Well, y’all. If you showed up today hoping to see my finished dining room draperies, I have bad news. They’re still not finished. And the reason (at least in part) is because I spent yesterday afternoon shopping for and selecting a new sewing machine…a good machine. A fancy machine. A sewing machine that will make sewing much more enjoyable for me, and that will make my projects much easier and faster to complete. Here’s what happened…
Yesterday, I headed to JoAnn Fabric to pick up a few items to finish my dining room draperies. I happened to walk by the Husqvarna Viking sewing machine section (which is kind of a store within a store) and the sales woman was creating a beautiful paisley design on an embroidery machine.
We talked for a bit, and as I stood there watching this amazing machine, I kept thinking of how much fun it would be to own something like that. And as she kept showing me more and more of the projects she created with it, like this gorgeous embroidered pillow…
…I became more convinced that I needed this machine!
I knew it would be expensive, so I reminded myself to keep calm, cool, and collected, and not to show any sign of shock on my face, as I asked her the price. I expected something like $4-$5,000. Ummmm…yeah. It was over $14,000!! There was no way to hide my shock. 😀
I could never in my life bring myself to pay something like that for a fancy sewing machine. Never. But for a very long time now, I’ve wanted a brand new, nice sewing machine.
Here’s the deal. I know I’ve said time and again that I don’t like sewing. Well, that’s just simply not the truth. I dread starting a sewing project, but every time I finally get started, I realize that I really do enjoy the process quite a bit. It’s relaxing. It’s easy. And it’s a great change of pace.
The part that I DON’T enjoy is wrestling with my machine to get it to do what I want it to do! And the reason it’s such an issue is because I’ve never sewn on a really nice machine.
Out of all of the types of DIY projects that I do, I’ve been sewing the longest. While I’m pretty much self-taught in just about everything else, I actually did receive hands-on teaching when it came to sewing. My mom taught me how to sew when I was quite young, and I remember making my very first piece of clothing (a dress that I was very proud of) when I was in fourth grade or so.
So I’ve been sewing for over 30 years, and while I love creating, and I love being able to save thousands of dollars by making my own lined draperies, pillows, etc., wrestling with the actual machine generally brings me to tears at least once during each project. And if you were to see the machines I sew on, you’d understand why.
My current machine (before last night) is this Necchi machine that used to be my grandmother’s.
To be quite honest, this thing is a workhorse. Out of all of the machines I’ve use, this one is the best. But you can see it only does 10 basic stitches and four button holes. I love that it’ll sew through many layers of fabric with no problem at all, but my main issue with this machine has always been how slowly it sews. I think it’s just because it’s old, but I can press the pedal all the way down, and it just kind of chugs along at a very slow pace. That makes my projects take way longer than they should to complete.
Before this one, I owned two different Kenmore machines from Sears, each of which cost about $120. They looked something like this…
In other words, these were very basic machine, only a step or two up from the machines made for kids. Those are fine for people who rarely sew, or just want to work on small projects (like making a pillow here and there), but it’s really not great for big projects. And my biggest complaint with one of them was that in order to use the blind hem stitch, the fabric had to be to the right side of the needle. That means that in order to blind hem a drapery panel, I had to feed the entire panel through that work space to the right of the needle. It was frustrating, and made me dread making draperies.
Each of those machines lasted for about two year before giving out.
And before that, for about two years, I sewed on a vintage 1940s or 1950s Singer machine that looked very similar to this one. Not kidding.
That was actually another workhorse, but it just didn’t have the functionality that I wanted or needed. I don’t think it did blind hem stitches at all, so it wasn’t really practical for making draperies…although somehow I did make it work for a couple of years.
So yesterday, after picking myself up off the floor from hearing the $14,000+ price tag for the sewing/embroidery machine, I asked the nice sales woman what type of machine would be good for someone like me. I explained what type of sewing I do, and she showed me two different machines. I don’t even remember what the other one was. It didn’t seem very user friendly, to be quite honest.
But when she showed me the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q, it seemed like exactly what I wanted. And the more she demonstrated it, the more I kept wondering how in the world I was going to get Matt on board with me buying a new not-so-cheap machine.
And once again, I reminded myself to be calm, cool, and collected, and not show any shock on my face, as I asked her the price. The regular price is $2800 (ugh…I didn’t think Matt would go for that), but this model just happens to be on clearance, making way for the new model, so the clearance price is $1999. And the beautiful thing is that even though it’s on clearance and this model won’t be made anymore, it still comes with a full warranty and the company guarantees that all of the parts for this machine will be available for at least 20 years. Wow!
