Category Archives: Sewing Machines

Bernina University – Jax to the Max

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I had a 3 flight journey to Jacksonville, Florida from Aberdeen – Manchester – JFK New York, arriving at the hotel just before midnight. All went fairly smoothly despite my trans-Atlantic seat neighbour man-spreading, gripping the seat arms and trying to persuade me to love Jesus. Clearing passport control and customs took forever at JFK, possibly even longer than I have experienced at Paris Charles de Gaulle!

We had an early start on Monday morning at the opening launch of Bernina University. It was a huge event with hundreds of dealers and educators from Bernina of America. There was a lot of razzmatazz loud music and disco lights, followed by announcements of forthcoming new Bernina machines and accessories. I was surprised to see a large contingent of Mennonite attendees who had travelled from Pennsylvania by bus. Apparently, they are among the most successful dealers of Bernina sewing machines in the whole of the USA.

Classes started later that day and continued through to Thursday. It was a tremendous opportunity to take lectures and hands-on classes ranging from technical training, getting to grips with Qmatic and using social media to promote business. There was the opportunity to meet with Bernina brand ambassadors and teachers such as Christa Watson and Tula Pink. It was a very busy time and with the chilly air-con, easy to forget that there was hot weather outside. The hotel was situated downtown which really means within an area of offices so not much else to see in the immediate vicinity.

We found a quaint Italian restaurant a couple of blocks away which could easily have been featured on the TV show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” but the service, wine and food was excellent.

 

The closing dinner was a glitzy affair with a Caribbean band, disco and dealership awards. There was great anticipation of where BU would take place in 2020 and great excitement when Palm Springs, California was revealed as the destination. My room-mate, Merete Ellingsen, from Norway and I are both very keen to attend again to take more classes or even offer project based classes on the Q24/Qmatic. We will have to come up with something unusual and fun.

 

We had 2 free days after the convention so decided to use Uber cabs to visit Jacksonville Beach and an outdoor shopping mall, both approximately 30 minutes away. Merete could easily cope with lying out in the sun all day but I bought a brolly with SPF50 because otherwise I would have fried. Even when there was a thunderstorm it was still far warmer than a really hot day in Scotland. 

I felt that my trip was really worthwhile and I did not add significantly to my luggage apart from Amanda Murphy’s ruler collection. It was great to spend time with the BoA educators to revise and learn techniques that I will be able to pass on with renewed confidence to Qseries users in the UK, Germany and India. 

Truly Thwarted!

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There was much that did not go according to plan this week! I downloaded a pattern for a pair of dungarees/overalls from Helen’s Closet and set to making a toile to check that I had picked suitable size. I traced off the pattern a size bigger than my dress size but the fit was too small. Rather depressed by my measurements I then made a much larger size to accommodate my hip measurements but found that this time the fit was enormous. I will have to either make a size in between or work out how to adjust the pattern. It feels like a job  beyond my dress-making capabilities, particularly when it is meant to be a simple unstructured garment.

I decided to twin-needle stitch the organza Warli figures prior to quilting so I could burn away some of the organza with a soldering iron. The next day when I went to finish the job my Bernina 710 would not start up as normal. It came on, then switched itself off then attempted to restart. I tried updating the firmware but the problem continued. After calling Bernina UK for advice, it was decided that it had to be sent to Cardiff for a fix, potentially having suffered a CPU failure. I wanted to finish off the twin-needle stitching but was hit by the realisation that I had recently sold my solid Husqvarna and Freya’s Brother is away at Uni. I had a go with my vintage Elna lotus but it looks like the tension spring needs replacing and the Singer Featherweight only has a straight stitch plate. I felt bereft without the Bernina that is normally so reliable and copes with everything. I now see the need for an emergency machine that will do basic sewing but has no electronics to go wrong so I am watching several mechanical 1000 series mechanical Berninas on Ebay.

I had the bright idea of personalising my luggage for my forthcoming trip to the USA for Bernina University so I used the Scanncut to cut out my name onto heat transfer glitter vinyl. I balanced my big suitcase from India under the heat press and successfully printed my name but I had more trouble with my trusty Kipling cabin bag with bulky zips. To my horror I discovered that the metal zips must be coated in plastic because I completely melted them and have now ruined the capacious, sturdy, small bag that has been all over the place since 2008. An identical model is no longer made and they are rather expensive so I wasted much time on Amazon choosing a new cabin bag which I hope will arrive on time.

