2.17.2015

Pfaff So Far

Alternate titles for this post, courtesy of Ruggy, none of which jive with the proper pronunciation of Pfaff, all of which give me the giggles:

Bigger, Louder, Pfaffter.

Pfaffter than a speeding bullet.

Pfaffter Pussycat.

Pfaffter is the best medicine.

Phonetics aside, all of these titles are true. And we all know IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE IT'S TRUE. When my Ricky went on strike, I went on the hunt for a Bernina-- and was left unimpressed. Several of you chimed in with your love for Pfaff, and several more asked to have an update after really trying her out. It's been nine months since Lucille Tiptronic Baller landed in Kalkatroona, and it's high time we talked. Before we get down to the nitty gritty, here's what me and the girl have made so far:

oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion
oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion
oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion

Plus the black quilty Valentine's vest and a host of yet to be blogged items!

I love her. I kiss her several times a week. Literally. Right on her flip up top.  Okay, let's get down to it.

oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion

Let Your Pfaffer do the Walking

First up on the hit list: The IDT system. It is a wonder. If I'm careful with my cutting, pins are an afterthought, as there's simply no seam slippage. None, nada, zip. Sometimes I forget to re-enage the IDT when I change feet, which causes a string of colorful language. Leaving the IDT off is like drinking grape juice when you could be having bordeaux. It's possible that disengaging isn't necessary, but with no manual, I play it safe. If I'm doing something cray cray, like sewing four layers of wool, basket weave silk, leather, and plastic, sometimes the little IDT foot will catch on the uppermost layer at the start of a seam, like this:

oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion

See the little lip of leather curling between the feet? I just I disengage the IDT, lift the presser foot, re-enage, and go to town. Sometimes you have to take a few stitches without the IDT to get going, but it's really no biggie. I will say that I wish there was more real estate under the presser foot at times, especially for winter sewing.

oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion

Subbing for My Serger

You know that my maniacal Elna serger has been plotting to kill me for years. Well, several months ago, I banished her from my desk and let my Pfaff take charge of my knits. The stretch stitch (which I think is akin to the dreaded Lightning Stitch on other machines) is amazing. In fact, there are times I like it better than an overlocked edge-- it produces less bulk and flatter seams. I made the Bombshell Bathing Suit completely on my Pfaff, and the guts are beautiful.

However, I know I'm going to need a a serger solution eventually. Sweater knits that unravel, for one. And although my Pfaff does twin needle stitching, I have to put the tension all the way up to eleven to get a good result. (I lie, she doesn't go to eleven. But everything in life should.)

She Likes ALL OF THE FABRICS

Man, she likes all of the fabrics. Which is especially wonderful for someone who likes to MIX ALL OF THE FABRICS. Pictures will say it better:

oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion

painted jersey knit with elastic encased cording (done with a regular old presser foot!)

oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion


oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion


oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion


oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion

fringed madness with three kinds of leather (coming soon...)

Extra, Extra

You can read all about the included items and setup here in my introductory post, this is more about how she's held up. But the extras continue to charm me-- buttonholes are beautiful, all three needle positions working like a boss, as are the host of stitches that can be made using the push button system.

Whatever machine you're looking at, be it vintage or new, let me say this: GET A NEEDLE UP DOWN OPTION. I never knew how useful this feature was! I used to hand crank away on my older machines at the beginning and end of every seam. That adds up. And this feature doesn't just save you time, it saves your hands. While you're at it, consider saving your eyes with a needle threader, something I also scoffed at until an activity that took me 30 seconds started taking 3.

oonaballoona | a sewing blog | pfaff fashion


Vintage Pros Have Their Woes

It's fantastic to have a vintage machine. Especially if you are into tinkering. I found the service manual for my model, and have opened her up completely. I've gazed at her innards, adjusted the needle thread tension, and oiled her (if you're afraid of that, you must at least give a drop of oil in the bobbin case area after every project!). Ruggy has come to the rescue as well, opening up and fixing the foot pedal (which took the both of us to hold all those springing parts closed. Open with caution, my friends). It feels great to fix your own machine, it feels substantial! It has stood the test of time.

