Overlocker Epiphany

I’ve been an eejit.  I’ve finally realised that this sort of seam failure isn’t the fabric being poor quality (although in this extreme example that was also probably a factor)…. It’s because I don’t change my overlocker needles often enough! I should also pay attention to not just frequency, but type. I have simply used #80 universal needles for everything thus far, and each pair for way too long. This is ok for most kinds of woven everything. NOT for fine knits. I’m reluctantly admitting that I ought change needles before and after a bout of fine knit sewing.


So I have just brushed out the machine, oiled it, fully rethreaded* and put in fresh #75 ballpoint needles. All in preparation for some mending of fine merino long johns. I will try hard to remember to change the needles back before working on heavier woven cloth.


I’m grateful that I can now manage this without reference to the manual. Makes the whole job less confronting.


Sing hurrah for an edge stitch foot

I’m sewing straps for some more shopping bags. I did the first one on autopilot, using a blind hemming foot to guide the stitching as usual. This works well if one only wants to sew to the left of an edge. That encourages sewing the two edges of a piece in opposite directions though, which causes a twist in the finished piece. Then I remembered that the edge stitch foot I’d ordered months ago, had arrived since last I had cause to do any edge stitching. Wonderful! Now I can edge stitch to either side of an edge!! Hurrah! So I sewed the other three straps with the new foot. Both sides sewn the same way up in the same direction. These straps lie flat! Yes one can sew in any direction by hand guiding under a standard straight stitch or universal foot. Using a foot that guides by the folded edge produces a much more even result with far less effort.


and a close up of one end


Blind hem foot on the left, edge stitch foot on the right. Both have a central blade to govern the relationship between the edge and the stitching. The wonderful thing about the edge stitch foot is the freedom of needle postitioning.



Bernina feet. Other machines may have different feet available.

Chocolate Sack Shirt

I wanted a shirt like garment to sew on the new Bernina 1120. I had a rifle through stash and came up with this.


A pure cotton single quilt cover set with a really appealing pretend sack print, that I had found for $20. I didn’t want to sleep under it, I wanted to wear it.  I unpicked a few bits to maximise the text print lengths, washed it, cut off the backing (sadly just plain white, will be put aside for other use) and spent a bit of time doing some large scale fussy cutting.


I used pretty much all the printed fabric, including the pillowcase and produced this:

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Buttons are shell as usual, only with the shiny side down. The backs of these are such a good match for the fabric.


Here it is on. Ah breasts, spoiling the drape of simple garments for eons. I’m not yet sure if this will be worn as a dress, a tunic or nightwear. Possibly all three at different times.



Good news. The 1120 performed like a champion. Mostly. I tended to forget I was sewing on a different machine, it is so like the one I’ve used for 24 years. There was a little hesitation during buttonholing and once the needle position didn’t reset on turning her on. We will see.

Sewing machines: Latest Acquisition

My old 1230 came home from that service in early September. It behaved well for the first garment worth after it came home. After that it resumed having small hiccups occasionally. These got more frequent and severe, until 10days ago the misbehaviour was so bad I gave up on her and went to working with the (older but new to me) 830. I’d had to turn her off and back on again maybe a dozen times to just get through the front bands on that black shirt.

So I resumed looking for machines. This time focusing on ones of a similar vintage to my 1230.  My wanted features list has been refined. It sure helps to know what you are looking for. I very nearly committed to buying a 930, which as best I can tell, is the first machine from Bernina with a stepping motor. Before that, I had another quick look to see if anything better had turned up. Lo and behold, there was an 1120 on offer!! I decided to grab it, having not seen anything of the 1100 or 1200 ranges in the months I’ve been looking.  It’s very similar to my 1230, a bit simpler and a bit older.

Today, the 1120 arrived by courier. All the essential stuff is there. I’ve been trying to work out how much use she has had. It’s hard to figure. I was initially saddened by what I thought was yellowing of the stitch selection buttons…. but the machine has a bit of a brown theme. The dials and buttons are all pale brown. The power cord is a darker brown.


I laughed, relaxed a bit and looked further. Below are a bunch of pictures. In all cases, my old 1230 is on the left, the 1120 on the right. The yellowing story is interesting. The overall body enamel on my 1230 is a little darker than the 1120. Mine has lived out on a sewing table for most of her life, sometimes covered with a cloth, rarely in full sun. The 1120’s carrying handle is more yellow, as is the inside of the accessory box. The 1120 has more chips out of the enamel and a bit of damage to the upper dial.

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Other observations are that the knee lift, flat bed table and stitch plate are all very stiff to install/remove. I presume then that these were not used very much. On the other hand, the foot pedal is pretty dirty. I reckon the machine spent a lot of time set up, but with the carry case used as a cover. The accessory box must have been left out and open a lot (mine has mostly been in a drawer so has little yellowing. None of this tells me how much use she has had. The flywheel doesn’t help, one barely needs to touch it given the stepping motor. The bobbin shuttle running surface looks worn to me. I’d say that speaks of a fair amount of use, possibly with less frequent cleaning and oiling than it ought have had.

