Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Juki 8700H-- A Learning Curve

About two months ago I excitedly recieved my new sewing machine, a Juki 8700H. Up until this point, I've only sewn on domestic machines. After much research, a lot of back and forth and conversations with sewing friends and the lovely people at Sewinggold.com I decided on this machine.  The reason that I ultimately got the Juki was multi factored: 1) Cost 2) Information available on this machine 3) The ability to sew heavy materials 4) The reviews from other bag makers.

I purchased from Sewinggold.com and I am so pleased with their customer service and knowldge through the process. I spoke with them on the phone prior to purchasing and they graciously answered my questions no matter how silly, and helped me settle on one machine. I purhcased the machine on a Saturday afternoon and it was delivered on Tuesday morning.

I do admit that the boxes that were delivered were a bit daunting.

It came in 4 boxes of which none were light! The total combined shipment was about 160 pounds. Opening the boxes and really not understanding how things are supposed to go and what was what was a bit intimidating. The machine came complete with a set up DVD that went through step by step of how to assemble and set up the machine. Honestly, I think the idea of putting it together was more scary than actually putting it together. The whole process took two of us about 3 hours from start to finish. The table assembly was the hardest part! 

Once the table is assembled at the motor is mounted on the table, pretty much all thats left to do is drop in the machine and connect the belt from the motor to the machine. I am actually really grateful for the experience of putting it together because I feel like I  have a better understanding of how the machine  and what all these parts are than if I had someone gotten someone to put it all together for me. 

But to break it down, here's the good/the bad and the UGLY of switching from a domestic to an industrial.

The Good:

-This machine is a BEAST. I have tested various materials: cork, vinyl, interfaced cotton and leather and it hasn't yet balked at anything I have been able to fit under the presser foot. 

4 Layer of Glitter Vinyl (not canvas): 

5 layers of 3oz leather:

8 layer of cork:

Some obscenely thick leather (no idea where I even got this stuff):

About 10 layers of interfaced quilting cotton: 

I haven't had it hesitate sewing anything yet. The only time I had an issue was when I attempted to sew some leather and forgot to change the needle out and tried to sew leather with a size 14 needle....it wasn't pretty, the needle revolted and broke in several places.

-Automatic Bobbin winder that fills bobbins as you sew, need I say more?

-Ease of changing the bobbin. I've found it actually easier to change the bobbin out in the juki than my domestics.

-Stitch quality: I do feel like when my tension is set properly for what I am sewing, my stitches are far more balanced.

-Cost for accessories: When stocking up on needles, bobbins and presser feet I was SHOCKED at how much less expensive it was for these items. Needles were less than 2 dollars for a pack of 20 and bobbins were about 4 cents each. Even the presser foot were only a few dollars each. Quite a change from the nearly dollar per needle costs for microtex.

-The speed: well not so much for me, because I slow at a grandma's pace but more confident sewists will appreciate the rate at which this thing moves. The speed goes up to 4,000 stitches per minute (OMG that like 70 per second....who sews that fast). I currently have the motor set to 350 stitches per minute as the top speed.

-Servicing: The way this machine is set up, servicing really isn't something that you do. All the parts are pretty much replaceable and relly not overly difficult to change out. Also, again they are not very expensive. The only servicing you really need to prepare for is to change out the oil on occasion and cleaning up your feed dogs and bobbin area.

-Knee lift: OMG, this has been the best thing ever! I just use my knee to lift the presser foot, allowing me to never have to take my hands off my project. Great for turning corners!. It also lifts so HIGH, fitting those bulky seams under is never an issue.

-Needle Sizes: I can get needle sizes up to 23 for my machine. 23!!!!!! From someone who could only get up to a 14 on my domestic this was an amazing game changer.

-Thread sizes: I always struggled to get my domestic to use topstitching thread or thicker threads, even with using a regular weight on the bottom and a top stitching needle. Now, I have to issues at all, even with heavier thread in the bobbin as well.

The Bad:

-Frequent Adjustments: unlike my domestic, the Juki is a lot more sensitive to changes in materials and bulk. Although it doesn't hesitate to stitch, it does require more frequent adjustments to the tension and presser foot pressure.

-The Tension: This is both good and bad. There isn't a handy dial nubered for you because the tension is SO adjustable. It generally requires a lot of turns to make adjustments in tension. Which is great because you have so much control, but when you find that perfect tension for say, cotton you gotta test that out on a scrap before you start sewing your project. I made the mistake a few times of not adjusting from materials and found that my stitches were loose, requiring me to adjust and resew.

-Threading: I wouldn't say that threading the machine is complicated at all, but it does require several more steps than a quick 4 step process that many of us are used to on domestics. It makes you think twice about the order in which you sew things because you inwardly groan when it's time to change thread colors.

-No Bells & Whistles: Love your automatic thread cutter? Automatic threader? Yeah, this baby is the stripped down version of your domestic with it's fancy features. No thread cutter, threader or needle up/down buttons. It sounds silly, but I didn't realize how much those features sped up the process. There are some industrials that you can get these features on, but those were not an option for many available options.

