Sewing is Good for the Soul

I visited my sewing machine today. It’s been a bit lonely lately, I’m sure. There it sits on that lovely custom sewing table day after day, and it can’t even enjoy the view from the window because it’s turned toward the opposite wall. I’ve been doing some quilt related things recently as I hinted here, but they don’t really involve that “hands on” time with the sewing machine and fabric.

It all started with making the bed. Confession time: I’m not a bed-maker. I never have been. Why make the bed when you’re just going to get in it later and mess it up? ITMan doesn’t care one way or the other–he’s not a bed-maker either–so we get along fine. When we get out of bed, we just pull up the covers a bit, and go on about the day. Shadow loves that especially in winter since he can go burrow under the covers and sleep when he gets cold during the day, and Patches sometimes makes his bed there as well on top of the feather duvets. Continue reading

Bernina 8 Series–The Lowdown on Prices

ITMan really is saying I should get one of the new Bernina 8 Series machines. It’s a good thing he’s not in charge of the cash around here, or we’d be eating boxed mac & cheese for dinner daily! :) I just keep shaking my head at him in wonder, but I did let curiosity get the better of me last night and I called a dealer in North Carolina to find out what the price really is. My girlfriend Dawn lives in NC, and I figured if I had to get a machine from the States, NC is as good a place as any and maybe she could be persuaded to mail the sucker to me. Are you ready?

$11,990 for the 830, and $7,490 for the 820. The 820 price is not solid; the dealer said that’s what they think it will be, but the 830 price is the MSRP from Bernina. I asked about the price on the frame and they had no info about that yet, but I did see a site this morning that said $2,000 for the frame, and dropped the little tidbit that most dealers would be offering the 830 for about $2k less than the actual MSRP.

Well. Here’s my current thought process on all of this, and then I’m going to be quiet about the 8 Series machines until I can really get my hands on one if I decide I really want to take the plunge. If I do decide I’m really getting one, I probably won’t go for the 830. Why do I need another embroidery machine? I have the 440, which does what I need. I’m making quilts here, not embroidered murals, and if I ever did want to make bigger designs than the 440 does out of the box, I can get the extra hoops that are bigger and meant to be turned around or whatever it is that you have to do. I haven’t yet exhausted what the 440 can do with embroidery to need something bigger and better in that department.

So that leaves me dreaming of the 820 for the bigger throat area as well as all the other wonderful bells and whistles. I’ve often wished for a machine with a bigger throat for machine quilting and now one is available that I could really like I think. I don’t even think I’d want the machine quilting frame right away. I do just fine pushing the quilt through the machine, rather than pushing the machine on the quilting frame. If I ever change my mind on that, the frame is available and made to go with the machine, and at the moment, I even have a place to put it.

Beside that, if I bought the 830 with the embroidery and sold the 440 that I have, I’d be locking myself into one machine to do it all. Then what do I do when I need to do some piecing or embroidery, and the machine is on the quilt frame? Finish the quilt first, I’m guessing, or deal with the big PITA of taking the machine off the frame before the project is finished and then loading it back up again. And I’m sure the machine is no lightweight either so hauling it around wouldn’t be any fun. Even if I didn’t have the quilting frame, but only the one machine, what do I do at service time? Um, not sew? *shudder* I know, I’m spoiled.

I’m thinking that I would sell my Pfaff 2056, since the 820 has a dual feed which means I wouldn’t need to keep a Pfaff around just for that anymore. I’d keep the Bernina 440, since I love it and it does everything I need to do except the dual feed, including the embroidery. I loved my 2056, but I love my Bernina 440 more. I don’t really need three machines on hand and selling the Pfaff 2056 would certainly help with the price of the Bernina 820.

The 820 machines won’t be available until January, so there’s time to think and plan of course, as well as find a buyer for the Pfaff 2056 if I decide to go down this road. ITMan is certainly pushing me to go for it, for whatever crazy reason. I have no idea whether it would be better to buy one here locally, and deal with the poor value of the Dollar against the Euro (though I might not have to pay the 19% German sales tax at least), or try to get one shipped to me through a friend in the States. I’m sure the crate it comes in is huge, and might even be too big to go through the mail.

