Another addition

Viking Opal 690Q

Viking Opal 690Q

When I posted photos of my new studio, I mentioned that I purchased a Viking Opal 690Q machine. I also sold the Janome 8900 that I purchased two years ago. The truth is, while the 8900 is a perfectly wonderful machine for some people, it just wasn’t the machine for me. I never bonded with it, and while it did fine work, I was never really satisfied with it. So when the Opal caught my eye at the dealership a few months ago, I was really leery for many reasons.

First and foremost, I was concerned about some of the reviews I’ve seen about Viking quality in the last couple of years. They were bought out by a holding group that also purchased Singer and Pfaff. Anyone in the sewing world knows that the Singers of today can not hold a candle to the Singer machines our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers used, and the biggest issue is the lack of quality. Having lived with a mother who sewed extensively, I know that the problems with modern Singer machines started in the late 1970’s. While she was away visiting her family one year, my dad decided to surprise her with a new Singer electronic machine when she came home. He was really trying to do a nice thing, but that machine turned out to be a major lemon. It was constantly in the shop, and it forced my mother to buy a mechanical machine so she could continue to sew while the Singer was unusable. After that, my mom never owned another Singer machine.

I have read some reviews about Viking machines in the last couple of  years that suggested the quality of the machines was about on par with the Singers of the late 1970’s forward. And I am certain that these people have told the truth about their experiences, because what possible reason would they have to lie about things like problems with thread tension, motors burning out, and other mishaps that have been reported? So I had very real concerns about what I might be getting in to if I purchased a Viking machine.

I also was a bit worried that maybe I was so much of a Brother machine junkie, I would never be happy with another sewing machine brand. I mean, there are people who are so in love with their Janomes, they sound like an advertisement when they talk about them, and I clearly just never really liked the Janome. Would I end up in the same place if I were to buy a non-Brother sewing machine again? Well, after owning this machine for more than two months, I can answer that with a resounding, NO!

I know it’s not been very long since I bought the machine, but so far, it’s been a dream to use. And I love it. I have found myself using it more frequently than I do George, because the piecing is just so great on the Viking. It is a bit noisier than George is, but not nearly so loud as the Janome was, and it’s not an unpleasant sound. The stitching on the Viking is just beautiful, and the decorative stitches are adorable. In fact, I already have plans to use some of those decorative stitches on an upcoming quilt I have in the queue. And I’ve had no problems at all with this machine, knock on wood. It’s been lovely to work with ever since I took it out of the box!

I will be doing a full review of the Opal 690Q after I’ve had it and used it a bit more extensively, but I can say that the projects I’ve used it for so far – some quilt piecing, and a knit t-shirt – both turned out lovely, and the machine did a bang up job on everything I’ve used it for so far. It’s quickly becoming my “go to” machine for many things, which is a good thing because I want to put George to work on finishing up quilts by using him to do in the hoop quilting.

Check this space in a few months for a comprehensive review on Opal!

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Shopping for a new machine

Like many large metro areas, Joann’s has started putting the large “super” type stores in my area. I like to go there and buy fabric, though for most other Joann’s purchases, I go to the less crowded store closer to my home. Our big Joann’s store has a space that is rented to a local machine dealer, who sells two major brands of machines in that space.

Yesterday, while in the big store buying fabric and thread to make some t-shirts (a post on that later), I overheard the following exchange in the rented area …

 

Sales lady – As you can see, this is the top of the line machine. You will never need another machine!

Customer – So, if I buy this machine, it won’t be obsolete in 13 years?

Sales lady – Absolutely not! These machines are built to last. And the technology is the latest, so it will still be in top working order in 13 years!  (I got dirty looks from the sales lady when I laughed at that one)

Customer – So, for $9,000 I get all of this? Including the software?

Sales lady – Yes! Isn’t that a great deal?

Customer – Does this price include upgrades?

Sales lady – Yes! You won’t find another deal like this anywhere!

 

Well, let’s hope that’s true.

I really hate it when I overhear conversations like this, because I know the sales person is there to, well, make a sale. But I hate seeing someone taken for a ride, particularly a $9,000 ride. When the customer asked how long the sale would last and the sales lady walked away, I slipped over and suggested that the customer do a little research on the internet, not least because $9,000 for the machine she was looking at was NOT a good deal, and it hasn’t been the top of the line for two generations.

