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!

wrapped in white: vogue 9251

This time one year ago, I didn’t have many things in my closet, and I certainly didn’t have many handmade items yet. I spent the summer in a store-bought, white lace skirt with an elastic waistband which I paired with a men’s button up shirt that I tied around the waist. I would throw on a hat and sandals and that was my main summer uniform. It was pretty much all I had at the time, and it was the closest I could get to cool and comfortable. It wasn’t until later in the summer that I made a dress that replaced the skirt and shirt look. That dress also reminded me of the joys of elastic around the waist (so comfortable!), so I predict more of the same this season.

You see, it gets really hot here in the summer, like really hot. I can’t be walking around town in fitted dresses with big skirts and full linings. I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work. So this time around, I will be investing some time into pieces that are more suited for our (sometimes unbearable) Texas heat. That means a lot more linen, a lot more pieces that aren’t so fitted and formal, and a lot more things that aren’t fully lined or are only partially lined.

When the Vogue summer collection was released a few weeks ago, I instant fell in love with three of the designs, one of which is the dress in today’s post. (I also love 9253 and 9257.) This dress is elegant in its simplicity, and it’s so delicate and subtle. I love the sleeves, and I also love the personality in the skirt with the shaped hemline. Lots of bloggers and fellow makers have already made this dress, which only further inspired me to whip up one of my own. I have a few rayon challis prints in my stash that would have been a great fabric option, but I kept going back to the idea of clean, white linen. I’ve gone on and on and on about a few fabrics and prints lately (hello, gingham and stripes!), but I can’t overstate how much I love linen too, especially in the summertime.

Linen is not listed on the pattern envelope as a suggested fabric, but I knew it would work. I used a medium weight, 100% linen so it gave me a little more volume in the sleeves, which I like. I made this dress to take with me to Nashville last week, and I finished it in plenty of time. That’s the beauty of a quick sewing project! To be fair, I crammed a lot of sewing into the week prior to my trip, so I skipped a step I normally would never skip, and that’s making a muslin. I got lucky this time because it fits well and I like the overall look of the dress, but the bodice is 1.5″ too short for me. Not a huge deal, and I’m probably the only one who notices it, but I will lengthen the bodice for the next go round. And there will be a next go round, I can promise you that.

I wore this dress the day we went to the botanical gardens. I’ve been to Nashville countless times, but this was my first visit to Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, and it is well worth the visit if you’re ever in Nashville. It’s gorgeous.

I opted to leave off the ties in the dress and went with a snap closure instead. I wanted the option of wearing a sash belt or leather belt, and the waist ties would have gotten in the way of that. A sash belt is really all I can get away with though, because a regular belt only emphasizes the shortness of the bodice and I look a little stumpy.

Without the ties, the edges were a little messy, so I added a piece of grosgrain ribbon to conceal that. It’s also a nice backdrop for the snap.

The sleeves are so pretty!

Pockets.

I made my own bias tape for the neckline. Made yourself or store bought, I love this finish. It’s so clean looking, and it’s easy to do.

You can see the fold of fabric under one side of the bodice, which is the clearest indication that it’s too short.

I’ve already adjusted the bodice pattern and one of my weekend projects is making this dress again, this time in a rayon twill print (it’s sold out, sorry about that). I’d really like to see those sleeves in a lighter fabric with more drape. I’m also toying with the idea of drafting a fuller skirt without the shaped element, simply because rayon twill is too much fun to twirl around in, and you lose a little of that with the skirt as it is.

If wrap dresses are your thing, or you just like this dress I can’t recommend this pattern enough. Just keep an eye on the bodice and lengthen it if you need to. Stay tuned for the next version, and have a wonderful weekend!

the gingham dress

I really can’t say it enough: I love gingham. For whatever reason, I didn’t use it very much until this year, but after discovering the fabric for this Butterick dress I made in March I can’t seem to get it out of my head. It’s such a happy print, and nothing else reminds me more of summertime and America and classic, timeless style than gingham. Today I’m finishing a red gingham dress, and then I’ll have a fun little trio of gingham dresses. So maybe a matching skirt and blouse set will round out the collection for this year? Yes, I like that idea.