Wait and see, wait and see. Patience is not my strong point. :) I’m sure I’ll be thinking of the 820 with longing quite shortly here, since I have to machine quilt the Inchie quilt in the next month or so. While it’s not huge like some of the quilts I’ve quilted on a home machine, I’m sure there will be moments when I’ll be wishing I had the 820 with its 12″ throat area on my sewing table right now!

Bernina 8 Series–The Dream Machines

Bernina 830

If you missed the global launch of the Bernina 8 Series, you may have to wait a bit to see the webcast on the Bernina 8 Series website. It will be there eventually they say, but it’s not there yet. I was afraid of that, so yes, I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. to catch the launch live, which started at 1:30 a.m. here in my part of the world. It was sooo worth the late night and puffy eyes this morning to see if all that fancy marketing, car talk and just plain bragging on Bernina’s part was justified.

And with only a couple of reservations, I think the hoopla was justified. To be honest, my jaw dropped more than once during the presentation and I think that the more I see of these machines (for there were actually two machines, not just one) the more I’ll like them. And want one. *sigh*

So what’s the big deal? The 8 Series is not your mother’s sewing machine people. The overall messages about these new machines are luxury, size, speed and choice. The full feature list is available on the Bernina 8 Series site, as well as movies showing key features, but these were the high points of the webcast for me:

  • It’s just plain BIG, all over. 41″ from bumper to bumper. Um, sorry, from side to side. It’s so big, if I bought one I’d have to take ITMan’s SUV to pick it up from the dealer because there’s no way the box (crate?) would fit in the Mustang. The box for the Bernina 440 had to go in the back seat as it was, since my trunk was too small.
  • All that size overall means more space to the right of the needle, 12″ to be exact. For comparison value, I just measured the Bernina 440, and it has 7½”; I can well imagine how much easier it would be to push a large quilt though the machine with 4½” more space to do it in. Can you say less pain in arms and back while machine quilting? And a 15″ free arm is nothing to sneeze at either!
  • Push button needle threading makes threading the needle the work of a thought. Take the thread from the thread delivery system (the machine has leg room for four spools of any size or shape, with an integrated telescoping feeding system. No more external spool holders for specialty threads!). Lay the thread across the machine, push a button, the needle is automatically threaded and you’re ready to sew. Sure, all of my machines have needle threaders, but I still have to man the threader. This push button feature is just plain coooool.
  • The bobbin is a jumbo bobbin that has 40% more trunk space than before. You can select how much thread to wind on the bobbin, and how fast to wind it. There’s no bobbin case, and the automatic swing out bobbin system makes it easy to change, and you won’t need to change the bobbin as often when you can fill it up with 40% more thread. The bobbin system on the 8 Series machines can handle heavier threads than other machines, making bobbin work with decorative threads easier and more fun.
  • Here’s a jaw dropper: The Bernina 8 Series machines have a dual feed system! Thank you, thank you! More rubber on the road means more control and more consistent feeding. Don’t get me wrong, the newer Bernina machines handle feeding much better than the older ones I’d used over the years, but I still use my Pfaff for machine guided quilting and binding since there are so many layers and such a large potential for shifting. With a dual feed feature on a Bernina, I’d be a happy camper indeed.
  • A large and beautiful 7″ color touch screen is the command and control center for the machine. The machine has a clock and an alarm (I’ve always wondered why computerized machines didn’t have that!), you can store your needle size and type in the machine’s memory so you’ll always know what’s in the machine when you sit down to sew, and you can even change the wallpaper on the screen just like you can on your home computer. Virtually everything is programmable, from securing stitches to connecting stitches, from the slit width on buttonholes to the 360° stitching direction. You can even change stitching direction on the fly during stitching.
  • The embroidery functions are bigger, better, and faster of course, and a new hooping system promises to be easier and more user friendly as well. I’m sure there’s much more to be said of the embroidery functions, but as it’s not my mainstay I’m going to leave it at that.