But really, I couldn’t believe it when she asked if the machine would be obsolete in 13 years and the sales lady said with a straight face that it wouldn’t be. Seriously?? Let’s get real here, folks … if you buy a computer today, do you expect it to be obsolete in 13 years? Yes?? Then why in the name of all that is good and holy would you have a different expectation about a sewing machine that is, in fact, a COMPUTER? You may still be able to use it, and it may work just fine. But it will, indeed, be obsolete. Let’s try not to be naive here.

Furthermore, before buying anything that costs so much, be sure you do all your research on the internet. Look at the company’s website to ensure that you’re getting what the dealer is telling you the product actually is supposed to do and be (in this case, the whole top of the line thing). Read reviews and comments about the product you’re interested in buying. Take into consideration how many complaints there are about it, as well as the satisfied customers, and then try to balance the two. If there are problems, read about the customer service the person received – how long did repairs take, did they fix the problem and did that resolution satisfy the customer.

Educate yourself on every aspect of your purchase. In this particular case, the sales lady told the customer that the embroidery/digitizing software costs $2500 and that future upgrades are included. I know the software is expensive, but I am positive from my own experiences that the upgrades are not free. And, there are other options that are considerably less expensive that will do the same thing – and the upgrades for them ARE free, or nearly so.

And finally, don’t rely on brand name to tell you “all you need to know” because in this day and age, brand name means almost nothing. In every single category, consumers are finding that brand names they trusted 20, 30, 50 years ago are not the same quality they’ve been in the past. From slow cookers to sewing machines to cars, there are few products that haven’t seen changes in their quality – both good and bad. Take the time to become familiar with the current quality of a product before buying it.

I have two sewing machines that cost me several thousand dollars and I’m satisfied with both, but I did my homework and made sure I was getting not only a good product, but companies that would stand behind the purchases. I’ve not been disappointed, though had I gone with the brand the woman in Joann’s was considering, I surely would have been, based on the reports from customers around the world. Do the research, and THEN make your decision. Don’t be blinded by the fancy looks, the bright colors or the claims of a sales person. Decide on the features you need and avoid impulse purchases. But once you do make a decision and you get that nice new machine home, send me photos so I can drool with you!

March Update

It’s been a crazy month in the studio. First off, I bought a new machine, a Brother DreamCreator VM 5100 which I named George. He’s a beauty. I’m really happy with the stitch quality, and the extra space in the harp is just so great. That makes two machines that I now have with a harp that’s at least 11″ and I doubt that I can ever go back to a “regular” sized machine because they all seem so small.

Secondly, I am still working on the Green Eggs & Ham quilt, and there is progress. The top is completely put together, the quilt is sandwiched and I started the “quilting” late last week. I’m using George to put stars on the quilt, both in the blocks and on the sashing.

Star Overload

Quilting detail

Green Eggs and Hame 1

 

I’ve also started another quilt, one that cannot currently be discussed because it’s a gift for someone. I wasn’t really pleased with it at first, but I’ve worked out a better plan for it, so I’ll get that going this evening.

The great thing about having George and Ricco (my Janome 8900) is that I can have George putting stars on the GE&H quilt and I can piece on Ricco. I’m VERY happy with this set up, though Ricco needs to go into the shop for a cleaning. When that happens, I’ll use either the Viking #1+ or one of the other Brother machines I have. See, having multiple machines is a great thing, and progress doesn’t stop when one has to go to the shop!

Happy New Year!

Well, the New Year is off to a roaring start! I spent most of yesterday in the studio working on a new quilt. This one employs Dr Seuss fabrics, because what person between the ages of six months and 60 years doesn’t love Dr Seuss? I originally intended this quilt to be for me, but once I started working on it, decided that I really don’t want to keep it – it’s mostly centered around The Cat in The Hat, and my favorite Dr Seuss book was Green Eggs and Ham. So this one will be sold, and I will make a Green Eggs and Ham quilt for myself at some point in the future. I think I already have a buyer for The Cat in The Hat, but if I don’t, I will likely list it on Etsy.

I’ve been contemplating a new sewing machine lately, one that has an embroidery function and that can act as a back up machine to Ricco when he’s in the shop. I’ve looked at everything, and even considered selling Ricco to buy an all in one machine with a wide throat, but in the end, I really think I’m going to stick with what I know and keep Ricco and add this Brother machine to the mix.

