When I look at my site stats, one thing always grabs my attention – the number of views of my post “Heaven or Hell? Thoughts on the Pfaff QE 4.2“. It is by far and away the most “popular” post on my blog! Even when I’m being lazy and not generating much new content, it’s the post that seems to attract clicks. I’m going to guess that it’s because many, like me, found their shiny, expensive, new sewing machine to be a bit of a challenge to get used to. Well, it does get better, I promise!
It is a finicky machine, to be sure, but I’ll repeat here that choosing a quality needle (Schmetz seems to have become my weapon of choice, even if I do have to order them online) and good thread (I love YLI’s range of variegated quilting cottons because of the vibrant colours and I’ve also used and enjoyed Aurifil and Superior products) and making sure the needle is right for both the thread and the fabric is very important. I stopped trying to use universal-type needles for anything a long time ago – in my experience, they just never give a nice result. Usually I use a 70/10 microtex needle with YLI’s Soft Touch in Natural for piecing – this combination gives me nice, accurate seams and the light beige colour blends well with most other colours.
For quilting or embellishment, anything goes! I switch to a heavier needle (usually a 90/14 quilting needle) to use with thicker quilting cottons or a metallic needle to quilt with metallic thread. I’m not OCD about changing needles every 8 hours, but I do change them regularly and especially before and after really big projects.
Regular servicing is also a must for any sewing machine. My Pfaff is now due for its second service, I just need to be able to steal the car for the (now rather longer and more tedious!) drive to Carmarthen to the shop I bought it from. When I take it in I’ll be asking about the needle threader, which vexingly is no longer lining up with the needle eye. It’s a small thing, and a feature I never thought much of before I had one, but I really miss it now! At least I can thread my own needles if I have to.
Between services, I do my best to keep the bobbin area reasonably free of fluff. While I was making mum’s wall hanging, I found that the Solvy shredded little bits all over the place during sewing (as a film, it is noticeably more brittle than most fabrics), so I made sure I cleaned them out of my machine frequently – I’m not sure what it’d do if it dissolved inside the Pfaff, but I am very sure I don’t want to find out! At the same time, I managed to track down and evict an entire herd of dust bunnies that had wedged themselves into difficult niches and grown to monster size. I had to use tweezers to grab them and hoick them out of their nests, just poking them with the little brush really wasn’t doing it.
Speaking of tweezers, recently I found myself performing a little “minor” surgery on my machine and it’s something worth checking.
I was in the process of making this little HST quilt top for Project Linus – a super-speedy, fun little thing – except that it wasn’t speedy at all because I found that my needle was refusing to stay in the needle-holding assembly, no matter how many times I tried to re-seat it and tighten the screw. It was deeply annoying. While fiddling about with it and cursing, I noticed the small screw at the back of the needle holder and observed that the whole assembly was very loose and rattly. It’s also part of the thread path (that silvery hook affair at the base), so it’s an important little bit of kit and it occurred to me that it really shouldn’t be as wobbly as it was.
Without really thinking about it, I undid the screw and the whole needle holder fell apart into a bewilderment of very tiny bits of metal. Whoops! Luckily, I didn’t lose any of it into the guts of the bobbin area, and after careful examination of the little bits and application of the afore-mentioned tweezers and a set of very small socket screwdrivers (I have a Thing about socket screwdrivers), I managed to reassemble it again and make sure that the rear screw holding it all together was tightened properly. To my vast relief, it would hold a needle again – PHEW! And in fact, the Pfaff is now sewing noticeably better since my impromptu tinkering. I definitely wouldn’t recommend randomly disassembling bits of your sewing machine without very good reason, but I would say that it’s worth checking that the needle-holder assembly isn’t really loose if your stitches are not looking as good as they might, given that it affects both the stability of your needle and the security of the thread path. If it’s hard to get at the screw, try moving the needle as far as possible to the right, so that the shaft is not right in line with the IDT system.
Pfaffing with Feet!
My collection of feet for the Pfaff keeps growing – it’s like a mechanical centipede!
I got these five (L-R: piping foot, couching foot, beading foot, cording foot and braid foot) as a set in a very good deal when I was wrestling with the piping on the Shimmering Weekender for my sister. It was better than no piping foot, but I wasn’t convinced that it was up to the task of wrangling the sheer mass of fabric I was trying to feed through the machine. (you have to disable the IDT system to use it, unfortunately) So far, the only other foot I’ve used from this set has been the couching foot, and I’m keen to find an excuse to try the other three this year! I already have some beaded trim – I need to find an unsuspecting project to put it on.
Given that I want to make a Weekender for myself at some point, I paid a visit to the Pfaff stand at the Festival of Quilts and asked for their advice after my difficulties with assembling my sister’s version. They recommended the grand piping foot as a better alternative to the little plastic standard piping foot.
As you can see, it’s a much heftier beast, and can be used with the IDT system. Making myself a Weekender is something I really want to do this year – I will report my findings with this foot when I do!
The last foot I bought for my Pfaff last year is the 6D spring foot for machine embroidery and free-motion quilting:
I have four variations on the theme of FMQ feet for the Pfaff, but this one has easily become my favourite. I held off from buying one for a while because I wanted to be absolutely sure that it would work with the Quilt Expression 4.2, but the ladies on the Pfaff stand assured me that it would, and it’s a purchase I have not regretted.
So, that’s a bit of an update and a “where I’m at” with my brilliant, tricky sewing machine. After the weekend, I’ll be sharing an overview of my UFO pile and what they need to become finished. 🙂