Tag Archives: juki

What I found at the Knitting and Stitching Show

allypallyviewThe amazing views you get from Alexandra Palace.  The building is a great bit of architecture and the park is beautiful – hard to believe you’re actually in London.

Hard to believe that this time last week I was in the thick of it.  It was a great show, super busy with keen creative types visiting, exhibiting and selling.  I met some really interesting people, talked myself silly, drank lots of tea, got a bit chilly and soaked up some inspiration.  Oh and sold lots of patterns, tools and stencils!

beforeandafterBefore………………and after!

Having a stand on your own at these events is quite a mission which leaves little time for looking around to see what else is there, but I managed to dash around each morning before the show opened and these were my highlights…..some things to inspire and admire, some things you may find useful.

There are always some high quality exhibitions at the Knitting & Stitching shows,Mandy Pattullo’s exhibition blew me away.  I can’t believe I hadn’t come across her work before, it’s stunning.

mandypattullo-websiteImage from Mandy’s website.

She takes old patchwork, quilts and tapestries and re-combines them into art works onto which she adds her own stitch and appliqué.  The resulting pieces have a lovely washed out, subdued colour palette due to the use of old fabrics and I loved them so much I bought one.  Here it is:


Have a look at her website to see more of her fabulous work.  She also teaches…..

Next door but one to my stand was Harriet Riddell with her “In Stitch You” stitched portraits.  Now I think you’d need nerves of steel to do what Harriet does…..basically she was using machine embroidery and appliqué to stitch portraits while people sat for her in her stand at the show with an audience watching!  No way could I do that, so hats off to Harriet.  Have a look at the huge gallery of portraits on her website.

institchyouImage from Harriet’s website of one of her previous on-site portraits!

Now for the knitters amongst you.  Knitting makes me go a bit funny, I’m definitely not a knitter.  I’ll have a dabble at crochet, but knitting I stay away from!  I do like what these knitters are doing though….

woolandthegangImage from Wool and the Gang’s website.

Wool and the Gang (what a genius name for a start!), are making knitting very cool.  They sell yarns, kits and readymades.  Their website looks so slick and modern, I love it and all their readymades are made by hand by a gang of knitters from around the world.  You can even knit for them yourself if you want to earn some extra spends.  Find out how here.  A genius name and a genius idea if you ask me.

Another inspiring exhibition was by Tilleke Schwarz, an artist of whom I’ve been a big fan for a long time.


She does hand embroidered almost graffiti style stitched pieces taking everyday life as inspiration, often resulting in mixtures of poignant thoughts and situations stitched alongside things so mundane they make you laugh.  Have a look at her work on her website which is in the same entertaining style.  A read of the FAQ section of her website will definitely make you smile…..

My stand was next to the very busy Upcycling academy where several organisations were educating visitors about some of the darker sides of the fashion and textile industry and how we can all get involved to try and do something about it.  There was much activity upcycling and customising old clothes, making rosettes, doing giant knitting and making mini protest banners.

craftivistcollectiveImage from Craftivist Collective website.

The Craftivist Collective were one of the organisations keeping people busy.  Their manifesto is “To expose the scandal of global poverty and human rights injustices through the power of craft and public art.”  Have a look at the many many great projects they’ve organised on their website.  I particularly like the mini protest banners.

So, the main activity of the day at these events is shopping, here’s a little round up of some of interesting shops I found on my early morning dashes!

Scissors – if you’re in the market for some new scissors and feel it’s time to upgrade to a quality pair that will last a lifetime have a look at Ernest Wright and Son.  They make a huge range of specialist scissors and they’re still made in Sheffield using traditional skills.  I have my eye on a few pairs.  Maybe one for your Christmas list?!

Sewing machines – I’ve always sung the praises of Bernina machines as being the ultimate machine to aim for.  It seems to me that Juki are now snapping at their heels and just possibly for the serious dressmaker, overtaking them.  Juki are known for making industrial sewing machines and are now putting all that technology and experience into domestic sewing machines.  I have two Juki overlockers and after using most other brands, I wouldn’t have anything else.  Franklins are a well established family run business who know their sewing machines and were at the Knitting Show with the full range of Juki machines.

Fabrics – have a look at Fabrics Galore.  Visitors to my stand were singing their praises.

For a huge range of any thread you could ever want and some quality basic fabrics Empress Mills is a good place to start.

