March (Sewing Machine) Madness

Ok, well, my experiment in monthly publication is now officially over. Here is what I learned:

  • It’s more fun to blog more frequently
  • Just because I say I’m going to redesign my blog and come out with something in eZine format doesn’t mean that I will
  • I look terrible in overalls
  • Broken shoulders impede sewing in all kinds of ways you wouldn’t really expect

Here’s what’s been going on. Fair warning: I am injured and medicated and pretty ramble-ey. Sorry.

I'm pretty sure the Janome was just angling for adoption by a qualified quilter, because there's no way my aim is THAT terrible. Right?
I’m pretty sure the Janome was just angling for adoption by a qualified quilter, because there’s no way my aim is THAT terrible. Right?

I was working on some green chambray overalls a few weeks ago (more on those later), and became convinced my Janome 6600P was the devil behind my inability to maintain consistent top stitching. Which, honestly, it may have been. But that really did not justify the craziness that followed my decision to sell said Janome.

Here’s was my conundrum: I paid more than $1000 for that sewing machine, and I did so just last November. While it’s a wildly popular sewing machine, there was no way I was going to get my money back out of it. I hoped for $800, tops. And the sewing machine I really wanted cost much more than that. It cost much more than the Janome, to tell you the truth. But I couldn’t justify that expense. I’m not working right now. Plus I’ve been spending all kinds of money on other kinds of sewing stuff – fabric, notions, patterns….

But once I make up my mind about something, there’s really no turning back. So I put the Janome up for sale, and it sold right away (after shipping, I got pretty much what I expected) to a wonderful lady named Marcia that I have since become pen pals with. She’s an expert quilter who dyes her own fabric, and she loves her Janome the way it should be loved.

A green Bernina Nova 900
A green Bernina Nova 900

I, meanwhile, found a green Bernina Nova 900 at 3am one morning out on eBay, and promptly laid out $400 + shipping. I WAS OVER THE MOON with joy. I already have a Bernina Nova 900, but it’s not green. THIS ONE WAS GREEN in the picture. I justified the purchase by telling myself that I wanted it so much that I would, of course, bond with said machine and that, because of that bond, I would learn to sew like a professional seamstress, and that some day I would look back and trace my sewing prowess back to the little green sewing machine I bought off eBay in 2016.

And then, while I was waiting for it to arrive, worrying about the feature set I was limiting myself to, I started shopping. Constantly shopping. eBay. Pfaff. Bernina. eBay. Pfaff. Bernina. eBay. Pfaff. eBay. eBay. eBay. Bernina. And the next thing you know, I found a mint-condition, BRIGHT ORANGE Viking 6430, also $400, also on eBay. I fell in love with this machine a few years ago when I read about somebody finding one at a flea market in France. Although I’ve looked and looked, I’ve never seen one for sale before, much less one in mint condition.

Long awaited Viking SL 2000 6430.
Long awaited Viking SL 2000 6430.

These models are known to be good sewing machines — but they are also known for problems with so-called lifetime lubrication, which tends to solidify, and plastic cam stacks that are notorious for cracking. Certainly, nobody in their right minds would pay $400 plus shipping for what could well have turned out to be a large orange paperweight. I don’t know what to say about this purchase. It was just sort of out of my control. I just sort of had to have it. I sort of justified it by telling myself the low gear would come in handy when I learn how to make jeans, or if I ever return to bag making. If, indeed, the low gear actually worked at all.

Not a green Nova 900
Not a green Nova 900

A few days later the “green” Nova 900 arrived, and it was actually yellow, and not a color of yellow I happen to like. The eBay seller was fantastic and took the return and even refunded shipping. In my mind, this simply meant I had another $400 to spend on a sewing machine, since, clearly, the orange Viking was less about sewing and more about collecting shiny vintage orange things. I decided to steer clear of eBay for this final sewing machine selection.

Ultimately, I went back to my local Bernina dealer and bought an old Artista 180, sans embroidery unit, just so I’d have something to make buttonholes with. It cost $300 and came with a 1 year warranty. And you know what? By the time my orange Viking arrived, the Artista had become my very favorite sewing machine of all time.

It sounds and feels just solid, smooth, powerful, professional, confident. It has a 9mm stitch width and more than 700 stitches, which I totally ignored/don’t think I even realized when I purchased it. SO many needle positions both left and right. I just love it. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

I want to give a big shout out to the ladies at Sew Much More here in Austin. Over the years they have spent hours of their time demonstrating sewing machines for me, and I fear I have become the Lucy to their Charlie Brown of sewing machine sales. Just when they think I’m about to go ahead and spend some real money I change my mind and either don’t make the purchase, or return what I’ve purchased and exchange it for another sewing machine which then gets returned and exchanged for a used serger. And still they smile and show me more sewing machines when I return a year later in another frenzy of sewing machine shopping. They are professional, knowledgeable, patient, and very, very forgiving, and I owe them lots and lots of cake.

By the time I purchased the Artista 180 I was good and tired of my sewing machine shopping frenzy. I felt plagued by guilt, frustrated by my options, a little unsure of my selection process in general, and ready to simply ensure I had some kind of working backup machine in case the Viking turned out to be a dud. I did nothing more than sew a straight stitch in testing this machine out before I bought it. I was the opposite of excited about it, and honestly didn’t even plan to use it much. After all, I didn’t even really need it, with one working vintage machine at home and another on the way. It’s main desirable feature was a good selection of automatic buttonholes (something I’ve yet to tackle) and a 1 year warranty.

