Sunday, June 10, 2007

Any Advice on Sergers?

Does anyone who reads this blog have any advice for me on Sergers? I'm in the market for one, but I'm having a difficult time getting good information to make a decision. There just isn't the critical mass of opinions online about this product - sewers as a group do not generally contribute as much content to online communities as computer people, or even car people. I'm getting suspicious because while there is a lot of "I wouldn't buy X because it is junk," there isn't much "I did buy X and it was junk." People seem to easily put down the brands that they did not buy, but when it comes to what they did buy, no-one is saying they screwed up. The negative reviews just aren't there, so I don't know how much I can trust the good reviews. Are the good reviewers just the lucky people who got the good machines, and the unhappy people just operate under "If you can't say something nice..."??? Or are we in a happy state where I can rest assured that whatever I pick is going to end up working just fine for me?

A serger is a specialized machine for sewing that uses 2 to 5 threads to form a different type of stitch than you can get out of a conventional sewing machine. (If you see a machine with more than one cone of thread behind it, it is probably a serger.) A conventional sewing machine has one needle and one bobbin. A serger has one, two, or three needles, two loopers, and a knife. They can do overlock stitches, rolled edges, flatlock stitches, and some convert into a coverstitch machine. They are also really, really fast at sewing. I'd use it in addition to my sewing machine (Pfaff Expression 2036) to speed up garment construction and get a more professional-looking interior finish.

But the question remains: what do I get? What do I want to spend? How can I prevent getting something now and regretting it in a year or two? The field ranges from $200 for a Brother from to $1500 for a Husky/Viking from Joann fabrics. You could spend more, but above this you are either paying for it to thread itself or for decorative stitch options. (My Pfaff does plenty of deco stitches, I don't need more.) I'm trying to look at it from the perspective of price breaks - when does each feature become available? Here's what I've got so far:

$200 Brother 3 and 4 thread serger, no dealer support, good reviews on, very basic machine, not able to try out before buying

$270 Kenmore 3 and 4 thread serger with 3 year service plan, was the front-runner until I tried threading one at Sears today and I kept breaking thread and tangling it, not an easy machine to work with, also one of those brands with almost NO reviews online...

$400 Husky/Viking 3 and 4 thread serger, Joann classes, most popular brand, I test drove one today and it was nice to use but the controls were not marked well enough that I could expect to find the same exact settings next time I needed them

$700 Husky/Viking 3 and 4 thread serger, Joann classes, bigger, roomier, free-arm option, controls done better, there may be more stitch options on this one but it was difficult to tell

$900 Pfaff 3, 4, and 5 thread serger, local sewing-store classes, huge advantage because this one does the cover stitch and a 5-thread safety stitch, but really, this costs more than the washer/dryer I just bought last month!

So, please chime in if you have an opinion! Do you or someone you know have a serger? Are you happy with it? Do you wish you had gotten a different machine with more capabilities? Is it sitting in a closet somewhere (maybe you would like to sell it???) or is it a valued member of your sewing-room team? Operators are standing by.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Fruits and Veggies

First, really quick, here's how the race went:
Official time: 49 minutes 16 seconds
Time I was moving forwards: 44 minutes 54 seconds
Time from start to finish: who knows?

I never did figure out where the starting line was - it wasn't where the map said it was. The announcer kept saying things like "the start is towards Balbo Street" and "the start is 300 yards north of last year's start" both not really helpful in determining the absolute location of the starting line.

I ended up separated from the others from work, and fairly far back in the pack. You can see from the times above that I spent over four minutes standing still after the starting horn sounded. After we got going, I spent the whole race trying to get around the slower people who had started ahead of me. And I'm not fast. But the important thing is that I actually finished in less than 45 minutes of movement, and I probably went farther than 3.5 miles if you count all of the side to side in order to get around groups of walkers. That said, it was a really fun challenge, and a great first race. I could see racing again, at least at the 5k level, and enjoying it.

Berries are on special! Blackberries were 99 cents a box last week, and blueberries were 99 cents a box this week. I also got a box of raspberries for $1.50. It took a lot of self control to leave a few in the fridge tonight. Shopping at the local produce store has helped clue me in better to the phases that fruits and vegetables go through over the course of the year. Basically, when the crops are good and plentiful, Valli Produce has them on special. Even though a lot of the produce is coming from other parts of the world, there are still distinct "good times" to buy each item. Limes are the most volatile I've seen. At some times, they are three for a dollar, and the X/$ changes over time to 5 then 10 then 20 or 30 and I think I've even seen 50 limes for a dollar at least once. Then it goes back down and the cycle starts over. (I can't even imagine what you'd do with that many limes...)

For those of you trying to eat more vegetables in your daily lives, I want to put in a good word for the American Heart Association's No Fad Diet cookbook. They find a way to put maximum vegetables in everything, and 80% of the recipes I've tried I can say I'll be making again. For example, dinner tonight is my third time cooking their Gourmet Tuna Noodle Casserole. They use whole wheat pasta, cream of chicken soup, and tuna (of course) but then they add spinach, water chestnuts, green onions, dill, lemon zest, and fat free milk. Then you top with corn flakes in a 9 x 13 pan to get maximum crunch surface area per volume. Of course, they don't put enough salt in anything, but that is easy to adjust. My other favorite from the book is the pumpkin curry soup. It's been out for a few years so your library probably has a copy.

Finally, I'd like to thank (in no particular order) Scott, Sarah, Kevin, Dave, Rhiannon, Herb, Karen, Jessie, Brock, and Hannah for all of the great times last weekend. What a thrill to throw a party that people show up for! I'm very glad it was a four day weekend for me - I was able to prep on Friday and recover on Monday - because Saturday and Sunday were then a no-stress and all-fun whirlwind of social interaction! For example, the downtown adventure that Scott, Sarah, and Kevin left after dinner went on much longer for Dave, Rhiannon, and us. We went to an 11 pm showing of Second City etc. which didn't end until after 2 am. I didn't get to sleep until 4:30 am, then it was up again the next morning to shop for the cookout. The cookout didn't quite end until dinner, when we decided that since all of the dishes and food in our house had been used or consumed, we needed to go out.

Imagine nine people at one giant round table at Hot Wok Village, nine different dishes to pass around to sample, and what must have been 30 fortune cookies at the end of the meal in a giant pile. Sarah and Kevin started writing a short story with their fortunes. Herb did an Antique Road Show shtick with an empty rice bowl. Dave passed around his phone with photos of a stick-figure-whiteboard-manifesto about data transfer. I inadvertently ordered the spiciest thing I've ever eaten, (and continued to eat rather than giving up,) the Ginger Beef. FUN FUN FUN! Let's do that again sometime.


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