Discussion/Review of My Industrial Sewing Machine and My Love for Juki

Today I am going to share some thoughts and photos of my Juki sewing machine. I have a Juki DDL-5550N and I mentioned in my member profile that it is an industrial machine that shakes the house. I have been asked a few times by guild members about sewing on an industrial machine and what the differences are between that and a domestic/home machine. In its most basic sewing form there is not much difference; it sews a straight line in forward and reverse like any machine. The biggest difference is that that is ALL it does.

Industrial sewing machines (or industrials) are mainly produced for the garment industry where each station is doing one task (like seaming, hemming, binding, buttonholing, etc.) so each task requires a different machine. My machine is a straight stitch so it just sews a straight stitch. No zigzag, no decorative anything. Other industrials just do zigzag stitch, or just do blind hem stitch, or are specialized as a walking foot, or chain stitch, or two needle, or whatever. (Variations on the Juki website.) Industrial machines are sold in two parts: the machine itself or 'head' and the motorized table or base that powers it. There is a belt from the motor under the table to the right side of the head that powers the machine, much like the belt drive on old treadle foot-powered machines. This makes the machine by itself useless (they have no power of their own) so these are not portable at all, and in fact, weigh over 100 lbs with the whole assembly.

The shank area and single stitch foot/plate.

So why would anybody want such a boring, beastly machine? Well, industrials are work horses and very powerful. They may only do the one thing, but they do it very well and without complaint.  Mine has been in my family for 22 years and is still capable of 5000 stitches/min at its tuneups. Mine is also self-oiling and has a continuous bobbin winder that winds a fresh bobbin while I sew(which means I buy my thread two spools at a time if it is one I use a lot). A big bonus for quilters is the added throat space industrials have and the fact that they are all flush with their tables and have knee lifters. Most industrials are a 'high-shank' type which means there is more room from the foot to the arm which helps me see what I am doing.  The throat space (the area between your needle and the body of the machine to the right of the needle) on my Juki is 10.5" by 6", which makes it really easy to maneuver quilts around for free-motion quilting. Industrials are also made to sew through and advance thick materials and multiple layers of fabric so I can get away with never using a walking foot. It is a real champ with sewing bags and upholstery items, even leather or billboard vinyl.
The oil pan under the machine. I need to change my oil!

Tilting the 'head' to check the oil level.

My sweet bobbin winder on the right side of the head.

The motor underneath the table. 
Throat spaces on my Juki vs. my Bernina.
There are some drawbacks to owning an industrial. The aforementioned size and weight mean that I need a different, portable machine to participate in classes, retreats, and sew-ins. I also sew garments quite a bit and do need a zigzag stitch and buttonhole stitch from time to time. They are not the type of machine you can set up in the dining room and stow away when company comes; they pretty much demand a sewing space. While the parts are very common as the garment industry is pretty standardized, the bobbins and needles and small bits are not the same sizing system as domestic machines, so I can't run up the street to my LQS or Jo-Ann's if I break a needle. Fortunately for me, South Minneapolis has one of the best industrial sewing machine shops in the Midwest, T.J. Elias , with mechanics that do house calls as far away as Duluth. Another drawback is that my Juki apparently will not accept every type of popular thread on the market, much to my dismay.
The needle system.

Stitch choices are just length. 0 length means no feed dogs. The wide lever is reverse.
There is usually a seam ripper next to those snips (full disclosure). Note the thread stand in the back of the table.

Plenty of space but no options.

That is just a little bit of info on my sewing machine and industrials in general. I love my machine as I hope everyone loves theirs. Juki has recently started making excellent home/domestic models and I believe a few guild members use them. If I won the lotto and were to purchase a brand new domestic machine they would be the first ones I would look at (sorry, Bernina...). Thanks for reading!! --- Rozina D.

January Meeting Minutes

Here's a quick review of our January meeting for those of you who could not attend.

We had a guest speaker, Kate Eelkema, who is a National Certified Quilt Judge.  Kate reviewed how one becomes a certified judge, the judging process and what she is looking at when judging quilts. 

She shared examples of different skills and techniques that she has learned in making quilts that have helped and hindered her when entering them into a competition.

She allowed us to share her color & design book resource list, which was part of her handout:

Written for children, but informative:

Our February meeting, scheduled for Thursday, February 13th will have guest speakers Jen Madsen and Josi Severson from Home Fashion Fabrics talking about organic fabric design and production.

We reviewed some upcoming business:

1. February NY Mod Love Swap quilts are due.  If you signed up to swap a 12" finished quilt, please bring it to the February meeting.

2.  6.5" unfinished quilt block (any block pattern) for our Guild Banner in brights and whites were due, but some people were unable to make it to the meeting and are bringing them to at the February meeting. Feel free to bring one ore more then if you haven't made one already!

3.  Mystery Quilt Along has started.  Please watch the blog each month for the new block directions.  Here are past posts regarding fabric requirements and the January block pattern and instructions.  It's never too late to join in on the fun!

