Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Serger Review: Singer 14U52A

Singer 14U52A

Price paid:  $80

How long have you had this machine?  Less than a year

What do you like about this machine?  This is an oldie but goodie.  The more I use it, the more I like it.  It makes a strangely soothing sound as it serges, unlike any other serger I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned several.  The stitches are great, and I really like the free-arm feature.  I never realized how useful a free arm is on serger before I had this model.  It saves me the trouble of having to turn sleeves and pant legs inside out to serge on the right side, inside of a loop.

Things you DON'T like about this machine:  The major drawback to this model is the lack of a light.  I use a clip-on light, but it would have been nice to have one built in.  It also lacks a tray to catch scraps.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Serger Review: JC Penney Model 7015

Price paid:  $250

How long have you had this machine?  Since 1987

Would you recommend this machine to others?  Yes. 

What do you like about this machine?  This was my very first serger and first sewing machine purchase.  At the time I bought it, the dominant brand was Babylock, which was going for twice as much.  A fellow student in my Fashion Production class had bought this model and recommended it to me.  Over the years, I’ve bought many other sergers, which were more expensive and sophisticated, but I’ve always gone back to this one.  I like its compact size and the streamlined functions.

It has mostly metal parts yet is very lightweight.  The stitches are wonderful, and I can adjust the tension knobs all I want.  It also has adjustable presser foot pressure, but I haven’t found a need to adjust that.  What I like most on this serger is the narrow presser foot.
Most newer sergers have a much wider foot, which I find difficult to maneuver, especially around curves.

Things you DON'T like about this machine:  The only thing it’s lacking is a tray to catch the scraps.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sewing Machine Review: Pfaff 7570

Price paid:  $1559.

How long have you had this machine?  Since 2001.

Would you recommend this machine to others?  Not at this time.

What do you like most about this machine?  I like the looks of this machine; I think it's much prettier than the others on the market at that time.  When I first got the machine, I really liked the idea of the built-in walking foot (IDT).  I still remember a salesman describing it as "four-wheel drive."  

Things you DON'T like about this machine:  As a perfectionist, I didn't find the IDT to be the "be all, end all" solution to even feeding.  The tiny arm behind the presser foot did not seem to exert a powerful enough grip to compete with the many rows of teeth from the 9 mm feed dogs.  I wanted to be able to adjust the presser foot pressure, but that's not an option on this machine.

The buttonholes are notoriously bad; they were consistently disappointing, no matter what I tried.  I finally gave up and learned to make bound buttonholes.

Owning this machine comes with stress that the circuit board could go out at any given time.  Since the model is discontinued, there are only a finite number of replacement circuit boards out there.  I bought a second Pfaff 7570 to have as a back up.

Both machines came with an embroidery unit which I never used.  I was interested in sewing only and sold both the embroidery units.

The machine uses two AA batteries to memorize decorative stitches.  I don't do decorative stitches, but continued to replace the batteries as the machine will display error messages when I try to sew without them.  On one machine, I forgot to replace the batteries and they started leaking clear ooze.  I cleaned the machine and put in fresh batteries and it sewed fine.  That machine eventually died, either from the ooze or the circuit board; I'm not sure which.

That was the writing on the wall for me.  I sold the remaining machine while I still could, and I'd like to think that she's still going strong.  I know many people love this machine, and I was one of them, but I've moved on, and I haven't looked back.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sewing Machine Review: Bernina Artista 185E

Price paid:  $1800.

How long have you had this machine?  Since January 2009.

Would you recommend this machine to others?  Yes.

What do you like most about this machine?  I like that it has adjustable presser foot pressure, which was lacking in my Pfaff 7570.  

I also like the half-stitch option on the foot pedal.  If I want to lift the needle up when it's down or vice versa, I can just press my heel down on the pedal.  This feature, along with the knee lift, is like having an extra set of hands while my own hands are busy holding and manipulating the fabric.

The quality of Bernina feet is beyond compare; they have such a nice, sturdy feel to them.

I love the removable extension table.  Without the extension, the machine is very compact and naturally a free-arm.  With the extension table, I have a wide, flush sewing surface.  The extension table comes with a sliding gauge that is invaluable when sewing seam allowances wider than one inch.  I use it to sew perfectly straight 4" hems on monogrammed pillowcases.

Things you DON'T like about this machine:  The stitch length indicator is a bar graph (on the far right of the screen)

rather than a digital numeric display.  This may not be a big deal for some people, but my left-brained mind would prefer to have solid numbers to work with.

The tension can be finicky.  While the presser foot pressure can be adjusted by turning an actual knob, the tension is adjusted through the computerized display.  It's rather tedious to page through the menus, make the adjustment on the screen, and then back out to go back to sewing.