That said, time is not the vintage lover's friend. As a matter of fact, whenever I shout about how great my vintage machine is, it seems to want to give up the ghost. Yesterday, as I filled a bobbin (from the needle--you can fill from the needle as well, another how did I live without that feature) my machine suddenly made the jump to lightspeed and kept merrily racing along after I took my foot off the pedal. I raised an eyebrow, set everything back to zero and tried again. Same maniacal blur of speed...but only when filling the bobbin, which leads me to believe it's something up with the machine end of that function, and not the pedal. The helpful bobbin sensor works intermittently, only flashing when I've cleaned the bobbin area and never when actually sewing. Possibly, the problem is within, dare I type it...the circuit board. And the older a machine gets, the harder it is to find replacements for those types of woes. One day, it simply might be too vintage to fix.

And that is most definitely the worst con about owning vintage! Still, after nine months of stitching on her, I can't see wanting to stitch on any other brand.

Hope this was helpful to those of you looking into a new, or a "new," machine. My opinion is of the vintage persuasion, though you up-to-date Pfaffers seem to adore yours as well. I've had tweets & emails asking for advice on making the jump to Pfaff, and if you did, I'd love to know if you're digging your machine! ETA: and by the way, not to exclude the non Pfaffers out there, I'd love to know what you love about your machine. Everyone has their favorite, non?

49 comments:

  1. Glad to hear you're still loving your Pfaff! Last weekend I bought the Pfaff I've been eyeing for months. It's hard for me to leave it to go to work or feed the kids...a couple years ago I stupidly spurned my 32 year old Riccar for a new Janome. Luckily I hadn't sold it before I realized I really couldn't live without adjustable presser foot pressure, no matter what the saleswoman said. That, and the IDT, are what sold me on a Pfaff. I hope to keep this one as long as I've had my Riccar.

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    1. oooo, which one which one??? i'm super intrigued by the new pfaffs, it's the first time i've considered a new machine (even the bernina i tried was the retro mechanical new version!). my ricky riccar still lives in the bedroom as beautiful "decor" and a standby for teaching friends to stitch.

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    2. The Ambition 1.0. I looked at the mechanical ones, because I felt like I was sold a bill of goods about computerized machines, by my local sewing machine store (can you taste the BITTERNESS?!?) and I do love my Riccar. Which I will never get rid of! But they didn't have all the features I wanted. As I was about to plunk down my $$$, I let myself look at the higher end Pfaffs. But there was no feature I felt I absolutely couldn't live without if it was going to cost another $1,000 or more. If I've never used it I can't miss it, right?
      I've been sewing like crazy since Saturday, on silky polyester, knit, pleather, and a twill anorak with thinsulate lining, and the Pfaff passes the test.
      For all you newbies out there, save your money and get a machine with adjustable presser foot pressure. In my opinion a walking foot is way too clunky and doesn't work nearly as well. I was so sick and tired of the Janome's walking foot losing the fabric in the middle and having to try to poke it back under the foot with a pin.
      I've never used a serger, so I'm curious, how would a serger be better than the knit/stretch stitches on your Pfaff?

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    3. i believe the tiptronics were produced in the late 80s, but i'm not totally sure. i was eyeing the ambition, i'm glad to hear you're sewing up a storm!

      the stretch stitch is great, but sometimes i do want the seams encased in thread, especially for knits that ravel. but where that's not an issue, i like the look of raw seam edges. if you look at the black photo above, that's some guts of my bombshell swimsuit, it's the center back seam where there are four layers of lycra. the inner layers are gathered, the outer are totally flat, and all are sewn together with the stretch stitch. at first i groaned to think i had to do it all sans serger, but then i really loved seeing what those gathered and flat edges looked like together. so in that case, it's pfaff over serger!

