Thursday, September 20, 2012

To sew or not to sew?

Woe is me!  I made a card today for my Dad's birthday, but I couldn't sew on it!
My sewing machine is out of service at the moment.  I was sewing a little tote for my son to carry things in last week, and the bobbin ran out of thread with 2 inches left to sew.... and so I re-threaded the bobbin, and when I switched back to sewing mode, I heard/felt a dull click inside.  Tried sewing and it was struggling.... I could hand crank with great stiffness, but I couldn't figure out what happened.  I even tried opening it up to see if there was any obstruction.... and there were too many screws (different sizes) laying around from me trying to take the covers off, that I was afraid if I kept going, I wouldn't be able to get the cover back on properly, so I closed it up. And there is a spacer that fell from somewhere inside that I didn't know where it went.   I'm really bummed!
My machine has NEVER given me a problem and I have sewn on it for 13 years now.  Mostly just simple things like curtains or pillow cases and of course, my cards for the past 3 years.  But let's keep in mind, it did NOT break while sewing on PAPER (wink).  I did something to it when switching back from bobbin load mode to sewing mode, and I just don't know what I knocked out of place.

Here's the card I made.  I made the sentiment myself in MS Word. And no sewing.  I guess it turned out alright.  I would have been more pleased if I could have sewn on it.
I used the new Hotrod Pickup image at Doodle pantry.
Paper is The Paper Studio.  Tombow watercolor markers on 90 lb. Canson watercolor paper.
 I put the crystal effects stuff on the windows and headlamps. And then wrote HTRD on the license plate.

This reminds me that I asked a friend if I could use her machine to sew this card on... just 2 panels. And she said no. She said she preferred no paper in her machine.  OK.  I understand it is her machine and she has that right, so I respected her decision politely and old her it was alright.  I was trying to keep an open mind about it.  BUT, I spent HOURS wondering if she knows "why" she doesn't prefer it?  I didn't ask her.  I didn't want to be a nuisance.  But I do know that if she were to give me a reason, it would have to be something better than "I don't think paper is good for it", because she would have to tell me WHY the paper isn't good for it, and WHERE she heard that  (with url links), and if there were ACTUAL personally witnessed accounts of a sewing machine completely breaking from sewing on paper (and if the person was using their noggin while sewing the paper).   LOL.

If myself, or someone I knew closely, witnessed first hand, someone sew on paper for the first time, and it was just one piece of paper, and their $2000 machine broke and was unrepairable... that might keep me from sewing on paper.  But only if I hadn't yet ever sewn on paper.  I already have and know that I can do it safely when I follow some basic guidelines.

However, I haven't and I don't think I will ever see or hear that exact situation/scenario.  I have sewn on my cards for 3 years now, without a hitch.  QUESTION:  If it was really dangerous to sew on paper THE PROPER WAY, wouldn't we be able to find these stories all over the internet?  I couldn't find ONE bad story, and I REALLY tried to find them.
I only found ALL GOOD (and some of them quite helpful) reviews/comments/blog posts/forum discussions.   With the exception of ONE discussion dated from 2008 at SCS ( where ONE commenter said they personally called pfaff and genome (sp?) of which both companies told her (this is NOT an exact quote, just a sum up of what I understood from the comment)... that these companies representatives suggested NOT to sew on paper "because of the accumulation of teeny tiny paper particles and "possible" oils in the papers."    My first thought was: You get a very similar result when sewing a lot of fabric, don't you.... ?  Even sewing machines that only see fabric need to be blown clear of dust and/or particles inside every once in awhile, right?  What's the difference?  Just use your head and keep your machine clean. Maybe clean it out more often?  I just couldn't wrap my head around what was different.

I USE A KENMORE manual sewing machine (nothing digital), a "BASIC plus" type model with about 30 stitches, and it is a 1999 or 2000 make. It has served me well, and if I can figure out where this spacer goes that fell out, it will probably work again!

I am NOT an expert, and I don't claim to be.  I am just an average citizen of the crafting community who has had  FIRST HAND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE of sewing on my paper project's and I have a few common sense ideas that have WORKED for me.
These are my 7 basic guidelines for sewing on my cards:
By the way, I'm NOT telling anyone to go sew on their paper in their high dollar machines. That is a personal choice that you must make on your own.  I just think there may be people who have a misconception about sewing on their cards, and they may not even really know WHY.  So I want to share my own success story in the hopes to spread the card sewing joy around.
But don't just take my word for it.  Search the web.  Verify for yourself if sewing on paper is the right choice for you.  If you choose to do so, please use your noggin!

#1 - Sewing through ANY adhesive, wet or dry, is just plain dangerous.  Not even scotch tape.  And especially not that crystal liquid stuff that dries semi-hard.   When I put my cards together, I only put the adhesive in the middle of the sections that I know I am going to sew, so that when I sew around the edges, it is only going through paper. And if I know I need to use crystal liquid stuff, I add that after the panels are sewn.  SUM UP:  DO NOT SEW THROUGH ADHESIVE OR THE CRYSTAL ACCENT PAINT STUFF, WET OR DRY!

#2 - Whenever your needles goes through ANYTHING, it does "punch out", in a way, tiny particles of the material. This is not rocket science.  So it only goes to figure that your needle will also do this to paper, if you sew on paper.  Therefore, always keep a can of air (or the air that comes in your lungs), and blow out any particles/dust from the bobbin compartment and the needle area after each card sewn, or after a few cards sewn, however often you feel you need to do it, to feel like you are not creating build up of these particles. Fabric seamstresses have to do this occasionally too, so it makes sense.  SUM UP:  KEEP YOUR MACHINE AS CLEAN INSIDE AS POSSIBLE. BLOW OUT THE DUST PARTICLES SO THAT THEY DON'T BUILD UP.

