Patterns · Prym · Sewing

Do you cut or trace your patterns?

I’ve been sewing my own clothes since I first made my school uniform skirt 25 years ago. It was only when I stated working at Coles five years ago that I discovered that a lot of people trace their patterns out rather than cut them directly from the pattern pieces. At first I thought it wasn’t worth the bother but since then I’ve changed my mind, so read on to learn why it’s worthwhile to trace out your patterns instead of cutting them.

Why is it useful to trace off a pattern?

Making the same pattern in a different size

You might like to make clothes for other people as well as yourself, but that becomes difficult if you are different sizes and you have already directly cut out the pattern pieces. Similarly, if you have made something that you love that no longer fits you correctly then you can trace off the pattern again in your new size and make it again! Tracing off your pattern gives you the opportunity to make it in as many sizes as you like.

Multiple pattern pieces on the same sheet

Some pattern companies print multiple pattern pieces on the same sheet, so if you cut one out you destroy the rest! Unless you are happy to buy the same pattern several times over, then you need to trace off the pieces you need.

Patterns that come in books often have overlapping pieces – tracing them off preserves all of the pieces and helps to prevent mistakes

Same piece for multiple views

If the same pattern piece is used for different views then it is worth tracing it off, that way you can adjust the piece if necessary and not worry that it won’t be usable if you make a different view at a later date. Plus you can keep all of the pieces for the same view together, which, if you are anything like me, makes organising your patterns much easier!

Adjusting pattern pieces

If you are an adventurous stitcher then you might like to adjust your pattern pieces to fit differently or to make best use of limited fabric. While you can fold, cut or pin your pattern pieces directly, its much simpler to adjust and re-adjust as you trace it off until you get it perfect.

Patterns printed on thick paper

A lot of the independent pattern companies print their patterns on lovely, thick, quality paper, which is great for making them last but isn’t well suited to being used directly to make your garment. Similarly, if you have downloaded a pdf pattern and printed it off at home then you are faced with creating an A4 pattern jigsaw with sellotape. It’s a lot easier to work with thin pattern paper, so trace the pattern off and the problem is solved!

Tilly and the Buttons patterns come on beautiful strong paper and they recommend tracing off your pieces

How do you trace off a pattern?

Pattern paper

I like to save any unprinted sections of pattern paper from printed patterns, but unless you have a large stash of blank pattern paper then you are likely to need to buy some. Burda Tissue Paper is easy to store and transport as it comes folded – simply lay it over your pattern piece and trace with a pencil. You might like to iron it first to remove any creases.

I should have ironed this paper first – it doesn’t lie flat!

Prym pattern paper comes in two versions: blank and gridded. It comes on a roll so you don’t need to worry about crease marks and gridded paper is ideal if you want to enlarge or adjust your pattern. We only sell this paper in-store so come and see us if you’re interested in this useful pattern paper!

Pattern weights

You’re going to need to hold everything in place to make sure it doesn’t shift while you’re copying your pattern. You can use anything heavy for this but pattern weights are the ideal tool as they prevent shifting without leaving marks. Prym have a cute series of orange, kiwi and melon-shaped weights that double as pincushions, as well as set of four mini weights in either pink or blue. Simplicity Vintage’s pattern weights are flat and wide, so are less likely to be accidentally shifted or knocked.

Tranferring your pattern

Once you’ve laid your paper over your pattern piece and held it in place, you can simply trace it off using a pencil (and easily rub out any mistakes). An alternative to the pencil and paper method is to use carbon paper and a tracing wheel. Place the carbon paper between the pattern piece and your blank paper; once you have the hang of it then this can be a lot faster than tracing with a pencil. Some people even transfer the pattern directly onto their fabric! Using carbon paper is particularly useful if you struggle to see the pattern piece through the pattern paper when tracing – the pattern piece is uppermost and so can be seen clearly. You can also transfer different line styles dependent on your wheel – a smooth wheel will transfer smooth lines while a toothed wheel will give a dotted line.

Tips

  • It’s a good idea to use a pencil so that you can rub out any mistakes, but did you know that Pilot Frixion Ball Pens come in a variety of colours and can also be rubbed out? Be careful if you choose to use Frixion pens though, if you iron your pattern piece you will lose all of your markings!
  • If you’d rather stick with a pencil but would still like to colour code your pattern pieces, then the Prym Cartridge Pencil has a set of refills in yellow, pink and grey
  • Don’t forget to transfer any markings such as notches – they’re easy to overlook but you will definitely miss them if they’re not there! The Prym Aqua Trickmarker is perfect for transferring markings to your fabric, as the ink disappears with a dab of water
  • Make sure you label your pattern pieces with the pattern name (and number if it has one), the piece name/number and the size you have copied
  • Rather than try to cram everything back into your pattern envelope, use a transparent press-seal bag to keep your pieces together – don’t forget to label this too so you can easily find your pattern pieces again in the future!

Now that I know the benefits, I always trace my pattern pieces off but ultimately it’s a matter of personal preference. Let us know in the comments if you like to trace, use carbon paper or cut directly!

Classes · Embroidery · Patchwork · quilting · Sewing

Sew with Coles

At Coles Sewing Centre, we’re not just a shop – did you know that we have a classroom upstairs? Our classes can take you from complete beginner to confident sewer and even the most experienced stitchers can find something new to learn. Our classes are also a great opportunity to make friends with similar interests and many of our regulars enjoy the social aspect as much as the sewing!

When we opened our doors back in 1996, we ran just one class a week; fast forward to 2019 and our classrooms were buzzing with people attending classes every day of the week. Sadly, we had to close our classroom doors in March 2020 as Covid hit and when Covid restrictions started to lift in April 2021, we began to realise that reopening the classroom was going to be the most difficult part of our business to restart. Somehow we had to adhere to social distancing and continue to follow Government guidelines to keep everyone safe.

