Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sweet Dreams!

Ahhhh! It's finished!!! I'm so happy. :)

Chris and I are sleeping under it too. We're still learning how to share a blanket after sleeping under our own beddings for so many years. Can you believe this is the first blanket of any sort to fit the entire bed? I need to quilt faster!

Oh yeah, I did turn the quilt "sideways" so we'd have more give and less hogging. ;)


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm scared to say it...

...but I think I'm quilting again!

Actually, I finally finished free-motioning the top tonight. About 7 months longer than I had in mind. :P

I was too scared to say anything when I got my machine back on Monday and promptly ran into my old tension issues again! Oh yes, there were tears!!! So I figured I'd make a sample piece and see if I could email a picture to Kelly to determine what I'm doing wrong. Then I realized dark blue thread both in the top and bobbin would be hard to picture... so I switched the top thread out. And the tension was perfect. Huh. Could it be the THREAD? I wound up a spool of blue thread (slightly lighter than what I had been using before) and it's quilted perfectly. And yes, all the thread is the same brand, Connecting Thread's "Essential Threads". That dark blue spool got thrown out! It'd also explain why I didn't have any problems during the first 70% of the quilt, as I had two dark blue spools - bought at different times.

It's not entirely the thread's fault though. Half of my problems may have been due to the previous guy who serviced my machine. Apparently he wasn't keeping so updated in the Bernina world and honing in his sewing machine knowledge. The very first thing Chris said when I got the machine back was how much quieter it is.

I also have 90 days to go back with any problems and have it fixed, free of charge. Today I have 88 days left. ;) I plan to quilt my heart out, I want the problems to show up now! And because I'm totally geeky, I also asked how many hours are on my machine. 71. Zowie... there was 62 in March 2008. That makes my actual needle-moving time is about 6 hours a year. Yet I can tell you I've made at least 10 quilts from start to finish, plus twice as many tops in that time period. I must be a very fast quilter... :P

Off to get the binding on the quilt in the picture!


Friday, September 11, 2009

Just waiting

My sewing machine ready to travel to Tucson last week. Doesn't everybody buckle in their machines? ;)

First I went to the old Bernina dealership that I had gone to in the past. There was absolutely nothing to indicate there ever was a sewing business. Not even a note in the window. I went next door and asked what happened... apparently the owners retired at the end of May. Oops! My bad. So if anybody is wondering, the Bernina Sewing Center of Tucson on 4500 Speedway is gone. I guess there wasn't anybody to pass the business down to.

Onto the Hancock Fabrics on 22nd. I was a bit early and had to wait outside. Some lady was asking why I was there, and then she pointed out a sign on the window saying there would be a technician at the store on October 23. She didn't think they'd be able to help me before that. Not what I wanted to hear!! :P

Once the store opened, I was able to go straight to the Bernina Center inside. I was lucky to have the undivided attention of Kelly G., who manages that center. She was absolutely WONDERFUL! She explained to me that she doesn't do the cleaning and fixing herself, but that she has a tech that she brings the machines to. No chance of me getting same day service, but it would be 1-2 weeks. Sounds good to me!

When Kelly found out that I'm deaf, she started making sure that she was facing me the entire time so I could read her lips easily. Turns out that she's actively involved with the Tucson's Deaf Community. From what I understand, her son's best friend's parents were deaf and that spurred Kelly to take some sign language classes. She told me that every Wednesday morning, a bunch of deaf people get together to quilt. Wow, that was a new one for me. :) Kelly said if I ever move to Tucson, she'll be more than happy to show me around with the Deaf Community. I'm ready to move! ;)

Currently it's been a bit over a week, and I'm trying not to chop at the bit and patiently wait until next Friday to see what's up. I'm really hopeful that she'll call some time early next week. The service will be $90 (about what I expected) and I bought a new bobbin case. She charged me her "old" price, $75, since she bought the bobbin case before the price increase (new price is $120 for a bobbin case). She also gave me a 25% discount (I think she said there was some coupon for the entire month of September?), which bumped my out of pocket price to $62. See what I mean about her being a wonderful lady? :)

