Thursday 3 July 2014

Houndstooth Shumper

Isn't this fabric fabulous? It just zings! I always love hounds-tooth, but these colours make me really happy and its doubly nice to use quilting fabric for shirting - or in this case, for a shumper which is my own hybrid of a shirt and jumper. 

And I have so many teals and yellowy acid greens, so its extra versatile in my wardrobe. I have a little bit left over and I'm wondering what to do with it. I'm thinking of hemming a scarf or creating a tote bag. Yes, you can tell I just love this fabric

I am trying to stash bust and minimize generally, but I'm always on the lookout for zingers to update my wardrobe like this one. It also takes care of the neckline problem. I am finding that a lot of otherwise good jumpers and tops have enormous necklines that just swoop down. I don't know why this trend is in, but it is. It doesn't sit right to have the neckline scooped like that and then I have the dilemma of wearing a shirt underneath (too hot and bulky) or just the top alone (too chilly on top). You can see I've been having wardrobe frustrations over this. Well, my whole new shumper sewing ethic has taken care of this problem, and I'm glad about it because I have some beautiful mohair and wool mix tops with lousy necklines which will now become fabulous wardrobe staples. 

Whenever I wear one of my shumpers (and I have quite a few now), I always get asked where I bought it. Whether I'm at the petrol station, or buying groceries or in the newsagents. I used to be taken aback when people came up to me to say something about the quilting fabric I was wearing, but now it happens so routinely that I almost expect it! It's so flattering to be complimented for wearing beautiful fabric and it's so nice to have it put to use instead of sitting on my fabric shelf. Do you compliment people when you're out and about? Its something I have to do more of myself - it really shouldn't be so usual or surprising to give or receive a compliment but I have to admit its something I don't do enough of and I think there needs to be more of it.

I made it on my Bernina 820. Well, let me re-phrase that. I tried making it on my Bernina 820, but after a few hours decided to shift back to my trusty 1950's Elna. Why would I do that? This is why. 

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've experienced great disappointment with the Bernina 820 which my husband purchased for me on our 40th Wedding Anniversary. Since my first posts reviewing this sewing machine, I've received lots of emails from quilters around the world who have themselves purchased the 820: all offered advice on how to handle this machine. Some of you were happy with the machine after a period of settling in and others of you were and still are unhappy with it, a year or two on. I have appreciated all comments and feedback on this issue because I've been faced with a difficult decision regarding the machine. 

I have given this machine every opportunity to perform and have taken countless hours trying to settle it in, all without results. This machine is one difficultly after another. Every sewing session that begins with such enthusiasm and ends in tears of frustration and another round of regret. What to do with this machine? I don't know. Trading it in is not an option because of the value loss - and that loss of value is a further insult - to be punished again for trusting the 820 in the first place. Sell it? No, I cannot, in good conscience, sell it on. I'm just not that type of person. The 820 needs to be put away, not passed on. Some people have suggested that the 820 is a sewing machine for people who think like a computer. I don't know what that means except to realize that if they're right, I obviously don't think like a computer. 

Lastly people have offered advice concerning me taking lessons on how to use a sewing machine. I take this advice with the good intention it is offered in, and I don't take offense. I would also recommend this myself if someone complained about a machine as much as I complain about the 820. However to be clear I do just want to point out that I am not a hobby sewer: I have been sewing for over 40 years and on a variety of machines. As well as being an accomplished sewer, I have been an award winning quilting for 13 years and was a tailor before that. I know my sewing machines. And that somehow makes living with the 820 worse

I regularly receive emails from readers who'd like to know if I've sorted out my 820 issues and the answer I'm afraid, is no, I have not. I hope things will improve somehow but I can't see how this will happen. It's my opinion that Bernina should recall the 820's but again, don't see this happening either. I have a very high opinion of Bernina and indeed trusted in that brand name, so it surprises me that the 820 was ever produced and manufactured. And I sincerely regret that it was.

These buttonholes are a serious mess- and as usual, no amount of tension adjustment or thread change or bobbin fiddling can remedy it. I've been here before and it just gets more frustrating to have beautifully prepared fabric damaged like this from a machine that should perform better. This standard is inexcusable. And so disheartening too. What a waste of fabric and time

So much for teaching my DDs how to sew by example, I don't let them near the 820 - not because its 'precious' but because I don't want them to be put off sewing. This really bothers me because I am one of those women who believes that even if you do no sewing, you should know the basics like hems, darts and buttonholes as a general life skill. Well, not on my Bernina 820 that's for sure. 

This is OK. And this is the best the Bernina 820 can do. 
Overall, one hole out of 5 is acceptable and I am not impressed. 
Maybe I'm too particular, but I can't live with this kind of sloppy work!

By the time I've re-created my collar, I've moved machines and feel better about getting my creation finished within the day. I love these buttons too, they're such a nice detail to finish on. Because of course, I have a button stash to rival my fabric stash too, but decide to stick with black on black.

After hours of struggling with my 820, its nice to look at my finished (or nearly finished, in this pic the buttons need to be sewn down) creation and realize that this is what its about - using what time I have to do what I love and with the materials I love. Its such a shame that I have a tool which doesn't benefit my work, or my creativity. It hinders both those things and fills me with such regret and indecision - because what can you do when you have spent so much on something so bad?

 Have you sewn anything for yourself to wear lately? I'd love to hear about it. 


