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The Fantastic Seam Ripper

Grandson has finished his very colourful shirt, which has been in the works on and off for some months now. Last of all he sewed the button holes for the buttons.

Then he discovered what a wonderful instrument the seam ripper can be. It sheared open the button holes soooo easily. This was real fun.

A few minutes later, our test patch looked like this:

Too much fun to stop. Luckily, we have no shortage of fabric scraps to serve as test patches in this house.




“Kappakjolen” – the Story of a Dress

We have just celebrated my mothers 90th birthday this weekend, and during the festivities, an old family photograph turned up. Below I have cropped the photo so it just shows  a 7 or 8 years old me in the most beautiful dress I have ever owned.

My mother related the story of the dress, which for the most part I knew, but there were some new-to-me details. Anyway, here it is:

My parents had built their house close to my paternal grandparents’ home, and we moved in when I was two years old. At about the same time, an old chapel (bedehus) was taken from its original location and moved further into the valley, closer to the farms where we lived. My paternal grandmother, Helene, and neighbouring women formed a society with the aim of raising money for a new organ for the chapel. They organized bazaars and raffles, and my mother helped by making some of the prizes for the raffles. She made this dress and gave it to the society to use as a raffle prize. She made it out of a thin, white nylon fabric with tiny raised dots, using an old Bernina treadle machine, and at a time in life when she had 4 children aged 1 to 6, was expecting her 5th child, and still had no washing machine. How she mustered the time and energy I do not know. Just hemming all those ruffles would have taken forever.

My grandmother Helene won the dress at the raffle, and she gave it to me, probably because I was the right size for it at the time. Lucky me.

The first time I remember wearing it, was during the Christmas celebrations when I was 5. By then I was in a hospital in Oslo, 600 kilometres away from home, and alone, except for some distant relatives and friends visiting now and then. When it was decided that I would not be able to come home for Christmas, my parents sent the dress and a pair of not-quite-new shoes, which my father had made glossy and new-looking by applying some black lacquer, so I would have something nice to wear for the celebrations. I remember the nurses oohing and aahing over my dress, and I was very, very proud of it.

Later I remember wearing it to the Sunday school Christmas celebrations at the chapel, where there now was an organ, partly thanks to the dress that my mother made. We did not have a car (they were rationed till 1960), so my parents loaded the family on two kicksleds, two children on each seat, and one standing between the seat and the parent, who then kicked our way the 3 kilometres to the chapel. Once a storm blew up on our way home, and I can still remember the feeling of hails stinging my face as we crossed an open, boggy area before we got in between the trees. Of course we were all dressed as if we were going on a polar expedition, but the beautiful dress was underneath it all. So the first thing we did upon arriving, was to go downstairs to shed all the thick wool, put on our best shoes we had brought along, and then it was time for my mother to comb our hairs and put in the big bows (which I hated, by the way) before entering the big room. 60 years later I have been told by some of my contemporaries that they still remember that dress.

The photo above is the only one that exists of that dress, that I know of. I was then 7 or 8 years old, and the dress is already too small. Later it went to my two younger sisters, each in their turn. I am not sure what became of it after that, but it was probably passed on to some younger cousins, – that was how things were done back then. If so, I hope they enjoyed wearing it as much as I did.









Ukranian Folk Costumes

During the recent Olympic Games in Sochi, quilters everywhere admired the Games’ patchwork theme, which I wrote about back in May 2011.

The fact that the patchwork bits were inspired by different traditional crafts, including embroidery,  reminded me of some photos I took not very long ago, and which I intended to show you here.

The museum at Maihaugen, Lillehammer cooperated with the Museum of Folk Architecture and Customs of Lviv, Ukraine,  to show part of their collection of Ukrainian folk costumes at Lillehammer last summer.  We travelled through the area at that time, so we planned a stop at Lillehammer to visit the exhibition.


I have spent some time during the last week or so, sorting through the photos I took there. Meanwhile, the political situation in Ukraine has escalated, and is still unresolved and threatening as I write this.