-This is NOT a compound walking foot machine. And unlike a domestic you can't just get a walking foot attachment for it (not that it's the same as a compound walking foot). I'm used to sewing with the walking foot on. I have to use care when sewing straps and long seams that it isn't getting all out of sorts.

-No markings on the needle plate: Those of us who are so used to this just being the standard, may be a bit dismayed to learn this is NOT the standard on many industrials. You can easily purchase one, but it's not something that you can expect.

The Ugly:

-Thread stays in the bobbin: Often when finishing a seam, when you lift the presser foot the top thread will be in the bobbin casing. At first I thought there was something wrong, but I have been assured that this is normal. It just slows me down because I have to then turn the hand wheel to get the thread back up.

-Lack of versatility: I knew going in that this machine would be pretty much used solely for bag making. This machine is rated for heavy duty sewing. Although there are industrials that are rated for lighterweight materials such as garments, this machine is not one of them. I tried it on uninterfaced cotton and it quickly shredded that material. Industrials are typically meant to do one job only, and do that job well. Don't expect that any industrial will completely replace the versatility of a domestic.

-The handwheel is "locked:: I was completely shocked by how hard it is to turn! A friend explained to me that you have to put a slight amount of presser on the pedal (not enough to get it to sew, but enough to engage the motor), which is kind of tricky to do and takes a bit of getting used to.

-Adjustments: Again, be prepared to make more adjustments than you probably ever have. I have now had to get used to even adjusting my bobbin tension, which most owners of a domestic machine are told to never EVER touch it. Now, it becomes something you may need to do and do often.

-It is HEAVY DUTY: The main foot that came with the machine has a finger guard, why does it have a finger guard you ask? I know more people than I can count that have sewn clear through their finger, I don't think for a second that this machine wouldn't make it clear through my finger. The other feet that you will commonly use (zipper, piping, teflon, etc) will not be equipped with a guard.

-Reversing: There is a bar that you will hold down to reverse on this machine. The bar goes down about 2", if you do NOT hold down the bar all the way, it doesn't fully reverse. I couldn't figure out why I would be stitching along with a stitch length of 5, only to have my reverse stitches look like they had a length of 2. It was because I wasn't holding down the needle all the way.

Are you thinking about getting your first industrial? After having mine and using it consistently for the last two months I have to say I am sold and I wish I had taken the plunge a lot sooner. It's definitely made sewing many things a lot easier. It has been able to sew pretty much anything I can stick under the presser foot. The learning curve was a bit steep but after pushing myself to figure it out (I made myself sew ALL my bags on it, even though it slowed me down at first), I LOVE it and I am getting much quicker.

If you are thinking about it, I would highly recommend talking to a professional dealer and make sure you are looking at the machine that is right for you.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Where to get the best prices on interfacings

Interfacing is one of the most expensive materials that we put into our bags, and it is probably one of the most important. It seems everyone has their preferred place to shop and has their own "stock up price". Today, I'm going to try and work out where the best places to buy the most commonly used interfacings in bag making. As prices do tend to be fluid, the list is just a guideline and prices are subject to change. For ALL products the prices per yard I am giving you are based on 20" wide widths, as that is the standard for the Pellon Products. Also, there are many sellers not listed, but I generally listed the stores with the lowest prices. This post contains affiliate links.

Woven Fusible

Pellon Shapeflex 101

JoAnn Fabrics:

By the yard, Joann has a regular price of 6.99 per yard on shapeflex. This is marginally better if you buy a 10 yard bolt, where the price per yard is 5.29. Joann's sale prices vary extensively and you can find interfacing anywhere from 30-60% off. The lowest I have seen it is when you are able to use a coupon for 60% off, bringing it down to 2.80 a yard at the per yard price or 2.11 by the bolt. This is the same deal as when they allow you to stack a 50% off sale with a 20% off coupon. Consider shipping cost into this if you choose to buy online. LOWEST PRICE 2.11 per yard when you purchase a bolt.


The lowest price I have seen on shapeflex at Walmart is 42.00 for a 15 yard bolt on Walmart.com. This includes free shipping or free store pick up. Although I have seen this price fluctuate quite a bit as well, it tends to generally stay around this price. LOWEST PRICE 2.80 per yard when you buy a 15 yard bolt.


Overstock is another popular option with bag makers. You can purchase a shopping pass for the year for 19.99 which would give you free shipping on all purchases. You can purchase a 10 yard bolt for 26.09 and not including shipping it would be 2.61 a yard.  A 10 yard bolt of 60" wide runs 74.24 per bolt or 2.47 per yard (when adjusted to the comparable 20" wide). LOWEST PRICE 2.47 per yard. 