The complete package does come with an embroidery unit, which is a negative in my book, since I prefer to have a separate embroidery machine for that.  Having the unit means I have to dedicate valuable real estate to store it for as long as I own the machine.  The sewing machine has a stitch counter in its computer that tells how many stitches it has sewn from day one, much like a car odometer.  Stitching out embroidery designs greatly increases that number, and will adversely affect resale value.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Week in Paradise

My husband and I are currently on vacation, enjoying the sugar white sand and emerald green waters of Okaloosa Island, Florida.  Here are some pictures of the condo:
Today we rented WaveRunners and went looking for dolphins.  We only saw one dolphin and a shark (not at the same time).  They both quickly emerged and disappeared.  It was so exhilarating to ride the craft as fast as it would go, which was 40 miles per hour.  Tomorrow I want to go snorkeling.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sewing Machine Review: Juki HZL F600

Price paid:  $1089

How long have you had this machine?  Since August 2009.

Would you recommend this machine to others?  Definitely.

What do you like most about this machine?  I love the stitch quality.  The automatic tension is great as is, but I also have the option to adjust the tension and the presser foot pressure to my anal-retentive heart's delight. 

I bought this machine sight unseen when it first came out, mainly due to the effective marketing by Juki about the box feed feature.  It was exactly what I'd been searching for since I had become disillusioned with my Pfaff and Bernina top-of-the-line (TOL) machines.  The Juki exceeded my expectations, at a fraction of what the others cost.  Now that I've had it for almost two years, I'm still in love with it.

I really like that the knob to control the stitch length is right under the numeric display of the stitch length, and the knob to display the stitch width/needle position is right under that display as well.

There's something to be said about having knobs, like on a old-fashioned machine, but with a modern digital display.

The automatic thread cutter and the knee-lift are luxuries that I got spoiled with on my Bernina, and I'm happy to have them on the Juki.  Some reviewers have commented that they were too short to use the knee lift, but I've not had any problems and I'm only 5'.

Things you DON'T like about this machine:  While the needle threader works great with standard needles, it does not like Microtex sharps, which is what I use most of the time.  I have to manually thread it each time.

Despite the fact that the Juki feet feel wobbly
wobbly up
wobbly down

to me, compared to Bernina feet, the machine sews smoothly and quietly and powerfully.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tea Party at Belmont Mansion

This past weekend I went with my sewing friend Juliana to a tea party at Belmont Mansion in Nashville.

It's the largest house museum in Tennessee, and the historic home of Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham.

Adelicia Hayes married a rich old businessman (Franklin) who was 28 years her senior.  She became a very wealthy young widow just 7 years later, and then married a lawyer (Acklen) who tripled the value of her fortune.  He died while managing their winter home in Louisiana in the midst of the Civil War.  She then married her third and final husband, a mental health doctor (Cheatham), at age 50.  She died at age 70 during a shopping trip in New York City. 

The lavish antebellum home is impressive.

The elaborate grounds are just as impressive.

I love the circular rose garden, full of countless varieties of roses in a rainbow of colors.

The menu included hot tea, chicken curry tea sandwiches, cucumber tea sandwiches, petit fours, scones with jam, lemon cookies, fresh fruit, boursin cheese spread with gourmet crackers, and biscotti.

It was such a wonderful day that I didn't want to end.  I met the nicest ladies at the table, and we discussed forming a tea party club to tour the different tea rooms in the area.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Review: Illustrated Guide to Sewing: Tailoring

I collect books on tailoring, so I was intrigued to see a new series entitled Illustrated Guide to Sewing with a book on tailoring.  Imagine my disappointment as I'm paging through the book and discover that it's the exact same information from an older book in my library, The Art of Sewing:  Basic Tailoring by Time Life Books (published in 1974). 

The text is identical, word for word, and the illustrations are the same, drawing by drawing.

The original work is rather antiquated and convoluted, and the new book is not much better.  The author didn't even bother to update the information from 37 years ago.  For example, a chart on interfacings lists and describes wigan, which may be obsolescent by now, and there is no mention of the new interfacings that have come on the market since then.

Despite the subtitle "A Complete Course on Making a Professional Suit," the arrangement of the information is counterintuitive to a logical sequence of steps in tailoring a garment.  The book tends to jump around between altering patterns for both jackets and pants and then sewing specific parts of a man's jacket, then specific parts of a woman's jacket, back to man's jacket, then woman's jacket, and back and forth.

The only revision appears to be the updated photos, such as the one on the cover.  They picture various finished garments rather than mid-construction shots of the same garment, which would have been much more helpful.

I was skeptical when I ordered the book at Amazon, as there were no prior reviews, and the description identifies the author, Peg Couch, as "an amateur seamstress."  I would definitely not recommend this book.