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Category: resources

sewing magic with the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50

Whenever someone asks me what I like best about my sewing machines, I always say “the possibilities.” I love the stitches and capabilities and cool new features, but a good sewing machine is what helps bring ideas to life. That perspective, looking at things through the lens of further developing an idea or elevating a project from the original idea, is how I approach my projects, and it’s also how I’m approaching my partnership with HUSQVARNA VIKING® this year. I want to not only show you these incredible machines (and I’ve known how amazing they are for a long time now), but I also want to emphasize the features and things they can do that really take your creativity to the next level.

This summer, I get to sew my projects on the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50, a sewing and embroidery machine that is only two models above a machine I own, the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 25. So, it’s been a real treat to play with the 50, because it immediately felt familiar to me, only with a few updated features that make it really sing.

The DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50 does a lot of amazing things, but the first thing that captures your attention is the fact that there’s no lever behind the presser foot. The presser foot is raised and lowered with the start/stop button, but also when you tap the foot pedal. That small detail is a life changer! There’s also a button that cuts your threads when you’re finished sewing, and big, bright LED lights that illuminate the sewing area really well. Look how bright that is!

There’s an Interactive Color Touch Screen which I found to be very easy to navigate, especially during the embroidery projects. The Exclusive SEWING ADVISOR® feature optimizes your sewing by selecting the best settings for you and giving you on-screen advice, and the unique EXCLUSIVE SENSOR SYSTEM™ technology senses your fabric thickness for perfect, even feeding. Sensors in the machine let you know when your thread and bobbin are getting low, and you can even wind and replace a bobbin mid-embroidery. This was something I discovered for myself during a test of the stars in the picture above. A message popped up telling me the bobbin was low and the embroidery came to a half. You simply hit the button that says “bobbin position” which moves the embroidery hoop out of the way so you can retrieve the empty bobbin, rewind it, and put it back in. Then, you press the start button and the machine takes you right back to where it left off. I know I’m relatively new to the embroidery game so you experienced pros might be chuckling at this, but I was completely and totally floored. Simply amazing.

If you’re like me and your sewing projects center around apparel or accessories, there’s nothing this machine can’t do for you. Like the DESIGNER JADE™ 35 I had this spring, the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50 does all the basics, but this machine comes with even more built-in stitches and embroidery designs. It can do everything from automatic buttonholes, blind hems, and overlock stitches to belt loop stitches (how awesome is that?! we all know how thick things can get when you attach belt loops) and elastic/casing stitches and teardrop and standard eyelet stitches. All told, there are more than 250 stitches and 150 embroidery designs and 2 embroidery fonts on the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50.

You get an embroidery sampler with the machine with pictures of all the embroidery designs too, which is great. This is one of my favorites, and it’s a composite of a bunch of smaller designs. And remember, the colors are up to you. You can go with the original colors, go with one solid color, or change the color story completely. Endless possibilities!


You get two hoops with the machine: the DESIGNER™ Splendid Square Hoop (120 x 120) and the DESIGNER™ Royal Hoop (360 x 200). I used the smaller one for the tests I did to decide on design and color, and I used the big one when I started executing the project I’m working on, which you’ll see in a couple weeks. (I’m using the PREMIER+™ EXTRA embroidery software to bring this idea to life. But more on that later.)

The big hoop in action:

The little guy:

One of the embroidery designs that comes with the machine is for a pair of earrings. And yes, I know how awesome-out-of-this-world that is. Earrings! I’ll show you how to make these (it’s super easy!) in a couple weeks in the projects posts for this machine, but here’s a sneak peek. How fun!

Here’s what I want you to know about the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50: it is incredible. This machine would be great for established seamstresses or sewing professionals, and is especially nice for those of you interested in some serious machine embroidery. You’re already set up for success with the 150 designs that come with the machine, but the options are really endless when you consider the Design Positioning feature that lets you join large embroideries with perfect placement every time, and the Embroidery Design Editing and Save features that enhance your embroidery creativity and allow for a more personal and precise result.

Overall, I’m just really, really impressed with the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50 . I’ve made a lot of things on this machine (which you’ll see in a couple weeks), and not once did I run into something that the machine couldn’t do. I’m also dipping my toes into embroidery more and more, and some of my ideas are more advanced than just a simple design centered on a piece of fabric, and I feel really confident in my being able to execute them because of this machine. The best part is being able to press the start button and then work on other tasks while this smooth operator hums away in the background taking care of business. Multitasking at its finest.

