(Also, admire the bomb site that is my craft table.)
I inherited some money from my great-aunt’s estate after she passed away a couple of years ago – not a huge amount, but enough to buy something really nice – and given that she was such an arty crafty person in her own right I thought I might spend some of it on a new sewing machine to remember her by and to help with my sewing projects, so I’ve been casting a thoughtful eye over various models and brands of sewing machine for a little while now. Until recently, a serious contender was the Janome 1600 PQC – it’s popular with several quilt bloggers – but I was rather unconvinced about needing a second machine to do any non-straight-stitch task – I may not need umpty hundred decorative stitches, but I certainly appreciate the ability to do zig-zag!
Then I saw the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2 in a sewing machine shop in Carmarthen a few weeks ago while on a mad hunt for embroidery hoops for the Brownies. It was rather more than I was planning to spend and previously I’d rather dismissed the Pfaff brand based on a few assumptions of the high price of add-on feet and other necessary accessories, but I was intrigued by what I saw in the shop and went away to do some reading and research of my own, most of which was very supportive of the brand.
I also got over my grumpiness from the other day and, on a bit of a whim, on Saturday morning I assembled a small collection of different fabric samples to take back to the shop to give the Quilt Expression 4.2 a little more of a test-drive, if the shop owner would let me (if he hadn’t let me, I sure as heck wouldn’t have been buying from him). I’d seen the machine in action sewing on the grain of some fairly bog-ordinary cotton fabric, but most machines can be expected to do a reasonable job under those circumstances; I wanted to test it a bit on some more challenging situations.
We have here (from the top): some home-made bias binding, some half-square triangles, two charm square quilt sandwiches and a scrap of silk from a shirt. Off the top of my head, I felt this represented a reasonable example of the kinds of things I sew currently.
The shop owner remembered me and was happy to let me have a bit of a play. I first tested the machine on a quilt sandwich both with and without the IDT system (Pfaff’s much-praised integrated dual feed system) – even without it seemed to do a nice job – then ran some more stitching lines perpendicular to the first to see if there was any drag or puckering on the first set of stitches. There was none that I noticed, which was really good. It’s certainly been something I’ve had trouble with when using a cheapie walking foot on Mum’s Huskystar machine. I also tried sewing on the bias of the HSTs with and without IDT; these are scraps from the Hearts quilt and have been pre-washed, which made them a nightmare to sew on the bias on our other machines because the fabrics wrinkled and puckered if you looked at them funny. The Pfaff did a really nice job on both, however.
The bias binding was another good test, since in the past I’ve found that it “creeps” along the edge of the quilt while I’m attaching it and then I have to re-do the corner folds when I reach them – not impossible, but certainly annoying. The silk was the last test; I noticed some very slight puckering without the IDT and none with the IDT. Given the flimsy nature of the silk in question (which is why I chose that piece) and the fact that moments previously the machine had been sewing a chunky cotton quilt sandwich, I was very impressed. I also had a wee go at free-motion quilting, which went quite smoothly once we found the correct setting in the menu.
The Pfaff had calmly met all the tests I put to it and performed them well, and it had all the features that I’ve been dreaming about for some time now. I honestly couldn’t see any other barrier to me buying one, especially as the shop owner had some in stock and ready to go, so even though I really hadn’t planned it when I got up that morning, I decided then and there to take the plunge and get one that day. As a bonus, the shop owner included a huge extension table (something I’ve been wanting for a while now) and an extra open-toe free-motion foot, which was really helpful of him. Additionally, I bought an extra pack of bobbins (I never seem to have enough and none of the bobbins from the other machines will fit the Pfaff) and some more needles (I never seem to have enough of those either).
Finally, I can legitimately refer to my sewing exploits as Pfaffing about. 😀