Monday, April 15, 2013

This Post is Kind of Involved (But Fun!) So Please Feel Free to Grab Some Wine

I have so many things to talk about I barely know where to start.  Let's kick it off with the Burda suit jacket which was finished  (so I thought) as of 8 pm last night. Alas, once I sewed the second button and tried the thing on, I realized that the fall of the lapel was weird (due to button placement). What I need to do is sew 2 more buttons and buttonholes, 2 inches above the others, to give another latitude of double-breasted closure.

Part 1:
I will say that my opinion of this jacket is vacillating wildly. For starters, it looks much better on me than on the dress-form (it's one of those "not as good on the hanger" pieces). Alas, for obvious reasons, I've spent much of my time observing it on the form. 
I do see every flaw - the most notable of which is the crap quality of the pressed fabric. S pointed out to me that the fabric took better to pressing on areas that were fusibly interfaced vs. those that were pressed (but with a cloth!) alone. I was SO careful with that pressing and the fabric prep (BTW, there was no sign of things to come when I prepped the fabric). I don't know how observable it will be to those who merely view this as a garment I happen to be wearing (rather than something I painstakingly tailored and had an issue with). I suspect I'm overstating the problem, though I will most definitely choose my next fashion fabric more carefully. And it's going to be a long time before I use merino faille again.

On the up-side. I accomplished some good (if progressive) fitting and some very nice technique. And, dare I say it myself, the lining worked beautifully. Silk charmeuse, for its challenges, produces a finished garment that screams luxe. Honestly, this jacket looks like a million bucks on the basis of the interior alone. And the lining's celery-shade manages to be cool and verdant at the same time. In truth, even in the (relatively well-made) lining, there are many imperfections - but they're hard to spot cuz the gorgeous, satiny silk bamboozles.

I opted to sew the sleeves into the lining shell (rather than to hand insert them into the armsyces after attaching the rest of the lining). I was worried about how it would go as I haven't done this before and, I've read, it's less forgiving than sewing the lining in by hand. When you sew the sleeve into the armscye by hand, you don't need as much ease (or, to be more specific, you don't need as precisely the exact right amount of ease) as you do when you're bagging a lining with pre-set in sleeves. 
Happily, my pattern pieces were spot on. I drafted the lining myself (with help from this great post), and I did well on that account. I meant to tack the sleeves into the shell, at the underarm, but promptly forgot until after I finished bagging the lining and sewing everything up. Having said this, I haven't found that the sleeve is shifting in the shell during wear or when I put it on or take it off. In fact, I think it's sitting nicely.

A word on lining: It's no quicker to bag the lining and sew everything in by machine, IMO, than to tailor it by hand and set the sleeves in separately. In fact, I think it's faster to do the hand work (if you're a confident hand-stitcher) because you can adjust your precision as you go. Once you've got that lining all machined together, it's hard to alter how it will fit in the shell - you've got to be SO careful that it takes that much longer.
One other point about the lining (which I'll likely discuss again): I didn't actually tack the shell hem to the shell after bagging it. I forgot that was on my list of things to figure out so I'll have to wait till next time to see how and if it's possible. However, as I made my hem quite narrow in the scheme of things, and as I don't have too much of a jump pleat in the lining, I sense the lining and pressing will keep the hem in place without issue. Time will tell.

I promise - pics are coming soon. I just need to do those extra buttons/buttonholes and wash my hair.

Part 2:
You might be wondering how it is that I've sewn buttonholes so blase-ly, given my well-known hatred of that activity, and based on some dicey end-results.

Well, my friends, this brings us to the exciting part of the post.

Meet my new sewing comrade:
The Viking Husqvarna 190, Photo from vendor
My husband looked over my shoulder while I was ogling this baby on Etsy and offered to buy it for my birthday (still 2 months away). I cannot begin to describe my feelings for this machine. I've only known her for 4 days but I really do sense my life has changed.

So many sewists get new machines, and post about them and - even as I love to read those posts (they thrill and inspire envy), I'm all like: I don't have that kind of money for a new machine.

