First Sewings on the Bernina 570

After getting her set up in the table*, I did some basic stitching and then a few experiments with fancy stuff. Fittingly for a Swiss made machine, the fabric is from a Swiss “national costume” outfit bought for me when a child. Of course the fancy stuff would have worked better with some kind of stabiliser layer. The stitching itself was ok, and that leafy pattern might well get used, but the operation felt clunky, which depressed and upset me.


I had a bit of a flail, then decided to work on a shirt the next day. That is a familiar task and mostly straight stitching. It would just give me time with the machine to get more of a feel. I knew I could cut and make a basic shirt in a day. Turns out I can do this in a long day, even with an unfamiliar machine and with stupidly sewing one sleeve to the body inside out and having to fix that. I cut this before 9am this morning and sewed the buttons on after dinner. I even took the opportunity of such a plain shirt to rejig the neckline so it is smaller but not too small. This is a lovely yarn dyed cotton check with a pleasingly rustic weave that I got recently in an Albury opshop. There was barely enough to cut the shirt so yoke and cuff linings had to be pieced.


I forgot to sew a label to the inner yoke at the right stage, so I put one on the left sleeve placket for fun. I will say the new machine makes nice buttonholes. This is the bog standard basic one, sewn with navy blue Gutermann cotton.


My big complaint was that the machine felt clunky and awkward, especially on raising the presser foot. An audible clunky click and the work was often jerked out of place. It took me ages to work out that this was connected with the fact that I had been using the knee lift for the presser foot from the get go. I’m used to this from the old machine and vastly prefer using it over having to raise the presser foot by hand.  Eventually I figured out that the knee lever not only raises the presser foot, but lowers the feed dogs as well. It’s the feed dogs that cause the audible clunk and jerk of the work. If one only uses the hand operated presser foot lever, things remain quiet and peaceful. Argh. I’ll be complaining about this and requesting a fix!

Other things I don’t like thus far:
-It’s going to take me a while to learn how to drive the selection screen. I keep getting stuck just on how to get back to basics. The home icon doesn’t take one to the home screen and there is no back button.
-Setting changes are slower to assess than the button and dial system that I’m used to. Even allowing for the fact that I’m not used to the screen interface, there is no pictorial indication of stitch length, just a number on the screen. Somehow, turning the dial and reading a number isn’t as quickly comprehended as having a visible position on a scale.
-Max speed feels sloooowwww.  Similar to my old machine I suppose but I think I’ve been anticipating an increase in speed. I wanna go faster dammit. Maybe I need to keep an eye open for a quality industrial straight stitcher, and figure out where I would put one if I get one.
-The most visible seam width markings on the needle plate are *%$&$ imperial!!! I want metric and it’s a ruddy Swiss machine dammit!
-They have yet again changed the foot design so I have to shell out to replace the special feet I use. This has to be deliberate. Angry making it is at least.

Things I do like:
-It might sound petty, but I love the aesthetics of the overall design. Shiny and businesslike.
-It runs well (as long as one is not using my beloved knee lifter)
-there are a lot of cool buttonhole options I’m looking forward to trying
-The great Bernina front loading, easy clean and oil bobbin race.
-Lots of useful stuff for plain stitching. Adaptive tension (copes with a very wide range of fabric weights), easy upper tension dial. Good power for thick fabrics or many layers. Foot pressure adjustment (new to me).


*I’m proud of myself that I took the time to make up the right sized blocks of wood to put the new sewing machine at the correct height in the table. The old one sat on a book for 20+yrs. Prompted partly by the presser foot knee lift lever sitting at a different height on the new machine. The table is from a ~60’s Singer that had a knee lever instead of a foot pedal. It has a drop down section for the machine and an appropriate hole for the lever. See previous post for a picture.



Sewing machine woes: purchase with some regret

This post is a couple of days late. I’ve been too mentally and emotionally exhausted to write. I’ve been suffering considerably from not having a functional sewing machine in the place there should be one. Pathetic maybe, but this is a really big thing for me. My house was wrong, my world was wrong, so I’ve been pushing hard to fix that!

I went out on Tuesday to a shop that sells both domestic and industrial machines. This seems to be a rare combination. Most place sell only one or the other. I wanted their input on whether anything existed in the borderlands between. I also wanted to have a look at the domestic Juki machines, also a rare thing locally.