So, with screens in place and tables well-spaced, we reopened the classroom doors in September 2021 but only ran one class at a time to avoid overcrowding. As the Covid vaccine rolled out and people started to feel more confident about mixing, we have gradually added more classes. Our variety of classes isn’t what it was pre-Covid, but we are getting there and plan to have a full program up and running in the autumn, with lots of new and exciting classes!

To everyone that has attended our classes we would like to say a big THANKYOU, your support has been very much appreciated!

Our classrooms

We have one large classroom area that can accommodate up to 33 people or can be divided into two or three smaller areas, accommodating groups of 12 or less. The classroom areas are bright and airy with large tables for cutting out patterns or for laying out quilts, including a table that adjusts in height for those that are unable to stand to work. If you want to bring your own machine then you can take it up in our lift, but Husqvarna Viking sewing machines are provided for students to use when attending our classes, as well as overlockers and embroidery machines – if you are considering purchasing a machine you can attend a class and try before you buy. And, of course, tea and coffee making facilities are available too!

Our classroom, with the first half set up for a sewing class.

Classes at Coles

Our classes cover all aspects of sewing, so whether you are a patchwork/quilter, embroiderer, garment maker or you prefer to focus on home crafts, we have something that will interest you. We can help you get to grips with your new machine, expand your skills with software, or give you inspiration to be creative with your stitching. All our tutors are experts in their fields and enjoy inspiring, encouraging and sharing their skills.

Machine Owners courses and workshops

Although the instruction booklets are excellent – and as easy as the machines are to use – there is nothing quite like having an expert at your elbow guiding you through new procedures… and offering you useful ‘tips of the trade’ at the same time!

The sewing and embroidery machine owners courses and workshops are taught by me, Rosemary Coles. These courses are aimed at owners of Husqvarna Viking embroidery machines and are designed to help you get the most out of your sewing/embroidery machine. They are free to customers who have purchased their sewing/embroidery machines (selected models) from us but can be purchased by anyone who wants to brush up on using their machine.

We also run a one-day Overlocker Owners Course, taught by Catherine Crew. Catherine will help you to you get the most from your new overlocker and to discover all the wonderful features it has to offer. This course is free for overlocker owners who have purchased their machines from us, but if you have bought your overlocker elsewhere or have a different make of overlocker then the course can be purchased. In the coming months Catherine will be introducing some brand new one-day workshops to take your overlocking to another level, so please watch this space!

Until now the owners courses have taken place in our classrooms, but we are currently working on them becoming online videos that you will be able to download and watch over and over again. This is still in progress, but an announcement will be made on our website as soon as the videos are available. If you didn’t purchase your sewing machine or overlocker from us, don’t worry – the online courses will be available to buy.

Patchwork & Quilting

Our patchwork and quilting tutor is Gilli Theokritoff, who has been with us for many years and is keen to encourage new quilters with her lively and engaging classes. Gilli is an experienced quilter who has won awards for her contemporary quilts.

Our weekly Patchwork and Quilting class is held on a Thursday morning and is aimed at all abilities, whether you are a complete beginner or already an avid quilter. If you are a novice then Gilli will take you through the whole process from choosing your fabric to completing your first project. If you are already a keen quilter this is an opportunity to learn new skills and techniques or finish that UFO!

Gilli’s beautiful Starlight Sampler Quilt

If you work during the week then you might be interested in Sampler Quilt Saturday. This class is ideal for those new to quilting or those who would like to build on existing skills. Each month you will work on a variety of different blocks, exploring different techniques, including appliqué, complex piecing, curved seams, foundation piecing, etc. There are a variety of quilts to choose from, or if you’re looking for a shorter project there’s also a table runner option.

If you are looking for a one-day quilting workshops, then take a look at the Herringbone Table Runner on 14th April or our very popular Tuffet Workshop on 7th May, where you can make your own tuffet footstool.

Garment Making

Our garment making classes are particularly popular, so we have two tutors to take you through constructing your very own garment. Lorna Keeling has been with us for many years and has a great depth of knowledge of the sewing trade from designing to manufacturing. Tracy Corns joined us in 2021 and has been a freelance tutor for the last five years, teaching at venues across Leicestershire.

We offer two weekly Garment Making classes – Tracy teaches the Tuesday morning class and Lorna teaches on Friday mornings. With their expert guidance you can make a garment that will be a perfect fit and have a professional finish. These classes are suitable for all abilities – if you are a beginner then our tutor will take you through the whole process from how to read the pattern, to how to cut your fabric (accurately!), as well learning the skills such as darts, hems and inserting zips. Those with sewing experience can learn new skills and techniques to take your sewing to another level.

For those of you who have some sewing experience, you can take your skills to another level by attending our Pattern Cutting and Design class, which runs once a month on a Saturday with Lorna. This course is for anyone with an interest in pattern cutting or garment construction. The course covers pattern cutting, garment design, fitting and garment construction. If you already have some pattern cutting experience this will give you the opportunity to develop your skills further.

If you work during the week then you might be interested in our Saturday Garment Making and Home Crafts class that runs once a month on a Saturday, where you can stitch a garment, soft furnishing project or craft project, all with expert guidance from Tracy.

Soft Furnishing and Crafts

Jill Dean has been a tutor with us for over 10 years and enjoys making all kinds of items for the home, from cushions to Roman blinds and curtains. She teaches our weekly Soft Furnishing and Crafts class on a Tuesday, which is suitable for all skill levels. This course will teach you how to make a variety of soft furnishings for your home, cushions, curtains, roman blinds etc., or if you prefer you can work on a craft project – maybe a bag or embellished cushion! If you can’t make a weekday then you can join our Saturday Garment Making and Home Crafts class, which Tracy runs once a month.

