Sunday, March 17, 2013

Google Reader shutting down

Hello peeps! :)

I've heard that Google is giving Google Reader the axe!! *gasp*

I honestly didn't use Google Reader, so this doesn't affect me much, however I know many do so thought I'd post my recommendation for a replacement.

I've used Bloglovin' for a couple of years now and am completely thrilled with it. It's easy to use and easy to set up. For those of you that are moving from Google Reader, I believe there's even an option to copy/port your full reader list all at once making the switch that much easier...I'd have to look into the how part, but if you need help, let me know, I'd be happy to help!

If you use Google Chrome there's even an addon that will alert you when there's a new post to one of the blogs you follow...honestly, that's one of my favorite features!! I'm kinda geeky like that. lol I know at a glance if there's anything new to read or not. There's also an option to categorize the blogs you follow. All in all, it's a great reader and I've been seeing that many have already made the switch and are happy with it.

I know many of you have already found me over on Bloglovin', (Thank you!! :) but if you haven't, in my sidebar over there you'll find my "Follow this blog on Bloglovin'" it and that'll take you to where you need to be. I know many other bloggers are now adding buttons to their blogs as well. We're trying to make it as easy as possible on all of you to keep following the blogs you love! :)

Following a blog that doesn't have a button is also easy. Simply copy/paste or type the url of the blog you want to follow into their search box...Bloglovin' will then find it and you can click follow. Done.

Good luck deciding on a new reader and I hope you'll continue to follow me on whichever one you choose. :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sew Happy happy!!

I was lucky enough to get a new sewing machine a week or so ago and have been beyond giddy since! :) (side note: Thanks babe....again!! ;)

If you had told me, even just a few years ago, that I would have a two thousand dollar sewing machine, I'd have laughed you out of the room and told you you were crazy! I don't need a machine that expensive to sew! *pfft*

I wasn't always into sewing. Matter of fact, I started out with knitting and crocheting...but once I started working with fabric instead of yarn, I never looked back.

The machine I learned on was an inexpensive Brother from Walmart. It was a gift and while it was very thoughtful, it didn't take me long to grow frustrated with that machine. It was riddled with tension problems & feed dog issues, among other things. But my love for sewing was already set, so I began to look for a better machine.

I found a Kenmore, an 'electronic' machine. It was sturdy and well built, still had a lot of metal as opposed to plastic parts, it got great reviews, and had some features that I was blown away by. Feed dogs I could lower! *woot* Speed control slider!? Drop in bobbin! *gasp* A needle up/down button!?! *Are you freakin kidding me?! * Back then those were 'newish' features just being introduced to the majority of machines, previously only available on the TOL machines and obviously as a newish quilter I was not familiar with them, but they sounded fantastic!

That machine sat on my "wishlist" for a long time simply because it was a $300 machine and at the time, that was a lot of money to spend on a 'hobby'...still is a lot of money of course, but in a much different way. I am also prone to getting a severe case of 'the guilts' when making purchases for myself (ask my daughter what I was like last week after purchasing my new machine!!! oye...she'll give you an earful!! ;) Back then I also had to convince and talk my ex (then husband) into the purchase. Not an easy task in and of itself. Eventually tho, the machine went on sale and I was given the go ahead to buy it.

I loved that Kenmore!! It opened up my sewing to speak. I improved drastically when I was able to concentrate on what I was creating and how I was doing things rather than trying to sort tension issues or just sew a straight seam!! It served me well for a good many years.

Fast forward a three short years ago.  My marriage ended and my kids and I had moved on. I met Mr. Man (again) and we were happily building a new life together. Quilting and sewing was important to me, my creative outlet. I still had the Kenmore and tho I had outgrown it, it was a great machine. I longed to do some things that it wasn't well suited for...namely FMQ. I could never get the tension right on that machine for matter what I did, the backs of my quilts looked horrible with thread nests and eyelashing galore. But a year passed and I did what I could on her.

