Pink Castle Blog

Chocolatier BOM - September

Posted by Brenda Ratliff on Sep 21, 2017 12:13:00 PM

Hi everyone!

Each month we will be sharing the current Chocolatier Block with you - we're grateful you've chosen to sew with us!

For all of the blocks in the Chocolatier quilt, we recommend pressing all seams open. Some of the pieces in these blocks can get small and pressing open can help reduce bulk when multiple seams collide.

September's blocks are called Maple Leaf and Baseball and use half-square triangles and curves techniques. This is the last of the sampler blocks, and we'll be making one of each block. 

We'll start with 4 HST units and 1 Stitch-n-Flip unit. Layout the squares and sew them together

Sew into rows.

Quick and easy! Now, let's tackle curves.

First, cut out your pieces.

I was able to learn how to use a seam roller from Violet Craft at Glamp Stitchalot 2 and I highly recommend it for pressing curved pieces!

Pin the pieces in place and then press towards the while polk dot (or light aqua). 

Trim the block as shown in the instructions.

When you've finished this month's blocks, hop on over to Instagram and show them off using the hashtags #chocolatiersampler and #PCFchocolatier - we love seeing what you make!

See you next month! - Kara 

Topics: Techniques, Quilting

The Best Sewing Machines for Teaching Kids

Posted by Katie Remski on Sep 19, 2017 9:41:08 AM

Teaching kids to sew can be a fun and rewarding experience with a little patience and the right tools. Since "kids" sewing machines often found at a toy stores are typically poor quality, a basic sewing machine is a much better investment (on the same note, a real, effective sewing machine isn't a toy and should only be used with adult supervision.) Here's a few things to look for and keep in mind when choosing a sewing machine for teaching children:

1. Size

Just because the child is small doesn't mean their machine should be tiny-- a small/medium sized machine will accomodate a wider variety of projects such as quilts and apparel while still being light enough to stash away when not being used. 

2. Speed

A machine with adjustable stitch speed is helpful for teaching kids, especially because they tend to be rather "lead footed" on the pedal at the begining! Adjusting the speed lets you start them slow and gradually increase speed as they get the hang of sewing straight seams. 

3. Features

Having a machine with limited options may seem like a good idea to keep things simple, but there are a few features that will make sewing more fun and more efficient for kids just starting out. Decorative stitches help kids learn to sew straight lines with a big reward in the pretty pattern, and an easy buttonhole tool gives them the opportunity to practice sewing buttons and make easy closures for pouches and pockets. 

Here's a few machines we like for teaching children how to sew: 

Janome Sew Mini

The Sew Mini is the smallest, most basic and affordable of the Janome lineup, but it's still a great first machine option! With its compact size and cute colors, the Sew Mini has just a handful of stitches and would be good for teaching young sewists. 

Janome Sew Mini at Pink Castle Fabrics
Janome Hello Kitty at Pink Castle Fabrics

Janome 18750 Hello Kitty

Though it looks cute as a button, this is no joke of a sewing machine-- it's got all the features of a good basic machine, with a decent selection of stitches and a clear LCD screen. This one isn't sold online, but if you're near our shop in Ann Arbor, feel free to stop in or give us a call to try it out! 


The Janome DC2015 is a machine that combines simplicity and efficiency in one snappy red package! with a wide range of stitches and feet, plus a speed adjustment slider, the DC2015 could easily be anyone's everyday go-to machine. 

Janome DC2015 at Pink Castle Fabrics

Janome 6100 at Pink Castle Fabrics

Janome 6100

This one's a brand new member of the Janome family! The 6100 is similar to the DC2015, but updated with new stitches and also has the speed adjuster. 

Anna Maria Horner M100

While this is no beater machine, the AMH M100 is a beautiful investment machine that makes you wonder why anyone would want anything different. 99 stitches, removable extension table, speed adjuster, and automatic thread cutter are just a few of the features of this lovely machine. Am I biased because this is the machine I own? Maybe, but look at those roses! Any young girl would be happy to have this machine out on display. 

Janome AMH M100 at Pink Castle Fabrics

Remember, if you're not sure which machine will best fit your needs and budget, contact us and ask! We're always happy to help, especially newbies just getting introduced to the sewing world. 

See all Janome machines online!

Topics: anna maria horner, hello kitty, Janome, kids sewing, kids, m100, beginner, beginer, new to sewing, sewmini, 6100, dc2015, teaching, learn to sew, amh m100

Do I Need a Walking Foot for my Sewing Machine?

Posted by Katie Remski on Sep 13, 2017 2:25:28 PM


WalkingFoot For this week's Sewing Machine School, let's talk about the walking foot, also known as an even feed foot. Some Janome sewing machines (such as the Skyline series) also feature AccuFeed, which is a more advanced version of a walking foot. 