I have no idea what's wrong with my machine, or how fixable it is... but I sure left the store feeling so much better. :)

Jill had the lovely suggestion of alcohol to "fix" my problems. I gotta admit that I was tempted there for a moment! ;)

But Kim spoke up saying that she has the exact sewing machine as I do... and had the exact same problem. All I could think of was "I'm not alone! I'm not insane!!" Kim never did find a solution for her Bernina, and ended up buying a Juki TL98. She says the 150 is a wonderful piecer, and I have to agree; it just gets temperamental when it comes to free-motioning.

I'm strongly considering saving up for a Juki now. I'll wait on the results of my Bernina first, but my idea is to save $100/month until I have about $900 and hunt for a good deal on a Juki TL98. I figured I can limp the free-motioning along for 6-9 months on the Bernina, and then hopefully retire it to a piecing-only machine.

I'm wondering if it might be a more well known issue with Bernina 150s, except perhaps most owners don't try to free-motion themselves. Part of me thinks that a large portion of people that can afford Berninas can also afford to have their quilts professionally done or even own a long arm set up themselves. But every now and then, there's people who bide their time and faithfully seek the auctions on eBay and snag one for the fraction of the original cost. Like me. ;)

Here's to hoping that I'll be quilting next week!


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Defeat, the longer story

The problem is my sewing machines. Yeah... more than one machine. :(

I've mentioned my free-motioning tension issues several times before. January 2008. Cropped up again in March 2008. I took my sewing machine to the shop in March and it seem better... but it came up again in February 2009. I could still piece just fine, so I ignored it because I needed to get ready to move to a new apartment. I guess the car ride was soothing to my machine, and I was able to free-motion, for about 4 bobbins worth in June. Since then, it's been unbelievably off.

I finally give in, admit that I can't fix this problem myself, and have Chris call up the Bernina Dealer that I've gone to twice before. Hoping that I can have same day service so I don't have to be without my machine. He calls... and gets a message that the number is not in service. Huh? Maybe it's a fluke. It was late Saturday morning when he made the call. Weekends aren't the best time. Yeah, right. The only reason a number wouldn't be in service is because they're out of business or they didn't pay their phone bill. But I just tell myself I'll have Chris call during a weekday, just to make sure.

In the meantime I keep trying to make my tension work. I took my sewing machine for a 15 mile car ride. There. I said it. :P I blew a gallon of gas in hopes that the bumps and rumbling would jar it into behaving. It worked when I moved, why not again? After the ride, I tested on my tester quilt sandwich. The tension was behaving, it was beautiful. Ok... let's get back to the Thimbleberries quilt. But first I had to change the thread color... and just several inches later, the tension was whacked. Urg! I can't win. I give up, my machine needs help.

So today I figured I'd try to get my back up machine set up for free-motioning. Today was the quilt guild's garage sale, so I looked around for sewing machines or sewing feet. Nothing. I swung by a place called "Bos Sewing". Open the door, see a bunch of ladies sewing at industrial machines and endless lines of clothes. Oops. That's a sewing repair and alternation place. Last place I could think of in this town was a vac'n'sew shop. Asked if they had any slant shank darning feet...

...sure do! And for $10.75 it was mine. Alright! I can set up the other machine for free-motioning. It's a Singer 301, how can I go wrong? No. Don't answer that. :)

I go home, and I set up the machine. I'm carefully following the manual to make sure I'm doing it right. I get the tester quilt sandwich and get ready to sew. The needle starts going up and down, I'm having some trouble moving the fabric a little... then SNAP. Ugh. Broke the bobbin thread. Several times.