Brother Isodore Innov-is 5000

You’re looking at the Brother Isodore Innov-Is 5000 from the Laura Ashley series. What I like about this machine is that it is a combination sewing/quilting/embroidery machine with a reasonable size embroidery hoop (7″ x 12″) and a large color screen. The only thing I’m really not crazy about is the smaller throat space (less than 8″) and the fact that it doesn’t come with a piecing foot. Since this is touted as a quilting machine first and foremost, you’d think it would come with a piecing foot – after all, how much could it cost Brother to include that in the box? But it does come with the circular stitching attachment – which I don’t know what I’ll use it to do, but use it I will. Also, this machine sews in multiple directions – Ricco stitches forward and backward, but not at angles. That may not sound like a big deal, and I’ve had machines in the past that had multi-directional sewing that I never used, but this last year that function would have come in handy while quilting several times.

What I’m mostly interested in, and excited about, is the embroidery function. I sold a Brother 2500D back in 2012, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. And now that I’m going to have a baby to sew for, I think it’s very important to have the embroidery function. One of my first projects with the new machine will be a diaper bag with some embroidery. And then maybe I’ll do some onesies, and a baby quilt, and … well, the list could be endless! I’m thinking of some soft blocks for a Christmas gift in 2014 for the butterbean, too, which could be embroidered with all sorts of cute things. But I digress.

I won’t be able to buy the new machine until March, when I get my bonus, but I will likely be designing projects long before then. And honestly, for small projects I want to start/do right now, I can use the Viking #1+ I borrowed from my Mom. I need to get that machine out and use it anyway. I really like the way it sews, so Mom may not be seeing it back for a while. 😀

I know that “agonizing” over such a decision as which embroidery machine to buy is totally a first world problem, but that’s the only type of problems I have in my life, and I’m grateful for that. Every time I get bogged down in something as mundane as which sewing machine to buy or whether I should buy that bit of fabric, I remind myself how fortunate I am to have such tame problems. I never have to worry about going hungry or whether or not my children will have clothes to wear. And I’m very, very fortunate that both of my children reached adulthood without contracting childhood leukemia like my friend Heather‘s youngest daughter. But I do recognize that not everyone is as fortunate as I have been in my life, and knowing how much it meant to Gabby to have a wish granted by the Make a Wish Foundation (and keeping with the spirit of my 2014, Challenge), I have decided to take part in the Wishes Quilt Along sponsored by Kimberly Jolly at the Fat Quarter Shop. Every month, she’s asking for folks who download the patterns to donate money which will go directly to the Make a Wish Foundation. My plan is to donate a monthly amount for the quilt patterns and then make a larger donation when the quilt is finished at the end of the year.  Even if you aren’t a quilter, this is a great charity, and I encourage everyone to make a contribution, no matter how small, to make these kids’ wishes come true.

Ricco

Ricco

 

A couple of weeks ago, Chris and I attended QuiltCon in Austin, which was held by the Modern Quilt Guild. Since this was their inaugural year, there was only a small turnout of vendors, but there were some truly great quilts. And there were some quilts I wasn’t so crazy about. There were also a few vendors there, and we had a good time strolling through, looking at quilts and chatting about some of the things that were for sale.

See, I have the most wonderful husband in the world, and no one can tell me differently. How many 30-something men would be willing to spend an afternoon with their wives walking through a quilt show?? And if he hadn’t gone with me, I never would have found Ricco. What or who, you ask, is Ricco? Why, he’s my new, shiny Janome MC8900. And he took up residence in my studio shortly after QuiltCon, because that’s where we bought him.

Janome was a platinum sponsor of QuiltCon, so they provided machines for classes. Of course, that meant there was a bunch of very gently used machines for sale … for a really fabulous price. At first, I was a bit bummed because I planned to buy a new machine when I get my bonus on March 15th, and there was another three weeks between QuiltCon and bonus time. But after walking away and looking at more quilts, Chris brought up how it was such a good deal. Before I knew what was happening, we were buying a machine! Since there were still a couple of days of QuiltCon left, we didn’t get to bring the machine home with us, but the dealer who sold it to us is only about an hour and a half from our home, so we picked it up the following week. After learning how to wind a bobbin (a more complicated thread path than my Brothers), and then changing the needle (which eliminated some noise the machine was making – I think because the assembly was loose), I put Ricco to the test by dragging out the churn dash quilt I’ve been trying to get made for Chris since we got married nearly four years ago. After just a little bit of time working on it, I can honestly say that I am in love with Ricco! I love the huge throat (11″ to the right of the needle) and the stitching is beautiful. I couldn’t ask for a better machine.

