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.



jillquilts said...

I have one suggestion - ALCOHOL!!! Man, I got tense just reading through your post! You did far more than I would've gotten to. I agree that having tension issues is the total pits! Keep us posted and I hope that it all works out with one of the repair centers!!! :)

Winona said...

Leah, I am so sorry for all your problems. I sure hope you can get your machine repaired. Maybe it will only take a couple of days and you can use the little break to chill for a while. See, never hurts to be optimistic. (grin) Are you sure you don't like hand quilting? It is lots slower, but also very peaceful. Sounds like your husband is a keeper! I hope you have a better day tomorrow. Winona

Holly said...

I hope they can fix your machine. I am buying a Juki from a friend. It is in the shop because it rolled off my unlevel table. Yikes. Thankfully it landed in the chair and only bent the spring for the plate. I can't wait to get it and quilt something.

Heather said...

That is too bad! Keep us posted on the machine! I would go crazy as well. And what a sweet hubby!! I should get mine to read this post. hahaha!!

paula, the quilter said...

My Bernina does that when I don't match the weight of the top thread and the bobbin thread. I have a Bernina 1080, btw.

Calico Prairie said...

Ohhhhh yeah. My machine is temperamental when the weights of the top and bottom threads aren't the same too. Only that only goes for embroidery for me--I'm not really sure about free motion quilting, as I haven't done it before.

Glad you are making headway--you'll be back in business soon.

Your dh sounds like mine--really sweet of him to want to buy you a new machine!

Sarah said...

Man, that is one crummy story!

I finally traced much of my tension problems to the fact that some of my bobbins weren't quite the right size - although they look the same to the naked eye. But when I wind them, they slip some and the thread ends up too tight in places, which totally messes it up.

I spent quite a big of time ripping out messed-up stitching before making that diagnosis. At least, when the bobbin tension is too loose, the ripping out can be pretty easy!

Good luck, and may the sewing-machine gods bless you with working equipment soon.

Gill - That British Woman said...

all I can say is you have a lot more patience than I have!!

Gill in Canada

Shasta said...

I've had problems with free motion quilting too. The only thing that works for me, is to give up and try all over again another day. It might be the tension, or the thread or the wrong needle, or a dirty machine, or more likely, all of the above, but somehow, after doing something else, and going back to the quilting, something magical happens when I'm not looking, and the machine gives me permission to free motion quilt!

Kim said...

My Bernina started doing that too, and I took it into the repair shop. Still did it, although not quite as bad. Oh, and I have the same model.

Your bobbin case has a little hole in the arm that sticks up--if you aren't doing it already, run the bobbin thread through that hole--it usually helps even out tension. Also, slow down on free motion quilting and see if it works. Really, though, none if this stuff worked for me for long, so I bought a Juki. I still piece on my Bernina and love it for piecing, but I quilt on the Juki--and love that too.

Evelyn aka Starfishy said...

Hang in there! At least there is another Bernina shop in your area and you should have a diagnosis soon.

♪♪Melody♪♪ and Puddin said...

Wow, I understand how you feel. Be sure to keep us posted on what you decided to do or what got done. Just don't quit quilting.

pink pool noodle said...

I have been a Bernina technician for about 5 years. I think the solution to your problem might be a simple one. Open the bobbin door, take out the bobbin case, and unlatch the gate so the hook comes out. Is this hook plastic or metal?

Jackie said...

It's been a week since your post and I hope you are now happily sewing away!

Leah S said...

@pink pool noodle, the hook is metal. I hope you'll be able to explain what you suspect the problem is! :)