Thursday, 17 April 2014

My New Sewing Machine!

Last week in my WOYWW post, I promised to reveal some exciting news. Unfortunately it did not come in time to include in this week’s WOYWW, but here it is now – all can be revealed at last! A little while ago you may remember my reporting that to my great disappointment after having set up my sewing machine in its designated corner in my ARTHaven, it failed to work – the feed dogs were down, and remained in the down position. On examination it became clear that the spring on the cam operating the mechanism had broken, so off it went for repair. The engineer, bless his cotton socks, scoured the internet for me in search of the part, but it was not to be found. The machine was simply too old, and all the spare parts had gone.

This machine was a 21st birthday present from my parents – all of us girls in our family (my sister and me, and our two cousins) were given sewing machines for our 21st birthdays and they have proved to be the most amazing present, lasting for many years and giving excellent service, as well as endless creative pleasure. Mine was a Pfaff, of solid German manufacture, and in the almost exactly 40 years that I had it, it only went in for repairs two or three times. Not a bad record!

After such a long life of sterling service, this faithful old workhorse has gone to the place where sewing machines go to die, and I feel very sad about that. It has been my constant companion all my adult life, and for several years earned me a crust or two! With it I made quilts, machine applique, a small amount of embroidery, dolls and soft toys, curtains and more curtains, cushions, bedding, and more clothes than I could shake a fist at, including my own wedding dress and two bridesmaids’ dresses. It has marked many rites of passage in our family, and its passing is the end of an era.

However, time does not stand still, and I need a sewing machine, so I had to find myself a new one. As soon as I heard that my old one had finally died, I immediately informed Mum, since she and Dad had given it to me, and straight away she said, “I would like to buy you a new one for your birthday!” When I picked myself up off the floor, I asked whether she was aware just how much they cost these days, and she said, “It doesn’t matter. It is a pleasure, after all that the two of you have done for me.” So despite the frequent moaning about her circumstances, she really is grateful and appreciative to my hubby and me. I am so grateful to her! She told me to choose what I wanted, and go ahead and order it straight away, and she was willing for me to have it before my birthday and she knew I’d want to get on with things now, and not have to wait another 6 weeks. It’s all very fitting because it’s exactly 40 years on, and also, last year, for my 60th, Mum gave me some money rather than something specific, and this machine is almost like a special 60th birthday present, even if it is a year late!

After much online research, I finally decided on the Brother Inov-is 350SE, a machine that was designed specifically to celebrate Brother’s 50 years in Europe (SE = Special Edition). Not only would this machine do all I wanted and more, it was also one of the nicest looking ones, and I believe aesthetics are important – after all, we have to live with the machine and use it, and if it is ugly, that’s not so much fun! On my old machine I always missed the ability to do more fancy embroidery stitches, and this new machine has them in spades.

The technology has moved on massively in the last 40 years. Computers were not even part of our everyday lives in 1974! This machine is computerised, and has loads of bells and whistles that I am going to have to discover, and learn how to use. The instruction manual is several times the size of the one for my old machine, and there are masses of inexplicable knobs and buttons on the machine which no doubt will all become familiar to me in time! A friend of mine wondered whether this new machine would last as well as the old one, since “they don’t make them like they used to!” I said that if it did, I would still be sewing, aged 101!!! I think it more than likely that either the machine, or I, will have pegged out before then!

One great feature of this machine is that, if purchased now, it comes with the quilting kit free. This is worth about £150 and includes the large table which makes working on larger pieces so much easier, and several feet. Unfortunately it does not include the free motion embroidery/darning foot, which surprises me because a common use for this feature is in quilting, but I have purchased that separately, and our local shop where I ordered the machine is posting it to me. The quilting kit did not come with the machine when it was delivered today, and when I phoned the shop, they said that for some reason this comes separately, by post. I should receive it, together with the embroidery foot, in the next few days. Meantime I think I’ve got enough to be going on with, learning the basic functions of the machine!

