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Category: sewing

sewing magic with the DESIGNER JADE™ 35

A few weeks ago, I announced a partnership with my favorite sewing machine brand, HUSQVARNA VIKING®. I’m happy to report that I’m having the best time! The best part about this collaboration is that I get to use some of their coolest sewing and embroidery machines and report back to you about all the incredible things they can do. Today, I’m delighted to tell you about the machine I’ve been using for the past six weeks, the DESIGNER JADE™ 35.

I’m so glad we kicked off this series with this particular machine. While it’s packed full of features even the most experienced seamstress can appreciate, this machine is especially great for beginners or folks getting back into sewing after some time away from the craft. The DESIGNER JADE™ 35 does it all from basic stitching and blind hems to buttonholes and complex embroidery. Plus, it’s easily the cutest machine you’ve ever seen, and I cannot get over how smart the storage solutions are. Whoever thought to design a storage box in the middle of the sewing machine deserves a prize. Genius!

There’s even more storage in the accessories tray, which easily slides off when you’re ready to attach the embroidery unit.

My favorite features of DESIGNER JADE™ 35 have everything to do with the ease with which it’s used. Right out of the box, I put this machine to the test, sewing a rayon challis blouse, a brocade top (did a blind hem on that one!), a rayon ponte knit dress (another blind hem!), and a pretty cotton dress. Going from project to project in all those fabrics was as simple as changing my needle and pressing a button. There were no tension issues or skipped stitched or broken threads. Not once! The DESIGNER JADE™ 35 has the HUSQVARNA VIKING® Exclusive SEWING ADVISOR™ feature, which automatically sets the best stitch, stitch length, stitch width and thread tension for your projects. No more worrying about manual adjustments!

The User’s Guide tells you what fabric type corresponds with what button on the machine. There’s even a setting for sewing leather!

Here, I’m sewing a piece of cotton sateen, a medium weight woven fabric, or “B” on the machine. I’m sewing a straight stitch, which is “1” in the column next to the fabric buttons. Your fabric choice and selected stitch then pop up on the display, so you know what setting you’re using. The machine also tells you what needle to use, so there’s no confusion.

And here’s the DESIGNER JADE™ 35 in action, sewing a straight stitch on cotton:

The ultimate test for any sewing machine is denim or leather. With the use of the self-adhesive guide plates on my presser foot, I sewed through leather like it was butter. (I’m still impressed by this!)

Don’t have a serger? No worries! This machine has a built-in seam/overcast stitch, which finishes the raw edges of your seams beautifully. The presser foot for this stitch is included in the accessories pack that comes with the machine.

One stitch I use quite often is the blind hem. I love the clean, professional look it gives to my garments, and it’s so easy to do. The presser foot used for this stitch is also included in the accessories pack. (You pretty much have everything you need in that pack!)

When you’re ready to dive into embroidery, all you have to do is remove the accessories tray and attach the embroidery unit. There are 70 designs and 1 embroidery font stored on the USB stick that is included the accessories pack, so you can get started right away without worrying about fancy software. The sampler book is a PDF file on the USB stick, which you can upload on your computer. You can also adjust, personalize and combine your embroidery designs; create monograms on your computer. Rotate, mirror, scale and resize any design with the option to keep stitch density constant, and much more!

I was quite intimidated by the very idea of embroidery before I sat down to experiment with it, but it’s so easy to set up and get going. And, just like changing your settings for sewing different fabrics, all you have to do is change your needle and thread. The machine does the rest of the work for you.

Not only is the large DESIGNER™ Jewel Hoop 240 x 150 mm (9 ½” x 6″) included with your DESIGNER JADE™ 35, but this machine embroiders at some of the fastest speeds on the market. It was really something to press the start button and watch it go!

The more I used this machine, the longer my list of favorite features became. There’s nothing complicated or fussy about it, but it still does some amazing things. In addition to embroidery, there are also 120 stitches on the machine: utility stitches, sewing fonts, buttonhole styles, quilt stitches, and decorative stitches. And you have the option for free motion quilting, manual or one-step buttonholes, jeans or stretch hems, sewing buttons, sewing zippers, and darning and mending.

It’s magic, I tell you!

final grade: the cocktail dress

Don’t ever let anyone tell you sewing is a mindless craft. Those of us who endeavor to create and make know better. The mental acrobatics required to properly execute the tedious and challenging projects is one of the things that keeps me engaged and inspired to continue sewing. Because to settle for the easy projects all the time does nothing for growth and learning, and why bother if you’re not doing much of value or quality. This dress is one of those garments that required a little extra determination and planning and, just like every other project like it that has tested my patience, it was more than worth the time and effort. (Expect a few of those “easy” projects in the future, just to balance things out!)

