Monthly Archives: August 2015

Babylock Blind Hemmer

Here is the newest addition to my sewing machine collection: A Babylock Bl101 Blind Hemmer.

My Babylock Bl101 Blind Hemmer

My Babylock Bl101 Blind Hemmer

This cute little machine does only one thing – a chainstitched blind hem. But, like most specialized machines, it does a fanatastic job.

I found this machine on Ebay for under $200 (including shipping). I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s hard to find information about specialty machines

The needle and looper

The needle and looper

The needle sits sideways in the machine, and moves from left to right. The guides lift the fabric up at just the right point for the needle to barely pierce the fabric. The single looper catches the thread and makes a single stich. You can watch the whole, facsinating process through the clear window that covers the needle and looper.

The handle on the right side of the machine controls the feed dogs. The lowest position is for inserting or removing the fabric. The middle position lightly grasps the fabric, so you can deterimine if it is correctly positioned in the feed guide. The highest position is for sewing

Threading

I hate threading sergers. I was a bit worried about threading this machine. It came unthreaded, with a cone of clear thread sitting on the spool, comfortably wrapped in a thread net. Threading was mandatory, not optional. I decided to use black serger thread for easier to see stitches, making any needed adjustments easier to see and fix.

Miniscule printing and photocopy quality made my copy of the instruction manual a little intimidating. The threading diagram is clear, concise and easy to follow. The few steps seemed simple, and were. Through the thread holder, then two large eyes, and around the tension disk. Open the clear plastic needle cover, and run the thread through another guide, under a little rectangular thingy, and then through one final guide before reaching the needle.

Threading the hemmer, with a needle threader in the eye of the needle

Threading the hemmer, with a needle threader in the eye of the needle

Turning the small handwheel on the right side of the machine moves the needle and loopers. For threading, the needle must be in the left most position, which you can find easily by lining up the green dots on the needle and the machine. Like most specialty sewing machines, it does forward only, so the handwheel turns counterclockwise only.

The sideways needle is threaded down to up. The intructions advise using an ordinary needle threader to do this. The first needle threader I grabbed from the sewing basket was too big to fit through the eye of the needle. The seccond threader I trie worked. When I was finished and cleaning up, I realized the small plastic bag that came with the machine included extra needles and a needle threader. Next time I will try the threader that came with the machine.

After threading, lower the handle on the right side to the lowest position. Pull the fabric into the machine, with at least 2″ BEHIND the needle and loopers. Move the handle to the center position, and make sure the fabric is positioned correctly. When you’re ready to sew, raise the handle to the highest position.

The First Test

First Test Hem

First Test Hem

I think the results would be better with the clear thread that came with the machine, or a regular sewing machine thread. Serger thread is lower quality than sewing machine thread. Thread runs back and forth through the eye of an ordinary lockstich sewing machine needle many, many times before finally ending up in a stitch. Serger thread isn’t made to stand up to that kind of wear and tear, and tends to break when used in a normal sewing machine.

My first couple of test runs were a bit wonky. The tension was fine. I had to adjust the guide on the front of the machine, so the fabric fold entered the machine correctly. I had to turn the stitch depth dial all the way up to 6, because at lower settings, the needle did not always pierce the fabric enough to catch the looper, causing skipped stiches. Strangely, the owners manual suggests depths of 1 – 3 for heavier wovens, and 3 – 6 for lightweight fabrics and synthetics. Perhaps my litte machine need a little tune up.

Hemming the Dress

Hemming the black dress

Hemming the black dress

The machine is fast and quiet, much quieter than my vintage Singer.Watching the needle and looper through the clear plastic window is almost hypnotizing.

Holding the fabric in your left hand as it exits the machine keeps the fabric from pooling and bunching behind the needle and loopers.

To lock the thread at the end of the hem, stop sewing at the very end of the fabric (or complete the whole circle of hem). Make sure the needle is positioned all the way to the left (you can see it through the clear plastic window) and, with your left hand, give the fabric a good, hard yank. The thread snaps and the stitching locks in.

Hemming More

Lekala 4404

Lekala 4404

Trimming the old facing hem away

Trimming the old facing hem away

 

My second hemming project is a re-hem job. This floral rayon Lekala dress came out shorter than I anticipated. I tried to preserve the length by using a facing for the hen. I wasn’t thrilled with the end result. So I trimmed away the facing, leaving the serged skirt/hem facing seam allowance in place. I used this as a guide to fold the fabric up again for hemming. This time, I used the clear thread that came with the machine and I like the results a lot better. The skirt is just a teeny bit shorter, but not too short.

 

The finished hems, a deeper one with black thread on the black dress, and a very narrow hem with clear thread on the floral dress

The finished hems, a deeper one with black thread on the black dress, and a very narrow hem with clear thread on the floral dress

The Final Result

Here is a close up of both the black dress and the floral dress.

The clear thread works so much better than the black serger thread. The machine is quick, quiet and super easy to use.

 

I like my little blind hemmer!

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The Awkward First Time

Welcome!

