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Friday, December 02, 2016

Review of NEW Janome Skyline S9

Janome recently sent me their new Skyline S9 embroidery/sewing machine to play with and review...and play I did, and have enjoyed the machine very much!

This machine is a part of their affordable S series, and is the first in this series to combine sewing and embroidery on one machine.  The machine is feature rich, yet has the ease of use you expect from a Janome machine--with built-in tutorials to get you up and running. It also comes with a comprehensive manual that is indexed well, with pictures and diagrams, to let you know how to use all of the features. One of my favorite it's wi-fi capability. This is a machine that speaks the language of the 21st century. You can send designs to the machine wirelessly via your i-pad. Because the machine is so feature rich, I wasn't able to test out every feature, but I wanted to make sure I at least tested out the basic sewing stitches, decorative stitches, and embroidery, and changing basic settings through the touch screen. I also purposely created a project that had many layers to see if this machine could be a reliable "work horse." My're going to love this machine.

To test some of the machine's basic features, I created designed and pieced quilt. (Heads up, this quilt design will be available as a FREE downloadable project on the Janome website later this month.)  For this project, I used basic straight stitches and listened to the machine's soft hum, as I pieced. The machine is smooth to operate, and has low vibration, which makes it nice to use. The LED lights were great for lighting up my project so I could be accurate with my piecing. The machine allows you the ability to operate it with a traditional foot pedal, or a touch stop/start button. A convenient knee lift is included with this machine for raising the presser foot.

You can also adjust the speed via the slide control, to prevent you from being to "heavy with your pedal" if you need to sew a little slower. I liked the convenient inclusions of the locking stitch, reverse, and cut-thread buttons. I also found the automatic presser foot lift feature quite useful in streamlining the process on my project. I would have loved to have had a completely automated needle threader like the Janome MC 15000, but the manual needle threader did the job well, and was quick. (This is where you save some money on the machine.) The workspace is larger than any of the other in the S class, at 8.25"x13" of bed space and 8.25" to the right of the needle. This was more than adequate space for the projects I chose. I went through lots of thread piecing this large quilt and so I got to know the bobbin winder. It's super simple, and if you forget how to use it, simply press on the question mark on the user interface and you will be directed to a tutorial.

For my second project, I tested out the embroidery side of the machine. You need to attach the embroidery arm unit, and switch out the needle plate before proceeding into embroidery mode. It doesn't take long to switch over, and I went back and forth between sewing mode and embroidery mode a few times with ease.

For this project, I created a matching pillow for the quilt. I selected one of Anna Maria Horner's on-board embroidery designs (yes, get excited, because 40 of her designs are included on this machine,) and selected some gorgeous thread from her embroidery kit specially designed for use with the S series. This thread is yummy scrumptious--yummy colors, and a scrumptious luxurious sheen in a strong polyester thread. This particular design was comprised mostly of satin stitches which really show off the sheen of the thread. I didn't have a single thread break while stitching this beautiful design.

The Skyline S9 includes the embroidery arm and three hoops--the largest being 170mm X 200mm. There are also hoop magnets included if you have a project where that kind of attachment works better over traditional hooping. I enjoyed watching the mesmerizing stitch sequences, and was pleased with the intricate detail that the design and the machine provided. This design takes 21 minutes and the screen shows you exactly which stitch you are on and how much more to go. You can resize your embroidery using the touch-screen interface, you can also reposition the design and change stitch density.