Workshops for Software Owners

There are so many modules within the Husqvarna Viking software packages that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start, but we have our very own software expert, Anna Mather, on hand to help you. Anna has lots of ideas up her sleeve to help you get the most from your software package and is experienced with helping even the most tech-novice of embroiderers. Her Software and Stitch classes will run in our classroom but she will also be introducing some Zoom classes for those of you that aren’t local to Nottingham, so if you are an owner of Premier+2 Ultra, Extra or Embroidery then why not join Anna on Tuesday 10th May for her first Zoom class!

Machine Embroidery

Kathleen Laurel-Sage teaches our creative machine embroidery classes. She is a freelance designer and embroiderer, who in her own words, loves to “create, inflict and infect fellow creative folk with the bug to master and perfect their creativity”. Kathleen has incorporated hooped machine embroidery into her workshop repertoire using a Husqvarna Viking Ruby 90 embroidery machine and software. She has created some amazing workshops, which are designed to give you the confidence to try new things and gain new skills and are ideal for owners of Husqvarna Viking embroidery machines.

Kathleen will show you how to create a beautiful waterfall of flowers and butterflies on her Floral Waterfall workshop on Saturday 25th June, using your embroidery machine, organza, water soluble fabric and a soldering iron. Watch out for many more new machine embroidery classes in the Autumn!

Hand Stitching

Mary Broddle is new to Coles this year and brings with her a range of hand embroidery workshops, including one for children this Easter. Mary encourages mindful stitching, where you let your needle and thread move through the fabric without overthinking its path – this can have a calming effect, aiding relaxation and reducing stress.

Mary’s hand stitching workshops include Clothes Embellishment, Mindful Stitching and Hoop Art, designed for the days when you don’t want to sit in front of your machine but you want to relax and be creative. If you are like me and aren’t a keen hand stitcher, I would encourage you to come and give it a go – it really is very relaxing and it’s perfect for all abilities, even if you’ve never threaded a needle!

You can view and book all of our upcoming classes online here – keep an eye out as we will be adding more classes for autumn soon! I hope this post has given you an insight into what goes on behind our classroom doors and maybe we’ll see you on a class very soon.

Happy Sewing!

Fabric · Haberdashery · New in · Sewing

New in at Coles this February

It’s February already so it’s long past time I shared the latest additions to the Coles Sewing Centre catalogue! This month our newest products include fabrics, patterns, scissors and snips, so read on to see what’s new at Coles!

Patchwork and quilting fabrics

Take a look at these new patchwork and quilting fabrics, they are absolutely stunning! Imperial Collection 17 by Robert Kaufman Fabrics has a selection of Japanese-inspired designs, including a serene koi carp print with gold highlights (Dusty Blue, 25370). The centrepiece of the collection has to be the Imperial Garden (25372) print: with its vista of a river populated by peacocks and cranes, it could be taken from a Hokusai woodcut print.

We also have the complementary collections Lucky Charms and Band Practice from Figo Studios. These cute prints are perfect for children or anyone musical, and have grey, mustard and coral colour theme.

Dressmaking patterns

In the last few weeks we’ve added new patterns from all of the pattern companies that we stock. Tilly and the Buttons have released Pearl, a v-neck wrap cardigan that’s cropped at the waist and fastens at the side with an adjustable tie. With adjustable length sleeves that can be either straight or balloon, Pearl is likely to become a staple that you wear with every outfit. Also from Tilly and the Buttons, we have the Skye Dress – an adjustable length empire-waisted summer dress with straps wide enough to cover your bra straps and the all-important side seam pockets! Summer will be here before you know it, so why not get started on your summer wardrobe now?

We have three new patterns from The Avid Seamstress: The Culottes, The Day Dress and The City Trousers. The Culottes provide the ultimate middle ground between skirts and trousers; all the swish factor of a skirt with the practicality of trousers. The Culottes are edgy, versatile and a wardrobe staple suitable for all seasons. As you would hope, they include large inseam pockets that are designed to sit flat and not interrupt the silhouette.

With a fitted bodice, gathered skirt and inner pockets, The Day Dress will be one of the prettiest dresses in your wardrobe and with three ways of making the front bodice (button front, centre front seam and no centre front seam), your options are endless.

Effortlessly stylish, the City Trousers re-imagine the contemporary, cigarette fit with a minimalist chic flair. A narrow waistband with an invisible zip at the back creates the ultimate body-slimming silhouette. With easy to insert side pockets and optional side slits at the hem, this astoundingly versatile pattern is fit for any level of sewing experience.

If you’re looking for something for a little one, we have the Juniper Skirt from Poppy & Jazz. Suitable for children from 18 months to 6 years, Juniper is quick and simple to make. Sewn in cotton it’s great for summer, but worn with warm tights it’s equally perfect for cooler winter days. It has two variations, which make it either a super quick make, or a fun sew with a few more details.

Simplicity also released a new issue last month – patterns S9432 to S9462 can be found on our website in the Simplicity department.

Scissors and snips

Looking for some new scissors or snips? We have loads to choose from on our website but lately we’ve added some new Fiskars thread snips and a Hemline Scissors Set. The Hemline Scissors Set makes a great gift for a (right-handed) new stitcher, as it includes a pair each of embroidery scissors, sewing scissors and dressmaking scissors, all with comfort soft-grip handles. The Fiskars Ultrasharp Thread Snips are suitable for left or right handers and make quick work of snipping through fabric, thread, ribbon, floss, yarn and more. Their pointed tips make it easy to trim in tight spaces and their spring-action design with Softgrip touchpoints makes cutting comfortable and easy. They’re great for taking with you to classes too, as they have a built-in blade guard that lets you safely travel with them.

