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Oct 3, 2013

Thursday Ditch and B*tch



Thursday and still ditching.  Not the most productive day of my life, but not the least either.  Plus, who says you always have to be productive?

I managed to rid myself of a few more things, including a pair of worn out Keen sandals that may have a bit of life left in them (I'll let the Salvation Army decide) and a weird polyfleece hat/shell thing I think was designed to be worn under a helmet.  I haven't worn it in years so out it goes.  (Plus I no longer wear black.)





Meanwhile, I was curious about the insides of the Brother VX-1120 I found yesterday, so I unscrewed the visible screws and removed the plastic front.  I'm not even sure if you can dismantle most low-end sewing machines these days.





It was sort of sad to examine the inside because it looked so cheap.  As you can see, there's some metal in there but an awful lot of plastic too.





I oiled the moving parts (with the exception of the belt area of course) in hopes I could get the thing to engage just a bit more smoothly.  I also cleaned the entire bobbin area, which had fuzz in it.





Then I put it all back together.  This amount of cleaning and oiling would make a huge difference in a vintage metal Singer, but in this Brother, it made no discernible difference at all.  My biggest gripe with this machine, as well as other new(ish) plastic sewing machines I've sewn on, is 1) how roughly they start and 2) how stiffly the handwheel turns.

1) With cheap (or poorly maintained) machines, there's often that moment where you half step down on the pedal and you hear the motor engage, but the needle doesn't start moving right away; there's a delay.  It's hard to sew a single stitch, or to backstitch with full control.  If you've ever sewn with a Singer Featherweight, in contrast, the start-up is very smooth and nearly silent.

2) Sewing machine handwheels got small in the mid Sixties (I blame the Europeans) and they're still small.  Once you get used to handling a black Singer's beautiful metal handwheel, which moves so smoothly and is so perfectly balanced, even the handwheel on a Bernina 930 feels too stiff and too shallow (like it wasn't meant to be handled very often, or functionality lost out to sleek design).

My best mechanical machines (and the ones I use most frequently) give me a feeling of absolute control over every stitch.  There is no sudden start up or racing; when the motor engages, the machine immediately starts sewing as quickly or as slowly as you want.  If you can't easily sew one single stitch and just one stitch, then you don't have full control over your sewing.  Sometimes that one extra stitch can take you off the edge of your fabric, or spoil a perfectly topstitched pocket or collar.



I couldn't tell you what it is that makes some motors smooth and some motors rough, but clearly much of it has to do with the quality of the materials.  Those old vintage Singers and Kenmores (among other great old brands) were silky smooth and had big, often very powerful, motors.  Of course, those old metal machines were also heavy.  Plastic is light, making many new machines very portable.  Even the machines that were considered portable in their day were about as light as those portable television sets from the 1950's, i.e, you could carry them from one room to another, but you wouldn't want to go much farther than that.


In closing, I bought another Brother pedal for $15 because if I want to give the machine to someone, I want the machine to be complete.  How would you like someone to give you, say, a kitchen appliance without its power cord (but with instructions on where you could buy one)?  Not very classy if you ask me.

Anyway, it's time to get back to work.

Have a great day, everybody!

22 comments:

  1. If you have any machines you really would like to give away, you should check out thesewingmachineproject.org - pretty neat little organization :)

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  2. Yeah, my Pfaff 1222E's manual says, "And so light at only 27 pounds!" I don't know about you, but hauling around 27 pounds on the end of my hand isn't a light thing! It's all-metal, too...

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  3. I was given an inexpensive Singer "Simple" a few years back and NEVER got the thing to work right! I recently passed it along to someone, with full fair warning that I couldn't run it. She said she knew some amazing old ladies who could get any machine running, although as far as I know it's still not.

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  4. New sewing machines are so loud it means I hardly ever want to use mine. I like to listen to podcasts while I'm crafting and if I keep having to pause them it gets really annoying. Add to that the fact that I usually get sewing time between 9pm and 4am, when the kids next door are sleeping only a very thin wall away. Thank god I'm getting a treadle fixed up!

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  5. My sister gave me her Bernina serger sans foot pedal/power cord. Part of me was annoyed. The other part saw "Bernina" and all was forgiven. I still haven't gotten the pedal for it, but I will rectify that soon enough.

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  6. Or the Compac Portable computer.
    In '83 it was all that and a bag of chips at just 28 pounds!
    I had one and thought it was God's Gift.

