Saturday, July 30, 2016

Color and Style Analysis

Well, Thursday I had my consultation with John from PSC.  It was so fascinating to watch this man work.  I went in with no face make up (a little eye makeup in neutral tones was fine) and a beige and cream top.  We spent a little time talking and he explained how the process would go.  He opened each drawer of his massive cabinet of fabric colors and picked up different samples, talking to himself and to me through out.  He had great natural lighting in the room, plus additional color corrective lighting above.  He held the different fabrics up to me and as he chose them he would put them on the table in between us and keep moving them around.  He went through this process with each color family.  He held the swatches up to my face and checked my eyes.

 After we finished with all of the colors, he taped them onto cardstock pages grouped by categories such as Powerful, Playful, Reserved, Romantic, Sophisticated, and so on.  Each color group was in an order so that I would know "Go no more yellow than this or more blue than that.  No darker that this or lighter than that.  This is the edge of how bright you should go"  Each page is set up like that.  As we were going along he note how different colors made me show up more and which were too pale or bright.  He also kept expressing that he was a little surprised at how warm I actually was.  So are you ready??  I am....
75% Earthy Rich (most of us know as Autumn) and 25% Striking Contrast (AKA Winter.)  This means that I can wear mostly warm colors either muted or jewel toned (ie some of the plums, teals, and coppers) but I can also wear full on black, but not black and white.  He went over some color combining techniques for my individual coloring, and I was really glad to learn that I can wear ALL of the metals other than rose gold (too pink).  He even went over what some of my best fabrics would be - Linen, silk noil, courderoy, velvet, crepe, some tweeds, herringbone.  In other words, some texture, but for my stature, not lots of texture - or if there is a lot of texture to a fabric, just in small amounts.  He also went over what shapes for necklines and accessories would suit my coloring best.

It is going to be fun learning to use and mix the colors.  I was surprised that my lightest white/ ivory was darker than I had expected.

The next part of the consultation was the style essences.  Of course, we had been chatting all along, so he was getting to know some things about me.  Then, he had me stand a few feet away from him so he could check out my body shape and proportions. (no measuring)  I'm not sure how he figured this part out, but he did some kind of mathematical calculations and determined my style essences.  This rung so true for me and let me know why sometimes I think my style is all over the place.  Although people are rarely, if ever, 100% all one essence, I was kind of all over the place.  I am 10% natural, 10% high spirited, 10% dramatic, 30% romantic, and 40% classic.  They two types of which I am zero, I had already ruled out myself.  Those were Youthful and Ethereal.  He went over what those things meant and how they would fit into my color pallette and wardrobe.  He did go over what fashion shapes match these essences, but we did not go over which styles of clothing would look best on my body type.  This was fine because I already know most of that from so many things I have read and personal experience.  (for example, jewel necks make me look like my bustline is at my waist, straight skirts make me look wide all the way down, etc.)  There are lots of good, inexpensive, easy to find resources for that kind of information.

All in all, I was very impressed with the whole process and couldn't believe the time went by so quickly.  My appointment was at 1:00 and I didn't leave there until after 5:30!

Since it was about a 5 hour drive from my house to Oakland, I was so happy to have my friend Kathryn go with  me.  Of course, we made a fun road trip out of it!  Even though Kathryn  does not really sew, she was more than happy to go with me to Stone Mountain Daughters, one of my favorite fabric stores!  I took my book into the store with me and it was really helpful to pick up colors.  It was a beautiful day and they had all the doors open, so it was easy to take a bolt and my book over to the natural light and check out the colors.  One thing I found was that I was picking out fabrics that were too bright.  I stuck to my fabric swatches and picked what blended in color, depth and value with my palette.  It's going to take me awhile to get my head wrapped around wearing some of these colors that I've never warn before.  Some I have always been drawn to like the more jewel toned corals, teals, and greens. I have also always liked olive and Khaki green.  The challenge for me will be the more muted tones.  I could have easily spent megabucks in SMD, but I limited myself to just a couple things.  Then I realized I needed thread.  The remnant shelves were by the thread and I found a beautiful silk.  Then, there was a beautiful (and expensive) fabric by the cutting counter that I just had to have, so I didn't do so well at controlling myself after all.

Now the "fun" will begin.  I have massive amounts of fabrics that I will be getting rid of.  This is good because I have too much and that makes choosing a lot harder.  Also, knowing now what I know about my colors, I realize why I am not motivated to sew some of these fabrics.  Some of these fabrics I can overdye, but some I will sell or give away.  Any that I sell, I will use that money toward my next ministry trip to Uganda.  I'll be keeping you posted on that.

