Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fine Work

I have been sewing for as long as I can remember, but would only call myself "a sewer" for the last 17 or so. What changed at that point? I had moved to San Francisco and knew no one, other than the boyfriend I'd followed out there. We were living together and I was working my old job from our apartment, so I didn't get out much. A few months after the move, my parents sent what turned out to be one of the most thoughtful gifts of my life: a small Brother sewing machine. I found all kinds of projects to make, and the machine served me well for a number of years. But after a while I was looking for bigger and better things. (Truth be told, I was just looking for fewer thread jams and other messes. My Brother served me well, but she wasn't perfect, by any stretch of the imagination.)

After extensive research -- which, looking back, must have been on the Internet, but this was in the early, early days of Internet searching; certainly no Googling was involved -- I had found my next baby: The Bernina 930E. To give you some context, at the same time I was doing all of this sewing, I was also buying, restoring, and driving vintage VW Bugs. (The only reason that's plural is because they also kept getting stolen, but that's a whole different story.) My first was a '65, the second was a '66, and the third was the ultimate -- a '67. The 1967 Bug is widely considered the most favored of the old ones. It was the last year of the famed "double bumper," but the first year of the 12 volt electrical system. The best of both worlds, if you will.

So, when I came upon the Bernina 930E, I knew I'd found the '67 Bug of sewing machines. These machines, built in the 1980s, are among the last Berninas with all metal parts. Is it heavy? Absolutely. But does it produce the most beautiful, consistent stitches? Definitely. We were meant for each other.

I've been doing so much sewing on it lately and it rarely gives me trouble. When it does, I can usually trace the source of the trouble to my own poor choices or bad habits. I have always avoided learning about the expensive computerized machines because right now I'm so content with my Bernina -- I just don't want to know what I'm missing. I don't want to know what I could have. Lately, though, I've had a bit of a wandering eye and I'm starting to wonder (just a little) what it would be like to have a fancy machine that glows blue and almost silently embroiders the Mona Lisa in 18 thread colors while I lounge around upstairs. At least that's what I think it would do. Like I said, I haven't looked.

When I came upon the Sewing Machine Blog at Sew Mama Sew, I took it as a sign. Was it the universe telling me to start researching new machines? Or maybe it was the universe telling me to share a little 930 love. In case it was the latter, I thought I'd better participate.

What brand and model do you have?
Bernina 930E.

How long have you had it?
About 10 years.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
I've seen them go for between $900 and $1200 on ebay. I paid $600 from a local dealer.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
I sew a wide range of things, from quilts to children's clothing, to bags, to home decor projects. Most of the time I'm sewing things for my etsy shop, and that most often means bibs made from terry cloth and cotton.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I sew at least 5-10 hours per week. The machine does get a good amount of wear and tear, largely from the heavy, shedding fabrics I sew with.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love my machine. She's does not have a name, but she's like an old friend who will be there no matter what. She's not afraid to try anything, and she's always up to the task. If she falters, it's rarely her fault.

What features does your machine have that work well for you?
The feature that works best for me is the consistent, even, beautiful satin stitch. There is a wide variety of decorative stitches, and when I venture into that territory, I'm never disappointed. But mostly it's just the reliable consistency.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
There's nothing that particularly bothers me about my machine; if there was, surely I'd be shopping for a new one by now... I will say that I'm intrigued by features on new machines that I know little about but would surely enjoy, like a "drop in bobbin" or computerized thread tension adjustment. And then there are features that I've made up in my own head -- like a sensor that tells you how much bobbin thread is left -- that must exist on some machine somewhere. So while there's nothing that I could say drives me crazy about my machine, I do see the advantages to technology that's less than 20 years old.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
I've already given you the back story on my machine. I think that's probably all you need to know.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? I would absolutely, positively recommend this machine to others. I can see how it would be tempting to take that same money and buy a computerized machine with all kinds of fancy features built in, but for essentially a full range of sewing projects, this machine will do everything you need it to, and will do it beautifully. I will say that it's HEAVY and takes some strength if you need to lug it to a sewing class, but as long as it's staying put, the weight shouldn't be a problem. All that metal has to weigh something, right?

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
Personally, I think you need to ask yourself what kind of sewing you're going to be doing. If most or all of your work will require only a straight stitch, buy the machine that will give you the most beautiful one as consistently as possible. I think everyone should consider used machines from reputable dealers (who will hopefully give you a warranty, so you can buy without worry). You can get a lot more machine for your money that way.

Do you have a dream machine?
Like I said... I've resisted the temptation to look, but I think I'll probably have a dream one of these days. I doubt, however, that I'll ever part with my 930.

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