Material Girlfriends Sewing Machine Dither

1378798_1407440972818559_1884253831_nIsn’t it terrible when your sewing machine goes on the fray? Well, my sister, Material Girlfriend Lora, started it. She emailed that her sturdy, tried and true serger, bellied up’d. She’d have buried it in the yard but the ground was frozen. Then something was catching because MG Judy’s serger over heated and would only sew in the snow. AND I WAS NEXT!! I was binding my own business, when my feed dogs gave out. I had put them down to quilt a meander (it looked lovely) and then the dogs wouldn’t go back up. Harumpf. I quickly blamed my sister for my Brother going out. But wait, there’s more. MG Katheline confessed to her machine not feeling well and MG Georgia’s sewing machine went kapoot, sputtered and died. She wisely decided to purchase a new one but had emailed us for our two cents. MG Teresa said she was afraid to touch her sewing machine because of all the Material Girlfriend Sewing Machine Dither! Sew, this was Judy’s reply to our scatter-brained emails to each other.

Oh my goodness…I go and make cookies with my great nieces for a few hours, and I come back to a fray of sewing machine issues!

On sewing machines…(this is long, but I have thought long about it!)

Georgia I’m glad you found one you’re happy with!  I’ll look forward to meeting him/her on Wednesday.

Katheline…You seem to be happy with your Pfaff, I’d definitely take her in and have her serviced to see if it is repairable…if it’s not, a good shop won’t charge you.

I have been looking for a serger and a newer sewing machine that will do some more fancy stitches, but haven’t found what I can live with yet.

My criteria:
The machine has to sound right, run quietly and smooth…it should purr…I should be able to hear when the needle is going bad, and when the machine needs to be cleaned and oiled.  And I should be able to hear conversations!
Good visibility…of the needle, any knobs, buttons, etc.  Most of the newer machines have too much stuff around the needle and big clunky feet…making it difficult to see the place where the needle will go into the fabric.
Logical and efficient placement of knobs, buttons, switches, levers…it had to be designed by someone who knows how to use it and put it together to be used, rather than by someone who was putting a knob or lever in that place because it was the easiest engineering solution.  The machines that have the curved bed drive me crazy…there needs to be a flat place in front of the needle to ‘stage’ the sewing, put the pin in, adjust, etc.  When it’s curved, everything slides off!
Servicing the machine should be simple…easy to access the places to clean and oil…and easy to follow directions for doing so….pictures!
more metal, less plastic…I work hard for my money and when I spend it, I want a quality machine.  Plastic gets brittle, cracks and breaks much more readily than metal.  There are too many essential moving parts in the newer machines that are made of plastics, like the gears.  The machines I have are workhorses, with metal parts and good track records…the  Featherweight.  My old black Singer 201 has a potted motor (direct drive, no belt), and commercial grade, industrial strength gears and mechanisms…It was one of the machines Singer put into the schools back in the 50’s and 60’s…it could withstand the abuse.  And my Elna SU…the only new machine I’ve purchased, in 1976, with babysitting money and my minimum wage $2.35/hour first job earnings.  She’s all metal, except for the cams for special stitches.  And she does a fine buttonhole.  She was top of the line at the time, and I still see them going for a good price on Ebay.  I bought her from the dealer and repair shop that had put the Singers in all the Seattle schools for decades.  My aunt has one that she bought 2 years before I got mine and it’s still going strong…She’s put waaayyyy more miles on hers than I’ve put on mine.
 • I want good reports and reviews from other users…which is a problem with sewing machines.  There is no centralized place for such reviews, like Consumer Reports.  The few reviews I can find are on the machines that are sold by large retailers, like Costco, whose websites are set up to take such reviews.  The machines I’m looking for, are only sold by sewing machine shops and there are few if any reviews available.  I found one independent site, but it’s very difficult to navigate.  Good reports from other users are best…Lora’s recommendation of her Elna is something I can use…What model is it Lora????
• The machine needs to come with a well written and illustrated manual…not written in Orangutan and translated by Google…
A fast/slow speed control…My Elna has a switch that allows it to go normal speed, and also slow.  The slow is great for little people and precision work, like doing the blanket stitch appliqué around 1/2 inch dots and in places where you have to turn the fabric frequently.  When I go fast, it should be smooth and not bounce off the table, or bounce my neighbor’s machine off the table!  I want a machine that hugs the road and corners fast with the top down and a good looking man next to me…oops, that would be a car, but it applies to my sewing machine also, and the man must have Sommelier skills!
• A needle down, needle up option would be nice.
Computers in sewing machines…make me really nervous…sewing machines create a lot of lint which computers do not like and there’s also liquids…computers do not like or appreciate merlot or coffee nearly as much as I do.  Yes, I have some electronics in my Elna, but not a full blown computer.   She’s served me well, and I expect her to continue to do sew until I’m done sewing. When I walk out of the store with a machine in hand, I want to feel that it will last for a couple decades, at least.   With more plastics and computers on board, that’s a tough standard to meet.
That said…I did buy a used serger on Wednesday, from a sewing machine dealer.  When I got it home, I looked online and read nothing good about it in the few reviews I found.  I took it back on Saturday.   I will look again when I’m not overwhelmed with other life issues…I’ll probably buy another Babylock.   They are more expensive, but they also seem to set the standard for sergers.  The gals I meet with annually to make pillowcases for the people in the hospital on Christmas all sew with Babylocks.  One of the gals uses hers in her business, making table linens for sale and other home dec items.   I will most likely get it from the dealer in Issaquah, used, as they offer a 1 year warranty on their used machines, and I can get an additional 3 years for $99 which includes unlimited cleaning and servicing.  The annual service on sergers runs about $140, so it’s a no-brainer.

Will I find a new sewing machine?  Maybe or maybe not.  I’d like one that will do more fancy stitches than my Elna, especially the lettering.  I played with that feature on Carolyn’s Husquavarna Viking (I think?) and while tedious, I would use that feature.  Someday I might buy an embroidery machine, after I win the lottery, but I’d also have to buy a lottery ticket or two, and then I go back to the hard earned money issue (damn my Depression Era parents for that value/attitude.).

My biggest beef with the home sewing industry is the lack of comparative information available to enable the consumer to make good decisions.  Consumer Reports section on sewing machines is pathetic.  The consumer is at the mercy of the manufacturers and independent shops for information, which is dispensed in sales pitches.

Off my soapbox…