(Disclaimer: I have a very expensive serger that I bought new, 2.5 years ago, and I love it every single time I use it. I in no way regret that purchase, which I managed to find the money for, so I'm not suggesting that I'm a starving artist or that others go crazy spending on their new machines (like it's any business of mine what anyone else does). I say, if you've been sewing for a lifetime and/or you've got an excess of funds, an expensive machine is de rigeur. I just don't know how I fit into either of those camps :-))

The Back Story:
I've been sewing for 3.5 years on a beginner model Brother machine, purchased (on a whim, also by my husband) from Walmart for under 200 bucks. I should have nothing but gratitude for that machine because, really, it has seen me through a tailored suit, bra-making of all kinds, numerous knits, and everything in between. But even in my gratitude, I have to admit that the machine is light-weight, fussy, can't sew a buttonhole to save itself, ruinous of certain fabrics and just not right for the sewist I've become. I've known for 2 years that I needed a new machine but, after I bought the serger - a very smart addition to my sewga room, I couldn't really justify spending another 2K on a great, new item.

Add to that the incomprehensibility of choosing a new machine, and I've been non-commital. I have very little exposure to different models. Natch, I've tried other machines (an Elna, a Janome, a Bernina) but none of them resonated  - though they are all very nice - and I only tried one model of each brand. I have been so overwhelmed, so nervous about choosing incorrectly (BTW this is so NOT my personality), that I've let the task languish. Weird.

Now my husband is an ally in that, when I have trouble making a choice (like, once a decade), he swoops in and enables. I would not have bought my new machine (and I've got lots to say on how it's wonderful, below), but he convinced me it was no great risk, and probably a smart idea. And then he offered to pay for it.

To give you some sense of its value, as I'm about to tell you the numerous ways in which it is WONDERFUL, it cost - including 65 bucks of shipping - $350 all in. I mention this because I couldn't imagine a more perfect machine for me, and it was totally affordable even though it was delivered from America, and the thing weighs a lot. My point is, you don't have to spend a lot on a machine to get a terrific one.

About The Viking Husqvarna 190:
Over the years I've determined what I find important in a machine (afeared, natch, that I don't know enough to know what actually is important...):
  • A free arm that's narrow enough to work on all kinds of narrow diameter sewing
  • A mechanical machine (no electronic robot bits!)
  • A machine that's been used for many years, with love and success
  • A machine that's, nonetheless, in very good condition
  • A great - and easy - buttonhole feature (the holy grail of features, IMO - many a great machine still struggles with the buttonhole)
  • Beautiful, which is to say, optimally functional design
  • European manufacture
  • A metal chassis
  • Ease of use (how do the presser feet work? what about tension fixing?) 
  • An even stitch  
And another thing, I suspect one is nuts to buy a machine on the basis of looks (which I did not do) but if you don't consider the aesthetic, you're likely to spend a lot of time staring at a machine that doesn't appeal. The 190 is beautiful. So 1970s fabulous. It's black and brown with crazy, olde-style knobs and buttons. It's practically space-aged!
Miraculously, in the Viking Husqvarna (the last model to be manufactured in Sweden), I achieved all of these objectives.

I sense I've found a partner in this machine and that it will collaborate with me for many years and, for this, I am tremendously grateful.
My first experience of it (after cleaning and admiring), was to sew in a sleeve. It did this with grace in a fraction of the time, with a fraction of the effort, that the Brother would have taken (not to disrespect my former machine). The Viking is so elegant. So subtle. 

At any rate, I'll stop now cuz I don't want to be one of those crazy sewing ladies, but if you're ever in the market to buy a vintage machine, I couldn't recommend this one more. 

Today's questions: What machine do you use? Is it pre-owned? How do you like it? Let's talk!

31 comments:

  1. We nearly have the same machine! I have a Husqvarna Optima 190 and I love it. I bought it reconditioned in 1996. I think these were top end in their day!

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    1. Oh, that's crazy! Woohoo. Gotta go check out the Optima reviews.

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    2. Hey Katy, just looking it up, it appears they might be exactly the same machine...

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    3. I was thinking that as well. The sales slip which I still have has it described as a Viking so maybe they are the same. They certainly look the same. I really have to get mine serviced though - my backstitch lever no longer works and I've done something to the bobbin winder as well.

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  2. Now I want oooooneeee!!! I learned on my mom's Singer Touch & Sew from the 70s, which I sadly had to leave behind when I moved. Now I use a modern refurbed Janome. Works fine for the most part, and I appreciate the ease of switching between stitches (a loooooong process on the Singer), but it just doesn't feel as substantial or sturdy.

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    1. I hope that you can find a substantial machine (like the 190) to go with your Janome. Then you'll have the best of both worlds!

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  3. You will love this machine! It was my back up machine for years...enjoy your sewing journey with it!

