So far, I explained why I started sewing here, and how I got all my sewing paraphernalia and my new sewing machine here. In this post, I will go through how I set up the machine and then in the next post how I taught myself to use it. I think most normal people would probably call over a friend to show them the ropes (threads?) while having tea or coffee and generally having a good time. I do need to start thinking in those terms more and not shy away from social interactions but I find it incredibly hard. (I also don’t drink tea or coffee but that is the least of my problems).
Being the introverted sucker that I am (I was going to use another word but don’t feel like being that rude right this second) who runs away from social situations despite wanting them, (welcome to my brain full of contradictions), I went for the typical thing I would do and thought it would be better hanging out with my best friend The Manual.
Manuals are cool. I realise most people hate them but I don’t really understand this. Here is a book, that tells you how to do something in a no-nonsense way, in steps and diagrams, no waffle (says the person who waffles), no emotional shit to deal with, just clear concise instructions. Awesomeness.
I often think of myself as a robot, give me instructions and tell me or show me how to do something and I will follow the algorithm to produce the required outcome. Ask me to come up with something on my own and explore and be creative rather than teach me, I panic and feel lost. I can follow recipes and even alter them to my needs but give a bunch of ingredients and ask me to come up with something? Nah. “What do I do now?” Panic!
I realise that I should relax more and don’t let rules and shit get to me and not be so scared of being judged and be more exploratory about life rather than trying to stick to algorithms but it’s hard! My favourite Star Trek characters are Data and Spock. I relate to them more so than regular folk.
Maybe I will have a mid life crisis at some point and go completely bonkers and throw all manuals aside and push random buttons to see what they do without considering consequences, rather than learn what they do before pushing them. Maybe even the ones that have big red labels on them saying “DO NOT PUSH”.
For now, until I lose it, manuals rock.
So, I did what I do and sat down, read the manual cover to cover going through all the pages and all the parts of the machine and all the different kinds of stitches and fancy shit that it does.
As I had mentioned before, I had never used a sewing machine before in my life. So, I can’t really compare how this machine does against other ones. I will just go through my experiences of it as a first timer and the stuff that it can do.
To start with, as I am writing this 18 months after it has actually happened, I have had all that time to use it and get used to it. In summary, I really like my machine. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to use all its different stitches on projects I’ve done so far. I am glad that I went for this rather than the basic model I was initially going to go for. I don’t regret my decision buying something more capable and hence a little more expensive just like the large size cutting mat.
Here is how the machine looks out of its box before the bits of tape and the polystyrene protectors were removed. Smell of new plastic is awesome:
It took me couple of weeks after the purchase to actually get to this stage. I had to do heaps of playgroup admin and I treated playing with the machine as an incentive to get that work done. My reward would be reading the manual and using it for the first time. It stood there near my desk in its box until my playgroup admin chores were done.
It came with a hard plastic dust cover to go over the top. It initially felt like a decent carry case being made from hard plastic but it really isn’t suitable for that. It just goes over the top to keep the dust off. In order to carry the machine somewhere else, I had to buy a proper case with wheels and handles. Much safer to transport in a proper case.
Here is the stuff that was in the box apart from the machine itself and the cover:
That’s the stitch plate showing you what numbers you have to press on the keypad at the front to get the stitch you want, it’s holder to attach it to the handle of the machine, THE MANUAL, a standard power cord and the foot press thing that makes it go.
The machine also came with several feet that do various different jobs:
Large cool looking white one on the left is the A foot that does the various styles of button holes. It’s pretty cool actually. Maybe one day I should do a video but YouTube is full of them so you can Google those yourself if curious. You basically set it to the size of the button you want the hole for and then it does its fancy shit and you get a button hole. The only thing it doesn’t do is cut the hole for you once all the stitching around it is done.
The little white foot next to that, M foot, is the button foot for attaching buttons to fabric. It’s a bit fiddly slotting the button into it and then making sure your needle lines up with the holes of the button but after that, it is dead easy.
The metallic feet in the column next to the M foot are both G feet. That’s an overcast foot and I haven’t really used it that often as I haven’t really made many garments. The top one is broken, it has a metal bit in the middle missing. I should really throw it away.
Top middle one is an R foot which is a blind stitching foot. Again, as I haven’t really done garments, it is one I have only used during my experiments from the manual. Maybe one day I will do a more detailed blog post about the different feet.
Bottom middle one is the J foot which is the standard one it comes with that is used in most sewing jobs.
Top right foot is the N foot used for the decorative and satin stitches. It is wider to keep fabric down, has a grove on the bottom to let thick stitches go through and provides better visibility.
