I generally don’t spend much time talking about sewing machines on this blog. I have one, I use it, it’s a tool for getting the job done. I much prefer talking about the projects I do. So it dismays me to turn this blog into an ongoing saga of the problems with my sewing machine.
Since my last post, I’ve discovered a few more things about the machine post-tuneup. It has to go back to the shop.
I mentioned before they recalibrated the stitch length, which is good. But, they did something to the backstitch. Backstitches are now really short. So if you use the auto-backtack feature, it does three long stitches forward, three tiny stitches back, then stitches forward. Previously, forward and back stitches were always the same length. That’s probably something I could live with, because I generally don’t backstitch that often in my general sewing.
But I discovered a bigger problem while working on my yellow shirt last weekend. I had finished everything except buttonholes and button attachment. The machine had been going along fine except for some skipped stitches and a thread nest, both of which could be due to the too-small needle I was using for the thread.
That was when I discovered the machine can no longer stitch buttonholes.
It just stitches in place without feeding the fabric (cotton shirting). I’ve tried to resolve the issue with various combinations of thread, needles, tension etc. etc. I checked the instruction manual twice, to no avail. I tried lowering the pull lever both ahead and behind the post on the buttonhole foot. Nothing worked. This machine has never had problems with buttonholes before the tune-up.
So, it goes back to the store today.
I’m starting to worry that this machine may never be fully usable again. I’m not going to go into a round of trips to the sewing machine shop – this machine frankly isn’t that expensive to justify the hassle. But I still want it to be useful and functional, if only as a secondary machine. I hate waste, especially at the scale of an appliance like a sewing machine.
The Brother Dreamweaver
I had mentioned before that my thoughts have been turning towards a machine upgrade for the past several months. Those thoughts have become a lot more serious all of a sudden.
Last week, while picking up my machine, I took some time at the sewing dealership to try out the Brother Dreamweaver.
Brother has three members at the top end of the Dreamweaver family – an embroidery-only model (the VE-2200), a sewing-only model (the VQ-3000), and a combo model (the VM-6200D). I am personally interested in the sewing-only model, which is Brother’s top-of-the-line sewing-only machine. I actually tried out the combo machine, because that’s what they had set up in the shop.
The killer feature of the VQ-3000 is the MuVit foot. This is Brother’s answer to the “dual-feed” gizmos you find on machines from Pfaff and others, that feed the top layer of the fabric as well as the bottom. The MuVit foot works differently from competitor’s offerings: it looks like a giant walking foot, but it offers a little conveyer belt that grips the top layer of fabric and pulls it through the machine. It’s big advantage is that the top-layer speed is adjustable straight from the front panel of the machine; in that respect it works very similar to a differential feed on a serger. It’s big disadvantage is that like a walking foot, it is its own presser foot. You can’t use it with different presser feet the way you can with Pfaff’s IDT and clones.
I tried two test tasks. The first was edgestitching the collar points and stand on a dress shirt. I used a scrap shirt I had previously sewn (puckered interfacing ruined the collar and cuffs, so I recycled it into other projects). I wanted to see how well the machine could feed the fabric when pivoting on collar points and other places where there’s bulk, and the full garment isn’t underneath the feed dogs. The machine was set up with the MuVit foot and it was engaged during the test.
I have to say the experience was quite pleasant. The machine didn’t encounter feeding difficulties when pivoting and turning at those extreme areas. The machine feeds and sews quite smooth, which made it easy to get a straight, precise line of stitching for edgestitching around the collar stand. And the stitch quality was very nice.
I did run into one piece of bulk, where the front band of the shirt joined the hem at the bottom. This stymied the feed on the machine regardless of whether the MuVit foot was engaged. A “hump jumper” gadget eventually allowed the machine to get past the bulky bit.
The second test was with the zippered hoodie sweatshirts I had made on my PC-210; getting that machine to stitch down the front zipper evenly was a challenge with the bulky fleece. I used the samples I had prepared to try out welt pocketing for this challenge. The MuVit foot wasn’t engaged, because I used a standard zipper foot and MuVit isn’t compatible with it.
The Dreamweaver plowed through the same task like a hot knife through butter. I was able to attach the zipper with straight seam lines and no skipped stitches. I tried it twice, with both halves of the zipper. The first time I simply pinned the zipper in place. The second time, I didn’t even bother with pinning or basting and still got a nice result.
Everything was good until I asked about the price. The price they quoted sounded like the suggested retail, which kind of put me off. This is a nice machine, but in some ways it’s overkill for me and I’m not sure I’ll get my full value out of the purchase price. And my experience with the dealer over getting my current machine serviced will factor heavily into any purchasing decision.
But it’s still something to think about.
Here’s some other alternatives I’m thinking about:
- Bernina 560. I tried this machine out in June, more thoughts on it in a separate article. Briefly, nice machine but expensive to own.
- Juki F600. I tried this machine out at the sewing/quilting expo, and I’m interested to know more. This looks like a great machine with top-end features for way less than the competitor’s offerings.
- Brother PQ-1500S. This is a “semi-industrial” straight-stitch machine which looks killer for garment production, but can’t be an only machine. I would have to team it up with another machine to provide all the things it can’t do.
- A vintage machine. I know very little about vintage machines, and I’m reticent to step into this world. But I have looked at some Singer Touch & Sew machines on shopgoodwill.com that look identical to the machines I used in high school Home Ec classes back in 1983 or thereabouts. Lots of pluses and minuses to this approach as well.
More on my sewing machine as it develops, and I promise to show some more project work soon.