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Ty and I were headed to Florida this month, and I was excited to make most of my clothes for our little weekend getaway. On Wednesday, I’ll tell you how successful I was in bringing my ideas to life, but today I’m thrilled to show you the cocktail dress I made for the awards reception. It came together beautifully, I felt like a million bucks in it, and I was comfortable all night (the ultimate trifecta!). I lost track of all the sweet compliments I received on this dress, which was just icing on the cake for me. (I think a lot of the compliments had to do with the fabric. It’s just so stunning!)

For more details about how I decided on the design and the sewing techniques I used on this dress, see the progress report from a few weeks ago.

The bodice is my own design I drafted using my slopers, to which I attached the skirt from Butterick 6129 (see the other skirt from that pattern here). The skirt on my cocktail dress is about 2.5″ shorter than the white damask skirt from January, and I like it a little better. I used the wrong side of the fabric on the hem band again, because it adds a lot of visual interest to the skirt and it’s a fun way to showcase both sides of the brocade.

There is 6″ wide horsehair braid in the hem facing, and I closed the hem band with a catchstitch. I did this for a couple of reasons: there is flexibility in a catchstitch that allows for movement while still being strong, plus I think it’s pretty. The skirt/hem band seam allowance is serged and pressed up towards the skirt to keep the hem facing from getting too bulky. Normally I would press all the seam allowances down into the hem facing and close it all up, concealing all of the seams.

I used Bemberg rayon to line the bodice and pink cotton to line the skirt. I wanted a more substantial lining for the skirt, which is why I went with cotton there. (Cutting and sewing rayon lining for the bodice was about all I could handle with that material for a while. It’s not a fabric I enjoy working with at all, I must tell you.) I sewed coral grosgrain ribbon around the waist of the lining, because it bugs me when the bodice and skirt linings are different colors. The ribbon makes it all look intentional.

And here we are at the awards reception. (The wind was so terrible that night, which made it impossible to get a good picture of the dress!)

I’m so proud of Ty and all of his hard work. He is the ultimate professional, and I’m so delighted his achievements were recognized. We had a wonderful time!

how to: get a perfect fitting bust

I designed a dress a few years ago for a fall collection, and it was the most simple dress you can imagine. It wasn’t trendy or fussy, and other than two well placed pockets, there were no bells and whistles, because I’m a big believer that the bells and whistles aren’t always necessary. Sometimes, simple is enough.

The Millie dress was always popular, and it was in every collection I designed up until the very end. Like many other things I designed and sold at one point, I never managed to keep a Millie dress for myself. I wish I had, but the beauty of sewing is that nothing is ever really gone forever. And now, I finally have one of my own.

The Millie dress, over the years:

I actually made this dress last summer, but it’s only now making its debut. I was reminded of it recently when I used the remaining two yards of the fabric on a spring blouse, which you saw me wearing in Florida and in this post from last Friday. I got the fabric (cotton sateen) in early 2016 from Fashion Fabrics Club and, not surprisingly, it sold out pretty quickly. Fingers crossed they restock their sateen inventory soon!

Because the design is so simple, it’s important to get the fit just right. The bodice has front princess seams and a back dart, and there’s a very simple trick I use to get a closer, more flattering fit around the bust. (A lot of you commented on the fit of this dress, so here we go!)

You can apply this technique to self drafted patterns as well as commercial patterns, and you can also use this method to shape front bodice waist darts for a closer fit. For this tutorial, I’m using my own sloper to draft a front bodice with princess seams.

Essentially, what we’re doing here is taking out some fabric from under the bust and contouring that area to fit more closely to the body.

I’ve traced the front bodice and drafted a princess seam. Then, I mark on my dart legs 3″ up from the waistline, which is where I want the bodice to fit me better. Now, this is important: you will want to measure yourself because this particular measurement is different on everyone. For instance, if you’re short waisted, you may only need to measure about 2″ up from the waist and vice versa for you taller gals. When I first started doing this to my patterns, I tested it on a muslin to make sure I was taking in the right amount in the right place.

Next to the marks on the dart legs, I measure about 3/16″ into my bodice. Those of you with a bigger cup size may need to take more in here, and the reverse is true of smaller cups. Cup size aside, if there isn’t much difference in the bust measurement and directly below the bust, this adjustment may not be necessary at all.

Using a French curve, connect the waistline, marks under the bust we just drew, and princess seam lines. Your pattern will look something like this:

For reference, this is what a princess seam looks like just following the original dart leg, and one that has been shaped. You can see the difference that 3/16″ makes!

If you have any questions, let me know. I hope this helps you get a closer, more tailored looking fit on your spring projects. Happy Sewing!