Welcome to the second installment of this week’s Sewing Diaries! Yesterday we talked about: 1) Unboxing the Machine, 2) Preparing to take care of it and 3) Learning what it can do.

Now we are ready to sew! Today we talk about getting the machine ready, two projects I chose to sew first, (and why!) plus a bonus tip and tutorial for them. (BTW, isn’t the Sewing Diaries logo amazing? It was made by fellow Janome Artisan and amazing graphic artist Cynthia Frenette for this project – #loveit! )

Meet Your New Machine – Step 4: Get Ready to Sew!

It is important to learn how to get a bobbin wound, thread the machine, and insert the bobbin correctly.

Again, this information is in your manual, or on your included instructional DVD. (Yay S7!) All of my Janome machines have had a similar thread path, but each has been a little different. I like to make sure I’m doing it correctly the first time because it’s harder to change once you’ve memorized it incorrectly! A tip when threading the machine: It is important to use a spool holder to hold your thread on the spool pin. Make sure it is the correct size, the S7 comes with large and small size thread caps. (For reference, I’ve used the small cap in the photo below.)

When filling the bobbin, note the correct winding direction for the thread in your manual. When filling it, most machines will stop once the bobbin is full, then you can cut the threads. The S7 includes 5 small cutters under the bobbin area for right before you wind it, and one for cutting the main thread once you are done. #noscissorsnecessary

When threading your machine, follow the path and be sure to pull the threads as indicated in your manual to ensure the tension discs are engaged. Don’t skip threading through that tiny hook right above your needle! Use a needle threader to thread the needle, or the automatic threader if your machine has one. I made an Instagram video of the advanced needle threader on the S7. It is truly amazing!

The bobbin should be inserted as per the manual again. Noting that it is especially important to insert it so it spins the way your machine wants it to. My Janome machines have needed the bobbin to spin counter-clockwise.

Meet Your New Machine – Step 5: Sew a Simple Project (or two!)

Alright, we are ready to sew now. I think the best way to start out is to make a simple first project without any closures, leave the buttonholes and zipper feet for The Sewing Diaries – Week 2. I decided to make two of my all-time most popular tutorials, The fat-quarter friendly Sunny Glasses Case and the Pretty Floral Divided Tote.

Both of these are really quick and satisfying projects. Good for confident beginners and advanced sewers alike. They allow you to use your new machine to make something useful and fun, while not having to reach for your manual with each step. (P.S. I changed a few things from both original tutorials, so I’m sharing a tip and a mini tutorial for them at the end of this post.)

I broke out my hoarded Mochi Dot linen for these, and some Paris fabric my mom gave me years ago. It’s so gorgeous I’ve been saving it for the perfect project (and I’ve got some left still, yay!) You can never go wrong with linen, canvas and polka dots!

Meet Your New Machine – Step 6: Plan to test your machine

One great way to test your machine is to tackle your mending pile. There is usually a varied selection of fabrics, lots of knits and wovens of different weights to work with. It even provides different situations such as mending a pant leg by using the free arm or fixing a ripped tee with an overcasting stitch.

The second way to test your machine is to plan several specific projects that use different features of your sewing machine. This is the way I am going to write the Sewing Diaries, since I’m sure you are not interested in seeing my mending pile. (I’m pretty sure I don’t want you to see it either!)

How to Choose Your First Projects

  • Incorporate fabric types that you tend to already sew. Save the uncommon ones for another time, unless you bought your machine specifically to use it for an uncommon fabric you want to learn to sew.
  • Incorporate feet that you will use all the time. Buttonhole, Zipper foot, Blind or Rolled Hem foot – sew a woven dress. 1/4″ Foot, free motion quilting feet – make a quilt. AcuFeed Flex, Overedge foot, zigzag foot – choose a simple knit top.
  • Find projects that are simple or ones you’ve sewn before. Learning a new machine might be frustrating because you are not familiar with where everything is or how it works yet. Choosing a complex project will just add to your frustration and it would be so sad if you quit!

This process resulted in me writing the The Sewing Diaries Overview you found at the beginning of yesterday’s post. But, no matter what projects you choose, make sure your manual is on hand to help as you go along – you may need to know how to use a certain stitch, install the knee lift, or change the default height of presser foot for pivoting (Yup, the Skyline S7 can do that!).

I found out how to use one of my favorite features when I was checking the manual for something else, a tiny black button on the back of the S7 zigzag foot. If you push it in while lowering the presser foot it will lock the foot in a horizontal position. Meaning, if the front of the foot is elevated on some thick fabric, the back of the foot will stay elevated until you are past the beginning of the seam ! It helps your seam to begin smoothly when sewing thick or layered fabrics like the french seam on my Sunny Glasses Case.

The Pretty Floral Divided Tote is made with just 1 yard each of outer and lining fabric. I had just a bit less than that, so I slightly shortened the pattern piece and also omitted using the lining fabric on the Straps. Instead I used 1 1/2″ webbing and sewed strips of outer fabric over the front to add detail. Here is a mini tutorial on how to make some yourself.

  1. Cut 2 OUTER Straps: 1 1/2″ x 21″, Cut 2 from Fusible Fleece: 7/8″ wide by 21″, Cut 2 pieces of 1 1/2″ webbing 21″ long.
  2. Fuse the Fleece to the wrong side of the Outer Straps, directly in the centre of each piece.
  3. Fold the Outer Strap fabric over the fusible fleece on both sides. Use the edge of the fleece as a guide.
  4. Glue Baste the Outer fabric to the centre of each length of webbing.
  5. Top-stitch the Outer Fabric on both sides about 1/8″ away from the edge to finish the strap.

Each time I make a Sunny Glasses Case I find a new and improved way of sewing it. I have been collecting tips for at least a year now and plan to post them sometime soon! For now, however, one thing that makes a big difference to the final product is a very simple step. Instead of only using Fusible Fleece on the Outer fabric, cut a second layer and fuse it to the wrong side of the Lining as well. The extra padding makes the case sturdier. It holds it’s shape better and looks more professional.

Thanks for checking out the first installment of the Sewing Diaries. I can’t wait to tackle learning about closures this coming week! They open up a whole new area of your sewing. Remember you can come #alongforthreadride anytime to see sneak peeks and project photos!