Amidst all the turmoil, maybe it is fitting in this situation to also have a look at the beauty that has been created in this region. One term that comes to mind after studying these dresses is: “Flower Power” 🙂


As the small poster accompanying the exhibition tells us, the costumes are from late 19th century and first half of 20th century, during which time the sewing machine came into use. The poster explains how the shape of the costumes changed after the introduction of the sewing machine. (Click on the photo to enlarge).


At the exhibition, the costumes were divided into two groups: before and after the introduction of sewing machines. The latter group, above, has costumes with sewn waists, while the group below has the older long shirts with woven belts.


Here I will post some photos of the youngest costumes, and will have to make a new post with the older ones later.

(Click on the small photos above to see the full version of the photos.)

Like we do with quilts, I find it interesting to study how things were done, and to sometimes wonder why. The joyful red colour of the embroidery above (which seems to have been colourfast, by the way) is very prominent on the white background, and would certainly stand out in a crowd. The shirt is very well made with lots of detail and even stitches, and the edges of both the collar and the cuffs are beautifully finished off with embroidery stitches. From a distance the waistcoat is the most eye-catching piece, with the larger flower embroideries.

However, when looking closely, one can see that there is a difference in workmanship between the shirt and the waistcoat, and also in the waistcoat itself, namely between the embroidery and the general construction, including the machine stitching. It looks as if more than one person has been involved in the making, or perhaps some older item with embroideries still intact, has been remade into a waistcoat. Lots of questions pop up when you start looking closely.  The buttonholes, for example, puzzled me especially, – why buttonholes (and not very well made at that) and no buttons? At least the maker took care to cut them in between the flowers so as not to ruin, or unravel, any embroidery stitches.


The “make-do”- phenomenon, which we often see in quilting, is also present here. The maker seems to have run out of the flowery ribbon and had to use some yellowish ribbon instead on top of the left front piece (to the right on the photos). It goes both vertically and horizontally at the top, but in the corresponding horizontal space on the other front piece, there is no ribbon at all. Again the question pops up: why?

The skirt raises similar questions. It  looks like hand embroidery, but the border patterns do not fit at the seams, at least not all of them. Why go to all that work and not have the pattern fit?

But let me assure you: none of these questions entered my head while walking through the exhibition. At the time I was just impressed with the gorgeousness of it all, and had no time to contemplate the details. It is when I look at the photos afterwards that I start noticing things.  So, any young or older woman wearing this costume, would just look beautiful, I think.

Below are more costumes, and similar questions could be asked about a few of them. There is always something to wonder about when you are curious, but I will try to not repeat myself too much.

This one was quite restricted colour-wise, – only “a few” coloured flowers and leaves on the vest, –  but the blackwork on the shirt is to die for. You can also see that the machine stitching in black is very well done. The distance between the two parallel seams is so even that one might suspect a twin needle has been used.

There was no written information about the individual costumes beyond the general information on the poster at the top, except for the name of the region the costume came from. The two above, and the next two below are all from the Lviv Region.

The costumes were behind ropes, and the lighting was a bit varied. I had to zoom in on some details where I could not reach close enough with the camera, so not all my photos came out great. I could only use the flash sparingly, so on some of the darker costumes, the details do not show up very well, or they are a bit out of focus. Still, I chose to post some of the lesser photos anyway.

Here the flowers are blooming in a riot of colours. The shirt has lots of flowers arranged in orderly borders. It is interesting to observe the arrangement of the decorative elements on the shoulder pieces. Also, I love the creative use of colours in the embroidery on the vest.

This costume strikes me as a celebration of earthly gifts: golden wheat fields with poppies in them, and an abundance of grapes. And then the flowers on the apron. The amount of work to make a dress like this is awe-inspiring.

The pattern of the necklace could be an inspiration to any quilter.

This costume is from the Polissya region. The flowers have been left behind, except for the cuffs. Also notice that the embroidered pattern on the collar is widely different from the one on the cuffs, – and then the shoulders and sleeves have yet another pattern, which is a bit similar to the woven pattern on the skirt.

I found this costume especially interesting as it was the only one with sewing that resembled quilting on the waistcoat, – or maybe the term machine embroidery could be used.


Also, we can deduce that at one point the owner must have put on weight, or the dress has been passed on to a new owner and needed to be fitted.  As you can see, some of the buttons have been moved.  The old positions are still visible for the two buttons at the bottom. With the buttons in the old positions, the quilted leaves forming a zig-zag pattern, would have fitted nicely at the front, so this was well planned from the beginning.

