Friday, 11 January 2013

For my gracious time

 
So this was what was under the Christmas tree for me this year. I couldn't quite believe it. Several weeks ago when my mechanical machine had swallowed some thread, I took it in to be repaired and happened to ask if there was a machine that could replicate the look of hand quilting as I had launched into hand-quilting the edge panels of this quilt so densely that I felt desperate to know if there was something in existence that could finish the job for me if my hands fell off. I was shown a wonderful machine which had a hand-quilting stitch (although, no, nothing can replicate the look and feel of hand quilting and it's probably not a feature I'll ever use), but which also had numerous other amazing things, such as an automatic thread cutter and the ability to end a line of stitching with the needle either up or down depending on whether I wanted to pull the fabric away or pivot with the needle still in it. These are all things that don't matter overly if you're using your machine for dressmaking, but suddenly feel highly covetable when you're quilt making and doing short repetitive processes over and over. I've been pondering over these features for the last few years and the desire to experience them has been gradually increasing. I think I've said before, there's a sense of using a wilfully persevering with using a typewriter when everyone else is happily using a computer.
 
I brought the brochure home, drooled over it for a few days and was teased horribly by my husband as the tag line the manufacturer had chosen for the front of the brochure was 'Juki, for your gracious time'. After my husband saw this, I was never just sewing, but 'having gracious time', whatever that was. Or not, because I didn't actually own a Juki.
 
 
But ownership was actually just a few short weeks away. Although the machine I was looking at then isn't actually the machine my husband chose for me. It transpired that he went to the shop shortly after I'd brought home the brochure and decided to buy the model up as it had better lighting and he'd become aware, due to the operating-theatre-style maze of lights that I'd set up around my sewing desk, that I was having trouble seeing easily when sewing with dark fabrics. He later told me that he'd brought it home and felt quite pleased with it, but kept thinking about the model one step up from the one he'd chosen.
 
 
My husband has owned several recording desks in the time I've known him (he's a musician in his spare time) and he's always preferred the ability to slide a fader or turn a knob, rather than press a button, which might feel sleeker and higher-tech, but somehow lacks the intuitive feeling of manually moving something up or down. And so after a week or so, he returned the machine he'd chosen for me and upgraded it for the next model up purely because of its twisty knobs which he thought I'd appreciate (see photo above). The fact that it also has a great many very interesting feet, a huge quilting table attachment and a presser foot that can be lifted up and down by tapping my knee against a lever was incidental to him, but a complete delight to me. I love how my husband thinks these things through and tries to make sense of what I might want by applying it to what he'd like for himself. He was exactly right: the twisty knobs do make all the difference.
 
 
I also quite like that I can either be a tortoise or a hare...I have a tendency for being a hare when I'm machine sewing...a hare that carries a seam ripper.
 
I was actually too ill over Christmas to use it aside from making a very quick make up bag, which I'll show you another day. I'm still ill (I think that's around Day 19 of Christmas is Cancelled due to Ill Health), but I've begun sewing together some of French General's Rouenneries Deux and Chateaux Rouge in an attempt to finish this quilt and I feel as though I can now safely say that the machine is wonderful and that all those features save not just a lot of time, but a huge amount of thread (the automatic thread cutter means that you don't waste thread as you pull the fabric away from the machine and my machine is unusual in that you don't need to pull the bobbin thread up before you start sewing which saves even more thread)! Lifting the presser foot up and down by knocking a detachable lever with my knee is also a time saver when you're sewing a great many 1.5" long seams. It all feels so quick and streamlined.
 
