Okay, so last night after the kids were asleep I did get into my studio and get my Bernina Artista 200E/730E sewbaby set up with Ruffler Foot #86. I cut a test strip of chiffon 24" long, and it ruffled up to 6" on the very first try without any further adjustments, so I'm all set for the 4x fullness that my pettiskirt calls for. I ended up using a size 70 quilting needle, stitch length 2.5, and regular construction weight Metrosene polyester thread, all of which seem to be working fine, and I switched to my straight stitch throat plate and set the machine to run at half speed. Here's my little sample ruffle strip, slightly wonky but not bad for a first try:
However, my pattern instructions want me to stitch down the CENTER of my 2" hem frill strips while simultaneously attaching them 1/2" from the edge of the bottom skirt tier, which will save lots of time and thread. So my next trial run involved ruffling down the center of the top frill layer while simultaneously stitching it to the flat layer, but I'm having trouble feeding the two fabric strips evenly so that the stitching stays right down the center of the frill, but just 1/2" from the edge of the flat piece, and I have a feeling it's because I'm not using the guide slots on the ruffler foot properly.
See? I started out sewing down the center of the frill, but then I began to veer off towards the sides as I started paying attention to the bottom fabric layer. The pattern talks about "insert the hem frill in slot G1, and insert the skirt tier in slot G2." The pictures aren't large enough and the resolution isn't good enough to be able to see exactly where the pattern author is threading which fabric over which guide, and the transparency of the fabric doesn't add to the photo's clarity, either. I threaded the bottom fabric layer through the little fork-prong-thingys, but that just made the edge of that fabric layer curl under like a rolled hem, which you can see in this photo of the wrong side:
The so-called instructions that came with the ruffler foot are a waste of tree pulp, and the Bernina Feetures books, which have been a godsend with most of my Bernina footsies, don't shed light on this dilemma either. Why does it matter? Well, it would be relatively easy to feed the two fabrics through with cut edges aligned, but when the top layer has to be offset by 1/2" and there's no "barrier" guide for either fabric, they just want to slip and slide all over the place -- and this is with my machine set at half speed, or about 450 stitches per minute (my drapery workroom friends will laugh at me because their speed racer commercial machines make domestic machines seem like slowpokes to begin with).
So I went to the Bernina web site in hopes of finding a better photo, or video, showing how the fabrics should be inserted into the guides for different applications, and came up empty handed. However, I did find a helpful little video clip there showing how the ruffler foot works and how to adjust the fullness of the pleats or gathers. This would have been helpful the first time I took the ruffler foot out of the box, and if you are new to your ruffler foot I think this video shows how it works better than any of the written instructions. In this video, they seem to be putting the flat layer of fabric completely underneath the ruffler attachment, not in any guides at all, so maybe I will try that next. Maybe I just need a little more practice with it, too. So far, I have spent about 10 minutes actually sewing, and an hour and a half researching and blogging about it.
If/when I finally figure this out, I'm going to post a very LARGE, high-resolution photo showing EXACTLY where you should stick your fabric... Oh wait; that doesn't sound good...