Crazy Sewing Machine Lady

August 10, 2010 § 16 Comments

sewing machines

While I’m working away on my Doll Quilt and Wild Geese Quilt, I thought we might spend some time talking about some of our favorite quilting tools.  There is a discussion going on over in the Doll Quilt Swap Flickr group that sparked this idea.

So…  let’s start with sewing machines.  I currently own five sewing machines.  It kind of freaks me out to say that. It probably freaks out my husband more to hear that…  but three of them are vintage, of which two still need to be cleaned up and tuned up before I can actually sew on them.

left to right & top to bottom

  • Janome Horizon – I just bought this machine a couple of months ago and haven’t had much sewing time on it yet, so I can’t say what kind of relationship we will have.  It is meant to replace the Viking that I wasn’t in love with.  It’s nice to have a machine that does zig-zag and buttonholes when I get the occasional urge to sew clothing.  Even though it is controlled by a computer, what attracted me to this machine is that not EveryThing is controlled by the computer.  And it makes really nice buttonholes. For some reason, to me, that is the ultimate indicator for a potentially good machine, nice buttonholes.
  • Brother PQ1500s – classified as a “light industrial” sewing machine. Still a home sewing machine but sews 3 times faster and only does straight stitch. I love, love, Love this machine! We have a very good relationship.
  • Singer 15-91 – it was my grandmother’s sewing machine. It needs to be cleaned and tuned up, supposedly a real work horse on denim.  I haven’t sewn on it yet.
  • Singer Featherweight – purchased from Dave McCallum who travels around locally teaching people how to care for their Featherweights.  It’s lightweight and perfect for carrying to classes. Sometimes I set up this machine to piece while I am quilting on my brother.
  • Singer 319W – given to me and needs to be cleaned and tuned up.  One of the very first zig zag machines that Singer made. It’s only caveat is that it takes a special needle size not found in stores (but can be ordered on the Internet).  I haven’t sewn on it yet.

Zig Zag levers on the 319W

I was talking to a customer at work some time ago about sewing machines and our relationships with our sewing machines.  She had named her machine Doris. (I think, if I remember correctly) I haven’t named any of mine, but I’m thinking that maybe I should.  Would that make me the equivalent of the “Crazy Cat Lady” in the sewing machine world?

So what is it that makes this relationship with our sewing machines “click?”  I can’t say for certain, but for me… I think the bottom line is that the machine really does what I want it to do.  And it takes a little bit of time and effort.  I previously owned a Husqvarna/Viking that I never did get on very well with.  And prior to that another Viking that I loved dearly.  All of my sewing machines have different features that they do really well or that I love about them.

So, let’s start with the sewing machine I use the most.  My Brother PQ1500s.  When I was first in the market for a sewing machine to replace the one I had been using since high school, I looked everywhere and at just about every brand.  I thought I knew what I wanted, purchased a machine and brought it home.  It turns out that it wasn’t really what I wanted and it was Frustrating! Fortunately, I was able to return the machine and I took up knitting for awhile.  I’m sure you are laughing right now and think that I am joking.  But I’m not.  Truly. I quit sewing because I was so frustrated and started knitting.

Then I heard someone talking about a Juki light industrial machine that was new on the market. It sounded fantastic.  I knew that Juki made good industrial machines and thought that I might have better luck with that route.  Turns out that this machine was so popular that there were never any in stock  and so I could never test drive one at a dealer.  Along the way I discovered that Brother had started producing a similar machine and test drove it at a local quilt show.  I bought it, brought it home and have been in love ever since.  I’m sure the Juki is just as fabulous. I’ve just never had a chance to sew on one.  BTW, they are much easier to find now.

Little... BIG

This is what I like about my Brother:

~It only sews straight stitch and does it very well.

~It’s not controlled by a computer so I get to tell it what I want it to do. It does have one very small computer chip which, I think, controls the bobbin winder and needle-down position. I can choose the tension, pressure on the presser foot, stitch length and feed dog height with dials, not digital numbers or tick marks on a computer screen, which never seem to have small enough increments of change.

