Long time readers will know that I’m a Bernina girl. I learned on my mother’s Bernina (which is now nearly 60 years old). When I was 24, I bought my first sewing machine for myself–a Bernina 1000. I still have that workhorse machine and still love it. Twenty years later, I bought my second sewing machine, a Bernina 350PE. I use this machine constantly. There are actually more stitches than I ever use but it’s a great all around machine. Now, a little over five years later there’s a new machine. Not a replacement for either of the Berninas. Oh no….this is a semi-professional quilting machine! I know! It’s not a Bernina. Shocking. But I chose this machine for a lot of reasons. Here’s what I wanted/needed:
- A wider throat (or harp). That’s the opening between the needle and the side of the machine. Home sewing machines have narrow throats which work perfectly well until you start making large bags or quilts. Then it becomes a struggle that can give you a literal pain in the neck.
- No complicated electronics. Just a good, sturdy, straight stitching machine that can handle thick bag layers as easily as a quilt sandwich.
- Usable with a frame for free motion quilting.
- Economical. Even though this machine is my business machine, I don’t have tons of money to spend. (That ruled out a Bernina right away.)
- A company with a long history. Juki has that. They’ve been making industrial machines for ages.
Here she is! She’s heavy and solid without any frivolous bits. Okay, well, maybe two things that I, personally, find unnecessary. I may change my mind on one of them, but not the other. The first is a thread cutter. The second is the automatic needle threader. (My Bernina 350PE has an automatic needle threader and I have never used it. Hard to see using this one either.)The necessary bits I’m fond of are the automatic needle down position, the presser bar adjustment knob and window, the speed control button (see the blue lever with the tortoise and hare) and the easy oiling spots. And best of all….the huge extension table!I’ve only had several days of sewing with this machine. So far, I’m thrilled. I got great value for my dollar with this machine. I love the heaviness and solidity. I don’t mind the noise. I expect a mechanical machine to sound like one. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the way my grandmother’s old Kenmore whirred along, gears meshing and cam turning.
I need to spend time working out the proper settings when using the walking foot. It’s going to take some fiddling to get the presser foot height and tension adjustments all working together. Straight out of the box, it was a disaster. On the plus side though, I found no significant shift in layers when piecing with the regular foot. A small thing I found oddly satisfying.The machine uses L bobbins, same as my Bernina 1000. Pam turned me on to Superior Threads Masterpiece Thread. I treated myself to some pre-wound bobbins. On Amazon, I found the perfect bobbin keeper. The foam helps keep them in place which is a feature that’s important to me.
I purchased this machine from Sewing Machines Plus. They’re located here in San Diego county although I purchased the machine online as part of a package. The rest of the package deal….a Grace quilting frame! I am incredibly excited about having this set up for free motion quilting. Not having to baste a quilt, being able to stand up to quilt, being able to move the needle and not the fabric…I am so looking forward to this! Just a small glitch…we have to find room in our little bungalow to set it up. Until that happens, I’ll be using the machine to practice free motion quilting the usual way. Because, it turns out, I have plenty of quilt tops to quilt. Here’s the current stack waiting for attention. See that burnt orange/dusty blue/gold one that looks like it doesn’t belong? If I remember correctly, that’s Moda (possibly Chez Moi) from 2006. It was just before I discovered Jane Sassaman’s fabric and my world exploded with color.
I’m predicting lots of fun ahead in 2016. What with the free motion quilting skill building and the need for even more quilt tops to practice on. Not to mention some of the other things I’m trying to get out of my head and into fabric for you. I hope you’ll stay tuned for it all!