Last one, bottom right is the I foot which is the zipper and piping foot. Again, I haven’t done a great deal of zipper work so only used this a few times. It always feels odd at first but makes sense once you get used to it, until the next time you need to do a zip and you have forgotten how to do it. The good old manual comes very handy at times like those.
Since then I have bought additional feet to add to my collection:
The one on the left is a free motion quilting foot. You drop your feed dogs down that normally grab your fabric from the bottom and move it along when you sew. With those disengaged, that means you are free to move your fabric left, right, backwards, forwards and stitching in “freehand”. I haven’t done much of that wibbly wobbly type of quilting yet. I have come across something called thread painting which has been intriguing. I need to find more out that at some point.
The foot next to that that looks like it is waving is the walking foot. It does kind of look like it is walking when in use, it grabs your fabric from the top and moves it along at the same speed as the feed dogs grab it from the bottom so useful when you have a thick layered quilt that you are sewing and want all the layers to move along at the same time.
The metal rod thing isn’t a foot but you attach to the side where the foot is attached and it allows you to keep the same width between lines of stitches when you are doing parallel lines whilst quilting. You set the distance and keep the previous line of stitches along that and your new line of stitches should be parallel to the old line.
The foot in front to the left is the gathering foot that helps create gathers in fabric like you may get on top of skirts. Doing gathers by hand isn’t particularly difficult and you can get the same effect without a special foot but I wanted to try it and it was okay but I don’t do many gathers anyway. It is also supposed to do gathers whilst also attaching to a flat piece of fabric lining them both up but I cannot get that to work at all. I suspect i haven’t played enough with it.
I can’t remember the name of the foot that is to the right to that but it has a tiny curved surface that the fabric is supposed to feed into, which is then folded onto itself and stitched along it to give it a really neat edge with no raw edges. I found this very very fiddly and it didn’t work for me. It was less effort to stitch, fold by hand and stitch again. Maybe I just need more practice.
Last but not least, at the very front is my favourite foot. The clear foot. It was cheap, it is plastic, it is clear. It just makes it way easier to see what I am doing and hence control it better.
The machine came with 4 plastic bobbins. I find that if I have a few projects on the go at the same time I tend to need more of these but haven’t got around to buying extras yet. I just make do with the four I have and if I need a new one for a new colour and one of them is nearly empty I just undo and discard that thread.
The instructions claim that only plastic Brother bobbins of a certain type should be used. I don’t know if that is because they are just trying to stick to their own products or if the machine is only designed for that type and hence others wouldn’t work. I had some metal bobbins with thread on them already but still yet to try to see whether they work or not. I would hope and assume that the machine itself would be safe and not be damaged but I guess maybe the stitching can be affected.
Threading the Machine
At first it was very much a “WTF???” moment and I was having to follow the instructions step by step being glued to the manual at least for the first few times. Now it has become an automatic thing that takes not even a few seconds to do. There are all these numbers on the machine itself that tell you which way to thread and the order you have to get your thread through all the places you are meant to get it through. So that’s pretty cool and thoughtfully done by the designers. Thanks!
The winding of the bobbin was fun. So in the past, before I knew how sewing machines actually worked, I didn’t understand how a needle and thread going up and down would make a line of stitching. What locks it into place? It didn’t make sense because I didn’t know about the existence of the bottom thread, the bobbin that was hidden below the needle. There are several moving images on this Wikipedia page about sewing machines that explain how the top and the bottom thread interact with each other to form a line of secure stitching.
In order to get the bottom bobbin ready, the plastic bobbin is put on the spindle at the top of the machine. As in the pictures below. Again, there are numbers and diagrams telling you what order you have to do things in. Then you attach the thread to it, lock it in place, press the go button and it winds a whole load of thread onto the bobbin.
You then take the bobbin off that spindle and place it in its holder below the needle. Again there are diagrams next to it telling you where the thread needs to go. The bottom bobbin window is pretty cool. Having read about different machines, not all machines have the bottom bobbin visible. They normally seem to stay hidden in their chambers. I find it really handy to have the clear window for brief looks in there to see how much more thread I have got left, without having to undo covers and lids. Also handy for noticing problems as sometimes things go funny and threads can jam.
This machine has an automatic threader which means that you don’t have to spend ages faffing around with trying to get your thread through the eye of the needle that is attached to the machine. The plastic thing I am holding in the picture below and plastic bit that is below it is a big fancy thing that threads the needle automatically! You put the thread through the specific parts of that, which is easy, push it down and find that your thread has magically gone through the eye of the needle. It is awesome and a lot safer. I still haven’t quite figured out exactly how it works. Things do down, a big chunky part moves across and in and bam! Threaded!
So, at this point, the machine was threaded and ready to go! Next post will be the ‘go’!
If you somehow got this far, you should have read the manual instead of my waffle!
Make it sew.