"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sewing Machines - A Love Story for Quilters

With spring here, it is easy to get distracted to the point where you don’t blog. And in my case, I also get busy and don’t quilt so I don’t have much to blog about. But life getting busy is the best reason I can think of to slow down on that front.

When I decided to learn how to quilt in late 2003, I was nervous. I didn’t know how to sew. I didn’t have a sewing machine. Except for my Husband’s boss, who lived in another town, I didn’t know anyone who quilted. And I didn’t have time for formal lessons.

I started out by researching what sort of machines were out there. I think at the time I thought that “more expensive” meant “better machine.” Sadly, that came into direct conflict with my naturally cheap nature. On the one hand, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I never do. On the other, I didn’t want to WASTE money on a cheap sewing machine. Either way, I didn’t want to stick my neck out too far because I wasn’t sure I would even enjoy sewing.

I promptly learned that Berninas are very good machines but quite pricey. I decided to buy the smallest Bernina I could find because I assumed it would be a good machine and at least I wouldn’t be out any more money than I had to. Why I didn’t just get a cheap Brother or something to try out quilting is a mystery other than that Husband was strongly encouraging me to get a good machine (although I have since learned that Brothers are actually quite nice machines). In fact, Husband encouraged me to get a bigger machine (even if more expensive) but I couldn’t imagine spending that kind of money. So when I got my little Bernina 220, even getting it for a deep Christmas discount set me back several hundred dollars.  To my way of thinking, that placed me in a situation of no longer have the choice regarding whether I would enjoy quilting. With that much money on the line, I would just have to fake it even if I hated it.
I was utterly infatuated with my little 220 Bernina and, happily, took to quilting like a duck to water. Still, I almost immediately wished I’d bought a bigger machine but by that time, it was too late. Regardless, I had no doubt that my little 220 was MY machine and I thought she was wonderful.

In 2005, it came time to take my little Bernina in for her annual physical. I called the store where I bought her and they blandly informed me that I could drop her off but it would be at least three weeks before I’d get her back – perhaps up to six weeks. I thought I was going to have a panic attack.

I put off taking her in for several weeks and then made the decision that I would buy an inexpensive backup machine to tide me over while my little Bernina was in the shop. My first thought was to spend about a hundred dollars on an inexpensive Brother from Wal-Mart. But I’d heard good things about Janomes and ended up buying a new 4800 off e-bay.

I spent quite a bit more than I’d originally planned but got it on the cheap because there were newer models out there and this was one they wanted to clear out of their inventory. I actually paid a bit more than I’d paid for my little Bernina but it came with all the feet I’d need and was bigger.

I felt horribly extravagant to spend about $700.00 for it (especially for a back up machine) but so many people have back up machines that I rationalized that it was okay. When it arrived (in perfect condition), it was love at first sight. I mean, really. I just loved it. I loved the drop in bobbin. I loved the plastic bobbins. I loved the size. I loved the weight. I loved the way it was so quiet and steady. Threading the needle was super easy. I loved how the feet snapped on and off. I loved that the walking foot and quarter-inch foot were so inexpensive. So I bought them.  Then, I bought and a two foot square acrylic table, custom made for her.  I loved that the table acted as a lightbox for paper piecing.

The first thing I did with the Beloved Janome was rearrange some of the second living room to make room for a "real" sewing area for her. I knew from the first that she deserved her own home, not some little borrowed space.

I love my Beloved Janome so much that, except for a class that I took, I haven’t stitched on my little Bernina since the day it left for the shop to be serviced in 2005. I suppose you could argue that this means I am faithless or faithful, depending on your point of view. As for me, I think my little Bernina was a decision made in my youth before I understood myself and what I needed and wanted. My Beloved Janome, however, is the sewing machine love of my life – my soul mate. Call me a faithless jade but after all these years, I can’t imagine life without my Beloved Janome.

I love that machine so much I haven’t been willing to take her to the shop to be serviced since I got her in 2005.  Shame on me for being so neglectful and taking her for granted.   She is a complete workhorse and I just couldn’t bear to be separated from her. I didn’t even put her on the moving van when we moved back home to Oklahoma.

But Friday, I bit the bullet and drove her to the local Janome dealer to be oiled, cleaned and examined. I wrote my name on her power cord, her foot pedal and her bottom with a blue sharpie. I took out all her feet except one to make sure they didn’t get stolen misplaced. I wiped her down to make sure there wasn’t dust on her (I didn’t want the tech to think he could treat her poorly because her owner clearly didn’t take proper care of her!).

When I got to the shop, I cradled her in my arms before taking her inside. Once there, I explained that I was dropping her off to be serviced and asked how long it would be before she’d be ready. When they told me it would be the next day, I started breathing, again. They reached for her to take her from me but I kept stepping back, keeping her pressed to my breast. The longer I talked, the longer I could put off leaving her. Finally, I relinquished her, regretfully, keeping a hand on her as long as I could.  I gave them my cell phone “just in case” they got done with her that day. I assured them I would come right over and get her.

After I signed all the paperwork and was heading out the door, I spotted a Janome 6600. Out of curiosity, I asked them to show her to me. Then I asked them to let me look at the 11000. I went back and forth between both of them. They were both beautiful. Then, I looked at the used machines and they were beautiful, too. But you know what? Even though I know those are terrific machines, I didn’t have the slightest interest in trading in my Beloved Janome. It had NOTHING to do with money.

I spent the afternoon visiting Mrs. P, a dear elderly woman who is like a second mother to me.

When I left Mrs. P’s home, I noticed that I had a voice mail from my husband. According to him, the shop had called and my Beloved Janome was ready to come home. I fought rush hour traffic and drove across town.  A truck had overturned on the exit ramp of a major highway, backing up traffic for miles so I drove an additional 22 miles out of my way to get to her.  Once there, I scooped her up in my arms (she’d had a burr on her bobbin case but they’d fixed it) and brought her home where she belongs.

My Beloved Janome has never let me down, never lied to me, never cheated on me, never taken advantage of me. She has willingly done everything I’ve asked her to.  She was made for me. If you don’t have that sort of relationship with your sewing machine, you are missing something.  Yes, I am one weird chick.  But I know love when I see it. 

Happy Quilting,

Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


Suzanne Kistler said...

I feel the same way about my first Bernina. I've given her siblings, but she is my one true love.
I'm trying to figure out your "weird chick" comment. Shouldn't everyone have this kind of relationship when quilting? :)

Penny said...

Suzanne, everyone only have this kind of relationship when quilting if they are lucky! But I can't imagine having a machine that was just...a machine.

Anonymous said...

You're a lucky woman, Penny.

I've never bonded with a sewing machine, except maybe for my Singer 66. It was mom's machine, which she bought second hand after WWII, after convincing my father it was a necessary expenditure. She made everything on that machine - clothes, slipcovers, tablecloths, Halloween costumes.

The motor gave out after I started quilting, so my husband put it in a treadle stand. I still enjoy sewing on it, even though I now have a Bernina and a Viking hanging out in the sewing room.

The old lady still rocks, you know?



Penny said...

Janet, you do, indeed, rock!

pecasatwo said...

Gosh - I hope this is normal becaue it is how I am also - only my workhorse is a 1978 Kenmore and I scoured ebay and craigslist for two years and drive out of state to buy another one just like her to be my backup. She has not been professionally serviced since purchase though I do take good care of her and just replaced her original lightbulb last year! We are faithful to each other.