Sunday, June 29, 2014

'My' Kind of Sewing'!

      What is 'My' Kind of Sewing'?

     The sewing machine saga continues!  My new sewing machine journey has taken me about 2 years, as I researched, test-drove, and thought about what I wanted.  As I left my last post, I started to look at 'My' Kind of Sewing.  Sewing machines all do basically the same thing.  Using a lock stitch and a straight or zigzag stitch, they attach 2 pieces of fabric together.  Easy peasy.  But the devil is in the details, as they say!

     Yes, I want my machine to do straight and zigzag, but I also want it to do a lot more!  And I want it to do it the way I need it to!  My background is heirloom sewing and smocking, as well as what I consider "fine construction" (French seams, piping, detailed oriented construction), so I am not interested so much in the machines decorative stitches.  I can count on one hand the times I have used them on my 1530. 

   The things that I DO care about, however, matter.  

     I want a machine that I can control the needle position.  My 930 had 5 settings:  dead center, 2 to the left and 2 to the right.  My 1530 is even better - 11 settings:  dead center, 5 to the left and 5 to the right.  For me to go back to a single position or even 5 positions would be a deal breaker.  Having an adjustable needle position with a wide selection makes my sewing life so much easier. 

                                 Needle position to the left

  • Having these choices enables me to get up close when I am applying piping.
  • When I am working with lace insertion, I can adjust the needle position to accommodate the size of my lace header.
  • When I am rolling and whipping, I can adjust my needle so that my zigzag is hitting right against the seam line.
  • I can adjust my needle position SLIGHTLY while still using my 1/4 inch foot
  • I can use it to sew a 'scant' 1/4 inch or 1/8 inch

                                                                   Edgesttich foot

     Next, I want a machine that has feet options.   As I said earlier, you don;t have to have a lot of feet options, but they do make things easier.  In the garment industry, not only do they have feet options, they have machine options - machines that are made specifically to do one particular thing (cover stitch, blind stitch, buttonholer, binder).  Especially since I have already gotten used to having feet options, this is a necessity.    I have 4 favorite feet that I use all of the time and most of the machine brands make a version of at least 3 of these.  There are also many feet that I don't have - I either have not learned how to use them or don't have the need for them (yet), but the options are still there.

                                                 Long Stitch

     Another thing to consider is the stitches that I actually DO use.  I don't use a lot of decorative stitches, but there are some stitches that are more than just a straight or zigzag but not decorative that I do use, and they are not on all machines.  One of the stitches that I love is called the Long Stitch.  (I call it the skip stitch).  It is NOT a basting stitch.  When your machine sews, it looks like it skip every other stitch - the feed dogs keep moving, but the needle does not come down.  This is a wonderful stitch to use for gathering - it makes very consistent gathers that look almost like pleats.  On my machine (top picture) it is in the top row across the stitch screen.  The second picture is the close up of the selection square.
     I have this stitch on my old 930 and on my 1530.  When I started researching new machines, about half way through, I found out that Bernina had stopped adding this as a default stitch to their machines.  After getting some negative feedback from owners, they have added it back in, but only to the higher machines.  Hmmmmm....  I really had to think about this.  By the time I found this out, I had already pretty much decided on a machine, but alas, it did not have this stitch :(.  what to do?!  I had to think about how important this stitch was.  How much do I use it?  Will I second guess myself if I get a machine without it?  Back to the drawing board.

     How does it sew, especially on the fabrics and with the techniques that I use?  This may seem to be an obvious consideration, but you would be surprised!  TEST the machines with the type of fabric that you use.  Remember that the sewing machine dealers want their machines to perform at their peak, so their sample fabrics and the stitches they demo with are going to look good!  You want to bring in scraps of your own fabrics, laces, and embroideries so you can see how the machine sews with 'your' kind of sewing on 'your' kind of fabrics.  
     Many of the newer machines have a wider foot.feed dog base to accommodate the wider decorative stitches.  For 'My' kind of sewing, this is actually NOT a good thing.  The wider base, combined with very lightweight fabric can wreak havoc with your heirloom sewing techniques, chewing up your fabric and leaving fabric less than finished and pristine.  Do I have other options, and is their a fix?  Turns out that yes, there is!  A throat plate that has a 5.5mm opening for feed dogs (same size as the older machines) can be used.  This will give the fabric more control as it goes under the foot, leaving me with a roll and whip to be proud of.
     ***** A special note of thanks to Kathy Pizza of Heirlooms Forever, in Tupelo, MS.  She is a Bernina/Brother dealer and was my sounding board, FULL of information!  If you are near, stop by.  She is wonderful! *****

     Finally, I had to think about how this machine would grow with me.  
As I age, one thing I have learned is never say never!  I used to say I would never do machine embroidery - no time, not my thing, I like handwork, etc.  But when I get to the point where I have grandkids and they want me to make something that is embroidered ................................  I also wouldn't mind the ability to monogram towels, etc.  So I had to think - do I want that capability, to either be able to do machine embroidery now with the machine that I get, or do I at least want to be able to add that option later?  A good machine these days is a major investment, and as I have had my machines for 30 and 20 years, chances are, this could be the last machine that I buy.  Is it worth it to spend more to get a machine that will grow with me, or should I get what I need now and then go through this again if/when I am ready for more?  If I do decide to get the 'more', how much 'more' do I need?

     Well, first of all, can you tell that I am a list person?  I am an engineer, and very analytical, so this is just may natural thought process.  Can you see why it took me a couple of years to decide?

     Tomorrow, I will finish up this thread and let you know what I decided on!

What I really hope you get from all of this is that there is a machine for everyone, and there is a lot of thought that goes into choosing the best machine for YOU!!!

     As an aside, I am up in Santa Barbara at our sewing weekend with my SAGA chapter.  Wish you were all here!  It is beautiful, the weather is perfect, you can hear the machines humming and smell the irons and we are having a wonderful time.  Really, when you can sew at all hours and someone else feeds you three times a day, how can you not have a great time!

Happy Stitching,

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