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The Truth Behind Sewing Machines: Reality On True Sewing Machine Features 4 Quilt/Sew

The Truth Behind Sewing Machines: Reality On True Sewing Machine Features 4 Quilt/Sew

Old 09-22-2019, 12:07 PM
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Default The Truth Behind Sewing Machines: Reality On True Sewing Machine Features 4 Quilt/Sew

The other day, I entertained the thought of a possible new sewing machine purchase. I thought I might invest in an internal motherboard type Electronic/Computerized sewing machine with some interesting features like Up/Down needle position, automatic buttonhole sewing and selection of multiplet styles, larger harp/throat space, larger detachable table, 100 stitches, etc. under 500 US dollars.

After a week or so of sewing machine browsing online and completing a couple of small projects on my presently owned faithful mechanicals, I came away with a new perspective on not only what type, but more importantly, when, any sewing machine of any make/model should be purchased. I (and perhaps many to most here) needed a dose of a “cold shower” of realism to time this purchase for the best shopping/user experience for the new owner, rather than the corporation. So I did a soul searching back-to-basics approach in proper selection consideration (even if this sounds a bit too basic for most of you).

First off, what is the purpose of a sewing machine? To sew 2 (or more) fabrics together.
How it is done?
With a preselected stitch. And that stitch is 95-98% of the time is the Basic Straight Stitch intended for woven fabrics.
The rest of the time is the Basic Zig Zag or Swing Needle For seam finishing most fabrics, Applique work, sewing knits. I also use Blind Hem stitch very very rarely when I sew garments’ hems. Buttonhole option for making Basic Bar Tack machine made buttonholes.
Everything else I never use. Never. Oh, I do have a Spiegel 3201 mechanical machine with 32 built in Stitches for a year now. I use it for sewing knits together. It has a fantastic Zip Zag Swing Needle stitch which is set constantly on. I thought about using it for quilting with all those other stiches. Just never got around to it.

Another put off is the expected life span of those more Computerized machines. They seems to die far sooner than my cheapie 100 dollar specials. That means it might die right when I need it to complete a particular project. I look for dependable reliable sewing machines to do the job. I can expect my self serviced mechanicals to complete the job at hand. They last and last without the questionable “tune ups” so floated by the sewing centers. The price and the parts is not even worth it to begin with. Not in this world of now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t sewing centers, local quilt shops, fabric stores and the like always disappearing after only a few years.

So I’m interested in what each of you think. Are your collective and individual experiences similar to mine? Are sewing machines of all types now a disposable product? How many stitches/feature do you use? Not what you fancy or play around with. What to complete any sewing task you throw at it?

Love to hear from each of you and thanks in advance.

Last edited by QuiltnNan; 09-22-2019 at 01:25 PM. Reason: shouting/all caps
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Old 09-22-2019, 12:26 PM
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I've never had any of my computerized die. They are just chugging along at 9 and 7 years. I expect that when they do die I will just replace. The 9 year 9ld is a walmart cheapie the dreamy will probably fix if parts are still available but might upgrade before then. As for feature I can say I use my cheapie more often and don't miss features of my big machine, don't even notice it surprisingly so really you just need staight and zigzag stitch and the ability to drop feed dogs
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Old 09-22-2019, 12:43 PM
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I purchased a new machine in 2014 (a Juki F600). I had not sewn in probably 20 years but I wanted to learn to quilt. The small machine I had had such a small throat that I knew I would never get going ... plus I had experienced problems with the machine years ago and just didn't want to fool with it. I began my research on-line, visited my local dealer who carrys Brother, Janome and Juki ... then a second dealer that carrys Bernina. Went back on-line ... read lots of reviews ... back to the dealer ... long story short, I purchased the Juki because it had a larger throat and it just "spoke" to me when I sewed on it. And because some of the other machines were way out of my price range (which was $500-$800). I did go over my budget but the F600 had all the bells and whistles I wanted to make this new quilting experience enjoyable. It does have far more fancy stitches than I will ever use.

So, for me, I wanted convenience of a dealer nearby; a smooth running, easy to use machine to teach myself how to quilt ... and that's what I feel I purchased. I've had the machine serviced once (the free service the dealer offered after 1 year of use) and I basically just keep the lint cleaned out. So I feel l will use this machine for a long time. Perhaps some machines are "disposed" of sooner rather than later due to how much they are used, how hard they are used, or if they are not maintained properly. It's hard to say since I haven't experienced that. But I can tell you the bells and whistles are wonderful. Ha.
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Old 09-22-2019, 01:30 PM
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I maintain that all we need for quilting is a good solid straight stitch -- that might not be all we want but it is all we need. For most of the last 30 years I've been quilting on a machine older than me, it had belonged originally to a friend's Grandmother. It is one of what they call the post-war metal Japanese badged machines, in my case it's a Remington, very similar to the Morse machines. It does a truly fine straight stitch and can zig zag too, it does reverse and that's about it but it does it very well on everything from a fine lawn to a heavy upholstery. I also have a vintage Pfaff that belonged to a different friend's mother and it is my go-to machine for fancy fabrics and costuming but I haven't used it in at least 15 years.