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    1. Oh C, thanks so much for your comment! Your sewing machine experience is some I've followed most closely (given all of your experience!). I LOVE that you have used this machine and that you enjoyed it. It makes this even more fun, from my perspective. xo

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  4. Yayyy, Kristin!! Congratulations and welcome to Viking family!

    I bought my first machine from Sears - a Janome made Kenmore 16321. After that, 3 other machines have come home - all from Craigslist or Kijiji. The first one I bought used was a Janome 644D serger, which was hardly used once or twice...then came a Janome Coverpro 1000 cpx which was again hardly used... And finally a Viking Husqvarna Rose which was well loved. Obviously I have enough machines now (I got to keep telling that to myself for I recently heard a quote - People who don't sew, shop!)

    I love all of my machines and use them all. Among the sewing machines, I love the Rose the most. It really purrs! The Kenmore doesn't stand a chance next to it.

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    1. Thank you K! I have to look up the Rose, now that I'm a member of the family :-)

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  5. That is fantastic - I bet you have a babylock serger - and I am jealous. I have a Bernina 430 bought new when local dealer going out of business and I love it! I also have some older singers (featherweight, 201K plus treadle) - but I love my Bernina - one day Babylock, one day.

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    1. I do indeed have a Babylock serger and I am incredibly grateful to have bitten the (financial) bullet in buying it. It runs beautifully. But I don't know how I justified the cost. (Note: It was the week I got my tax refund and my birthday was around the corner so my parents contributed 500 bucks.)

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  6. Oh I love me a retro machine...she is beautiful. Isn't your hubby just a lovely, lovely man?
    Now can we see the jacket, pleeeeese!

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    1. Thank you!! He's pretty good - especially when it comes to the sewing support :-)

      I have to wait till I have the wherewithal to sew in the final 2 buttonholes. It won't take long, but I don't want to rush after work, at this point. I want to feel balanced when I do it. Maybe that will be today after work. I'm playing it day by day (till the weekend at which point it will be done, if not sooner). Thanks for your excitement btw.

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  7. Glad you have made progress on the jacket and have the new machine. I have never sewn on a Viking, but yours looks like a good machine. I grew up sewing and bought a cheap Singer in the 1970s. It is an all metal machine and actually better made than modern, plastic machines dispite its low price at the time. Until about a year ago I used it along with my mom's featherweight. Recently,I found a Pfaff Tiptronic from the 1980s on craigslist and bought it. It is a good machine and has many features my Singer does not (e.g. triple zigzag and stretch stitch). I am mostly happy with it, but still don't know the ins and outs of it. The owner's manual is worthless and because it is old, I'm not sure who I can go to to help with a few of its oddities. (I don't know if they are Pfaff or my machine.) With all that, I'm really glad I bought it. I'm envious of your serger. Mine is an old brother from 1980s, but it was free from my sister-in-law and I make it do.

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    1. There's nothing like a gifted machine to make buying one seem less of a priority :-) I didn't know anyone with a serger when I got my Babylock, which helped me to justify its purchase. I've heard Pfaffs are excellent sewing machines. It was one of the ones on my list to try.

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  8. part 1: when do we finally get to see glimpses of this wonderful jacket? :)

    part 2: the new sewing machine looks fab! mine is a base model babylock that was given as a birthday present years ago. while it has served me well, and through every sort of abuse i have hurled at it, i can tell it's time to upgrade! budget being what it is, it'll be a while, but it's definitely on my radar. yours looks so beautiful, have a blast with it!

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    1. It's scary to upgrade - there are SO many options. And so many of them are expensive. I know they recommend that you go to a shop and try a lot of machines (that's what I did with my serger - which is how I ended up with the priciest machine in the store :-)) but sometimes you just have to choose and hope for the best (with a good service shop near by in case you need to avail yourself of it).

      I did finish the jacket tonight - about 15 minutes ago - and I'm so overwhelmed by it. I think I'll wear it tomorrow and take pics before work, if I have time and the weather is bright.

      The problem with making such a big deal about something is that then you have to show it off and feelings of insecurity or ambivalence can be tough to deal with...

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  9. A lovely machine. I have a Huskystar 224. I was sewing on my mom's White and she traded in a couple of machines to get a new one for herself and the Huskystar for me. There are pictures of it in a post I did on cheeky panties ages ago.
    http://seraphinalina.blogspot.ca/2011/09/cheeky-panties.html#comment-form
    I really like my machine. I like that it has knobs to turn, enough stitches for what I need but not so many to be overwhelming. I haven't made many button holes with it but it's not impossibly complicated and the zig zag is pretty good. She's good to me.