I did learn a bunch of things. According to these people:

The machine I really want doesn’t exist. Wahhh. Ideally I want a machine that does basic dressmaking functions. as listed previously, with a stepping motor and all the good needle control things that come with that, solidly built and faster than a standard domestic. Nup. Apparently nobody builds such a thing. If you know differently, for goodness sake, please speak up. What is available are domestic machines with all the features I want, plus a bunch I don’t, but all slow. Or, industrial machines, well built and really fast but with basically only one function per machine. Botheration.

They gave a different diagnosis for the 1230 fix. They say it’s the stepping motor that needs replacing. I think that makes sense, but I reckon there is a good chance that the stitch panel circuit board indicated by the other fixit people needs doing too. Both are quoted in the $700+ range. Weep.

The Juki domestic machines seem really good. The also have all metal innards for strength and longevity. They run really nicely and are significantly cheaper than the Berninas. They have a drop in bobbin though. I really like the front loading, easy clean Bernina bobbin race. Also, despite not liking having a screen at all, to get the quality of machine I want, one has to have that. Given that, I much preferred the Bernina version. I will also say, these people had no hesitation at all in letting me at the machines. Hurrah.

Basically, I found myself unable to step away from Bernina quality and familiarity. This shop had a 570 model on special. $2999, down from $3800. It has a wider space right of the needle than the 350, and most of the exciting buttonhole options that I had liked on the 720. I lost my nerve and bought one.

Here she is straight out of the box:


The new 570 and 24yr old 1230 side by side. Sniff. I mourn the degradation of my faithful worker:


So there is now a good machine back where there should be one even if I don’t know how to drive her yet:


Stand by for the initial testing report. In the meantime, the crowded and eclectic picture above makes me think of this 🙂

Sewing machine woes: Bernina demos

Boring for most people I’m sure. I need to journal my thoughts somewhere though and a few might like to follow along.

I’ve been reading sewing machine spec lists all weekend. Somewhat informative but doesn’t tell one everthing. Today it was time to go look at a few actual machines. I started with what I know- Bernina.

I had hoped to have a sew, but they only offered to demonstrate. I’d insist on a sew if I get closer to meaning to buy. These are not proper full reviews. Just me capturing observations and thoughts in my search for a solution to my sewing machine woes.

Bernina 350 (AU$2000-2200) 350 link
This is the cheapest model that has the knee lifter for the presser foot. Incidentally, the suite of features is a pretty close match for my sick 1230. So it’s fairly familiar, but I’d have to relearn how to select the functions. Mine has just buttons, this has a screen also. It didn’t sound as smooth as mine but did have a similar and tolerable working sound with familiar low pitch. I’d say this is a possibility. Doesn’t give me very much extra but I wouldn’t lose much either.

Bernina 720 (~AU$4800) 720 link
To spend this much I’d have to be so very convinced. For this it turns out I am not. I wanted to see it because it has a new bobbin hook mechanism, supposedly quiet. I didn’t find it quiet. The working noise has a high pitch that would drive me crazy. That alone says I’m really unlikely to get this one. It is a considerably larger machine than I’m used to, with a larger space to the right of the needle. That part would be great. It also has many, many features. Some of these I would be pleased to have, but learning how to select what I wanted would take considerable time to learn.

There is a 5 series range in between these, but the price feels prohibitive for machines that seem to be increasing in complexity rather than quality? They are a little larger than the 3 series though.

The lady struggled with the auto threader on both machines, only made it work about 1 go in 4. That by itself doesn’t bother me. I have no issue with threading. I did ask about the circuit boards, to be told that the modern ones are small and easy to swap out. So that sounds like an improvement, as long as new boards are available.

Next I mean to go see some Jukis, and maybe an industrial Bernina. After that we will see.


Sewing machine trouble

I’m not sewing or posting, partly because I’ve been away for a few days and partly because my beloved 24yr old Bernina 1230 is sick with an intermittent fault. $720 quoted to hopefully effect a fix. The 1100 and 1200 series machines are known to have circuit board issues as they age. Mine has three boards apparently and the quote is only to replace one of them.

There are a bunch of options, some dependant on knowledge I don’t yet have. My brain has been spinning, making me feel ill and confused so I’m trying to capture thoughts here.

