Saturday, February 22, 2014

On Sewing Machines

One of my readers asked if I would explain my sewing machine choices.  Right now I am sewing on two machines.  One is the Brother, Nouvelle 1500s.  It is a lockstitch industrial machine much like the Juki with which I think folks are more familiar.  It is my newest machine.   I bought it last fall for a little over $600.00. I also have a Bernina 153 which I bought used in Kansas City a few years ago.  Originally it was intended to be my travel machine.  I have two machines set up so I can be piecing and quilting at the same time.  I need to take breaks when I'm quilting and I don't want the hassle of changing thread etc to be able to piece while I'm on quilting breaks.  I treat my machines with care and clean, oil and change needles regularly.  I cover them when not in use to keep the dust away.

 I have learned over time that for me, both in quilt design and in sewing machines that I love simple and uncomplicated.  I want to stress that I don't endorse any sewing machine company and no one pays me to state my opinion.  I bought my Brother last fall after having so many frustrating days with my Bernina 820 which is now a very expensive dust collector.
 I sew for a living and I need a machine that is a workhorse and is dependable.  I bought the Brother because it was simple, it was from a local shop where I know I can get it repaired if needed, and it was available for me to take home that day. The best thing about my Brother is that after I got it home and took it out of the box, I was sewing in less than 10 minutes. No training, no fuss no muss, it simply sews.  It has beautiful stitch quality and a pretty long harp space for quilting.  As you can see it has one large knob to adjust stitch length, reverse, needle down, a thread cutter and four feed dog settings.  It has a walking foot, which isn't very well designed, but I've put my thinking cap on and made adaptations to it to help it work better for me.  I piece, straight line quilt and free motion quilt with it.  It also has a nice extension table.
 My other machine is the Bernina 153 which is a lower level computerized machine,  I've never had an issue with it and it has never been in for repair.  I piece and quilt on it as well.  It doesn't have a large harp space for quilting, but when I need that great Bernina walking foot, I use that machine for quilting as well.  It slows me down having to deal with the smaller harp space, but slow and steady is fine.  I bought the larger acrylic extension table to help during quilting.

 Sometimes I switch the positions of the machines from the desk to the table depending on if I'm piecing or quilting on that machine.  The table provides much for room in the back and on the left for supporting a large quilt.

I have worked on many brands and models of sewing machines and I have watched students struggle with over engineered machines.  Machines will not sew for us.  For me, gadgets and gizmos get in my way.  I want to be in control of my machine.  I don't want the machine to control me or how I sew.  It was an expensive lesson to learn.  As I travel and teach I continue to find that simple seems to be better.

I am still looking for that machine that has the right combination of features that will work best for me.  I do know at this point that more is not necessarily better.

To Anonymous who left a comment on my Proud to Be post, I left you a response in the comments in case you are interested.

To the rest of my readers:  I've eliminated Anonymous comments from now on.

32 comments:

Susan said...

I have a seven year old Bernina and an even older Juki. I love them both and agree with your comments about simplicity. My Bernina will sew anything I throw at it, and use any thread. My Juki has to have a thread cone, and I am annoyed at the lack of engineering in the Juki feet, why in the heck can't they make a walking foot with a guide! But I digress. They both have a place in my sewing room and I must get a second table so I can take a break from quilting and just do some piecing.

Gretchen said...

I have the same Brother machine and love it. Totally agree with your input on machines. Thank you!

Kate said...

It's funny with so many machines out there I still haven't found the perfect one with all the features I want either. I have three I use at different times for different reasons. I still love my Pfaff for piecing, the IDF feature is fantastic, if my Bernina 440 had theat I would be pretty happy.

Brenda said...

I agree that we don't need over-engineered machines. I used to sew everything on an older Elna, but upgraded to the Juki like your Brother three years and have never looked back. I love it for piecing and for quilting. I also have a 1956 Singer Featherweight which I take with me. Thanks for sharing your machines with us.