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    1. I remember that post... And I totally agree with you about what makes a manageable machine - some knobs (not too many!) and a few stitches. I want to feel like I use all the features of my machine (over time, of course). If there are a zillion, I get overwhelmed.

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  10. My old Schneider is now broken beyond repair and I'm trying to figure out what I want for my new one, so your post has perfect timing.

    btw, from my point of view as someone who's looking for a new machine, there aren't enough posts out there about this topic :)

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    1. Oh, that's so sad Roni! I hope your machine had a good, long life. I know what you mean about the dearth of posts when you're trying to find something specific. But I often feel there are too many details about what everyone is upgrading to. (Of course, I'm contributing to that issue with this post :-)) Sometimes I just get confused!

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  11. My "new" sewing machine is a Singer 503a. I LOVE it. It sews like a champ and it's older than me :) I haven't purchased a new sewing machine since my beginner Brother machine. There's something about mechanical machines that speaks to me. I'm so glad that you're enjoying your "new" sewing machine.

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    1. Gotta love a machine that's been kicking ass for longer than you have :-) I do love the mechanical machines.

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  12. Hi K its' me again G, I know you are enjoying that viking 190. I know she will be good to you as she was to me for three and half yrs. I start sewing on a Goodhousekeeping which belong to my mother. It had one stitch, a straight stitch thats it. But was the best stitch and lead me in sewing a whole wardrobe of clothes the old way. Tailor pieces with french flat fell seams and more detail than I would concider doing today. I enjoyed that machine. It weight a ton and I lugged that old machine to college and back again. Then I decide to try a newer model Singer, you know the plastic ones that came out in the late 80's.
    I hated that machine, it never perform anything that looked like a buttonhole. The tension was horrible and the frustration caused me to give up sewing for many years.

    Then with a fresh new job and the need for some well make clothes I went back home to get that old ton of a machine. Then I thought it would be nice to have a zigzag and few other stretch stitches to work with. So I decide to purchase a kenmore. It was made of plastic to but it functioned a little better. I was able to get some nice pieces off that one. Then I saw the Viking Huqvarna 190 and I knew I had to have her. She has lived up to her duties very well. I am now using mainly between two machines.

    At a yard sale one summer a very nice gentleman sold me a 70's Singer Touch n Sew Deluxe with all the Cams for a song. He even threw in a tub of fabrics. It was like Christmas morning going through all the fabrics. But I really didn't know what had. So I put her the Singer in the hall closet and there it stayed for three yrs.

    Then I decide to get her out and take her to be service. When I got the machine back, I started to play around with it and found out she could do many things. She is bold and built to out last me and many of my decadents.
    I use this one the most now. I have Janome 9000 which sews very well but with the computerized functions and all she seems to be delicate for some task. Like sewing through thick stacks and layers of fabrics for collages and more.

    Well my studio is small and I knew I would have to find a home for one of my vintage machines. It was a very hard decison for me. But I know now that the Viking 190 is at home and she is very happy to work well for her new owner.

    Enjoy,
    G

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    1. G: Thank you so much for this wonderful comment! I love to hear more about the machine and the life it's lived and also to hear about the many wonderful machines you've owned. I promise to keep the 190 working to her usual standards and to learn as much as I can from her and from sewing. xo

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  13. Hooray new machine! I sew on a HV Sapphire 850 and I love it. I also upgraded from a Brother beginner and there is just no comparison.

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    1. We're like twins! (Except yours is more fancy and electronic, I think.)

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  14. I'll be curious to see whether you continue to get good buttonhole results with the new machine. Our high-end Janome, the one we call the Mac truck, sews several in a row, perfectly, then randomly ruins one, for no apparent reason. It's crazy making, enough so that we've been fantasizing about dedicated buttonhole machines.

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    1. I think that may be how it goes - not sure. So far these have worked (all 10) but my starter-machine used to wreck every other one. My Singer was much more reliable (as those buttonholer attachments are known for being) but the machine itself needs a serious tune-up the likes of which my husband and I are able to provide. I think the bobbin holder might be wrecked.

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  15. My first machine which Mum bought for my 21st looks like it was in the same family - Husqvarna Optima 610., also made in Sweden. I have loved that machine since the beginning and it has made sooo many outfits over the years without skipping a beat. About 12 months ago I treated myself to a new Viking Sapphire 835 and love it too - I especially love that nearly all the attachments I picked up along the way for the 610 work perfectly on the new machine. I will never however part with my 610. I think you will love your new machine for many years to come.
    Cheers, Jo

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