this is a page for

Category: sewing

star power: summer projects with the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50

The idea that time flies when you’re having fun could not be more true. In fact, it’s been so much fun and I’ve been so focused on my projects (“in the zone” as I like to say), that I only just realized the other day that’s it’s been two months since I got the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50 to use for the summer. Two months! Before you know it, we’ll be talking about fall and holiday plans. But, right now, it’s my favorite season and I’m enjoying every second of it, even if it is so hot that I can feel my face melting every time I walk out of the house.

A couple weeks ago, I highlighted some of the features and capabilities of the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50, and today I’m going to show you the projects I made using it. I mentioned before that this particular sewing and embroidery machine is only two models up from one of my own machines (I have a DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 25), so it was immediately familiar to me. I was able to dive right in and while I did sew a handful of garments on this machine, the focus this time was really on showcasing the embroidery this machine can do. It is spectacular.

The ladies at my local dealer (hey, Linda and Karen!) were immensely helpful in walking me through some of the basics, and I invested countless hours into various tests of thread/needle/fabric combinations, while also experimenting with the design functions on the PREMIER+™ EXTRA software I have. Just like anything else, it just takes a little time and practice to get the hang of machine embroidery, but I also found that I was unnecessarily anxious about it. It’s so easy!

There are 150 embroidery designs that come with the machine, so you’ll have plenty to choose from the moment you unpack the machine. One of the designs is for a pair of earrings, which has got to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We all probably associate embroidery with some of the same things: tea towels, tote bags, t-shirts, etc., but this machine really opens up a lot of creative possibilities beyond the typical projects. Who would have thought about embroidering earrings?! The HUSQVARNA VIKING® folks, that’s who.

The earrings are made by embroidering on water soluble stabilizer and a piece of polyester organza (a tip I picked up from Linda at my dealer, and it really did make a difference). For the earrings you’ll need your choice of thread (I went with one solid color), stabilizer, earring hooks, hotfix crystals, and a hotfix applicator. I also found applique scissors to be the easiest for cutting the organza from the finished embroidery, but small, sharp scissors will work just as well.

My applique scissors. (Get a pair here.)

I used the small hoop that comes with the machine (the DESIGNER™ Splendid Square Hoop, 120 x 120), selected the design from the machine, and pressed the start button.

After you’ve embroidered the earrings and cut the organza away, soak them in warm water for about ten minutes to allow the stabilizer to dissolve, and then air dry. Once dry, apply the crystals and the earring post, and then you have yourself a brand new pair of adorable earrings. So much fun! Makes a great gift, too.

I had some intricate ideas for embroidered garments (still do, I’ll bring them to life eventually), but for this first project I decided to go with something a little more straightforward. One thing I didn’t want to do, however, was a simple, centered design. Not that there’s a thing wrong with that, but I kept going back to something with a more random, scattered placement that wasn’t a symmetrical design. I had high hopes for an embroidered wrap top, but I ended up going with an apron because it allowed me to go with a smaller design that I could embroider in sections. With the top, I kept running into overlapped embroidery or wonky placement, which was just a result of lack of practice. I didn’t want any of the embroidery to get into the seam allowances, but I also wanted it to follow the lines of the bodice. Because the front bodice piece was a little bigger than the hoop it needed to be embroidered in sections. The tricky part came in figuring out whether to do that in a top and bottom section or one big middle piece and two side areas. I tried both, but even with careful placement and measuring I couldn’t quite get the sections to work together without overlapping or creeping into the seam allowances.

Here you can see that the middle section of the embroidery has been applied, so I’m attempting to embroider the shoulder and side areas without overlapping what’s already there.

So, instead of a bigger design, I changed things up and designed a small cluster of three stars that I could embroider in various places. I will revisit the blouse idea later on, but the idea of a patriotic apron with stars on it was one I couldn’t pass up. So, I picked some denim from my fabric stash along with a red check cotton for the ties, and I got busy embroidering.

I traced the outline of the apron with tailor’s chalk, making sure to mark my seam allowances and pocket placement to avoid embroidering in those spots. I did a quick test run of the star cluster, and used that test piece to determine the placement of each little trio on the apron.

By simply rotating the design each time I embroidered it, I achieved the look I was going for: scattered placement that didn’t look repetitive or too intentional but was thoughtfully arranged. And each little cluster looks different, but it’s the exact same design. All I did was rotate it.

I thought it would be fun to embroider the pocket in a neat row of stars of the same size, so I decided how big I wanted them, designed and measured it to make sure it would fit the size of the pocket and follow its shape, and embroidered it in one go on the big hoop (the DESIGNER™ Royal Hoop, 360 x 200), and attached it to the apron. The apron is denim, and I used a size 80 titanium embroidery needle, black embroidery bobbin thread, and INSPIRA® Whisper Web Mesh Light Cut Away Stabilizer.  Sulky embroidery thread. Worked like a charm.

I’m calling this apron “The All American” because if there was ever an apron deserving of that name, it’s this one. I love it!

These projects were so much fun I kick myself a little for not getting into embroidery sooner. Think of all the things that can be made now! I have big plans for an embroidered cropped jacket to go with this dress I made recently, and I’d like to do some fun embroidery (bees, maybe? or something cute like bananas or some kind of animal?) on a dress, so I’m looking forward to doing those things later this summer.

