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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Saturday, December 29, 2018

My review of the Eversewn Sparrow 30

When I was at QuiltMart in Portland last spring I had a chance to see and test sew on the new Eversewn machines. As a result of that experience, and great conversation with Philipp Ueltschi chief of Eversewn and yes also of the famous Bernina family, I was lucky enough to have an Eversew Sparrow 30 sent to me to test.

Those who follow me in Instagram will have seen periodic posts on this machine and the various projects I have sewn on it.

I have a lot to say about this machine, and the thinking evident behind it, and that is one reason why this very detailed, long, review has taken some time to write.

I have strong feelings about any reviews I post on this blog.

I don't know about you but I am somewhat overwhelmed at the amount of marketing information across the blogosphere, presented as product reviews. Who needs more of that?

The fact is that I if I don't like a product I won't post anything about it at all, except in circumstances where I feel I want to warn my fellow sewers about something that I feel might cause them angst. Who needs more of that either?

I only write exactly what I think about any product I use.  I want to make sure that I have thoroughly tested anything new before I comment on it.

Also, full disclosure here, about 20 years ago I did some educational work for Pfaff and one project for Brother. I am pretty familiar with how some aspects of the sewing machine industry work. 

I know for example that there is a huge difference between "demoing" or even test driving a machine and using it day-in-day-out for a wide range of sewing challenges. 

For that reason I wanted to really use and live with this machine, and assess it based on other machines I have worked with, before I talked about it.

So to put my comments into context, these are some of the projects I have made on the Sparrow 30 over the past 6 months:

  • Men's shirts - this was useful in testing buttonholes, for ease of use and reliability, and for stitch quality through various thicknesses, as well as the ability to edge stitch precisely (needle positions were helpful here)
  • Swimsuits and lycra leggings - these were great test garments for the stretch stitches - I used both the reverse action triple zig-zag and the narrow zig zag for some details, as well as the triple/multiple zig zag for top stitching through thick chlorine proof elastic
  • Fleece- multiple layers of thick fabric (pressure foot adjustment used here)
  • General dressmaking (zippers) children's and baby clothing - cotton woven, rayons, and knits - both cotton lycra and modal or rayon
  • Mending - darning, satin stitch and various utility stitches. Fabrics included denim and outwear
I really feel that my observations on this machine are based on some pretty thorough test sewing, under a variety of conditions.

Note: I am a garment sewer and although I tried out and played with the alphabets and many decorative stitches I didn't actually complete a project with any of these features.

Now before I get into the specifics of my experience with this machine I want to put this machine and the Eversewn company into what in my own opinion only, is context within the industry. 

For a start I have to say the one question I hate being asked most by new sewers, or worse still by the non-sewing relatives of potential sewers is "what is a good machine to buy for someone who is just getting into sewing?"

I really cringe when I hear this because I know that the machines they have budgeted for are more than likely not all that well made and, my worst nightmare, would be so frustrating to the new sewer that they might even give up on life's best activity.

As a general rule, cheap machines are cheap machines, and who wants to tell any mother that? 

I am also equally frustrated by sewing machine dealers who present that the only machines worth sewing on are the same price as a small car, or that they should also be the same size as one. 

$5,000 before you can try making your first skirt? Really?

I have always felt that to bring in all the happy sewers I would like to into the sewing community there needed to be an achievable alternative.

So last spring when I was in Portland I wondered if Eversewn, with its very reasonably priced, feature rich machines, and cool sewing notion kits, might meet that need. And that it might fill what I saw as a definite gap in the current menu of sewing machines on the market.

That's what I wanted to find out.

That's why I was eager to test this machine.

I also have to tell you I was intrigued by Philipp Ueltschi. 

Obviously sewing machines are in his blood but it needs to be said that these are not Bernina machines, I see many aspects that I would call Bernina informed. Eversewn is Ueltschi's own project and if I were to put it into one of my own sentences I would describe this project as:

"Sewing machines made for millennials by a millennial who also happens to know an awful lot about sewing machines." 

(Note sure if the company would agree with this assessment but it's how it looks to me).

More specifically my assessment for my fellow sewers would be that this:

The Sparrow 30 is an A1 machine, that performs very, very well and has a whole range of very useful/sophisticated features that are simply not usually found in machines at the price point. 

A new or returning sewer who has a specific budget would in no way be settling at all for less features with this well-priced machine, in fact, relative to the competition in this area of the market, would be getting far more for her money than she would get elsewhere.

Now let's get into some of the detail and some of my own favourite features. 

