Happy Day!

I’m delighted to say that I have all my machines back — including the Janome Combi 10. Apparently whatever had happened to it back in 2019 was fairly minor, but in the intervening three years a lot of the oil had solidified so it needed a thorough cleaning, and they also replaced one of the wires on the foot control (I think I had put my chair leg down on it).

While waiting for the machines to be brought out I mentioned that I was looking for a strong electro-mechanical machine (which, strictly speaking, I don’t need now that I have the Combi back) and she at first suggested the Juki 2200, but when I explained that I wanted one without a circuit board she suggested the Juki DDL-8700 — it’s an industrial model, but it doesn’t have an oil pan underneath. I’ll definitely look into it, but at 28 kg (61 lb or 4.4 stone) it’s not exactly portable — it needs to be installed in place and never moved. Given that I am moving interstate within the next year or so I think I’ll wait and get it when I’m safely ensconced in the new house.

I foresee a lot of sewing in the near future — I have all the Hawaiian applique blocks to quilt individually, a basted top ready for some walking foot quilting, and a heap of blocks that need to be assembled into a top ready for pinning at the end of September.

Choosing fabric

Having finished my Hawaiian appliqué blocks I went to Hobbysew a couple of days ago for some backing fabric — I found a fabulous purple print that Suzy will love.
backing fabric for Hawaiian Applique quilt
(I wasn’t able to spread it flat on the cutting table to photograph it because Vanima decided it was her spot):
Vanima on the flanelette quilt
While I was at the shop I looked at green batiks for the stem of my magic vine borders and possibly also for a 2″ inner border. I have several batiks at home but they were all too light or too yellow or too blue or there wasn’t enough, so I was forced to buy some more (such a tragedy!). I found two medium-dark greens and brought them home to test against the blocks. I pulled out a block from every fabric (I left out the duplicates) and arranged them in a row. Then I laid out one fabric I already had and the two new ones.

Batik 1
Batik 1
This is the one I already had. I love it as a fabric but I’m reluctant to use it for a ¼” bias stem because as with many batiks there is too much variation in value, and I suspect that the darker areas will disappear into the black. I’ll find other uses for it, though.

Batik 2
Batik 2
I am definitely a teal girl (I wear a lot of it) and with many of the purples being on the blue side I thought that teal would go well with them. I was disappointed to see that it looks dull.

Batik 3
Batik 3
This is the “purest” green of the three and although as a solitary fabric I prefer the teal, this green works better when placed against the pinks and purples of the blocks. There is some value variation but not the same extent as Batik 1 and I think it will work well as a ¼” stem.
Colourwheel for Hawaiian appliqué quilt
I was browsing some crafting videos later that day and came across one that was demonstrating a new colour wheel product and had a moment of blinding revelation — I could have saved myself the trouble if I’d realised from the start that I needed a pure green to complement all that purple. In fact I think that a yellowish green might have worked even better, but I am not fond of yellow-greens and when dark they turn to olive … which is probably why I liked the first batik against the blocks.

I do have a couple of olive batiks that I’m using in my Flame Rose quilt but I only have a few inches left, not enough for the bias stems. And no, I am not going to go back to the shop to look for olive batiks. The green will do. In fact, when compared directly to the colour wheel, the third batik does have areas of yellow-green as well as true green, so I’m confident it will look good.
Batik 3 matched to the colourwheel

Four Hawaiian Appliqué blocks

Way, way back in my very first blog entry I included pictures of eighteen Hawaiian appliqué blocks, all taken from the book by Elizabeth Root.
Hawaiian blocks 1
Hawaiian blocks 2
Hawaiian blocks 3
Hawaiian blocks 4
I’ve just finished the last hand-sewn block (some blocks are machine-sewn) so I thought I’d add the photo:
Four Hawaiian appliqué blocks
As you can see, there are four blocks, not two. I didn’t like the ginger root block (bottom left in the third photo) as it’s a circle, while all the others are spokes. I looked around for other Hawaiian plants I could use instead and found a block depicting the naupaka plant. I modified the proportions a bit and drew it out to use as a pattern:
Naupaka pattern
I also replaced one other block (middle bottom of the fourth photo) where I didn’t like the batik I had used in the original version. Neither of the two blocks will be wasted, though — I’ll make cushion covers out of them.

Now I have to work out how to add a magic vine border — sewing it is easy and I have plenty of batik scraps to use for leaves, but I’m a little concerned about shrinkage. I have a couple of ideas on how to manage it and I’ll let you know how it goes.

