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The Sewing Machine Showdown

This little Elnita was my 18th birthday gift.  At the time, I remember being very upset at not getting something with a bigger engine and room for 4 passengers!  However, she has served me well over many years.  I have made curtains, belly dance costumes, table cloths and the odd bit of art sewing.  I found that the space between the casing and the needle was too narrow for bigger projects and I wished really hard for a bigger quilting machine.  The bigger machines, however, were completely out of my budget.

Fast forward to January 2012 and I enrolled at Craft Land (a sewing and needle craft shop in Town Centre, Dubai) for a class on free motion quilting.  This was during the Dubai Shopping Festival, which happens every January.  As I was preparing for the class, my eye wandered over to the machines and then I saw this beauty:

The discount was amazing and I persuaded my long-suffering husband to buy her for me for our 3 anniversaries:  20 years ago we met, 20 years ago we started dating and 16 years ago we were married.  I also saw an overlocker at a bargain price and, well, you never know when you need to shorten a dress or finish off a project with a proper seam, so both machines came home with me.

I finished my free motion quilting class and decided to do the beginners, intermediate and advanced quilting classes as well (in the proper order, this time!).  I tried quilting many years ago, without any assistance or classes, and it was a total disaster.  You cannot teach yourself everything from books.

My new Mega Quilter worked like a fighter jet – fast, smooth and absolutely elegant.  There was only one catch:  she could only do straight stitching.  My little old Elnita could not cope with anything bigger than a handkerchief anymore, so I started looking out for other options.

Craft Land had a quilt show in May 2012 where I entered my Dora quilt, I will talk about this in my next post.  At the quilt show, they had make and take tables, where people could try out the Brother sewing machines.  After the show, these demo machines were being sold off at a discount.  I had seen some ladies at the quilting classes use the Brother machines and I liked the versatility of stitches and ease with which they learnt on these machines.  Luckily for me, there was a Brother Innovis 600 among the demo models and I persuaded my (by now) very long-suffering husband that I needed to buy this machine too!

Having used this machine for a few months now, I can say that it is dreadfully SLOW compared to my Mega Quilter.  It is like having two cars to drive each day, a sports car and a cheap bottom-of-the-range car.  It requires a whole different mindset to not mess up anything when using these machines.  With the Mega Quilter, I need to go softly on the pedal and feed the fabric at high speeds.  With the Brother, I just about press the pedal through the floor and still sit and wait for it to stitch.  The elaborate stitches would require some finesse, but the straight stitch should be faster.   My other gripe with this machine, is with the quarter-inch foot.  It curves outward from the front to the back, making it very difficult to judge where exactly the right width is located, with the result that my stitching feels as if I am constantly pulling the fabric left and right in order to hit the spot.  It does redeem itself with the memory function:  save your stitch design, length and width and then you don’t have to reset the machine in between changing stitches.  Lastly, she also weighs much less than the Mega Quilter – and I attend classes and clinics at Craft Land on a regular basis, so my back is much happier carrying  the Brother!

My daughters want to sew too, but since they are 3 and 5, they are incapable of working with the big machines.  I found this mini Janome sewing machine at our electronics shop and bought two of them (one for each girl) that they can use while growing up.  It has straight stitch and zigzag, but different lengths.  There is no adjuster button for the stitches.  The foot pedal is very small and perfect for the little ones.  This is much better than a toy sewing machine, which is cheaply made and won’t even stitch properly for more than a few tries before breaking.   And it only weighs 5 pounds (2 kg), so I can easily take one with me if I travel somewhere and want to do some light sewing.

Life can take you on some strange paths sometimes, but even I could not have foreseen that 2012 would be the year of the sewing machine in our house, or rather, FIVE sewing machines!

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Life sure is busy sometimes…

There is something undeniably exciting about moving to a new house.  The possibilities of colours, arranging furniture, admiring new views from the windows.  I had already planned the layout in the new villa.  But alas, my sale fell through and I am still living in my old villa.  That was a waste of a few weeks of negotiation, discussions, planning, house-hunting and excitement.

Nevertheless, I have some pictures to share of other, more interesting and fulfilling things in my life:

Here is my little Yamaha Arius YDP-140.  I found her second-hand on Dubizzle (naturally!) for a very good price.  The lady had bought her with the intention of taking piano lessons, but after two years she gave up, and sold the piano in mint condition.  She takes up much less wall-space than an upright piano would, but she has a full keyboard and plays 50 demo songs too.  The 50 songs came with the piano in sheet music form as well.  And the best part:  volume control!  I can still play some of the pieces I learnt when I was 12 – wow – all that practice sure paid off.

My set of 30 encyclopedias are now used in a tiny corner, as a “book” shelf.  This is a perfect spot for them, because the kids cannot knock them over.  On top is a tiny work of art I bought years ago, and a piece of coral that washed up in Dubai after they started constructing the large Deira Palm (and as yet unfinished).  It looks like a brain and the encylopedias just add to the visual pun.  I’ve seen some amazing book sculptures and have some ideas floating around in my head, but for now, the encyclopedias are going to stay put in their corner.

Some more progress on the blue pentaptych:  we have now hung it on the wall in the living room.  It looks great and allows me to see it at different times of day (and light conditions) as well as saving space in my studio.  I can also take one canvas down to work on it, and replace it easily.  The white buttons are all sewn onto the white band (shaped like a U) that flows over the three right-hand panels (not really visible in this photo).  I am now planning the design for one of the teal bands.  I’m going to incorporate teal-coloured pearls that I found at Dragon Mart.  They’re only cheap cultured pearls, but they are still heavy.  I want to combine some embroidery stitches with the pearls to fill up the area without overloading the canvas.

On 21 October 2011, I attended a 24-hour sew-a-thon for breast cancer awareness, sponsored by Craftland and held at the Town Centre Mall in Dubai.  We made loads of under-arm cushions and shoulderbags to hold the drainage bags after surgery.  The event took place for 12 hours on the Friday and 12 hours on the Saturday.  Sewing for 10 hours straight is quite a challenge, and on hard chairs it became even more so.  I had to spend the rest of the weekend recovering from back pain.  I met some  wonderful ladies and it was very heart-warming to share this experience with ladies from so many different cultures and age groups.

The rest of my time was spent on Halloween, children’s parties and some pretty weird medical stuff.  But more on that later!