Gutermann Maraflex

Last but not least, we have Gutermann Maraflex, an elastic thread with high stretch that gives amazing results. It’s perfect for sewing on stretch fabrics without needing an overlocker or an overlocker stitch – it lets you sew with a straight stitch on a stretch fabric and will stretch right along with it, up to 80% on top of its original length. We have every colour in store and, of course, you can also find the whole range online. Have a look at my post all about Maraflex to learn more about this new thread and why it’s so popular!

The best way to keep up to date with out latest products is to keep an eye on the New Products section of our homepage – it shows the 10 most recent items added to the website and changes regularly. Don’t worry about missing something though, I’ll be back soon with another update about our latest additions!

Sewing · New in · Haberdashery

Gutermann Maraflex – a game changer for stretch sewing

Gutermann have recently released Maraflex, an elastic thread with high stretch that gives amazing results. So what’s special about Maraflex and why should you use it?

Ordinarily, when you sew a garment with a stretchy fabric then you need to either use an overlocker or an overlock stitch on your sewing machine. Either way, you will use some form of zigzag stitch to allow your fabric to stretch. If you were to use a straight stitch with a sew-all thread on a stretch fabric then your thread would most likely snap when the fabric was stretched. Maraflex lets you sew with a straight stitch on a stretch fabric and will stretch right along with it, up to 80% on top of its original length!

The amount of stretch you can get from a straight stitch sewn with Maraflex is incredible!

Maraflex can be used for any number of applications, but is particularly useful for sewing with jersey, activewear, swimwear and underwear. With 80 colours to choose from, there is a shade for every project!

Our new thread stand with the whole Maraflex colour range

Benefits to sewing with Maraflex

  • You don’t need to use an overlocker. Not all of us are lucky enough to have an overlocker as well as a sewing machine! And even if you do have one, it can be a hassle to have to keep swapping machines depending on the type of sewing you are doing. With Maraflex then you can stitch your stretch fabric on an ordinary sewing machine with a straightforward straight stitch.
  • You use less thread. Maraflex lets you optimise your thread consmption – sewing with a straight stitch instead of a zigzag stitch uses far less thread.
  • Stretches along with necklines and cuffs. Small openings such as necks and cuffs have more give when sewn with Maraflex.
  • Helps make your seams pucker-free. The elasticity of Maraflex gives beautifully smooth seams, preventing unsightly puckering.
  • Easy to care for. You can wash at 60°C, use a hot iron, tumble dry, dry clean (any solvent except trichloroethylene) and use chorine/oxygen bleach – Maraflex can take it all.

Tips for sewing with Maraflex

  • Use a jersey/ballpoint or stretch needle in size 70-80. The correct needle is always important, whatever you are sewing. A jersey/ballpoint needle has a rounded end to prevent fibre breakage, while a stretch needle also has a special eye that helps to prevent skipped stitches, and is especially useful for very high stretch fabrics.
  • Works best with knits and stretch fabrics. Gutermann recommend that you use Maraflex with light to medium-weight knit fabrics such as jersey, or light to medium-weight elastic woven fabrics, such as fabrics that contain elastane.
  • Use as both needle and bobbin thread. For best results you should sew with as little thread tension as possible and use the Maraflex as both your top and bottom threads. You will get optimal seam elasticity with 4 stitches per centimetre.
Optimal seam elasticity is achieved with 4 stitches per centimetre

Where can you get Maraflex?

We have a brand new thread stand in the shop with every available shade of Maraflex – you will find it above the Gutermann Sew-All threads. Of course, you can also order the whole range online by clicking here. A reel is 150m long and costs £3.40, although of course Red Thread customers will get 10% off when shopping in store!

What is Red Thread? Customers who join our Red Thread Club receive a 10% discount on a huge number of items when shopping in store, including threads! It costs nothing to join - simply provide your contact details and your discount will automatically be applied to eligible items when you shop in store (does not apply online). Eligible items include threads, fabric, haberdashery, quilting and embroidery accessories, stabilisers and sewing notions, as well as the majority of Husqvarna Viking feet and accessories (exclusions apply). The savings can be huge!

Rose has already given Maraflex a try and she says that it is ever so easy to use and sews beautifully. She used it to shorten a stretch skirt and the stitches stretched perfectly along with the fabric, without snapping. I have recently bought some of our leaf print ponte roma that I plan to make a Tilly & the Buttons Coco dress from and I will definitely be getting some Maraflex to stitch it with. You can expect an update from me in 2022 letting you know how I get on!

Accessories and feet · Husqvarna Viking · Patchwork · quilting · Sewing

Feet to make quilting a piece of cake!

A couple of weeks ago I gave you a tour of some of the accessory feet from my sewing box that are useful for garment making. This week I’m opening my accessory box again, this time to look at three feet that will help you get perfectly accurate results when you’re piecing and quilting. Whether you are an experienced quilter or a beginner on a steep learning curve and needing all the help you can get, anything that helps you stich precisely cannot be ignored!

Firstly I’m going to tell you about the Clear Adjustable ¼” Foot with Guide, which helps you to stitch a precise ¼” seam when you’re piecing. Let’s also add into the mix stitching in the ditch (no it’s not sitting in a ditch sewing!) as this is another useful foot with a guide to give you accuracy when quilting. While it’s not specifically a quilting foot, I’m adding the Clear Open Toe Foot as it’s one I find most useful in lots of projects, including quilting. So let’s take a closer look at these three very useful feet.

A note on Stitch Width Safety

Before we begin, it’s important to note that the Clear Adjustable ¼” Foot with Guide and the Clear Stitch in the Ditch Foot are both designed to be used for straight stitching only. Many of the current range of Husqvarna Viking machines have an option in the tools menu called ‘Stitch Width Safety’ and I would recommend you select this when using straight stitching feet or a straight stitching needle plate. This means that the stitch width will be limited to zero for all stitches to prevent damage to the needle, presser foot and needle plate. This setting is saved when the machine is turned off. A pop-up message reminds you of the setting when you turn on the machine, so if you want to do a zig zag stitch you must remember to unselect it otherwise you’ll be straight stitching forever!

