Friday, October 3, 2014

The Benefits of Owning a Rocketship

First off, there is less swearing. This is a benefit to all. At first I thought that my new machine didn't actually make things go faster, but I realized last week that indeed when I am swearing less and fixing things less, projects do get done more quickly. Imagine that!

This is the promised post about how very cool my new rocketship is.

Its major benefit is this thing in the photo below, called the Acu-Feed Foot. A sewing machine "foot" is whatever piece of metal or plastic is holding your fabric from the top and pressing it against the metal plate below. These feet are removable, and depending on how they are designed, they can achieve different things, like attach a zipper, darn a hole in something, or sew crazy fun stitches. This one here has little guiding grabbers that pull the fabric from the top and help it to feed evenly along under the needle. You can't really see the top grabbers in this photo but you can see the ones that grab the bottom layer of your fabric. Those are the teeth-like metal parts you see running vertically in the middle of the picture. They're called feed dogs but I don't know why. I get that they feed the fabric but I don't get the dog part.

But I am not that interested in finding out, so we'll move on. When you are sewing through a lot of layers, or if you have to go over big bumps such as at the beginning of something thick, this foot will do it. My previous machine had to be coaxed, coerced, or just throttled into going over big bumps, and it always slid the top layer off the bottom layer, making things crooked. (For those of you who are sewers and want to know why I didn't own a walking foot, I did and it made very little difference.) This machine just slides right over those bumps, hallelujah.

Another extremely cool feature is the needle plate, which is that big flat piece of metal with grooves and holes on it. This machine comes with two needle plates. The one I have installed at the moment has two little holes right next to each other which you can see in the middle of the photo above. Those are the only places the needle will go with this plate--either in the middle or slightly to the left. Why does this matter? Well, first off any flimsy fabric you want to use will not be crushed into a wide hole by the powerful needle. Secondly, any narrow piece of fabric will not get smashed into a wide hole. This is what matters to me.

Above you see me sewing a narrow strip of fabric that's going to be a tie in the back of a smock. I've told the needle (in the photo the needle has a little red dot on it, and it is poking down through the fabric) to go in the left-hand hole so that the grabbers on the left of the foot will grab as much of the fabric strip as possible, thus guiding it straight and true. This whole set-up is a gigantic time saver. The narrow little strip does not get eaten from below, the bump at the end of the tie slides under smoothly, and the layers of fabric all line up correctly at both ends. It's truly stunning and makes me want to jump for joy. I realize that for most of the world, indeed for all of the people with whom I live, this is completely not interesting, but you are reading, so...keep reading. 

The other needle plate, which just pops in and out with a little lever, has a very wide hole in it to allow the needle to move side to side and make many, many different stitches. Here is a photo of all the stitches it can make. 

That's the lid of the machine propped open, showing what each stitch looks like and which number to punch into the computer so that it will sew the stitch you want. The computer is down there at the bottom right. There are a zillion stitches and I know I will never use them all. I tend not to be wowed by the different stitches a machine can make. I bought this machine because of its power, its precision, the enormous size of it, and the features I'm talking about now. Someday I might use many of those stitches but I haven't used any of them yet. Seriously, noting except the straight stitch so far.

You can see in the photo above some of the slots for the different feet the machine comes with. I think it came with about 15 or so; only the ones the manufacturer thinks you will use most often are stored in the top. The rest live in a compartment the fits under the machine. So far I have used the zipper foot and the regular foot but I've got some applique coming up shortly and I am sure in the distant future there will be some quilting.

Here's some of the handy features that entry-level machine's don't have. At the top of the photo above you see a scissors button. This cuts the threads when you are finished sewing and brings both the top and bottom threads to the bottom so you don't have to snip them later with your itty bitty snipping scissors. Another little convenience. The double arrow button allows you to decide whether you want the machine to stop with the needle up, out of the fabric, or down, in the fabric. I like it down because I am usually stopping just to make a turn, and if your needle comes out of the fabric and you try to turn your project it doesn't work--you lose the stitching line you were making and you basically create a hole in your seam. The target-looking button is very handy. It locks the beginning and end of the stitching line for you by having the machine make several stitches in place. Next down is the reverse button, which all machines have so it's not that special. But I do like how I can program this machine to make a lock stitch or a reverse stitch at the beginning and end of every line I sew. I definitely did not have that before.

Finally, a photo of the whole thing. See the area where my pin holder is? That area is called the harp and it matters to some people how big it is, because the bigger it is the larger the project you can work with. This one is eleven inches wide, which is the widest I have heard of. I love that much of the time my pin holder can just sit there being very convenient!

You can also see that the machine comes with a large clear table that slides on from the left, which is also great for resting big projects. When heavy fabrics are pulled by their own weight off the edge of a smaller table, the stitches can come out warped, or worse, you can hurt your machine by all that sideways pulling on the needle. This big table has eliminated any of those types of problems for me.

So these are the main reasons I bought this machine. I also just like the feel of it when sewing and how very quiet it is. I actually purchased a completely different machine at first, which after a couple of days I took back to the store. It was an even more expensive thing from Bernina and it worked a lot like a princess in my view. Demanding, dainty, and very picky. Every little thing involved pushing multiple buttons on the computer. And it was insanely loud. I know quilters love, love their Berninas, but my Janome is much more my style.

Nope, no one has paid me to say all these nice things about my machine. Janome does not know I exist and I don't think the sewing machine store knows I have a blog. I'm just pretty pleased that my months of research and lengthy test drives led me to just the right choice for me, and I am so, so grateful that my shop's success made it possible for me to get it! 

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