About a year ago I was given a modern Bernina 820 "Sewing Computer" by a friend who loves Berninas but didn't click well with that model. I'm loving the modern features and trying to use them since I have them. I have the knee lift for the foot up/down, I can tap the foot pedal to leave the needle down or there are buttons (I prefer not to use the buttons). It does all sorts of fancy stitches but all I'm going to be doing is basic quilting. I'm not likely to ever install another zipper or make a buttonhole, I no longer do garment construction or costuming or upholstery, all I do is quilt. I love the automatic threader, and the thread cutter makes partial seams much more fun and I'm much less covered in threads at the end of the day. The brightness of the sewing space is wonderful -- I have vision issues and the threader and lights are both big deals to me. The throat size is huge. Lots of positives, but it is also a bit fussy on threads and the model was not well received by the general public. Bobbin size is proprietary and isn't L, M or 15 and so I can't buy pre-wound bobbins like Glide thread. A lot of mechanical problems as well but mine doesn't seem to have any of those.

I also have my 2nd cheap Brother. My first one I bought at Costco for around $200 and it lasted very well for about 7 years of heavy use and movement, taking it to my friend's house at least a couple times a month. It started having problems with the bobbin casing and wasn't worth repairing so a friend used it as a trade in to get some $$ off on an embroidery machine.

My current cheap brother is a 2230 I bought at the thrift store for $20. It does not wind bobbins well (maybe why it ended up in the thrift store) so I bought a portable bobbin winder for another $20. The first Brother had an integrated carrying case, this one does not and for a portable machine that is a drawback. I have to haul it around in the box. But, it has a threading assist and is light weight and easy to use. Brothers for the most part have interchangeable feet (Bernina on the other hand is designed to work only on whatever model). It is holding up just fine as a class/portable machine for piecing but I would not want to try and machine quilt on it.
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Old 09-22-2019, 01:43 PM
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I purchased a used Brother PQ1500, mechanical, straight-stitch only, knee lift, auto threader, 1500 spm, thread cutter for $400. I've had it for 13 years, keep it clean and oiled, and have never needed to take it in for repair or maintenance.

About 17 years ago, my husband had purchased a smaller machine for me, a Brother SE270D. It was my daily driver before I bought the 1500. I keep it because it does buttonholes and other decorative stitches. It's computerized, and the LED light finally started dimming. I couldn't figure out how to replace it, so I took it to the repair tech who told me that machine is considered disposable and the light is not replaceable. The manufacturer assumes an owner will replace it after 5 years or so of use. Well, I thought that was ridiculous, the machine itself still works perfectly, so I bought an IKEA Jansjo lamp to light the work area when I use that machine.

Not sure if I answered your question or not; I got lost somewhere in your post as to exactly what the question was.
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:05 PM
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Everything is disposable now. My six year old Frigidaire range just went out. At first we weren't going to fix it. The repairman said it would be $350.00, as the main board was out. However, DH and I couldn't agree on what to buy, so decided to fix the range we have. So we spent $260.00 to buy the board and replaced it ourselves. The problem was that the board wasn't what was wrong. The heat sensor was bad ($40.00 and 15 minutes). The appliance guy just scammed us. If I had known how to read the schematic sheet that came with the range, I would have known it was the probe. It was clearly written right there. (The local do-it-yourself appliance guy showed me how to read it).

The same week, my HE washing machine went on the fritz. It needs a new board. Just the board is $160.00. (It's about the same age as the range.)

The whole philosophy of disposable machines is disturbing. If one lousy board is unavailable, the whole thing is dead. Think of the damage to the environment with all the stuff that lands in the landfill. Manufacturing these electronic gadgets uses horrible chemicals and metals. Someone has to clean up that mess and it's usually the tax payer and end user.

I'll get off my soapbox, now. I guess this last couple of weeks of dying machines opened my eyes to the cost of our "smart" machines.


Last edited by bkay; 09-22-2019 at 02:06 PM. Reason: wrong word
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:10 PM
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I too only quilt and I loved my vintage mechanical machine. However, in order to machine appliqué, I needed a machine that had a buttonhole stitch, so I bought a computerized machine with the buttonhole stitch. I like the needle up or down, and the knee lift, but I rarely use the rest of the machine’s options. I miss the solid feel of my mechanical and the beautiful straight stitch as well as the simplicity of maintenance. I guess when you choose a machine, you have to decide what you want/need to do with it and then avoid being sold on features you will never need or use.
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:15 PM
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I have a bunch of vintage machines including two featherweights which run fine. I like my Brother simple Project Runway (the lower end) to take to the shop to sew on Fridays because it has needle down which I like, and a nice stitch. I do my piecing and quilting at home with the Brother PQ1500. I have a serger if I am making something to wear. I have a mechanical Brother that we got in Costco about 15 years ago that I use for zigzag. I once looked at the Dreamweaver but decided it was too much machine for me. I mainly piece and then quilt my own quilts and I am happy with what I have.
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:27 PM
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I bought my Bernina in 2000. Lots of use and after the warrantee ran out, I never had it serviced.

When I was in St Petersburg Russia, I stayed with a woman who taught English at a university. She had a new electronic machine -- but used her "old faithful" -- a hand crank singer knockoff called "Red Revolution Company". It had started out as a treadle, then electrified and then she changed it to a hand crank. She said that it sewed straight stitches and the new stiches were a little offset.

In the pix she is sewing curtains.
Attached Thumbnails woman-hand-crank-sewing-maching-st-petersburg.jpg  
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:45 PM
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​I have 4 machines that are not computerized. I guess you could say I'm afraid of anything with a mother board. As long as I can piece, I'm happy.
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