Jul 31, 2016

move over Kate Spade... I'm sewing with leather

Turns out, dreams really can come true!

I made my 1st leather tote bag!

I've been dreaming of getting a second sewing machine specifically for leather for a couple of years. I plan to make purses, bags and other stuff. I see myself as the next Kate Spade! ... (Actually, I don't even know much about her... and I don't think she even owns the company anymore...) I picture Kate Spade as this eternally young woman, happily designing cute colorful purses, making stuff women want to buy. Then I insert myself into that picture! Haha. Hey, don't laugh.

After two years of making and selling tote bags (think Vera Bradley, only way cooler), I finally reached a point where I could justify the cost of a new machine and make the room - both in my studio and in my schedule.

My second machine is a serious, industrial workhorse... like a Mac Truck.

My first machine is a sewing computer. 

...a delicate dandelion ready to break apart with the wind.

My second machine is like JJ Watt (think Terminator, only real) - ready to roll over anything that stands in its way. This one - you turn it on - and it just sews! Forward and backward.

I bought my first machine about 4 years ago. Bernina --- the 820 Quilters Edition. It was International Quilt Festival time and my BFF and I had margaritas and Mexican food before 'Preview Night' of the show. Still happy from our happy hour(s), I found myself in the Bernina booth talking to this very nice lady who showed me this magical machine and its stitch regulator for free motion quilting. 

For 15 years, I hand quilted but always wanted to learn to do more. So the features of the 820 looked very appealing. I signed up! Called my BFF ... "Come to aisle 1600. I just bought a Bernina."

This time around, I did a LOT more research! Here's my first little leather coin purse.

In spite of my margarita-happy purchase, I do not regret my Bernina decision at all. Quite the contrary - I love the machine. The learning curve was very high though. I have to say it took me almost a year to figure out the machine --- and that's with attending all the classes my Bernina dealer offered.

My fancy dandelion sewing computer is awesome if you abide by my 2 rules. Number one, don't use the BSR (otherwise known as the Bernina Stitch Regulator). Yes, the gadget that was the most attractive to me at first turns out to be the least useful. 

Number two, oil the machine every hour or so. Yes! Every hour! Trust me. This solves all evils.

With these two rules, I rule my Bernina and I love it.

But with a second chance, I wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting.
What would Kate Spade do? I assume she would start with You Tube, I mean really. Who needs a staff or professional counsel when you can learn just about anything on You Tube? haha...

Seriously, there are tons of great videos on how to choose a leather sewing machine... how to thread it... how to sew with it... on and on. Its all right there if you invest the time to watch and learn. This time, I also talked to lots of people. I read blogs, studied the work of small leather studios, went to an industrial sewing shop, and I talked to many dealers on the phone.

I plan to make leather purses, tote bags and other small items. So I decided that I needed a machine with a cylinder arm. That raised the price quite a bit over the flat bed machines, but I knew it was a critical feature for rounded corners and other tight spaces in sewing bags. I also knew I needed the lock stitch, compound feed mechanism, and I wanted a stitch length of 6 mm. I would have loved to have the option for an even longer stitch length, but it turns out this is one of those dividing lines and the machines that do longer stitches are a lot more expensive. So 6 mm is good for me.

Next decision was the price and the brand. I started out preferring the Pfaff based on advice and reviews. But I learned from talking to experts that most of these industrial machines are pretty much made by the same manufacturers and they just stick different labels on the outside. I don't mean to discredit Pfaff or any other brand by saying that, I know there are quality differences.

Anyway, I was ready to accept an off-brand alternative. I found machines that mimic the features of the name brand machines, but for several thousand dollars less!
I finally decided to purchase a Typical GC 2603 from a dealer in Dallas, Texas - Sunny Sewing Machine. Their customer service has been incredible! I was nervous to purchase a machine over the phone that I had not sewn with... but they assured me I would be satisfied and they spent a lot of time talking to me about the features and what I needed to sew purses, bags, etc.

The price tag was $1,350 --- within my budget. Shipping was $165 (Dallas is only 4 hour drive from Houston). And I needed a couple extra gadgets added, which Sunny Sewing machine included AT NO EXTRA CHARGE!

And get this - I got the machine 2 days later! AND it came to me fully assembled and ready to sew. With industrial machines like this, there is a motor, belts and other stuff and the machine has to be firmly attached to the table. Sunny Sewing Machines did all this up front. Bolted the thing to a pallet and shipped it to me ready to go. All the other dealers sent the machines in parts and you have to install the motor, etc. Having it ready to go was very attractive!

Luckily "third floor quilts" has an elevator! And A Husband available to help!

Bernina's customer service was a completely different experience. I'm not saying it was bad - just different. First, it took 6 weeks to get my Bernina delivered. At the time - and even now - that seems crazy to me. Second, the machine did come with one set of needles, oil, small tools, and several feet amd a few other things. But it did not come with a 1/4 inch foot. I had to buy that foot extra. It wasn't that expensive, but it seems that a $6,000 machine desinged especially as a quilter's edition ought to come with a 1/4 inch foot. Small thing, I know. But it has stuck with me all these years. Bernina did fund about 6 full and half-day classes, which I took full advantage of. These were very helpful.

With my new leather machine, Sunny Sewing added an edge guide (which was not standard to this model) and 2 zipper feet attachments for free! They also sent needles and other goodies.

I'm so happy with my new Mac Truck... my new JJ Watt power!

Stay tuned Kate Spade. I'm on my way.


  1. I'm so excited for you. You have all the equipment now. Go for it. Can't wait to see the wonderful things you will turn out.

  2. Wow, Teresa. This is really epic! So very excited for you!!

  3. Fun!!!!!! Oh, I cannot wait to see all of your designs to come, Miss Kate! LOL. Love it!!