Here are the highlights:

I am one who is more interested in sewing functions than in a number of decorative stitches so here are the things I liked, and liked a lot in this machine. All are features seen most often on much more expensive machines:

  • The metal body: Although this is a fairly light machine (ideal for some of the sewing retreats I took it on) it is solid. You just can't compare the feel of an all metal body to one that doesn't have it. That said this machine does go really, really fast when set to top speed and although it stayed still no problem at all on my study sewing table at home, there was some hopping when I sewed fast on a portable table. Putting the machine on a piece of old yoga mat fixed that.
  • Needle up and needle down: My lovely old vintage machines don't have this and I really miss it. So so useful as a necessary third hand when top-stitching/stretching swimsuit elastic.
  • Variable sewing speed: Being able to turn down the sewing speed when doing careful work like topstitching makes all the difference.
  • Needle threader: no explanation necessary.

  • Thread cutter: I don't always use this, often like to trim my threads closely myself, but when I do I always appreciate the long threads on the underside that don't pull out.

  • Single pattern/tie off function: Neater than sewing forward and backwards at the beginning of every seam, although you have to figure this out, it really does a single pattern of the stitch rather than a mini reverse and forward like some machines.
    • Adjustable presser foot pressure: This is sort of an old school feature but a really useful one I wish they still had on every machine. Loosening the foot pressure for polar fleece was useful, as was increasing it for lining.

    • Great lighting: For some reason a lot of new machines don't have this. The Sparrow has nice strong light in the stitching area, which I really like:

    It should be noted that the LED lighting here does cast as sort of yellow halo around the lit sewing area, something that startled me at first, but I don't notice anymore.

    • Really great buttonholes. Some truth needs to be told here. A straightforward mechanical buttonhole often produces a more reliable buttonhole than many of the real fancy computerized ones. In fact one of my sewing partners, a former high end sewing machine dealer, told me when she watched me make buttonholes on this machine that in her opinion this traditional system makes some of the nicest buttonholes ever. A button placed in the back of the foot determines buttonhole size and the lever that is pulled down whenever buttonholes are made, regulates consistent size for each buttonhole:
    • Ease of use: we are going back here to a machine for a new sewer. The Sparrow is sprinkled with a number of really useful illustrations, particularly for threading:

    • A nice simple to understand control panel of common stitches on the machine face: It was so interesting to me that our 9 year-old just sat down in front of this machine and she knew exactly how to thread and use it. No problem at all.

    • An excellent, stable extension table. I was also very impressed with this, particularly since I had just recently tested a top of the line that did not have these little feet and as a result extension table on that machine bounced around annoyingly:

    Issues with this machine.

    I found this a nice, easy, comfortable machine to work with. Of the eight sewing machines I have in my workroom this in fact is the one I reach for when I am in a hurry and just want a reliable little bit of sewing done with little fuss. This says a lot.

    The only issue I had was with some "bird nesting" in the bobbin area when I was just getting used to the machine. 

    After a bit of double checking (an old sewing machine technician friend of mine always used to say that the first place to check for an problem would be in the chair in front of the machine ...) I decided that this important thread guide was essential:

    Yup this first upper thread path is super important. (Note I put the handle down to take this picture but of course it needs to be up for sewing).

    I missed this a few times (and am not sure if the thread cutter didn't jangle it out when I had been casual about getting the thread in here) and got a thread nest in the bobbin area. 

    Interestingly the only consistent problem reported by new users for this machine, as reported online, were those lower area thread nests - my suspicion now is that those problems might have to do with missing this thread path. 

    Since I have started paying more attention to getting the thread in there and in threading the machine with the foot up (to open the tension disks) and making sure I "flossed" the thread in between the tension disks I haven't had any further problems with messy bobbin thread at all and subsequently sewed for months since then for hours and hours without seeing this issue again.

    So final verdict:

    Great machine, more than excellent for the price. A machine I will happily take to classes, and recommend to anyone who asks and is looking for a nice, reliable, high feature, good value machine.

    An overdue option for those in the market for a new machine too, who are often so overwhelmed by all the choices.

    Friday, December 28, 2018

    Favourite pattern time: Lovenotions pullovers

    One of my pleasures this Christmas was to discover and sew Lovenotions new pullover patterns, the Navigator for kids, the Constellation for women and the North Star for men. I have no affiliate relationship with this company but do note that there is currently a 20% off discount if you buy all three at the same time - something I wish I had done.

    Before I go into the story of my own versions I should show you the pattern pictures from Lovenotions:

    I have made a ton of fleece/hoodie/casual knit jackets in my time. I compared my experience with sewing those with this new pattern, so far I have made the women's and men's version and will be making some for the kids soon too, and have been really impressed.

    I started off with the Constellation for women because I was on the hunt for nursing top options for my daughter-in-law. When I saw that this jacket was "nursing friendly" because of the unusually long zipper opening for a pullover, it just jumped off the screen to me. I have already been sent pictures of Maddie nursing Anika in it and yup, it works pretty well.

