Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fire and Rain - Shopping for Sewing Machines - The Great Debate

I’m really being spoiled this year for my birthday, which was Monday.  One musical artist I have always wanted to see is James Taylor.  A couple of months ago, we were able to score tickets to see him in Fresno on the day after my birthday!  We went Tuesday night and I loved every minute of it.  I even cried a couple of times.  I never realized the guy was so funny either.  It was so good, I would go see him again.  In fact, DH and I have talked about taking a trip somewhere to see him and making a vacation out of it. 

On the day of my birthday, Mr. W and I started looking at new sewing machines.  (Well, he didn’t look, he just went along.  My main sewing machine is a Baby Lock Ellageo 3.  I bought this machine 9 years ago and it was 3 years old when I got it. It is a great machine and has tons of extra bells and whistles.  It is an embroidery machine, but since the method of installing software and embroidery patterns is 3.5” floppy, I have only used that feature a handful of times.  It did create beautiful embroidery pretty easily.  I also found that I love the manual for this machine.  It is easy to use and I’ve taught myself how to use almost every feature (or maybe all) using this book.  BUT, I have been wanting a new machine for awhile.  A couple of years ago I was having problems with shredding thread and jamming.  I took it to the local repair several times and they could not fix it.  Finally I drove to another town about an hour and a half away, and they got it working beautifully again.  (The more I’ve looked at other machines, the more I realize that I love my Babylock)

I have always wanted a Pfaff.  Maybe this stems back from the old Sewing With Nancy (Zeiman)   videos when she was using and being sponsored by Pfaff.  I’ve been into the Pfaff store several years in a row “shopping” for that someday when I could actually get a new machine.  Well, that someday has come!  I’ve been teaching VBS this week, so Monday when I was finished, Mr. W and I went into Visalia to look at the Pfaffs.  They were closed.  Boo.  It seems like every time I try to get in there, they are closed.  It’s just a little shop in an old shopping center, but the salesman Phil is always super friendly and helpful.

Since Pfaff was closed, we decided to take a drive to Fresno and look at the Berninas.  I’ve always known that Berninas are great machines and that everyone who owns them loves them.  I wanted to look at the 740, but the only 7 series they had were the 770 and 780.  There were a lot of things I liked about that machine, but it felt too huge for me.  I don’t know if it was the table height or what, but I just didn’t feel comfortable sewing on the machine.  Also, the feet seemed huge and wide.  The sales lady was very friendly and helpful, but she was new in the store and had more recently been working for Pfaff and Babylock.  This was kind of cool because she gave me her opinion of which machines were better at which things.  (Which, she probably shouldn’t have done, but was helpful to me.)  Also, because she was new to Bernina, she couldn’t answer all of my questions to my satisfaction (like explaining the BMR - although I finally figured it out.) I was really expecting to LOVE the Bernina.  I wanted to LOVE the Bernina.  This is probably my one and only chance to GET a Bernina.  But I didn’t love it.

A few reasons:  1.  Price.  Of course, everyone knows that Berninas are the most expensive, but this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me this time.
2.  Size.  The 770 (and 740) is just too huge and non-portable.  
3.  It’s kind of like a BMW (which I do drive)  You get top notch engineering, but at the cost of slightly fewer features.
4.  The 770 has the dual feed and the BMR.  I don’t think the 740 comes with either.  It does have BMR functionality, but not the foot.(which is close to $500)
So, after I left I thought, maybe I should go back and try the 550.  They had one on a shelf, but we had already been there almost an hour, so I would need to go back to try that.  Unfortunately, the 550 does not have the longer throat, but my current machine only has 7-1/2 “, so I think I would be fine with that.
4.  And then there are those feet.  I am admittedly a foot junky.  I think this machine only comes with 6 or 7 feet. My BL came with almost every extra foot (except the ruffler) and I think I’ve used every one of them.  Bernina feet are upwards of about $50 each.  Very expensive.  And not interchangeable with other feet, so I couldn’t use any of the feet I already have.  (I did look online and find that you can get an adapter to make it work with other feet.  I know from experience that this does not always work out perfectly though.
5.  Location.  Fresno is over an hour and a half away from where I live.  Visalia is only 45 minutes.  I’m not sure I want to have to drive to Fresno for all of my classes and maintenance or any time I want to buy an accessory.
Conclusion:  I’m 95% sure I’m ruling out Bernina.