Oh, another thing.  I was supposed to get my hair cut and colored the day before my appointment with John, but I decided to postpone it until after my appointment.  I'm glad I did, because he gave me some suggestions that would help particularly when I am wearing black or very dark colors.  I have my appointment on Tuesday, so I'm excited to see how that works out.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Metropolitan Coffee Bag

It's not the first thing I've made since I got my new sewing machine, but it is the first thing that I made completely on my machine.  A few days ago I made a skirt and shell out of ponte, but I actually used my serger and coverstitch more than I used my sewing machine!

I've had the fabric to make this bag for months, but just not got around to putting it together.  Parts of it were a bear (why did I choose faux leather handles and trim)  but I'm glad I had a great machine to handle the challenges.

I have made this Metropolitan Bag twice before and wore them both out.  It has been my favorite purse of all that I've made, so it's time to make it again!  (First version, which I still have, although it is too worn out to use now).  Actually, I lost the pattern, and now it is out of print.  I picked up a copy on ebay.  It's a great pattern - IF you add pockets :-)

This pattern does not have pockets, and I am a pocket fanatic on handbags!  I added a patch pocket with faux leather trim to the front, a zippered pocket to the back, a double pocket on the inside and a zippered pocket to the other side of the lining.  Another change I made was to use fusible fleece instead of muslin to interface the bag.  I did use the fleece plus timtex to reinforce the band.

Using the faux leather was a challenge.  I did a sample first and tried topstitching thread and regular thread.  I decided the regular thread actually had more of the look that I wanted.  When it came time to make the actual handles, I kept having skipped stitches.  I tried changing from a universal needle to a microtex 80, but still kept having problems.  I called Toni at Dublin Sewing Center, where I got my machine, and she was a great help.  First, I lessened the pressure on my pressure foot and used a 3.5 size stitch.  She suggested a jeans 90 needle.  (BTW, she said that the leather needle punches a different shaped hole and would not be the best for faux leather) I think I have every size and type of needle except THAT one!  I wasn't willing to drive the 45 minutes to JoAnns to get one.  Then I remembered that I had a topstitching needle on my machine when I made the sample.  Once I changed back to that, it worked fine, but you can bet I will be buying some jeans needles the next time I am in town!  The next thing was, how was I going to attach the handles.  If I would have done it the way the pattern suggests, I would have had to have sewn through 8 layers of faux leather in addition to 2 layers of fabric and 2 layers of fleece.   I ended up sewing the handles onto the band and then making little squares to sew over the raw ends.
My Babylock Aria

sewing machine has a feature of directional sewing where I can not only sew forward and backward, I can sew left and right as well as on the diagonal.  This feature was absolutely the best for adding these handles.  I had the bag over the free arm and it was so stiff, there was no way I could have turned it to stitch the square on the handles or the handle covers.  I actually have this feature on my other machine, but never used it.  Now that I see how valuable it is, I will be using it again.

Another issue I had was that I could not center the design on the fabric.  I would have had to buy double the main fabric in order to do it.  I figured that I would be the only one who would be noticing (I hope), so I went with it the best I could.  Unfortunately, this makes everything look off center, but usually my bag is moving around as much as I am,so I think it will be OK.

This bag took me a few days to make, but I really like it.  I have fabric in another color group ready to make the next one.  Some changes I make will be to make the pocket on the front and the patch pocket on the inside a little bit smaller so that they don't interfere with the pleats.  Also, I think I will try shapeflex interfacing instead of the fleece on that one.  I need to make a note of how much extra fabric to buy to make the extra pockets.  I had to piece the inside double pocket and use another scrap from stash to line the zippered pockets.

I'm going to the Bay Area tomorrow with a friend and I'm so glad I finished this purse to take on the trip!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Finally Decided!

Today I decided to go to the sewing machine dealer in the town near where DH and I are staying.  The cool thing is that they sell multiple brands including Babylock, Pfaff, Bernina, and Viking.  After spending a little time talking to the salesperson, who was extremely helpful, we spent a lot of time looking at the  Bernina 530 and 560.  Both are beautiful machines, but I liked the 560 better.  One feature that I really liked about the Bernina is the fact that you can adjust the pressure foot pressure to quite a few different settings.  I know on my Ellageo, there are only 4.  I also liked the fact that you can purchase separate needle plates for different widths.  Most machines have the option of a single hole plate and the max width plate, but the Bernina has another option in between.  With the narrower hole, your fabric will turn and behave better.  Also, that 9mm stitch width is definitely seductive.  I love how powerful the motor is too.  BUT, I still did not fall in love with this machine.  I liked it.  I liked it a lot, but not sold.

