Hello, Bernice!

Imagine the musical:

“Hello Bernice, well Hello, Bernice, it’s so nice to have you back where you belong!”

I took my beloved 1630 (I am the original owner) to a local dealer in February, 2013 for repair (yes, you read that right) and just got her back today. I can’t even begin to tell you how anxious being without this machine for a whole year has made me. Despite the fact that I have wonderful other machines, both newer and older, some of which have far more features than she does, I have missed this machine so much I almost cried when I went to pick her up and saw her plugged in a sewing like a dream. They fixed everything that was wrong with her and put her back into “as new” condition. I’m thrilled to say the least and will plan to use her as much as I can – after all, I don’t know how many more years she is going to last.  I am seriously considering buying a spare as a backup.  I know several other 1630 owners who have done this.

It all started last February when I went to make a dress for my, then 3 year old, daughter and the decorative stitches and zig zag would not work, and I could not move the needle position for topstitching. I had no idea it would turn into a year-long ordeal. Without getting into the weeds, it was a lot of misses – misunderstandings, miscommunications, missteps, and she didn’t actually get sent off to Bernina corporate for repairs until December of this past year.  The tech’s mother was dying the process, the Bernina dealer closed quite unexpectedly – it was just such a long, drawn out saga with too much drama.

I have so many quilts to finish and an evening gown for a cousin to make before June, and I was hoping I could have my quiet-as-a-church-mouse 1630 back so I can sew the next couple of weeks while watching the Olympics.

To say I am over the moon with happiness would not be an exaggeration in the slightest.

And my husband?  I am just not sure he gets it – I have a sentimental attachment to this Bernina, the one I waited for 13 years after graduating tailoring school before I could afford to but it – I will never have the bond with any other sewing machine that I have with this one.  But we have a trip to Norway coming in June and I’ve got plenty of hostess and family gifts to get ready to take along – I’m thinking napkin sets, hankies, lots of lovely things that can be extremely well-made and packed flat.  I just got to sew a few seems and she is so very quiet and smooth – nothing has ever sewn as well as this machine, at least not for me.  I am so very, very happy that she is home again.  Here is a picture of her in all her glory, sitting in her custom table cut-out, ready to get to work!  Isn’t she lovely?


I finally did it! My first embroidery …

Two years ago I bought myself a new combination sewing/embroidery machine, a fancy-dancy Brother Innovis 4500D Duetta.  Although there are many things about the machine I like, it has also always intimidated me a bit.  With my go-to machine (Bernice, my lovely Bernina 1630) on the fritz and in the shop now for 7 weeks waiting for a replacement part, I’ve been getting to know this machine a lot better – and I love it more every time I sew on it.  He finally has a name – Brewster.  I took Brewster with me to my last quilt retreat and I have to tell you, he was a complete joy to sew on.  But although I’ve bought the threads, stabilizers, designs and notions needed for machine embroidery, I’ve been too chicken to try – until tonight.  I got an e-mail from Brother that they were having a 50% off sale for Disney designs, and knowing how much Juliette is into all Princesses Disney these days, I browsed out to the site and showed her some of the design on my iPad.  She REALLY likes Snow White, and immediately picked a Snow White design she wanted me to get for her.  At $3.50, who could argue?  So I screwed up my courage, got out my machine to learn how to attach the embroidery unit and foot, bought the design, downloaded it to my machine, and stitched it out. I decided to sew it on one of her undershirts in case it turned out bad.   I did have one mishap, since I didn’t take the shirt apart first, but I was able to stop the machine, snip the few threads that caught up the bottom, back up 10 stitches and start over again.  Thank goodness for a really easy to use and intuitive machine.  I didn’t have to look up any of the directions for all of that.  And the knit shirt wasn’t the best idea, parts of the design shifted badly enough that the outline stitches are not aligned properly, but Juliette won’t care one bit, I don’t think.  So I have a little surprise for her when she wakes up tomorrow.  Yay for me, and for her!  A two-fer.  Lord, took me long enough for the first one though, right?!



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Purple, black, cobwebs and spiders

On Saturday I took Juliette to the fabric store to get her out of the house for a while. She SAID she wanted a pink princess dress. But when we got there she saw the Halloween fabric and insisted she was only interested in this purple and black fabric with cobwebs and spiders. “You can wear Halloween ANY time of the year, Papa!” So it was. Not exactly what I had in mind, but she seems thrilled with the idea. Let’s see how she feels when she wakes up tomorrow and sees it.

Ruffles, satin ribbon, ric rac edging on the hem and neck, a perfect narrow rolled hem on the polka-dot ruffle – and skulls, spiders, cobwebs (that sorta look like flowers from a distance). What a combination!