4.  Our next social is scheduled for 6:30pm on Wednesday, January 29th at Turtle Bread, 4762 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis.  Please join us for conversation, dinner if you wish and some hand-sewing if you want.

5. Amanda Jean's Scrap Management Workshop will be held on Saturday, February 8th from 10 to 4 at the Textile Center.  Please check the MMQG Facebook page for more information and current registration availability.

6. Mark your Calendars:  We have been invited to join the MN Contemporary Quilters again this year for their spring retreat, March 28-30th, at Camp Wapo in Amery WI.  More information regarding registration and cost will be coming, so please watch Facebook..

7.  The Monaluna Meadow Challenge Yourself reveal is scheduled for our March meeting

We finished the meeting with Show and Tell, which you can check out in our Flickr Pool!

Series: Favorite Quilting Books

Choosing a favorite quilting book is a little like choosing a favorite child, so in a diplomatic mama way, I am choosing a pair of favorites, both by Sarah Fielke - Quilting From Little Things... and Hand Quilted With Love.


The beautiful photographs alone are worth getting lost in for a few hours.  What I really like about Sarah's quilts are the great variety of fabric and scale she uses, and the techniques, which range from fairly straightforward to more challenging.

I have to confess that I have not yet made a quilt from either book, but I love having them in my library and have several on the "must make" list...

Like this one:

"Bangles" from Hand Quilted With Love

This one, which illustrates a technique called "step-down piecing," would be a real skill-builder:

"The Night Garden" from Quilting From Little Things...

This beauty makes me want to give applique another go:

"All That and the Hatter" from Hand Quilted With Love

Scrap buster!

"String-Sane" from Hand Quilted With Love

So many beautiful quilts, so little time...

Series: Favorite Quilting Books

It's my turn to share a favorite quilting book with you. Actually, I think I signed up twice and missed one (sorry guild!) so I'll pop another in here at some point.

Today I'm going to share my appreciation of  Liberated Quiltmaking II by Gwen Marston

Five years ago, I had made one quilt, self designed, and had so much fun I wanted to keep quilting. But I was intimidated by patterns and historically quite bad at math, and measurement, and not inspired to make traditional quilts.

Then my mother sent me this book. This book was a gamechanger for me. I did not know much in the quilting world, and to see this book with it's beautiful colors, wonky fabulousness, and permission to play was exactly what I needed. As it turns out, I have yet to make a quilt based on any of her inspirations (a typical for me). It has, however, inspired my design process on many of the quilts I have completed in my four years of quilting.

Challenging Myself

As part of the MMQG "Challenge Yourself" Challenge I decided to use some new tools (new at least to me) plus learn to blog.
For this first week I used the Tri Recs Tool TM by Darlene Zimmerman & Joy Hoffman.  This is actually a two piece tool: one for the center triangle and the other for the side pieces.

Previously my heart has always sunk when a pattern called for the isosceles triangle block.  There is no easy way to rotary cut the pieces and I have always done it by paper piecing.  While paper piecing makes for a perfect block, it was always a nuisance to make the paper copies and then remove the paper afterwards.

Cut the center triangle using the larger of the tools and line the bottom of the fabric with the horizontal line indicating the size of block you want unfinished.  Here I want a 3 1/2 inch unfinished block so I have lined the orange fabric up with the 3 1/2 inch thick line.  Rotary cut around the tool as the template.

Make the side pieces by again lining the fabric edge up to the unfinished block size, this time on the smaller tool, here 3 1/2 inches.   Cut around the tool, BEING SURE to cut off the tiny nick at the side of the truncated point.  This is what makes it work like a dream.

When you place the side right sides together onto the main triangle it is that tiny nick that lines up exactly with the main triangle base.  It is then perfectly positioned to sew a scant 1/4 inch seam.
Reverse the tool to make the other side piece and presto a perfect block and no paper to remove.

As I am new to blogging one piece of advice I got was to include an animal in the photos, so here is our dog modelling the finished block.  She feels perfection in a block should be rewarded with a tickled tummy.

To make both left and right side pieces at once you can just fold the fabric right sides together before cutting.

For the pattern I am making I need about 200 of these blocks and with this Tri  Recs Tool TM it is going to be no problem.  I am a convert, thanks to the MMQG challenge of trying something new.  Thanks MMQG.

How to Store Antique Quilts (and Other Precious Heirloom Textiles)

It’s the New Year and like lots of you, I have a few resolutions in the organizing department.  One of them is to label and properly store all of my antique textiles.  I don’t have a ton of items, but what I do have is very important to me: a quilt made by my father’s great aunt, some lace I brought home from a research project in Malta and lots of hand knit, crocheted and tatted items made by my husband’s grandmother and my mother’s grandmother.  Many of these pieces aren’t in keeping with my current home décor style- but I know my tastes will change over the years and I want to protect them for future use and/or for use by my children (and grandchildren and great grandchildren, with any luck!).  I also want to make sure that I preserve the information I have about each item: who it was made by, who it was made for and the approximate date it was made.