#3 - Because of #2, always use a nice thin needle for your machine to sew for paper, and don't use that same needle for your fabric projects. Again, just common sense, here.  Be safe!  Don't share needles!  SUM UP:  ONE SMALL NEEDLE FOR PAPER. OTHER NEEDLES FOR FABRIC.

#4 - Some paper is "too thick" for your machine.  Alright, c'mon. Think, brain, think.  If I know my machine can't handle a piece of leather, I know it isn't going to handle 10 sheets of 100 lb. cardstock stuck together. Common sense.  I only sew the individual panels together.  I have a personal rule:  No more than 200 lb. worth of papers at one time.  My scenario: I use 80-90 lb. cardstock for my main image (90 lb watercolor paper), 24 lb designer papers (1 or 2 of them) these are the THIN patterned papers, and 1 or 2 layers of 40-80 lb lightweight solid color cardstock.  This all adds up to UNDER 200 lb per piece, and my sewing machine never struggles to go through this. BUT I usually have MUCH thinner panels anyway, around 150 lb worth of paper for each panel.  If you keep your layers to a minimum and your machine doesn't "grind" or slow down when sewing, then you aren't pushing your machine too hard, and not any harder than if you were sewing a normal garment together.  SUM UP:  KEEP YOUR PAPER LAYERS TO A MINIMUM. IF YOUR MACHINE SOUNDS LIKE IT IS STRUGGLING, STOP SEWING AND LESSEN YOUR PAPER LAYERS.

#5 - If a designer paper has all kinds of glitter and shiny hardened glue all over it.... best NOT put that through your machine. See #1.  It is the same as trying to get it to sew through the adhesive or crystal effect stuff.  SUM UP:  DON'T SEW THROUGH SPECIALTY GLITTERED ACCENTED PAPERS.

#6 - Concerns with "oils in the paper"...?  I have thought and thought about this.  I don't see oils or feel them in my paper. I don't even see any oily residue on my sewing machine needle.  If there were harmful amounts of oils in the papers, I think I would have seen SOME sort of build up or SOMETHING on my sewing machine that I have used for 3 years now on my cards.  I had a sewing friend look at my machine about a year ago because I was worried that I was "damaging" mine from sewing on cards.... she told me the inside of the important areas on my machine was CLEANER than hers!  And she is a distinguished/accomplished seamstress.  SUM UP:  IF YOUR PAPER ACTUALLY FEELS OILY/SLIPPERY, DON'T SEW ON IT.

#7 - Using a serger on cards/paper....?   Now I'm not that smart/knowledgeable about sergers, and I don't own one, but I've seen them being used... and using my common sense here....  it just doesn't make sense.  My suggestion is don't serger your paper projects unless you REALLY know what you are doing.  SAVE YOUR SERGER FOR YOUR FABRIC PROJECTS.

So that's all I have today.  Most of it is opinion based on actual experience, and I am not offended if you don't agree.  Feel free to send me links to actual accounts of sewing machine/paper mishaps too.  I am interested to read about them and add to my knowledge base.   But I do hope you are inspired to go create something of your own, whether you sew on it or not!  And I hope that whatever you make, blesses a friend!
Have a beautiful week, see you again soon!


AllisonG said...

WOW, these all sound like great tips, Laurie! I'm not really much of a sewer - fabric or paper, hand or machine - so I just stick to the faux stitching. :-)

Donna said...

I'm with Allison. I've had a sewing machine since I got married 35 years ago. My parents bought it for us as a wedding gift. (Haha! Some gift for my DH!) But I rarely use it for more than a catch all since it's in a table case. I usually use faux stitching too. I love your tips, Laurie and if I ever do get the machine out to use to sew on paper I'll remember them!

Rhonda Miller said...

Your card is terrific.

Thank you for sharing your tips. I don't personally own a sewing machine, although, I hope to soon. I'll keep these in mind. I love the look of sewing on the cards.

Glenda Atkins said...

Your card is wonderful, love the way you coloured the hotrod pickup truck and added the crystal effects. Thanks for the 'sewing on paper' tips and if I could fight my way through all the stored junk in my basement I would try them LOL!

Cheryl said...

I have one of those expensive sewing machines. I sew on paper every single day, and still occasionally sew on fabric. My machine is about 15 years old, is a fantastic machine, and still runs as well today as it did the very first day I bought it. It's really easy to keep it clean because paper dust blows right out, and switching needles is cheap and easy. I can see where it might concern someone who has never sewn on paper, but honestly, I don't see where it would ever be a problem...if you followed all the great rules you lined out. :)

Glittered Paws said...

Great card and no problem with sewing cs on my machine - in fact that is about all i use it for anymore - no young kids etc. although have a new grand baby on the way so just might have to whip out some fabric. Great tips on sewing on cs.

Carolina Girl (Cely) said...

HAHA...I read your advice and have broken several of your rules....the sewing machine was free so I count myself lucky for the last 4 years using it on cards...think I will go blow on it and change to a smaller needle...but I may not be able to see the eye hole if I do that. Wow...would love one of the new ones that are self threaders....

Carolina Girl (Cely) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Celeste said...

Thanks for all the great sewing advice. I have wanted to try sewing on paper, but didn't want to ruin my new machine. I think it will be fine to do so now.

Thanks a lot!!!!