Thursday, June 6, 2013

A new aquisition

It is taking all my will power not to start this post with the phrase "they don't make them like they used to".  Look what I did there, snuck it in anyway.  What does this refer to?

new quantum

My new acquisition. Which is here on approval, at least in my mind. A few weeks ago I had an incident with my very well-loved buttonhole making attachment. After that a little voice in the back of my mind was whispering about a new machine with the built in buttonhole feature.  After some research I ordered this Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 from Costco and few days later here it is. 
I have been playing around with it for 3 days and tonight I made a top from start to finish which came out fine. For the first hour I really did not like the machine at all and was sure that after a week of fooling around with it I would be standing in the return line at Costco to get my refund. I think with anything I buy these days I kind of dislike it on principal and then slowly get accustomed. 
Maybe the reason I dislike new equipment is that I am the person that reads the manual, a study-er of the printed material, a consumer of instruction booklets. From the Cuisinart to the new printer to the Iphone to the assemble-it-yourself stuff from Ikea, I like to open the box, take out the instructions, examine all the pieces and go through the process of setting up or connecting or whatever else is indicated. Totally nerdy, huh?  As compared to family and friends who mostly fall into the "just open it and plug it in, lets see how it works" camp. 
Oh well, for my new sewing machine I could do it my way, and to my surprise after a few days, I think I like it. It may be a keeper. Except for one nagging little problem which I will get to. But I have to say the manual is not very useful. Really skimpy on the explanation of how to use all the myriad features. 
Let's remember that I have been sewing on this machine since I was 8 years old. This very one! In fact I have 2 of them, one inherited from my grandmother and one which used to live at my mom's house but she never used. Plus I have my Singer 503 which I brought back from Hawaii.

Singer 404
Look at that baby...that soothing coffee and cream color, the warm golden glow of the lamp, the nice open deck, the incredible punching power, the easy maintenance.  It is not going anywhere!

All that Singer love was not the reason I chose the new one, it just happened to be a great deal, had all the features and was at Costco (for you overseas readers - a warehouse store with great deals, lots of gigantic bulk packages, and the most amazing return policy ever).

But my lifelong habituation to a straight stitch only machine may explain why I am starting to bond with this new machine. Please don't laugh are some of the gee whiz features that I am having fun with.
  • it cuts the threads
  • push buttons for backstitching
  • slow stitch mode
  • needle up/down button
  • did I mention it cuts the threads !!!
Ok, so as I said these are not exactly new developments in sewing machine technology but they are new to me.  Not to mention all those stitches at the push of a button. So far it is actually quite easy to use, although stitch length of 3.5 lingo is not computing in my brain yet, as someone who thinks in 8-12 stitches per inch.  Can someone translate for me?
There are some things I don't like, the light is kind of glaring, the presser foot is clunky and the 5/8" marking, which I actually use is not easy to see. Also the whole thing feels so plastic-y, which I guess is to be expected.  

Recall I mentioned one teensy problem. Ha, a big problem. So far the buttonholes are  #%*$ (swear words).  Here is a example of my attempts. Mostly they came out like the one in the upper left corner. It does one side then goes up the other side and instead of doing the 2nd half it wants to keep going until I stop it.  I am wondering if the problem is the attachment.  I do notice the little bar gizmo you pull down to engage the buttonholer track is wobbly and doesn't seem quite right. I will play with it a bit more and then maybe decide there is a problem. Also see on the sample buttonholes the bar tack at the end is overzealous, a big lump really so that is not acceptable. Doesn't it just figure that the one thing I thought I wanted is not working properly? Although reading lots of blogs or forums on buttonholes has convinced me that the old buttonhole attachment makes vastly superior buttonholes so that is probably the way to go.

buttonhole samples

This weekend I will play around with it a bit more and see what else it can do. As for actual sewing this time of year I am always busier with custom sewing, so I have been making things mostly for others.
Here is a peek at something I am just completing for my friend Heather. It is rayon jersey that she bought at Britex, kind of light navy blue on white. Super soft and flowy, perfect fabric choice. This Vogue 8787 is a winner in my estimation. For once the construction order is actually reasonable! Also the cowl neckline is very well designed and falls very nicely when worn. I know I will be making this one again. 

