January 30, 2010

Make Banana Bread in your Breadmaker

You may be wondering why a sewing blog is talking about baking.  Well, as you know, us crafters need sustanance to make it through long stretches of creativity.  One of my favorites, and my family's too, is banana bread.  I had been tinkering with a recipe in my Zojirushi Breadmaker, and today have found the one - the perfect recipe.  And it was my usual banana bread recipe.  It turned out wonderful.  In fact, half the loaf was gobbled up by my family before I could even get a picture.

The photo is not as clear as I would like, but that's just my phone camera...next round I shall photograph it with my SLR, so you can get a better of idea how great it turned out.   Here's my recipe.  Happy stitching!

*  this recipe can be baked in a 9" loaf pan, or alternatively, use the cake setting on your breadmaker **

Banana Bread
1 1/2 cups Bananas - mashed
1 1/4 cup brown sugar (you can use half brown half white)
1/2 cup butter or magarine softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour

Mix all ingredients.  Bake in a greased and floured 9 inch loaf pan. 350 degrees for 55 - 60 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Depeding on the moisture content - I occasionally have to bake it longer than 60 minutes.

For the loaf above, I utilized the cake setting (medium crust) on my Zojirushi Breadmaker.  Dumped all the ingredients into the pan and hit start.   I scraped the sides of the pan when the beeper went off and let it do it's thing. 


January 27, 2010

Brother PE-770 Review: From box to embroidery in 45 minutes

My Brother PE-770 embroidery machine arrived over 2 weeks ago, and I am finally getting to opening and testing.   While I had the advantage of having previously owned several embroidery machines, I utilized the quick start guide and manual.   So don't be afraid.  Even the veterans use the manual.

UNPACKING:  The Brother PE-770 arrived via UPS in a well packaged box. The manuals, accessory pack, warranty card, power cord, thread and 5x7 frame were neatly packed into the styrofoam.

With the top removed you can see the machine and embroidery module nestled inside / on another layer of styrofoam.  There were not going anywhere. 

SET UP:   Here we are, blue packing tape still on the machine, ready to put the machine and module together.   Simply slide the module onto the machine, ensuring they "snap" together.   There is a latch that catches on the machine, to secure the module.   You must release to remove the module.  So DON'T tug or pull to separate the module from the machine.  There are great diagrams in the quick start and user's manual.

Next I attached the power cord and turned the unit on. The initial screen requested that I "Please touch the display".  After touching the display, I received the message to raise the presser foot, followed by a notice that the carriage was going to move.   The font was easy to read and the instructions were clear.  

WINDING A BOBBIN:  Now it was time to wind a bobbin.  I utilized the quick start guide and away we flew.   I was proven over-confident in my abilities, as the bobbin winding abruptly stopped and I had to unwind a nest of thread that had gathered under the bobbin as opposed to on the bobbin.  I can't emphasize enough the importance of using your manual, no matter your expertise, and ensureyou have threaded the machine right BEFORE starting to wind your bobbin. 

ACCESSORY KIT:  The accessory kit comes with 4 bobbins (one not shown in the photo as it comes in the machine), a seam ripper, 3 spool caps, netting for thread, extra needles, a small scissors, lint brush and 2 screw drivers.  Adequate for starts, but you will want to purchase additional bobbins as well  additional needles.  It is important to change your needles frequently, especially if doing embroidery on specialty fabrics.  I have found that whenever my thread breaks over and over, simply putting in a new needle and rethreading the machine fixes the issue.   So don't panic, take a deep breath, and go back to the basics.


As my bobbin winding experience has me gun-shy, I utilized the manual for threading the machine.   It went very smooth.  The machine is clearly marked (numerically) for threading.   Step #9 is the needle threader.  What a treat!   I have had several machines with a needle threader, and not a one, EXCEPT THE BROTHER PE-770, came out of the box calibrated and able to thread the needle.   (Hear the chorus of angels singing alleluia in the background).   Kudos to Brother!   I have to credit this to the excellent packing of the machine that limits jostling and allows me to sew right away.


EMBROIDERY:  Time to put the machine to the test. I had prepared a piece of muslin for my initial embroidery design. I chose a stock design loaded on the machine - No 13. They are leaves and I've affectionately named them "falling leaves".   Selecting a design is very easy. If you are new to machine embroidery, utilize the manual and you won't have any issues.

Bobbin wound and in machine. CHECK
Machine threaded with desired thread. CHECK
Design chosen. CHECK
Frame with material loaded properly.  CHECK

The first item is now stitched and it's only been 45 minutes since I opened the box.   In looking at other reviews online, 45 minutes is quick.  The majority are up and running in 1.5 hours.  It took me longer to write this blog and upload the photos than it did to set up the Brother PE-770 and stitch out the design. 

COMING SOON:  Complete review of the Brother PE-770 Embroidery machine.  I will put the Brother PE-770 through the paces.  I'll stitch up some flour sack towels, download a design online and utlize the USB port, perhaps stitch out a sweatshirt or t-shirt and we'll monogram a towel.  Will the Brother PE-770 live up to Stephanie's prior high priced embroidery machines? 

January 17, 2010

Top 10 Sewing Patterns for 2009 on patternreview.com

If you are like me, deciding on a sewing pattern is a tough one.  How many times have you picked up a pattern, started the project and either quit part way through or finished but didn't wear your project?   I find myself saying, "it didn't look like that in the pattern book?" alot.  

That rarely happens to me now, as I utilize a great website for sewing patterns.   The site includes pattern reviews, sewing machine reviews, online classes and even message boards to post that crazy sewing question. 

Recently voted on by Patternreview.com sewers, you know you can't go wrong.  Check out their reviews, message boards and more.  Ordinary folks like you and I have posted their pros, cons and even alterations they used with the patterns and then voted on the top 10 patterns. 

Check out the Top 10 Sewing Patterns for 2009 at http://sewing.patternreview.com/article/011210

January 10, 2010

My new Brother PE770 has arrived.

My most recent sewing purchase has arrived - it is a Brother PE-770. I previously owned a Bernina, sold it, bought another Bernina a year later, sold it and have been without an embroidery machine for nearly 2 years. Now don't get me wrong, I loved my Berninas. I had a 200E and a 185E. Both excellent machines. I would recommend them in a heartbeat.

I have found myself wanting to do some machine embroidery, but wasn't up to spending what the solid Bernina costs. So ... being budget conscious, I did some research and came across the Brother PE770. This is an embroidery only machine. It does not use the Disney Cards, but with my kids in middle school, that wasn't a priority.

My purchase has arrived and I will be opening it shortly. Stop back for a full review - opening to first stitch.