Brian and Deepika chat at the American Sewing Expo

I've been home now for three days and i'm still recovering from the sewing expo. So far I've been knee deep in follow up emails, video editing, and just plain resting. Next project is the special American Sewing Expo edition of the BrianSews show. I have hours of footage from the expo floor so it's going to be a good episode.

To tide you over till then I recorded a chat I had with Deepika in the exposition hall lobby. Many of you are aware that she's the creator of but this is the first time she appears on the web in video. We talked about the top pattern contest, runway show, and the future of

I think you'll enjoy it!

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destination Novi, American Sewing Expo!

I'm in Atlanta now waiting for my flight to Detroit. Before I left I was able to get this weeks sewing circle uploaded to youtube. We had almost two hours of footage that I had to ruthless cut down to under 30 minutes. I tried to keep the flow as smooth as possible but there's a few rough spots in the editing.

It was HOT in that back bedroom, if you look closely you can see I've completely sweated through the front and back of my shirt! You'll notice also that I'm usually sitting in our videos since I've found it's the best way to frame the shot with my height. Otherwise if I stand Nancy is looking up at me the whole time and the bottom half of the dress form gets cut off.

I'm planning on doing a lot of filming at the expo, next weeks show should be extra exciting! If you happen to be going to the expo please look for me and introduce yourself. I'll be easy to spot!

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another buttonholer discovery!


So my friend Peter from PR watched the buttonholer videos and he informed me that his buttonholer is different than the two I've showcased. His is a Kenmore and he said he uses his zigzag stitch to control the width of the stitching. Since I've never heard of this attachment I naturally assumed he didn't know what he was talking about and demanded photos!

I am pleased to be proven wrong and there is yet another option! I don't know that I've seen this model or if I have maybe I didn't know what I was looking at. He said it's made by Greist. I think it uses the same Greist templates and does indeed utilize the machine's zigzag stitch function. From the photos it seems that the top opens however I don't see where you put the templates in? It looks to be similar in vintage to the Singer Zigzag attachment. If it does a better satin stitch this could be the attachment to have! I'll be on the lookout now for this model!

Is there other buttonholers that I've missed?? I've noticed another Kenmore attachment on ebay that says it does buttonholes but I can't figure out from the photos what I'm looking at. If you have more information or have another style, different than the three I've mentioned let me know! A lot of people are quite interested and there is very little information available comparing the models.

Thanks Peter!! Nice coat..... is that Burda?

what about buttonholers?

The newest video is all about buttonholers. Indeed...

These things are around, you've read about them, maybe you own one already. Do you know the differences between the two types, what, there's more than one? I've read quite a bit about these attachments but I've yet to see a video comparison and an exploration of the features of each. If a picture is worth a 1000 words than a video is worth it's weight in gold.... right, yes....

I could have talked much longer about these attachments and gone through more samples using each one. Consider this an introduction, if it leaves questions unanswered than by all means let me know and I will consider another twenty minutes of buttonholer exploration. I don't want to bore everyone but I also don't want to leave important bits out.

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Tuesday's Chat With Nancy 9/15/09

Nancy, (Nancy2001 from is my local sewing buddy. We've established our own sewing circle of two that meets weekly. Thursdays used to be our day but then we discovered new discounts are taken at Americas Thrift on Tuesday so we switched.

Nancy and I are similar in that we both learned to sew as adults and approach the craft with a touch of obsession. While I specialize more in jeans (for the moment at least) Nancy is fixated on jackets. Each week we meet for an hour in her kitchen to share our sewing projects, new techniques and notion finds. Then we hit the thrift shops and sometimes some fabric stores if we need something specific.

This week I brought my video camera and let it run while we talked about Nancy's most recent jacket. The video was almost an hour in length and I was able to edit it down to around 16 minutes for you. Is this the right length or still too long? Maybe you'd like it to be longer? I find it fascinating but I'm not sure anyone else will....

If nothing else I hope it inspires you to start your own sewing circle, all it takes is two!

Please leave comments if this is something you would like to see more of? I can easily make it another weekly addition to briansews if I get a good response.

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Brian's Week in Sewing Show #2 Posted! finally....


I have to say I'm exhausted from all this computer work. Getting this weeks video uploaded was a challenge to say the least. I've been working hard on video quality and I think you'll enjoy my efforts. It's no surprise that it takes very bright lighting to get good video but that's just the beginning. I spend a few hours with the manual camera settings figuring out how to wring out every last drop of quality. Lots of back and forth to the camera, scrutinizing video tests on the computer, re-adjusting, testing again. The more your understand the more there is to understand! Once you break away from using the camera's auto settings the possibilities and variables are boggling.

