Sewing Machine for My Mum

Last week I traveled to sunny San Diego to spend some quality time with my mum.  We had a big trip planned that included taking a hop-on-hop-off trolly, trips to the beach, a visit to Los Angeles, and much more!  However, I came down with a pretty miserable cold!  So as we lounged in front of the TV watching old movies like “Da Vinci Code” we started chatting about sewing machines.  Turns out her last sewing machine was kaput, and the only functional sewing machine in the house was very limited.

Vintage Pfaff 130

My brother owns a vintage Pfaff 130 sewing machine.  What a wonderful treat for me!  I spent some quality time cleaning this 1930’s vintage work-horse of a machine.  I found a manual for this model on the internet and gave it a good read.  (Digitized Pfaff 130 Manual)    It was a little more complicated to thread than a modern sewing machine, but we got it up and running.  We even stitched together some simple light-socks using this machine.  It was skipping the occasional stitch either due to a timing issue, or perhaps it had the wrong sized bobbin, but either way, it is now at the shop in the hands of a professional getting a good tune-up.

Choosing an Affordable Sewing Machine

My mum, however, doesn’t want to have to rely upon this antique to help her with her sewing projects!  I suggested she take what was left of her vacation budget and see if she could find a new machine. We started out going through this series of questions to help her identify the best machine for her current sewing needs.

What is your budget?  I believe that this is the single most important factor in choosing a sewing machine.  There are many companies to choose from, and there are many options within their lines. Much like cars, there are high-end, mid-range, and budget brands, and within each company, there’s a range of models. Once you establish your budget, you will know which brands are available in your range.

What features do you need? Honestly, I only use a fraction of the features that are on my bottom-of-the-line machine. Knowing what features are essential for your process will help you shop.  Consider the weight of the machine. If you have a dedicated sewing space, a heavy machine probably wouldn’t be a problem.  But if you are sharing space and have to put your machine away between rounds of sewing, you will want it to be lighter in weight for easy maneuverability.

Mechanical vs. Electronic? While this might not seem like an obvious question, it is one that I always encourage people to consider.  An all mechanical machine is less likely to have expensive problems with memory cards, screens, and electronics arriving damaged or developing issues. Mechanical machines are less expensive when purchased, and are also easier to maintain and repair.

What tools and accessories are included? Some machines are basic and just come with an assortment of ordinary feet, a few bobbins, and essential tools.  But sometimes, companies will put together bundles to suit different kinds of sewing. If you are a quilter or a dressmaker, look for combined offers that provide you with the special feet and accessories to suit your craft.  Bundles will save you money over purchasing individual items like feet.

Mum’s New Machine

Once we went down those list of questions, it was clear that what my mum wanted was a super-affordable, long-tabled machine with a walking foot to facilitate her quilting projects.  We went online to find the best deal. Because we were using the unspent “leftover” travel money, we had about $140 to spend.  However, we were happy to find this all mechanical machine from Brother that meets all her needs for much less.  At the time of writing, this was a steal at $113 on Amazon.

Three More Tips for Sewing Machine Shopping

While we went for a new machine purchased from Amazon and shipped to directly to my mum’s home, that might not be the right choice for everyone.  Here my top three recommendations for sewing machine shopping.

  1. Look for instructional classes – Sometimes a small sewing machine shop or sewing center will offer classes with the purchase of machines.  While you will pay more for a machine from these locations, if you feel like you will need help getting used to your new equipment, this might be a good choice for you.
  2. Consider a better quality, but used sewing machine – If you want a better brand, but are on a budget, consider buying your machine on the resale market.  You can find refurbished machines at sewing/vacuum repair stores, locally on Craig’s list and other resale sites, and on sales sites like eBay and even Etsy.  However, be prepared to take a new-to-you, but used sewing machine to a shop for a tune-up.
  3. Shop during the biggest sewing machine sales periods – Like all things, there are regular seasons that sewing machines go on sale.  Like most items, Christmas is a great time to invest in a new sewing machine.  But also consider shopping in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day.  If you are shopping on the second-hand market.

The right machine for you is the one that fits your budget and has the features that will allow you to stitch up the projects that you want to make!  What do I use?  I’ve got a 20-year-old Bernina 1008. BOY – did I have sticker-shock when I looked up this model today! Back when we purchased it, it was much less expensive and we got it on sale.  I bought the lowest price model for a top-of-the-line brand.  Considering how many hours of sewing this machine has logged, it was totally worth the investment!

If you are sewing machine shopping, I wish you a lot of luck!  If you have questions about sewing machines, or would like to join our on-going conversation about crafts, costuming, and more, come join us on the Studio Davina Facebook Group.

Happy Sewing!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 7, 2018



February 2018: Winter Catch Up, New Products & Bonus Cats

BOY! This winter has been a rough one!  Although I started the year healthy and raring to go,  I’ve been battling a string of colds and bronchitis.  When your health is poor, it’s exceedingly difficult to stay focused and be productive.  However, even though I was under the weather, here is a run-down of some of the highlights of the past two months.