What is a walking foot? One of our recent blog posts by Jason Elliott, 10 Sewing Machine Parts Explained has a great description: "Feed Dogs move up and down, back and forth, in a vertical circular motion, while Presser Feet move just up and down. Since the two surfaces are moving in different directions, this can cause the fabric to be pulled or stretched. In many cases, this 'pulling' doesn't affect your sewing. In some cases, such as with very thin fabric or with multiple layers of fabric, a presser foot called a Walking Foot is needed. 

A Walking Foot is a special type of presser foot with a mechanized system built into them. This system allows the Presser Foot to move not only up and down, but back and forth in time with your Feed Dog system. The Walking Foot is timed to your machine, and will ensure that even several layers of fabric are fed evenly through your machine, giving you a cleaner stitch."

While a walking foot sounds great, how do you know if it is something you will actually use? Here's a few applications for a walking foot: 


Probably the most common use of a walking foot is for straight line quilting. Keeping the quilt top, batting, and backing smooth and secure is almost impossible with a normal presser foot because the feed dogs are always going to grab only the bottom layer. Quilting in lines (grids, stripes, diagonal grids, etc) is far less stressful and even fun with a walking foot. 

 Cables and Calico's Pineapple Quilt

Photo from Instagram @cablesandcalico

 Quilt Binding

Quilt Binding 

Even if you send your quilts out to be long-arm quilted, binding still needs to be attached. If you use a traditional double-fold binding, you have the quilt top, batting, backing, and 2 layers of binding fabric for a total of 5 layers to stitch through! The walking foot, especially with a 1/4" seam "shoe" attached, makes for fast and accurate binding. 


Bag Sewing

If you enjoy sewing purses, totes, and other bags, you're probably farmillar with the layers of material involved: fabrics (often canvas or leather,) stabilizer such as interfacing and/or Soft and Stable, and lining fabric. A walking foot helps layers of different types of material in sync with each other as they're being sewn, and can be particularly helpful for sewing handles or topstitching. The basket at right required sewing through 3 layers of linen, 1 of canvas, and 1 layer of Soft and Stable in some places!

Noodlehead divided basket

Noodlehead Divided Basket Pattern

Many Janome machines come with a walking foot, so be sure to check before you buy one! If you do not have a walking/even feed foot, click here to find the right one for your machine. 

Topics: Bags, Janome, machine quilting, Sewing Machines, accufeed, accessories, walking foot, even feed foot, binding, machine binding

How and Where to Use Decorative Stitches

Posted by Katie Remski on Sep 6, 2017 12:08:12 PM


Welcome back to Sewing Machine School! For a lot of modern sewing machines, it's common to have decorative stitch options, from scallops to stars to simple swirls. These stitches can add a lot of character to projects with minimal effort, but how do you use them?

The mechanics of using decorative stitches varies from machine to machine-- always check your manual to see what the specifics are before you jump in and try one out. No matter what the make/model of your machine, there's a few questions to consider before you start sewing:

1. Do I need to use a specific foot? Decorative stitches are typically wider than the average straight stitch and need a foot with enough space for the needle to move. 

2. What tension/stitch length should I set my machine to? The Janome 6700p used for this article (along with most other Janome machines) automatically adjust the tension and stitch length for the selected stitch, but other machines may require you manually change the settings. 

3. Does my machine need to be oiled? This goes for all sewing, but the repetitive and concise needle movement/placement means a well-oiled machine will preform much better. 

Now the fun part-- what kind of projects work best for decorative stitches? For me, anything that requires topstitching is prime real estate for some fun stitches. Curtain or skirt hems, purse flaps, tote bag handles, patch pockets, cuffs, wallets, zipper pouches, headbands, cloth napkins, and pillowcases are just a few examples. 

Now let's see how it's done-- again, I used the Janome 6700p, a machine that's perfect for both quilt/apparel sewing and heavy duty applications (like sewing through thick canvas and free motion quilting) and as a bonus has a lot of beautiful decorative stitches!

 Janome 6700p

First, thread your machine. The color is up to you-- go for a subtle, monochromatic look with a color that matches your fabric, or use a fun contrasting shade (like neon or varigated thread!) 

Leaf Stitch on the Janome 6700p

Leaf Stitch on the Janome 6700p

Pick your design and type the number into your machine with the keypad. If you have a Janome, the screen will tell you which foot to use with your design. For this stitch, we need the "F" foot, as indicated in the upper left of the screen. 

Leaf Stitch on the Janome 6700p

Leaf Stitch on the Janome 6700p

Attach the designated foot for your decorative stitch. This foot has a little red arrow to indicate where the stitch will be centered as to make following lines easier. 