It's a very odd shift to make after years of sewing on a completely mechanical machine though. No matter how wonderful and time-saving all those features are I can't help feeling ridiculously cossetted and spoilt by the amount of mundane tasks this sewing machine does for me. I think there's a transition period where one must feel rather like a fallen Luddite who stands redundantly by her new washing machine on its spin cycle feeling guilty for not cranking a mangle.*
 
 
But although it takes some getting used to, when I finally brought it to my desk upstairs and put my old machine in a cupboard I couldn't quite believe how tiny and basic it suddenly looked. It's a similar sensation to that of coming home from holiday and in the first moments when you walk in you see your house as a stranger might, rather than with a familiarity which means you almost don't see it at all. The thing that I love most about my new machine though? Its silence. My old machine was incredibly loud and my husband and children referred to it as 'The Judder'. It made it difficult to listen to the radio and meant my husband had to read stories to us at several decibels above his normal level of speech if I happened to be sewing while he read. This machine is virtually silent even when being driven at full speed. I now feel I could happily sew until 4am undetected. I probably won't do that, but it's nice to know that I could if I needed to.  
 
Florence x
 
* Jenny, I know you will have thought instantly of Auntie Mabel, but no, she was not in this imagined scene and all attendees were fully clothed with body parts intact.


33 comments:

  1. Congratulations!! How exciting (and loving and thoughtful of your husband! :-) What model is it?

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    1. I'm so sorry - I should have remembered to put that vital piece of information in! It's a Juki F600.

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  2. Exactly my question. And that is a type of gift I love. I hyperventilate here from just the thought of you sewing with this new machine. I will admit that you inspired my choice of machine when I changed from my very cheap and basic to something better and it has been great, so now you are elevated to "sewing machine guru" status. I also loved, loved, loved your article about sewing machine feet and do refer to it from time to time. I have become and ardent machine foot changer from one who could just change (and not always at that) when doing a zip. Keep sewing and happy gracious time!

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    1. Sorry - F600! I'm so pleased you liked the feet article.

      I'm hanging on to my old machine - although it's completely wonderful to have so many things that make life easier, the idea of not having something utterly reliable and non-computerised sitting in the cupboard horrifies me.

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  3. Oh wow! And I haven't eaten a single biscuit. Mr Teacakes is a brave husband indeed, to buy a sewing machine all on his own. He seems to have done very well! I don't do anything like as much sewing as you and am happy with my mechanical machine, but I am turning ever so slightly greenish about the silence. I have my sewing desk against the wall that separates our living room from the neighbours' bedroom and I have to try never to sew past 10pm, because of the juddery thumping noise my machine makes. Anyway, I look forward to seeing the things you make with this new wonder! Also you really must share details of Aunt Mabel and the delimbed nudes now, or we'll all be puzzling about it forever more... x

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    1. I'll have to try better next time to allow for Hobnob consumption!

      You may need to brace yourself for this, Nina, but just google Auntie Mabel and Mangle and it will tell you all you need to know...my friend Jenny, who is actually terribly refined and lovely - contrary to what you may assume after investigating this matter further, refers to this line with alarming frequency.

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    2. OH! Dudley Moore is one of my favourite people ever, but I'd somehow managed to avoid that unpleasant little song!

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  4. Wow! How exciting! Your husband is so thoughtful!

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  5. Your husband is a hoot and a king. I'm so glad you're better enough to enjoy your new machine. Over the holiday I bought myself a new (very, very old) computerized machine with a needle-down position and knee lever. I haven't tried the latter yet, but the former brings way more joy than something so simple ought.

    Love that tortoise and hare. I'm a tortoise myself.

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  6. I know how you feel. I upgraded my little Brother to a Janome 6600 last year but I still have to use the Brother for topstitching purses as the Janome has no free arm. It feels like sewing with a childs toy and it is so noisy and clunky. I always go back to the "grown up" Janome afterwards with a big smile on my face!

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  7. What a wonderful Christmas present and what a wonderful husband! Such a shame that you couldn't try it out straightaway due to ill health. It sounds like a wonderful machine.

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  8. Lovely gift. Well done to your husband! I had a lot of the same feelings when I upgraded to a computerised machine. I've had it 6 months or so now but I still get a little thrill over all those extra features.

