Tag: sewingmachine

Have you fallen in love with sewing but have outgrown your entry level machine? Do you wish for a machine that is more stable, can do more stitches and yet is affordable? Do you prefer mechanical over electrical sewing machines? – if so, then the Brother XR37NT could be the machine for you.

Just over a year ago I was enough into sewing that I could justify upgrading from my cheap-as-chips Ikea sewing machine. I’d only had it a few months and although it did what it said on the tin, my frustration at constant thread snaps, re-threading and fabric snagging was enough to send me to my local sewing machine supplier for an upgrade.

I didn’t have heaps of money – I was still working part time then – but my budget was around £250. I headed to the shop still a newbie to sewing and not really knowing what I was doing. I may as well have gone in the shop wearing a blindfold and pointing at the nearest machine.

In the event I did go in with my eyes open but couldn’t see what I wanted so I talked to the staff. I told them I am new to sewing and want to learn and develop the skill. They suggested a few machines and in the end it came down between the Brother XR37NT and the next one down in the series.

I didnt really want a mechanical machine. I wanted a snazzy electrical one despite knowing mechanical is probably safer long term (if an electronic one dies there isnt much you can do). But I was shy and unsure and felt a little out of my depth… the lovely lady encouraged me to sew and told me about this machine. I particularly remember her showing me that it could sew stretch knits (not that this meant much to me at the time). I was happy enough with it, so paid my money and the boyfriend carried it home (much to the chagrin of the local football supporters coming back from a game).

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My first machine!

Once I got home and tried it properly I was really impressed – it was a massive step up from my Fisher-Price Ikea model and it was such a relief not to snag the thread every few minutes. In fact, over the year I have had it, its rarely snagged thread. It’s not a huge fan of top-stitching thread (thick) but otherwise no complaints.

One of the reasons I agreed to this machine is the range of stitches. It has 20 normal stitches, both functional and decorative, and another 20 that were similar but for stretch fabric. I really loved this aspect (so much better than my previous 9 stitches) but in reality I didn’t use anywhere near enough of them.

This model also has a 1-step buttonhole. This was a mindfield to me when I first tried to use it and it was quite a learning curve. You can see my buttonhole tutorial here. But it was so cool to be able to make buttonholes. I wasnt always pleased with the results of this, it sometimes seemed to have a mind of its own but I wonder how much was the machine and how much my lack of experience.

1aaaaa51FYFMe6eJL._SL1000_ (1)I would say its a medium-sized machine, not massively heavy although I did find it a little cumbersome at times. It comes with a hardcover for storage, which I didnt use enough probably and a booklet that is rather comprehensive – I turned to it a number of times for help and support and it always came up trumps.

But alas, the time again has come to move on (I’m not fickle at all!). I have outgrown it and am now investing in a mid-range machine that will give me extra features to make sewing a breeze and take my dressmaking to the next level.

While I am excited for my new machine, I am also quite sad to part-exchange this one. I do feel the time is right to let it go but it was the machine that really taught me everything I know (although the amount I do know is negotiable) and is the end of a sewing era.

Would I recommend this sewing machine?

It depends what you are looking for? If you have developed an interest in sewing that you know is likely to last, and you want to learn more, develop your skills, then yes this is a good training machine. Even if you are not massively into sewing but want a machine for repairs, cushion covers etc then you also wont go wrong with this machine. Overall, its a good solid machine that has served me well and enabled me to make some gorgeous things.

If you have any questions about my machine that I have not covered, or about sewing in general, then please leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Disclaimer: I am not being paid, or complemented in any way for writing this post. I have written this review because its a machine I have had and am now saying goodbye to.

How to make a buttonhole

Buttonholes, along with zipppers, are one of the most dreaded things to do on a sewing machine. I hear of people who have been sewing for 40+ years but will still not go near either.  I think this is a huge shame because they are relatively easy to master (with guidance!) and once you have the skill under your belt, it opens up a world of design possibilities.

Today I want to concentrate on buttonholes. I have been trying to master them for weeks. If it isn’t one problem then it is another. I have watched numerous buttonhole videos but it is hard to find my specific problem where the machine in the video has the same specs but through trial and error I got there in the end.