As for George, my trusty Brother PC-8500, I’m keeping him. He works well – his only problem is that the thread cutter messes up stitches after use during sewing. But he still does beautiful embroidery, and I can’t bear to get rid of him. I’m ordering the PED-Basic software so I can download designs from the internet and use them with him. About the only thing I cannot do with him is to use the Brother website ibroidery.com. He’s just too old to be supported there. And that’s why I’m ordering the Brother PE-500 embroidery only machine. I know it only has a 4″ x 4″ embroidery area, but I rarely do anything bigger than that. And in a year or so, I can re-assess and buy a really nice machine with a bigger embroidery area – I also intend to keep my eye out on Craigslist for a really good price on a machine – but for now, George and the new embroidery machine will work just fine for my needs.

Football and Sewing Machines

I just watched the pre-season opener between the Houston Texans and the Carolina Jaguars, and I have to say I’m pretty happy with the outcome – the Texans took it, 26 to 13. And they were pretty classy about it too. At the end, when they could have easily scored again, they took a knee twice to run out the clock. Good game, guys! Can’t wait for the regular season to start, but next weekend there’s another pre-season game between the 49ers and the Texans. I’ll definitely be watching!

In other news, I went to look at some sewing machines today. First of all, let me say that I am definitely NOT a fan of the Pfaff machines. While it may seem silly to some, I don’t like the looks of the machines – all angular and it looks as if you could cut yourself on the sharp edges (you can’t, I tried). I also took a look at the Viking machines, but since they are no longer made in Sweden, they don’t have the same feel as they did five years ago. The guy I talked to suggested either the Brother (my personal favorite) or the Janome brand. He showed me the Brother Quattro2 6700, which was phenomenal. I mean, this thing can SCAN to find the location where you want to embroider on the hooped fabric, thanks to some handy little stickers that come with the machine. And if you put the sticker on off center, or tilted, or whatever … the machine will modify the design to fit however you want it to go on the fabric. It also has this really cool pen pad – you can write, draw or trace anything on it, and the machine digitizes it! This is a HUGE step up from the old days of having to use a computer and expensive software and a box to do such a thing. He had two or three of the refurbished 6700’s, and they cost $6700. Or, he was happy to sell me “last year’s model,” the 6000, for “just $6000.” [insert green sick smilie here]. Ugh … $6000 for a machine?!? I don’t think so!

He also showed me the 2800D, which is the upgraded version of the 2500D I sold a few weeks ago. It’s a really nice machine, and it is very much like the 2500D. It’s also $4300 … and I’m not really sure I am that into embroidery to pay that much for a machine. I mean, it’s nice and all, but I mostly do quilting, and the embroidery I do usually do isn’t all that big. So I came home to brood about it, and to talk it over with my husband. I mean, I’m not ready to buy a machine right now anyway, and I want to buy a machine that isn’t more than I actually need (you know, like I did the last time). Before I buy anything these days, I do a lot of research online. I mean, isn’t that what’s so great about the internet? You can find all sorts of information without ever leaving home. That doesn’t mean I make a decision before I leave home … well, not always … but it does give me the chance to know what I want to see when I go to look at something like a sewing machine. And this is what led me to the Brother Laura Ashley Innov-Is NX-2000. It is actually tailored to quilting, which is great, since that’s what I do the most. It has a look I like (if it had a color screen instead of monochrome I would be even happier), and it has something approaching 500 stitches included. Not only does it have a bazillion stitches, Brother claims it can stitch in multiple directions and it comes with all sorts of cool accessories – like a circular sewing attachment. I didn’t even know such a thing EXISTED, and now I feel like I have to have it. Yeah, I don’t know why either, but it sounds super cool.

I called a couple of shops, and found one that not only carries the machine and has one I can actually test drive, but the machine retails for around $2000. I couldn’t get an exact price, because you know, they aren’t supposed to tell you that stuff over the phone because it violates their dealer agreement (which I think it totally bogus, but whatever). But knowing that it’s around $2000 is helpful enough, because I think we can all agree that “around $2000″ is a heck of a lot less than $4300. And since it’s primarily meant to be used by quilters, I think it’s a good choice. I’ll go check it out next weekend and let you all know what I think.

And I’ve decided that if I do decide to go with the quilting machine, at some point I might decide to purchase an embroidery machine. If I do, I definitely won’t go for the $6000+ machines, but Brother makes several machines that are lower level with embroidery sizes up to 5″ x 7” that are less than $1000. I can live with that for sure.

I had planned to get out and shoot some photos this morning, but I didn’t get to bed until 4 am, and I wasn’t getting up at 6 am to go out. I’m going to try again tomorrow … we’ll see how that works. Hopefully I’ll be able to sleep tonight and I’ll have some photos to post tomorrow or Monday.

Until the next time … keep on doing whatever it is that makes you happy, so long as it isn’t illegal, immoral or unethical! 😉