After I figured out the very best video settings I was playing around with the encoding settings in my video editing software. Without going into mind numbing detail I ended up setting the data rate too high which caused YouTube to decipherer my video clips as being over 11 minutes long instead of 9. This caused all the videos to be rejected. It took me uploading multiple times and more rejections before I was inspired to modify the data rate. Since I'm working with five 10 minute video clips that each take 30 minutes to encode and an hour each to upload this gives total processing time of around 8 hours. When you consider it took three tries before I fixed the problem you can see the cause of my exhaustion. I had intended these clips to be up Tuesday evening and ready for Wednesday morning, so as the saying goes, better late than never!

So that's my excuse.

This weeks video was a lot of fun to do. I felt much more natural and free flowing. I am still counting my overabundance of "umm" and "ya know" but awareness is the first step to changing them. I'm still working on the lighting, the shadow on the backdrop is distracting. The show this week actually ran a bit over 40 minutes and I decided to cut it down so you may see things move around on the table unexpectantly with the edits I took. I think it still flows quite well and I'm falling into a format that I feel comfortable with.

I had intended to put clips of my weekly chat and outing with Nancy but after reviewing the video decided that our chat warranted it's own video. I'll put those in their own posting as soon as they finish uploading.

So, here's the latest show, please let me know by leaving a comment if you see any problems with the editing that need fixing.

If you'd like to see more of Peter's jeans mentioned in clip 2 then here's his picasa gallery.

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Brian's Week in Sewing Show #1

Besides doing instructional and how-to videos I'm really interested in doing a weekly sewing show.

I think it'll be fun having a space to talk about sewing and related news without all the structure and specific "purpose". I'd eventually like it to be similar to other sewing shows you may have seen on PBS like Sewing With Nancy or Martha's Sewing Room with more variety. I like the style of Quilting Arts a lot in the way Pokey does a bit of interviewing and background of her guests. Sewing is much more then just techniques and I'm very interested in exploring the people and personalities in the industry. I'm thinking sewing entertainment television!

This show will give me a chance to share my love of sewing and the practical and real life application of the craft. Unlike a how-to video I intend this video series to be free flowing and off the cuff. I don't have any idea what I'm going to say until it spills out of my mouth!

Here's the three parts, I stutter, make mistakes and just generally be myself!

Comments and suggestions are absolutely appreciated!

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Necchi Supernova up for sale!

The introduction of my new sewing machine has prompted a reorganization of the sewing room. My machine line up is now as follows, Pfaff 138, Singer 500a, Necchi Supernova BU. The serger is set up on it's own table and all the rest of my machines have been stashed behind the ironing station.

This makes me a little sad seeing great sewing machines be banished to the floor so I came to the decision to sell the Supernova Automatica. Even though it was the prettier of the two Supernovas I always preferred the BU for some reason. I think it's because I picked up the BU in person and met the man who's mother the machine had belonged to. She was the origional owner and had the machine set up in a corner of the kitchen, using the machine into her last days. I like that kind of sewing machine energy.

So I've listed the Automatica on ebay with the very low starting bid of $4.99 and reasonable flat rate shipping of $27.99. I figure I've already got tons of use out of this machine so it's not really about making money but more passing the machine along to someone who will love it.

Here's the listing.

Putting up the auction and doing the demonstration video made me really appreciate what a fine sewing machine this really is. With the starting bid set so low this machine is absolutely going to be gone in a weeks time....

Introducing the Pfaff 138


I've been in the market for an industrial sewing machine for a while now, and I was willing to consider any strong machine at a reasonable price under $100.

I sew a lot of denim and I've learned to squeeze out every last bit of power from my vintage sewing machine pool. The problem is that I spend a lot of time walking the needle by hand instead of having the machine do the work for me.

I'm no expert on industrial machines by any means but this is what I think I know:
There are two main options when it comes to industrial machines, the portable all enclosed models or the kind mounted to the table with huge motor underneath. I was willing to take either one and most likely would choose portable over huge motor and table setup. No matter which way you go when you start looking at industrial machines things get expensive fast.

The table mounted machines are designed to be used at high speeds for long periods of time. The large motor spins at full speed all the time allowing you to engage the sewing machine (head) by way of a clutch pedal. This setup works amazing well since you have access to the full momentum and power of the motor at any time. Table mounted machines are usually big on power but lacking in the feature department often being designed for one specific task instead of all around sewing. Things we take for granted like zigzag and reverse are not always included. Depending on your motor and table setup they might require a 240 volt outlet or even three phase power, neither which you'll likely have in your sewing room.