I love that it comes with two hoops, and I love the huge sewing area and the long embroidery arm. Threading it is a breeze, and telling the machine what I want it to do is as simple as pressing a button. Gone are the days of manual adjustments and stressing about tension. Things like that matter when you’re spending so much time in front of a sewing machine.

As always, special thanks to the kind folks at HUSQVARNA VIKING® for allowing me to officially champion the brand this year. It’s so much fun! In a couple weeks, I’ll be showing you all the things I’ve made on the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50 and you’ll see my big embroidery project and the earrings in all their glory. Until then, have a look at this machine, and the next time you’re in a big JoAnn store with a dealer, stop by and play with the machines, including this one. You won’t be disappointed!

sewing room essentials

Happy First Day of Spring! I don’t know about you, but I love it when things become official, and the first official day of spring is one of my favorite days. We’re having gorgeous weather here today too, which is fantastic. You know I love sunny skies!

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw some photos from our trip to Florida over the weekend. What a trip it was! We truly had a wonderful time. It’s been a long time (two years, I think? maybe three?) since Ty and I really got to get away for a few days, and I know we both desperately needed a break. I’ll post a few snapshots from the trip next week, but today I’m happy to be home and excited to get back to work.

I spent some time in the studio last night cleaning and getting organized for a new batch of projects, and I finally invested some time into pattern organization and storage, an important part of today’s subject: sewing room essentials. I get a lot of questions about various things in my studio and where to find them, so what better way to kick off a new season of creating and sewing than by sharing a few tips about what you need in a sewing studio and where to find them.

My pattern collection was quite small when I closed my business a couple years ago (everything fit into one shoe box), but it has since grown quite a bit. I blame pattern sales! (Don’t we all?!) The pattern situation was getting so out of hand that I was forced into a solution. I had outgrown the boxes I was putting everything into, and it was such a pain to find what I was looking for. I decided the best thing to for me to do was to group all of my patterns into categories (dresses, skirts, pants, etc.), and then file them in storage drawers I already had. And, just like that, I have a solution that actually works and makes finding what I’m looking for a snap.

So, sewing essentials #1: pattern organization and storage. All of my patterns fit neatly into two storage drawers, and each one is filed in its own category. Makes it a breeze to find what I’m looking for. I don’t really need to file them in categories more specific than this, but I might put some neon sticky tabs on the top corner of my favorite patterns, so those stick out when I open the drawer. For now, I’m just glad everything is organized!

Sewing essential #2: a dress form. If you’re going to invest your time and energy into sewing apparel for yourself or others, I really think a dress form is a must-have tool. I use mine daily for draping, to analyze print placement, to look at a muslin and make adjustments, and for photos, among other things. My form is industry grade with legs and collapsible shoulders and is from PGM, which is also a great resource for a lot of sewing and patternmaking supplies. Brand new forms like this are a little pricey, but used ones can be found online and at estate sales every now and then. I’d love to have another one at some point, so I’m always on the hunt for a bargain dress form.

I know a lot of folks like the adjustable dress forms sold at JoAnn, so that’s another option as well.

Sewing room essential #3: thread storage. When I was first getting settled in this space, my dad built a table for me, as well as this thread storage solution and a wall mount for big bolts of fabric. The wall mount for fabric is gone now that I don’t need it, but the table and thread storage remains. Similar storage can be found at places like JoAnn, or you can make it yourself with some scrap wood and dowel rods. That’s what my daddy did, and every time I pick a thread off one of the rods, I’m reminded of how handy and awesome he is!

I did buy the serger thread rack when my thread collection overran the wall rack.

Sewing essential #4: garment labels. Without fail, I always get asked about labels, and any seamstress worth her salt should include them in every garment. If you’re interested in having custom labels printed and care labels, there’s lots of info in my post from last fall. McCall Company labels can be found on their website.

Sewing room essential #5: a good quality iron. You want a dependable iron that will last a long time. My Rowenta has been chugging along for years, and I don’t know what I would do without it. I love it. I use it dry, and keep a spray bottle at the ironing station, which is my preferred method of pressing. Works like a charm. I also have a Rowenta steamer, which is another good tool to have.