Oh how I love you Amazon Prime! But you let me down when it comes to my interfacing. There are no Prime options available for Shapeflex and the lowest price offered is 20.49 for a 10 yard bolt. Which doesn't sound so bad until you factor in a minimum of 7.90 shipping, which I will include in this price simce there is no way around it. LOWEST PRICE 2.76 per yard. 



This product has seemingly taken the bag making world by storm. I use it and I personally love it. It gives all the body of Shapeflex and is easier to fuse and typically costs much less. At 45" wide you get 2.25 % more than the 20" Shapeflex. The only downside is the shipping costs. At 7.90 for a Flat Rate, it's not unreasonable but you don't get the perk of free shipping that you can get from other retailers, so I will factor the shipping into the costs. A 7 yard pacakge of 45" wide woven fuse will run you 32.40. Compared to the 20" wide Shapeflex, that's 2.05 a yard. If you are able to purchase in bulk, you can get 37 yards shipped for 141.15 that works out to 1.70 per yard when adjusted to the 20" shapeflex. LOWEST PRICE 1.70 per yard.

Fashion Fuse:


I used this product back before Wovenfuse was available and it's honestly 100% comparable to Shapeflex, except I always found that it was a consistent product (which has been an issue with some Shapeflex I have used). You can purchase it at Wawak in the US, and Cleaner's Supply in Canada. In the US it is 25.00 for a 5 yard bolt of 46" wide Fashion Fuse, you can get free shipping at orders over 99 so I am not including that in this price. That works out to 2.17 a yard. LOWEST PRICE 2.17 a yard

Best buy for Woven Fusible:

The Winner: Wovenfuse at 1.70-2.05 per yard
Runner Up: JoAnn COUPON ONLY price or Fashion Fuse at regular price.


There are several options to use for foams, I can't tell you which is best, I think everyone has a preference. They are mostly the same product, my favorites are By Annie's Soft and Stable and Bosal In R Form. I personally do not like fusible foams, and I will not be including them here. I will break down the three types I know of and what the price points are. 

Pellon Flex Foam:


JoAnn has Pellon Flex Foam 77 at regular price for 105.00 for a 10 yard bolt of 20" wide. That's 10.50 per yard....OUCH. Stack coupons, similarly to the Shapeflex deals and you can get this for 4.20 per yard


Overstock has the same 10 yard bolt as JoAnn, but at 58.49 regular price, making it 5.84 per yard

Winner: Joann WITH coupon deal

Bosal in R Form:

Create for Less:

Create for Less has a 1 yard package of 58" wide Bosal sew in for 19.74. With the extra width that's comparable to 2.9 yards of Pellon. Making it the equivalent of 6.81 per yard. You can qualify for free shipping with orders over 50. 


Walmart has one yard packages of Bosal sew in for 17.77 plus 4.49 shipping (no options for free shipping on this one), making it 7.68 per yard.


You can grab this same package for 13.79 and get free shipping on orders over 75 dollars. Making this one 4.76 per yard. I am not certain if this is a regular price. 


Bulk purchasers can score a 15 yard bolt of 58" foam for 229.95, which breaks down to 5.23 per yard with free Prime shipping. The only other option for sew in on Amazon is the 18" x 58" width for 9.82 with Prime shipping, making that 6.55 per yardLOWEST PRICE 5.23 per yard.

Winner: Craftmore at 4.76 per yard
Runner up: Amazon at 5.23-6.55 per yard

Soft and Stable:


Amazon has been my go to for this product, you can score a 36" x 58" package for 18.99 with prime, making it 6.54 per yard. Pick up a 72" x 58" package for 34.94 with Prime (I've actually seen this price flucuate between 30 and 36 dollars on this item), making it 6.02 per yard. LOWEST PRICE 6.02 per yard.


Walmart has various sizes of Soft and Stable, but the 72" x 58" package is the same price as Amazon at 34.94. Making it 6.02 per yard

Connecting Threads:

Connecting Threads frequently runs 30% off sales, and I know this is where some bagmakers get theirs and stock up during the sales. You can get a 18" x 58: package for 8.37 during the sales. Making it 5.58 per yard, free shipping on all orders over 50 dollars. 

There are othe retailers that sell this, but these are the lowest that I have found. 

Winner: Connecting Threads during the 30% off sales at 5.58 per yard. 
Runner up: Tie between Amazon and Walmart at 6.02 per yard. 

Best Buy for Foam:
  • Winner: Joann WITH COUPON ONLY at 4.20 per yard for Pellon when you purchase a bolt or Bosal at Craftmore at 4.76 per yard
  • Runner up: Connecting Threads during the 30% off sales at 5.58 per yard for Soft and Stable.
  • Honorable Mention: If you are in need and can't wait for a sale or coupon, your best bet is to hit up Amazon or Walmart at 6.02 a yard for the 2 yard package of Soft and Stable.

Hope this is helpful when trying to figure out where you can get the best value, at what prices to stock up on these! Do you have any other sources I am missing that have better values! Please let me know if I can add some other sellers to this list!