If you don’t have the Stitch Width Safety option on your machine then you will need to remember to change the foot before going on to select zig zag or decorative stitches, otherwise you could end up breaking a needle or damaging your foot.

The Clear Adjustable ¼” Foot with Guide

Piecing together a quilt is as much an art as a science, but the real key to accurate piecing is a precise ¼” seam. The Clear Adjustable ¼” Foot with Guide allows you to do just that. Simply position the metal guide on the foot on the edge of your fabric and follow it as you stitch – if your pieces are cut accurately then that’s all it takes to achieve accurate seams! The red horizontal markings on the foot make it easy to turn on the corners when piecing or topstitching.

What about if you want to stitch a scant ¼” seam allowance? If you’re not sure what it is, a scant ¼” seam allowance is slightly narrower than a standard ¼” seam allowance – this takes into account the fabric thickness so that when you open out your seams your blocks will be the exact width you are expecting. With just one seam then this difference is negligible, but when you have pieced together dozens of blocks then it adds up and can lead to your quilt being measurably smaller than you are expecting!

The Clear Adjustable ¼” Foot with Guide has an oval hole that allows you to adjust your needle position (your sewing machine instruction book will tell you how). This lets you move the needle slightly from left to right, allowing you to stitch with that perfectly precise scant ¼” seam allowance while using the guide along the edge of your fabric to stitch with ease!

Clear Stitch in the Ditch Foot

Stitching in the ditch means to stitch in in the finished seam of a quilt… or garment because this foot isn’t just for quilters! Line up the metal guide in the centre of the Clear Stitch in the Ditch Foot with the seam and you will be able to stitch effortlessly down the seam, plus you have great visibility because the foot is clear. There are markings on the foot to make turning on a corner easy – you can choose either 1/4” (6mm) or 1/8” (3mm).

Stitching in the ditch on a quilt will help to stabilise the fabric and prevent it from moving. In garment making it’s great for top stitching, but remember you can only straight stitch. If you are wanting to decorative stitch take a look at the Clear B Edge Joining Foot This is a similar foot with the guide in the middle, but has an opening to allow you to swing the needle.

Clear Open Toe Foot

Lastly, let’s look at the Clear Open Toe Foot. This foot has been available for many years so if you already have one then it’s worth digging it out of your accessory tray! As it’s a clear foot then it will give you great visibility for appliqué projects where you need to see the edge of the fabric or for decorative stitching. If you turn the foot over and look at the back of it you will see it has a tunnel that allows the foot to feed smoothly over the stitches, particularly the denser type stitches. The B foot (decorative stitch foot) that comes with all Husqvarna Viking machines also has the tunnel underneath but I often swap to the Clear Open Toe foot for better visibility.

We have a special offer on these feet at the moment – you can buy them as a bundle and save 10%! This offer is only available online so make sure you get it while you can!

For Epic 2 Owners

If you own an Epic 2 then don’t worry, there are versions of all of these feet that are compatible with the Integrated Dual Feed (IDF) on the Epic 2, just click to see them on our website:

These are just three of the many feet available from Husqvarna Viking so look out for information about more feet in our future blog posts. We’ll also be running a foot class in the New Year, where you’ll have an opportunity to find out what’s available and have a go!

Happy stitching!

Embroidery · Embroidery machines · Husqvarna Viking · Sewing · Sewing Machines

Thinking of buying a domestic sewing machine?

Well, congratulations, a sewing machine is a wonderful tool and accessory to have, a gateway to many creative ideas, and a great therapy and relaxation. So how do you decide which machine to buy? Having been an exhibitor at many sewing shows, I have seen so many people overwhelmed by the choice available, often ending up going home with nothing. So let’s see if we can help filter it a bit.

A few questions to ask yourself before you begin looking:

  • Why do I want a sewing machine?
  • What sewing do I do now?
  • If I have a sewing machine, why am I looking to replace it?
  • Is there a new area of sewing I would like to try, but the machine I have does not have the capability to do it?

Don’t be too worried about trying to find a machine with everything you might ever want to do on it all at once. Yes, a sewing machine tends to be a long term investment, but they do have a value as they get older so you can always sell the one you have on, or part exchange it against an upgrade. Many people begin with a simpler machine and as they grow in skill and experience they upgrade to machines with more features.

Ok that has hopefully got the cogs whirring, so let’s have a look at some of the types of machines that are available, by genre (if you have a particular genre in mind, simply click to jump to the genre):
Traditional mechanical machines
Computer sewing machines
Sewing and embroidery machine combinations

Traditional Mechanical Sewing Machines

The technology used in traditional mechanical sewing machines has been around for many a year and they are a great place to start the sewing journey. Modern ones are easy to thread and use, require minimal maintenance and will give years of trouble free service if given some TLC and a service occasionally.

Stitches and size of stitches will be selected by dials and it will be necessary to set the stitch length and width manually to suit. There could be some electronics involved to help control the speed of the machine and for needle piercing power for heavy fabrics.

A mechanical machine will offer, at minimum, straight stitch for joining seams, zigzag for overcasting seams, 3 step zigzag for inserting elastic and repairs, blind hem for easy curtain and trouser hemming (once the technique is mastered) and a buttonhole. It may also have some stretch and overlock stitches, some decorative stitches or a free motion facility for free motion embroidery or stipple quilting.

I’m afraid you get what you pay for so if you’re looking at a sub-£100 machine from a supermarket, don’t expect it to be up to much! The engineering in a sewing machine needs to be excellent, as do the materials used to build it, so if it’s very cheap then this will be reflected in the quality of materials or build. You may end up spending more on a cheap machine in the long term when problems arise from its poor quality.

