needed one length of tape for all the lengthwise lines.  The layers were basted tightly enough that there was minimal shifting, but I did alternate directions as I quilted the lines.

After doing all the lengthwise lines, I put several evenly-spaced lengths of tape crosswise and quilted on both sides of them, moved the tape and quilted some more, etc.  I was greatly relieved to see that there was no puckering where the lines of quilting crossed.

The quilting doesn’t show up much on that busy fabric, so here’s a picture of the finished back:

This was very successful, primarily because it was tightly basted, I think.  Has anybody else tried this?  Any advice?


FMQ on a DSM*

*Free Motion Quilting on a Domestic Sewing Machine, that is!

free motion quilting

I started out quilting placemats, because they are a manageable size and not much was lost if I goofed!

I’ve been working on this for years. Here are some things that have helped me, and some that haven’t:

Very Helpful: Taking an in-person class on quilting with a domestic machine. The first class introduced me to the walking foot for relatively straight lines, and to the darning foot for free motion quilting all sorts of shapes. It was helpful to have in-person instruction and feedback.

My most helpful hint: Take some cheater cloth to practice on! That placemat above is one of my original practice pieces.

Very Helpful: After practicing the basics for several years, I took Michele Scott’s advanced machine quilting class at an AQS show.(She teaches elsewhere, too). This covered different types of thread, couching, and bobbin work. She also has a good book and DVD from which one could learn this, but she’s lots of fun in person. And again, the personal feedback was helpful while I was learning. Free motion quilting
Helpful: I got a couple of books on machine quilting and worked through the exercises on my own. After learning the basic skills, it’s mostly practice, practice, practice.

Helpful: Just do it! I found a few free-motion patterns I was comfortable with and quilted whole quilts with them. It went just fine! They turned out waaay better than I expected, so I was encouraged.

Free Motion Quilting domestic sewing machine

Stars and Loops is one of my favorite free motion designs

Helpful: Jacquie Gering’s machine quilting class on Craftsy. It boosted my confidence that what I was doing was just fine.

walking foot quilting

Multi-stitch zigzag stitch is a great way to make interesting quilting lines with the walking foot

Less Helpful: A friend and I spent a lot of money to take a machine quilting class at a well-known craft school. We did not get our money’s worth, but we had a good time because we got to be together.  We should have checked more carefully on the level of the class before we plunked down our money.free motion quilting

Less Helpful: Another class on Craftsy that went through many different free-motion patterns. I got bored with that many slight variations. However, the class itself was just fine and probably would work well for some people.free motion quilting

And finally, I am undecided about the real value of my BSR, the very expensive Bernina Stitch Regulator. I do feel more confident using it because it decreases the problem of toe-catchers, those extra-BIG stitches that are all-too-easy to make when doing FMQ. However, it IS still possible to make uneven stitches if you don’t use the BSR just right.

The BSR’s main value to me is more confidence doing FMQ on things that are really important, when I don’t want to make a mistake.  I continue to use it in preference to going back to quilting without it, so obviously I find it useful.  The leaf designs in this post were quilted with it, and I like the stitching.  The BSR is just not a miracle worker, which I sort of think it should be for the price.

What do you think helps with FMQ on the DSM?