By Kathy Carter of Janome
"If one of my close friends or family members were asked to describe me in one word, I would like to think they would say "hard-working" or "determined", but in all honesty, they would choose "overachiever". This was certainly fitting when I saw a pattern that one of our talented coworkers had purchased on sale and I just had to get it myself. The pattern was Vogue 1343: Misses Drape-Neck Dress by Tracy Reese. It is categorized by Vogue as average, which they define as "perfect if you have more time to sew and more experience sewing."
Now, I don't consider myself a beginner in the sewing world. My mother taught me how to sew when I was around four years old. This led to years of homemade Christmas gifts and Halloween costumes, which I was proud to showcase and became the teacher's pet in home economics. I ran out in earnest to purchase the pattern. At the store, I fell in love with the fabric! One of Janome's kind-hearted Educators cautioned me that the ultra-silky Charmeuse, while beautiful, may not be the easiest fabric to work with considering I had not sewn anything by pattern in quite a few years. But what does a professional sewing expert know? I have sewing experience, I love the fabric and the world "difficult" only serves to issue a challenge I am all to ready to meet!
Let's just say that cutting out my pattern pieces was a frustrating challenge in itself that took half of a day. Boy, does Charmeuse just slide all over the place! The next day, I sat down at a Memory Craft 6600P and read my first sewing instructions. The Vogue Pattern was filled with linings, gathering, facings, French seams, blind hems and more. While I realistically had been sewing for maybe four or five hours the first day, all I had finished was lining and gathering the bodice front.
Okay, I confess, this was my first garment project on a Janome machine. My prior machine was a value machine from a department store that was probably purchased before I was born and it was passed around a generation or two within the family. Due to prior experience with garment sewing on a beginner machine as well as the nightmare of cutting my pattern pieces, I was ready for this material to move like a baby deer on ice - get pulled through the needle plate and shred. I was caught only by surprise at how perfectly the Janome machine fed the fabric and when I hit day two of sewing, I built up the courage to venture out of the minimum speed of 60 stitches per minute. While I never hit the maximum speed of 1,000 SPM, I flew through the rest of my bodice with ease and hardly ripped a stitch.
The only setbacks for the rest of this project came from my own perfectionism and lack of confidence. There are a few features of this machine, however, that allowed me to proudly say I could do this again if I wanted to. I only used the AcuFeed feature once or twice, but the fabric fed beautifully without it. The most nerve-wracking parts were when I was sewing 1/8" seams and lining up layers of seams as I sewed the skirt and bodice together.
I really didn't have to worry about measuring my seams so much because Janome was absolutely ingenious in the design of the machine. The patented needle plate and its many markings were foreign to me at first, but as I continued to stitch, I realized that I always had an engraved line or marking on a foot that allowed me to speed through straight stitching and even make perfect corners without hesitation.
The next problem I came across was the blind hem on the skirt. I had done a blind hem before, but by hand I had no idea what settings or foot to use. Luckily, I had my trusty machine manual close at hand. I quickly found the blind hem page and read the suggested settings. I went to the appropriate stitch and made it through my first machine sewn blind hem with ease.
My layered seams were also no cause for alarm. The first few times, as I was adding a facing to the neck hole, I gritted my teeth and got ready for a broken needle or devastating jam. All I got was a beautiful, consistent stitch and sore teeth.
The only other time I grit my teeth was while sewing the skirt and bodice together and adding a casing for the elastic band at the waist. I thought for sure that even such an awesome machine would have trouble going over that many seams as it was easily eight layers of fabric! That is when I remembered a conversation I had with my manager about the leveling button. (That is the little black button on the back of your A foot.) As I got to the bulky seam, I leveled out my foot, pressed in that small piece of magic and went on my way. The needle ran through those seams like a hot knife through butter.
I was finally at the end. I tested the fit, put in my elastic, added my buttons and tried it on. I could have done the pattern in a size smaller, but it worked. I found a belt that matched nicely and celebrated the completion of my project. Every time someone comes to my house, I make sure to show it to them as I turn back into my childhood self and proudly say, "I made this!".
Sometimes you learn that the key to overcoming a challenge is to not give up - be patient, practice and put in the effort. Other times, you learn that you need the right quality tools for the job. In this case, I had the Memory Craft 6600P to be my guide and savior in finishing a project that I would not have been ready to take on otherwise." - Kathy Carter, Janome Marketing & Education Assistant