Ideally you want to look at spending, as a minimum, £150. Go with a reputable brand, ideally bought from a sewing machine specialist, and if you can pop in (or have a virtual demonstration), so much the better. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so only watching YouTube videos before you buy might not necessarily help you make the right purchase.

Why have a demonstration?

When you are choosing a machine, a specialist sewing machine shop like Coles will offer you a free demonstration. Not only do you get to see (and hear) the machine in action and have a go for yourself, you also can ask any questions you might have. The demonstrator will try to ensure that the machine is within your budget and meets your needs and as they are experts, they can offer suggestions that you wouldn’t get otherwise. You would test drive a car, why not a sewing machine?!
Some examples of mechanical sewing machines from Husqvarna Viking:
  • H|CLASS™ E10 – currently £189.00 with 2 years’ warranty
    • A great place to start the sewing journey
    • Easy to use and so reliable, with a good range of sewing and utility stitches plus 3 step buttonholes and a built in needle threader
    • For beginners to intermediate users
  • H|CLASS™ E20 – currently £239.00 with 2 years’ warranty
    • Similar to the E10 but with an additional drop feed mechanism for easy free motion sewing, a few more stitches, a one-step easy buttonhole, and independent stitch width control
    • For intermediate users, or great as a backup machine for taking to class
  • EMERALD™ 116 – currently £339 with 5 years’ warranty
    • A very reliable machine and simple to use, great with heavy and light fabrics alike
    • Includes 1-step easy buttonholes, stitch width control, decorative and utility stitches – it’s just lovely to use!
    • For beginners to intermediate/advanced users
  • EMERALD™ 118 – currently £369.00 with 5 years’ warranty
    • Similar to the Emerald 116, but with a slide speed control and needle up down function to make sewing even more controllable, plus a few more decorative stitches
    • For beginners to intermediate/advanced users

Computer sewing machines

Computer sewing machines started appearing with the advent of the microchip, as long ago as the late 1970’s. They are so much easier to set up than mechanical machines as simply selecting the stitch sets the machine up ready to go. They often have computer controlled upper tensions, with the tension matched automatically to the chosen stitch/fabric combination.  They usually have needle/up down functions to save you having to turn the handwheel. They will probably have a stitch count in the hundreds, with specialist stitches for utility, quilting, decorative and lettering.

A computer sewing machine may also have auto thread trim, and auto presser foot lift (with an extra height setting for thicker projects) plus a pivot function for patchwork, and a bigger distance between the right side of the machine and the needle, to allow for bigger projects such as quilts. They are simple to use once the basics of threading are mastered, so any user level can use them – beginners to advanced.

A few Husqvarna Viking computer sewing machines to chew over:
  • OPAL™ 690Q – currently £899 with 5 years’ warranty
    • This is just such an amazing machine – it has so many features, but is still intuitive and so easy to use
    • It has growth room, so you could buy it as a beginner/intermediate, and grow with it, or buy it as an advanced sewer, and still be amazed at what it offers!
    • If you really think you will be into sewing long term then this is the machine for you
  • SAPPHIRE™ 930 – currently £1499 with 5 years’ warranty
    • The big sister of the OPAL™ 690Q, the Sapphire 930 has a longer arm to accommodate bigger projects such as quilts, as well as additional stitch functions
    • If you’re a quilter then it’s a great machine to go for as it is big, but light enough to carry to classes
  • BRILLIANCE™ 75Q – currently £1929.00 with 5 years’ warranty
    • This is a top of the line computer machine, but still easy to use
    • It has a colour touch screen like the SAPPHIRE™ 930, as well as extra wide decorative and quilt stitches
    • For intermediate to advanced users

Sewing and embroidery machine combinations

This innovation in domestic sewing started to appear in the early 1990’s and allowed for small embroideries to be added to garments. It was simple stuff at first, and quite complicated to set up through using electronic memory cards that went into a specialist port on the computer. Designs and customising designs were quite tricky too. But not now!

We really are spoilt by the choice, ease of use and familiarity of operation these days. Designs are plentiful and easy to customise, or you can create your own design with software – the only limits are your imagination! They come with USB connectivity and the most recent machines have built in Wi-Fi, letting you download your design straight onto your machine, no matter where you are. There is even a phone app, with which you can take a photo of an item and send it to your machine for stitching out direct from your phone! The combination machines are top of the line sewing machines as well, so you get the best of both worlds.

I would recommend buying one from somewhere that can support you, as you need to learn the techniques of hooping, positioning, the right backings and thread and so forth. The investment in one of these is high, but the rewards are amazing – imagine seeing an embroidery you have created on a garment, cushion, or quilt! It can even turn into a cottage industry as there are always clubs, businesses and societies wanting embroidered logos stitching on garments, as well as the massive opportunity in the small craft business. They can be used from beginner to advanced, as the modern interfaces with large colour touch screens make the stitching side easy. You just need to master the art of setting the fabric to embroider up correctly, and to find inspiration.