~It doesn’t have a needle-up position. It’s either needle-down or off.  I love the needle-down position for machine quilting. But for piecing and regular sewing I like the needle to stop sewing when I take my foot off of the foot feed. It doesn’t take another second, or two, or three to complete a stitch.  This is really important to me when I am trying to position a stitch at just the right spot in a corner, or slowly sewing over zipper and trying to avoid the metal end.

~The feed dogs are closer together.  The distance between the feed dogs is only 5mm, similar to the Featherweight and the Singer 15-91.  The distance between the feed dogs needs to be wider when zig-zag and satin stitches are part of the machine’s capabilities.  But can be a hindrance when sewing small pieces of fabric together with small seam allowances.

~The throat plate has a small, single-stitch hole so that the fabric never gets pulled down into the feed dogs. Most machines have single-stitch/hole plates that can be purchased

~It has a sturdy, large, extension table that has actual legs rather than hanging off of the throat part of the sewing machine.  And the underside of the extension table secretly stores the knee lift.  I love secret compartments!

~It sews really, really fast!  Up to 1500 stitches per minute. I can’t sew quite that fast because my banquet tables starts to shake.  But a regular home sewing machine typically sews about 500 stitches per minute.

I hope I haven’t bored you…  I’d love to hear about your sewing machines and your relationship with them.  If you feel inclined to post about it on your blog, please come back here and provide a link in the comments so we can all read about them.  And what do you think about giving your sewing machine a name?  Crazy? Normal?  Tell me more.

Crazy Sewing Lady

§ 16 Responses to Crazy Sewing Machine Lady

  • Hollie says:

    Thanks for sharing! I used my great-grandmother’s singer when I was a kid. I have no idea where that machine ended up and it kills me. When I was in college and soon after I was sewing on my grandmother’s Singer from the 1960s. It was green and fabulous and then an old roommate accidentally gave it to the Goodwill when we made a donation (I wasn’t home) and I was crushed. I’ve been sewing on a Baby Lock Pro ever since and I love it but when I started quilting it started acting up with the quilting foot so I bought a low end Janome machine that I use to do all my machine quilting and it works just fine, for now. Eventually I want to upgrade and I also want to get back to working on old machines again, too.

  • sewpam63 says:

    Yep, my sewing machines are named. Penelope, Maude, Gertrude and Agatha. ; ) Does my heart good. They are like friends – dependable, willing when I’m ready, always up for a challenge. I enjoyed your post. Thanks.

  • terriaw says:

    What an awesome post! I have been wanting a Juki or Brother for so long, so your thoughts are very helpful. I adore those vintage machines you have – lucky gal! I bought a basic model Husqvarna Viking machine last summer, and I’m pretty attached to it, as much as my laptop! But I would love to have a more industrial-type machine for quilting. Always something on the wish list!

  • Cathy A. says:

    I haven’t named my sewing machine, and, sadly, don’t feel a real strong love to it. Although I do quite love my Babylock serger. Maybe I need a new machine–one that I will want to name!
    I’d love to have my grandma’s sewing machine–how neat that would be. I know a man who restores old Singers, and I think one of those would be fun, too!

  • Very nice post!~ I have 5 too~ with 3 being vintage. I don’t have time to get them out for photo’s now, but maybe when I get settled again. 😉 One is on its way out but I can’t bear to toss it until it takes its very last stitch. 😉 A few have names, but mostly I just call them by their manufacurer’s name~ Pfaffy, Featherweight, treadle etc. 😉 Not very creative, maybe I should give them better names. LOL

  • amandajean says:

    what a nice little collection you have there! i think i love my juki like you love your brother. something about the straight stitch and speed that gets me pretty excited. and my juki is so darn sturdy! it’s a workhorse and i like to give it a run for the money. i’m thinking i need to get a janome of some sort for zig zag and other fancy stuff.