                      V8787 blue white knit dressV8787 pattern envelope

I would love to hear your thoughts on new sewing machine selection. What did you choose? and are you happy with it?  Are the old machines better?  (in a word, yes)

Here is an unexpected pleasure in the garden. I used to plant pansies in the late winter but switched to violas (smaller version of this plant) and they are much more hardy, plus reseed all over, in a good way. So this spring I had lots of tiny jewels like this pop up in the lawn.

Viola in lawn

Happy summer sewing. It is supposed to be over 100 F here this weekend so I anticipate a lot of lounging by the pool and not much sewing.  Well maybe a little.


  1. I love reading instructions too! Threads cutting is one feauture i miss! I agree on the buttonhole...the issue with fully automated version is that you can't recover it when it gets stuck half way! It's annoying when it happens on a garment! I find it much easier to control newer machines though

  2. Hope you work your button holer out. I think she is a very pretty machine. I am one of those people too. I have been know to open a brand new toy, fish around in the box for the manual, make a cuppa and sit and read said manual start to finish before getting the new toy out of the box. Great to see there are others in the manual nerd club.

  3. I'm sure you will get used to the new machine soon - don't get rid of the old ones though. On my (now aging) machine that does auto buttonholes, after you pull the buttonhole lever down you have to push it back gently otherwise it will keep on going. I also use a buttonhole foot that you insert the button in at the back so it knows how long to make the buttonhole. My machine is a brother so this may not be of any use at all......I expect when I do eventually buy a new machine I will go for one with lots of bells and whistles!

  4. I couldn't believe it when I read your post! My mother has a Singer 503 that she bought when I was a baby. She made all my clothes on it and I will inherit it.

    I actually have a real story about the button holer for that one. Too long to go into here though. All I will say is, it led to my having quite a collection of sewing machines!

    Diann in Australia

  5. At the American Sewing Expo last year, I took a hands on class about professional jeans construction, and the machines provided had that "auto thread cutting" feature. We were gathered all around one machine as the instructor demoed a technique and then she used that thread cutting feature which I had never seen before. I gasped "oh my God!" and everyone laughed. Honestly, I never knew those features (needle up/down, slow stitch mode) existed. I learned to sew on a 1960's metal Singer and have been sewing on a 1994 BabyLock for half my life...until my parents surprised me with a new sewing machine, a Brother Project Runway machine for Christmas last year. My mom picked it out herself based on online reviews and it is amazing! But I don't have all the feet for it (yet) like I do my BabyLock so I find myself going back to my BabyLock for certain things...then pushing at the non-existent thread cutter or needle up/down button. I also prefer the zipper foot on my old machine.

    As for the buttonholer, if it "wants to keep going until you stop it"...on my BabyLock there is a lever (like AllisonC mentioned for her Brother) that you not only have to pull down but push back before you start the buttonhole, and only by you pushing it back does it know when to stop on its own (because the button is in the back of the attachment, the bar hits that button-holder thingie). As for my new Brother, I made buttonholes with it on Christmas Day and haven't tried since then, as I recall it worked a little differently than my BabyLock but I can't remember makes keyhole buttonholes whereas my BabyLock only makes basic buttonholes like for shirts. When I did my jeans class online in the fall I remember asking my instructor what to do if I didn't have the keyhole buttonhole feature...and now I don't feel so deprived.

    Oh, and also, I like to read the manual too!

  6. I learned to sew on an old pfaff and used that and a Kenmore for many years. It sure was a change to move up to a computerized machine and I'm sure it will be even more of a change when I move up to a fancy embroidery machine someday. I also think that the older machines do better button holes, and I think, easier as well. And yes, the manuals are very lacking on new machines. I guess they expect you to know what you're doing or watch YouTube videos....