I did not think I was even going to look at Babylock.  Probably just because I like change.  But then I started thinking about all those feet I have.  And the learning curve of a new machine.  And the convenience of the somewhat local quilt store and getting to know more of the quilters that kind of hang out there.  I have taken a number of classes there and they have a great workspace and selection of quilting cottons (but no other fabrics)

I am looking at the Aria.  The next machine up is the Crescendo and I have a friend that just bought one.  This is actually what made me start thinking about Babylock again.  The only difference between the Aria and Crescendo is that the Crescendo has the laser light and is about $1000 more.  also, they have the Aria on sale right now for $3000, so that makes it $2000 less.  The laser light is mostly for avid quilters, which I am not.  It is certainly not worth the extra money for me.
  1. The lighting is fabulous!  That is one thing my poor old machine does not have - good lighting.
  2. All those stitches!  Baby locks are known for their decorative stitches, and this machine does not disappoint.
  3. The large LED display.  My current machine has this and I really like it.
  4. This machine comes with 13 feet.  Also, all of the feet I currently own will work with it.
  5. OK, this machine is almost as huge as the Bernina, but it just felt like home when I sewed with it. 
  6. All of the things I love about my current machine are here plus more.

  1. Babylocks have really small bobbins.  You usually have to have at least 2 for any garment with lots of stitching.  This is definitely one advantage of the Bernina.  Their bobbins are huge!
  2. The other thing I didn't care for, although I didn't try it, is that they have a belt driven walking foot.  Now this may be a PLUS, but I don't know.  I just thought it looked big and clunky.
Also, I’m not really crazy about the owner of this store, although I know he has his cult following.  This could be a deal-breaker on the Babylock.  sigh.

Now, all I have left to try is the Pfaff!  The salesman in the local store has been on vacation all week and I will be out of the area Monday through Wednesday of this coming week.  You can bet I will be there first thing Thursday morning!

I am looking at the Pfaff Performance 5.0.  There are very few differences between the 5.0 and 5.2.  They are selling the 5.0 for $2800.  I’ve been doing a lot of looking up and these are the things I love about the Pfaff
  1. The appearance.  It just looks sleek and professional
  2. Stitch width and length are a little bit bigger than the Babylock
  3. 1050 stitches per minute - same as Babylock (Bernina is 1000)
  4. Needle to tower space is almost 10”, about the same as the Aria and the Bernina 770.  The 550 and 580 are only 7.5”
  5. The IDT - no need for a walking foot. 
  6. The salesman/trainer at this shop is very friendly and helpful.

**Bernina and Pfaff have both come out with a dual feed option since the patent on the IDT has run out.  However, Pfaff has been doing this forever and has perfected it.  The other two companies are still working out the kinks.  Even the salesperson at the Bernina store told me the Pfaff’s is much better!

The nice thing about the newer machines that they all seem to have is faster stitching, better lighting, automatic foot raise to pivot, thread cutter, needle threader, needle up-down feature, 
more stitches and they run smoothly and quietly.

So, right now it is between the Babylock Aria and Pfaff Performance 5.0.  DH and I are going out of town for a few days, so as soon as I get back, I want to get into that store and try the Performance 5.0!  I'll let you know what I decide.


Kyle said...

Very exciting! I have the BabyLock Soprano and love it!

sewingkm said...

I've been sewing for 59 years and using Pfaff machines from the 80's so I'm definitely in their camp. You just can't beat their perfection of IDT!

Lisa Laree said...

Well, whaddya know, we share a birthday!

I've actually seen James Taylor in concert twice...once nearly 36 years ago, just before our wedding, and once a year and a half ago, celebrating my sweetie's 60th birthday. Great music.

Have fun on your sewing machine search! I have a friend who recently bought the Pfaff and loves it...

Anonymous said...

Hi, you could definitely add good lighting to the machine. There are some excellent aftermarket lights one can add the sewing machines
Good luck, Avbey

Nancy K said...

I really want a new machine too. I've been sewing on Vikings for 30 years but I am unhappy with a number of things on them. The Pfaff 5.0 is a machine I was set on but it has mixed reviews and all of the negative reviews have complained about the same thing. I look forward to seeing what you choose.

sdBev said...

I wouldn't pay an extra $1000 for it, but the laser light on my Brother Dream is one of my most used accessories. I consider myself a dressmaker not a quilter. I use the laser with every dart and every time I want multiple lines of stitching equal distances apart. Last used when top stitching side vents to create perfectly straight stitches at an angle without measuring, marks or drawing lines.

Janet said...

I have a Janome 9000 + a Janome 760 platinum (I use that wee machine all the time) + my wonderful Babyloc Imagine serger. I rarely use decorative stitches. I might buy a Coverpro someday but I won't buy another sewing machine: I try to use the sewing machine as little as possible.

Anonymous said...

buying a new sewing machine is hard work! I spent weeks test driving them but decided on the Pfaff Performance 5.0. I have 2 other Pfaffs from years ago and was sewing on a Viking but just missed the IDT. I do not find the screen to be difficult at all. I love the sleek design and the stitch is perfection.

Enjoy your new machine!

Tina in Va