Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Here comes the sewing revolution!

Last Thursday Craft Guerrilla were invited to a very special sneaky preview at "Drink Shop Do" to check out the all new Oekaki Renaissance Toyota domestic sewing machine.
It's not often that I gush about a particular piece of crafting kit but last week I fell in love with a sewing machine.
Yes, a gorgeous, well designed, intuitive, new -not quite on the market yet!- Toyota sewing machine has stolen my heart.
Though its' main target audience is the free hand embroiderer it also performs as a normal sewing machine... so you can stitch up a dress and then add some embellishments too!
An added bonus is that you can also tack stitch a garment before committing to the stitch so your projects will be finished quicker and more accurately.
For me this is a very handy and welcome feature as normally I pretty much bypass the tack stitching and go straight onto the sewing bit. I know, I'm an inherently lazy positive person when it comes to sewing and though I do it time and time again I still fall into the trap of thinking it'll be fine which in reality means I end up unpicking everything anyway because cutting corners never works!

The new Oekaki sewing machine!

And so what's the fuss and what's so different about this sewing machine you ask?
Well after an initial run through by the experts we sat at the machine and... woosh, we were off!
I was pretty hesitant about the pedal issue but that quickly became second nature.
The difference and main advantage of this machine is that rather then using the foot pedal for speed you are actually using that same pedal for stitch width! This allows you to embroider in different widths on one section without having to fiddle with settings. It takes time to master but it can be super accurate and liberating. Just needs a little bit of patience and practice!
I know, sounds weird using the pedal in a totally different way from usual but far from it. It's not all haphazard as you can set the stitch width on the control panel.

I think Sanna fell in love too... could hardly get her off the machine, not even with the promise of cocktails!

After a few tentative tries we quickly got the hang of it though I think I would need more then a quick 5 minutes to get to the point of actually embroidering monograms and designs like those made and demoed by the amazing experts. Sanna did an amazing job... embroidered, stitched, appliquéd and even managed to make her childhood monogram. But she was pretty much born on a sewing machine!

A few examples by Anne which she made using the Oekaki machine...

and here's Anne Griffiths, the lady herself showing her amazing stitched panel!

One of those talented experts was Anne Griffiths a textile designer who was there showcasing her amazing work. Unfortunately we arrived too late to hear her talk about her work but we were totally blown away by what she achieved with this machine.
It looked like it had been embroidered by hand but it wasn't as she assured us. On closer inspection it had the telltale signs of a machine made piece but it also still had the hand made look about it. I guess it's a sympathetic marriage of both but it did look effectively and realistically hand made... and in a way it is. A bit like the difference between an adobe© illustrator drawing and a pencil drawing. Look at it as a tool which gives the same results -or very close!- in a fraction of the time!
If it helps manage my already busy time then I'm all for it. The possibilities are endless and I'm already thinking how this amazing sewing machine could make my toy making more efficient and less time consuming.

For a first go I think we did quite well though Sanna did much better then me but then again...she is a clever panda!

What this machine does is allow people to become stitch artists. One thing I always found "unlikable" about the preset embroidery machines was the actual fact that the hand made element was lost. It always looks so sterile and machine made. Almost too perfect!
BUT... The Oekaki machine takes that all back. It's pretty much just like drawing with thread... and that makes me very happy!!! Actually Oekaki means to draw. I love drawing and sewing so I'm very happy to see that this technology is being spear headed by some very clever people. So it's a big thumbs up from me as it includes three of my favourite things rolled into one: Tech, sewing and drawing!

A fellow guest made the most amazing piece...and it was her first go ever at free hand machine embroidery! Wow, lady...that's awesome!!!

The actual product design is nice too... perfectly modern, minimalist, light -it's so easy to carry which makes it super portable!-and also with a selection of colours to chose from. I think were I to purchase one that I'd be stuck as all three colours would suit my craft room decor. Choices are red, black and a beautiful green teal. Maybe when we get our studios again we can get one of each?! It also includes a starter pack so you can get immediate inspiration and tuition via a DVD. The on line resources are pretty good too as the website is packed with filmed tutorials, project ideas and templates.

Erm, for a first attempt it's not too bad!
The Oekaki does all the normal things a sewing machine does and more like having the super self threading feature. So easy... especially if like me you always forget to wear your glasses!
The other positive it has is a self adjusting glide foot so if you were stitching a pair of jeans for example -ah yes it also sews up to 12 layers of fabric so denim is a doddle!!!- the foot effortlessly drives over the chunky seems without stopping, clogging or getting stuck on the thick fabric.
I was very impressed and can't wait to see what else Toyota come up with in the future. This my friends is the beginning of a sewing revolution and I for one am ready to wave the Oekaki free hand machine embroidered flag!

Easy and versatile... a perfect piece of kit for any stitcher!

If you'd like to see more about this machine then head over to the web site. There are lots of tutorials, tips and previews plus a lot more techical info:

The R.R.P. for the Oekaki Renaissance is £599/€649.
However anyone reserving the machine before the release in July will receive the greatly discounted price of £349/€399! Visit the Toyota website for more info and to reserve your machine!

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