Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Anniversary/Christmas/Birthday Present

A couple of weeks ago I got a new sewing machine.

No, I don't bother to clean up my sewing table when I take pictures for the world to see. 

I've wanted a new sewing machine for awhile, but if you've never looked into high-end sewing machines, just let me tell you, they are expensive. So this effectively covers my anniversary and Christmas and birthday gifts this year.

I was not loving my old machine, but I was resigned to keep it for a couple more years because I just didn't feel that I could justify spending the moolah on a new machine. But a couple of weeks ago I noticed some very bad signs of wear on my machine. Basically my walking foot was eating through the metal clamp that holds the needle in place. This is very bad. It's the kind of problem where every single stitch I was taking was rushing my machine closer and closer to a big problem of that clamp breaking and causing serious damage. I imagine that the part could be replaced... or I could stop sewing with my walking foot, but really my walking foot was what had made sewing on my machine enjoyable and I didn't really want to put anymore money into my machine.

So we decided that it was better to just spend the money on the machine I really wanted since it was going to be expensive to get a nice machine no matter what... so might as well get the one that is nice and makes me happy. After visiting several dealerships and reading hundreds of reviews, I bought a Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0.

And it does make me happy. I won't go into how much of an improvement it is over my old machine (a Singer Confidence) because it's hard to describe it all and to a non-sewist it wouldn't make a lot of sense, but it has made sewing much more of a pleasure (and less of a chore). But I will list some really nice features of the machine for those that are interested:

-Needle up/down. I've wanted this for a long time. I'll never have another machine without it.
-Auto presser foot lift. I can set the machine to stop with the needle down and the foot lifts to allow me to pivot the fabric. This is especially nice because I never have to take my hands off my work. I'll never be able to live without this again.
-Auto tack on/off. This is nice because the machine does it neatly and I don't forget these steps anymore making my work sturdier.
-Thread cutter. There is a built-in automatic thread cutter that I have programmed to cut my threads after it tacks off. This is very nice because it saves me a step and keeps my work neater because with fewer long threads on my projects and work surfaces. I didn't think much of this feature when I bought it, but I'm a big fan after using it for awhile.
-IDT, this is basically a built in walking foot. THIS FEATURE MAKES THE PFAFF MACHINES AWESOME. I think Janome offers this too, but when spending more than a grand on a machine, I can't imagine buying one without this. It's a very good feed system and makes a HUGE difference. I don't care how fancy the machine is, almost all of my sewing benefits from a dual feed system and I have found the integrated dual feed to have a lot of advantaged over an add-on walking foot (and not to mention, my add-on walking foot was destroying my machine and forcing me to buy a new machine in the first place). The Pfaff IDT can be used with most of the interchangeable presser feet, which is just the best thing since sliced bread or can be disengaged and not used at all.
-Low bobbin indicator. This was not a feature that I would pay more money for, but it is kinda handy. If you are sewing a lot and plan ahead you can have several bobbins wound with your thread and when the low bobbin warning pops up you just drop the new bobbin in while your project is still under the needle. That is a convenient feature.

The machine also has some nice stitches built in and a memory function to remember your stitches if you want (this is important to me). The stitches it produces are good looking and make a fine finished product which is probably the most important thing about the machine.

I really worried about buying this machine since the reviews are not all favorable... in fact there are a lot of people that have been very disappointed with this machine. The machine has had several factory fixes, which I imagine have made a big difference. Also, this machine is marketed towards quilters (and pretty much all the reviews on the internet are from quilters). I am not a quilter. I do everything but quilts... craft, garments, drapery, and some upholestry. I sew some strange materials: microplush (this stuff is the devil to sew), felt, fleece, burlap, pleather, silk, home dec weight fabrics, diaper fabrics, elastic, knits, faux fur... very little quilting cotton. I have found this machine to meet my needs very well. The IDT is great for the fabrics with stretch.

I also bought my machine from a very good dealer. I drove a distance to get it from a very respected dealer. He took the time to really explain the mechanisms to me and make sure that I understood how they worked so that I could troubleshoot my own problems. This is essential because most of the problems people have had with this machine are user error. This is not a hard to use or difficult machine, but if you don't understand certain things about it, you could have more problems. I would not recommend buying one of these used or off the internet because you may not get the latest machine with the factory fixes or not have a warranty.

At the end of the day, this machine was actually less money that I was worried that I would spend and my projects are definitely better with it. I'm very happy so far. I just had to share my new toy.

Some photos. . .

Beautiful stitches. That tack off is perfect. 

The mock serger stitches are beautiful. I don't have a serger, so I really appreciate this. 

Neatly trimmed threads make life much nicer. 

My Rudolph bag. I love it. I made everything myself. I have the control with this machine to do a detailed applique like this without wanting to throw something out the window when I'm done now. You can't see it but I stitched the tiniest circle to put Rudolph's nose on and it's perfect. I could never have done that with my old machine. 

Snowflake bag. The machine did not like the metallic thread I used to put the big flake on, but it did a great job anyways. 

Michael's new robe or a ruthless leader ruling from his throne/booster seat? You decide.

A whole stack of training pants. Finishing these on my old machine might have killed me. We are currently potty learning/training. More on this another time. 

I finally finished the blanket to match my niece's curtains. This blanket went through THREE ruffler foots. *Rips out hair* But it's finally done. 

The best part of getting anything new... the box.


Michelle said...

Awesome machine. I don't know a lot of the technical stuff with sewing machines and have a really old singer. I'd love to upgrade but I honestly don't have much time to do what I'd like. Or patience by the end of the night.
I love the picture of M and the robe.

And as for your comment earlier. That's an awesome price. I hope we can keep it around that, or definitely not much more. That would be easier to stomach for sure. I forget. How many times did you do IUI before it took?
And on K knowing. He really doesn't know much about what I've been doing. We don't talk about it much, especially if he is around. A few years ago we had explained that not everyone can have babies, and even then, not everyone can have more than one. He doesn't ask why, and seemed to be ok with that answer.

Rachel said...

Such an awesome present. I am most impressed by your training pants and looking forward to seeing what you are going to make with your new machine (you will post pictures, right?)

I happened to be in the neighborhood of an awesome fabric store yesterday and picked up an adorable 1/2 yard to make baby pants ... and am now trying to figure out when in the world I can do that before the weekend.

Sophie said...

I love those bags! That machine is beautiful. What a great gift. Looking forward to see what else you'll create with it :).

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am drooling over that machine! I love that you went over all the great features that you find useful. I would love a new sewing machine - my current one sucks, so I rarely use it, but I would have to sew a lot more to justify getting a super nice one like that. But see, if I had a great machine, I would use it more. Mine drives me crazy and is hardly worth dragging out.
I am so impressed with what you make! You should start an etsy shop!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this well written review. I have just been gifted one based on a long search and comparison with other similar priced machines. Your review was a contributing factor in deciding on the PFAFF QE4.0, especially, as you wrote, in light of other not so favourable reviews. Yours brought a nice balance to the varying opinions. Different strokes for different folks but as you correctly pointed out, user error is such a huge factor when learning to operate this feature laden machine. Lastly, I could not agree more about finding a good, informed and skilled sewing machine dealer. Take good care and I look forward to seeing other projects you make with your new PFAFF.