I’m starting to think the prognosis is not clear enough to spend the money on the 1230 fix attempt. So I might retrieve it. I could use it while I consider other options and retire it to back up status when I work out which way to go on a new machine. I was thinking lots of other options, but this seems to be where I’m landing. See, writing things down helps.

What I want is a quality plain sewing machine. I’m uninterested in embroidery or quilting functions.

I’ve been a Bernina fan for many years, mostly learned to sew on Mum’s 830, a renowned classic mechanical machine. I could try to buy one of those. There are a couple for sale right now. I think though that for me it would make a great backup machine, but I want more from my main workhorse. Just using Nan’s little mechanical Elna for a few minutes showed that having to spin the flywheel to position the needle causes complaint from my dodgy arm. “Stepping motor” functions are only available in electronic machines. So despite the risk of future circuit board problems, I think I do want an electronic. If an electronic, I suppose it’s probably better to buy new or near new to maximise the life.

Wish list (basically reproducing what I use now):
Quality, strong, reliable machine
Easy to use and clean
Smooth operation and good stitch formation
Reliable (adaptive?) tension that will cope with a variety of fabric weights.
Straight stitch
Zig zag
Buttonhole (auto and semi auto)
Needle position alterable left to right
One touch reverse that doesn’t interfere with other stitch settings
Knee lifter for presser foot
Needle up/down selection (this and the next are only available in electronic machines)
Tap stitch and half stitch via foot pedal
Seam width markings on throat plate
Twin needle capability
Feet for primary functions: plain, zipper, buttonhole, edgestitch, hemming
Plain business like design. No stupid pastels.

Nice to have improvements:
Thread cutting with the work in place
Differential feed
Faster machine
(I might think of more later)

New Bernina replacement?
I thought this might be the go, but the cheapest domestic machine with a presser foot knee lift is $3800rrp. Grrr (edit, the 350 has this at $2200). If I could live without that (but I’m so used to it, I’d miss it lots), there is a machine for $1300, or $1900 (either mechanical or electronic at this price point). I’m unconvinced. I’d certainly need to try them. Mum bought a new Bernina a few years ago but has never liked it.

Other brands? Juki?
Possibly an industrial?

There is a shop out east that sells both domestic and industrial machines. I think I’ll go talk to them on Monday before I decide on either repair or buying an 830. Which means I should try to let the churning thoughts go for the rest of the weekend.

Lattice! she is a thing.

Whew. One large square hand pieced lattice patchwork quilt top is done. 1.6 metres square. Only took 7 months. That’s a faster pace than I expected when I started but I got rather obsessed with it.


That’s the patchwork part of this project. I DO like it, but I confess I’m a bit over it at the moment. The last few weeks has been an exercise in “just get it done”. I’m going to let it rest while I do a few other things and hopefully recover some enthusiasm for this. Then I need to figure out how I will attach the border. Then layer, quilt and bind.

Blue almost-jeans

I made a trouser pattern in a hurry in early 2016. I was pleased with the method, maybe more on that later. However, the fit of these was really quite baggy. I’ve worn the original of these (and the only dark blue pair) so much that they are now gardening trousers rather than worthy of being seen in. I was just going to make more to the same pattern, but decided to improve the fit. Gah, trousers are hard to fit! so many interrelated curves in all sorts of directions. I can’t buy trousers of any sort to fit me though, including jeans. So the effort is worthwhile!

This is not a true jeans pattern. It has darts at the back and patch pockets at the front. If I end up with a version I’m happy with, I might try converting it to more classic jeans construction. Then I’ll most likely change shape again eh?

The light is dim today so the pic on me is not wonderful.I’m cautiously excited by the fit I’ve managed though. This is heavy wool/cotton blend twill (denim? drill?) with no elastane. The fabric is really nice. I’ll be heading back to the shop tomorrow to see if I can get a little more for a repeat pair later.


I have fun with the decorative sewing on pockets. The designs are free hand drawn in chalk and then stitched freehand with a twin needle. This is my current favourite design. Gentle arcs are easy to sew. After taking the picture, I realised that these still needed the stitching run across the top, which I then went and did. I use a straight grain tape under the top folded edge to minimise stretching.


My fitting changes in the tummy/hip/bottom seem to have made the vertical leg seams twist, so I’ll have to fix that for the next pair. Not cutting any more until I’ve worn these though.