You name it, I have had an issue with it making buttonholes! I couldn’t get the thing to go up and down like it should, it was creating balls of thread on the underside, it wasnt stitching, it was missing stitches… the nightmare goes on. At one point I even thought my machine needed servicing/dumping but once I got to the bottom of my problem the buttonhole function worked like a dream.

Tip: If you are having problems buttonholing – make sure your tension is right, change your thread and needle, clean out under the feed dogs and then panic if you are still having problems. All my issues mentioned above were fixed by doing these things.

So today I want to walk you through how to make a buttonhole and attach a button.

These are the things you will need:

Automatic buttonhole foot, seam ripper, button foot and button (oh and some fabric to work with)… pins would also be a great addition.

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Once you have these items we can get started.  The first thing to mention is this is a follow-along for a 1-step automatic buttonhole, if you have a machine with more than one step this won’t work for you. If, however, you are like me and have a 1-step then now is the time to get your settings right.

Settings will be different for each machine but for mine – Brother XR37NT – I set the stitch length to F, the stitch width to 5 and the tension to 6. Have a play around with this and find what works for you.

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You will also want to make sure you have co-ordinating thread – maybe the same colour as your fabric, or if you are going for a bolder look then a colour that stands out from your fabric (like mine – which I have done so it shows up on camera).

The next step is to get your buttonhole foot and put your button in the end, then push the lever against it. This will tell your machine how big to make the hole.

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Attach the buttonhole foot to your machine, ensuring the thread is placed through the hole (it is easier to do this before you attach the foot). Put your fabric under the foot (it may be best at first to mark the material where you want the buttonhole to go).

As you can see from the picture below I have doubled up the fabric however if you cant do that and its quite flimsy then it is advisable to use stabilizer which you can rip off afterwards.

Pull the lever down and back (on my machine it is the lever that says ‘push’ on it) and then push it backwards. The machine is now set up to perform the operation.

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Now you just need to press your foot presser and let the machine do the job. On my machine I do not need to hold or guide the fabric, it does everything itself; I do find it useful to keep a close eye on what the machine is doing as my machine doesnt seem to know when to stop on its own.

Here is a picture of the finished result. It isn’t perfect but its pretty close 🙂 Given the basic nature of my machine, I think it does a pretty good job.

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The next step is to get two pins and put one in each end of the buttonhole stitches. This is so that when we take the seam ripper to open up the hole the pins will stop you ripping further than the end of the buttonhole. Believe me – this is a step you do not want to miss out on. I thought I would be careful enough and ended up ruining a skirt I’d taken days to make, so if you don’t skip one step let it be this one:

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The next step is to very carefully take your seam ripper and place it in the middle between the stitching. Then slide it up one end to the pin, then turn around and repeat slicing down to the other pin. Make sure to be holding the cloth and the pins properly so that your seam ripper doesnt run straight past the pins. The seam ripper should get jammed by the pin, this is the time to stop.

Your finished result should look something like this (below). If you have a few frayed edges like me then take your embroidery scissors and snip away.

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Now we need a button to put into the button hole. Mark on the fabric where you want the button to go (I do this by placing the buttonhole over the fabric where the button will go, and marking with chalk or erasable pen through the hole).

Now is the time to put the button foot on the machine (mine – below – came with my machine but if you do not have one, they are cheap enough on eBay). At first I was unsure how to attach it (which way around) but it goes on so that the blue side is facing me.

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Once the button foot is on the machine, put the fabric in the machine with your mark under the foot, then take your button and place under the foot above the fabric. When you lower the foot lever the button should secure into place. If you do not have one of these feet then you can secure the button onto the fabric with clear tape using a regular foot.

You’ll need to set up the zig zag stitch (width to 0) and manually rotate the needle to ensure it will feed perfectly into the holes on the button. Once you are happy it is doing this then you can use your foot pedal to go back and forth. It doesnt take long.

Now all you need to do is snip your loose threads and your button and buttonhole should be ready. Here is a picture of my button and the back of my buttonhole:

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And here is a picture of my button done up:

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Was this helpful to you? Have you tried to make a buttonhole? How did you find it? Let me know if this post has inspired you to be more adventurous with your buttonholes!

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