Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What I Am Doing Cartwheels Over -- the Sew Straight Laser Guide!

Actually, I'm not sure that the "Sew Straight Laser Guide" is what this feature is officially called, but I will correct that later if necessary.  I just have to share it NOW!  It's an industry-first feature, i.e., nobody else has it, and it makes many piecing and decorative stitch applications a whole lot more accurate.  I found that when I use the laser guide, I feed my fabrics in a bit straighter and, therefore, get better results.

I first used it for piecing to see if I could get a better 1/4" seam.  Most of us struggle with getting and maintaining an exact 1/4"; I call it a "pressed quarter".  I find that if, by measurement with a ruler, I stitch an exact 1/4" from the edge of my fabric, the resulting seam allowance seems a little too big after pressing.  So, when stitching a "perfect" 1/4", my 12" block may be 11-5/8" or 11-3/4", depending on how many seams were involved.  That's what seems to happen to me when I use a 1/4" foot.

So I'm one of the radicals who like to sew with a non-1/4" foot and move needle position to get my seam allowance where I want it.  When I teach piecing classes, I find about half the class likes the 1/4" foot and half don't, usually because it makes the seam allowance too big for them.  My personal feeling is that it has a lot to do with your vision and how you sight down the side of your foot.

How I figure out where to move my needle for a perfect "pressed quarter"-inch seam:  I rotary cut three strips of fabric 1-1/2" x 6" each and sew them together, using what I think is an accurate 1/4" seam, side-by-side (in other words, on the long edges -- if this is hard to visualize, don't worry, there are pictures below).  After pressing, the resulting piece should measure 3-1/2" wide by 6" long if that seam allowance is accurate.  The sewn center strip should measure 1" across.  If the piece does not measure 3-1/2" exactly, then my seam is not accurate.  I will then repeat this exercise, moving my needle position to make the seam allowance either wider or narrower, depending on the results of the first test strips.  When I am trying out a new machine or a new presser foot, this is one of the first things I do.  I'll keep making these little test strip sets until I figure out exactly where I should be sewing.  Once I've got it, I write it down in the little notebook that I am keeping for that particular machine.

Yes, I make a little notebook for every machine I sew on.  I sew on too many machines to ever remember tensions, needle positions, width of decorative stitches -- you know, all those little details.  As I switch back and forth between machines, all I have to do is look in my notebook.  That's a lot easier than conducting experiments over and over and over.....

Here are the results of my piecing with the laser guide:

There is a good range of laser positions, both left and right of the needle.  For piecing purposes, I set the laser to its far right position.  I have the "J" foot on the machine, which is officially the "zigzag" foot, but I call it the all purpose foot because I use it most of the time.  The stitch selection is the piecing stitch right, Q-02.

BL (before laser), I aimed my fabric just at the very edge of the presser foot; SL (since laser), I find that I am running the fabric on the inside of the right hand toe and guiding my strips so that the fabric just barely touches the laser line.

This is what it looks like as I'm sewing....the line is long enough for me to easily align my fabrics with it well before I get to the needle.

Since I am aiming for a different place on the foot now, I do have to run a strip test to see if I am getting an accurate pressed quarter.  This strip set was sewn with the machine on its default needle setting for the stitch I was using -- NOPE, that's way too narrow a seam allowance.  I'm a whole 1/4" over on my strip set measurement: 3-3/4" rather than 3-1/2"!

I adjusted the needle position so that it was further away from the laser guide so that my seam allowance would be deeper.  I chose needle position 4.5, thinking that if it was too wide, I'd just make one or more strip sets in the five increments in between until I narrowed it down.  But it turned out that 4.5 was perfect!  There are many possible needle positions, but just in the millimeter of space that I was playing in, between 4.5 and 5.5, there are seven possible needle positions, making it very easy to be as precise as you want to be!

So I wrote the actual settings on the strip sets so I would have them as a record; I usually throw these types of things in a plastic bag and keep them with the machine manual.  I also wrote in my notebook: Perfect pressed quarter: foot "J", laser guide 10.5, needle position 4.5, Mettler silk finish in both top and bobbin.  That way, if I change any of my variables, I'll know to run another strip test.

Tomorrow I'll show you a couple of other cool things you can do with the laser guide!

Brother has provided me with the DreamWeaverTM XE, but all opinions expressed are entirely my own....

5 comments:

  1. Wow! On my Juki, the 1/4" foot is perfect IF I run the material edge exactly at the edge of the foot...which is a "scant" 1/4" according to the lines marked on the machine plate. For me, this situation has been true on most of the machines I own(ed). Great idea with your "test runs" and definitely bypasses future such needed tests. That laser is awesome!!! Looking forward to future posts on this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks really cool, where can I get one or is it something you are testing and will be released later?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dreamweaver is shipping to Brother dealers end of September/early October, so soon!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I would be VERY concerned about the beam reflecting back into my eye.

    ReplyDelete