Evolving skills Pt 2a: technology shock

Everyone has heard the phrase “Culture Shock” where a person from one region moves to a new place and the differences in the culture of the new place are difficult for that person to understand and they have to struggle to adjust.  Meet “Technology Shock” where the simple machines of my childhood have been eclipsed by technology I never imagined.

A year ago I dove into the fun of looking for a new sewing machine.  I recalled that years before there were the two choices of sewing machine and/or serger and I toyed with the idea that owning one of each could be totally fun.

I knew that computing had come to the sewing world from my kids telling me about the embroidery their grandmother was doing on machines that tied into her home computer.  I knew that with the advent of the computerized sewing machines and the capacity to embroider with your sewing machine that things were different from when I was a young girl, I had no idea how different.


First, there is no such thing as a “sewing machine” anymore.  You must decide what kind of sewing you want to do and there is a machine designed especially for that kind of sewing.

Do you want to embroider or quilt? The optimizations for embroidery are not the same as the optimizations for quilting.  Clothing design or decorating? There are machines specifically aimed at those two things too.  Did I want a programmable machine that connected to a computer or a stand alone machine? Did I want it able to take on new programming with disks or other memory devices or not?

What ever happened to forward, reverse, zig-zag and a button hole function?  They were still there but joined by several HUNDRED other options and variations of stitches. All the options made my head spin.


I sew clothing, with the occasional pillow sham.  It is possible to sew clothing on ANY of the myriad array of specialized sewing machines.  I was told the ones optimized for embroidery were set up so the needle could move in any direction while the ones optimized for quilting were set up to stay firmly in a single line with great reliability.  Everyone online and at the sewing machine store assured me that the key choice was between these two general set-ups.

So I sat down and gave a good long think to what my ideal sewing machine might be like. It took awhile.  I made several trips to sewing machine stores in several cities. I priced, debated and talked to people who were using the various machines and asking them what they did with their machines and why they liked them or did not like them.

I like to make skirts.  Making a skirt does not require a laptop.  Does not require embroidery. But it does require that my straight seams be the best they can be–so I opted for quilting optimization over embroidery optimization and only internally programmed stitches.  My ideal machine would have a lot of stitches programmed into it for decorating and trimming items in simple understated fashion.  I didn’t need embroidery fancy enough to cover the entire outfit, just a subtle line of stitching here and there for accent and to give a polished look.  I didn’t want to bother with a computer interface as that level of complexity was going to ruin the pleasure of sewing for me. I have no burning desire to create the most intricate and gorgeous artwork to add to the back of a jacket. That stuff is pretty but really not me.


I purchased a Janome Horizon.  This is my ideal machine.  It makes me feel good the way great-grandma’s sewing machine made me feel.  Forward and reverse have that same steady simplicity I loved as a child learning to sew.  It also does so many lovely stitches that if I wanted to I could trim every hem, collar and cuff with a decorative stitch and it might take years of sewing to repeat myself.

It came with a box of feet, a DVD instruction video, and a huge book instructing the reader in how to set up for every single one of the several hundred stitches. It is also a very pretty machine. It is also traditional enough that I am using it.  I am not confused by the many stitches because the dial makes choosing the stitch and using the right feet easy.  No machine is perfect and a few quilters had a complaint about this quilter’s set-up machine but as I am not piecing tiny bits of fabric into small squares, well, their complaint is unlikely to ever be an issue for me.

So far I have done several hours of testing out stitches on scraps of fabric and about half way made a table runner and a place mat.  I’ll finish those projects eventually.  I also have yards of material for some new skirts, a favorite pattern, three other patterns to try, and a jacket that I think could be wonderful on me.   But it is a nice feeling to bring back into my life the use of the sewing machine.

Great-grandma would have LOVED this machine.


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