Brother CE8080 Review

I’ve had my Brother CE8080 sewing machine for a little over a month now, and so far I have no complaints.  Here are some of the characteristics that I like about it:

Ease of operating the machine

  • Great for beginners – the manual is good enough to get you sewing, no need to buy extra reference books (if you can resist, I sure couldn’t!).  From threading the machine to troubleshooting, I’ve had no problems with this machine after around 6 weeks of using it once or twice a week.  For experienced sewists, this will be a piece of cake for sure.  If not, there’s always Youtube!
  • Easy to use with different types of fabric in terms of thickness – I’ve sewn up to 4 layers of jersey and 2 layers of pretty thick elastic with no problems although I’ve had to lift the presser foot a few times to avoid jamming on the really thick parts
  • Adjusting thread width and tension is so simple
  • Digital screen makes it super easy to change stitches

Weight/Portability

If you’re like me and don’t have a sewing table or room set up, then you don’t want your sewing machine to be too heavy or difficult to store and take out again.  The CE8080 is pretty lightweight at 4.8 kg, but not so light that you feel like you’re using a toy.

Useful features/Nice to haves

  • Seam allowance guide with markings both in inches and centimeters, very useful for keeping your seams in check.  It would be even better I think to have one of the magnetic seam guides that really guides the fabric, but I don’t plan to try using one since the machine is computerized and it might mess up the system
  • LED light – makes it easy to see what you’re working on, but this is of course no way near the amount of light that you need while you’re sewing
  • Basic stitches – With 80 types of stitches, the CE8080 has way more than enough stitches.  I doubt that most people will ever get to use more than 5-10 types.  I’ve only ever used 4 or 5 to make several projects and a basic garment
  • Auto-size buttonholes
  • Free arm – makes it easier to stitch sleeves and any round areas
  • Drop-in bobbin with a clear cover (easy to see when you’re running low on your thread)
  • Responsive foot pedal, important since I sew very slowly over curves, while topstitching, or when I approach corners
  • Built in thread trimmer – for easy cutting of thread every time you’re done sewing a certain portion

Accessories

Comes with your basic accessories, detailed in this post.  Easy to find and easy to buy compatible upgrades (especially for those of you in North America) although a lot of the accessories don’t specify that they are compatible with the Brother CE8080 so we’ll probably have to contact Brother or do a little bit of trial and error.  Hehehe.  It’s a little more difficult for me over here in Asia, good thing there’s always Amazon.  🙂

I recently received the following presser feet that I ordered online, total for all 4 was a little over 30 USD, although I’m not sure if all of them are compatible with my machine!

  • Brother SA125 1/4 inch Piecing Foot
  • Brother SA149 Picot foot
  • Brother SA120 Gathering Foot
  • Brother SA128 Concealed Zipper Foot
I really wish I also ordered a narrow hem foot, I plan to get one of these soon since I’ve been sewing a lot with knits which makes it hard to just press the fabric, I also have to hand baste before topstitching.  🙂

Price

Reasonably priced for the features and quality at around 200-230 USD.  Beginners may or may not outgrow entry-level machines priced at below 100 USD since usually these machines have only the most basic stitches (although those stitches are all I’ve used so far) and fewer features.

Overall, a great buy that I’d happily recommend to anyone.  🙂

Pretty Patchwork Pincushion

I’ve just started teaching myself how to sew, so most of my supplies are as basic as you can get.  Right before I made my first project, I picked up a cheap pincushion at National Bookstore (a chain of stores here in the Philippines where you can get not only books and periodicals, but also basic arts and crafts materials), but every time I’ve used it I’ve been telling myself that I need to get a better (it’s hard to stick the pins in this one!) not to mention prettier one than this:

So I went online and saw tons, and I mean tons of free tutorials for cute pincushions, like this list here by Tipnut, and this list here by Tip Junkie.  There was also this adorable ruffled heart one by The Project Girl and a sweetheart one by Happy Together here.  I wanted to make the one by Happy Together but I didn’t have any iron on adhesive on hand, so I went with a tutorial by Paper String Cloth which I had everything on hand for and was just as cute.

First, cut out 8 squares measuring 3 1/2 inches, this already includes your seam allowance of half an inch.  Use contrasting or complementing fabric, you can use different patterns or fabric per side if you want, I just used the same cloth for both sides.  This cloth is from Cotton Depot (3/F Glorietta 5).  Mark seam allowances (1/2 inch per side) on each piece to make it easier to put together.