Along with the two machines, the top-of-the-line 830 with embroidery and the 820 without, Bernina introduced a sewing cabinet and a machine quilting frame at the same time. I could see the machine quilting frame coming, what with pre-launch rumors of a huge throat area on the 8 Series machines. The machines are a natural fit with a machine quilting frame, and it looks as though Bernina has designed a good one from what I can tell.

As for reservations, I have a couple. The 8 Series is purported to be the fastest machine in the home sewing market, reaching speeds of 65 mph in 3.5 seconds. Oh wait, with 1,100 stitches per minute capability. However, I wonder if those stitches will be consistently sized at high speeds. On the 440, I’ve found that as the sewing speed goes up, the stitch size goes down considerably, since the fabric isn’t being transported through the machine consistently at high speeds. The stitches tend to get really small when you put the pedal to the metal. The new dual feed might help this problem a bit, and I’ll be interested to test drive one and see if this fault has been fixed in this new generation of machines.

The second, and arguably the largest reservation I have, is price. In the midst of all the hoopla, not one word did I hear about the MSRP on these babies. I heard “Go see your dealer today and pay a refundable deposit to reserve yours for November delivery of your new 830, or January delivery for the new 820,” and “Bernina offers interest free financing until January 2010,” but not one whisper about how much and whether a second mortgage on a house would be required to put one of these machines in your driveway, er, studio.

I called my dealer in Stuttgart this morning and he said that he has absolutely no solid information about any of it, because the actual product launch here in Europe won’t be until the end of the year, well after the machines are available in the States. I’m sure there’s some esoteric business reason for not launching the machines worldwide at the same time as they are available in the States, but I haven’t a clue what it might be. Are Americans just that much more likely to buy a high end machine like this?

As first impressions go, the Bernina 8 Series machines left a pretty good one. ITMan even said to figure out how to get one when I was telling him about it this morning. 8O No, he didn’t accompany me for the webcast launch last night, only saying not to wake him up to talk about it when I came to bed in the wee hours. I can’t imagine what possessed him to tell me to get one either; he must know something I don’t about a big fat raise and a promotion coming down the pipeline for him or something, because with rumors putting the price point at over $10K I’m just not sure I’d go there, wonderful features or not. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be worth the price, just that a line must be drawn somewhere, and I thought I’d drawn mine at the price point of the 440. Still, a girl can dream a bit, right?

Edit: Check out Sew Wise with Sara’s actual user review of the Bernina 8 Series. As a dealer, she and her husband were at Bernina University for the unveiling, and she has even more details on some features than you can get from the Bernina 8 Series site. There are a couple more gems in there that I’m drooling over, like these:

It even shows on screen the percentage of thread remaining on the bobbin counting down from 20% down to 2% in small increments.

Next, there is no take up lever to thread. (You know the standard threading path of down, up and down?) There is a take up lever in the machine, but the machine threads it automatically. No more “missing” the take up lever or having the thread come out of it.

I’d be crazy for the bobbin warning system, for sure. The lack of a low bobbin warning system has been one of my pet peeves about the 440 since I bought it. Thanks for sharing Sara!

Your Voice: What about you? Do you want one? Do you think it would be worth the price? Which model would you get? What are your reservations? If you have any info about an actual dollar amount, do share so we all know what we’re up against!

Bernina 8 Series–Temptation?

I received another titillating email from Bernina about the 8 Series this morning. This one says:

If you think the others have more space… you haven’t seen anything yet.

Hmmm. More work space. Must mean a longer/larger throat area, and that just might be worth having at some point. That would mean much easier machine quilting when working with larger quilts, and would cut down on pain and fatigue caused by muscling a large quilt through the machine. It would also probably mean a larger maximum machine embroidery size right out of the box without purchasing aftermarket oversized hoops.

Damn them anyway, I did not want to be tempted. Though it depends on how high the price is whether I’ll really be tempted, I’m sure. I heard rumors of many thousands of dollars, which might negate any serious temptation they can create for me. :)

Car talk: Bernina 8 Series

This is interesting: I received an email from Bernina about the unveiling of the new 8 Series in Kansas City on July 21, 2008. Hmmm, “8 Series” makes it sound like a Mercedes or something…You can witness it live in Kansas City during a two-day event or register for the free webcast on the Bernina USA site. Space is limited in Kansas City and I got the impression that they’re only giving out a few spots for the webcast even, so if you want to see it, register quick!