So I hunker down, pull out thread piece after thread piece... and there's one last one that I can't pull. I try to take apart the bobbin area, but it's just not happening. I look in the owner's manual for how to take apart the bobbin area, and they don't say! It's not fair, they give very detailed information how to take apart the top tension and put it back together again. Ok, gonna wing it. So I start to unscrew stuff, but nothing is coming apart.

Forget that, I'll just put it back together and throw the machine in the corner. Then there's this one screw that's recessed in and I'm having the hardest time to get it in it's place without dropping it into the innards. I had the brilliant idea to Elmer's glue the screw to the screwdriver. :) Shucks, it still sounds like a good idea. It was working, but I couldn't get the screw to align with the threads, so I kept unscrewing it to start all over again... and I dropped the screw into the guts of the bobbin area. I shake and shake the machine to dislodge the screw, but nothing comes out. The glue caused the screw to stick. :P

And that's when I admitted defeat.

Some tears later, I figured at least I can unscrew the stitch plate and see if I can tweezer out the missing screw. Ha! The screw was gluing itself to the stitch plate. :) Hastily put the screw back in place (it's crooked, I still can't get the screw threads to align) and crawled into bed. Blanket up to my eyes, tears dripping and soaking the pillow. Just completely at the end of my rope.

Chris comes home, I brawl out my eyes and tell him my sad story and that I'm all done with quilting because hand quilting doesn't hold any appeal to me. Afterwards, he picks up the phone and tries the Bernina shop again. "This number is not in service." Then I think he called 411 for the number, and they said there's no such shop on Speedway. What?! Their website is still up, Google isn't showing any indication that they went out of business. I have no idea what's going on with them. They've been in business for over 30 years! Maybe that's the problem, maybe the owners died?

Chris does some searching of his own and comes up with a Bernina center inside a Hancocks Fabric store. Called them up, but they don't let you set appointments. So I'm gonna go to Tucson tomorrow and drop off my machine for who-knows-how-long. Actually, I'm going to swing by the other Bernina shop to see what's going on with them. Then I'll go to the Hancocks Bernina.

I made up a sampler of my free-motioning issues. It's truly all over the place, and always on the bobbin side.

I've tried making my bobbin thread extremely loose and the top tension as tight as possible... and still get loops. :( No way can I finish quilts like this.

As for the Singer 301, the wheel isn't turning because something in the bobbin area is hitting something in the stitch plate. Yeah, real technical there. :P I'm just so spent in trying to deal with this problem that I don't have the energy to try to fix the 301. Perhaps I'll take it to the Sew'n'Vac place someday, but right now it's just getting pushed back to the closet shelf. As Chris said, "one problem at a time."

The next problem was what was for dinner. He took me out. :D

The current plan is to take my Bernina to Tucson tomorrow and find somebody to fix it. First the dealer that I've been to before, then there's two Hancock Fabrics that say they have Bernina Centers.

If they can't fix my machine, then I'll be shopping for a new one. I'll probably end up either buying another Bernina 150 on eBay (because I have a lot of accessories and parts for that machine already, $500); considering a Juki-T98 (a fellow quilt guild member had one for sale, on a frame for $850 last year, I think... maybe she still has it?) or getting a Janome 6600 (which would mean starting all over in learning a machine, and lots of money...$1500?).

I really don't want to get a new machine. I'm JUST about to pay off another student loan, so I have $1200 waiting to be sent. Chris said that if it does come down to a new machine, he wants to use the loan money. He'd rather have me happily quilting than his loan paid off right now. Isn't he so sweet? :) I'd probably still be crying if he hadn't taken charge and help my emotions come down to a more reasonable level.

That's where things stand. I can't do any sewing right now. I have around 30 quilt tops that need to be finished. I have thread, batting and backing for all those quilts. The cost of sending all those tops to a long armer would be more than what a new machine costs. I LIKE free-motioning. My sewing machine doesn't.

Thank you for all your sympathetic words! And if you have any advice or information, I'll happily listen. I'm game for anything at this point.



I'm ready to quit quilting completely!