A few changes

I reached my 1000th view and 100th post with my last entry (hurray!). While that’s great, longevity and popularity bring with it some unwelcome additions — advertisements. I have noticed an increasing number of adverts intruding between paragraphs since January. I didn’t mind so much the banners at the sides and at the ends, but I hate adverts in the middle of my posts. I had been intending to switch to a paid account around now anyway (I’ve been here for three and a half years and July is the start of the Financial Year in Australia) but was dissuaded in April when WordPress replaced their multi-level options with one WordPressPro, at a price that was a little too much for me. I was obviously not alone in my dismay because they have now switched back to the four levels of paid plans — and I have to say that it’s nice to see a company that listens to their bloggers instead of imposing rules demanded by the suits. I’ve opted for the Personal level which should stop you seeing ads in my posts. I don’t need a huge file allowance (I haven’t even reached half a gigabyte yet) and I don’t take videos of my work so I don’t need anything more at present. I may upgrade further in the future if I try to do videos, as it would be nice to have them embedded here rather than having to deal with YouTube, but that’s a long way off.

The blog title and subtitle are also changing. While I’m still going to be posting as “Dendaria” for the time being (because I’m old and still reluctant to do anything under my real name) the title doesn’t give any relevant information and the original subtitle “Quilts, cats and a little bit of mayhem” doesn’t represent the range of posts I’ve made over the last two years (patchwork / appliqué / quilting / embroidery / doll clothes / human clothes / machines). With the expanding range of posts I decided that it’s time for a change of title. I’ve opted for “The Eclectic Needle” as I think it’s a much better indication of what I write about, and the subtitle is now “Needlecrafts embellished by cat fur” which, as every cat owner knows, is a true description of any yarn or fabric work we do.

I’m leaving the banner image the same for now but it will change once I’ve assembled my second Penrose tile top (Flame Rose), which will be much later in the year. The theme (Lovecraft) is also the same as I am primarily a text blogger who grew up with LiveJournal (in the pre-Russian days) so that format is the most comfortable for me.

Although I have the chance to take out a domain name as well, I’ve opted not to do that. I’m a simple blogger, not a business, so being just one of many xx.home.blog sites doesn’t worry me in the slightest. If I ever decide to switch to a personal domain I will definitely let everyone know (and I’ll set up re-direction links, of course).

First World Quilting Problems (and a haunted machine)

In a fit of hubris a few weeks ago I told Jan-Maree I could definitely do three AHQ quilts by the end of July as I had a lot of fabric for that particular theme and a very simple block plan. The first one was posted in mid July so that’s done. Quilts two and three were pieced in the third week of July and basted on the 22nd, so I was quite optimistic about getting them done with the walking foot in a continuous diagonal pattern as it only takes two to three hours per quilt. The Janome 9400, my main machine, is, admittedly, in need of a service and I was planning on taking it in after the quilts were posted, but I broke a needle going over a seam (no pins) and I know from experience that this machine does not suffer broken needles with equanimity so I decided to take it in that day rather than risk damaging it further. I also took in the Janome Combi 10 that I haven’t used in three years because it fell, and the little Pfaff Passport 2.0 as it’s also in need of a service and it’s too weak to quilt effectively.
Janome MC8000
Having been warned that the machines wouldn’t be ready for about three weeks, I turned to my Janome MemoryCraft 8000, which I bought in 1991 and used as my main machine for 25 years. This machine is close to dying — the touchscreen is barely functional and I can’t alter stitch length or width — but I managed to get one straight stitch and one zigzag stitch to work. I finished up the diagonal I had been sewing, but trying to manipulate the quilt through the machine’s 6″ harp proved to be extremely difficult. I also found that the walking foot doesn’t hold the fabric as firmly as the walking foot on the 9400. Thinking back, I haven’t actually done much quilting on this machine, and the little I did do was long straight lines with the quilt rolled up and secured with bicycle clips — frequent turning was never an option. With some effort I got the quilt finished using straight lines instead of diagonals but it’s not pretty.

Oh well, I said to myself, I’ll do the second quilt with basic free motion quilting, even though I’ve never been good at it. I spent a day and a half watching FMQ videos then prepared a practice piece using calico (muslin) and an off-cut of cotton batting. I found the hopping / darning foot and fitted it to the machine. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the switch to lower the feed dogs, in spite of looking all over the machine. I figured that it had to be an electronic option that I couldn’t reach because the touchscreen doesn’t work (I was wrong, as I’ll explain later).

