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Choosing the right equipment.

Many, and I mean many years ago, when Moody Voodies was in its infancy, we used to sew everything by hand. Every body, every arm, every head, etc, etc, you get the idea. It was time consuming to say the least. Of course, our dolls were very different back then, and had a more rustic feel to them. We still actually have a few of those little fellas in a zip lock bag, maybe in the future they might be worth something!

At the start of our little enterprise, we had no idea if the demand for our dolls would actually be there, as we were far from being experts in the field. My only experience with a sewing machine was when I was at high school, and we had to make stuffed pillows for an art project. We all got to choose a design we liked to decorate said pillow, and I choose that

lovable cartoon cat, Garfield! It actually came out pretty cool. Not sure where it ended up, but I did impress my parents and grand parents with my new found skill! Fast forward (coughs into hand to muffle actually dates) many many years, and we as a fledgling business find ourselves needing by a sewing machine.

At first, we were a little reluctant to spend any large amounts of money on an actual sewing machine, opting for one of those hand held do-dars. Well, firstly no, just no! Those handheld machines are fine in a pinch, but for anything beyond a wobbly ‘not so straight line’ and they are pretty awful.

At that time in Moody Voodies history, we didn’t have much money (still kinda true) to spend on equipment, especially as we didn’t know if we could action make a living making art dolls!

So, for quite a long time we opted to make our Voodies out of other materials, including clay and sticks and any other adornments we could find. I’m sure some of those are still out there somewhere, as we still have one or two laying around that have survived.

Hand held Singer sewing do-dar

Eventually, we decided to take the plunge and buy our very first sewing machine. This was a very basic Singer simple machine. It was amazing! Coming from the handheld device to an actual proper sewing machine was truly a huge leap forward! It made making our rag/cloth dolls way easier than the previous method. A doll that would have taken several hours to hand sew and complete, now took just a few hours!

Similar Singer machine to which we had.

As for the Singer sewing machine, it was like I said, very basic. This was the older type of machine where the bobbins had to be placed in a metal housing then into the machine, which is a real pain to load. Also, no help getting the thread into the needle (best have patience and good eyesight for that). After a while, the muscle memory kicks in and you become faster at threading the needle and loading that pesky bobbin gadget!

Bobbin holder.

For a starter machine, the Singer was perfect! Of course it did have its downsides, but most of those were probably due to the fact we had no real idea how to use it properly. It would often bunch up the stitches underneath (pilling), causing whatever you were sewing to be completely useless. I had, and still have absolutely no idea how to set the tension on those machines. Although this could be frustrating at times, it still beat sewing by hand or using the handheld any-day.

Our first machine lasted around a year or so (sew, pun intended), before the gremlins decided to make it break. We did use it a hell of a lot, but without regular maintenance these machines don’t last too long. After all, these are mechanical and all the moving parts need dusting, cleaning and greasing to run smoothly. So, there is your first lesson, clean your sewing machine regularly and get it serviced by a professional if you love it. And by you, I mean not me! Because of course I haven’t heeded any of my own advice. Oh no, I stupidly run these into the ground until they die!

Now, onto the second, third and fourth machine. After running the poor Singer into the ground we decided to do what most people do and research the internet. After finding out the earth was indeed flat (rolls eyes, placing hand on forehead) we opted for a Brother sewing machine. By all accounts and review after review the best budget machine we could find was the ‘Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW’. You can get this sewing machine almost everywhere, so we opted for our local Walmart as it was convenient, and if the machine broke it would be an easy return. We ended up killing three of these machines and still have the forth as a backup!

‘Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW’.

Now with most products in life there are levels of quality associated with the price. Most of the time the more you spend the better it is. And this is definitely true with sewing machines. Of course there’s an argument if the price is twice as much, is then the product twice as good? Our Singer machine was around $80, but now we were paying twice the price for the Brother sewing machine. The price was a big leap on a tight budget, but once again the slightly better quality product made a big difference in overall ease of use and an increase in productivity.

The Brother machine just seemed to make life easier, from a better pressure foot, to an actual semi-automatic needle threader. Also the pilling of thread seemed to not be much of an issue anymore. I’m pretty sure many people that buy the cheaper machines in hope of starting a creative project or simply trying them out for the first time, find all the downsides so off putting that they just give up. I play guitar, and the comparison I can think of is that some starter guitars which normally have terrible action (string height to fretboard, Like a cheese grater) and the fact you can never seem to get them to stay in tune. This can easily cause beginners to give up because they don’t think they can ever play correctly, or in the case of crafting equipment, never create anything worthy. I think if you are semi serious about buying one, never buy the cheapest, or if possible borrow a decent machine If you can to see if you like it. You can also go to your local sewing machine store, and most of them let you try out their machines.

Back to the Brother sewing machine. This machine was great, until it wasn’t. We use our sewing machine for what we do almost everyday, sometimes for hours on end. This of course takes a toll on the life of the machine and the wear and tear due to the quantity we produce is brutal. We ended up going through three of these sewing machines which we ran them into the ground. Obviously if I’d have had them serviced, it would probably have lasted longer.

Along comes Mary.

Mary is a friend of ours who manages a local branch of Joanns. She is also a fellow creator who has had years of experience with sewing and sewing machines. We had many conversations about crafting and of course sewing machines. In one conversation she asked if I’d ever used a quality sewing like the ones they sold in Joanns! If you’re a regular to Joann stores, you’ll know that a part of most stores is dedicated to Husqvarna/Viking sewing machines. This was normally a part of the store I’d avoid, as their machines are the equivalent of a Porsche car dealer, and their prices are really up there! I’d never used one before, as the price scared us off. They’re most expensive machine is $16k!!!

So… one day, Mary showed us a great deal on a used Husqvarna/Viking sewing machine, a designer SE. it was just under $500, which was considerably more than any of the other machines we’d bought up until now, but Mary convinced us it would be well worth it.

Husqvarna/Viking Designer SE

Was she right? The answer, oh heck yeah!

This machine was truly like jumping out of an old clunker, and straight into a brand new Porsche 911. The quality is night and day compared to the Brother machine we had. Firstly, the machine has an automatic foot pressure sensor, which automatically lifts and lowers the foot when using the foot pedal. This alone is worth the price, especially if you sew a lot. Honestly you’ll never go back to a regular machine if you use it. Also the actually stitches are way more accurate and the machine effortlessly sewed into any fabric without causing a single issue.

Until it didn’t.

Unfortunately, the machine I had bought was around 8 years old and it had a critical flaw with its computer, which couldn’t be fixed. The manufacturer no longer sells the part that was broken and the only solution was to buy another donor machine, which was a very expensive fix. We were devastated, as this awesome machine was amazing. So, we had to use our old backup machine the Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW. Well, no. I literally sewed one thing and couldn’t bear it. I was going backwards, and you should always go forwards!

Along came the Husqvarna/Viking opal 690Q.

Running a business can be very tough, but you really need the right tools for the job or it make life for yourself much harder. Our new machine wasn’t as good as the Designer SE, but it was a lot cheaper than the new equivalent of the now defunct machine. The new machine we have cost $1800. Yes, 10x more expensive than our Brother machine, but still worth the investment, especially with it long warranty. A 10 times better sewing machine, no, but much better, yes! Of course, both Singer and Brother sell very expensive machine too, which I’m sure are excellent, just haven’t had a chance to try one out.

Anyway, I’m off to ogle the cars at the Porsche dealership, we can but dream!


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