I didn’t know what to blog about first, and I am new to WordPress, so I decided to take the easy way out and write an introduction. I’ll talk a little bit about what you’ll find on the menu here over the next few posts, show you some current works in progress, introduce you – and myself! – to my blind hemmer, and learn my way around WordPress

What’s Coming Up

I have a new machine! A Babylock bl101 blind hemmer. My vintage Singer 6233 Miracle Machine does a nice blind hem, because it allows me to drop the tension down to almost 0. But, this machine was inexpensive and is supposed to make a great hem quickly and easily, with a single thread. So we’ll see if it really is faster, easier, or better than my old Singer.

Black silk drop waist dress, unhemmed

Black silk drop waist dress, unhemmed

I also happen to have a black dress that is complete except for the hem. I’m afraid it looks a little like an Amish School Marm in the photos, perhaps because the dress dummy is several inches shorter than I am.

Today I’ll talk about the dress. I don’t have any photos of the dress in construction, but I’ll reveiw the pattern and discuss my changes. I’ll aslo show you a previous version that required repair, and how I repaired it.

Next, we’ll play with my blind hemmer and the black dress.

A new blog deserves new projects. We’ll start simple, with an easy McCalls top, out of rayon challis and poly chiffon. Because I like to have multiple projects going at once, we’ll also do a Vogue blouse with a digital print stretch silk off Ebay.

My Babylock Symphony has a mountain of decorative stitches, most in 2 sizes, that can be flipped every which way. I’m going to play with a couple of these stitches, and add a two-color decorative hem to a Hot Patterns Fast N Fabulous La Strada shirt. I love this pattern, it really is fast and fabulous.

We’ll also be making pants and shorts. I may not wear the shorts until next summer. But when you’re making a pair of pants, and there’s enough material leftover for shorts, it’s quick and easy to make the shorts right along with the pants. We’ll be using the Linda pull on pant pattern from Style Arc. The back crotch and front crotch are different shapes, and I think this helps the pants fit better. The only downside is that the leg is wider than I’d like.

The Pattern, The Previous Version, The Repair and The Black Dress

Vogue 8020 envelope cover

Vogue 8020 envelope cover

The Pattern I used for the black dress, and it’s previous version in peppermint pink is Vogue 8020. I think it is OOP now. I liked the fit-n-flare silouette with the dropped waist.

The neckline was too wide for my taste, so I cut it as a jewel neckline on both dresses. When the bodice was complete, I adjusted the shape of the front neckline to my body and whim of the moment. I also added sleeves.

The Previous Version

The Previous Version of this dress is made with a woven peppermint pink silk suiting (from Fabric Mart) for the bodice, and a knit suede for the skrit and sleeves. The sleeves are finished with a band of bias suiting, and the neck is finished with a band of suede knit.

The silk suiting is very ravely and fragile. The fabric at the neckline seam began to fall apart.The band began to pull away from the bodice

Scissor points to fraying fabric, pulling apart from the neckband

Scissor points to fraying fabric, pulling apart from the neckband

The Repair.

I fused some soft interfacing around the neckline, right up against the neckband. I had very, very little of the knit suede left, but I managed to find a scrap just big enough to cut a replacement neckband.

New band pinned in place, serger knives cutting off the old band while applying the new one

New band pinned in place, serger knives cutting off the old band while applying the new one

I sewed the ends of the band together. I folded it lengthwise right side out, wrong side in. I lined the raw edge of the new band up with the folded top edge of the old band.

Then, I ran it through the serger so that the knives cut off the old band while the new band was stitched in place with the intterfacing now supporting the silk at the neckline.

Repaired neckline

Repaired neckline

In retrospect I should have interfaced the neck edge when it was cut out. Or I should have added an interlining to the bodice for more strength. Here is the repaired neckline, and the dress on a dress dummy

Peppermint pink silk and misty grey suede version of Vogue 8020, with long sleeves

Peppermint pink silk and misty grey suede version of Vogue 8020, with long sleev1

The Black Dress

The black version of this dress was inspired by an expensive (as in thousands) Alexander MacQueen dress I saw on the Niemen Marcus website. The designer version did not have darts or princess seams, instead the bodice was fitted with a horizontal seam across the bust and a center seam down the front. What caught my eye was the skirt. It was slightly flared, with large buttoned pleats on each side.

My version is made from black silk suiting (from Fabric Mart). This suiting has a softer hand and is a bit less ravely than the peppermint pink suiting I used for the previous dress.

My version also uses conventional princess seaming to shape the bodice. The seamlines in the bodice of the designer version are different, but the final overall shape is the same as my Vogue pattern.

20150824_154130I decided to line this version of the dress. I used some satiny stuff from the stash in the bodice, and black poly lining from (where else?) Fabric Mart for the skirt. I did not line the pleats. The pleats are sort of like wings sewn into the side seam, and buttoned to the skirt front at the dropped waist.  The photo of the skirt on the table shows one pleat wing buttoned in place, the other opened out so you can see the actual shape.

And now, the dress is ready to hem!

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The Sewing Room Cafe

Welcome to my Sewing Room. Sit down, have a cup of coffee, and join me on my sewing adventures!

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