I took all of the info and headed home, wondering on the way how I was going to convince Matt that I needed a $2000 sewing machine. Well, he didn’t need any convincing. I got home and told him about it, and he said, “Well, why don’t you go get it?” I said, “Really? Right now?!” He said, “Kristi, you need to learn to splurge sometimes.” 😀
So I’m now the proud owner of a brand new sewing machine. A great sewing machine. The kind that makes sewing an absolute joy. The kind that you don’t have to wrestle with and curse at and cry over in order to get a project finished!
It has a fancy touch screen with all of the stitch settings and options, and it does over 300 different stitches. THREE HUNDRED!
Once I finally got it home and unpacked last night, I didn’t really have much time to play around with it, but I did test out a few stitches that looked really interesting to me.
It’s going to take some time to get myself out of the habit of pulling the fabric through the machine. This one feeds itself very well, and pulling it messed up the stitches. I’m not used to a machine that actually feeds itself properly. 😀 I also think that using a thicker fabric or stabilizer on the back will make the decorative stitches come out better.
So I have a lot of learning to do, and I’m so excited! It came with 12 different feet, and to be quite honest, I don’t know what most of these do or how to use them. And that buttonhole foot (the big one at the top of this photo) looks very intimidating to me. I’ve never seen a buttonhole foot like that before.
And because I’m not a person who reads owners manuals, but I want to get everything out of this machine that I can, I actually signed up for classes. That should be fun…and interesting! I’ve been sewing for over 30 years, but I would imagine that I have a ton of stuff to learn when it comes to these fancy machines.
I can already tell that this machine is going to go a very long way in changing my attitude towards sewing. It’s actually fun and easy to use. Oh, and while it does come with a regular foot pedal, it’s actually not needed! In all of the sewing and testing I did last night, I didn’t use the pedal even once because it also has a convenient start/stop button right there on the front of the machine that you can use, along with two buttons that will increase and decrease the speed. Amazing! And the automatic needle-down option will be so nice to have, along with the button that you push to cut the threads. No more searching for a pair of scissors to cut the threads each time I finish sewing.
It was definitely a splurge, and I don’t like to splurge like this very often. But I think this is one of those purchases that I’ll look back on in a few years, and wonder how I sewed for so long on those other machines. I can actually see myself looking forward to sewing now!
Filed Under: uncategorized
Well, I procrastinated as long as I could, but my black and white horizontal striped draperies for the dining room are finally underway. I don’t know why I make a big deal of sewing in my mind. I’ve got it in my head that I really dislike sewing, so when I have a sewing project that needs to be done, I drag my feet as long as I can. But I generally find that once I get started, it’s actually pretty enjoyable and even relaxing, and a nice change of pace from the harder and more strenuous projects I take on (like the building projects that tend to be my favorite).
Anyway, I’ve had a few of you tell me that you are waiting for me to do this project so that you can have directions for your own striped draperies. So I hope I can pass on some helpful tips and tricks.
Before I began on the draperies, I installed the drapery hardware (including the rings) so that I could measure the exact finished length before starting on the draperies. This is simple a matter of using a measuring tape to measure from the floor to the inside bottom of the drapery pin ring, which is the small ring that that’s attached to the bottom of the main ring that goes around the drapery pole. That tiny ring on the bottom is what the drapery pin slides through.
Once you have that measurement, you can add add or subtract as much as you want depending on the style you want. For example, if you want your draperies to puddle on the floor, you can add up to 12 inches or so, depending on how much of a puddle you want. If you want your draperies to break on the floor, add an inch. If you want your draperies to be right at the floor, but not break, then subtract about 1/4 inch.
To be clear, I couldn’t find any striped fabric that would work for my draperies. I wanted a specific number of stripes (exactly seven stripes), and I wanted each stripe to be close to exactly the same length. So finding a fabric with stripes that would work out to exactly seven stripes per panel, with each stripe being the exact same height, and that would perfectly fit my needed finished drapery length of 88.75 inches, would just never happen. So I purchased solid black linen and solid off-white linen and pieced them together to make my own stripes.
So once I had my finished drapery panel length, it was just a matter of dividing that finished length by the number of stripes to give me the finished length (i.e., without accounting for the extra fabric needed for seams or hems) of each stripe. Mine came to something like 12.68, so I just rounded up to 12.75. We’re not building rockets here. 😀 That tiny discrepancy in measurement won’t matter in the end.
