Sewing Machine Mis-Adventures. Sigh.

After I pieced Quilt No. 1 on my old very abused Brother XL-something, I decided to upgrade to a nicer machine (a) for the perks and (b) for the wider harp.  The Brother XL-hmm’s harp was rather narrow and it was going to be tough to jam a full sized quilt in there.   Plus, new machine = shiny.  Bliss.

With the advisory help of an extremely talented sewing colleague, I studied Pattern Review’s Sewing Machine reviews, visited the few stores that NYC has, and obsessively trolled the internet.  I didn’t want to pay a total fortune despite drooling each time I used the City Quilter’s provided Bernina Auroras and yet I really did want something solid with nice features and of course the wide harp.  That said, I didn’t have that gut feeling about sewing in terms of it being a long time project.  I was obsessed, but who knew in a couple months?  I’d bought the Brother XL-mystery about 15 years prior and made exactly two things with it – both Halloween costumes.  Other than that, it was something rather large to store.  In the teeny apartment.  Always a consideration.

On my second schlep out to Sew Right in Queens, I realized that despite Colleague’s love and adoration for the Janome 5500 (which is admittedly one DAMN nice machine), I really dug the Babylock ‘Choice’ series.  I liked the way the machines felt, I liked the way the stitches looked, I liked the free arm. But the Decorator’s Choice was very much over my price range at that point in my life.  Shopping in summer is always limited as life is pretty slow musically (read: I’m broke), but as I was up to the quilting point, it was time and I definitely wanted something.

I’d learned on Pattern Review that some companies make the same (or similar) machines and sell them under 2 different names – high end and lower end.  This intrigued me and research implied (could never get a definitive) that the Babylock and the Brother Innovis lines were, in fact, made by the same people.   The price on the Brother Innovis NX-450 was actually doable.  Sold.

Cue the live and learn experience.  I ordered off the internet which I’m not sure I’ll ever do again.  Mainly because UPS just – apparently – sucks in my neighborhood.  After the third missed delivery when I was *home* (WTF?  Ring the buzzer!  I discovered the slip when I went to walk my dog several minutes after I’d ‘missed’ him), my dog and I finally went and just camped on the bumper of his double parked truck down the street.  I figured I’d wait until he came back from his deliveries and nab the sewing machine then.   It was that or it would be stuck at 12th Avenue until I took a cab over to get it thereby defeating the whole purpose *of* UPS.  A second frustrated UPS-stalking neighbor and I bonded over the neighborhood for about 20 minutes until the guy came back with no excuse other than “oh” when we both said something equivalent to “dude, I was home!”  Lame.

Anyway, delivery issues aside, after weeks of phone calls and further UPS stalking (did I mention the quilting accessories I’d ordered were shipped separately?  Very frustrating….), I had all the components and wow, lovely machine.  A little intimidating but really lovely.  Great stitches, way too much variety and, probably the best feature ever, automatic needle threading.  Absolutely no going back from this.

I played with my practice quilt for a while but to be perfectly honest was too afraid to try the big quilt.  The moment had arrived and, well, I wimped out.  I didn’t want to mess it up.  (Hilariously, in other areas of my life, I’m quite the risk taker.  Apparently with *recreational* quilting, I’m a wimp. Ha!)  I did use the machine, though, on the aforementioned repairs of bf’s jeans, making curtains, making the GGT dress, the hat… pretty much everything, just not quilting.

Well, now with the Nook in place, I have no excuses.  I can take over the table for weeks – it’s no longer the dining table; it’s the crafting table, right?  Plus, I’m planning a second quilt already.  Why not make this quilt the practice quilt of sorts?  Yes?

Two months ago, I’d handquilted the center square and it looks pretty awesome.  Not wanting Quilt No. 1 to look *too* heinous after two years of not-machine-quilting, I did get out the practice quilt to review my skills but committed to only a short jaunt on it.   A few hours on ditch quilting and then two evenings on free motion deemed me ‘okay enough’ and, with a deep breath, at 11 p.m the other night I decided to go for it.  I’d start on the big quilt, Quilt No. 1!  Yeah, it was after ‘bedtime’  but I was too excited to sleep.  I’d do just a little ditch quilting and then hit the sack.

I took a deep breath – this was the moment! – put on the walking foot and clicked the feed dog switch back to ‘raised.’


Back and forth on the feed dog switch and nada.  Grrr.  Feed dogs were stuck in the down position.

[cut for general cursing about having to take the machine – which I had *just* had tuned up – back out to Queens because now it was broken?  Did I get hosed by doing the right thing here, for once?]

You see, this new machine was going to be different.  Sure, the Brother XL-wow-totally-blanking-on-model-number worked badly but a lot of that was likely due to the fact that I’d never had it serviced (and for never having been serviced, it had done a pretty bang up job sewing off and on for 15 years).  Okay, occasionally I’d throw some oil into it.  But really, that machine was abused.  It was my chance to start over.  The NX-450 – this machine was going to be treated like the Queen it is…. regular trips for tune ups, regularly dusted and kept covered, thoroughly maintained.  With that in mind, this past summer, I’d lugged it out to Queens to the official Brother-licensed service people at Sewing Outlet to get it tuned up even though getting it there and back was a sweaty, disgusting pain in the ASS and it was actually sewing pretty well (that said, the jeans did a bit of a number on it).  Out to Queens on my rolling luggage carrier, protected from the concrete/people moshing in its giant shipping box, up and down many many *many* subway stairs, two trains and some walking….

And now the first time I get it out (oops) it didn’t work?  The feed dog thing was loose or broken?  Had they put it back together wrong?  I was wasting my time on THIS?

This past weekend, I hauled it back out to Queens. I was very frustrated.  When I arrived at the store, I kept it pretty much together because they are so nice and helpful at that store.  But I was still semi-indignant “I think it came back broken” – I wasn’t bitchy but I was upset.  Ultimately, I should have saved that conversation for later.

Because you know what?  The machine is fine.

Steve at Sewing Outlet immediately set it up and plugged it in and showed me that – of course – when I changed the foot the needle was in the position that the feed dogs would naturally BE down but as soon as you started sewing they moved right back up to where they were supposed to be.   And then he – without being at all grumpy that I’d been accusatory – packed me back up and sent me on my way without handing me any sort of bill other than his business card (we’d been having a side conversation about websites) and a comment that he was glad all was well and to have fun working on my quilt.

I am an idiot.  An idiot with an aching back muscle to boot.  Because of course the MTA can’t go a weekend these days without diverting trains and changing everything.  Extra stairs were involved, more struggling than usual with the giant box and with a very cold wind as a bonus.

Lesson learned: Do not determine that the machine is broken at 11:30 at night (unless of course you are a night person which I absolutely am not).  This only leads to pain and embarrassment.  And time wasted that could be better spent doing *anything* other than riding the MTA with a giant box on a winter weekend.  Live and learn.


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