Oh well, I said to myself, there’s always the Brother SuperGalaxie 2100 that I bought in 1999. Although its embroidery function was a lot better than the MC8000’s I couldn’t get a good quarter-inch seam on it so I never used it as much as I ought to have. It’s also having issues and can’t be serviced or repaired anymore, but it is still capable of basic sewing, or so I thought. It has a mechanical switch for the feed dogs, which I duly lowered, and then I threaded it up and started to stitch. I managed to get about twenty stitches before the upper thread broke … eleven times in a row.
FMQ attempt on Brother SG2100
I adjusted the stitch length (to zero), I adjusted the tension, I rethreaded it, I replaced the bobbin, I even took the side panel off so that I could confirm it was threaded properly. None of it worked. For some reason, the upper thread wasn’t being pulled back up through the fabric, as if the tension mechanism wasn’t there, or wasn’t working. It’s electronic, of course, so no levers or springs that I can adjust manually. Then, as I was contemplating what to do next, the machine slowly started moving … by itself. My foot was nowhere near the pedal and neither were the cats, so this wasn’t triggered by any accidental pressure. I have read about this happening to Brother machines but I never thought I’d see it for myself and it spooked me completely. The machine was promptly switched off, unplugged and returned to its case.

I have two other machines — a Singer 99K with a potted motor and a 201K treadle, but I don’t have a walking foot for either of them, nor can I drop the feed dogs, so they are no help to me right now.

I spent another couple of days contemplating my predicament. I briefly considered buying another sewing machine — I’ve had my eye on a Juki 2200 for a while, but to my immense disappointment it turns out that it is not, as I had thought, an electromechanical machine: it’s computerised. They don’t advertise it and in fact they’ve tried to disguise it with all those knobs and levers, but you can download the brochures and manuals from the Juki website and, as always, the devil is in the details. Page 3 of the manual states “…the sewing machine incorporates semi-conductor electronic parts and precise electronic circuits.” The manual for the 2010 makes no mention of any electronic parts but the specification list includes “electronic foot lift” and I believe that the needle up/down button and automatic thread cutter are also electronic. I’m very disappointed to find this, as I would pay AUD2500 for an electromechanical straight-stitch machine that might last me 30-50 years, but not an electronic one that will be non-functional in 10-15. It proved to be the same for the Singer HD series and the Janome HD9 Pro — the electronics are as hidden as they can make them without actually lying.

I then checked ebay and Gumtree for used mechanical machines, but I didn’t see anything that I liked within reasonable driving distance. I also thought about buying a HandiQuilter Sweet Sixteen, but it’s a lot more money than I want to spend right now (lots of bills this month) and to be honest I don’t think I quilt enough to make it worth the expense. Not to mention that the only HQ machine for sale in Canberra at the moment is the Moxie, which is a frame machine, and getting a Sweet Sixteen delivered would probably take … around three weeks.

Then, while browsing all those “best mechanical sewing machine” posts, I followed some links to the Janome website and decided to download the manual for the MC8000 — I have a paper copy somewhere but I haven’t seen it in years. Lo and behold, there on page 71 was the illustration of the feed dog switch — it’s at the back, hidden underneath the free arm. I had tilted the machine over to see if it was at the back, but obviously not far enough.

OK, back to FMQ practice.
FMQ attempt 1
FMQ attempt 2 with improvised rulers
… Ehrm … Maybe it would be better to stick to the walking foot for now. Straight stitching in columns is so boring but if it’s all I can do then it’s all I can do.

After a few more days’ work I’ve finished both of the quilts and they are ready to be posted in the morning. I’m going to take a break from AHQ for a month or two as I don’t want to do anything until I get my 9400 back, and then I have two of my own quilt tops to work on.

In the meantime, I have to face the fact that these two machines are at the end of their lives and must be thrown out. I hate to discard anything I’ve had for a long time (as my friends know, I’m only a stack of newspapers short of being on Hoarders and that’s because I don’t buy newspapers) but they are computers with defective circuit boards. They aren’t functional and can’t be repaired. They are 15 kg bricks. They need to go.

I hate throwing things out.

It must be done.


I’ll salvage all the bits and pieces, of course. Both power cords are the standard “infinity/figure 8” connection so I’ll keep them as spares. I’ll also keep the Janome feet as I have other Janome machines, but I’ll sell or give away the Brother stuff.

I really would like a sturdy electromechanical machine that can sew a fantastic straight stitch — like the Singer 201 but with new parts and a walking foot. I guess it’s a pipe dream when every machine above “beginner” level seems to have hidden electronics.