I’m ashamed to say that the storage condition for these pieces up until now has been a little less than ideal.  OK, if I aim to make it better I need to accept the truth- the storage condition is among the worst that I could have come up with.   Here’s what it currently looks like:

Now, in my defense, I was given many of these items wrapped in plastic and not knowing what else to do with them, I kept them that way… even though the people who gave them to me warned that plastic was probably not a good idea. And indeed a good idea it is not because it causes yellowing and mildew from off gassing and not allowing the fabrics to breathe properly.  Luckily, I have not (yet) caused any major plastic related issues for my antique textile stash.

So what is the right way to store antique textiles?  That all depends on your circumstances, but there are a few key attributes of any effective antique textile storage solution.

Tips for storing textiles
-Chose a dry location (no basements)
-Make sure it has a consistent, moderate temperature (no attics)
-Make sure it is dark
-Avoid direct contact with wood, metal or plastic
-Avoid direct contact with paper or cardboard, unless it is both pH neutral or acid-free and lignin-free

I had hoped to have loads of “after” shots showcasing my newly organized antique textiles but unfortunately I got sidetracked taking care of a sick husband, the holidays and then a sick me… but I DO now have a plan of attack (very detailed one at that!) and that is one more plan of attack than I had on 12/31/13 so I’m calling it a success in the name of progress.  Here is what I’m going to do:

To store small heirloom linens
1. Wrap an empty fabric bolt or tube in aluminum foil.
2. Create a foil packet for an index card/sheet with information on who made which items, when they were made, etc..  You could also use acid-free index cards and acid-free pens, but due to some nuances with the whole “acid-free” label that I will discuss below I’m just going to use what I have and wrap it in foil too.
3.  Place foil information packet either inside of the tube or right on top of the aluminum wrapped bolt and wrap the entire thing in acid-free tissue.
4. Wrap antique textiles around the prepared core using acid-free tissue as interleaving.
5.  Wrap completed bolt in unbleached cotton fabric.  Secure with cotton string, leaving ends open to prevent moisture accumulation.
6.  Place inside of cedar chest or corrugated box (to be safe you might line the chest or box with acid-free tissue as well.  I will if I have enough left).

To store larger antique textiles such as quilts
1.       Wrap a 60” long core in aluminum foil (this size core can easily be found in any fabric store that carries larger width fabrics for fashion or home décor, if you need some and are in our area, contact me!). 
2.       Put an index card with information inside of the tube.  Wrap the entire thing in acid-free tissue. 
3.       If necessary, fold quilt with acid-free tissue inside of the fold and then roll it gently around the core.  If you have a one-piece larger textile, the good folks at the University of Georgia recommend in this article that you roll in the warp direction, since it is usually the stronger element.
4.       Wrap completed roll in unbleached cotton fabric.  Secure with cotton string, leaving ends open to prevent moisture accumulation.
5.       Put a reminder in your calendar to unfold and refold in a different place next year. It is generally recommended that you change the fold “periodically”.  “Annually” is my interpretation of that word but yours can certainly be more or less frequent.

A word about “acid-free”
As it tends to happen at some point in most projects, things got a little convoluted when it came to tracking down the right tissue paper to use.  The “acid-free” tissue I sort of generically refer to above should, according to this article by the Smithsonian Institute, in fact be neutral pH, unbuffered acid-free tissue paper that is also lignin-free.

Now, I’m no scientist, so I hope I explain this well, but from what I gather, most tissue paper will become acidic and brittle with age.  The acidity will transfer to objects in contact with it, possibly causing these objects to become weaker and discolored.  “Acid-free” tissue papers are specially processed to remove the stuff in paper that does that.  Some acid-free papers are, in addition, buffered to an alkaline pH.  These buffered papers are considered acceptable for cotton or linen textiles, but potentially harmful to silk or wool objects- so the official recommendation of the Smithsonian Institute is that antique textiles be wrapped in unbuffered (so neutral pH) tissue.  On top of all that, the presence of lignin (I linked to the definition there but I won’t even pretend I understand a word of it) can make matters worse by turning paper that is currently neutral pH or acid-free acidic over time.  
Another tip I found over and over again from archivists of textiles and paper goods (both use the acid-free tissue) is the test your packaging with a pH pen even if it has a claim to be “acid-free”.

For further reading

Sewing table

have wanted a sewing table that my machine fit in. My husband said that he was up for the challenge. We searched for ideas on how to complete this challenge. My table is based on a tutorial from from Marta with love and Blue DinosaursHere are some pictures from our project. 

My table is a solid pine table from Ikea. Recommend taping were you are going cut the table to prevent splintering.

Mine is based on the shape of my machine with plate.

Using threaded bolts that are inset allow for adjustable for the machine height.

Finished product. Now on to staining it! The bolts are too long for me and need covers.

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