Do I really need a serger?

For a while now I’ve been trawling the web and going through sewing books trying to decide whether I should get a serger/overlock machine or not.  I think it’s clear that nobody really needs a serger, but that they’re really great to have.  After some thought, my considerations were as follows:

  • Do I seriously like to sew?  And the answer is I really really do!  So that was a check!
  • What type of fabric do I like to work with?  Knits or woven fabric?  Since I’m so pregnant right now, I only sew with knits, and I need the stretchy seams that a serger does so well.  Currently I’m using a stretch stitch since the zigzags don’t work well for me, the ends of knit fabric tend to curl up which results in some jams and a lot of work for my seam ripper.
  • My need for speed!  Of all the stages of sewing clothes, I dislike hemming the most.  First, my new clothes are almost ready to wear expect for all the darned raw edges so I’m extra impatient at this point!  And with my projects now, I have to fold under, measure, press the hem over again to enclose the raw edges, baste, then topstitch.  I always hand baste since pressing doesn’t hold down slippery jersey well enough if you just press or pin it down.

Long story short, I figured that no I don’t need a serger, but yes I definitely want one!!!

Anyway, early last month I decided to go ahead and order the Brother 1034D serger on Amazon and have my relatives in the US ship it to me.  I chose this since it has the best reviews and is reasonably priced at 229 USD (I didn’t have to pay for the shipping though, lucky me).  I will share more about the serger and how it’s working for me once I get started playing with it.  My husband and I are picking it up today and I’m just so excited!  I’m almost done with my new project, a maternity top using Butterick 5196, and if I’m confident enough I will try to use the serger to finish my seams although I’m a bit hesitant to use it right away for that without a little practice first since the top is coming along so nicely.

On sergers/overlock machines here in Manila, I’ve only seen one type available for sale on the Brother Philippines website here.  The model is the M3034D and it’s retailing for 19,995 Php.  I really hope sewing as a hobby gets more popular in Manila so that we will have better access to sewing machines, tools, and fabric really soon.  🙂

Brother CE8080 Compatible Presser Feet and Accessories

I’ve been having a hard time finding out which accessories are compatible with my sewing machine since it’s not one of the most readily available or the most popular model in the market.  Good thing I found this link here which shows which presser feet you can use with the CE8080.  I’ve posted the list here in case any of you are looking for this information.

For newbies at sewing, I don’t really think you need many of these since the all-purpose foot that comes with your machine works just fine for most stitches.  But if you had to get one, the zipper foot is the most often mentioned essential.

I’m planning to order a narrow hem foot soon since I’m in the middle of a new project and doing a narrow hem by hand on jersey knits is not much fun.  🙂

Other compatible accessories for the CE8080:

  • Bobbins – SA156 (super easy to find, they’re everywhere)
  • Sewing machine needles – I’ve used standard Schmetz/Organ needles and have had no problems with compatibility thus far

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!