  1. I love seeing your beautiful blouses and your fabric choices. I no longer try to sew clothes for myself as I am never pleased with my results. I am under-tall and the patterns never work for me. Seeing your beautiful sewing makes me want to try again. Thank you for showing your beautiful choices.

  2. I've not sewn anything for myself in quite some time but I am making my daughter a shift/sleeveless dress. She liked the one she purchased and has worn for a while and she just wanted another one just like it. We went 'shopping' in my sewing room and she found some great fabric. I cut it out using the favourite dress as a pattern and a couple of days ago she finally tried it on. Now, I just have to cut the bias and finish off the neck edge and arm holes.

  3. I have not sewn any clothing in years that I am satisfied with - I love to make quilts, but my sewing for clothing never works out.It is a real shame about that sewing machine. I suppose you have already talked to the place you bought it from and placed your concerns over the machine and had no help - it is a real pity to have spent a lot on a machine and then have it not work properly.

  4. Esther, I, too, love my 1950's Elna. It is the machine I learned to sew on and it makes just perfect buttonholes! I have also owned many newer machines but nothing beats the Elna for hardiness or stitch beauty. I recently made a mother of the bride dress on my trusty Elna. Now in the throes of finishing a quilt for the local guild show in September, on a newer Elna. I am in awe of your beautiful collars and should try some of those myself and my neck is always cold in the winter.

  5. I have not sewn any clothes this year as of yet...although I plan to make my gd a couple of play sets for the summer...really sad that your machine is not working out for you...

  6. I love that word - shumper. I don't sew for myself any more. I made myself an outfit to wear to a wedding about 20 years ago when I saw what I wanted in a shop, but it cost $450 and I absolutely couldn't afford it. I spent quite a few weekends making a pencil skirt and fitted jacket and was really pleased with how they turned out. Now I use my sewing machine for quilting.

  7. Love your last sentence! After telling the sales staff I was mostly a quilter, they happily sold me an 820. It took a while for me to admit that a 1/4" seam is an impossibility due to the width of the feed dogs, I went back to tell them I considered it criminal to sell 820s to quilters; they suggested I take some more lessons. So I sent them a link to your first column on the 820, hoping to prove I was not the only unhappy one. Count me as 3 years and not happy yet

    1. I think Rita, who posts at Red Pepper Quilts uses an 820. (or did) She makes lovely quilts that seem to be accurately sewn. You might ask her how she manages the 1/4". Her blog is full of lovely things worth checking out.

    2. If you are not aware yet a 97 and 97 D foot have been released which should cater for your 1/4 needs

  8. So sorry to read about your bad experiences with the Bernina 820. I came THIS CLOSE to buying an 830 but then I read so many awful reviews online. I ended up waiting until Bernina came out with the 750 QE, which has a much more user-friendly bobbin system, IMO. I think the problem is that the sewing machine manufacturers are trying to create the One Machine to Rule the Sewing Room and certain functions are just not compatible in the same machine. Although I love my 750 for free-motion quilting or embroidery, and at some point I'll probably have fun playing around with those lovely 9 mm decorative stitches, I usually prefer piecing on my 1935 Singer Featherweight for the narrow feed dogs and rock-solid straight stitch every time, no fuss. I agree with you that the buttonholes your 820 makes are horrendous. I have not yet read your back posts about your 820, but I wonder whether this is a case where your dealer/tech is letting you down? There is a Yahoo group for Bernina 7 Series owners where I have found that certain Bernina dealers have great techs and great customer service, and all happy customers. Other Bernina dealers tell customers "it must be user error," or "you're being too picky," either because they don't really care about you after the sale or they just are not knowledgeable enough about the ins and outs of the new machines. It seems that there are things the techs can adjust and update to make huge improvements in stitch quality, IF they know what they are doing. Sometimes I'll read about someone getting a machine that just can't be made to sew acceptably, and the dealer ends up sending it back to Bernina and the customer gets a new machine that performs up to standards. I don't know how long ago your husband bought the 820 for you, but it should be under warranty still and might be worth traveling to a different Bernina dealer if your dealer is unwilling or unable to make it right for you.

  9. One more idea -- I have heard that some consumers have had luck getting problems resolved by contacting Bernina corporate directly when their dealers failed to make things right for them. You may never end up bonding with this machine, but you still should not have to just accept inferior quality. You're in Australia, right? Here's the corporate contact info:

    BERNINA Australia Pty Ltd
    Unit 10 / 15 Carrington Road
    Castle Hill NSW 2154
    Ph: +61 2 9899 1188
    Fax: +61 2 9899 1469

    Call us toll free: 1800 237 646

  10. I have not sewn anything for myself in quite awhile, I can't seem to get a good fit from a pattern and have not ventured into resizing/etc. I am very short so I don't find clothes that fit easily and I am inspired from your posts so I may give it a try again. I am sorry that you have never been able to sew satisfactorily on your 820. I have a mid-arm quilting machine I bought 8 years ago and have never been able to quilt with because of tension and other problems. I have wasted many hours (and so much floor space). Again I am inspired-I am going to contact the dealer and ask them to buy it back. For me, I will take what I can get because I don't want to pass the machine on to someone else.

  11. I find it so sad when you spend so much money on a sewing machine that you can't get it to sew a simple buttonhole. I had good action when one of my sewing machines top of line machine kept having to be serviced. I called the President of the company. Boy did I get action. It was not a Bernina. I even had a new miter replaced before the warranty ran out. So Esther go to the top of the Company. Good luck.

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