Leaf Stitch on the Janome 6700p

The machine we're using automatically adjusts the tension and stitch length for the selected decorative stitch, but if yours doesn't, adjust accordingly. Now you're ready to start stitching! 

Leaf Stitch on the Janome 6700p

If your machine lets you adjust the speed, start off slowly and make sure to feed the fabric evenly through the machine to avoid skipped stitches. If you have a start/stop button instead of a food pedal, this is a great place to use it since it will maintain a smooth, even pace. 

Leaf Stitch on the Janome 6700p

When you're done stitching, backstitch just once or twice to lock the seam in place. 

Want to see which Janome machines offer decorative stitches? check out these models: 

Anna Maria Horner M100

Janome 6700p



Skyline Series


Topics: Machine Embroidery, anna maria horner, Janome, skyline, Sewing Machines, 6700p, 6700, m100, decorative stitches, stitches

10 Sewing Machine Parts Explained

Posted by Jason Elliott on Sep 1, 2017 9:00:00 AM

Welcome to day 1 of Sewing Machine School!

Let's face it; sewing machines can be confusing. With all their specialized parts and pieces, knowing what to call "the little metal thingy" in the back can be really difficult. Fortunately, sewing machine parts don't need to be as confusing as they seem.

One of the things we like to do here at Pink Castle is to demystify sewing machines in general. Today we're going to look at 10 of the most important sewing machine parts, learn where they're located, and what they do for your machine. Whether you're an experienced sewist, a beginner, or even just trying to learn about your friend's hobby, hopefully you'll learn a bit more about what goes into such a specialized tool.

1. Feed Dog

Feed dogs of a Janome sewing machine

Sewing machines work by stitching two pieces of fabric together along a line. The way the machine pushes fabric along the line is by a system called Feed Dogs.

Several small "teeth" sit on the bottom of the stitching area, and slowly work the fabric through the machine. As the needle moves up and down, the Feed Dogs lift up to push the fabric against the Presser Foot, pinching the fabric, and pull it towards the back of the machine. Once the fabric moves backwards, it pulls away from the fabric, and begins the process over again, repeating in a circular motion.

Sewing machines can come with any number of Feed Dogs; some machines come with 3, 5, sometimes even 7 feed dogs. The more feed dogs, the better control your machine has on it's fabric. But no matter what type of Feed Dog system your machine has, every machine has one, and without them you'd just be stitching in place!


2. Presser Foot

Presser feet for Janome machinesIf the Feed Dog is the "lower jaw" of your machine's mouth, the Presser Foot is the "upper jaw". While the Feed Dog is lifting up to grab onto your fabric, the Presser Foot is pushing down on your fabric. The big difference, however, is that Presser Feet can be changed out for a different type depending on the type of sewing you're trying to work on.

Straight Stitch presser feet have a single hole in the middle that lets the needle pass through. Zig Zag feet do the same thing, however they have an oval-shaped hole that allows the needle to move up and down in a series of different positions, allowing you to make zig-zags, decorative designs, or even letters from the alphabet! Some feet have special guides in the middle or on the side that will let you line up fabric more easily; 1/4" from the stitch hole and directly along the stitch hole (often called "Stitch in the Ditch") are the most common.

No matter what special function your Presser Foot has, all of them work together with the Feed Dogs to keep your fabric steady while stitching your fabric.  Your machine will come with some of these presser feet but there are specialty accessories that you can purchase as well!


3. Walking Foot

Janome sewing machine walking footNow that we know what Presser Feet and Feed Dogs do, it's important to know what they don't do. Feed Dogs move up and down, back and forth, in a vertical circular motion, while Presser Feet move just up and down. Since the two surfaces are moving in different directions, this can cause the fabric to be pulled or stretched. In many cases, this "pulling" doesn't affect your sewing. In some cases, such as with very thin fabric or with multiple layers of fabric, a presser foot called a Walking Foot is needed.

A Walking Foot is a special type of presser foot with a mechanized system built into them. This system allows the Presser Foot to move not only up and down, but back and forth in time with your Feed Dog system. The Walking Foot is timed to your machine, and will ensure that even several layers of fabric are fed evenly through your machine, giving you a cleaner stitch.


4. Bobbin and Bobbin Casing

Most everybody knows that a sewing machine takes tBobbin casing for Janome sewing machinehread and passes it through the needle and into your fabric. A lot of non-sewers don't realize that a sewing machine actually uses two separate pieces of thread; the top thread comes from a spool of thread, and the bottom thread comes from something called the Bobbin. A Bobbin is simply a tiny metal or plastic cylinder that holds thread. Once placed inside your sewing machine, the Bobbin thread twists against your top thread, and secures your stitches in place.