Here's the thing about Mr. Man, he wants me to be happy. Tries very hard to make sure that I am. When he understood that my machine was limiting me, he wanted me to find a new machine that would work better for what I wanted to do. The other thing about him, his philosophy is buy the best you possibly can, don't settle for 'good enough'. A philosophy I'm certainly not used to...even still. So, when I started looking for a newer machine, and somehow ended up in the $1000 range, he wasn't the least bit shocked (well, ok, maybe a hair at first) but he was a trooper and wanted me to get the machine I wanted. It was actually me that kept looking trying to find a machine that was lower cost that would do the same things. In our area tho, it was.... limited. So we went out to visit dealers and when he saw my reaction to the Babylock Melody....he pretty much decided that was going to be my machine. I was excited and hopeful. Brought that machine home and immediately put it to use.

Wasn't long before I had my first issue with that machine, and then another. This is another long story...."The Babylock" (as I always refer to a not so pleasant tone) and it's issues. So to give you the quick, short~ish version....

The machine is a lemon. It throws a fit and seizes up if it's used too much, too often or for too long a stretch. It really is a big baby!! If you baby the thing, only use it for short bursts and don't push it too hard or too often, it behaves. My babylock 'dealer' is an ass. The only thing that 'dealer' was good at was handing out insults. Oh, and assuring everyone that there is never a problem with a Babylock! I won't step foot in either of his stores again. (I've also since learned that he has quite the bad reputation...throughout the state! My new dealer, who's 1.5 hours away knew who I was talking about when I said I had problems with my previous dealer....and I didn't even mention names!!) So, in short, I was stuck and had to learn to deal with my machine's lemonyness.

I consider myself a quilter. I'm not a seamstress or sewist, I'm a quilter, period. Which is why, if you consider that, the fact that I haven't actually done a quilt in over two years is so very very pathetic!! I've started many, but they're all sitting unfinished in piles...pieces cut, some blocks done, but none even have the tops completed. I always knew if I completed the top, I'd get depressed that I wouldn't be able to finish it. I had to give up quilting and instead only work on smallish things....bags, home decor stuff for the house, etc. Projects that wouldn't set my machine off. All to please a machine that I really had grown to hate...learned to live with, but hated.

This always made Mr. Man upset. Mind you, he was right there for all of my frustrations, hearing the machine seize up and throw its little fits. He knew what I had been thru with that machine....and with the 'dealer'. We were both upset that this was supposed to be my dream machine...the thing that made my wonderful hobby a pleasure again and allowed me to learn more and grow as a quilter. Instead it did exactly the opposite, and drove me away from my favorite passtime.

Then he got into quilting himself. And he understood even more. That's when he really decided that I needed a new machine....again. Sweet man....all he asked was what it was gonna cost him. lol ;)

Now, over the course of those years dealing with The Babylock, I had come to learn a few things. Finding a good dealer is as important as the machine itself. Not close, not second to the machine but just as important. Your dealer can truly make or break your whole experience. I really don't fault Babylock for my machine issues, I've heard great things about them as a brand and know most people love theirs, but because of the experience I had with this dealer, I will never buy one again; even if I were to move. I've been completely soured to them because of his actions. And I will definitely tell anyone I can to never buy from him...and he's the only authorized dealer in our area. Sorry Babylock!! (They weren't much more help, when I contacted the company directly, they referred me to my dealer *sigh*) A more thoughtful dealer may have actually looked into my machine's issues and found out I wasn't the only one that had this problem. Had the machine been fixed or replaced I would have likely been a customer for life because Babylocks do have some really kickass features. I L.O.V.E. the automatic needle threader, it's truly your thread, push a lever and it's done! And the bobbin threading is awesome. Among other things, those always stood out and I knew they'd be features I missed. But that's not the way things worked out. So, instead, I looked elsewhere.

Over the years, when angry with The Babylock, I would go and drool over other machines...mainly 3: the Janome Horizon, the Viking Sapphire and a Juki. Yet when Mr. Man said it was time to get a new machine, I kind of balked.

