About me Tools and Tips

The Machines That Make It Work

The machines that we sew on are such a foundational part of our experience as quilters. Today, I’d like to share my current machines, and my good and bad experiences with them.

First, I think of my machines as women and they are named, although I rarely refer to them by name. First up is my oldest machine, Lork, my mother’s 1951 Singer Centennial Featherweight. This my mom’s graduation gift from her parents when she finished nursing school. She never did a lot of sewing, but when she did, it was often denim, or plastic coated duck upholstery. This sewed through it all. I learned to sew on this machine, and so did my kids. I have all of the original parts and feet that she got with it, including the buttonholer. It still makes the best buttonholes! I use Lork for any class that only requires straight stitch.

When I was 10 years old, a family friend was moving across the country and didn’t want to pay to move her White sewing machine in the cabinet, with a knee pedal. She offered it to me, and I spent countless hours over the next eight years sewing clothing, quilts, miniature quilts, and unique creations. I loved having my own machine and being able to sew whenever I wanted.

My next machine is not pictured because it was not my favorite, and I traded it in. My parents bought me a portable Singer when I graduated from high school, but it was not the quality of the Featherweight. As a plus, it did have a zig zag stitch, and I took to college and made clothes and quilts with it. I even quilted queen-sized quilts on it, although there may have been some swearing involved.

I traded the Singer in when I bought Bernie, my Bernina 1260 from 1993. Bernie has been a workhorse for 30 years. She is still my machine for classes that require any stitch other than a straight stitch. I have had issues with the tension since I bought her, and I have had countless repair people try to fix it. But I have worked with it for so long, I know how to deal with it: 1. Use good quality cotton thread (metallics are a nightmare on Bernie), 2. Adjust the bobbin tension as you would for any machine, 3. Set up the upper tension at around 3, and test. It is almost always correct when I follow these steps. It is also critically important to use the same thread on top and bottom.

Despite her quirks (she also will not free motion quilt through fusible, which makes raw edge applique a challenge), Bernie is well loved. Most of the quilts I have made were made on Bernie. And my daughters (and sons) used her for all of their 4H sewing. When I bought a new primary machine, there was quite a discussion in the family about who would get the Bernina (little did they know I planned to keep using her). It was finally decided that one daughter gets the Featherweight and the other gets the Bernina.

My primary machine is Jeannie. Jeannie is a Juki DX-4000 QVP. I got her in 2021 for my birthday and she has been used almost daily since then. I love the nearly 12 inches of space under the arm. And doing walking foot quilting is a dream on this machine. My husband was excited that I could embroider my quilt labels, so they will not wear off over time. She has a beautiful stitch, and can go really fast when I need it.

I find quilting and piecing so easy on this machine. I just took her in for a spa week, not because anything is wrong, but because I use her so much, I want to keep it all working as well as possible.

I am grateful that I have had sewing machines around me for my entire life. Each one is a bit different, but I have learned and grown with each machine.

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