C. Jaeger said...

I loved reading about your machines. It's like a marriage, of sorts. When my old Singer Golden Touch that I inherited from my mom died, I was in mourning. Then I got my White machine and loved it and didn't think I needed anything else...until I got my Viking 835. At first I felt like I was cheating, but I got over that quickly and loved sewing on it. I now have the Bernina 820, but my Viking and my White are still set up for sewing, as well. When my daughter and/or friends and I are all sewing together, it really is sweet. I have some thoughts/questions on the 820. I'll email you. By the way, I have used the same rotary cutter longer than I have had my husband. So when I got the new blue one, again, I felt like I was cheating on a loved one. Maybe I am a bit too attached to my sewing tools?!

Twisted Quilts said...

I am always in search of a "perfect" machine. I have a Juki and I love it, I also have a Pfaff that is great for piecing. I really want another machine and after seeing what you said I am considering the Brother. I love the Juki for the auto thread cutter.

Lori said...

Great post. Can you share what you did to your Brother walking foot? I, too, am disappointed in it compared to the Bernina's walking foot. Thanks!

Charlotte said...

I also prefer to sew on simple machines - I use a juki for quilting (and piecing in summer - it's in an out building!) and a featherweight for everything else. I also have a Janome with loads of fancy stitches that I NEVER needed. The only use that gets is the occasional zig zag!

upstateLisa said...

My Bernina 153 is my main machine... I love it but wish it had a much larger hart (I call it the throat) for quilting!

karen said...

I have that Brother and I adore it. I have learned to check the screw often when using the walking foot. It's frustrating when it comes loose and the needle falls out in the middle of machine quilting. But I can deal with that one downside because everything else about the machine is perfect.

suemac said...

I love my Janome 3160. It is computerized but it is great for piecing, loves any thread and has a great darning foot for free motion. I really have a problem with spending thousands of dollars on a machine when I can get a machine for $600 that does everything I need.

Kay Stephenson said...

"Simple is best". How true that is. My workhorse machine is a Singer 15-91 built in the 50's. I tried a modern Singer and had to take it back. They just don't make them like they used to. I have a very solid Toyota machine from the 70's that does sig sag on the rare occasions when I need it. I just can't make myself pay the price of newer fancy machines when I know they are all plastic, and the computerized stuff is just one more thing to break. LOL

DanaK ~ WaterPenny said...

I have that brother and a very expensive paperweight pfaff that I use when I need to zig zag stitch applique. I would also be interested to hear your walking foot fix.

Star of the East said...

What I really would like is a machine with a continuous bobbin feed.
I know that they exist, 25 years ago a friend had a Pfaff that used two spools of thread (not a chain stitch machine, but a lock stitch).
I remember reading somewhere that the technique is invented by a woman (of course, I would say, we all hate the changing of bobbins), but I haven't been able to find an actual machine with that feature.
Specially when quilting, it would save a lot of time.
ı would love to hear if somebody has more info about those machines.

Karen said...

I have the same Brother as you and I love it. Love love love it. I would also love to hear your walking foot modifications. I started sewing on a small, light, no-name machine when I was a teenager, and still use that machine for zig zagging and taking to classes. The only problem with having these two is I can't do free motion on the small one and can't do zig zag on the big one, so for some classes I need to compromise

Rose said...

I love this Brother. I think it makes some of the most beautiful stitches. I have to agree on high end machines. I have a Janome Horizon and while it's nice, it's my last higher end machine. I find the simpler the better. I only use a handful of stitches and just don't need that many bells and whistles. I did recently get a Pfaff Passport and I do love it for piecing the tiny blocks that I like to do and it's less to lug than the Brother.

MariQuilts said...

I have that same brother.....mine is always set up for piecing, I love the speed. I've had it for several years. And my Bernina is amazing for quilting, it is set into my cutting table...it's a real work horse. The other machine I love is my Janome.....I bought the deal they gave us at Quilt Con, it's a wonderful machine as well.