Next I tried out the Pfaff.  I was disappointed that they did not carry the Performance 5.0, but they don't carry it because they feel the screens are more cumbersome to use than some of the other machines.  One of the things I have never liked about the Pfaff and some of the other brands are the push buttons.  It's just an aesthetic thing, but still I don't like it.  The Quilt Expression 4.2 was on my list to try, and they had a good price on it.  However, I soon as I started sewing with it, I was disappointed.  The machine is very noisy (compared to what I have now) I really must LOVE whatever machine I buy, and I couldn't believe I did not love this machine either.  I have wanted to have a Pfaff for as long as I can remember, yet, I did not feel compelled to buy this machine.  Sigh.

Toni (the sales lady) was very patient with me and asked me more questions about what I was liking and not liking.  She took me over to see the Babylock Symphony.  Of course, I already have a Babylock, and the Ellageo has a bigger screen than the Symphony.  I do like that stadium lighting though.  Well, guess what I ended up getting?

The Babylock Aria has all the features that I want and more.  I love how quietly it sews and I am comfortable with the interface.  I felt like the buttonholes and threading were complicated on the Bernina, although I'm sure I would learn it quickly enough.  The Babylock just feels like home to me.
Also, Toni told me (after I had decided) that the Babylocks have far less issues and repairs than the Berninas or other brands they carry.  Also, there is nothing extra that I need to buy, since I already have all the extra feet I needd (well, I DID buy a ruffler.  I have been wanting one for a long time and they had all their  feet 20% off)  They matched my local dealers sale price and threw in the extended warranty, which is about $400.  The only thing I want to get is a sew steady table.  They are far less expensive than the optional table that the Babylock has, and I like that they are clear.

I'm really happy with my experience at Dublin Sewing Center.  If I need anything, they will just drop it in the mail to me.  I'm not too worried about getting "free classes" because I already know how to use most of the features of this machine.  Now, the next time I am in the area I wouldn't mind going in and learning some sewing tips from someone who does garment sewing, like the lady who helped me.  I know our local Babylock dealer has a quilting-only point of view.

I can hardly wait to get home and start checking out all the features of my new machine!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fire and Rain - Shopping for Sewing Machines - The Great Debate

I’m really being spoiled this year for my birthday, which was Monday.  One musical artist I have always wanted to see is James Taylor.  A couple of months ago, we were able to score tickets to see him in Fresno on the day after my birthday!  We went Tuesday night and I loved every minute of it.  I even cried a couple of times.  I never realized the guy was so funny either.  It was so good, I would go see him again.  In fact, DH and I have talked about taking a trip somewhere to see him and making a vacation out of it. 

On the day of my birthday, Mr. W and I started looking at new sewing machines.  (Well, he didn’t look, he just went along.  My main sewing machine is a Baby Lock Ellageo 3.  I bought this machine 9 years ago and it was 3 years old when I got it. It is a great machine and has tons of extra bells and whistles.  It is an embroidery machine, but since the method of installing software and embroidery patterns is 3.5” floppy, I have only used that feature a handful of times.  It did create beautiful embroidery pretty easily.  I also found that I love the manual for this machine.  It is easy to use and I’ve taught myself how to use almost every feature (or maybe all) using this book.  BUT, I have been wanting a new machine for awhile.  A couple of years ago I was having problems with shredding thread and jamming.  I took it to the local repair several times and they could not fix it.  Finally I drove to another town about an hour and a half away, and they got it working beautifully again.  (The more I’ve looked at other machines, the more I realize that I love my Babylock)

I have always wanted a Pfaff.  Maybe this stems back from the old Sewing With Nancy (Zeiman)   videos when she was using and being sponsored by Pfaff.  I’ve been into the Pfaff store several years in a row “shopping” for that someday when I could actually get a new machine.  Well, that someday has come!  I’ve been teaching VBS this week, so Monday when I was finished, Mr. W and I went into Visalia to look at the Pfaffs.  They were closed.  Boo.  It seems like every time I try to get in there, they are closed.  It’s just a little shop in an old shopping center, but the salesman Phil is always super friendly and helpful.

Since Pfaff was closed, we decided to take a drive to Fresno and look at the Berninas.  I’ve always known that Berninas are great machines and that everyone who owns them loves them.  I wanted to look at the 740, but the only 7 series they had were the 770 and 780.  There were a lot of things I liked about that machine, but it felt too huge for me.  I don’t know if it was the table height or what, but I just didn’t feel comfortable sewing on the machine.  Also, the feet seemed huge and wide.  The sales lady was very friendly and helpful, but she was new in the store and had more recently been working for Pfaff and Babylock.  This was kind of cool because she gave me her opinion of which machines were better at which things.  (Which, she probably shouldn’t have done, but was helpful to me.)  Also, because she was new to Bernina, she couldn’t answer all of my questions to my satisfaction (like explaining the BMR - although I finally figured it out.) I was really expecting to LOVE the Bernina.  I wanted to LOVE the Bernina.  This is probably my one and only chance to GET a Bernina.  But I didn’t love it.