    I have also realized that the longer zipper places this jacket sort of between a pullover and a full zip jacket.Of course is easier to make than a full jacket because there is no zipper-ending-in-the-band situation to deal with (although of course you could use this pattern for a jacket too by just bringing the zipper right down the front if you wanted). This longer zipper makes these tops is so much easier than a pullover that you have to haul over your head to wear.

    I can see that this would make it a good top for kids or even older people because it would be so easy to put on and off.

    I was also impressed by the design details that all give a professional look but in fact represent easy techniques that make the garment very beginner friendly.

    For example:

    • The bottom pockets are really one big kangaroo patch pocket basted to the lower body piece. The edges of the pocket are just strips of knit or ribbing. Really about the easiest outerwear pocket I have ever seen.
    • The under collar is finished with a turned and stitched binding before it is attached to the outer collar - once the under collar is stitched to the outer collar around the edges the finished neck edge is just hand or machine stitched down over the neck seam. I am going to think now of other places where I can use this technique. There is actually a live link to a Youtube video on how to do this in the instructions, which would be useful for a new sewer or just a visual learner.
    • The zipper suggested is longer than necessary, you just trim the bottom off after it is all stitched in, so it is easier to hold on to and so there is a place to park the zipper tab while the zipper is being applied - there was a far bit of thinking ahead in this pattern. There is also a Youtube video link too for the zipper.
    As far as style features all versions have collars or hoods and the woman's also has a sort of shirt tale view without a banded bottom. That's the one I made for Maddie and will make for myself.

    I ended up making three men's versions and one women's for Christmas. Here is my youngest son Ben in his:

     Really a winner of a pattern. Today I actually cut out three more by popular demand, those will be ready to share soon.

    Monday, December 24, 2018

    Flypaper thoughts Christmas Eve 2018 version

    • Well where have I been?
    • Planes, trains, and automobiles
    • OK not trains
    • No one has read my memo requesting transcontinental train fare the same price as the current equivalent of being in a glove box for half a day with the option to spend $20 on pesto salad, minus the pesto and minus the salad up higher in the air than anyone lets themselves think about
    • I made a good business case
    • We could fill those trains with middle aged women who like to knit and want to have their scissors and circulars handy
    • And stretch their legs and play cards in the observation car
    • Or take advantage of the five pieces of luggage currently allowed on most trains
    • Listen there is a huge audience quite happy to be captive who has already figured out quite a few years ago that it is the journey that matters 
    • Tap this market
    • Until they do I am left to wonder why on earth anyone has a beer in an airport bar at 7:30 a.m.
    • Unless they are folks who are wishing for trains
    • My trip to Berkeley to meet the new granddaughter was wonderful
    • This one is going to be a real piece of work, highest of praises in this family
    • She's starting out by being really good at being a baby
    • So proud of my son who could work as a doula if the tech industry crashes
    • Does the middle of the night feed with her one bottle of the day
    • And changes sides to replicate the breast
    • That's my boy
    • And discovered this trip at Stonemountain that my DIL is a world class fabric shopper
    • She feels every piece and drags the bolts around so she can put them together so she can decide which one would be best
    • I am bringing a machine next time and we are getting right into it
    • This is of course as good as it gets
    • Made three meatloaves, 2.5 chicken pot pies and two curried vegetables for the freezer
    • You can take the woman out of Nova Scotia
    • Plus cookies from the NYTimes since I am old school but cool school
    • I have missed you so much since you left my house
    • But know I now where everything is in your kitchen
    • I can let out my breath
    • You are still you and I am still me
    • Bless the daughter-in-law who gave me that back
    • Going to be a wise mother
    • Stopped over for a day in Vegas due to a flight cancelation
    • First time I went there for a conference 20 years ago I thought it was glamorous
    • This time I noticed the runs in the show girls stockings
    • And the diaper sized safety pins holding some outfits together
    • Doesn't matter how many feathers or how high the boots
    • I still see students
    • And want to ask them
    • Does you mother know?
    • Are you a mother?
    • Maybe who was in the Rat Pack were rats
    • No undoing that now, not going back
    • Think the town knows that
    • Came home and sewed some Love Notions North star pullovers
    • Got to do my own best patterns list
    • Might put that near the top
    • Speaking of which
    • At the top of my list of things I was not expecting
    • Was the bidet contraption my husband attached to the toilet
    • Surprise
    • Your Christmas present!
    • I recognize a man who remembered it was Christmas when he was in middle of the plumbing department
    • Hopes he likes his pullover
    • That man's a star
    • Merry Christmas
    • It feels like a very good one