I knew what I 'wanted'...but 2 of the 3 were around $2000 and the Juki...while more affordable and a fantastic machine, it's only a straight stitch machine. Great at what it does, but I did want some other features and wasn't sure if it would suit me long term. So, once again I began looking to other machines....cheaper machines. After all, while the machine's I'd been oogling over are beautiful and fancy and definitely worth it, I don't need an expensive machine to sew!!

I kept looking and searching, but honestly after everything I had been through with The Babylock I was very leary....of all machines. heh. I started researching dealers instead of machines. And, slowly, I began to let the idea of actually getting one of those expensive machines that I really didn't need creep into my mind. I kind of knew that if I ended up with a machine that was missing any of the features or wasn't what I really wanted, I would always be disappointed. I had put the Janome on the top of my dream list so I began to 'just look'. I knew there were a couple different dealers within a reasonable distance (for me reasonable was truly anything within the state) so I just wanted to see what I could find about any of them, good or bad. With the importance of a good dealer being at the top of my 'must have' list, I had no problem with a dealer a bit further from me than my own town. I would trade the cost of the extra distance for someone who I could trust and rely on.

A couple months back Lee of Freshly Pieced posted an update about her own 7700. She lives in my state and had some issues when her own original dealer closed shop shortly after she purchased her machine. So, when she wrote that post and mentioned the incredible service she received from a Janome dealer in Sheboygan Falls, I knew where to start my search.

I read reviews, poured over his website...more than once, exchanged some emails. And Darryl, from The Sewing Machine Shop won my vote! Mr. Man and I quickly planned a road trip down to check out his store and planned to stop at a couple other shops along the way, ya know, just 'to look'.

Darryl was great. He was incredibly helpful and pleasant. Great customer service is most important to him, and it shows. We spent three hours in his store that day. He had others in the store when we arrived...was giving someone a mini course or something similar on using a serger, they were both creating something when we walked in. And another bunch doing something else in another room. He managed, with the help of his wonderful family that helps out in the store, to work with both the woman on the serger and us at the same time. And to handle other customers who happened thru while we were there. We got to meet and see how his family helps in the store (they're mentioned in his website), and they were all so polite and helpful. :)

He dug the machine out of the back room (with the new models out, he had only one left in the store and it was still boxed up) and set it up so we could test it and play around. He went over everything about the machine, gave us threads and fabrics and sandwiches to play with and then talked with us at great length about the good, the bad, and even the ugly. He was refreshingly honest. I was of course in love with the machine before we even arrived, but Mr. Man was convinced by the time we were done that I needed that machine. Ha!

At the end, we were faced with a decision. Two of the dealers we stopped at had the machine I was looking for, or could get it. Both were asking the same amount for the machine (tho one did throw in some goodies!! ;). One dealer was in my own town and only 15 minutes away, the other was an hour and a half's drive away. SO, which did I choose?? The dealer that was an hour and a half away. Why?? Because I felt much more comfortable and confident with him than I did with the dealer from my hometown. THIS is how important the dealer was to me. After everything I read and in talking with him myself, I know that he is the one that I will be able to trust and rely on, anytime. He got my business. And after those three hours in his shop, we drove home with this:

Mr. Owl is already dutifully watching over Delilah. What a special lil guy he is. :)

Yep, I definitely would have been surprised a couple of years ago to know I'd someday be sewing on an expensive machine like this, but with all the events of the past few years, I am thrilled to do so. I have more than proven I am capable of sewing on the most finicky, tempermental machine out there (albeit begrudgingly!). My original statement at the beginning of this very long post needs a slight addition: I certainly do not need an expensive machine to sew, but damn, it sure is fantastic to be lucky enough to do just that!! ;)

Well, this post went in a completely different direction than I intended. So, I'll be back with a 'part 2' with the actual info about my fabulous new machine (I've named her Delilah!) and what I think about her. An initial review so to speak.

One of these times I will also show you all that I don't always have to write a novel length post! I can write a short post....maybe! lol :)