A few reasons:  1.  Price.  Of course, everyone knows that Berninas are the most expensive, but this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me this time.
2.  Size.  The 770 (and 740) is just too huge and non-portable.  
3.  It’s kind of like a BMW (which I do drive)  You get top notch engineering, but at the cost of slightly fewer features.
4.  The 770 has the dual feed and the BMR.  I don’t think the 740 comes with either.  It does have BMR functionality, but not the foot.(which is close to $500)
So, after I left I thought, maybe I should go back and try the 550.  They had one on a shelf, but we had already been there almost an hour, so I would need to go back to try that.  Unfortunately, the 550 does not have the longer throat, but my current machine only has 7-1/2 “, so I think I would be fine with that.
4.  And then there are those feet.  I am admittedly a foot junky.  I think this machine only comes with 6 or 7 feet. My BL came with almost every extra foot (except the ruffler) and I think I’ve used every one of them.  Bernina feet are upwards of about $50 each.  Very expensive.  And not interchangeable with other feet, so I couldn’t use any of the feet I already have.  (I did look online and find that you can get an adapter to make it work with other feet.  I know from experience that this does not always work out perfectly though.
5.  Location.  Fresno is over an hour and a half away from where I live.  Visalia is only 45 minutes.  I’m not sure I want to have to drive to Fresno for all of my classes and maintenance or any time I want to buy an accessory.
Conclusion:  I’m 95% sure I’m ruling out Bernina.

I did not think I was even going to look at Babylock.  Probably just because I like change.  But then I started thinking about all those feet I have.  And the learning curve of a new machine.  And the convenience of the somewhat local quilt store and getting to know more of the quilters that kind of hang out there.  I have taken a number of classes there and they have a great workspace and selection of quilting cottons (but no other fabrics)

I am looking at the Aria.  The next machine up is the Crescendo and I have a friend that just bought one.  This is actually what made me start thinking about Babylock again.  The only difference between the Aria and Crescendo is that the Crescendo has the laser light and is about $1000 more.  also, they have the Aria on sale right now for $3000, so that makes it $2000 less.  The laser light is mostly for avid quilters, which I am not.  It is certainly not worth the extra money for me.
  1. The lighting is fabulous!  That is one thing my poor old machine does not have - good lighting.
  2. All those stitches!  Baby locks are known for their decorative stitches, and this machine does not disappoint.
  3. The large LED display.  My current machine has this and I really like it.
  4. This machine comes with 13 feet.  Also, all of the feet I currently own will work with it.
  5. OK, this machine is almost as huge as the Bernina, but it just felt like home when I sewed with it. 
  6. All of the things I love about my current machine are here plus more.

  1. Babylocks have really small bobbins.  You usually have to have at least 2 for any garment with lots of stitching.  This is definitely one advantage of the Bernina.  Their bobbins are huge!
  2. The other thing I didn't care for, although I didn't try it, is that they have a belt driven walking foot.  Now this may be a PLUS, but I don't know.  I just thought it looked big and clunky.
Also, I’m not really crazy about the owner of this store, although I know he has his cult following.  This could be a deal-breaker on the Babylock.  sigh.

Now, all I have left to try is the Pfaff!  The salesman in the local store has been on vacation all week and I will be out of the area Monday through Wednesday of this coming week.  You can bet I will be there first thing Thursday morning!

I am looking at the Pfaff Performance 5.0.  There are very few differences between the 5.0 and 5.2.  They are selling the 5.0 for $2800.  I’ve been doing a lot of looking up and these are the things I love about the Pfaff
  1. The appearance.  It just looks sleek and professional
  2. Stitch width and length are a little bit bigger than the Babylock
  3. 1050 stitches per minute - same as Babylock (Bernina is 1000)
  4. Needle to tower space is almost 10”, about the same as the Aria and the Bernina 770.  The 550 and 580 are only 7.5”
  5. The IDT - no need for a walking foot. 
  6. The salesman/trainer at this shop is very friendly and helpful.

**Bernina and Pfaff have both come out with a dual feed option since the patent on the IDT has run out.  However, Pfaff has been doing this forever and has perfected it.  The other two companies are still working out the kinks.  Even the salesperson at the Bernina store told me the Pfaff’s is much better!

The nice thing about the newer machines that they all seem to have is faster stitching, better lighting, automatic foot raise to pivot, thread cutter, needle threader, needle up-down feature, 
more stitches and they run smoothly and quietly.

So, right now it is between the Babylock Aria and Pfaff Performance 5.0.  DH and I are going out of town for a few days, so as soon as I get back, I want to get into that store and try the Performance 5.0!  I'll let you know what I decide.