Monday, December 31, 2012

Decorative stitches vintage vs computerized

Hello!! I've been away testing machines and playing, Happy 31st! I hope everyone is ready to ring in another new year, and put 2012 to bed. So onto the mystery.... Can you tell who is who?

Pfaff decorative stitches red zone

Pfaff satin stitch

cross stitchWhile the vintage samples are less exciting in design, to me they are superior in execution. The gold samples from both machines use Gutterman all purpose thread in the bobbin and sulky 40wt rayon in the top, with the Universal 70 needle. The samples in white were made from a Mettler cotton thread.  I am amazed that the vintage sample has absolutely no puckers, while the modern machine stitch does.

The modern machine costs as much as my entire sewing machine collection. So either it is very expensive or I bought some great bargains (It's more of the later). Here is the issue with this lovely machine. While I have been sampling the decorative stitches, I found that a certain type of stitch doesn't execute properly, it has elements of a satin stitch and it just does not play nice.

 1) buttonholes Actually these are really nice, until you turn the sample over. Buttonholes

The ends of the buttonhole are especially bulky, the needle goes over and over the ends and they aren't flat, except for one sample. Bulky end buttonholes underside

Then the bow deco stitch. First it didn't form properly because I had the wrong foot on the machine, once I changed the foot, the stitch improved but it still does not meet at the center knot.  The top row has the wrong foot, the bottom row has the proper foot.Bow detail

The bow

I look for another design with a bit of a spread on it and try the leaf. The leaves

Of course I used the wrong foot here :) DSC02668 Here it is stitched with the proper foot and it improved but still not perfect, and it still doesn't meet in the middle. Leaves improved Now there are other stitches that are fabulous on this machine, but it if skips like this on these types of deco stitches it will limit the number of decorative stitches I can use. Now why would I do that with such an expensive machine? I wouldn't. The store is closed for inventory but when they open I will be waiting for them. This business of modern machines is tricky and exhausting. By the end of all of this testing I'll write up a strategy for testing machines before bringing them home. The vintage samples are from a Pfaff 360, and the modern samples are from a Bernina Aurora 450. Pfaff decorative stitches red zone chart Bernina decorative stitches part 2 Bernina decorative stitches I love my vintage machines, but I'm not going to lie, I would love to have a travel machine that can sew, make buttonholes, FMQ, and even embroider. Working with a computerized machine has had it's perks. The bobbin winder, winds the bobbin perfectly and very easily. Since it's a separate motor, your needle isn't engaged, so there's no worrying about having anything under the presser foot while you are loading a bobbin. A needle threader that actually works Produces a nice satin stitch as long as it's not part of a deco stitch It's a 9 mm machine It has thread cutters everywhere, even in the bobbin area. It has fabulous lighting ] Snap on feet Automatic buttonholes and can be ungraded to an embroidery machine. 11 needle postions Free arm Free hand system Back to the drawing board, maybe 2013 is the year I get it right.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Embroidery on a Vintage Machine - just a blip of a post.

Where were we before Thanksgiving?  Ah yes, embroidering on a vintage singer.

Here is the Pearl embroidery floss in the bobbin, and some polyester quilting thread on the top.  I like this better than the metallic thread, it has a nice sheen and thickness to it, and it doesn't make the fabric stiff, like the metallic floss.  This was also done with a hoop, and no stabilizer.  There is a lot of potential with this, I like the circular pattern, you just have to remember to start in the center and work your way out.  The biggest issue with this is that since the embroidery thread is in the bobbin, you don't see the design form until you flip it over.  You are sewing blind.  I was unsure how dense the stitching around the circle pattern was, not sure it I was leaving gaps of ground, but they look pretty good.

The top thread did not like the sharp corners, as you can see them straining a bit. Looks like a tension issue, but that can be fixed, you see what I mean about stitching blind?  I had no idea this was happening on the underside of the fabric, all of the stitches looked fine from the back.  I'm also going to have to work out a system for the way the thread is started because it leaves a tail.  The Singer book doesn't address this at all, so there are more samples in my future.