  • Viv says:

    Great post. I’m a bit crazy about sewing machines too. I think I have already blogged about mine before, so I won’t bore my readers again. I have 3 now, a Bernina 117 (from 1957) which is in great working order, but I keep it in the spare room, so it doesn’t get much use. A Bernina 1230, which could be one of the best machines Bernina ever made. I use that as my main machine for both piecing, regular clothes sewing and quilting, though with such a small arm the quilting can be challenging. I have recently managed to get hold of a little Elna Lotus, which will be for taking to sewing classes. I’ll be complete when I can have a Juki or if I win lotto and buy one of the new Bernina 820’s. I do have and added bonus that Dh used be a sewing machine tech, so all my machines can be serviced or repaired for free 🙂

  • Meredith says:

    thanks for the review of the light industrial

  • Liz says:

    I have a few machines – one Bernina and a few featherweights. I haven’t named them, yet, though I still remember where I got the Featherweights. I was able to get a few old Featherweight card tables, which are fun!

    I see that you changed your WP theme. Iended up switching also, since the replacement for “Cutline” kept changing every morning!


  • I am a crazy sewing machine lady in waiting.
    my mother has all the ancestral sewing machines, two treadles- one of which has a plug so you can use it either way, and a ca 1940’s singer in an enormous oak desk ( the thing weighs a ton!)
    I covet these and have been begging Mom for them for ages.
    Horror of horrors, She uses them as decorative tables! I will love them and hug them and use them and name them!
    I can remember my Grandmother sewing on the oldest of the treadles when I was little, she would drag it out onto the porch on nice days and sew in the sun.
    I have a viking that I have a love/tolerate (hate being too strong a response) relationship with. my biggest complaints are that I can’t seem to get the bottom tension right, which throws off everything and to go in reverse I have to press the reverse button continually this is annoying but not insurmountable and I have had the machine for 8 years so I have gotten used to it by now. but that brother sounds intriguing. hmm

  • AJ in AZ says:

    I have the Brother PQ1300 which was the prototype machine for yours, and love it just as much. I am also now selling the Viking I have never loved and replacing it with another Brother. So often it just takes a while to get it right.

  • I also have a 15/91 (1947) that belonged to a friends mother and a Featherweight (1938) I bought off Craigs list. I piece almost exclusivly on the Featherweight. The 15/91 is a workhorse and I love it too. The Featherweight had virtually been purchased put in a closet and never used. Lucky Me! I have a Husquvarna 630 that I bought in the 80’s. It has also been a work horse.

  • Good info. I bought a Pfaff last year that I love for piecing but the quilting is so horrible that I contacted them to exchange it. I’ll look into the Brothers.

  • Teresa says:

    I am so jealous! I have one machine. I do love it, but I guess I have machine-envy. I have killed several machines in my time – usually garage sale specials that I clean out and then run into the ground. The last one died of metal fatigue! (According to my Mr Fixer who said I broke a gear off inside it) Now I have my Janome QC6260 and like I said, I do love it. But oh do I covet the Janome Horizon! It is just too cute for words. And the 11″ throat – well, I’m drooling. The budget is just going to HAVE to make room for this baby in the near future!

  • Jamie Dolan says:

    “~It sews really, really fast! Up to 1500 stitches per minute. I can’t sew quite that fast because my banquet tables starts to shake. But a regular home sewing machine typically sews about 3000 stitches per minute.”

    The 3,000 stitches must be a typo?

  • Tina says:

    Wow, I love hearing all the comments on the sewing machines. All my machines are about 30 years old and I am very sentimal about them. The one I still long for was my singer that I got from my husband for my 21st birthday. I wanted the Pfaff so badly and my sister had bought it. Eventually she wanted to sell Pfaff to replace it with an embroydery I sold my singer.
    For piecing I needed a quarte inch foot which I couldnt find for the Pfaff. IMy mother gave me her old singer which I now use for my piecing but had a great desire for my daughter in laws old Pfaff embroidery maching which I used while looking after their house. I fell in love with it and when I visited her recently, she gave it to me to get herself a more sinple machine just for basic sewing. I am overjoyed and my machine names are Phyllis. Joey and Tertia.
    I also bought myself the babylock serger which I would’nt change for anything.
    Thanks for sharing that I am not the only machine crazy lady.

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