  7. I grew up with Singer. My Mom had a Kenmore when I was very young and I actually made my first "items" aka doll clothes on it. It had a knee control which I loved because as a little person of 5 I could actually sit on my knees in the chair and sew. Then when I was 6 or 7, she bought a singer 403A and that was the machine I sewed with most. Mom still had that machine when she passed away almost 50 years later. Sis has that one now and I've since purchased two of the same model. As a HS graduation present, Mom gave me a Singer Touch and Sew (I forget the model now) to take to college. I know some folks hated them, but mine worked well (except as it aged - the plastic gears broke down). I sewed on that for several years and then went to a Singer Touch Tronic (which is still in the closet). In 1996, I got interested in the embroidery machines and went back to the dealer that had sold Mom the Singers. He was stocked with Janomes. He has quite a collection of Singers; I think one of everything around his shop. He told me Singer wasn't what it used to be, but to definitely keep any of my old all metal Singers (403As). I've purchased the Janome and love it. I love it's buttonholes. I still have a love affair with my old Singers, but I do love my newer Janomes. The Janome manuals are pretty good IMO, plus my dealer is only a phone call or visit away.

  8. I have the Singer 404 slant needle machine. I found it at a flee market in a cabinet. The seller wanted $60. I asked if he'd take $20. and he said yes. I so love sewing on this machine and even put my Viking in the closet. I haven't used another machine since I got it 6 months ago.
    I was frustrated with my buttonholes on my Viking and bought a brother Project Runway machine just for the buttonholes. I have been making buttonholes on it for 2 years now. It hasn't made one bad buttonhole. They come out perfect every time.

  9. I bought a Juki Exceed 600 last year and was amazed that I could cut my threads (top and bottom) with the foot pedal!!!!!! My first real machine was a Pfaff Tiptronic made in Germany by far the best machine ever! Sturdy dependable. Have me 23 yes of pleasure then a retired her and purchased a Pfaff 2124 sew/embroidery! In convinced this machine is a Lon. I had the bobbin case break in the middle of sewing, the uptake lifter has been replaced 6 times and it just didn't sew as well as my first Pfaff. I purchased my first straight stitch only Janome 1600P and love it!!! The Juki replaced thePfsff and all is well again. I also must mention that not machines have a knee lift!!!!! As for the buttonholes, did you interface the area prior to sewing them?

  10. As a docs writer, BLESS YOU for RTFM (reading the manual). Too bad it wasn't a great manual. I can't help you on buttonholes, as my machine is old and makes pretty good ones. It would be nice to have the capability of a keyhole buttonhole, but I can live without.

  11. I absolutely agree that they do not make things like they used to! Your vintage Singer has held up like so many other vintage machines. I doubt that any sewing machine purchased new today will be around in 40 or 50 years - the plastic bits that feel strange to you ensure that! The same goes for refrigerators, cars, furniture, and everything else – and don’t get me started on clothing production!

    As for buttonholes, I have never had any luck with machines. People always are amazed that I bother with bound buttonholes, but it really is fear of making them by machine!

    Hope you have lots of fun with your new machine! And I can’t wait to see what you make next!

  12. Oh, I hope this works out for you - I love mine! I had the same issue at first with the buttonholes, totally user error. Once I got the knack of pulling the bar down correctly, I was off and running. I make my first buttonhole on a scrap anyway, so I know if I'm set up the right way. My buttonholes with this machine are beautiful and even. Have done them on fleece, suedecloth, cotton, lawn, various knits. I also looooove the knit and overlock stitches and the fact that they are included on the express buttons! Good luck!

  13. I find computerized machines very temperamental when it comes to BHs. For that I revert to my 30 y ear old Kenmore, ahhh, perfection......