However. The important thing is that the 1120 sews well. On a quick test she does. The motor hums a bit but the stitch formation is excellent and she is nice and responsive, including reverse which has been playing up on my 1230 for ages.

Oh, and the 1120 cost me a bit less than the quotes for fixing the 1230 (yeh, various diagnoses and no witness of the bad behaviour by the fixit people…. I’m therefore not trusting that a fix would be straightforward).

Now to decide on something to sew to give her a bit of a run.




Getting to things- a black shirt

Wardrobe basics. A plain black shirt. I’ve wanted one of these for a few years. Now I have one.  I’m not quite sure where the fabric came from, the Fabric Store I think? It’s light weight cotton, almost voile, with “double weave” (or whatever the correct term is, tell me if you know) spots.


I sewed the front bands on my regular machine, the misbehaving Bernina 1230, and boy was she misbehaving that day!! I had to turn her off and back on again about 10 times just to get the front bands sewn. So, the rest was done with the recently aquired 830. I think with a bit more practice, she will do nicely. At least until I figure out what comes next.

The full shirt all buttoned up:


As it will more likely be worn:


Gold Waistcoat

I’ve been meaning to make a waistcoat for a while. My old ones don’t fit (sadness). There was a party last night that made a good excuse. I took the fitted bodice pattern from this dress, converted it to princess seams, added length and flare below the waist. Then pin fitted it and proceeded with little more review so I could have one made in time. It has come out a bit too roomy, but it’s wearable. I’ll have a another look at it when I have enough brain to possess the needed critical eye.

The plaid shirt is not the best pairing, but it was hanging to hand. The gold fabric was left over from a waistcoat I made maybe 20yrs ago. Old cabbage! It’s a loose woven cotton with a hand loomed look and lurex thread through it.


The back and lining is fine linen and has a simple tie belt set into a pair of tucks.


Here  it is on. I wanted this one as a comfy corset alternative, so I do need to take it some I suppose.

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With the rest of the ensemble. I adore my top hat, any excuse to wear it! The tail coat is well worn but not by me. I bought it cheaply in NZ over 2yrs ago. This is it’s first wearing since. The poor thing needs a bunch of mending. I really must do that and have it cleaned so it can be safely put away for next time. It’ll look tattier with the moth holes mended, but still wearable, at least as fancy dress.

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Possibly the best thing about this project…. it’s the first thing I’ve sewn on the 1230 after it came home from it’s service. She has behaved so far. Fingers very crossed for that to continue as long as possible. Completely ridiculous though if it turns out that I put myself through over six weeks of drama and distress for a machine that just needed a service.

Shirt for a New Blog Year

I knew I’d started Makkinschtuff about a year ago but I wasn’t sure quite when. Turns out that WordPress tells you, and the answer was yesterday. 113 posts, 2824 views in my first year here. So I’ve been posting about every 3 days on average. Not bad. I never promised or intended to post daily.

Today then is a new blog year. To celebrate, or just because this is where I’m at, I’ll show you the shirt I’ve just made on the new/old Bernina 830.


The machine came home on Tuesday, running smooth and smelling of machine oil. I had therefore to take her for a spin. This length of fine cotton plaid shirting was washed, pressed and hanging in the corridor waiting. I bought it in a Christchurch opshop back in early February. Now it’s a shirt.


I thought the neck frill would soften the plaid and the plaid would soften the costumey effect of the frill. I’ll see how I feel about it in the wearing. Instead of a collar stand, the frill is sewn straight onto the shirt neckline and bound with self bias.


The cuff fullness is gathered to echo the neck frill. Buttons are of course shell, shiny caramel coloured this time to pick up the caramel stripe.


The machine behaved beautifully. Maybe it was running even better by the end of the shirt? Maybe I was just getting used to it. I like the sound of it better than my 1230 but I sure miss the stepping motor. I’ll be picking up the 1230 later today after nothing more than a thorough service.  I wonder how she will behave? I suspect some of the problems might recur, we will see.


Feeling Fortunate

A sewing machine story, but a positive one this time. The 1230 is still in the fixit shop with no diagnosis as yet. Regardless of what happens with it, I decided that another quality machine was needed in my life, preferably one that isn’t subject to circuit board faults. I can’t keep the lovely loaned 1030 forever. So I’ve been looking out for a Bernina 830. I think I wrote before that these are well respected. They are also familiar to me as I did a lot of sewing on my mother’s one in my teens and early 20s. I’d seen several for sale but the location was not ideal or they looked in poor condition. Then this one turned up on ebay. It was local, only a few suburbs away and claimed to be little used. The pictures looked pristine. Wonder of wonders, I won the auction!