From the email:

It’s the unveiling of a masterpiece…From BERNINA.

On July 21, 2008, you could be one of the few to witness the exclusive debut of the only luxury high-performance sewing and embroidery system in the world. It will redefine the art of sewing as we know it.

Don’t miss this historical event.

Attend the Kansas City unveiling event in person July 21–22, 2008. Or experience it live on our free webcast.

Wow. “Luxury” and “high-performance”: more words that add to that “car” impression. And “redefine the art of sewing as we know it”??? I don’t even know what to say to that, except “marketing ploy.” :) I was telling ITMan about this, and he said “Oh, I know, it’ll be voice activated, and you’ll never have to touch the fabric. ‘Left, turn right, curve around the edge!’ Or, wait, to make a block, you’ll just have to say what you want, and say ‘Engage!’ But you have to have the right hand signal like Captain Picard, you just have to have that. You know, like ‘Engage!’” as he waves his hand to demonstrate. *snicker*

Engaging

Seriously though, just out of curiosity I registered for the webcast, since hopping over the pond to Kansas probably isn’t on my list of to-dos this year. But I really can’t imagine that the 8 Series will outdo the 440 that I have in any way that will prompt me to rush out and buy one. Just about the only thing that the Aurora 440 doesn’t have that I miss is a low bobbin warning light. However, it’s not like I’d stop sewing when the light started flashing to take the rest of the thread off the bobbin and wind a new one, I’d just keep sewing until it ran out like I always did on every Pfaff machine I owned which had that feature. I think it’s more a matter of being forewarned so that I’m not surprised when the bobbin runs out, and the fact that for a high-end machine like this and the price you pay to own one, there should be a bobbin light, dang it.

Regardless, I’m sure that even if the 8 Series has a low bobbin warning light like it should, that alone wouldn’t make it worth the upgrade price, at least for me. My machine is only a little over a year old (which reminds me that it’s about time for servicing…oh, wait, this thing tells me when it needs a trip to the service guy! What’s not to love?), so there you have it. It would probably be like trading last year’s Porsche for the new model. Why? Unless the 8 Series really is voice activated, and then all bets are off!

I’ll admit to being keen to see the webcast though, and see if there really is something to drool over… :D Go register and we’ll all watch it together!

Bernina 440 – My favorite “feature”

When I was twelve and I asked my mom to teach me to sew, one of the first lessons was how to use her Riccar sewing machine. It was a pretty high-end model, built to last, and as far as I know, still runs great. The only thing I specifically remember from that lesson was my mother’s stern admonition: “Never, NEVER, turn the hand wheel backwards.” She threatened me with death if I did it, and demonstrated how to turn the handwheel properly. She meant that the handwheel on the machine should never be turned away from me as I was seated at the machine, and she explained that that would cause the threads to tangle and possibly break the machine.

Many years later, I was quite surprised by how many people I saw doing just that in classes, and wondering why the threads were all jammed up and they couldn’t get the fabric out of the machine. I guess they missed that part of the lesson? More recently, I’ve (carefully) risked my mother’s wrath by turning the handwheel on my Pfaff backwards just one half of a complete turn, to get the needle to come back up without completing the stitch if I’ve taken just that one stitch too many (or the stitch landed in the wrong place) when I’m machine quilting. (Theoretically my mother wouldn’t care anymore, since it’s not her costly machine I’d be breaking, but do me a favor and keep my malefaction between you and me!)

One half of a complete rotation of the handwheel doesn’t seem to damage the machine, but frequently it will tangle the threads, so sometimes the technique works and other times it doesn’t. If it works, I’ve saved myself taking out a whole line of machine quilting because there’s one wrong stitch at the end. If it doesn’t, sometimes I can keep stitching (and ignore the little jig of the misplaced stitch or try to work it into the design somehow) and other times the threads are so tangled that stopping and restarting is the only option. It’s a 50-50 chance with the Pfaff. Continue reading