Melissa said...

A few months ago, I bought a Babylock Jane that looks really similar to your Brother machine. I love it! My computerized machine has been sitting in a case ever since. Except one day when I needed a zigzag stitch :) Simpler really is better!

Leslie said...

I also have the Brother Nouvelle 1500s and love it. Add me to the list of people who would like to know how you have modified the walking foot. My last machine was a Bernina and I really miss that walking foot.

Lisa said...

I used Kenmores when I first started about 8 years ago and recently got a Juki Exceed for $220 new at an auction! It is a great machine doing everything I need it to! Congratulations on Chairman of the Board, you deserve it!

Annie said...

I have the smae Brother machine. Please add me to the list of people wanting to know what you did to the walking foot to make it more user freindly.

Leanne said...

I would love a machine like your Brother or the matching Juki one day. I tend to agree that less is often more with machines for quilting, but I do enjoy my Horizon. I am sorry to hear about your fancy Bernina not being great, others love it.

SusieDW said...

I had a Kenmore that was just fine for general sewing. No complaints. When I started creating quilts I found I needed/wanted a machine with a 10-11 inch throat. I settled on a Pfaff. My LQS sells various machines, supports, services those machines (very well). I have grown to love my Pfaff. Not perfect but suits me just fine. (I kept the Kenmore, which does a great job for piecing).

Rita Hodge said...

I bought a Juki straight stitch back up machine about 2 years ago - it is now used every day - you turn it on and you know exactly what you are going to get. No fuss. No drama.

Unfortunately we have the same expensive dust collector.

Sarah said...

I have a babylock jane which is very similar to your brother and I love it! It is a tank, which makes it awesome for so many projects but a pain to move around. I am on the lookout for a similar machine in a smaller size to take with me for social sewing. But I am so with you on the idea of simplicity, there are very few stitches most quilters actually use, why even bother with those super complicated machines?

Linda said...

I have a circa 1975 Bernina which I use almost daily. Nary a problem with it. My Grandpa made many, many quilt tops on an old Singer treadle machine which he electrified with a small moter from some other small machine. I have often drooled over the latest computerized sewing machine - always go back to my old faithful Bernina. Simple and well built will always win out.

jinsil chun said...

simple is the best. I have the smae Brother machine. Please let me know how to use the walking foot better.

Lisa J. said...

I have two friends that own the same brother machine as you. I've been pining after one for years. You've almost tipped me over to buying one. I sew as a hobby and I'm not sure I can spare the cash. Sigh

OPQuilt said...

Amen on the "over-engineered" machines. Just because the computerized gadgetry of our modern-day machines allows for extra whatevers, doesn't mean they should be there.

A friend stopped by for a sewing session with her big fancy ($7000) machine and neither she nor I could figure out how to lower the tension so she could stipple, as the machine determined all of that when she pushed a button. The most she could do was straight stitch, so she did that on her whole project, abandoning any hope of FMQ. It was a real lesson for me about the idiocy of these behemoths. Thanks for mentioning it!

Elizabeth
opquilt.com

Leigh Ann said...

I have a Brother 400 series which I have loved for years and was recently given my Great Grandmother's 1938 Singer Featherweight (electric). I love the elegance of the Singer and how well it sews. I now have two machines that are treasures!

no name said...

As a five year quilter, I wish I had seen these comments before I purchased the dust collector. Thankfully I paid half price, can trade it in and get a great trade value. I will say the B780 is far more reliable and consistent. Thanks to all for sharing. I appreciate the honesty and insight. Now I know what to look at for my travel machine.

Christine Slaughter said...

My husband bought the PQ1500S for me last May and I LOVE it. I, too, like uncomplicated and straightforward machines. I love that I can piece, quilt and sew bags/wallets on the machine. I found a Yahoo group (PQ1500) that has been an invaluable resource as well. If you have a question, the group has an answer! Great community, especially when the machine happens to be one that is not well known.