Bobbins can be made out of either metal or plastic, and can either be inserted directly into your machine, or into a Bobbin Casing. Bobbin Casings are a small metal cartridge that holds the Bobbin in place while sewing your fabric together. On some older styles of sewing machines, this makes it easier to load the bobbin into place. But no matter how your machine accepts Bobbins, it's impossible for it to sew without one.


5. Stitch Plate

Stitch plate for Janome sewing machineA Stitch Plate is simply a small plate that sits on the base of your sewing machine. The stitch plate has slots that let your Feed Dogs pass through it, as well as one or more holes for the needle to pass through.

There are two main types of Stitch Plates; Straight Stitch Plates and Zig-Zag Plates. Straight Stitch Plates have only one or two holes, while the Zig-Zag plate has a long oval that allows the needle to pass back and forth in a much wider variety of stitches.

Stitch Plates can be made of either plastic or metal, and sometimes have special markings that allow the user to measure fabric as they sew. Additionally, the Stitch Plate often has a way of opening it to allow you to insert your Bobbin. Some of them unscrew to let you clean inside the machine, and others snap on and off for easy home maintenance.


6. Foot Pedal

Foot pedal for Janome sewing machineNot to be confused with the Presser Foot, the Foot Pedal sits underneath your sewing table. Pushing your foot against the Foot Pedal speeds up or slows down the machine. Other Foot Pedals, such as Scissor Pedals, can often be attached to your machine. Also, some machines allow the user to sew without using a Foot Pedal at all, simply allowing you to press a button to Stop or Start sewing.

The main reason we put the Foot Pedal on this list is because of how often it's confused with Presser Feet, both of which are often abbreviated as "feet". However, it's important to recognize the differences between the two.


7. Tension Discs

Tension Discs of a Janome sewing machineIn order for the thread to come off your spool correctly, it first must pass through a set of small metal plates called Tension Discs. These discs are pressed together using a specified amount of pressure, and pull on the thread as it passes through the machine. Since the top thread and bottom thread have to wrap around eachother, they need to both be pulling at the same strength, otherwise either the top or bottom of your fabric will look like a giant mess! The Tension Discs can be tightened or loosened so that the amount of pressure being applied matches the project you're using.

Many times, people can forget to pass their thread through the Tension Discs, and can cause all kinds of thread issues. Always make sure you know where your Tension Discs are located, and be sure you're threading your machine through them correctly.


8. Take-Up Lever

Take Up Lever of a Janome sewing machineJust as the Tension Discs are necessary for proper thread tension, the Take-Up Lever plays an important role in sewing machine tension. Once the needle passes through your fabric, the Take-Up Lever pulls the thread tight, locking your stitch in place. It helps pull thread off your spool, and "takes up" the slack in the thread. Without it, your stitches would never be pulled tight against eachother, and you'd have a large ball of thread on your fabric. In short, it keeps the thread moving through your machine smoothly, and skipping this part while threading your machine is not something you're likely to do twice!


9. Throat Space

Throat Space of a Janome sewing machineThroat Space is not necessarily a part on your sewing machine as much as it's a measurement of how large your machine is. Throat Space is the distance between your needle and the neck of your machine. A larger Throat Space requires a more heavily built sewing machine, and allows you to place more fabric into your machine. Most sewists don't need a very large amount of throat space, but quilters are a special case.

When a quilter is finishing their quilt, they need to pass the entire piece through the throat of their sewing machine. Imagine taking an entire King Size quilt and rolling it up; are you more likely to pass it through a machine with 5" of throat space, or 11" of throat space? Obviously, having more throat space is something that is very important to some quilters. Others have their quilts sent out to have longarm quilting done for them, and don't need the Throat Space at all. It all depends on what types of projects you'll be working on.


10. Flywheel or Hand Wheel

Flywheel of a Janome sewing machineewing Machines have a motor inside that is rigged to a series of belts. The Flywheel (sometimes called a Hand Wheel) is attached to these belts, and spins when your machine is in use. You can also use this wheel to reposition your sewing needle, lifting it up or down.

This part is not often confused, but since it's attached to your sewing machine's motor, it can tell you a lot about the health of your machine. The Flywheel should always spin smoothly, and shouldn't be difficult to rotate when not in use. It shouldn't wobble or wiggle, and shouldn't make any sound when rotated.




There's obviously a lot more to sewing machine parts that we could talk about, but by now you should be able to talk about the parts of a sewing machine in more detail. Also, in the unfortunate case that you need to take your machine into a sewing machine repair shop, you'll be able to point out where the problem is, and what parts you've noticed are causing you issues, without struggling for words.

And of course, if you ever have any other questions about sewing machines or their parts, we'd love to answer them for you! We're available by email or telephone, and love answer customer's questions. 


Contact Us


Did we answer all of your questions? Were there any sewing machine parts that we forgot? Did we confuse you even further? Leave us a comment, and tell us what you thought!


Topics: Sewing Machines

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