Getting Back to My (Fiber) Roots

For a little while now, I’ve been noticing little nudges from the universe, signals if you will, that it was time to re-examine my path, maybe change direction, and to get back into right relationship with certain parts of myself. It has all been a bit muddy, though I’ve known it has something to do with sewing. I guess you could say I’ve been aware for some time that I’ve been in a holding pattern of preparing and waiting, believing that when I was ready, the lesson would reveal itself. And several weeks ago, I cleaned out and reorganized my sewing studio, small as it may be, to work better for me. My discussions about sewing with my friend Emmy at work always energize me, and leave me a little bit either frustrated or anxious, or both. When I woke up yesterday morning, I found this in my daily horoscope (which I only ever really read for pure fun).

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Leo: You’ve been given certain gifts, but there is some assembly required. Unfortunately, right now it feels like you’ve misplaced the manual. Start asking around. There are many who can help you with the next step.

Shut. The. Front. Door. How about reading something like that about yourself on the day of the Chinese New Year? And it’s my year, the year of the snake. Uh-oh, I wasn’t sure I liked where this was going.
But I couldn’t get it out of my mind all day, so much so that I dug the paper out of the trash, cut the horoscope out, and pasted it into the front of a new journal. I was full of questions. What gifts? What assembly? Who? Was there *ever* a manual? That led me into a spiral of thinking that lasted all day. I thought a lot. About where my passions lie, how I spend my time when I am in my sewing room, what I really like to do, what I wish I was doing. Earlier in the weekend I had ordered a new table to take the place of the chest freezer in my studio, so that I can have two sewing machines set up at all times. And that started me thinking about what would I do once that change is made. Along the way, I came to a few conclusions about myself.

First, I love the act of creating garments. My innate talent with needle and thread was one of the first talents that others discerned about me, and it remains my first love. The joy that I get when I make a garment for myself or someone else, when it is something they really love and wear, is like no other. I’ve been missing this for some time, and I my first few attempts to recapture it making things for Juliette, well she hasn’t exactly loved the stuff. But how much is it fair to expect from a three year old, right?

Second, one of my gifts that my tailoring teacher, Mrs. Flowers, communicated clearly and strongly to me was my love of precision and fine detail in sewing. Few things make me feel as enraptured as the well conceived and constructed gown, coat, pants or dress. The perfectly constructed garment, sewn with the utmost attention to detail, remains a complete thrill for me.

Third, I love quilting, I really do. I love making things for people that keep them warm and cozy. And sewing them satisfies my need to commit the physical act of sewing with a machine. But to tell you the truth, I’m getting a little bored sewing ¼” seams – and always working with cotton fabric. I want ruffles and lace and embellishments and gathers and pleats and wool and linen and rayon and the entire wonderful world of silks.

Fourth, I love knitting too, and it satisfies that deep and intense need for handwork that is easy to pick up and put down. And let’s face it, most knitting is pretty immediate gratification, which is one of the nice things about it. Knitting is so deliciously tactile, but it doesn’t go far enough.

So although I have a couple of textile crafts that I really enjoy, I have still have fiber needs, needs that are not being met. Needs that won’t shut up or leave me alone, try as I might to ignore them. What’s a guy to do? I owe it to myself to be honest with myself. I got away from all of this garment making years ago, for reasons that were good at the time (I didn’t want to make for the people who could afford to pay me for custom made clothes), but that was about economics, not passion. And I am now in the enviable position of being able to sew purely for the love of creating and making something unique, and without regard to making a living. Yesterday and today I’ve spent quite a bit of time contemplating my years in tailoring school with Mrs. Flowers, my precious time with my grandma, my internship with Hazella and all that I loved about each of those women and my experiences with them. Yes, I have indeed been given certain gifts. And I am not using them, at least not all of them and certainly not well. To use a well-worn phrase, my light has been hiding under a bushel. Why, for so long, have I remained in denial about all of this? I think I owe it to myself to go back, pick up the tools I metaphorically laid down those many years ago, and carry on the legacy of fine craftsmanship and artistry to which I became heir from the experts who taught me.

So, it seems as though there are many who can help with me with whatever my next step might be. I don’t know exactly what that is just yet. I feel like I have to sort of sit with this knowledge for a while. I know I won’t be making a bespoke three piece suit anytime soon. But a pair of pants certainly wouldn’t be that hard, and I’ve got oodles of delicious wools that has been aging for 15 years waiting to be made into something nice. And there are a couple of dress patterns for Juliette that I think she will actually like, one of which she helped pick out. So there are some short term things I can undertake right away. I don’t know what the future brings, except that I know I want to keep an open heart and mind and spirit and see what comes my way. Maybe the next step will be clearer and more immediate than I can see from where I sit right now.