15 January, 2014

Broken Threads #2

I feel like I have looked at a hundred sewing machines, but it's actually about thirty, total, at six different places.

They all start to blend together, so thank goodness for brochures. Would I like the $3500 does-everything-but-cook-supper model in the pretty sewing cabinet with a gazillion attachments? Absolutely. Do I need such a machine, or would I use all those swanky features? Probably not. I make quilts, not couture for royalty. I'm looking for power, durability, and precision, not swank.

I think, at this point, I've narrowed it down to the Brother Simplicity SB3129 (at about $500, it's by far the least expensive, but I wonder if the price is indicative of durability), the Pfaff Ambition 1.0 (just under $1,000) the BabyLock Tempo ($720) and the BabyLock Melody ($1300). Both BabyLock machines are very similar, except for a few handy features (like automatic thread cutting) and attachments (an extension table included) but are those features worth $600?? In fact, all of the machines are very similar. Now it's just deciding how many bells and whistles I need/want/am willing to pay for (let alone justifying spending that much money on a hobby in the first place) and which brand seems to have the most staying power.

I have a couple of weeks to decide.

13 January, 2014

Broken Threads #1

Many of you know I make quilts. A lot of quilts. It's a compulsion and I have a freaking boatload of fabric here in the house, even after giving my friend Katie nearly a full trunk of my overflow (as in the trunk of my Corolla, not a steamer trunk, although the volume is probably similar).

I've been sewing since our daughter was an infant, maybe three or four months old. She'll be twenty four years old next month and I have made, minimum, 25 quilts a year for the entirety of her life. I made twenty six one summer (it was a very good quilting year) but there have been slow years too, so an average of 25 seems conservative to me. That's right about six hundred quilts. Likely more.

Before your eyes pop outta your heads over that crazy number, most of these quilts are on the small side. I've done a couple hundred baby quilts (let's say eight a year, average), I usually only do one bed sized quilt a year (probably 30 total), three or four lap or couch sized quilts a year, and the rest are small, table runners, wall hangings, odd little funky, artsy things. Still, a LOT of quilts.

My first sewing machine was a 1953 Elna model I got after my great aunt Mary died. It used different cogs I had to insert into the machine to make it do various stitches. I burned the oomph out of it in about two or three years, mostly making baby clothes plus some quilts. My second machine was an inexpensive BabyLock, and I used it literally to death, wearing out the motor and gears after about six years of quilting, quilting, quilting. When it became too tired to quilt anymore, I bought a really nice computerized Pfaff and I've driven it through hundreds of quilts (very few garments). The Pfaff was a dedicated workhorse. I dragged it all over the place for classes and sew days and to keep me sane during my down time at writing events, even out of state. I love my Pfaff.

My Pfaff on my sewing desk.
But it's a 15 year old, used, abused, and hard worked machine. Over the past few months, it's had oddball issues with stitching (mostly dropping stitches for no discernible reason) but, in November, the computer started to act up. It would 'count' through different stitches (zigzag, basting, buttonhole, stars, etc), while I was sewing, even while the machine was sitting there on but unattended. In short, the poor little computer was dying, and taking my adored sewing machine with it.

Since I need to sew or I get a little cuckoo, and it's been nearly two months since I've managed to sew, Bill has basically told me to Go Buy A New Sewing Machine. I am now on a quest. I test drove Brother brand machines today and the Brother Simplicity 3129 seems to be my best fit, at least in their lines.

I'm looking at BabyLock and the new Pfaffs tomorrow, then I'll have to decide what's the best way to go from here. I really miss sewing.