For fun I added some decorative stitching to my pillow project. After testing out several of the satin and decorative stitches, I chose to feature one of the appliqué stitches as I wanted the embroidery design to stand out and not get busied by a decorative stitch. The decorative stitches would be super fun for another project though. I played with the spacing and size on this appliqué stitch, via the touch screen, and found a setting perfect for my project.
When assembling the pillow, I decided to try out how the machine would do with a thicker project. So I purposely chose to quilt the design and add welting trim to see if the stitches were consistent even when things got a little tougher. I also designed the back of the pillow so it could easily accept a pillow form, by creating a split overlap with a rolled hem. This design meant that at one point, I would be sewing through 6 layers of fabric plus the welt edge, making that 8 layers, not to mention the quilt batting changing the thickness as well. The Skyline S9 had no issues with this extra workload. I used the included zipper foot to help aid in attaching the welt, which made the welt placement easy.
I was having so much fun sewing these projects, I decided I'd get another project done. I made a Christmas advent calendar to delight my three kiddos. This was a simple panel kit from Riley Blake, that I've had for a while, but just hadn't finished yet. I thought this would be the perfect time so the kids could have fun with it this December. I enjoyed adding some detail to this project with little accent stitches and a little bias tape. The pockets are filled with adorable "softies" that have ideas for different activities each day in December.

These were just some of the features that I tested. There is so much more to this machine than what I played with--including the ability to design your own custom decorative stitches! If you are looking for a great embroidery/sewing combo machine at a nice price point, this would be a good one to consider. You can read more about the features of this machine on the Janome website here.

By the way...the quilting on my quilt was done by Melissa Kelley of Sew Shabby Quilting. She does a beautiful job!

Monday, May 02, 2016

Powell Lake April 30th

Bonaparte's Gull Powell Lake Lehi, Utah
I don't usually do this...but I took the opportunity to chase a rare bird on Saturday. There was a report of two Horned Grebe out at Powell Lake in Lehi. (Not Lake Powell...different. places altogether.) Since the drive wasn't far...I set out to find it...and I did!

Since I haven't been a birder very long...I wasn't sure if I'd be able to distinguish the difference between a rare-for-our-area Horned Grebe and common-for-our-area Eared Grebe. After much studying...I think I could easily distinguish either one quite readily. Here's what I learned:
The picture above features our common Eared Grebe. There are three distinguishing features that you can notice right away... the feathers on the front of the head on the Eared Grebe will stand up, the yellow feathers by the red eye are wispy, the lower portion of the beak curves up slightly as it comes to the point.
This one is also an Eared Grebe. The feathers on the top of the head are not standing up right now, but you can still see the wispy eye feathers, and the turned up beak.

Now this picture above is of a Horned Grebe. Very similar in color, but notice the yellow eye feathers, they are more dense and create more of a stripe from the eye, rather than a wispy fan. Look at the beak, it has a white tip and a different shape. It's a little shorter, and does not have the upturn in the lower portion like the Eared Grebe. Now take a look at the eye, and follow it to the beak...notice the red line that connects the eye and the beak. Also, the feathers on top of the head do not stand up, but rather the feathers on the cheeks puff out.

You can see the "puffing out" of the cheek feathers better in this picture of a Horned Grebe above.

Here's a picture of a Horned Grebe and an Eared Grebe...with the clues mentioned, can you tell the difference?
I also saw four American White Pelicans on my's one flying over. Do you see the hump on his beak? That's only present during mating season. The American White Pelican is the only Pelican species that grows a hump. They shed it after laying their eggs. I suppose the growth on their beak helps them attract a mate...Nature is a funny thing.
 Here's three more American White Pelicans. Note that one is sans hump...
 There were a few Pie-Billed Grebe on the lake.
 I also spotted my first Spotted Sandpiper!
The Swainson's Hawks are coming back in full force now. Later in the day I saw one carrying a snake. Bless his heart! I love hawks...I hate snakes.
Of course you can't forget about the shy birds that hang around the lake too. There were several Yellow-Headed Blackbirds hanging out in the reeds. They were very good about staying in the thick of it all...made for some interesting pictures I must say.
It was a good birding day. I saw a total of 28 species. You can see the checklist here:

I was ecstatic Monday morning to see that my report made it onto the rare bird alert from Cornell. That's a first!

If you haven't tried birding...grab your camera, and go out into your local area and see what hangs around in your'll be surprised. There are more than just blackbirds and pigeons to be found.

Birding makes every day a treasure hunt!
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