3/31/2010

Sewing Machine Reviews

I use three different sewing machines for making clothing.  They are: a serger, a coverstitch, and a regular sewing machine.  They're all home-sewing machines, so they definitely have their limitations, but they do a fine job for now, until I have the space to upgrade to industrial machines.

Machine #1- New Home Decor Excel II HF5024.  I got this machine when I was a junior in high school.  It is now six years old, and still runs really well.  This is my basic sewing machine, I use it for topstitching, and most of my alterations work that I do outside of Always the Forest.  It takes a bit of coaxing to go over many layers of thick material (e.g. some difficulty going over the side seam while hemming a pair of jeans) but if you sew slowly, it will make it through.  It does a good automatic buttonhole.  One trick I learned was to use the specific Janome bobbin (New Home is made by Janome) otherwise it doesn't sew as well.  I used a generic bobbin or a singer bobbin for a year and was frustrated by poor quality in the stitches, but when I switched to using a Janome bobbin, the quality was soooo much better. I don't remember the original price of this machine, but I got it for $299 because they used it for a class once.  Look for machines that were floor models or used for a class, and you can get a really good deal.

Machine #2- Janome MyLock 644D. Oh man, the day that I got a serger was the day that my sewing got ten times better.  If you don't know what a serged seam is, look at the inside seam of any t-shirt. This machine is essential for anyone making knit clothing.  I use this for all seams.  It cuts, sews, and overcasts a seam all in one really fast movement. It can do a rolled hem and 2, 3, or 4 thread overlock.  It's pretty easy to thread.  The one drawback is that it has difficulty going through more than four layers of medium-weight fabric, and more than two or three layers of thick fabric. But other than that, it makes really nice, professional-looking seams.  One thing to keep in mind when using a serger: don't run over pins! The bottom blade is a carbide blade that should last for a decade, but running over pins puts dents in it and it won't cut fabric smoothly after that.  This one was originally $799, but I got it for almost half of that from my local sewing machine dealer when they were having an awesome sale.





Machine #3- Janome CoverPro 900 CP.  This is my coverstitch machine, I use it for hems on stretchy fabrics.  If you don't know what a coverstitch looks like, look at the bottom hem of most t-shirts, you'll see two lines of stitching, and the raw edge of them hem is overcast in back.  The coverstitch machine does that all in one movement.  It also does a chain stitch, but I don't use that very much.  It has a free arm, so hemming sleeves isn't a problem.  Some sergers have the ability to do a coverstitch, but I recommend getting two separate machines.  It's about the same price, but you save so much time not having to switch the machine from one function to the other. I don't remember the price of this one, but I think it was a little less than the serger.

I also have a blind hemmer that needs some adjustments before I can sew with it.  That would make some of my alterations work a total breeze.

On my wish list: all industrial machines!  They're fast and powerful.  The drawbacks of using home machines are that they're kinda slow, and they have difficulty sewing through many layers of fabric.  Not so with an industrial.  Drawbacks of industrial machines are: size, noise, and price.  The noise wouldn't really bother me, but we have no space for them in our apartment right now.

Another thing on my wish list is some sort of way to apply bindings to the necklines of knit clothing.  I can do it with my regular machine, but it's slow, and hard to get it perfect.  I'd like a solution that can fold it and sew it in one movement.  I know such a thing is out there, I just don't know what it is!  If anyone has any ideas or other sewing machine recommendations, let me know in the comments.  Tell me about your sewing set-up!

3/25/2010

Organizing Paperwork

I got this super cute hanging file box over the weekend, it's a sturdy, spacious little case covered in a Liberty of London print.  Prior to this, I had this flimsy little expanding file that was getting over stuffed with documents.

Everybody organizes their business paperwork differently, but there are a few categories most people will use.  The categories I use are Expenses, Sales, Licensing, Bank Info, Press, and Miscellaneous.  Another common category is Taxes, but for me, those get filed in our personal case.

Expenses: This is a category most everybody will need.  This is where my receipts go for supplies, materials, advertising, postage, etc.  I put this one right up front so I can just drop my receipts in it.  At the end of every month, I input them into my accounting excel spreadsheet, and file them in an envelope labeled with the month.  It makes for much less work at the end of the year.  Depending on how many receipts you accumulate, you may want to do this more or less often.  At the end of the year, I take all 12 months of receipts, put them in a manila envelope labeled with the year and place them in the back of the file case.

Sales:  This is another category most everybody will need.   This is where my sales receipts go.  I treat these sales receipts just like I do with my expense receipts.

Licensing: This is where I keep all of my business documentation like sales tax licenses, EIN number registration, all that fancy stuff.

Bank Info:  I stopped getting paper bank statements sent to me a while ago, you can access and print out anything that you need online.  I keep a statement in this file so I have my account number, and the bank's phone number if I need it.  I keep my business checks in here, since I don't use them all that often.

Press: Pretty self-explanatory, cut-outs of magazine and newspaper articles that I've been featured in.

Miscellaneous: Non-essential items that don't fit anywhere else but I still want to keep.  Business cards from other crafters go in here too.

Getting your business paperwork organized is probably simpler than you imagined, and it saves you so much time and frustration at the end of the year when you're doing you taxes.  You don't have to stick with a plain filing case either, make it fancy if you want!


3/19/2010

Photoshop Actions: A Super Timesaver


It used to take me forever to update the shop portion of my website.  There is one main image per item, plus at least 3 detail images.  The three detail images have to be in two sizes, the full size detail view, and the 100x100 thumbnail.  The main image needs three: a full size detail, a smaller "main view", and the 150x200 thumbnail that goes in the "browsing" part of the store.  Needless to say, that's a lot of resizing!  I had known about Photoshop actions for a while, and I knew I would probably benefit from using a few, but I kept putting it off because I thought they would be difficult to create.  Finally, I looked into it, and discovered how easy it is!

 An action is a recording of a set of commands, usually really mundane things that don't require that much human brainwork.  Once you've recorded a set of commands, you can apply that to any image, with just one click.  To create an action, first make sure your "action" toolbar is visible.  You can do this under the Windows menu.  Open an image that you'll be able to apply all the steps you want.  Click the "create new action" icon at the bottom of the toolbar (kinda looks like a little piece of paper).  Give your action a name.  Then click "record" and begin editing your image as you want.  The recording isn't timed, so take your time and get everything right.  Finish all the steps you want to include, save it in the folder you want, and close it out.  Then hit the "stop" button on the bottom of the toolbar (the square).  Some parts of your action might need manual input, for mine, I need to name the file when it's being saved. If you want a prompt to appear during a certain step, click the check box next to that step in the actions toolbar (not boxes with the check marks, but the one next to that).  You can test your action out on another image to see if everything works out.  You might need to go back and edit or delete some steps.  But it's super easy to do, and saves you so much time!

(And I'm no Photoshop expert, so if anyone has any other tips or a way to do it better, let me know!)

3/13/2010

Getting ready for Spring

Things have been quiet over here for the last week, since I've been sewing up the final designs for spring and summer.  Photoshoot today, updating site tomorrow. They will be available this Monday, yay! 

Since I have nothing else to write, I will leave you with this happy little animated .gif of our dog sledding adventure last weekend.  Michigan adventures are great!

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