And finally, I added in the amount needed for seams and hems. On the top and bottom black stripes, I added 5/8 inch for one standard seam allowance. But those stripes also needed allowance for a hem (standard hem for the bottom stripe, and header for the top stripe), so I added eight inches to both for a cut length of 21 3/8 inches for the top and bottom stripes. On the other stripes, I just needed to add an allowance for two standard 5/8-inch seams, which made the cut length 14 inches for those stripes. Here’s a visual (on a very unfinished panel) for those of you who are visual learners like I am:
So for one single-width drapery panel, I needed 2 black stripes at 21 3/8 inches, 2 black stripes at 14 inches, and 3 white stripes at 14 inches.
The biggest challenge on this project is cutting all of the stripes as perfectly straight and square as possible. This is the easiest way I’ve found…
First, I fold the fabric in half lengthwise so that the two selvage edges are together, making sure that there are no pulls or wrinkles along the folded edge. If the folded edge pulls and wrinkles, that means that the selvage edges aren’t together evenly. I just adjust them until the folded edge lies perfectly smooth and the selvage edges line up with each other. Then I place a framing square along along the folded edge, and mark and cut along the bottom of the framing square.
That method is the easiest I’ve found for giving me as straight and square of a starting point as possible.
DON’T EVER TEAR YOUR FABRIC!!! I’ve seen people do that, thinking that fabric always tears straight and square, and it just doesn’t. Plus, tearing the fabric also stretches the fabric. If you start with a torn end, you’ll end up with draperies that look like the cheapest of cheap clearance curtains. Take the extra time and effort to start with a perfectly straight and square end, and it’ll make a huge difference in how your draperies turn out.
Once I had a straight and square end to start with, I just used a straight edge (generally a piece of extra wood trim, since I always have plenty of that lying around) and a measuring tape to measure out the stripes. I took my time to measure in several places all the way across just to be sure it was as straight and square as possible before marking and cutting.
When I had the straight edge perfectly in place, I marked the fabric with a pen or pencil. And yes, I marked right on the fabric. It won’t show since it’ll be hidden in a seam. Then I removed the straight edge, and pinned the two layers of fabric together before cutting. I find that the pinning is very important to prevent the fabric layers from crawling and shifting as I cut.
As I cut the strips, I marked each one so that I would know which side was the right side, and which edge was the top.
It’s very important to always do this when cutting solid fabrics or patterned fabrics where the pattern doesn’t have an obvious top and bottom.
You always want to keep the fabric going in the same direction because some fabrics have a very subtle nap or directional sheen that may not be obvious until you get your draperies finished and hung, and then it becomes glaringly obvious that one stripe (or one drapery panel) is sewn with the fabric going in the opposite direction from the others and looks slightly (or not so slightly) darker/lighter/duller/shinier than all of the others. Just always be sure to mark your panels or strips so that they’re all coming off of the fabric bolt the same way. I do this by always putting two straight pins (just in case one falls out) in the top left corner of the right side of the fabric. That’s my system, but you just find your system and stick with it so you’ll always know the direction the fabric needs to go when you start sewing.
Now just one more very important piece of advice when making draperies — cut off the selvages!
On just about every fabric I’ve ever seen, the selvages are pulled and puckered. It may not be much, but it’s enough to make a difference in the side hems of your draperies if you leave them on. You can see what I’m talking about on this black strip that I cut.
Just take the extra time and cut the selvages off so that the fabric can lie perfectly flat instead of being pulled and puckered along the edges. That will give you the best end results, and will give your drapery panels the best chance of hanging perfectly straight along the side hems.
When I was cutting the black strips, I cut the strips and then cut off the selvages. When I was cutting the white, I did it in the opposite order — cut the selvages off of the whole length of fabric, and then cut the strips. I’d recommend the second way, as it makes cutting the strips much easier, faster, and more accurate.
And the rest is pretty self-explanatory. I pinned the strips together (making sure to use a longer black strip at the top and bottom for the hem/header), seven strips to a panel, and sewed them together.
Once they were all sewn together, I pressed the seams open and flat to give a really nice, crisp appearance on the front.
And that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far. I did pin one of the panels up onto the drapery rod just so I could get an idea of what the striped draperies will look like. Of course, it’s not hemmed, there’s no header in it yet, and it’s not lined. This is just the face fabric.
I love it! I’m so glad I went back to the striped draperies. It’s what I’ve wanted all along, and I think I would have been disappointed with anything else.
Filed Under: Dining Room