A few Husqvarna Viking embroidery machines to look at, all with 5 year warranty and free tuition with Coles:
  • DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 40 – normally £2299.00, we have some demonstration models available at £1299.00 while stocks last
    • An easy to use sewing and embroidery combo
    • Great as a sewing machine and simple to set up for embroidery
    • Maximum hoop area 240mm x 150mm
  • DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50 – currently £3059.00
    • A longer arm than the Topaz 40, with more built in stitches
    • Simple to use on sewing and embroidery
    • Maximum hoop size of 360mm x 200mm, so you can do pretty big designs!
  • DESIGNER SAPPHIRE™ 85 – currently £5299
    • Longer arm and larger colour touch screen than earlier machines
    • Has the deLuxe™ Stitch System: the machine works out the thickness of the thread, fabric, and works with the project being stitched to alter the tensions in real time as necessary to give perfect results
    • Technology for sewing at its best!
  • DESIGNER RUBY™ 90 – currently £7499
    • We love the Ruby 90, it has so many features as a sewing and embroidery machine!
    • Big, so can take big projects
    • Massive touch screen, like an iPad
    • Built in JoyOS™ system giving you access to training on board the machine
    • Hundreds of stiches as a sewing machine
    • Will embroider up to 360mm x 360mm (with a turnable hoop)
    • It’s just awesome!
  • DESIGNER EPIC™ 2 – currently £8999.00
    • Awesome plus plus!
    • In addition to the features of the Ruby, the EPIC™ 2 has an integrated dual feed system
    • Long and high sewing area, making it the perfect quilting machine as well as being one of the most advanced sewing and embroidery machines in the world!

Well I hope that helps a little. I have concentrated on examples of Husqvarna Viking machines as we know them well here at Coles – it’s worth clicking to have a look at any machine you’re interested in as we have some fantastic offers on our website right now. If nothing here takes your fancy then there are many other makes out there which you can find on the web, but hopefully you now have a bit of a filter onto the genre of the machine for you. Whatever you choose to look at, I would certainly recommend a test drive if possible to make sure you feel happy using it; also make sure there is some support, other than a couple of online videos!

Happy sewing from all at Coles!

Accessories and feet · Husqvarna Viking · Sewing

Your feet are made for stitching… but which one should you use?

You will have a range of basic accessory feet that came with your sewing machine, like your buttonhole foot, zipper foot, etc. But what happens when you want to do something more specialised, like inserting an invisible zip, topstitching a collar or sewing a garment with a specific seam allowance? Which accessory do you use then?

The clever people at Husqvarna Viking have created over 50 specialised accessory feet to make your sewing applications easier (and they are always creating more!). Here are three feet from my accessory box that I use regularly when I am garment making. 

1. Invisible zip foot

First out of the box is my Clear Invisible Zip Foot (there is a metal version if you prefer to use metal feet). An invisible zip, sometimes known as a concealed zip, is stitched into a seam and as the name implies it’s almost invisible – once it’s inserted all you should be able to see is the zip pull.

An invisible zip

Zip application is often thought of as very difficult to do but it`s really one of the easiest, especially when sewn with the Clear Invisible Zip Foot. An invisible zip is always inserted before stitching the garment’s seam. It has two grooves underneath the foot to accommodate the zip coils and hold them in place as you stitch. You need to buy a zip that is at least 1 1/4″ (3 cm) longer than the zip opening.

If you haven’t inserted an invisible zip before then don’t worry, I go through the process step by step in the video below!

Have a look at my video to see how to insert an invisible zip

2. Seam guide foot

Next out of my box is the Clear Seam Guide Foot. As it says in the name, it’s a clear foot so has lots of visibility when joining fabric and stitching seams. The Clear Seam Guide Foot has a metal guide, which is set at 5/8” (1.5cm) from the centre needle position; this is the standard seam allowance on most patterns. So when you are constructing a garment all you need to do is place the edge of the fabric on the guide and you’ll get an accurate seam allowance every time. To allow for varying seam allowances there are also markings on the foot set at 1/4”, 3/8” and 1/2”.

If you are an Epic 2 owner there is an IDF version of the Clear Seam Guide Foot so that you can use it with the Integrated Dual Feed.

3. Edge joining foot

Last out of my accessory box is the Clear B Edge Joining Foot, which is one of my favourites as it can be used for so many applications. It also comes as a metal foot but I personally prefer the clear one as it gives lots of visibility.  As it’s a joining foot then you can use it for tasks such as joining fabric and lace, or for embellishing ribbon with decorative stitches. However, I generally use it for topstitching as you can put the guide on the edge of the fabric and move the needle across to get a really close topstitch – great for garments but also useful for things like bag handles. It’s also good for top stitching around T-shirt necklines – the guide sits in the seam line and then you can position the needle for top stitching.

If you are an Epic 2 owner there is an IDF version of the Edge Joining Foot so that you can use it with the Integrated Dual Feed.

So those are my top three additional feet for garment making. We have a special offer on these feet at the moment – you can buy them as a bundle and save 10%! This offer is only available online so make sure you get it while you can!

I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of my sewing accessory box, I do have lots of other feet so be sure to pop back to our Blog and I’ll tell you about some more of my accessory feet!

Sewing · Staff

Coles staff sewing night

We are all stitchers at Coles Sewing Centre so we like to get together every so often for a sew and a chat, although Covid restrictions sadly put a stop to that for a while. So we were all very excited to get together on Saturday to have a staff sewing night for the first time in nearly two years! As you can imagine, we did a lot more chatting than sewing because we haven’t all been together for so long, but here’s a little look at the projects we all currently have on the go.

Jackie has a brand new granddaughter and has been making all sorts of sweet outfits for her lately. I just had to take a picture of the completed dinosaur print dress that she brought with her, although apparently she’s unlikely to make one in my size, which is very disappointing. Jackie is a whizz with pinning and cutting out and she had the pieces for another dress cut before the end of the evening, even with all the talking and distractions!

Deborah has just bought some of our Tilly and the Buttons jersey and is going to use it to make the Tabitha dress from Make It Simple by Tilly and the Buttons. She’s chosen to make the drawstring variation in a long length with a three quarter sleeve so that she can wear it in the winter with a cardigan, tights and boots, or in the summer with a pair of trainers. She spent the evening tracing out her pattern pieces and I’m sure you’ll see her wearing the dress in the shop before very long. Both Jackie and Deborah have made a lot of the projects from Make It Simple – it’s a fantastic resource for quick makes so if you’re interested in getting a copy then you can find it on our website here, along with other useful books on dressmaking. We still have some of the Tilly and the Buttons jersey in stock too, which you can find on our website here.

