Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Old vs. The New

This post is long and probably not very interesting to anyone but me. Sorry!
Now that I finally completed a quilt on my new machine I decided it was time to blog about it. But first, you need an idea of where I was coming from. I learned how to sew on my mom's Singer. Then, when I was 19, my mom got me my first sewing machine for Christmas - a Pfaff Hobby 301. Little did I know then what I would eventually accomplish on that machine. I dabbled in various projects over the years - mostly curtains and pillows and other things that involved straight lines. I did make a bridesmaid dress or two. But mostly it sat. Then when I started quilting in 2004 it started getting some heavy use. I had it serviced for the first time and started changing my needles regularly. I'm sure someone must have told me along the way to change my needles, but apparently I wasn't listening. I was under the impression that you only changed a needle when it broke. Oops! Needless to say, my machine's performance improved dramatically once I learned that little trick.
Anyway, once I started taking quilting classes I saw a lot of different machines in use. Mine was definitely one of the most basic. It's mechanical, not computerized and has the option of a straight stich and ziz-zag. It has a standard neck opening and cruises along pretty well (when it has a good needle). I did purchase a walking foot for quilting, but I never invested in a 1/4" foot, so I spent years eye-balling my 1/4" seams (they could have been better.) My proudest moment with that machine was when I quilted a king size quilt on it. When I tell other quilters that I wa able to do that on that little machine, they are impressed. It wasn't easy and involved tightly rolling it just to get it in the neck. I just quilted diagonally across the blocks and a little wave pattern (the closest to free-motion I could get) on the borders. Once I get some decent photos of that quilt I will blog about it, but for now you can see me pinning it in my profile photo.
Between January 2004 and March 2009 I completed 37 quilting projects on my little Pfaff. These projects included 15 wall hangings, 5 table runners, 2 sets of hotpads, 1 set of placemats, 6 baby quilts, 2 mini-quilts, and 6 large (throw-size or bigger) quilts. I also pieced 2 additional throw-size quilt tops that still need to be quilted. After all that work this trusty little machine now lives in the closet. I decided to keep it and it has come in handy as a spare machine when I teach my sewing classes and it will be a great machine to teach a child on. And that's the story of my Pfaff and all that it was able to accomplish. Thanks again, Mom, for a great little machine!
It's so small compared to my new one!
For the last couple of years I have felt that I had outgrown my Pfaff and knew that an upgrade would be in order at some point. I really didn't know what I wanted and thought another Pfaff would be good. After doing a lot of research and seeing what was out there (and a couple of crappy experiences looking at machines at a local dealer) I started focusing on the Janome 6600. Julia at Fourth Corner Quilts back in Bellingham had become a dealer and she had high praises for it. Then the owner of a local shop here purchased one last summer and I was able to see it in person at her shop. She also had great things to say. After confirming both of their opinions with a ton of reviews by quilters online, I decided that was the machine for me. The only problem - it was about twice as much as I had originally planed to spend. We started a money jar to save up for it, but it would have taken years at the rate we were putting change aside. Luckily we received a pretty hefty tax refund this year and Cory said it was for my machine. In March, we headed downtown to a different dealer who was considerably more knowledgeable and spent a lot of time going over the machine with me. I came home with my new machine and after reading the owner's manual cover to cover, I started sewing on it.
It is a huge step up from my Pfaff - computerized with a ton of stitches, built-in walking foot, needle threader, knee-lift, oh the list goes on and on and it weighs a ton compared to my Pfaff. I was a bit intimidated at first and still have barely scratched the surface of it's capabilities. I quickly learned that free-motion quilting isn't just about the machine, but the operator as well and I have a ways to go before I will be ready to free-motion quilt anything (it's a lot harder than it looks!) Needless to say, this machine will be with me for many, many, many years to come!
Just out of the box. Isn't it pretty? And look at all that space in the neck.

The extension table is so nice!

It sews like a dream and having a 1/4" foot has made my life so much easier!

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