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  7. Modern sewing machine handwheels really bug me too. Both of my vintage singers have lovely big handwheels and the one I use has such an amazingly sensitive wheel that I can move it with one finger. Now I'm taking a course in fashion and we have to use newer industrial machines. Their handwheels suck! They're way too small and take way too much force to turn, even when thoroughly oiled. At least the industrial machines are metal.

    How often do people travel with sewing machines anyway? In my experience sewing machines are stationary bits of furniture and weight is not a consideration. Hand sewing and embroidery, which is so much more portable, is taken along on trips. Perhaps I am a little biased though, being practically addicted to hand sewing.

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    1. Quilters like to take their machines to and from classes, and on airplanes to classes at quilt shows. That's why the 11 lb. featherweights are so popular. But, you're right, I use a heavier machine for everyday at home.

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    2. The last couple of trips I've gone on that didn't involve an airplane found me bringing along my sewing machine. In fact, I don't think I've been to the in-laws' house without bringing mine. And while I do love my Featherweight, I don't usually bring it because I don't have a buttonhole attachment for it.

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  8. At least that Brother Sewing Machine has a metal frame. This Youtube video explains problems with modern, plastic machines. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExSnXtx34QI
    I love my 201 treadle, my Singer 237 treadle for zig zag and my Kenmore 1760.

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    1. Very interesting, Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing that video.

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    2. Yes, interesting, although obviously staged and scripted. I am sure the anecdotal story has happened to more than a few people, but I wonder if it really happened to the woman in the interview. And the technician obviously had the opportunity to plug the product he sells. I have one of the brand that he sells and I should put it on the curb. Maybe it is unlikely to send needles flying into my forehead, but that is about all I can say for it.

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  9. I learned on a Featherweight and have been frustrated with modern flimsy plastic machines too. I had a Kenmore that was more trouble than it was worth, so I ditched it for a Husqvarna about 15 years ago. (and just this week, I got a lovely Featherweight back in my life again! just blogged about it here: http://anothersewingscientist.blogspot.ca/2013/10/introducing-newest-member-of-family.html

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  10. I never use the hand weel on my Bernina! No need to as the foot pedal has the opportunity to just lift up the needle by a foot tap and puts it back in the fabric by another foot tap. It is like hands free sewing, especially if you also use the knee lift for your presser foot.

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  11. I was considering getting rid of a 1960's Kenmore that my brother found for me curbside. I only use it for a few stitches (it has a terrific darning stitch for repairing jeans). But when I opened the top, ALL OF THE GEARS WERE METAL! I can't bear to part with it, now.....

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  12. This sewing machine is going to make a good gift for a newbie just wanting dip a toe into uncertain waters. It may lead the person to want to dive in wholeheartedly.

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    1. Alex, I'm not sure it's a good idea for a newbie to use a machine like this. My youngest daughter started out with a plastic machine and she kept saying she just couldn't sew. She thought it was her intelligence or abilities and almost gave up entirely. When I finally realized what the problem was, I told her to get an older machine. She found an Elna SU62 and has never looked back. She now designs and sews stunning quilts and all that progress in the space of 3 years.

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  13. I'm so with you on the superior engineering of older (mostly cast iron) sewing machines. Can't beat them imho. I teach sewing to newbies and prefer to use a good old vintage Singer, if I get the choice. Nice of you to leave the Brother better than you found it. Hope it finds an appreciative new home.

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  14. I bought a new Janome machine that was supposed to be designed for quilters a few years ago. Drove me crazy. My old Pfaffs and the hand crank Singer stop exactly where you want them to. The Janome always took one more stitch. That's just not acceptable. It means topstitching isn't right and starting/stopping seams isn't right. I sold it a few months later as I just couldn't stand using it. It was also the hardest machine I've ever seen for threading the needle. I don't have big hands, but could barely fit two clenched together fingers in the space allowed for threading. Never was so glad to get rid of anything sewing related.

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  15. As an insomniac, I would love to be able to sew at night sometimes. silently. but my husband says he can hear my semi-quiet sewing machine all the way downstairs. Wouldn't it be nice if they made quiet machines these days?

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  16. I commented on the previous post about this machine, "put a note that it does work and where to get a controller"... It would depend on what was being given to me, if I would be upset it was handled that way. If I had NO funds and it was someone offering it to me knowing that, I'd be upset. Otherwise, I'd consider it a reasonable offer if it were free. If I were buying, I'd expect a controller to be included.

    I just thought of a reason it may have been tossed in the trash with no controller - it's one of those machines that works well for a short time, then starts changing tension. I had a machine like that, and ended up trading it in. If I had not done that, it would have been in the landfill.

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