Portable industrial machines are much like an all metal vintage home machine with a more powerful motor. They're designed to be used in high demand situations like dry cleaners or for someone sewing sails. They are not designed to be used constantly like in a garment factory. Since I am sewing jeans this style of machine would most likely work out great for me.

Beggars can't be choosers.

I check craigslist a lot for sewing machines and other items. People selling on craigslist don't want to hassle with ebay and shipping. I've found the prices are usually better and the transactions are simple and easy. I usually don't check out of my area but for some reason this past weekend I decided to check what they had just over the border in Florida. Wouldn't you know it there was a posting for three industrial machines someone was selling.

Taking county roads way out into the middle of no where I was reminded of just how beautiful and lush it is here in the South. The sewing machines were being sold by an elderly couple who had a dry cleaner business at one time. There was an industrial serger, hemming machine, and what they referred to as the "straight stitch". The machines hadn't been used in at least 7 years and were being stored in something like a uhaul trailer out behind the barn.

Humidity in the South is not kind to bare metal and there was plenty of rust distracting me from buying this Pfaff 138. After closer inspection I noticed that what was rusty was easily replaceable things like the tension disks and bobbin case. The actual machine did not have any rust and the motor under the rusty table looked clean as well. Curiously looking around the trailer I noticed at the back this old guy had a HUGE safe, being polite I resisted asking about it allowing my imagination to fill in the blank with bars of gold and old treasury bonds.

We struggled to get the machine and table in the back of my SUV and I paid him the asking price of $100! I could tell he knew it was worth much more but was just beyond worrying about such things. Of course since I didn't take the machine off the table the top heavy thing promptly fell over narrowly missing my back window and doing quite a number on the plastic interior. I should have known better, but was so thrilled about the machine I wasn't thinking straight. The machine did not suffer any damage whatsoever which was a relief.

For me there is almost no better fun than getting an old sewing machine home for the first time and opening it all up and seeing what it's about. This Pfaff 138 was was dry as a bone! No oil or grease anywhere which means it was very stiff to turn. I use Marvel Mystery Oil as my sewing machine oil and when applied to this dry machine you could actually see the metal wick the oil like a sponge. It was most satisfying to feel it loosen up with each oiling point until it was smooth as silk.

Speaking of Marvel Mystery Oil, Steve DeCosa passed along this story told to him by an oldster at a gas station which I find fascinating:
"During the Depression, when I was in high school, I worked as a mechanic in a sewing shop in the Garment District in NYC. Those old sewing machines had visible oilers on top, and when it got hot the oil would stink, and the ladies who ran the machines would complain. The owner, whose name was Marvel, (pronounced Mar-VELL) told me to go down a few doors to the candy factory-I think it was a 'LifeSaver' type candy- and get a couple of gallons of Oil of Wintergreen and some food coloring. We mixed it with the 10 wt. sewing machine oil to make it less offensive to the ladies. It became popular with the other shops, and Marvel made more money with that oil, than with the sewing. Whenever anyone asked what was in the oil, Marvel said, 'Don't ask... It's a MYSTERY!' and that's how the name came about!"

Works for me! From what I hear it's mostly kerosene anyway which wouldn't you know it can be used as a sewing machine oil and degummer. It does a great job of removing the old yellow oil build up that you get a lot on old machines. You can pick it up at Walmart or any auto parts store, you can put it in your gas tank also however the benefits of such use are debatable.

Ok I've gotten off topic here, back to the Pfaff 138.

The Pfaff 138 is actually quite an amazing industrial machine and can be picked up used, head only, for around $700 on ebay! Wow that's expensive and seems a bit steep! Part of the reason for this could be the features but I can only speculate here. This machine has reverse, zigzag, and something I was shocked and thrilled to find, needle position (left, center, right). These features make the Pfaff 138 an extremely versatile all around industrial machine. Instead of gathering dust waiting for a specific project, the Pfaff 138 can be used to sew any textile from leather to silk. As an example the machine came with a box of size 60/8 needles, that's for some very delicate and lightweight sewing!

The downside to this machine is needing different bobbins, machine feet, and needles than any of my other machines accept. I did find an adapter that would allow me to attach a low shank universal snap on foot adapter so I can use all my guide feet but it costs $45! I know this won't break the bank but just seems so crazy that it's almost half the price I paid for the machine itself. That.... is just the way the world works.

I have a little movie and slide show I did for this machine. It's really me practicing with my video editing software disguised as a sewing machine demonstration of sorts. I tried not to make it too cheesy for you.

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