Bedlah Repairs

Staring on January 1, I picked up this lovely fuchsia and black bedlah sets to make some repairs.  This was a collaboration with dancer/designer Poppy Maya a couple of years back, and it was nice to have it back on my table making some repairs, replacing some hooks and eyes and tightening up some loose jewelry components.

Margo Anderson’s Choli Pattern

I was so pleased to get this new Choli pattern from Margo Anderson of Margo’s Patterns.  Last year, she ran a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the release of a new line of dancewear patterns. I fell in love the “Cold Shoulder” style on the bottom left. I just think that Margo’s patterns are great. Margo’s patterns are easily assembled, accurately sized, and fit well.  I’m looking forward to putting this pattern to the test in the spring.

Wicked Mojo – Jax the Seam Ripper

My brother, Joe who runs a woodworking company Wicked Mojo Designs, does custom turnings in wood and acrylic.  While I have admired his custom pens, what I really need in my life are some chubby hand sewing tools.  He did a little research and sent me three prototypes including this beautiful tool.  I decided to keep one made of wood, and put this little number on his brand new Etsy store!  Ya know what happened?  It sold before I had a chance to share it on this blog!  These seam rippers are comfortable to hold, and this double-ender comes with both a small and a large end.  Best of all, you can turn the points in to protect the point when you store your tools. I’m so proud and happy for him!  And although I may be highly biased, there are lots of great reviews over on the Studio Davina Facebook Group.

Nancy Hay’s – Booty-Licious Knit Skirt

One of my oldest and dearest friends just released her first knitwear pattern for a skirt on the Ravelry website.  Although I am not a knitter, I’ve seen this skirt in person and it’s super cute!  I gave her some assistance laying out her pattern and creating the .pdf and I’m so happy that it’s finally up and available and I wish her great luck in future sales!  If you knit, be sure to check it out!

Costume Rehab – Berry Delight

On the workbench is a leftover costume project from 2017.  Although this project has been on my bench, I have a reasonable policy of not working on sewing projects when I have a cold or a runny nose.  I know, that’s a bit “TMI” but it’s a good policy.  Since I’m a one-woman shop, when I’m under the weather, sewing projects get postponed.  But I’m now only a few hours away from being finished with this bedlah set and am pleased with the results.

I have to head out of town for family business and will be back at my desk beginning March 8. Watch for a future blog post, where I’ll be sharing some of the images of the deconstruction and remodeling of this “Costume Rehab” project.

Until next month!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
February 23, 2018

PS:  My Christmas Kittens are now 8 months old.  Stormy is on the top and Silver is on the bottom.



Free Class on Making Flyers with Canva

New free class on using Canva to make flyers

In my part of the world, belly dance event season has begun! Our inboxes and social media feeds are filled with event notices. At events, people are handing out promotional flyers and placing ads in programs.  I recently was talking with two colleagues in dance who expressed their frustration with finding an easy to use and affordable way to make flyers, advertisements and other promotional materials.  When I found myself explaining how I use to create easy web graphics and flyers for the second time in a week, it became clear it was time to make a tutorial.

A well laid out flyer or digital graphic is essential to help
your future attendees find the information they need.

FREE Class on Using Canva

Link: Belly Dance Business Academy
Free Class: Flyer Design with Canva

Flyer Design With Canva 

This 15-minute demo/tutorial steps through the tools I use to create a simple but functional flyer for a mythical belly dance event. At it’s most basic, designing is a process. Throughout this tutorial, I explain my choices in fonts, sizes, and positions, so you get a sense of my own approach to flyer making. From picking and positioning the photo, to using the simple “2 Font Rule,” I step the viewer through the order of construction that I follow when making informational flyers.

In addition, I also touch on the essential information that a basic flyer needs to be an effective promotional tool for your event.  I like to begin with a simple “5 W’s” approach to planning the essential information. Once I have chosen the event details to include, I place them into the document, organizing them into logical groups, and formatting them to make it easy to read. At Right is the simple flyer I put together in the class.

The Class is Free – The School is Free – The software is Free

If you are interested in taking this class, I recommend setting up a free account on the website.  This web-based app is a tool that I use every week for creating graphics for a variety of purposes.  It’s become the essential tool I use for making memes to share on social media, thumbnails for YouTube, and even when making quick mock-ups of potential book covers and page designs.  The graphic was below made using Canva.

Belly Dance Business Academy – A Great Place to Learn and Explore

One of the best things about the Belly Dance Business Academy is absolutely free to enroll. Better still,  there are hours of free courses to explore.  When you find an instructor or topic, you can then invest in more in-depth courses, workshops, and masterclasses. You get to learn the subjects you want at the pace that is right for you.  And unlike an in-person class, you can repeat the material as often as you like

Link: Belly Dance Business Academy
Free Class: Flyer Design with Canva

Come join me at the BDBA and learn how to make your next promotional flyer in Canva.

Have a happy Valentine’s day
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
February 14, 2018