It’s not my birthday, but it sure feels like it- I got a new Juki!
Okay, not brand spanking new, but pretty close to new and definitely new to me.
I am so thrilled to have this machine after years of fighting with my other domestic sewing machines. I don’t want to really bash on any particular brand, but in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say the worst free-motion quilting experience I had was with my Viking Sapphire 850. I bought this machine several years ago not long after it was released specifically because of the larger harp and target quilting audience. I had an older Viking Quilt Designer that I loved for piecing, but the harp size on that machine did not transition well to free motion quilting.
So when Viking released the Sapphire with the large harp, my FMQ heart jumped right on the bandwagon and ran out to buy one. Did I research the machine before I bought it? NO. Did I FMQ the machine in the store prior to buying? NO. Did I read all the blog posts from disappointed quilters trying to FMQ on the thing? NO, NO, NO. Was I an idiot to make such an impulse buy? YES.
I got the machine home, set it up for FMQ and was instantly disappointed. Tension issues abounded and breaking threads every few minutes made FMQing on the thing a nightmare. I truly thought it was my fault; friends who had the same machine loved piecing on it (and no, they did NOT use it to FMQ). I spent huge amounts of time on web looking for potential solutions; God bless all those folks who posted different Viking 850 setups that worked for them. No one had a true fix, but over time I found a combination of settings, feet, thread and black magic that would *most* times allow me to FMQ for 15-30 minutes without incident. The stitch and tension quality were never great, but at this point being able to use the machine for FMQing at all was a plus.
As time went on, I was still piecing happily on the Quilt Designer and the Sapphire sat idle most of the time; I had quilt tops to quilt, but it was such a frustrating exercise, I rarely attempted it. I finally resorted to using BFF Mary’s Brother 1500S which is a sibling to the Juki (same company, different machine). The Brother FMQ’d beautifully and every quilt retreat we attended, I would borrow it and work on one my quilt tops; it was slow, but at least I had options.
Then it happened.
I had been watching Craigslist off and on for a Juki and on a whim checked one evening- and there it was. A Juki TL98E for sale! Sadly it was from the estate of a lady who had recently passed from cancer; she had bought it but never really had a chance to use it. I was able to see some of her beautiful quilts- she was a true artist that worked in multiple mediums besides fabric.
I made the call, went to look at it, TESTED it (I did finally learn something from all this) and bought it on the spot. It’s wonderful! I came home with it and started FMQing a half-done quilt and couldn’t believe how well it worked. A couple of small adjustments and I was off and running. I can quilt on this thing for hours at a time and it just chugs through. Stitch quality and tension are great and it stands up well to my intermediate FMQing skills. I had stalled FMQing my Bonnie Hunter Crabapple quilt, but got it back out to try on the new Juki and it was stitch love:
I finished up the Crabapple quilt, then pulled out The Dreaded Basket Quilt (one of my ten year wonders) and FINISHED it!!
This photo shows the FMQ history for this ten year project: an Elna Quilter’s Dream, Viking Quilt Designer, Viking Sapphire 850, Brother 1500S and finally the Juki TL98E:
So now I’m very happy and have a surplus of sewing machines. I started piecing on the Sapphire (I have friends who love the machine for piecing) just to make sure it works beautifully there (it does), then thought long and hard about my quilting habits, past and future.
I’ve enjoyed my beautiful electronic machines, but simply don’t use all the features they’re packed with. I used a few of the specialty stitches when I made Halloween costumes for the grandkids, but those days are gone; I don’t make clothing or do home dec projects anymore either. And as I get closer to retirement, we have to start considering the whole downsizing thing that may come up someday.
So, I’m getting both the Viking machines serviced and spiffyed up, then they’re going on Craigslist. Once they’re sold, then it will be same for my Elna Quilter’s Dream. After that, I’ll have my Featherweight for piecing, the Juki for quilting and if I can get time to restore it, the Singer Redeye for treadling- treadles are excluded from the downsizing conversation!
I’m simplifying my craft and focusing on what I love: creating.