Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Same but Different

I recently replaced one of the coverstitch needles on my machine and discovered that the type of coverstitch needle I use, the JLX2, that I purchased online was different from the JLX2 that came with my machine.  It is labeled as the same type but actually there are slight differences between them.  Should you encounter skipped stitches on your machine, yes, check that the threading is correct, try a fresh needle, etc. but also check to make sure the needle you are using is what you think you are supposed to be using! More below....

I own the Bernina 1300 MDC serger/coverstitch machine.  The machine came with 3 needles dedicated for the coverstitch, JLX2:

I have found that these needles help produce a very nice quality coverstitch but they are hard to find.  I could not find them at my local JoAnn's nor could I find them in the NYC garment district.  My Bernina dealer does not carry them either! Even though Schmetz manufactures the JLX2 needle, they do not have them available on their website!  Of course, you can find just about anything online if you look long enough so I found 3 online sources for the JLX2 needles: Sew4Less; they carry the Organ brand and The Colorful World of Sewing; they carry the Schmetz brand.  CTSUSA carries the Organ brand as well but only in a box of 100 needles.

Since I felt a burr on the needle that produces the left row of needle stitches, I decided to replace it with one of the Schmetz JLX2 needles I purchased online and got this result:

Upon comparing the needles, I discovered that the JLX2 needles I purchased online were just a tad bit shorter than the JLX2 needles that came with my serger.  See the photo below.  The JLX2 needle I purchased online is the 3rd to the right in the photo below.  The eye is just a bit smaller too.

In order from left to right:  Stretch needle, JLX2 needle that came with machine, Schmetz JLX2 needle purchased online
The center needle is the one that came with my serger.

I compared the needle that came with my serger to other needles in my stash and was happy to discover that the stretch needle (much easier to find) is identical in length to the ones that came with my serger and the eye is the same size.  The stretch needle is the first one in the photo.  I replaced the left needle with the stretch needle and got a beautiful coverstitch!  Hurray!

Hoping I had not wasted my money on the Schmetz JLX2 needles I purchased online, I tried replacing both the left and right needles with the online JLX2s and also got a nice coverstitch - double hurray!

So the key takeaways for me:

1.  Compare the new needle with the old needle that has worked well to see whether there are any major differences.

2.  The stretch needle produces a nice coverstitch for the Bernina 1300 MDC.

3.  I can use the JLX2 needles I purchased online as long as all of the needles for the coverstitch I am working on are the same length.

Of course, the fabric can also make a difference so always test on swatches before working on your project.

Happy sewing!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sewing Darts in Knits

Most ready to wear knit tops do not have darts.  They are not seen as necessary because knits stretch and give enough to accommodate a bust.  However, if you are full busted, many of these dartless knit tops do not fit properly.  You may find stress lines across the front along the bust line as well as diagonal drag lines on the side from the bust level to the waist/hip level.

For me, there are times where I can get away with sewing a knit top without a dart if the fabric is stretchy enough.  However, not all fabrics are stretchy enough.  This week I made a simple grey T-shirt and the fabric, although a knit, required that I use darts for shaping.  I thought I would share my method of sewing darts in knits.

The primary concern with sewing a dart in a knit is to sew the dart nice and straight without stretching the fabric as you sew the dart.  My solution is to use Solvy Water Soluble Stabilizer.

First, snip mark the dart legs on the edge of the fabric with very small snips, preferably 1/8 inch or less:

Mark the dart point with chalk.  I push a pin through from the pattern through to the fabric, gently lift the pattern from the fabric and then chalk mark the point:

 I then chalk mark the dart legs from the snips to the point.  (You can use a tracing wheel and tracing paper but it really depends on the fabric.  Do a test on a swatch):

 I then fold the dart and encase it in a piece of Solvy Water Soluble stabilizer and pin the dart.  (Addendum 4/25/17:  if you want to save on stabilizer, you can also cut strips instead of encasing the dart.  Just make sure the strips don't shift out of place.)  Since the stabilizer is see through, you can see your dart.  However, if you want a clearer line, you can chalk mark on top of the stabilizer:

Sew through the stabilizer following the chalk mark.  It's OK if the stabilizer wrinkles a little...just as long as the fabric doesn't:

Wet the darts or wash the finished garment to dissolve the stabilizer.   I then steam press by hovering a steam iron above the dart and patting it down with my hand.  While doing so, I put a piece of paper underneath the dart to prevent a ridge from forming on the right side while I steam press.  Following is a photo of the wrong side of the dart with the stabilizer dissolved:

Darts aren't always necessary in knits but for the more generously endowed, they are often indispensable for a proper fit.

Happy sewing!