November 4, 2012

a wasted opportunity

A week or so ago, I was invited to a serger class at my local sewing and vacuum store. It was pitched to me on the phone as a "chance to try out the Baby Lock Evolution and provide feedback to the manufacturer" and I was told we would be making a simple project and all I had to do was show up. I don't ever get a chance to hang out with real live people who sew, so I was kind of excited to accept the invite.

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The "class" was yesterday, and sadly, it was kind of a disappointment. I did leave with the promised finished project, the quilted zip bag above, but the format of the class left a bit to be desired. It was much less an opportunity for me to provide feedback than it was a blatant attempt to sell me a machine, but I had predicted that going in. Still, I thought it would still be a great way to test-drive the Cadillac of sergers for a while so I could see if I was really missing out on anything driving my trusty Pinto around. My Pinto that had coincidentally broken the afternoon before. If there was ever a better time to sell me on a fancy serger, this was it!

Instead, due to disorganization, lack of direction, and a shortage of simple tools (ONE screwdriver to change needles in all eight machines? IN A SEWING MACHINE STORE?!? Really?), I spent over two hours in the store and about ten minutes actually sewing on the Evolution. Needless to say, by the time it was over I was not convinced that I needed to take advantage of the fantastic opportunity to pick up the machine for the one-day-only bargain basement price of just $3500(!).

Upon entering the class, we were free to select a machine from about 12 that were set up and outfitted with supplies. There were a few color variations in fabric and thread, but nothing exciting. I picked a machine set up with pink thread and pink fabric. Our fabric was pre-marked with stitching lines to quilt, and the machines were all set to cover stitch and filled with variegated bobbin thread so we could create the decorative accent on the body of the bag. After a short sales pitch on the virtues of the Evolution and Baby Lock, we were free to stitch the lines on the bag.

The next step was inserting the zipper, which meant a switch from the cover setting to the overlock setting, a needle change, rethreading, and foot change. All this clearly designed to show us how easy it is to change the machine up and create all the stitches we would ever need in our home sewing studio. I get that. Brilliant. My problem with this set up was that as I mentioned, there was ONE screwdriver in the place that all eight of us needed to use to move our needle position. I'm 150% sure that each one of those machines has a screwdriver in its toolkit, and I'm a perfectly competent individual who doesn't need another grown woman to change my sewing machine needle for me. Thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, we oohed and aahed at the ExtraordinAir threading, and once we were all (finally) set up we inserted the zipper. And then we waited again while the instructor changed out one of our threads for a thicker decorative thread so we could use the patented wave stitch* (close-up below) to sew up the sides of our bags. Unfortunately, the heavier thread gave quite a few of us trouble, and one poor woman had to restitch one side of her bag five or six times because her needle thread kept breaking part way through. It was not a pain-free, easy breezy experience, and I bet that even if she thought she might have wanted a serger before the class, she probably left convinced that it would just cause her tears and frustration at home. She also left with a very skinny bag!

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Had there been a short set of instructions provided to me with each step outlined, I would have been more than happy to breeze through the construction of the bag and see for myself just how easy it really is to make that Baby Lock work for me. I could have spent the next hour and a half playing and I might have easily convinced myself that I really do need all those functions in my next serger instead of being frustrated and bored with my wasted time.

But I don't want to dwell on the negative. Have you used or seen the Evolution? It is really quite an amazing machine, combining 2/3/4 thread overlocking with up to a 3-needle cover stitch and chain stitch and of course that fancy wave stitch* all in one lovely package. And though I do long for a cover stitch, I just don't think I would ever buy a machine like this. For garment sewing it seems like it would be a huge pain in the ass to have to change the settings between steps, as easy as it might be to do. I think having a dedicated cover stitch machine makes a lot more sense for the way I like to work.

As it is, I currently have my old trusty Kenmore set up along with my serger and my regular machine as a dedicated twin-needle top stitching station. My Brother doesn't like to twin-needle and I get a much nicer result from my old mechanical machine, plus it means I don't have to stop and change things around mid-project. I just set all the machines up with the right color thread and I'm good to go. It's like my own little sweatshop, and I quite like it that way!

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A peek behind the curtain. This is what it usually looks like in here.
Overflowing garbage can, clutter, and UFOs piled everywhere.
The tidy scene from this tour of yore did not last long. 

Of course, in my dream sweatshop I might have a dedicated cover stitch machine instead of my old Kenmore, a Pfaff instead of my Brother, and a Baby Lock instead of my current serger, but I don't think I would ever want to combine all the functions into one master machine, even if such a thing existed. Would you?

*Also, wtf is up with this wave stitch, anyway? What would YOU do with it? Am I missing something? The Evolution is the top-of-the-line, so of course it's included, but on the "less-expensive" machines, there are two that are the same except that one has the wave capability. That function makes that machine $300 more than its twin sister without it. I'm sorry, but why would I pay $300 for an ugly decorative stitch? Again, please enlighten me if I'm missing something here. WHY??