Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Caveat Emptor; or, Don't Buy the Hype on Home-Embroidery Machines!

When I was much younger, during the summer months when Jr. High and High School was not in session, me and my younger brother would spend our weekdays with my beloved Great Aunt Liz because my step-mother had the blatant nerve to confide in her that she could not tolerate our presence in our own father's home while she was left alone with us when Dad went to work!  (I did not know about that until several years after my Great Aunt's passing.)  Looking back on it, I should have realized why Aunt Liz would ask me every now and then is my former step-mother treated us alright.  Me and my brother were extremely close to our Great Aunt, and she taught me a great deal.  I enjoyed working on a variety of domestic and craft-related arts, and at one point she tried to teach me how to knit, crochet, and even embroider by hand!  I was fair when it came to crocheting, and my knitting always got "stuck", but I found embroidery extremely tedious!  However, I have learned recently that embroidery by way of a sewing machine to create gorgeous, and incredibly detailed or life-like fabric art was a relatively common practice since the early 1900s as we may observe in, Singer Instructions for Art Embroidery (1911).

It was more than five years ago, as I was vegging out in front of the TV one Saturday afternoon, watching the Iowa-based PBS program Fons & Porter: The Love of Quilting and the Wisconsin-based program Sewing With Nancy when I saw something I had never seen before: a digital embroidery machine that was styled very much after a home sewing machine!  I immediately began to salivate, imagining all of the textiles that I could machine embroider, and give them that "professional touch": caps, hoodies, denim jeans, ritual robes, Altar cloths, magick bags for holding herbal spells, and tea towels, etc.  So, I  contrived to visit the nearest fabric store to me and enquire about these devices at my next opportunity.  As it so happened I eventually found myself at a Joanne's Fabric store in west Des Moines where they had a rather large section of embroidery machines that could do everything but sew!  (If I was going to pay out hard earned money I would rather have a single machine that could do both.)  As I approached the sleek-looking machines I noticed there were no price tags (always a red flag) and, perhaps sensing my question by the apprehensive look on my face, the sale's rep. in charge of this display rather curtly informed me that the least expensive machine they sold cost a minimum of $4,000 (nearly the cost of an upright acoustic piano!).  I was immediately stunned by her response!  Stunned silence immediately gave way to quiet dejection, and then to indignation!  After all, who but a very well kept house-wife could afford to spend that much on the machine alone, not counting the software required to take one to the next level of digitizing one's own embroidery designs.  So, I did the rudest thing that I could think of and laughed in her face at the prospect of having to pay so much money to embroider something within one's own home.

I was immediately hit by a lingering sense of despair, because I knew that I could certainly never afford an item that expensive!  So, I decided to wait, hoping that the prices might fall over time; but they never did.  Eventually, out of frustration, I decided to perform some research to see if there was any sort of a home-embroidery machine that I could afford when I discovered the very popular entry-level machine by Brother, the SE-400.  So, I purchased it for my birthday in March of 2013, sincerely believing that was the only machine that I could ever afford, but also hoping that it may be a machine that I could grow with!  After all, every fabric store salesclerk and message board encounter reaffirmed this notion that if I wanted to stitch-out an embroidery space of more than four-square inches, than I had to be willing to invest several thousands of dollars into a machine (not to mention the capability of cut-work and digital lace-making)!

However, I am now experiencing extraordinary "Buyer's Remorse"!  Only recently did I discover by utter happenstance that a line of home-embroidery machines do, in fact, exist that are limited only by one's own imagination.  Ultimately I feel as though I have been misled by what amounts to a popular myth, and I am not alone.  A recent friend of mine told me that when he was initially looking into home-embroidery machines at a mom-and-pop fabric store he was informed that a machine capable of the embroidery stitch-out space greater than 4x4-inches that he desired would cost him not hundreds, but several thousands of dollars!  His is not the only account.  I was watching the Home Shopping Network on-line--because we only receive QVC over cable who only sells Brother machines--which was selling one of Singer's dual sewing-and-embroidery Futura™ models (reviewed below) for between $600-$800 when a caller commented that she had to spend more than $9,000 on her current embroidery machine and software just to have an average stitch-out space that might allow one to embroider the surface of a pillow or the front of a hoodie.  She, also, was entirely unaware of this model by Singer!  If there are we three ill-informed sewists, just imagine how many hundreds more of us there are that have been mislead by this popular myth of the expensive digital embroidery machine!  This myth is truly offensive to one's common sense and I am determined to see it over-turned for the common good!

Moreover, this myth ultimately begs the question of why almost no retailers seem to know about these far more inexpensive models on which one is capable of stitching the larger patterns of a high-end machine, but for only 1/10 the cost?  Indeed, I believe that I had been so thoroughly "brain washed" by this popular myth that, unless I saw the price alongside one of Singer's Futura™machines I might have merely assumed that it, also, would have cost thousands of dollars rather than hundreds.  Our local Hancock Fabric store, if I recall correctly, did not even display the respective price of their Futura™ XL-400 machines that they stock.  I am extremely surprised that the Futura™ XL-400 and the XL-550 have not utterly compelled every other sewing machine manufacturer to decrease their costs and add as many features or bells and whistles in order to seem more competitive with Singer!

Ultimately, the prize in this comparative competition would clearly go to the Singer Futura™line, which begs the question: If this well-established company can fashion a dual sewing-and-embroidery machine with such moderately priced software, a large stitch-out space, and actually "decorative" decorative-stitches within this price point, than what is stopping every manufacturer from following their lead and manufacturing their own line of machines that do not cost several thousand dollars, other than obstinate greed?

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