This is going to be a fairly text-heavy post, so I'm going to try and find some interesting, but probably unrelated images to break it up. I'm not taking anything outside to photograph in today's awful heat - our overnight minimum was 28C at 5.30 this morning, and we got within a fraction of 40C about an hour ago. The photos are from Christmas morning.
Eleanor sees her Christmas present; the Orginal Funky Monkey Bars
I got very used to piecing with a clear foot on my Pfaff, and the 820 doesn't come with one, so I've been using the 1/4in patchwork foot. I like several of its features, but it doesn't cope well over any seams without the dual feed engaged. However, once the dual feet is in operation it sews beautifully. It does concern me that with this foot, the right-hand lower feed dogs don't come in contact with the fabric at all - but as yet that hasn't actually caused a problem, so maybe it's not an issue.
Without the dual-feed in operation, the 820 really objects to even small seams (possibly a factor of the point above, now I think about it), but once I remembered and engaged the dual-feed foot, it sews across them beautifully. It'll be interesting to challenge it with some bulky seams at some point.
A point I touched on in my first post is that it takes a while for the presser foot to raise to the hover position. I have it set so that when I stop sewing, the needle remains down and the presser foot hovers; this is ideal for a lot of things, and I used it all the time on my last machine. Then when you start sewing, it lowers automatically - but both features on this machine have a few seconds' pause whileyou hear it whirring in preparation - not a lot, but enough to be frustrating. I think that because this really is a computer, it wants to think a little about everything first (it seriously takes between 20 and 30 seconds after switching it on to be ready to do anything at all - that's a LONG time; my last machine was fully computerised, and took took 1/10 of that). I've tried using the knee-lift, but don't like it so far (again, possibly that's just because it works differently from what I'm used to, and so far doesn't do as I expect) - and it didn't make a shred of difference with this issue.
Eleanor climbing on her new monkey bars
Some adivce for anyone buying a new sewing machine - don't just test it thoroughly before makig your decision, have a go at doing for yourself all the things you would normally want to do (threading, changing feet, personalising settings, etc...) before you take it home - especially if it's a make you're not used to! I thought I remembered, but have been wasting time trying to figure out some of the basics. For example, I'm pretty sure there's a way to set the default stitch length shorter on a specific stitch, but I haven't been able to figure out how, so I have to do it maually each time I turn it on. Just watching someone else do it isn't enough - actually try yourself.
Someone did ask me whether the 820 is the next step from the 440QE. I can't really answer that, having only very briefly used the latter once several years ago. Logically the answer would be yes, given the features and increase in space, but I really have no idea what the two have in common or what has improved/changed between them. From my perspective (as someone who really only makes quilts) any other Bernina is not a consideration, as the space is one of my key requirements. I'm also one of those who don't see the BSR as a selling point personally - I have promised myself I'll try it out, but I really don't intend to use it. It's hard to say this without appearing both big-headed and critical of the BSR, but put simply, with the years of experience I have quilting, I think it's more likely to hamper rather than help me. However, it does seem to work nicely, and I can see how some quilters could find it of enormous benefit, especially while learning to FMQ.
James testing Eleanor's present
I've stuck carefully to piecing this week, giving myself the chance to familiarise myself with the 820 before moving to free motion quilting. This is really what I've bought it for (if it were just the piecing and applique, the Pfaff was perfect) and I'm hoping it will live up to the test and my expectations in the coming days (and years!). I'll share my thoughts on its FMQ abilities next week.