Alone Again …

Well, not really. But my Janome 9400 is in the shop again after an unfortunate incident over the weekend involving my huge oriental stained glass quilt and a titanium needle, resulting in a very jammed bobbin holder, although to be fair it’s quite possible that the bobbin jam preceded the needle breakage. It’s been used a lot over the last fortnight but it’s only two months since it was serviced and I was a bit bummed about paying $150 minimum to get it repaired again until the receptionist told me that it was still under warranty from the service, so that’s good news.

As you can see, it is well and truly jammed (sorry about the focus). I tried to lift it out with my fingers but it wasn’t moving at all so I decided to err on the side of caution and leave it for the technician to get it out.

I don’t have all that much left to do on the quilt but I was hoping to have it finished ready for photographs on Friday 21st and that’s not going to happen now. Ah well, worse things happen at sea, as my mother used to say (and as an ex-Navy person myself I can vouch for that).

In the meantime, me, my Pfaff and I will be making some maple leaf blocks and maybe adding borders to another of my ancient WIPs.

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.

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.

July Achievements and August goals

July goals:

1. AHQ: One quilt … not quite finished. All the walking foot quilting has been done, but I had three strips 6″ wide so I decided to have yet another attempt at ruler work, using a crescent shape from the Westalee Janome sampler set I bought in January. I did manage to get the quilt to move this time (by using the medium setting and ramping the pressor foot height up to maximum) but even then the result was not good:

Ruler Work attempt
Ruler Work attempt

So this will be unpicked tomorrow and I’ll draw more straight lines that I can do with the walking foot. I should have it in the post by Friday Monday. Note: I honestly thought it was Tuesday today, not Thursday. Where did the week go?

The more attempts I make, the more I believe that the upgrade for the 9400 was not worth it. It’s a lot harder to move a quilt through a domestic sewing machine than it is to move a longarm machine over a quilt, and even with all the sticky patches I can’t stop the foot from shifting the ruler out of position. Honestly, I think I’d be better off practising my FMQ.

2. Personal: eh, not done (I’m not sure I’ll continue listing this goal as it’s almost never done).

3. FAL: still working on precise measurements for the Blue Christmas panel quit — I want to have as few seams as possible so I’m trying to work on placing the small panels in pairs rather than individually.

Additional Work:
I didn’t actually work on anything else this month but I did get two thank you letters this month from recipients of my quilts. One was physical, a lovely hand-made card:

Thank You card
Thank You card

The other was by email and included a picture of the quilt and also the laundry bag — I’m so grateful for that as I forgot to take a picture of the laundry bag myself before posting and it was a design I was particularly pleased with:

Camo Kitty Laundry Bag
Camo Kitty Laundry Bag

August goals:
1. AHQ: 4 generic laundry bags
2. Personal: Not setting one this month.
3. FAL: Complete the Blue Christmas top and start on the quilting

More Ruler Work Woes

I wrote in January that I was having problems with ruler quilting on the tumbling blocks mini.

Fabric bunched up in front of the ruler foot
Ruler foot problems 1

At that time the problem was pressor foot pressure — try as I might, I was unable to get the pressor foot to lift enough to allow the quilt sandwich to move. I was using MonoPoly in the needle and Invisafil in the bobbin and it’s possible that tension issues might have contributed (although I had used those same threads with the walking foot quilting and had no problem at all).

Today I was quilting En Bourgogne and decided to try some ruler work on the B blocks. This time I am using Gütermann polyester in both needle and bobbin. I made a test run at the edge of the batting and the foot moved easily — I didn’t take a photo, unfortunately, and I pulled out the thread before starting on the quilt itself. Confident that the previous problem had resolved, I made a start on one of the blocks in the middle of the quilt. The result was … not good.

Ruler work tension issue - June 2019
Ruler work tension issue – June 2019

(Please click through to see the large photo)

Apart from the issue of moving the quilt while keeping the ruler still (which caused uneven stitching) and the extreme difficulty in getting the foot over seam allowances, the tension was way off — the bobbin thread was being pulled right through to the top. And yes, I double-checked that the pressor foot was down while I was quilting (it’s not easy to tell with the ruler foot). I’m pretty sure that I’m using the correct option within the ruler work menu — it’s a thin cotton batting with not much puffiness, as you can see from the walking foot lines I quilted earlier.

Ruler work setting
Ruler work setting

Has anyone had similar issues with the Janome 9400 or 9450?

I’d take it back to the shop where I had the upgrade installed, but they’ve moved since January and, while the technicians are the same, all the front staff have changed and I’m not confident that there is anyone there who has actually used this machine.