Monday, December 3, 2012

First Impressions of an obsolete embroidery machine

Are you thinking of getting into machine embroidery?  The top of the line machines for Bernina, Pfaff and Babylock can run you into the $1,000's of dollars with the embroidery units.  I thought about dipping my toe in what was considered a top of the line machine in 2000.

The Bernina Artista 185 (pictured without the embroidery attachment).

Here's what I learned....

If you want the machine to work with just the pre loaded designs you can do that (but where's the fun in that?).
If you want the machine to embroider designs purchased online, you can do that provided you have their proprietary software to do that.... but that's not all.... because these machines have a computerized component (insert obsolete here), they use cables that would now be considered outdated.

The Bernina Artista 185 uses a serial port
There is an actual serial port built into the side of the machine and the cable runs from it to the back of your computer.  Since I've never owned a computerized machine before I found this fascinating.

All is not lost yet..... You can buy a serial port to USB adapter to connect the serial port to the machine and the USB end to your computer.  Bernina actually recommends a brand that works for this on their website.

Think you are ready now?  Think again.

The Bernina PC Embroidery software v4.1 (which is what I received) is compatible with Microsoft
 Windows 95Windows 98, and Windows ME  , that was a long time ago.  I happened to have Windows ME still in it's package, and an old lap top to plug everything in.

Think you are ready?  Think again.

There's a dongle involved.  Yeah I didn't know what this was either, but it's a way for Bernina to ensure that the software is being used by one user at a time.  So how do they do this?

I'm still unsure that the v4.1 requires a dongle, but Bernina customer service says that it does.

"Dongles" can either be the CD itself, or a USB stick, which has to remain in the computer somewhere while you are using the software.  If you ever played early versions of some gaming programs, you might remember where it asks you to insert disc "x" before you can go on, or you have to play with a CD installed on your computer otherwise the program won't run.  Even operating systems with multiple discs have this feature when you are loading the software onto your computer.  It's the manufacturer's security that you aren't running off copies for all of your friends, he who has the dongle runs the program.

So you have the dongle....

Think you are ready?  Think again.
Some dongles can be disabled by Bernina if the previous owner had an upgrade at some point.
If the dongle is damaged and does not work, you have the option of going back to your dealer to buy another one, which might mean buying another software package (about $1,000 more) to replace it.  From what I've read Bernina is very rigid in this regard, and I've only read of instances where owners were able to purchase another dongle for a fee ($200) on current machines, with their receipts in their hands.

You have a question about the 4.1 software, send Bernina's customer  service an email.
They will send you a nice prompt email saying "We no longer support that software, buy v. 5, or use the free software with limited functionality on our site".

Did you say you bought that Bernina Artista 185 on ebay?
Pray that your seller knows how to pack a computerized sewing machine, and that they know enough about the machine to let you know that the software they are selling you is still valid, what operating system it works with, what cables are required and finally that the dongle is still valid and functional, make sure they have a return policy.

A dear friend of mine recommended I just hit the local dealers and look for trade in machines.  I think this is sound advice, maybe I can find a machine that I won't need a mortgage for, get some free classes and start a relationship with a local dealer who will support me through the process.

Here's what I liked about the machine, the light around the needle area, the bobbin under the arm, which faces forward, the stainless bit on the arm (purely cosmetics here I know).

I don't like the drop in bobbins, I imagine it being cumbersome to load a bobbin mid project.

When I tried to run the machine without thread, it wouldn't let me.  A machine that talks back, I don't think so!!  From what I've read, they recommend that you clean the machine after each use.  It beeped and shuddered like a wee robot.  I also liked that the buttonhole stitches were at the ready just a poke away, instead of having to hunt down an attachment and it's templates, I would just have to hit a button.

I'm warming up to the idea of a computerized machine, but won't be giving up my mechanicals anytime soon.

Also if I'm wrong  about anything in this post and you are a Bernina user let me know, these are just first impressions and I wanted to put it in writing in case there are people out there looking to buy this machine for embroidery.