When looking closely, you may also notice that the red fabric in the waist border is a twill fabric, while both the red and black fabrics above are satin weave.  The two red colours are so similar that the difference is not noticeable, except when looking very closely.  With so many different elements coming together, one could almost call this a patchwork project 🙂

The last costume for now comes from the Boiko area, and is almost solemn compared to the riot of colours displayed on most of the previous ones. As with the  rest of the costumes, the shirt does not lack decor, particularly on the shoulder pieces. I also love the smocking on top of the sleeves.

This was it for now.

I will start sorting through the rest of the photos, and eventually write another post showing you the older costumes.



Nifty gadget

Like most quilters I love trying new gadgets which may (or may not) make the sewing process easier, faster, or more fun. This one is my latest find:

It is called a needle grabber, but it is not one of those small rubber pads used to grab the needle when hand quilting, – this is quite different, and is perfect to use on sewing machine needles.

It is spring loaded, and when the flat end is pushed, a small hook appears at the other end.

You grab the needle with the small hook and then release the spring. The needle stays firmly in the needle grabber, and is easy to remove from and/or insert into the machine.

As my fingers and I are getting on in years, the task of changing the needle has become increasingly difficult. Also, the new machines have lamps positioned right above the needle, which is lovely when you are sewing, but they also get quite hot and may burn the fingers while you are fiddling with the needle. The needle grabber spared me both the fiddling and the burning, and getting the needle out and in again was both easy and very quick.

I saw this gadget described in a newsletter I am receiving, but it was not easy to find online as my search mostly turned up the rubber pads. However, Ute-Barbara at Quilt-Design ordered it especially for me, and I must say I am very happy with it.

It is definitely going to live close to my sewing machine from now on.


Update on the Sapphire 870Q

This is long overdue, but better late than never.

A couple of months ago I wrote this message, asking for feedback from other machine owners on the condition of their machine casings. Mine had sharp and uneven edges and corners, which hampered the movement when free motion quilting. The Husqvarna representative had told me that all casings were the same, and that everybody else were satisfied with theirs, which I did not think  could be quite right. I asked around in different fora, and the answers I received online and in private e-mails could be roughly grouped in three categories:

1  Most people had casings that were ok, – no sharp edges or corners, or level differences where different parts of the casings had been fitted together.

2  Some had either sharp edges/corners or level differences, or both, in varying degrees, but have not seen this as a problem for various reasons: don’t quilt, don’t free motion quilt, use Fab-U-Motion when free motion quilting, use Suprem Slider or similar product to reduce friction.

3  A very small number have casings similar to mine and think it is a problem, but for various reasons had not complained or reported back to their dealer or to Husqvarna.

I wish to thank everyone who replied either online or privately, – you have been a great help.

I reported my finds back to the Husqvarna representative, and received a reply that they were still looking into the matter, and he would inform me when they had reached a conclusion.

A few weeks later I got an e-mail informing me that the factory now would have a greater focus on the fitting of the casings, and that the ones with the sharper edges could be returned for either new casings, or new fitting of the old one.

Long before this conclusion was reached, my dealer offered to swap my machine for one with a better fitted casing, which I think was very generous, considering that at the time, she did not know whether she would get the old one fixed/reimbursed or not.

Below are photos of the old and new machines, showing the difference. Both are Sapphire 870Q.

Old machine:


New machine:


There is still a very small level difference beside the needle plate, but the corner is not sharp, so it is not a hindrance when quilting.

Considering all I had read about other problems with these machines, I was also a bit apprehensive about getting a new one, as  my first machine did not show any of those common problems.  So far this one has had no tension problems, but there may be some issues with the cutter, as it does not cut the thread every time.  I have to try it out some more before I have it looked into, but from what I have read elsewhere, this may be easy to correct. Other than this, I am very satisfied with the machine so far, and will soon be doing some serious free motion quilting on it to really put it to the test.

I have found the VikingSapphire group at Yahoo.com to be very helpful and informative when troubleshooting these machines.


