It Had to Go! (Bye-Bye Passport, Hello Presto!)

Yesterday, in a moment of pique, I packed up the Pfaff Passport 3.0 sewing machine and took it back to the dealer.  Time to trade it in for something better, even if a bit heavier for taking to classes.  I’ve tried to like the damned thing, but too many little frustrations mounted up.  After only two months, it was time for it to get lost.  I felt no love for it, only a liking for the fancy, decorative stitches.  I had a problem with too-flexible plastic presser feet and a bobbin cover that was capricious, sometimes jumping out of its holder in the middle of a seam.  As well, the reverse button would work sometimes – and other times it would not.  Why bother?  I hate to say it, I gave it a two-star review somewhere on the net . . .

Enter the Baby Lock Presto II.  My dealer gave me full credit on the Passport, and I walked out with a brand new machine, marked down incredibly to be a very good deal.  To me, that is great business.  And, I really am liking the Presto II.  It’s not full of decorative stitches, which I admit I do like and imagine using them to create some interesting things in the future, but the practical side of me finds that a machine that works, has solid feet, a good stitch, and a good reputation is more important than fancy stitches.  (Oh, the Puritan speaks!)  It also has damnably good buttonholes!

There are 7 buttonholes on this machine, some of which I did multiple times to check out their quality. The default ones are very good as they are, but I prefer the ones where I lowered the pressure on the presser foot from 4 to 3 and shortened the distance between the stitches, for example from 0.5 to 0.3.  My trimming is not spectacular as I just cranked them out after putting some medium weight Pellon between two layers of a fine, soft natural muslin.  The buttonholes are actually quite nice . . . I wonder if computerized sewing machines produce some of the best ones?  I know that my Berninas do a really fine job and they are mechanical machines.

Anyway, this machine is probably 5 lbs. heavier than the Passport and does not have a case.  I have a turquoise Tutto trolley (say that 3 times real fast!) to transport the Presto II.  The machine also has a handy dandy handle on top to make carrying it easier.  Classes will not be a problem as far as weight.

Below is a frontal view of the Presto II, a promo image from Baby Lock.  There is a Presto (I) prior to this one – the II has the addition of a thread cutter.

Image result for presto ii babylock promo image

The promo picture below gives you an idea of the location of various buttons for your sewing convenience.  On the right is the digital display, which is very easy to use.  A few things aren’t intuitive, but you can read, right?  Easy peasy afterward.

Beneath the index finger is the thread cutting button, to the left of that is the needle-up / needle-down, then a button to push to terminate a pattern when it is complete, and the reverse stitch.  One thing the Presto II has that the Passport does not is a sensor which won’t let you sew if the presser foot is up.  What is not shown is the fact it has an absolutely fantastic automatic needle threader!  Oh, how my old eyes like that!  To the right of the index finger is the speed control – slow to fast, up to 850 stitches per minute (faster than I need!).

Image result for presto ii babylock promo image

Finally, in the Baby Lock promo picture below, you see under the top of the Presto II.  The top of the machine flips up.  In the picture I took above, you can see the 100 stitches printed on the lid.  The spool holder and bobbin winding mechanism are also under the lid, and the bobbin winder sports its own thread cutter.  Under the lid and along the thread paths are clear markers on how to set up the upper thread (solid line) and how to set up the thread to wind the bobbin (broken line).  The bobbin case itself has a picture showing how to place the bobbin it it.

Image result for presto ii babylock promo image

I’ve never sewn or used a Baby Lock prior to yesterday.  I know their sergers are supposed to be phenomenal, so why not their sewing machines?  There are a lot of thoughtful little conveniences – small touches – which make this an outstanding machine, more so considering that this is not one of their fancy embroidery machines or even top of the line sewing machine.

After having the Presto II in my possession for a little over 24 hours, I can honestly say that I have “bonded” with it – I like it a lot! – and do not regret getting rid of the Passport 3.0.  It’s sad that I feel that way as there is a lot of potential in the Passport, but the poor quality of its plastic feet and the bobbin cover coupled with the reverse button’s finicky quality were not worth working with.  Sewing should be a pleasant experience, not a wrestling match with faulty equipment and shoddy materials.

Quilt Top – Borders Added – And Ready For Something Else!

Sunday was the last quilting class of the year.  The goal – add the borders, which you can see in the above image.  There was a glitch with them, and I am not sure if it was me or the pattern, but I figured out what to do to make it work.  Now, this is set aside until January 2019 when the last classes on the steps to apply batting, backing, and binding are held.  I’m rather pleased with it, can see where I have improved, and see where I need to figure out subtle refinements a bit more.  I learned a lot over the last 5 weeks, and am looking forward to the final processes to a finished quilt.