The dress in today’s post came to me one afternoon, after I finally found the perfect navy blue gingham. I found it at fabric.com, and it’s not a poly/cotton blend, which I especially like, and I also like the size of the checks. I like prints that aren’t so small that they essentially look like a solid color and not so large that they’re overwhelming. This 1″ gingham was the perfect size for this project. I can’t quite remember what sparked the idea for this dress, but it’s possible I saw something somewhere that inspired it. All I know is that once I had the idea, I couldn’t get it out of my head. And, I can say this with complete confidence, this dress will make the “hits” list at the end of the year. It is exactly the vision I had in mind, it’s easily one of the most comfortable dresses I’ve ever made. It also felt good to use my slopers and execute my own design. I love the convenience of commercial patterns and I’ll never stop using them, but every once in a while I need to design something on my own. It’s what I know, and I enjoy it.

I wanted something that tied in front, but anything remotely skimpy or revealing was out of the question. I also needed a dress with full back coverage so anything strapless or spaghetti straps wasn’t an option either. Sometimes you’ll find a dress or top with a tie element, but it’s pieces of fabric sewn into a seam that ties over another part of the garment. For example, in my research I saw a button front top with ties that came from the side seams and tied on top of the button placket. I didn’t want that. I wanted the tie element to be functional, not decorative.

To achieve the bodice I had in mind, I drafted a fitted bodice with a midriff and shaped pieces that tie in front. When I have an idea like this, I often start my search in a commercial pattern catalog, in case there’s something similar that I can adjust to save time. I never did find anything that would have worked, so I made the pattern myself. This was the best way to go for this project because it let me control every design detail without having to test too much or worry about the fit.

I outlined my idea on the dress form and used that as a guide for the pattern. This step just gives me a nice visual for style lines, seams, and specific measurements like width of the ties or shoulder seam.

After drafting the first pattern, I made a muslin on which I noticed only two fitting adjustments that needed to be made. I pinched out a little excess fabric under the bust, and made a slight swayback adjustment. Here you can see the midriff and bodice pinned where the fullness needs to be taken out. (And, gah, my apologies for such an icky picture!)

The muslin on the form:

My pattern pieces looked like this: 

Lining the entire top bodice piece would have made the ties a bit bulky and difficult to tie, so I had to get creative with the lining. The ties could have been lined in rayon, for example, but I didn’t want the lining to show anywhere. That would have been distracting. So, the lining extends far enough into the ties so that cups can be sandwiched in between, but it ends in a spot that keeps the ties free from an extra layer (and you also never see the lining from the right side of the dress).

Here you can see the lining pattern on top of the bodice pattern that shows where it ends.

And here’s how that looks in the dress itself.

I had a pair of cups hanging around in the studio for ages, so I just used what I had on hand. You can find these at JoAnn. I just tacked the cups into place underneath the lining.

Once I decided that the ties wouldn’t be lined I had to figure out how to finish the edges, but I knew I didn’t want a narrow hem. So, I frayed the edges. Just having frayed edges on the ties didn’t make sense to the continuity of the garment, so I cut the selvage off of my fabric and continued that detail around the entire neckline and the armholes. I’m particularly crazy about this part of the dress. It’s so darling!

The skirt is a simple full circle skirt pattern, and there are side seam pockets. The skirt lining is a half circle pattern (no need for a full circle lining), and I used bemberg rayon to line the skirt. This gingham fabric is very “cotton-y”, and a cotton lining would have gotten bunched up under the skirt and not allowed it to move and flow like it should.

I let the dress hang on my dress form for a day to let the bias settle. Then I leveled the hem so that everything would be nice and even. For more information on leveling a hem, see this post from last fall.

I wore this dress in Nashville last week on the day my mom and I went fabric shopping and had lunch. I got lots of comments on this dress, and the ladies at the fabric store especially liked it. They also appreciated the sewing and time it took to make it. Every once in a while if someone compliments something I’m wearing I’ll respond by saying, “Thank you, I made it!” Then, I get the enjoyment of seeing their reactions, because sewing your own clothes is still one of those things that most people don’t think about. Usually, they’re so shocked they have no idea what to say. Isn’t it funny when that happens?

I cut the midriff pieces on the bias, because I liked the visual of the print going in a different direction around the wait. It interrupts the placement of the gingham in a way that isn’t distracting or overwhelming.

There’s this cute little flower truck that parks in spots all around Nashville, and it happened to be close to where we were that day so we had to check it out. Adorable, right?

My parents and my brother live in Nashville, so I like to go visit them a couple times a year. We had the best week together! The fabric store I mentioned is Textile Fabrics Nashville, and I would encourage you to go there if you’re ever in Nashville. They carry the most beautiful things, and I stocked up on some delicious linen for some summer projects and a plaid shirting that I think will make a pretty shirtdress.

I’m happy to home and back at work. I missed my studio, and it felt really good to crank up the sewing machine on Monday. Have a great week!