Here are some photos. Just out of the box, and not even plugged in yet! (I opened it with Mum, so that she could see it, and share in my excitement. However, she said all this “modern stuff” was quite beyond her, and she wouldn’t know where to begin!)

01 With Cover

This first picture shows the machine in situ in the corner of my ARTHaven, to the right of the display area. It is great having the space to have a sewing machine out all the time, readily accessible at any time, and my ARTHaven was designed with this in mind, to have separate work zones with the curving work surface connecting them all, generating a feeling of continuity in the work, and breaking down the boundaries between different disciplines.

The machine has a strong, light-weight plastic cover to keep the dust off. Unlike my old machine, it just rests on top of the machine and does not lock into place. The machine itself has a handle which folds up, and this projects through the cover, so that when you lift it, you are actually lifting the machine itself and not the cover, which is a lot safer – if the lock on the old-style cover were to break, you’d end up dropping the machine!

The front of the cover has a deep pocket for storing the instruction book and various accessories.

Here is the machine with the cover removed.

02 Cover Removed

I think you will agree that it is very elegant, with some nice curves – many modern machines are very square-looking, and the rounded ones look rather bulbous, in my opinion. This machine has a sleek and stylish appearance.

Where the ruler is on the front, that whole section pulls away, leaving a narrow arm for sewing sleeves etc. Inside the pull-away section is a neat storage box for the accessories – sewing feet, seam ripper, etc. Other accessories such as the screwdrivers and cleaning brush come in a small bag which can be kept in the storage space in the cover.

The machine comes with a rigid plastic chart showing all the available stitches, with clips on the bottom that fit neatly onto the folded-down handle of the machine, for quick reference.

03 Stitch Chart

Take a close look and see how amazing some of the decorative stitches are! The machine will also do a whole selection of different buttonholes.

Lifting the top cover you can see the bobbin winding mechanism, spool holder and threading slots – it’s all unfamiliar to me as yet, but I expect in a short time I shall be threading up like a pro!

04 Top Cover Lifted

Finally, here’s the business end. Unlike my old machine which had the bobbin loading through a door in the front, this one has a neat transparent cover in the top. Threading looks to be very easy – there’s even a mechanism for threading the needle itself! (I wonder if it will also make me a nice cup of tea while I work…)

05 Where it All Happens

Lots to do and lots to learn before I can produce anything meaningful, I am sure! I will let you know how I get on in the meantime. I have one project that I want to make immediately, so watch this space – after which I shall get back to my teabag art and start assembling the bags at last!

Shoshi is One Happy Bunny.


  1. Well, surely this years challenge is to use all of those different stitches!!
    It looks fab - happy stitching x

  2. Oh, Shoshi, I am so happy for you!! What a wonderful gift from your Mom to celebrate your birthday last year and this year and as a thank you to you!!

    You have written a wonderful accounting of your old faithful 40-year-old (!) machine and your sleek and fabulous new one. If I ever get the urge to get one, I know which one to get! Thank you for all the work you put into this post!!

    Have fun with it!! Happy Easter/Happy Spring!! Hugs, Darnell

  3. Goodness, will you look at all those fancy stitches! No wonder you are a happy bunny. Karen #36

  4. How exciting! And how generous of your mom. That looks SO complicated. Right up your alley:) I'm not sure I'd be patient enough to learn how to use it. Have fun!

  5. Oh how exciting!! This machine has all the bells and whistles.What fun discovering all that it does. What a lovely thing for your Mum to do for you. She does appreciate what you do. Our parents often off load stuff onto those that help them most.Who else can they off-load onto eh? My mum's the same!!One day she's complaining about everything, then she tells us she doesn't know how she'd cope without us!Can't wait to see what you do with this beauty!!
    Judy xx

  6. Woo hoo! I bought the Innovis 55 just before Christmas (Birthday, Christmas and long promised) and love it to bits. I'm guessing you bought from the Newton shop? They're so helpful and supportive if you have any problems. Enjoy using it so much xxx

  7. Looks space-age to me - I learnt on my G'ma's Singer peddle machine many moons ago :) Hope you have hours of fun with it xx


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