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Tools of the Trade: Sewing Machines

I have written a few blog posts on my personal blog about sewing machines and sewing related issues. I just went back and looked them over and noticed that I received quite a few nice comments. So this is probably a topic of interest to a number of people.

In case you don’t have the time to go visit my blog and look for my old articles, let me sum up the important criteria in choosing a sewing machine:

1. What NOT to get

The first sewing machine I ever owned was an old hand-me-down from my husband’s grandma. It was a singer from the 50s/or 60s. I am certain my husband’s grandma who was a minister’s wife and ran a daycare created many lovely things with this machine. But for me, a business owner, it didn’t work out at all. This machine, received for free, was too weak to deal with the stress of daily sewing projects and finally gave up it’s ghost when we tried to make sofa covers with a heavy sailcloth material.

Next I received another hand-me-down machine. I can’t believe I actually paid money for this POS (excuse the bad language, but it’s true) I bought from a friend. In her defense I can only say, she never used that machine and didn’t have a clue about sewing. Neither did I or wouldn’t have bought it from her. It was another Singer, you know the type they sell you at Walmart or JoAnn stores, for a couple of hundred dollars. It constantly had tensions problems and needed adjusting. I don’t know how many trips I took to the repair shop with that darn thing. I most likely could have bought 2 more machines with that money.

2. What you need to look for

I agonized for many months on what type of machine to get. Being poor I started looking at used machines on Ebay and other online places. Luckily my husband discouraged me. He said: why spend  a couple hundred bucks on another person’s problem? What if you get another lemon?

So with heavy heart and mostly empty pockets,  I went to a local sewing shop and bought a Bernina 1008. I have had this machine for 4 years now. It’s the best investment I ever made into my little business. The most important feature in a sewing machine, I would say, is the “accessability” (I know this is not a word but I like it anyways) of the bobbin case. On the two Singer machines getting into the bobbin case was as inconvenient as it could get. Whenever the thing got jammed with lint – which happens a lot with those cheap machines – I had to take a little screwdriver and open it up. So much time was wasted cleaning that bobbin case, I don’t know how I ever got any work done.

The Bernina machine I own has a bobbin case in which the bobbing stands up sideways rather than lay flat. All you do is flip the compartment open when you need to change the bobbin or want to clean the inside. It’s very easy!

 

3. Computer versus Mechanical Machine

Okay, I have to admit it. I am an old-fashioned kind of girl who grew up in Germany where libraries still had all books inventoried on little flashcards that were held in pull-out drawers. Anyone here remember those? There were no computers at the library until after I graduated. The first time I wrote a term paper on a computer was when I came to the US and encountered a modern library.  In other words: computers still scare me. So I did not go for the modern type of computerized sewing machine that they sell.

My Bernina 1008 is a mechanical machine. After interviewing a number of people I learned that this type of Bernina model was used in schools to teach highschool kids sewing. This machine has no fancy features other than that it can make buttonholes and has about 20 or so decorative stitches. For me it was perfect, and I have never regretted the decision to buy it. But maybe  it is time to get another one so I can give the poor thing  a rest…

Any suggestions? What are you using and recommend?

If you are in the market for a new machine please check out John Giordano’s The Sewing Machine Guide: Tips on Choosing, Buying, and Refurbishing. It’s a great little book I found at my local library when I was looking for advice on what machine to buy!

Happy Sewing!
Ulla Seckler is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.

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Tools of the Trade: Wool Carders by Andrea

Today I bring you a cool letter from NaturalKids Teammate Andrea aka ZiezoDesigns who lives in Africa. I can very much relate to her words. Since I moved from the Vaterland (Germany) to the US there has been many a day where I could not find something, may it be  a tool or an ingredient, to make things that I used to make in my homeland. But since artists are clever people with lots of imagination we won’t be deterred…Ever! Here is Andrea’s clever invention:

Andrea writes:

Sometimes you have to make do with the tools that are available to you. This is certainly the case with crafting when you live in a developing country. I live in Kenya, and one has to be resourceful and inquisitive to get a hold of supplies for crafting. Take wool carders, for example, they are not readily available or they may be of poor quality while extremely expensive. I used to borrow them from my children’s Waldorf kindergarten here (who received a pair from abroad), until I ran into a stand at the local shopping centre that sold something that looked very much like a carder: pet brushes. They have plastic handles, they are small, but they work for now. My knot and bunting doll production is limited, until one day I manage to either find a local place to purchase clean carded fleece, or can buy a small drum carder.

Hope this letter made you curious about Andrea’s creations. Please visit her Etsyshop ZiezoDesigns today and see her creations.

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Tools of The Trade: Paint Brushes

Today I want to present you with another series of cool tool shots from one of our artist’s studios. Thanks so much to Beccijo for  sharing these great photos of your brushes and a neat glimpse into the world of the painter!

Painting small details takes two things: A steady hand and a set of fine brushes – very fine brushes!  Beccijo from The Enchanted Cupboard owns both. Check out the neat photos of her tools she sent me.