I picked it up this morning. The lady selling it said she had bought it in 1975 but barely used it. I got it home and yes, it’s in outstanding condition. The only problems I could see come from it’s long disuse. The sewing mechanism still runs, though with a bit more resistance than it ought. The presser foot mechanism is all gummed up though. After stuffing up the last machine I tried to work on, I decided such a jewel should be sorted by the professionals. So I took some photos and took it around to my local repair people. That was more fun than I anticipated. It’s always nice to be the source of the good kind of amazement. The chap I spoke to was astonished at both the good condition of the machine and the modest price I’d paid for it. Definitely raised eyebrows and excited voice territory. He confirmed what I had suspected, that if I happened to decide not to keep it, I could easily resell it and probably even make money doing so. He has had several customers looking for this model willing to pay much more than I did.

Look how shiny. I did find a tiny bit of lint right under the feed dogs, but that was it other than the sticky old oil issue.



and yes, she came with all the bits


Sewing machine woes: Return and loan

This, for posterity and my non FB audience, is a rewrite of a bunch of short FB posts on progression of my sewing machine dramas. I hope I’ve caught all the necessary tense changes:

I woke up the morning after this post thinking that clunky feed dog thing was a deal breaker if it couldn’t be fixed. Sproingy clunk every time I touched the knee lever, which is every few seconds of sewing. So I called the shop and told them so. They said to bring it in so they can look at it. I felt better for having got to that point.

Then there was a weekend, during which I thought I’d better check carefully to get the best understanding of the problem I could manage.

So very glad I checked before going back to the sewing machine shop. The knee lever on my old machine *does* drop the feed dogs! I’d never noticed this in all those years! However it does so much more smoothly and quietly than the new machine, and doesn’t grab and shift the work.

A careful comparison of the two machines exposed this: Two main differences were pissing me off.
1. that the feed dogs on the 570 drop with a loud, spring like reverb, whereas the old one is almost silent.
2. the new one drops the feed dogs almost instantly on pushing the lever while the old one lowers them gradually, silently and recoverably for about half the range of lever movement. Only if one pushes past half way do the dogs drop fully and have to spring back when stitching resumes. which means one can partially lift the foot, swivel the work and resume without the feed dogs intefering with fabric position. Yup, got it.

On the following Monday I took the 570 back to the shop: “There is nothing wrong with it, they all do that, no one else has complained, we sell a lot of these, there is no adjustment or fix because it’s not broken”. I was just about in tears after this conversation. I raised the possibility of a return, which they brushed off. I asked them to check two things with Bernina for me.
1. Whether there was any way to adjust the knee lever action on the feed dogs, including deactivating it.
2. If there is a needle plate available for this machine with metric seam markings at the front.
While they did this, I left the machine in the shop. I knew that if I took it with me, I might not have had the nerve to go back. Then I went and visited some friends for a couple of hours.

The answer to both questions was no. Argh. After some angst ridden thought, I decided I’d be miserable if I tried to live with it. I can’t live with such an expensive machine that makes unexpected loud sproingy noises when I use it the way I prefer to, which is supposedly a perfectly fine and recommended way to use it. So back to the shop, and returned it, as in, got my money back. Their tone had changed when I went back, polite and agreed promptly to the return. I do wonder how much of that was due to my (somewhat imposing and male) friend coming with me as back up. Regardless of whether his presence changed their behaviour, I’m grateful to him for the emotional support.

Gah, I didn’t mean, want or expect this to be such a saga. I was relieved but sad, confused and needing to start again with the search. I’m distressed that the obvious option of buying a current model Bernina is off the table.

Replacing my 1230 seems to be a truly difficult task, so putting a bit more effort into trying to keep it going is reasonable. The current state of play is that it’s with a third and recommended fixit man to see what magic he can manage. He had a nice simple theory, which would be so good if that is all the problem. Fingers crossed.

Then, a week later, my longest friend gave me even more reasons to love her. This is her machine, very kindly lent to me. I’d forgotten she even had a Bernina. It turns out to be a 1030, a mechanical version of mine, including the same knee lever action…. and wonder of wonders, it has a stepping motor!!!! AWOOGA, AWOOGA. I want one if I can possibly get one!!. Pity it’s a 30yr old machine. One might come up for sale? Maybe? There are a couple of features lacking, but it’s mechanical nature means it should last many more years. The electronic nature of mine means it will die eventually, even if it can be improved in the short term.


So far the borrowed machine has made a pair of jeans and is partway through a silk velvet jacket. The sewing action is a bit different to what I’m used to, but it works well.

Then another friend said that her sewing machine mechanic has a 1030 that he is working on prior to selling it. On the other side of the country, but still. Fingers very crossed!!

Updatery: It turns out that the 1030 is not fully mechanical. It does have a circuit board. So it’s not as age proof as I had hoped. I had been told that stepping motor and fully mechanical were if not totally mutually exclusive, then close to it. So I’m not completely surprised.

bernina 1030 circuit board

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.