i love my new toy

When I was a nerdy, crafty kid growing up I took sewing lessons through the 4-H extension agency for about four years. My teacher was a woman who was and still is regarded as a regional sewing expert in central Kentucky. She had a home-based business sewing things like custom-made bridesmaid gowns, and from her I learned how to do some fairly complex things like installing zippers, attaching collars, setting sleeves, sewing knits and attaching decorative trim (the gold soutache cord adorning the wide collar on a nautical-themed jumpsuit with puffed sleeves, a v-shaped pointed waist and gathered ankle cuffs is forever etched in my memory. Ohhh the early 90s, there was nothing quite like that time in fashion, no?)

Since those years in 4-H I have forgotten a lot of the specifics of what I learned from her but some of it is probably still rattling around in my subconscious. I know a lot of basics and lately I've been wanting to hone my skills and make some more stuff for me and my kids, and maybe even my husband though he's not at all adventurous when it comes to clothes so he'll likely be happiest if I stick to flannel PJ pants for him. My kids prefer to wear pretty plain stuff like t-shirts and athletic pants most of the time, but I can probably find things to make for them (I've been eyeing this urban hoodie pattern for a few weeks now)

I've been trying. And I have been learning slowly and painfully is that success with sewing projects is not entirely dependent on one's skill. The quality of your equipment really can affect the outcome of your projects. 12 or 13 years ago, when I was more or less fresh out of college, my mom gave me a sewing machine for my birthday. It's a Bernette (kind of a baby Bernina) and it served me well for a long, long time. It's easy to use, it never broke, and I made curtains and baby quilts and a few skirts and many flannel PJ pants and hemmed a lot of pants (I'm kind of short, you see…) Until the last year or two, whenever a project failed, I assumed that the failure lay with me entirely, that I somehow lacked the skill and sewing technique to be successful. Like maybe if I just tried a little harder my machine would magically quit making crooked hems on slippery fabric and chewing up and vomiting out whatever I was trying to make a buttonhole one.

I was wrong. It was the machine. And about a year ago, when I was cranking out a whole bunch of tote bags to sell for my daughter's preschool fundraiser and the topstitching got all wonky, I went to a sewing machine repair/dealer place and got the idea that maybe I could use an upgrade. It's been on my mind ever since, and last Thursday afternoon, after much thought and agonizing and deliberation and saving, I went to the Electric Needle and less than an hour later, came home with this:

It's not this pink in real life I promise.

It's my brand new sewing machine (Pfaff Ambition 1.0) and I love it to bits. The first thing I did with it when I tested it at the shop (and then again at home) was to make about a dozen perfect, flawless, gorgeous buttonholes on scrap fabric because buttonholes were the thing about that older Bernette that made me so unhappy. And the buttonholes on this machine make me so happy!

Many other things about this machine make me so happy! Like the needle-up/needle-down function, the built-in walking foot (BIG plus!), the suggested tension with every stitch on that little computer screen, the fun embroidery and quilt stitches I'll probably never use, the fact that it sews straight and true. It's truly a pleasure to use.

The next thing I made were some superhero capes out of shiny satin. They are for my kids' school's fundraiser next month. One of the gift baskets for the silent auction has a dress-up theme and I thought some handmade superhero capes would be just the thing. 

Sewing costumes out of satin isn't exactly my dream first project, but it would have been so frustrating on my old machine, what with the slippery fabric and curvy hem. I made three capes: one red, one blue, one gold. 

The red and blue capes have appliqu├ęd gold stars on them. The walking foot and needle-down function really came in handy for that.

Here's a peek at the top-stitching. I cut a curved cape shape and gathered the top before stitching into a band that fastens with Velcro in the front. This required some top-stitching similar to what you might see on the waistband of a skirt. Mine doesn't look great (it's slippery satin, after all, and I was kind of winging it) but it's not bad, either.

I've got all kinds of projects in the works now. But don't worry; I haven't stopped knitting!! Oh my, no. In fact, my mom and I are doing a mini-KAL together starting soon, so look for that. And I have a sweater fail to share once I work up the nerve.


Jessi said…
Congrats! I always thought maybe my problem was the machine and not me, but since I've broken Brynna's now, too. I think maybe it's just me. Not that my complete lack of skill is going to stop me. You know...
Marjorie Baker said…
Did you know you sewed on a Pfaff at your 4-H sewing lessons? I'm honored that you remember me, and hope that all you learned will come back as you enjoy sewing on your own Pfaff. Congratulations, Susan
Suze said…
From Naycha, whose comment I accidentally deleted!

How awesome is it that you learned from such a master and that the master remembers teaching you?! What an honor for both of you! The capes look amazing. Great job and glad you're so happy with your new machine.

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