If you can’t find the buttons you want, chances are you’ll find them at The Button Company or Textile Garden along with plenty of other haberdashery!

If embellishment rather than making is your thing, have a look at Thermofax who do mini screen printing.  I’m currently toying with the idea of running a workshop on this technique next year – could be a good solution for adding professional looking prints to your garments without the mess of traditional screen printing.  Also Art Van Go has every kind of dye and fabric paint you could ever need and a very useful techniques section to explain how to use them and which is the best to use for your particular project.

Books – those that know me or regularly read this blog will know I am a fan of old sewing books.  Luckily for me I didn’t have enough time to browse the shelves atThe Old Bookshop which has a brilliant collection of old sewing, fashion and pattern cutting books.  They do have an online shop though……

I also met some people I’ve only ever met online before – Fiona from the Sewing Directory, Julie Briggs editor of Sewing World magazine and lots of lovely people who follow me online, either on my blogs, facebook or twitter.  It was a pleasure to meet you all!

The next place we can meet “in the flesh” will be at “Made Brighton” on the 21st to 24th November at the Corn Exchange.  Look forward to seeing you there!

Which sewing machine should I buy?


I am often asked this question.  There is no one simple answer.  Obviously the first consideration is your budget.  If you have £500+ at your disposal (you lucky thing!), go for a Bernina.  They are the bees knees of sewing machines; solid and well made.

Also now snapping at the heels of Bernina and I believe challenging them for their number 1 spot are Juki, who make most of the world’s industrial sewing machines and are now successfully using some of that technology in their range of home sewing machines.  I have used a Juki overlocker for a few years (see my post about whether or not you should buy an overlocker here) and since I’ve also started using a Juki sewing machine, I’ve found I’m now using it more than my Bernina or my industrial sewing machine.

If your budget can’t stretch that far, then worry not, an older Bernina could still be yours.  Second-hand Berninas come up regularly because they are such well built machines and that means there are still a lot of them around in perfect working order.  I got a second-hand one a few years ago for just under £300 (you can find them cheaper) and I even got a full one year guarantee with it which included parts!  You would be lucky to get that with most new machines today, that’s how reliable Berninas are.

To get a decent starter sewing machine you’ll need a budget of approx. £200 – £250, at this price range (and less) there is a lot out there to choose from and that’s the problem;  there is a lot of rubbish.  In my opinion, you do get what you pay for, so if possible, save up, combine a few Christmas and birthday presents and get the best you can afford.  If you want to buy a new machine, here are a few tips:

  • don’t ever buy a sewing machine from somewhere like a discount supermarket, yes it might only be £50 but there’s a reason for that – they’re worse than useless;
  • stick to these known brand names regardless of where you’re shopping: Juki, Janome, Elna, Pfaff, Frister Rossman, Husqvarna, Brother;
  • buy from a shop that actually has machines out for you to use such as specialist sewing machine retailers and John Lewis.  If you subsequently have a problem with the machine you can go back to the shop and they will be happy to give you some help.

A good alternative to buying a new machine is to go to a specialist sewing machine retailer and buy something second-hand, ideally that is made mostly of metal rather than plastic, brands like; Bernina, Pfaff, Frisster Rossman, Husqvarna, Elna.

Metal machines whilst seeming more impractical in terms of lugging them around, will be able to cope with more layers and thicker fabrics.  They can also be easier to maintain and repair.

What should my sewing machine be able to do?
Avoid the many “all singing, all dancing” machines with loads of fancy stitches, I guarantee you won’t use them.  All you need, especially on your first machine, is:

  • straight stitch
  • zig-zag stitch
  • a small selection of stretch stitches
  • buttonholes
  • ability to control the stitch length and stitch width
  • it should have a “free arm” (so you can slip sleeves and trouser legs under the needle easily)


  • a speed control
  • the ability to adjust the presser foot pressure (see more about what that actually means here!)
  • and the ability to drop the feed dogs to do free embroidery.

If quilting rather than dressmaking is more your thing, have a read of Liz from Quilty Pleasures guide to buying a sewing machine for quilting here.

So there you have it, shop away.  And remember…………..once you’ve bought your machine they love to be used so don’t shut it away in a cupboard!!  Have a read of my post on “Progressive Sewing” for a suggested list of garments to make in which order; to make sure you keep learning new skills and practising existing ones.