  14. I turned 65 in Feb. and my DH insisted on buying me a Janame elactronic machine being featured on our Canadian Shopping Channel. I didn't think I needed a new machine as I have three others not counting my Serger. One of those is an embroidery machine. But he insisted, ordered it and it arrived a couple of days later. You know what? I haven't used anything else since that day. I love it! My favorite feature? IT CUTS THE THREAD!!. I just can't stop loving that step. I hope your machine gives you as much pleasure as mine does.

  15. A few years ago I upgraded to a Viking from my 20+ year old machine -- a Japanese generic version of a Bernina. While the computerized Viking has a lot of bells and whistles, it definitely isn't as "solid" as my old machine, which I still have in my sewing room. Machine-made buttonholes make me anxious, and I have to play around with samples to get the right settings for a particular fabric. Costco is great -- just bought a new umbrella for our patio. Have fun with your new machine and stay cool this weekend!

  16. My husband bought me a Janome this past February. It has all the bells and whistles and I love it. The thread cutter, knee lever, and button hole maker is what I love the most. Oh, and the knit stitch. I hope you enjoy yours quite a bit. You make such lovely clothes.

  17. You might find this post interesting about another singer - this one from Walmart.

  18. I -think- the 3.5 lingo means 3.5mm stitch length. There are about 25mm in an inch, so a 2mm stitch length would equal 12 stitches per inch. Hope that helps!

  19. Ohh a new machine! Jealous. I just took mine in for servicing and I miss them so. Enjoy!

  20. As someone who is only on her 2nd machine (another Elna, unfortunately not all metal), I can totally relate to your reactions. Congrats on the fun new machine and enjoy puzzling out the auto buttonholes. My Elna does pretty good ones.

  21. Hello , I feel your pain . I have a singer 503 and a singer 201 and a Janome 4800 ( all the bells and whistle) and I much prefer to use the old Singers to do all my plain sewing as well as sewing fine fabrics like Chiffon . I think its the single hole needle plate that is SOOOOO much better . Also i like the visibilty on the feet . I also like that solid dependable sound. The Janome is a good machine but so plasticy . I do like the buttonhle foot though . It sounds to me that the pull down lever thingy that you have to pull down before stating the buttonhole isnt making proper contact and that is what is causing the problem .I have come to the conclusion that to have one machine that does everything really well is to ask too much . I also have a Bernina 703 which is like a Porsche compared to The Janome in sewing speed. It also makes very good buttonholes but requires a bit of practise to use .

  22. I have a Viking machine which is at least 25 years old, seems like only yesterday when I purchased it!
    Not used it much over the past 20 years, however, I recently got the sewing bug again and made a couple of dresses and a blouse, the buttonholes were the one thing that put fear in me as I had not made one for over 20 years, I could not even remember which buttons to press to make the buttonhole! Anyway I bucked up the courage and they turned out fine, you can see the buttonholes on this post if you wish.

    When making buttonholes on my machine I have to press the button to stop the stitching, I marked the fabric with my dressmaking pencil so that I knew where to stop it. Must admit it would be nice to just press one button and it was done!

    I so agree with you on the reading of the instruction booklet, I always do that with everything I buy, no matter how easy it may look to operate, my husband never reads the booklets and it drives me nuts, he just starts pressing buttons to see what happens but I always get nervous he may break something, it drives me nuts! lol

  23. Ah! I have the very same beautiful old singer. I have it in a cabinet so that I have the large smooth surface. All very old-fashioned, but such a pleasure. Elle

  24. Congratulations on your new machine! I still have my old singer and have had to use it again when my new machine was in the shop for routine maintenance. It's a great idea to hold on to them even if it's just for the memories alone!

  25. I saved this post to reply to last month ;) I bought the same sewing machine and have been happily sewing on it since January (or March?). Everything is fine, except the automatic needle threader is acting up - I had given it up for broken but I managed to thread something just yesterday. Go figure.

    It's a great little machine. It knows how to do loads of stuff - I haven't had trouble with the automatic buttonhole maker.