sew what?


I have been getting to know my new sewing machine. I have to say that I really, really love it: my old machine was rather basic, but this one has several different feet, a fancy buttonhole thingy, and a multitude of decorative stitch patterns. Plus, it is so smooth! So intuitively simple to operate! The threads do not get caught and the bobbin winder actually winds the bobbin!

This is the speed adjuster, which I find incredibly pleasing.


Surely the first thing anyone does is to make a sampler of stitches?


Some of these really kill me, and off course set me off thinking about the structure of various knitterly motifs.



But my lettering definitely needs some work . . .


Should I be cutting the threads between each letter? Experienced machinists: advice please!

I’ve really missed sewing of late: I sewed a lot of clothes prior to my stroke, but afterwards found it too difficult / tiring (even getting out the machine, and setting it up was tiring!) and it has now been almost four years since I whipped myself up a skirt or dress. Sheesh! But I am now going to set aside a few hours a week to spend with my lovely new machine and am already looking forward to redeveloping my stitching skills.


47 thoughts on “sew what?

  1. Congrats to the new machine! Knitting and sewing go so well together, and it’s great to hear that your health has improved enough to allow you to pick it up again :)

  2. Your lettering is pretty darn good for the first try on your machine. I love playing around with my sewing. It is a hard choice some days to choose between sewing and knitting.

  3. I think my machine is the same brand as yours, I love it too. I’ve never been as happy to do buttonholes as I am now, and it is brilliant over thick layers of fabric too. I’m afraid I can’t help about cutting threads or not but I wish you many happy sewing hours!

    1. Would you mind sharing what kind of machine you have too? I am looking for a good smooth machine that does some fancy stitching and can handle heavy fabric. Thank you!

  4. Do you mind sharing which machine you have? I am looking for one that does those kinds of stitches and I love hearing personal reviews of the ones people really like. Thanks. Lovely stitches!! Some of them almost look knitted.

  5. Do you have a Bernina? Mine makes exactly the same kind of letters and I think they are supposed to look like that – they are made using straight stitch rather than being true machine embroidery, so they need the stitch in between to link them. If your machine is a different brand then I’m not sure…

  6. You might want to get some embroidery stabilizer. I have some strong stuff for underneath which tears off as well as some soft water-soluble stabilizer for the top. I cut the threads between the letters.

    Would also love to hear what machine you have, mine is Pfa*f.

    Do enjoy!


  7. You might want to get some embroidery stabilizer. I have some strong stuff for underneath which tears off as well as some soft water-soluble thing stabilizer for the top. I cut the threads between the letters.

    Would also love to hear what machine you have, mine is Pfa*f.

    Do enjoy!


  8. Your stitch samples look beautiful! I haven’t done any sewing for ages mainly because knitting is just so portable but your photos are very inspiring! Is that an Elna? – my Elna has a tortoise and hare speed control too :)

  9. Looks like Memory Craft machine, right? Mine is from 1989 and I am still in love with it except I don’t have a cute tortoise & hare speed dial. I don’t snip the threads between letters. They bother me, but I find I can never get the threads cut down close enough without ripping out the last stitch that holds the letter.

  10. you have such good ideas.
    my bernina has very many decorative stitches. i never thought of making a sampler.
    plans for my weekend may have just changed.

  11. Super! and since you have such good taste (OK, it’s like mine :) ) I would love to know what patterns you are using when you sew, like the company and the #. Hopefully you now have enough space to keep it up so you can use it whenever………….

  12. Oh, how I envy your working machine. I am actually needing to pick mine up today from the shop and it’s still not completely fixed (part ordered and on the way). Enjoy your new baby. :)

  13. I´m an Janome fan and my machine alson has theese cute hare and turtle! I always cut the threads between the letters, at least on the right side.
    I wish you a good luck with your sewing!

  14. Hmmm, the great tortoise and hare mystery! I know my old HV has them, but my new Janomes don’t. My old Janome just went to see the nice man with oil can, so I can’t check.
    I would use stabiliser (even normal interfacing will help) with both the lettering and the denser stitch patterns.
    A lovely new machine is very inspiring, I have students who come with a clunky old machine, then once they use the ones I have on loan from Janome they are lost, and can’t live without one.

  15. I did a short “know your sewing machine” course on and we did a stitch bible like yours except that for each stitch we varied the length and width. Some give surprising results and it multiplies the number of stitches enormously.

  16. My past experiences with sewing machines (and photocopiers) are the very reasons why I like knitting with DPNs. Just me, my wool and 4 pointy sticks. But your pics and testimony about bobbin winding could just sway me to try again! I will enjoy further reports.