Happy Fourth of July! For me, this holiday is up there with Christmas. I love celebrating our nation, and I love everything patriotic and American during the summer. It reminds me of the summers my brother and I had when we were growing up. Biking to our neighborhood pool, sunny afternoons in the magical treehouse in our backyard, beach trips with our grandparents, church retreats, and running around with all of our friends. Most importantly, the freedom we had to do it all.

Ty and I are in the midst of our first house hunt. It’s exciting and frustrating and tons of fun and a huge pain and everything everyone always says about buying a home, but it’s also humbling in a way. I’m so thankful to live in a country where we have the freedom and opportunity to work hard and make a life for ourselves. I have always dreamed of living the life I live now, and it’s days like today that remind to take a moment and appreciate being an American and be thankful for the freedom to make choices for myself and live as fully and as heartily as I possibly can. Because, no matter what, I love my country and I’m proud to be an American.

Now, let’s see if I can whip up an apple pie.

buttoned up: vogue 9182

A few weeks ago I set a lofty goal to make quite a few new pieces for summer. With it hovering around 100 degrees here almost daily now, I’m in desperate need of clothes to help me survive the heat. So, long gone are the projects with full linings and zippers and sleeves. In their place are all the things I not only love to make but will also get a lot of use out of this season (hello, linen and floaty dresses and swishy blouses and wide leg pants!). The two dresses in today’s post are certainly on that list.

I have a standing date with my pattern stash every couple of weeks, where I look for inspiration or pull a pattern that has been patiently waiting for its turn to be whipped into something pretty. I can’t remember when I bought Vogue 9182, but I think I’ve had it for quite some time and I stood out to me during a recent dig through the stash. I’d been hesitant to use it because it exposes a little more skin than I’m used to and for a long, long time I was averse to anything sleeveless. Well, I’ve finally kicked the “I can’t wear sleeveless things” silliness, and to get a little more skin coverage I simply raised the back pattern so it covers my back completely.

The red gingham is from Fabric.com, and the creamy white linen is from Textile Fabrics in Nashville. It’s a Ralph Lauren linen suiting, so it’s quite substantial and weighty. I have enough of it left to make an embroidered jacket later this summer. Excited about that.

I initially wanted to make the red gingham version to take to Nashville last month, but time got the best of me before I could finish it. As soon as I got home, I not only finished it but turned around and made a second version because I liked it so much. (And I got the perfect fabric for it in Nashville, so the stars aligned.) Maybe it’s the buttons or maybe the full skirt (maybe both?), but this dress is just dreamy to me. I love it.

I only made a few adjustments to the pattern for the red gingham dress: a swayback adjustment and I raised the back pattern pieces for full back coverage. I also combined the back and side back pieces so that the back bodice piece could be one single piece. Because I was short on time I skipped making a muslin which, as you well know, is not something I normally ever skip. I knew, based on the finished garment measurements, that the dress would fit nicely and any small adjustments could be made later. I was happy with the fit of the red gingham dress, but for the white linen version I raised the side seams for more coverage under the arms and shaped the front princess seams for a more flattering fit.

This is what the back pattern pieces look like after the adjustments were made. And, again, I would usually trace my tissue pattern pieces on paper and make adjustments from there (to avoid messing with the tissue), but time was not on my side.

And here’s how the back looks on me. I have the coverage I need, and it’s nice and smooth because of the swayback adjustment. You can also see the difference raising the side seams under the arms made to the white dress. I raised the side seams by 1 1/2″, and I think the additional coverage is a little more flattering.

And the front pieces:

The skirt for this pattern is a full circle, and I went with the longer length in view B, which is 31 1/2″ from the waist. Both skirts needed to be leveled (more info on that here).

Matching the pattern on the gingham dress was a task that made me go a little cross-eyed, but I’m happy with the end result. I told myself I wouldn’t be using any gingham or stripes or plaid for a while after this, but what did I do but turn around and start working on a madras plaid shirtdress. I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess.

I keep referring to this as “white” linen, but it’s really more of a creamy vanilla or eggshell white. I like that because it will transition to fall nicely, especially once I make the matching jacket to go with it. I love linen so very much, and this fabric was a dream to work with. I’ll have to get video of this dress in motion eventually, because the way it moves it just stunning. And tons of fun to wear.

I included a waist stay on both dresses, which snaps together underneath the button extension. It does its job beautifully, because there’s no pulling around the waist where the dress is buttoned. That can happen sometimes with shirtdresses or any kind of dress that buttons closed even if it’s the right size, but the waist stay eliminates that.

Anytime there’s a facing in a garment that isn’t attached to a lining, I like to not only serge it but turn it under and edgestitch it too. It hides the serged seam nicely, and makes the garment look a little more professional and high end.

Pockets.

If you’re looking for a summer dress but your version of a sundress is more like mine (I need a wee bit more coverage), I recommend this pattern. I really love making buttonholes and sewing buttons. It’s a refreshing change of pace sometimes, even though my machine really does all the work for the buttonholes.

I think both of these dresses will serve me well this summer and beyond. The white linen dress is a little more dressy, so it might become my summertime date night dress. And you know I love gingham, so the red number will be worn a lot. Sometimes I know when it’s time to walk away from a particular print or color for a while, but I think my heart is set on one or two more gingham things. Probably a blouse and a skirt. Then I’m done, I promise. Almost for sure.

Have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll be back next week with more summer projects and a new “how to” post. Lots of fun things coming up!

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!