In the first photo you can see how each brush creates a different type of stroke. You can see the variety from the tiniest eye lash brush to the widest filler type brush. The tiny brush on top is my favorite.

In the next photo we are closing in on the object being painted. It’s one of Beccijo’s cute pink wooden dolls. Will she adorn a wedding cake maybe? Or will she star as a little girl in one of The Enchanted Cupboards cute play sets in a box?

Here she is all finished. See her teeny tiny eyes? The lovely green collar of leaves around her neck? I love the cute little heart shaped lips. I hope these photos inspire you to send me some photos of the favorite tool in your studio!

Happy Crafting!

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Tools of the Trade: Seam Roller

A few years back I went to a quilt show. I believe it was the Quilt Affair near Boulder, Colorado. Sadly I have not attended it lately. I always find the greatest fabric.  One year I discovered the cool little tool pictured below. It’s a seam roller. The gentleman who sold it to me makes these from turned wood. Each one is handmade from different types of wood and quite unique. I  think mine was made from walnut but I am not sure.

What is it used for? The tool was invented with quilters in mind. It is for rolling and flattening very small seams so they don’t have to fire up the iron. I found it perfect for my little doll dresses, too. I love that little gadget so much. It is so beautiful and useful on top. I could not find an on-line shop for the maker from Utah. But I found a link where one might possibly contact him. In fact, I believe it’s a son and dad team called Westenskow & Sons.

The company also makes seam rippers with wooden handles. I wish I had spent the money back then and bought one…The plastic ripper I have is so ugly.

Ulla Seckler  is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.  Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.

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Tools of the Trade: Colorful Scissors

Last week I told you about my new favorite toy: the bobbin sidewinder I got for Christmas. When you are a craftswoman or men the tools and materials  you use every day are key to your success of creating. So, I wanted to present you with a series of articles this year that talks about great tools and materials that people use on the Natural Kids team.

If you are a seamstress or do some other type of craft or art, please feel free to chime in the discussion. Maybe you want the send me a picture of an interesting tool you use in your craft? Maybe it’s a material you would like to talk about? I’d love to see it and write about it. I have to say, my grandpa (from my father’s side) was a sort of inventor. I used to sneak into his workshop and look at all the old tools he owned. Then, I would ask him questions of what he used them for. He always made machines and came up with little devices to help him do tasks more easily. Being exposed to that sort of thing at a young age – probably has led to my deep love of tools.

So please, show me what’s in your workshop! I cannot wait to see what you have.

Today, I want to show you a picture of some really pretty scissors that NaturalKids Team Member Farida of Alkelda Dolls sent me. Since I am a seamstress and use scissors a lot, I can very much relate to those images.  The scissors that I use are not beautiful like that. I have some hand-me-down dressmakers scissors that I love because they are very sharp. There’s nothing worse than having a project on your lap and not being able to cut the thread because of a dull pair of scissors. I hear Farida is the Natural Kid with the sharpest pairs of scissors on the block …

Ulla Seckler  is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.  Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.

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Tools of the Trade Series: Bobbin Sidewinder

I hope you had a good Christmas. I hope Santa brought you something that you have wanted forever but didn’t buy for yourself because you thought it was an extravagant item. That’s just the type of gift I received this year. Unlike the information my DH (dear husband) has been spreading among his buddies, that he was giving me a lawnmower plus a chainsaw for Christmas (he is quite the joker) – I received a different sort of appliance. Luckily it wasn’t a chainsaw.

I had always wondered what bobbin sidewinders were for. Whenever I saw them at sewing machine shops I stared at them in wonder. Why would one need such a machine when your sewing machine has a built-in mechanism that does the job well?

Me, figuring out the new appliance

Well, over the years of running my little doll business and sewing for many hours, especially during the holiday season, I have learned why a seamstress might prize such a machine. Here are the main reasons why I have come to believe this is a very good tool to own as a seamstress:

1. If you spend quite a few hours sewing each day pressing down on the presser foot of your sewing machine can actually hurt your foot or ankle. Using the new bobbin winder has brought some relief to my sore foot!

2. It’s really nice not to have to take your project out when you run out of bobbin thread. Provided you own an extra spool of yarn in the same color, you will not have to take the upper thread out to wind the bobbin. You simply go to your separate winder and wind yourself a new bobbin. I am loving this!

3. Why use your expensive sewing machine to do such a simple chore? Does the queen do her own dishes? The less stress you put on your good sewing machine the better. The bobbin winder on my machine has been acting up lately. Sometimes I end up with horrible little nests of thread when winding the bobbin. I am pretty certain that have this problem fixed will cost me quite a bit of money. Seems like every time you take your machine to the shop it costs about $100 a pop. So I am glad I have the new bobbin winder and can delay the trip for a bit longer…

Santa got me a  Bobbin SideWinder made by Simplicity. He says he researched the topic quite well and that this winder, though a bit on the pricey side, is the best one out there. You can use it with any type of bobbin and it’s fast and easy to use. If you own a bobbin winder, please tell me what you are using. Since I am a novice to this appliance I’d like to hear your opinions on the topic.

Ulla Seckler  is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.  Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.