Now – Christmas sewing!  And pants hemming, over which I am hawing . . .  😉

Finished the Quilt Top and Killed My Iron

This is the quilt top, all put together as of noon today!  This is just the top – next Sunday is the border, and then wait until the second class begins sometime next year.  That is when we will add the batting and the back side of the quilt.  And do the binding.  And, I assume, the quilting.  It feels pretty good to be at this point in the quilt, let me tell you!

And, in the middle of all this excitement, my foot wrapped around the cord to my iron – one I have had for 20 years at least and really like – pulled the iron off the counter, and it shattered into a billion pieces of plastic.  “It’s dead, Jim,” to quote someone.  Luckily, I had another iron, older than that one, as back up.

Sacrifices must be made, I guess.  The sewing gods are jealous gods . . .

Quilting Project, i

For the past month, every Sunday, I have been taking a beginning quilting class from 1 to 4 pm. It’s like boot camp! The teacher is detail oriented, explains the whys and wherefores, and is perfect. At this point, we beginners are “piecers” and not quilters. No quilting in this session – to be continued in 2019.

I have been sewing forever, since about 10 or 11, and now that I am closing in on retirement, you can guess that I have been doing it for awhile.  However, quilting is different in some ways.  No backstitching.  Precision seaming.  Scant 1/4 inch seams.  How do my points look?  (Those are where the points of square or triangle meet another piece – are they pointed, blunted, exposed?)  Every time you make a seam, you iron – press the piece flat, open the seam.  Then move on.

In the picture above, you can see that I have set up a small pressing station next to me. This keeps me from getting up and down with each seam. Many people do this. The little iron is really nice – and really inexpensive, too! It’s a “Hot to Trot” mini iron by Sunbeam, with a mini price of $12.99 at Target or on Amazon. It heats up quickly, has steam, has steam bursts, and is comfortable in the hand. The ironing pad is also a cutting board on the other side, but I find it easier to walk over to the drafting table if I need to cut anything (first picture).

The pattern itself is filled with lessons. To read a quilt pattern requires a bit of work, and a poorly written pattern will kill your enthusiasm very quickly. This one was written by the teacher, Becky, and she’s done a really good job. Her being the teacher, she knows this pattern. Last week, I had sewn a couple of pieces wrong – in just a glance, she said, “You need to fix that!” I think I am so – sew? – lucky to have an exacting and knowledgeable instructor. This is really important as I have been to a few other quilting classes and they have all left me very disappointed. While I don’t see myself becoming an obsessive quilter like some people, I know that I am going to walk away with an appreciation of quilting and a new sewing skillset.

Finally, as a birthday present, I was given a lightweight, take-to-class sewing machine by the best guy in the world, mi esposo Josh. I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the machine, partly because of problems with a foot being made of a flexing, flimsy plastic (which the dealer replaced with a metal foot – much nicer – love goes up, hate goes down), but also because I am learning a new skill with a new machine. This is a Pfaff Passport 3.0, weighing in at less than 15 lbs. Considering one of my machines is a 50 pounder, a portable, class machine is necessary. This machine was made for portability, and in that arena I really like it. In the big picture, I think this machine is a keeper. If I need to have more harp space – the area between the needle and the right hand part of the machine – I can always use a bigger machine. For the quilting, I may bring in my Janome 6500 as it is more powerful, has a quilting table, and more harp space.

Finally, the quilt itself. In class I completed the center square, and then one of the 3 different squares which will surround the center. I need to complete all 12 squares – 3 different patterns – by next Sunday. That is when we start working on the borders, which consist of strips and squares. I think we will also begin on “squaring the quilt” – when you make your quilt an even shape. Or, that may be the final class. The center square is fairly large, and the other squares will surround it. The center square is below. It is a graphical representation of a flower basket.

The surrounding squares are all variants of flower baskets. Below is “square 1” of the three. Each square requires 4 renditions of the same square; yesterday I completed all of this square – all 4 of them. It took a bit of time.

Over the next few days, today included, I will complete the remaining 8 squares. The dog ears will be trimmed. Fortunately, I have cut out all the pieces for the entire quilt – except the border – and placed each one in a baggy, each piece labeled in size and for which square. These are the details Becky has been so good with! It would be all to easy to get lost in colors, shapes, sizes, and so on.

Okay, time for breakfast, and then on to sewing! To be continued . . .