Catherine, as you might expect, spent the evening on the overlocker – she was the only one of us to actually get some sewing done! She is currently making several cushion covers, some for herself with the fabric and matching Seralene thread pictured below, as well as some for her son. She is cleverly making use of off-cuts from some curtains that she took up and as the pieces were only half the width she needed, she has combined two different fabrics so that one half of the cushion is plain and the other half is patterned. You would never know that they are made from fabric that might otherwise have been thrown away.

A quick note on Seralene. Catherine always uses Mettler Seralene thread for overlocking as it is lovely and smooth, causing less breakage and creating less fluff than cheaper threads, which means your seams are stronger and neater. We don't currently have Seralene thread on the website as I am still working on getting our whole catalogue of products online, but you can purchase it in store. If you aren't local to Nottingham, don't worry - we take telephone orders too!

Anna had a pencil in her hand all evening as she was planning out a new quilt. She likes to take inspiration from patterns she sees on her travels and she has found some beautiful tiles outside a shop on Chapel Bar in the city centre. As you can see in the photo, she is currently translating the tiling into quilting blocks, which takes quite a bit of planning but the outcome is worth it. She has already made a gorgeous quilt based on some tiling outside Primark on Long Row, so I’m sure her Chapel Bar quilt will be equally beautiful! It’s lovely to see how Nottingham influences her quilting – each quilt has its own story and history, as all good quilts do.

As always, I was the slowest and least productive member of the group. I have been working on some crewel embroidery kits from The Coleshill Collection that my sister asked me to make for her 40th birthday. Unfortunately, she turned 40 in 2018 so I’m a little behind schedule! I stitched out just one leaf, using satin stitch over a backstitch outline for the main part, blanket stitch for the top, while the bottom was composed of a stem stitch outline and filled with seed stitch. Given that it took me the whole evening to complete that, I think my sister will be lucky to receive her embroideries by her 50th birthday!

As you can see, we all love to sew but also have very different areas of interest and expertise. That’s why we love our staff sewing nights so much, it’s inspiring to actually see what everyone else is creating. It’s also the reason why we can usually find someone with the knowledge and experience to help when customers come to us with questions. I don’t know when we’ll next be able to meet up like this, but hopefully it won’t be another two years before we can have another stitch and chat!

Husqvarna Viking · Patterns · Sewing

Selkie Patterns collaboration with Husqvarna Viking

Husqvarna Viking have been working with pattern company Selkie Patterns to produce a brand new printed pattern! This limited edition pattern is available from September 20th – October 31st 2021 to customers who purchase any Husqvarna Viking machine. There are only 250 copies available and the printed pattern is not available anywhere else, so it’s sure to be snapped up fast!

About the pattern
Selkie Patterns create stylish and sustainable sewing patterns and textiles designed and produced in the UK. The Celeste dress and blouse was inspired by the glittering revival of the art deco movement in the 1970s. With its clean, wearable yet dramatic silhouettes this movement was at the forefront when creating this wearable pattern. The Celeste is there for you when you want to have an elevated look but with the ease and comfort of a smock dress. The glamour of the 20s with the ease of the 70s, what’s not to love!

Sizing: the printed pattern will be available in sizes UK 6-32, with the following measurements:
Bust: 79-150cm (31-59 inch)
Waist: 58-129cm (22.75-51 inch)
Hip: 86-157 cm cm (33.75-62 inch)
Sizes 6-16 have been drafted with a B-cup; 18-32 with a D-cup.

All you need to do to be in with a chance of receiving this gorgeous paper pattern is purchase any new Husqvarna Viking machine between Monday 20th September and Sunday 31st October 2021 – you can see the range on our website. Patterns will be sent to lucky customers directly from Husqvarna Viking UK.

PLUS share your make on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #SELKIECELESTE by November 30th 2021 to be in with a chance of winning a Designer Sapphire 85 Sewing and Embroidery machine worth over £5000!

T’s & C’s: UK machine purchases only via a registered Husqvarna Viking dealer. Printed copy available in UK size range 6-32 with the size range measuring from 79/58/86 cm (31/22.75/33.75 inches) to 150/129/157 cm (59/51/62 inches) for bust-waist-hip body measurements. Share your make, #SELKIECELESTE, only open to UK residents.

Haberdashery · Prym · Sewing · Staff recommendations

Why we love Prym Wonder Tape

A few years ago my friend was planning a naming day for her daughter Jessica and I offered to make a special dress for the day. As I was gathering everything I needed together I was chatting with Deborah about how I was a little anxious about putting in the zip as they always seem to shift no matter how carefully I tack them in. That’s when she recommended Prym Wonder Tape to me. It’s a transparent double sided tape that you can use instead of pins to hold your sewing in place, then when you wash your finished garment it simply washes away without a trace. Magic!

Zips are one of those tasks that I always spend far longer than I should on, pinning and re-pinning, then tacking, then still somehow it doesn’t sit quite right. You can see in the video above how easy Wonder Tape makes it – just place your tape on the zip, position and stick one side at a time, then you’re ready to go. And it isn’t just useful for holding zips in place – why spend ages pinning a hem before you stitch it when you can just stick and sew? I also used it to hold the bodice facing in place for Jessica’s dress, saving me from pinning through all the gathers and potentially disturbing them.

Since that first time four years ago, I’ve used Wonder Tape in almost everything that I have sewn and that first roll is still going strong. It’s so simple and really does take the stress out of pinning awkward or thick pieces. Wonder Tape is one those products that it’s always worth having to hand, so grab yourself a roll next time you’re in the shop or buy it online here.