It’s definitely getting colder. I haven’t been able to bring myself to put the heaters on yet (much as I would like to) because the thermometer says it’s still 20° C in the living room — and yes, that’s probably making most of you laugh but I’m a thin-blooded Aussie and anything under 23° has me thinking wistfully about woolly pullies and fluffy slippers.

The cats are also feeling the cold, and while I can tell myself to tough it out (or put on a cardigan) I don’t want them to suffer, so I brought out the heating pads and set them up a couple of nights ago. They both love the heat and have spent most of the time since then sleeping in their new warm spots. They didn’t appreciate me waking them last night to take photos and expressed themselves in their own unique ways:

Vanima on heating pad
Vanima: “Oh, take a picture if you absolutely must, but you’ll have to be content with my right profile.”

Verya on heating pad
Verya: “What are you doing, you stupid human? I’m trying to sleep here!”

I’ve completed my latest Aussie Heroes quilt and used the new Accufeed HP2 foot on the Janome 9400 for the binding. I made the happy discovery that aligning the left tongue of the foot on the edge of the binding gives me a perfect 1 mm space between the edge and the stitching line. Previously I used the walking foot that came with the machine (AD) but it’s very wide and I was never able to keep it precisely in line.

Binding in progress using HP2 foot
Binding in progress using HP2 foot
Completed binding
Completed binding

I also reverted to pinning the binding rather than using Wonder Clips, which I have found to be too easily knocked out of alignment, dragging the binding with them — I did try using washable glue between or under the clips a few times but that didn’t help much and was even more time-consuming (as well as messy). Pinning may be old-fashioned but it’s much more secure.

Free-motion quilted gum leaves
Free-motion quilted gum leaves

I also continued to work on my FMQ eucalyptus leaves — I’ve done them on a few quilts now and they’re getting better but could still use some improvement. I’ve given up on the gumnuts for the time being as I couldn’t get them to look as neat as the leaves but I’ll get back to them when I have a bit more confidence.

2 kg plastic-covered hex weights
2 kg plastic-covered hex weights

Today I finally got around to visiting the sporting goods store and bought two 2 kg weights to use with my rulers. I had been using books (of which I have many) but they are awkward to keep picking up / putting down and the dust jackets were starting to suffer, so they can go back to the bookcase now and be safe.

Machine musings

Janome 9400 back from the repair shop 27 March 2019
Janome 9400 QCP

I got my machine back on Tuesday afternoon (having taken it in on Monday morning) — great service. The bobbin timing had been knocked out, which isn’t surprising, and they had to replace the bobbin holder.

I thought that the crash had come out of the blue, but as I was stitching down the binding on the quilt last night I noted that the serpentine stitch in the border had a lot of stitches missing at the right hand edge of the design, so obviously there was a pre-existing timing problem that I hadn’t noticed. I had to unpick it all, of course, which took a couple of hours, and I’m not sure if it’s worth replacing, since the whole point of the serpentine stitch was to hold the border in place while I attached the binding, and the binding is now in place. (The border is only an inch wide — I only added it because I hate attaching a binding to an edge that has multiple seams.)

Pfaff Passport 2.0 attempting quilting 26 March 2019
Pfaff Passport 2.0

I found that while the Pfaff Passport 2.0 is great for piecing and appliqué (it did all the hearts at the weekend) it’s not so good at quilting. Even with the Integrated Dual Feed in place I was getting a lot of drag on the top layer of this quilt, so unpicking that is this evening’s task. I’m not fussed that it can’t do quilting, actually — it’s a small machine and it’s perfect for taking to sewing days and retreats so I’m still very happy that I bought it. Besides, I have several other machines I can turn to for quilting if the 9400 is out of commission, like the Janome Combi 10 which I used for the binding on the other quilt.

Janome Combi 10 27 March 2019
Janome Combi 10

Healing Hearts for Christchurch

Helen Thomas at Angels in Gumboots is coordinating a drive for heart blocks to make quilts for the families affected by the shooting ten days ago. I grabbed a bunch of green fabrics and made up 15 appliqué blocks over the weekend. They’ll go into the post tomorrow or Wednesday. If you are interested in contributing, the info is here.

Heart blocks for Christchurch
Heart blocks for Christchurch

In other news, my Janome 9400 pitched a fit last night while I was quilting a border and has gone in for repairs. I don’t know exactly how it happened but the bobbin holder was pulled right out of its position and had a gouge out of one side (the needle, strangely enough, remained intact). I was doing a serpentine stitch at the time and none of my other Janomes has the same stitch which is annoying. The Pfaff has one that is similar but not identical, so I’ll use that and hope that the recipient doesn’t mind that one border isn’t quite the same.