25 July 2010

Feeling ruffled...

A little while ago I treated myself to a ruffler foot, a foot that while not necessary promises of neat pleats and instants gathers...  It reminds me of The Cleaners, that weird contraption in Labyrinth that pursues Sarah and Hoggle throught he Oubliette.  Terrifying  at first look but actually fairly simple and not so menacing mechanics when you get to examine it.  And armed with internet video tutorials and raving reviews about how you'll be merrily ruffling away in no time I finally took my ruffler out of its box and attached it to my machine, full of hopes and expectations... Cue an hour of blue air, effing, blinding, pinging, low-flying needles, yards of tangled thread and some pretty horrific sounding clunking, grinding and growling from my poor machine!

The instructions that came with my foot appear to have been written for someone else's! It has a fairly detailed description of all the parts and a diagram but sadly the two are not linked so its guesswork as to which part of the foot each description relates.  I am still looking for the part that has numbers 0 to 8 inscribed on it... Information on the net is pretty scarce but the videos helped.

They are a little fiddly to get on and at first I wasn't sure it was correctly connected on the needle clamp bar but it couldn't possibly fit any other way (mine is a universal foot sold by a Brother dealer so theoretically it should fit).  I duly noted CarlaC's tip in the video linked above to have the needle threaded before attaching the foot because it gets fiddly. This proved to be futile when the first thing that happened on starting to sew was the thread breaking and coming out of the needle eye!  This happened several times but it wasn't any hassle to rethread.  I had no problems feeding the fabric between the plates and through the guide either.

I also adhered to the screwdriver tip and was awed by the way the foot throws itself around and several times had to be retightened because it had become wobbly.  I think that accounted for some of the horrendous noise it made and I should have realised indicated to a major mistake I had made... oh hindsight!

Following that I smashed two needles - I still haven't found one which went flying off into air - I quickly donned safety specs!  This was not caused by the needle hitting the foot in the operational position, which apparently could be a problem.  Maybe what smashed the needles was the foot wobbling out of position? The needle would go down into the fabric then get stuck, impossible to wind on by hand but could be budged by using the foot pedal. Then the needle would fall out of its clamp.  Whatever was going on I wasn't getting anywhere never mind gorgeous ruffles spilling out of the back if my machine.

I was quickly frustrated to find my test fabric was not only not gathering but the bobbin thread was bunching up underneath horrendously.  Despite messing with all the settings on the foot and the tension, stitch selection and so forth I could not get it to gather more than a couple of stitches before it became thread carnage.

I had lost all patience with it.  Exasperated I changed back to my zigzag foot and suddenly it became clear what a plonker I had been... I had forgotten to lower the pressure foot!!  To be honest, it is difficult to visually spot if you have or haven't done this from looking at it, the difference is about a nanometre of space between food and plate. But it certainly explained the foot dancing off the clamp, the noise, probably the broken needles and the thread issues too.  So I got the foot back out of the box, reapplied it and started again.

This time I lowered the foot that nanometre, it felt fine and there were more broken needles, no more foot jumping off the clamp, even the noise wasn't quite so bad (but they're still loud!).  Sadly the thread still remained an issue.  After a lot more tweaking and playing with the speed control I was getting ruffles but not even ones (a machine with speed control would be an asset here) and a little bit of bunching.  The last few inches of my fabric finally had it right, neat ruffles, neat thread, shame about the whole issue getting to that point!  Next challenge is to get it working on tulle, I've read conflicting opinions on whether this will work or not, any experiences or tips to share?

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