Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ode to Odette

Sewing machine

Over at Sew Mama Sew they are having Sewing Machine Month, and there is a meme to kick off with. I'm acually quite hesitant to answer the questions, for reasons that will become obvious as you read on. But it's important to get these life-traumas out in the open sometimes, don't you think?

What brand and model do you have?
I have a Bernina 153 QE. (I also have an old Elna Lotus, a little Toyota workshop machine, and a very old Janome MyLock 3 spool overlocker)

How long have you had it?
Since early 2004.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
It cost me about about (gulp) $2 400 when I bought it. It was part of a kind-of inheritance. My nana had passed away the previous August and my dad gifted some of his inheritance to both my brother and I. My money was to buy a top-notch sewing machine - Dad is a great believer in spending the money to get a good, reliable piece of equipment. I was very touched, I can tell you.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
Quilts, pouches, bags, doll clothes, human clothes.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
During a normal working week I sew about 4-8 hours a week. Given than I'm not currently working, I'm probably sewing 10-20 hours a week. Just since Sunday I've sewn for 7 hours.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
Oh, I named her all right. When I first got her, she was never quite right. She jammed the threads, she didn't like chain piecing, her bobbin was obnoxious. She hated machine quilting. I named her Odette so that she might buck up a little. I took this blasted machine to the store I bought it from, they changed a few parts around, and still she wouldn't work properly. The store owner drover her to Sydney to the Bernina people, and nothing. The whole episode had me in tears - I was frustrated, and very distraught that my dad had given me the money to buy a machine that was supposed to make my quilting adventures so much more enjoyable, but it wasn't enjoyable at all.

Sewing machine - flood January 2006

On New Years Day 2006, we woke to find that the sewing area of the dining room was flooded by a broken sprinkler that was spurting through the open screen door. Odette was saturated, dressmaking patterns were dripping wet, magazines and books were ruined, and quilts were sodden. Scott spent hours drying hundreds of half hexagon quilt pieces with a dry iron. The sewing machine however wasn't touched for weeks for fear of electrocuting myself. I waited for it to dry out, and I called my trusted machine mechanic (i.e. not the shop) Within a couple of days he had it back, had given it a clean bill of health and *gulp* fixed it.

He swears he didn't do anything to it to fix it, but I've had hardly any jamming or quilting problems with it since.

(How's that for a long and drawn out answer?)

What features does your machine have that work well for you?
I don't think this is a perfect machine. It hasn't ever delivered what it promised, and I don't think I could ever be fond of it. it Doesn't stitch very evenly, it complains about thicker fabric. It's a pain in the arse, to be honest.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
The automatic magic-eye buttonhole? Not so magic, or automatic for that matter. I think it's broken.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
See the part about how much I hated my machine, above.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
I won't normally recommend any machine to anyone. I do tell them they need to take in a swatch quilt, or fabric they like using, into the sewing machine shop and spend at least an hour with that machine to see if it suits them and the way they sew. I also tell them to tell the sales person to BACK OFF.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
It has to suit you. It has to work the way you work. Go for a workhorse if you sew a lot - sewing machine manufacturers apparently only factor on you sewing for 20-40 hours a year when they make the machine. That's crazy.

Do you have a dream machine?
My old Janome MyStyle 28 was my dream machine. It cost $300 new but unfortunately didn't have drop-down feed dogs, pressure settings on the foot or needle settings so it was hard to quilt with. A machine that works and delivers would be my dream machine. I have heard great things about the Husqvarna long throat sewing machines, but I think I'm going to have to stick with this one for a lot longer yet.


  1. What an entertaining (I probably wasn't supposed to laugh, was I?) and very informative post!
    If I ever have money to spend on a sewing machine, I will definitely be taking your advice.

  2. Great info - I'll be doing this meme too. I find it really interesting to hear about people's experiences with their sewing machines.

  3. OMG I would have cried to find the machine (and everything else) dripping wet. At least one good thing came out of it - a "fixed" machine. Very interesting post.

  4. wow, I can't believe how little the manufacturers expect you to use them. I'm glad that Odette seems to have settled a bit for you... I think I should do this meme too!

  5. Maybe Odette should be called Odile (the black swan)! My ruffler only cost me US$17 - it's for a Janome - is it because it's a Bernina that yours would be so expensive? Friends all ooh and aah over their Berninas, but I am sticking with my very very basic Janome for the mo!

  6. My mum bought a top of the range (at the time) Bernina and has had nothing but trouble with it, yet I hear others rave about their Berninas. Her previous machine, which she'd had since she was about 20, was a Husqvarna. She is a strong advocate for Husqvarna machines. I bought a Pfaff, which is made by the same peeps who make Husqvarna, and I LOVE IT!!! What a shame your machine wasn't a write off when it got wet, you could have used the insurance to get a cooperative machine. Thanks for your interesting post, I think I'll do this meme too! Happy sewing! Kelly :-)

  7. oh poor odette - why can't she get it together? I have an elna Stella (a step along from the lotus) she is 25 years old and was my mothers before she got here pfaff for quilting. I love my stella - but she isn't up to anything too fancy. modest and a bit simple is my girl

  8. Poor Odette and all those problems. I have the exact same machine and have not had a spot of trouble-touch wood. She is probably due for a service but in this country with the different tongue she might have to hold on a bit longer. I do agree with your bit about not recommending anything to anybody. You need to go and try for yourself.

  9. Hi there-- Looks like we have the same sewing machine! You've certainly had a long row to hoe with yours-- these things seem to be hit and miss, because mine's been nothing but a pleasure to work with. Good luck with Odette in the future! PS-- The quilt in your banner is just gorgeous.

  10. I feel your pain! I sold my 153QE on the NZ equivalent of EBay and bought a Janome 6600p with the proceeds and I have never regretted it. Bernina's look sleeker but I love my Janome - utterly reliable, cuts my threads (I am that lazy), and laughs at bulky seams!

  11. I have the 153QE and have a love/hate relationship with it. My free motion quilting is good on it. The decorative stitches are nicely done and it has lots of power but.....i hate piecing on it. I can never get a proper 1/4 inch seam. It always veers off towards the end, the top fabric always pushes forward. On any other machine i have no problem piecing. The dealer says there is nothing wrong with it. I'm tempted to get rid of it, but spent so much money on it (3000) and it wouldn't be worth much now. I envy my friends who have the Janome 6600. I tried it the other day and it is heaven.

  12. I have a Pfaff with built in walking foot that replaced a Bernina. I love my Pfaff!


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