Sewing room essential #6: pattern hangers and racks. I often trace commercial patterns onto sturdier pattern paper, especially when I make adjustments to it or use it multiple times. These patterns don’t fold well, so they get hung up. You can find inexpensive racks like this at TJ Maxx or Ross, and the hangers can be found at PGM. For more information on supplies specific to patternmaking, see this post from last summer.

Sewing room essential #7: interfacing. I know this is more specific to sewing itself, but I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about what interfacing I use. Interfacing is important and you never want to settle for a cheap stabilizer. I use Pellon White Shape-Flex® Fusible on almost all of my projects. It’s the best. It never bubbles or falls apart, and it gives waistbands, collars, facings and the like just enough body without being too stiff. JoAnn sells it, and I’ll wait for a mega sale or coupon to stock up.

Sewing room essential #8: a bias tape maker. I’m a big believer in utilizing tools that make our lives easier, and this is one of them. I don’t use this daily but I use it regularly enough that it makes a difference. With spring and summer finally upon us, all those unlined tops we’ll be making will need neatly finished necklines, so this little guy will come in handy. All you have to do is cut your strips, and then send them through the iron where the edges get pressed down in a matter of seconds, saving precious time at the iron doing it yourself. I got mine at JoAnn a long time ago, and I have two or three different attachments for it based on the size and type of bias tape I need.

(I can’t seem to find this particular model on the JoAnn website, but I believe they’re sold at Hobby Lobby as well.)

Sewing room essential #9: a rolling rack. Before I bought a sturdy, reliable rolling rack, it was comedy of errors trying to put anything anywhere. Half finished projects, finished garments, and fabric were all over the place. It’s crazy how something as simple as a rolling rack can make such a big difference. You can find this rolling rack at Bed Bath & Beyond. It’s particularly great because it folds down for easy transport. We used these all the time for pop up shops and at various events. Plus, they’re on wheels so I can move it easily on picture day when I need that wall space.

Sewing room essentials #10: storage carts. I love these little things. I have two, both from Target, and they are not only great for storage, but they’re like little station carts for the different parts of the process that go on here. I like having one next to my iron with a few tools that I can easily grab, and I have another one set up next to my pattern rack with patternmaking tools on it. I can move them around when I need to. They’re just the best.

Sewing room essentials #11: a big workspace/table. When I first started college, I didn’t have a big table to work on, so I cut out a lot of projects in the dining room on the floor. Then I graduated up to one of those folding sewing tables you can get at JoAnn and used that thing until it was all but falling apart. Then my dad built a table for me, and it’s been the best thing ever. He customized it to my height so my back never hurts, and I have plenty of storage space underneath. It’s wonderful.

Sewing room essentials #12: fabric storage. For me, I like storing my fabric stash in clear drawers. I usually organize it all by type of fabric, but right now it’s a free for all in each drawer. The key for me is being able to see everything. I used storage totes for a while, but those are a bit big for my liking. Things get buried in there, and if they aren’t clear you have no idea what’s in them. I also like to keep my fabric away from direct sunlight. It’s the same theory as not having a window in a closet. Over time, the sun will fade whatever side of your clothes is in its path. Protect your fabric, folks!

Sewing room essentials #13: quality sewing machines. This goes without saying, but you’ll get nowhere fast on a cheap, unreliable machine that doesn’t have all the capabilities you need it to have. Soon, I’ll be telling you all about a fantastic machine from my favorite brand, HUSQVARNA VIKING®, but here’s a peek of my machines. I have two sewing machines, and a serger (also essential).

I hope this answers some questions about where to find sewing tools and other supplies you need for a functioning sewing room. Also, because it’s fresh on my mind, I’d love to know how you store your patterns. I’m all ears!

Happy Sewing!

good reads: fashion library edition

We all know what makes for a workable, functioning sewing room: machines, fabric, and supplies. For me, an equally important part of any creative space is the library. Textbooks, magazines, and design journals are a treasure trove of information, and I can promise you this: you will never be so experienced that you never need a refresher on how to do something. Now, don’t get me wrong, the internet is a great place to learn a lot of things, but there’s something about having a book right in front of me that is much more appealing. I’m okay with being old fashioned in that way.

There’s no need for a big library, just a few basics. Then, you can branch out into the specialty subjects that interest you. For me, these are leather crafting and vintage fashion and design. But first, any good library needs the following three books: a sewing book, a patternmaking book, and a fabric book.