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  9. How thoughtful of Mr Teacakes! Your machine has many of the features that my new machine (I have a Huqsvarna 600E) has, although it doesn't have the knee lever which sounds very nifty indeed! It took a long while to get used to (it actually spent two months in the box before I was brave enough to try it out!)and I continued to take my old Janome to my weekly sewing club (because my new one is immensely heavy!). After a few weeks I had to just put the Janome away because it just seemed so loud, clunky and rattly compared to the new one.
    I very much look forward to seeing your creations with your swanky new machine, and hope that it makes up somewhat for having been so horribly ill over the festive period :(

    ps, the Rouenneries Deux range is lovely. I made my sister-in-law a lovely (completely machine sewn) cathedral window cushion with it for Christmas :)

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    1. Gosh, that cushion is gorgeous - if anyone else is coming to this late and would like to see, the link is here: http://oh-sew-true.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/christmas-sewing-marathon.html

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  10. Woo hoo!!!! How exciting for you and what a wonderfully thoughtful present. I so hope that you're feeling better soon with your sewing mojo intact x

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  11. What a fantastically hilarious and wonderful story! Your husband sounds awesome, and is quite a funny guy. I agree, knobs are better, and kind of wish I had them on my machine as well. Enjoy making friends with your new machine, and welcome to the future! I'll be curious to hear your report after a few months... will you be a convert or find you still miss your old mechanical? My bet is on the former. :) hope you feel better soon.

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    1. I'm already a convert, but I'm holding firmly onto my old one as a back up!

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  12. "Gracious time"--that's terrific! I'm going to adopt that phrase myself, now. I was startled to see your sewing set-up in the corner by the window. It's so much like mine it's uncanny! But I'm still using my very basic-budget-model- thread-wasting sewing machine.

    I look forward to following your upcoming posts!

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    1. Thread wasting, but I really believe as long as the stitches are even and it can handle different thicknesses well, you can produce just as good quality makes on a budget machine as you can on a very expensive one - the expense simply buys you time-saving conveniences, which are entirely lovely, but not essential.

      Do you find our set up almost impossible for quilts? I normally move my machine to the dining table if I'm working on something large.

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  13. Congratulations on your new machine! It's looks stupendous and I'm so envious, but in a good way. What a special thoughtful man you have in your life. GET WELL SOON! We must continue having your wonderful posts and ideas and gifts of your talent. I enjoy your BLOG so much.

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    1. Thank you - that's so lovely of you to say. x

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  14. You have the best, most thoughtful husband, I love this! Hope you get some wonderful gracious time this week! xo

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  15. What a marvellous gift and how daring yet thoughtful of your husband to buy it for you. Juki aren't sold in Australia I don't think so I will be interested to read more if you do a follow up review.

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    1. I'll hopefully post about it again in the future once I've had a chance to use it more.

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  16. My Mum was given a sewing machine as a wedding present. I must have told my fiance about that, as when we got home from our honeymoon, he bought a sewing machine for me as my wedding present! and I am still using it today.
    It is a gift that keeps on giving.

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  17. I have only just discovered your blog (through mumsnet) and it is quite, quite lovely- your EPP is very inspirational and thank you for the (dangerous) introduction to Oakshott, where I fear I may spend rather too much time and money. I hope you don't mind, I think I will feature your lovely creations (with full compliment of links of course) on my own blog. Looking forward to seeing what you make in 2013!

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    1. Oh dear, yes, I too spend a little too much at the Oakshott shop myself - enjoy! x

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  18. Oh- he did very well indeed! I know exactly what you speak of when it comes to switching over. It was the quietness that surprised me the most as well!

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  19. Thank you so much for all your lovely, lovely comments. Florence x

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  20. You have a very special husband there Florence, what a lovely present.

    I think I'll go and have some gracious time now.

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  21. Hi Florence,
    I have just bought one of these, maybe we can compare notes! It has so many functions/abilities I like but the one thing which bugs me is that because the needle plate is slightly raised, it flips all my perfectly aligned seams! Have you found this? My Pfaff did the same and it's the one thing I was anxious to avoid.
    Hen x
    henpinn@hotmail.co.uk

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    1. Hen, I've just sent you such a long email that it may outfox your scroll bar and fall irretrievably off the bottom of your laptop screen. Enjoy! Let me know if it doesn't arrive for any reason. x

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x