    1. That’s exactly how I feel! I do have a marvelous machine that does lots of wonderful things (including winding bobbins!)….in anyone’s hands but mine, it seems. But I’ve long ago given up on taming it…I’ll just stay with my yarn and pointy sticks ;)

  17. A timely post for me! I am just heading out the door to ask questions of my local sewing machine dealers – Janome and Bernina. It is time to let go of my plastic Singer that I have been frustrated with for so long. I swoon when I see a machine that cheerfully sews through bulky layers of a thick felted Fair Isle sweater. I’ll bet there are features that I dont even know about to help with the task.
    Happy sewing knitters….

  18. Wowsers. Nice stitches! Do tell us what machine it is…

    You know, I read quite a lot of sewing and quilting blogs, but today is the first time I’ve had serious sewing machine envy. Now I know what I’m going to save up for this year! I’d better think of something good to justify it…

  19. Such wonderful stitches. Impressive. I have to laugh at your excitement that the threads don’t get caught and it actually winds bobbins. Makes me think of my old machine, which I still use from time to time just for sentimental reasons. But when I really need something accomplished with little effort, out comes the new machine. Enjoy!

  20. Have fun with your new machine! Your lettering will look better if you put “stitch and tear” behind it ….. yes, as the name suggests, it tears away after stitching! It’s up to you whether you want to cut the threads between letters – if you don’t already have some, I would suggest investing in a small pair of scissors with curved points, so that you are less likey to cut the fabric. In no time at all you will be making a quilt!!

  21. Lovely stitching! I have an old Janome with hundreds of stitches to choose from, but I have only really scratched the surface of what it can do, so I’m glad to see someone really exploring their machine from the start. I bought mine from an elderly man whose wife had died, leaving a whole room of sewing paraphernalia. He was glad to see it go to someone who would use it, but I must say I haven’t made the most of it. It has old fashioned memory cards which look like floppy discs!!

  22. Ooh! I’d love a machine like that. Lucky you. Your lettering looks pretty good for a first attempt. Keep at it and please share your projects.

  23. I bought a budget level Brother a few years ago and it’s a total waste of space, it works okay with a bit of persuasion but it’s so flimsy it bounces around and can barely sew three layers of cotton together. My current machine is a 1959 Singer 319 that can do 200 different stitches, but not lettering. It cost the equivalent of a small car back in 1959 though! And it’s a sturdy metal object, well looked after. It cost me £10 out the local charity shop and it’s the best machine I’ve ever owned. Perfect stitching.

    I feel like doing a bit of sewing this weekend, come to think of it….

  24. I was a sewer way back, both on the machine and by hand doing quilts and embroidery. I didn’t have one do fancy stitches, it was actually the same machine my mum used when she was young…and I loved it! I’m getting back to embroidery as an addition to my hand knits and it’s just like riding a bike! It all comes flooding back!

  25. As some previous comments I really need to know brand AND model of your new sewing machine.
    The results you obtained are beautiful. My compliments for your work.
    And again PLEASE tell us more about it. Thank you!

  26. The stitching you have done looks very Scandanavian, I bought an embroidery sampler to do when i was in Stockholm it is stitched in red on linen. Your stitching looks lovely, dont forget us knitters need you to translate it into knitting, sewing machines are allergic to me.

  27. With the lettering I cut the front joining stitches with a stitch ripper and leave the back as it is. I also use whatever stabiliser I have to hand even if it’s just some ordinary interfacing. The letters are certainly prone to pulling the tension a bit tight without it.
    Have fun with your new machine.

  28. I think the machine must be an Elna! My machine is different, but I do snip the threads between the letters on the front of the work, but not on the back. I use a pin and lightly tug the bobbin threads to pull the short end of threads to the wrong side. My machine does an extra locking stitch at the beginning and end of each letter, yours probably does the same thing.

  29. Oh how lovely! Your first stitching is fabulous! Either washaway/tearaway stabilizer, or I just use tissue paper since it is so reasonably priced. So glad to see your progression now includes sewing again!

  30. A very Scandi looking sampler indeed – lovely! You may have resolved some of the questions you asked concerning stitching lettering by now but just in case you haven’t like Katie says reducing the tension on the machine can help to make ‘writing’ easier as can reducing the pressure. Also, I don’t know if you already do this but using one of those fade out fabric marker pens to write the word helps as well. I hope that is of some use to you. Happy sewing!

  31. Well, it seems like everyone thinks the machine is like theirs! It also looks very like my new Elna, and in the manual there are instructions for the three alphabets as to which should have threads snipped between letters and which not. So my suggestion, very boringly, is to check your manual…

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)