Satin stitch

Have tested the satin stitch on my new Sapphire 870.  Not bad, I think.

hearts applique


Sapphire 870 Quilt

Last autumn I checked out this machine at a local dealer, but did not buy it right away.  To my total surprise, my lovely husband had gone and bought the machine as a Christmas present, and I was very excited to try it out in the new year when the tree and decorations had been packed away and I finally got my sewing space back.


All you quilters know how we like to stroke and pet our sewing machines, – as well as our fabrics, – but when doing so with this one, something was not quite right.  I have been sewing on several Husqvarna machines since 1982, and have been getting used to the smooth surface and rounded edges.  This one felt different, though, – at the back of the free arm there was a nasty sharp edge, next to the toolbox.  But worse, – the plastic casing at the end of the free arm was not quite flush with the casing around the needle plate, but was rising towards the back, the edge ending in a very sharp corner at 1-1,5 millimetres above the needle plate. See photos below.




The sharp edges and corner interfere with the flow of movement when quilting, especially when free motion quilting.  The corner sometimes snags on the fabric, especially when moving the sandwich diagonally towards me and to the left.  Of course, I assumed this must be some manufacturing error, and when contacting the dealer, she first suggested buying the acrylic extension table to see if this made things better.  I was not able to go myself at the time, so my husband picked it up when in town, so that I could try it.  I found that to avoid the raised corner, the table must be set higher than the free arm, so I still do not get a flat, smooth surface.

I finally got the chance to visit the shop and have a look at the other machines there.  I was curious if this problem was unique to my machine.  There was no other 870 machine in the shop at the time, but I looked at an 850 which seemed perfectly all right. Then I spotted the same irregularities on a Topaz nearby, and later the dealer found the same thing on her Designer Diamond at home, – she does not quilt, so had not noticed before. I wrote a letter of complaint to the importer, which she forwarded, – describing the problem and including the photos above.  We got an immediate response that they were going to look into it.

Last week, two months later, I got a phone call from a Husqvarna Viking representative, questioning me about how this was a problem, and stating their point of view on the case.

The main points being made were that the casings for the Sapphire, Topaz, and Diamond are all cast in the same mould, so they are all identical, and changing the production would take a long time, six months at the very least, so nothing could be done about my machine now, except taking it in to look at it.

Next, more than two thousand such machines have been sold, and only two persons have complained about this, namely my dealer and I.  According to the representative, all the other 2000 quilters are happily sewing along on machines identical to mine (identical casings, that is), without any problems at all.

This may be correct, by all means, but I found it odd that so many people would really be content with such unevenness on the machine surface, so expressed some doubts about this last statement. Of course, we, the public, have no means of knowing the number of complaints they get from around the world, as such things are never published, – naturally, – so we either take the information at face value, or make our own enquiries. I therefore informed the representative that I would like to find out about this from the quilters themselves by asking around in the sewing forums on the internet.

Frankly, I am a bit puzzled by the whole thing. I mean, why would a manufacturer make expensive sewing machines with bells and whistles enough for a whole orchestra, and then skimp on the polishing and fitting of the casings? From what I have seen when testing the machine so far, it sews beautifully (no problem when the fabric moves only towards the back), and it has many desirable features, – not least the big harp for quilting, which tempted me in the first place. I would love for this machine to function properly, but as it is, I dare not use it for any serious quilting. It is a shame, and I am writing this post in a hope to find that there really are Sapphire 870 machines out there with better fitted casings than mine.

Since many forums do not allow photos attached to the posts, I am putting the pictures up here for easy reference.

What I would like to know from owners of Husqvarna Viking Sapphire, Topaz, and Diamond sewing machines is:

1 Does the casing on your machine look like it does in the photos above?

2 If not, where (country) and when (approximate) was it purchased?

3 If it does look like mine, do you feel it interferes with the quality of your sewing/quilting?

4 If yes to number 3, have you complained about it (to your dealer or other Husqvarna Viking representatives)?

I would be thankful if you would either leave comments to this post, or email me privately at aefoerde at online.no (replace the at with @ and remove all spaces).  Of course, you can also reply in the forums where I have posted about this issue.

Thank you for reading this far.



Sewing at Night – Review of Sapphire 830

Update on my Sapphire 870Q