I was beginning to think that the whole week was a write off. I was struggling to hand-stitch the shisha mirrors onto small squares of fabric but in the end I found that perseverance pays off and I have now worked out how to build up a couple of layers of stitching so I can get up close to the mirror with the longarm without hitting the metal ring. Spurred on by that small success, I had one more attempt at woodblock printing with silver ink. I mixed silver powder and metallic binder with opaque silver Speedball ink and spread it into a dense sponge. I coated some of the fabric squares with Odicoat gel to create an impermeable, waxy barrier and found that folded kitchen paper was better than a foam pad underneath when pressing the stamps down. Finally, I had some prints that were crisp and now I am impatient to start joining the blocks together just as soon as I can decide how the finished quilt should be displayed. 

 

My suitcase is packed, complete with travel kettle and gin, I have made an instructional video on to to use the washing machine, there is plenty of pet-food and once I have printed off my tickets I will be all set for my next adventure to… Florida!

Phew!

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Phew, what an incredible pace I kept up this week – I had two dedicated DIY quilters here over 3 days, using both longarm machines and 12 quilts were completed! We were so busy that I did not stop to take a single photo of their marvellous efforts. 

On the other two days it was my mission to master the basics of Qmatic, the Bernina Q24 automated system. I laid out 3 sets of instructions, watched corresponding Youtube videos, wondered why I just can’t comprehend written instructions, scrutinised Facebook Q24 group comments, made progress, and forgot how I got there then finally it just clicked. I am not claiming to be a Master of Qmatic yet but I now feel confident enough to experiment on a real quilt, rather than a practice piece. The stitch quality of Qmatic is excellent and the designs are great. My next learning curve will be to design some patterns and import them into the system. Then I really will be a clever clogs;)

In the Printed Textiles evening class we removed the colour from black fabric using a stinky paste. I stuck with my Warli figures as a motif so I can easily throw them all together as a quilt for the end of year exhibition. I am going to cheat and get some thermofax screen made so I can easily print more fabric quickly at home using screen printing inks and dyes. The Art School has plenty of amazing equipment and resources but I have more  individual working space and can do other things while I wait for the inks to dry. 

I do not have a quilt on the go because there are so many things that need to be done first but just to say I had done some sewing I added pompom trim and even bells onto an indigo dyed scarf. I think it could stand even more jingles and dangles if I have nothing better to do. 

Out of curiosity I had to find out if my sewing machine could stitch through sequins. I may just have a plan…

It took all weekend BUT I have finally finished drafting my website edits, found all of the corresponding pictures and uploaded everything into Dropbox. I hope the web designer can manage to do the job without too much hassle or expense. 

Since as my never-ending To Do list shrunk considerably by getting the long overdue website edits done, I decided to start a new one starting next week. I must have been a hamster in a previous life!

Bragging About Bamber Sewing Machine Centre!

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featherweight

My 1951 100th anniversary Singer Featherweight arrived back from its holiday at Bamber Sewing Machine Centre, Manchester www.bambersew.com

I tried to flag down the courier’s van as it drove off without checking that I was in my workshop so it had to be re-delivered the next day.

It came in a box packed out with polystyrene blocks and the machine itself had lots of wadding around it inside its wee case so it had an extra smooth journey. I was amazed at the technician’s checklist which actually had 46 points that should be investigated. The machine was certainly very clean and shiny and I am quite sure the knobs and levers did not look as pristine as that before.

shinyknobs servicelist

The great thing with Bambers is that they are such a long established family business that they are bound to have lots of long-forgotten spare parts in their archives. Alan Bamber writes great posts on Facebook about the many interesting characters he has met, including some formidable Home Economics teachers. AND he drives a Landy;)

Bamber Sewing Machine Centre supplies and services school sewing machines and they give honest advice to their prospective clients. I was really impressed that they sent away a lady who had received a small legacy for a sewing machine away until she had time to have a good think about what she really wanted from a machine before making a snap purchase. I am sure she will go back to them when she has done her research on the brands and models.

bambers

The shop is in a busy part of Eccles, Greater Manchester. When I visited earlier this year there was a constant stream of visitors looking at new machines, picking up machines that had been serviced, people buying fabric or machine accessories, and also attending classes.  The Bambers team have phenomenal knowledge and experience of everything to do with sewing machines – my latest purchase, the tiny 1970’s Elna Lotus will be next in line to be sent down for a spa treatment – in fact, I bet they could even fix the seized antique hand cranks!