I feel I must add that testing fit in an underheated house in winter is tedious! How many times have I had these on and off in the last couple of days. 6 maybe?


Some months ago, my niece pointed at a picture in a book and said “I want that one”. I didn’t see the picture, but I’m told it was a bag made from a pair of pink jeans. I needed to organise a present for her and this is something well within my capabilities. She may not even remember the picture, or the wanting, but I hope she likes it anyway.

An opshop provided a pair of size 8 ladies jeans in brilliant pink. I chopped them below the fly, inserted a rectangular base and handles, cut from the legs.


I then put a coordinating lining in.


I left the button and fly functional for fun. Then I realised that gave access to the space between bag and lining for the putting of things, and a five year old would. So to prevent the inevitable struggle of having to get them out again, I sewed through to catch the placket closed. Pity I didn’t think of this until the lining was in, so that stitching shows on the inside. Oh well. If I ever make another I shall try to remember.

And the backside:


I reckon it came out quite well. It occurs to me that my old jeans would make good grocery bags made up like this with a squarer base. I wonder if I’ve kept any?

Orange merino jersey


I bought this length of orange merino jersey in Wellington over 2 years ago. I’ve had at least 5 different plans for it. When I got it out recently, I realised that there was less of it than my faulty memory had been telling me. Enough for some sort of long sleeved top and no more. I have need, or at least want, of orange clothing for this coming Saturday, so I settled on making a button necked pullover. I could have just made a skivvy, but that felt too boring. So I added a neck opening and buttons. Not my best design decision ever. Pullover + buttons + long hair = trouble. Oh well, I like the look and I have a long standing fondness for Henley type jersey shirts.

I put a lot of thought into the construction method. The fabric is medium weight and very stretchy. I have a poor history of getting machine top stitching to behave on such fabric, other than my standard twin needle hem. I was right to worry. I got the neck facing sewn down but not as neatly as I would have liked. I tried applying the first button loop by machine but it did so not go well. The rest got applied by hand.

The button loops are made from a simple three element braid of “tapestry” woolen yarn in appropriate colours. I plaited it, then steamed and cooled it to minimise unravelling.


Here is a close up of the neck. The grey shell buttons have previously done service on another shirt.


And on, both buttoned and un.



Not the most flattering shots. I was suffering from tshirt hem build up. I have another skivvy of the same cut, plus a short sleeved cotton T under that. It’s cold!

Shiny sheer/satin striped silk shirt

I felt the need of a few more evening friendly garments. This shirt is a remake of an old favourite I made for a friend’s wedding many years ago, but in a rather different fabric. It’s a silk/cotton sheer ground fabric with silk satin stripes. Rather challenging to work with! It’s floppy, slithery and doesn’t take a crease well.

It’s my basic shirt again, with the wide plain rectangular collar. I thought the frill was a mistake when I’d only just assembled the front bands, but it is behaving better than I feared now I have the whole shirt together.


Here are a variety of ways one can wear the collar. I won’t be wearing the first version with this shirt. I decided to tackle the too big neck hole issue and overshot. I can do this collar up while wearing it but it’s way too tight for comfort. Never mind, the other two versions are still appealing and in reality, I rarely fasten the top button of a collar except during laundry!

. . .

In the end, my disappointments with this shirt are both about the collar. Aside from it being a bit small, I got confused and used the under collar as the upper collar. This mattered for two reasons: The under collar is pieced down the middle because the was barely enough fabric, and I had carefully cut the upper collar to have a satin stripe on the edge. Oh well, it’s not very noticeable.

The cuffs are gathered to work with the gathered frill. Also, this fabric takes a gather better than a pleat. I used shell buttons as usual.


Here it is on. When I cut this shirt, I had in mind the new “corporate” pinafore from this blog post so here is a pic showing it on with that. I must say, the fabric feels really nice against the skin. I rather think I shall enjoy wearing this.


William Morris Shirt

Or “Mama shirt stage three, the real thing”.


This post is just me showing I did make up that lovely William Morris fabric for Mama, mentioned in my earlier posts Mama shirt: stage two, trial shirt  Mama shirt: stage one, the pattern

Also skiting* about my best ever pattern matching effort across the front.

Thankfully, she likes it, and has even collected a random compliment already.


*hmm, it turns out this is local slang. Means boasting, showing off.