The beauty of the Bernina foot.
The beauty of the Bernina foot.
So unassuming.
So unassuming.

I did something smart when I bought the machine, though, which is that I purchased a 9mm edge stitching foot to finish up the top stitching on my overalls.

I threaded her up, changed out the foot, loaded up the overalls and went to town. Whirr, zip, zap and I was done, all my stitches perfectly aligned. Suddenly, I was free to baste the seams together and try on the overalls.


Oooohhh they were terrible. Check. This. Out. I do not even know how this happened. I do not even think my belly can actually do this. I took a picture of me in my jeans right after this and it proves that my belly does NOT actually do this. And yet – in the green overalls – it does. So that project is now, as we say in the world of high tech, “end of life”.

That catastrophe aside, however, I’ve used my 180 lots since then. I made a muslin of a dress I love, which turned out to be too small (I’ll come back to that one another time). I also made another version of the Roza blouse, which I could wear all the time but am not in love with, and my first pair of skinny jeans (the waistband is all bonkers and has to be completely redone). I also made a muslin of a vintage pattern which actually turned out just great, but my injury has put me on hiatus for now. I have enjoyed every single minute of sewing time on this sewing machine. It has been exactly what I always wanted my sewing experience to be like. I love her the way I wanted to love the (in order) Singer 500a, Bernina Nova 900, other older Bernina I traded in, Baby Lock Amelia, Janome Skyline S5, and, finally, Janome 6600P.

For anybody looking to buy a really good quality used machine at a good price, you simply cannot go wrong by getting an Artista 180 (without the embroidery module – cheaper that way) from a dealer with a warranty. No $300 modern sewing machine exists that can match this baby. And if the motherboard goes out – which it could – Bernina still makes them, and at around $500 for that kind of repair I can already tell you it would be worth it. This is a fine, fine sewing machine.

So my infatuation with my orange Viking (which, by the way, I’ve been searching for for literally years) is somewhat tempered. She arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I immediately set her up in the little vintage sewing table I also bought for her (because what’s another $100 when you’re on a sewing machine bender?) and started running through some of her stitches. She purrs like a little tabby cat. I promised I’d pay her more attention the next day, just as soon as I got things a bit more organized.

And then I broke my shoulder.

But that’s fodder for another blog post.

In short (or long, considering the length of this post), that’s been my month in a nutshell. Excluded from this post, but possibly appearing in another, are the following side things that also happened:

  1. I had a number of my PDF patterns printed out large format at FedEx, and they are fabulous and rolled up in a tube and I will never, ever cut them out. Instead, I’m tracing working patterns from them.
  2. I ordered 4 sheets (2 yellow, 2 blue) of large format waxed transfer paper from Oliver + S and it is everything I hoped it would be and more. $10 per sheet, but from what I hear it could last me decades. Perfect for pattern tracing.
  3. I obtained more fabric for spring/summer: chambray, lawn, light weight denim, a linen blend. Definitely looking forward to having some sun dresses and breezy blouses this year!
  4. I started reading up on pattern fitting and pattern blocks, and plan to ask a knowledgeable friend for help in both areas once my shoulder is back in order.
  5. Two days after I broke my shoulder I came down with a bad case of bronchitis. I had two job interviews this week, both of which I participated in with a broken shoulder and bronchitis. And I survived. Except that then, last night, I broke a rib from all the coughing, so now I’m just an invalid who can do little more than blog and dream about the day I can sew again.
  6. I got my hair cut SUPER short. Comments from the person who did it included, “You can wear lots of hats,” and, “I don’t think you look butch,” and “The good thing is it’ll grow,” and my favorite: “A few years ago I would never have believed I would be giving a woman a fade.” I happen to love it. It’s longer on top than my last buzz cut and longer all over than the time I shaved my head. I feel super me again, but I don’t think the lady who did my hair understands that this type of hairstyle is normal for me. She has no idea what a good job she did.

I look quite handsome with no makeup on, right now, but I pretty up just fine with some lipstick. For anyone who’s curious, here’s a photos of the former before I washed out the hair gel. That’s it for now. Thanks for catching up with my own version of March Madness!



Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

May 05, 2016 at 06:05 PM

Thanks for sending back the “green” bernina 900…..I bought it shortly afterwards (happy smile!). I can’t believe I found this blog. I call this SM the Bernineon! You’re right… it looks yellow in the daylight but in the evening light….the color changes to green apple. The ebay seller was fantastic as you said….the stitch width dial was not working properly and the feed dog dial was frozen….he paid to have both fixed. I love this funky little machine and it has gotten very nice comments from my local bernina shop and my fellow quilters. Love that orange husqvarna! Best regards!

May 05, 2016 at 08:05 PM
– In reply to: nsm

Wow!! I’m so happy you found my blog, and that you found the Bernineon! I have another Nova 900 (than with red trim) that I adore, though it also has frozen feed dogs that I plan to have fixed one of these days. Aren’t they great little machines? Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m glad to know the seller took care of you, and that the little green/yellow Bernina is in loving hands.

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