Sew them together on the seam allowances, making sure that right sides are facing each other.  This is how one side looked.  Don’t worry too much about getting them totally perfect, we’re going to camouflage any mistakes with a button later.  🙂  Press them if you want… obviously I didn’t since I figure I’m going to stuff it anyway!

Do this for the remaining 4 squares and pin the two pieces together, right sides facing each other.  Stitch on the outer seam allowances, making sure to leave an inch and a half or two inches open so you can stuff your pincushion with whatever material you want.  You can use fiberfill, some people use sand, but I used leftover scraps of cloth that I had on hand, and it worked fine.  Stuff it as tightly as you like and hand sew it closed.  This is what it will look like:

Then take a double thread and a thimble (if you have one, I didn’t and I wish I did) and sew your buttons into the middle of the pincushion.  You’ll need the double thread since you have to pull it really hard!  I had to use the end of my scissor to push in the needle the first few times, but it gets easier, I promise!

Before you know it, you’re done!  Here’s my finished pincushion, I really love it!  I threw the generic, old one out right when I transferred the pins.  Hehehe.

I used a white button for the other side!  🙂  It was such a fun, quick, useful project, I just might make more soon!

Tinolang Manok (Filipino style chicken ginger soup)

Coming from my last post on Nilagang Baka, dinner for today is another one pot meal that’s equally delicious and comforting.  Today was a rainy day, uncharacteristic for February in Manila, and few things are better than a piping hot bowl of soup on gloomy days like this.

Any type of chicken soup is delicious, but the ginger in this soup is spicy and soothing at the same time.  Soup is always a great way to throw something together quickly and use up vegetables that you have sitting in your refrigerator bin (this explains the potatoes and pak choi in my version today hehehe).  This couldn’t be more simple to make, here’s how:

Tinolang Manok

  • Chicken (use whatever part you like to eat), I used 6 small, free range chicken breasts from Pamora Farm that I picked up at the Sunday market in Legaspi.  I found them quite pricey at 180 pesos for 300 grams, but we’ve been trying to eat “healthier” so I decided to give it a shot
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • Garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 Chayote or young papaya
  • Chili leaves (dahon ng sili) or horseradish tree/malunggay – I used both
  • Seasoning – fish sauce (patis), salt, pepper

Saute your onion, garlic and ginger until fragrant and slightly soft.  I used a whole onion, 1 clove of garlic, and around 2 tablespoons of ginger, but make sure to adjust according to your personal preferences.  Add your chicken and enough water to cover (or more, if you are like me and like a lot of soup) and bring to a simmer – not a rolling boil!  If pressed for time, you can just wait for the chicken to cook, but I let this simmer on low heat for a good hour to make the broth more tasty before adding the chayote till slightly tender.  Last, add the other leaves.  I love pechay (pak choi) so I added some too.

Taste and season with your fish sauce, salt and pepper.  Serve piping hot in a pretty soup pot with a dipping sauce of more fish sauce, lemon, and fresh chili.  And of course, lots of the ubiquitous steamed plain rice.

Nilagang Baka (Filipino style beef soup with vegetables)

Literally translated, nilagang baka means boiled beef.  This soup is an all-time Filipino favorite but I rarely order it in restaurants since the broth usually tastes like beef bouillon cubes (too salty!) and lacks depth and the meat is usually too tough for my tastes.  Besides, it couldn’t be more simple to make yourself, and the results are always much, much better.  🙂

For the meat, you can use almost any part you would like but I prefer using brisket or chuck/beef stew cubes.  I’ve made this with a mixture of chuck and beef ribs and it was delicious too since the bones really added flavor to the broth.

Today, I used a half kilo of grass-fed beef from Down to Earth and brought this to a low simmer along with a roughly chopped onion and a lot of freshly ground black pepper for a good 5 hours.  Good food sometimes take time…but it is always worth it!  🙂  By this time, the beef was extremely tender.  Skim the scum off the top, if any, I didn’t have much today since I used fairly lean cubes.  I seasoned the broth with a few tablespoons of salt and a little soy sauce then added the following:

  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped into medium chunks
  • half a head of cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 bundle of pechay or bok choy

Other popular vegetables for this soup are carrots and corn on the cob but I don’t really like the broth to be even slightly sweet so I didn’t add them.  We had two dipping sauces, soy sauce with calamansi and sili, and fish sauce (patis) also with calamansi and chili.  As with most Asian dishes, this is fantastic on lots of steamed white rice.

Some days, whether it’s rainy outside or not, it’s great to have a one pot meal that is delicious, nourishing, and comforting.  This is one of our favorites.