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  2. As my husband is fond of saying...glad to hear you are still Pfaffing around. I love that IDT foot more than I ever thought I would. Your comparison to drinking grape juice and Bordeaux is spot on. Many a time, I have forgotten to put it down, and then had an Ahhh.... moment. Agreed, a little more space under the foot would be great sometimes. But I've always figured it's just me who whips the socks of her machine. Clearly not. A hasty mistake saw my break my needle threader a long time back (not going to say how long, because that's how long since my machine hasn't been serviced...by a professional). I bent it back so it still works on the bigger eye needles. I get the feeling that the buttonholes aren't the best that I've seen on my machine. Again, perhaps I should book that baby in for a service.

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    1. that IDT foot is the BOMB. and oh, if you have the option to get her serviced, please do... so that i might live vicariously.... no one round these parts really knows how to service my older gal.

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  3. Great to see you are enjoying your Pfaff! I love both of mine dearly, a modern one with the IDT and an undestructable 230 from the sixties which is great for sewing denim and the like. Like Debbie, I should really bring it in for service soon, but I can't bear to be parted from my machine for too long.

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    1. i think mine needs a coverlock mate. then i'll throw my elna right out the window! maybe you can get one serviced while stitching on the other?

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  4. Oh, wow, I just HAVE to jump in!!! You are woman after my own heart. See, a few years ago I was in the market for a new machine, and could afford to get a good one. I heard SO SO SO much about Bernina, went in and liked it (mind you, compared to my old machine that wouldn't have been hard to do) and ended up getting one. I did go to the local Pfaff store, but my mind was so brainwashed with the idea that Bernina was "IT" that I honestly didn't give the Pfaff a chance. My bad. Big time. So sorry. Wish I could go back and redo.... Anyhow, after a couple of years with a nice Bernina (not top of line at all, a middle-line model but it sure cost plenty) I was so frustrated I started looking into other machines. It wasn't that the Bernina was broken, and some things were really good about it. But, I have to say I never thought the stitches were so much better than other good machines, and the walking foot made things worse! Seriously, I was really to throw it out the window. Just thinking about that thing brings my blood pressure up. And yes, I made SURE I was using it correctly, checked with the dealer and all, the machine has been checked out and all is well - but it just wasn't working all that great for me, plus I had to use a bulky presser foot as part of the walking foot so sewing was just "clumsier". Trying to sew stripes was a nightmare, no matter how many hundreds (felt like it) of pins I used to match everything up, the stripes would end up getting off track.

    So, last month - after reading and researching a LOT - I went back to the Pfaff store and bought one. Yeah, I tried Craig's list and all, nothing vintage available like you found and I had made a decision that I wanted a Pfaff and I was a woman on a mission. My baby came home with me and I am head over heals in love with her - that IDT is a gift from the gods! I know the older ones are supposed to be better quality than the newer models, and maybe I'll get to see one someday. But right now, bliss! I sewed up the side seam of a shirt with stripes and the suckers MATCHED!! I am POSITIVE that the same seam on the Bernina would not have turned out as well, considering the obscene number of them that I ripped out.

    In summary, I am looking forward to a long, rewarding relationship with my new baby. I tell her all the time how wonderful she is, how pretty, and she rewards me with beautiful stitches and matching stripes. A match made in heaven, me sipping my bordeaux and grinning like a fool with happiness.

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    1. matching stripes is absolutely stress free, i agree! our stories are very similar, i tried some of the mid line berninas as well, and at first i was smitten with the buttonhole and such... but man, those feet add up...anyway, it was eye opening, especially when you hear about it being the be all end all. though some do truly adore their berninas and make beautiful things!! it's all about the one that's right for you.

      i totally lucked into my 1171, the owner had her in a closet and didn't even list it as a pfaff! i'll clink my glass of bordeaux to you tonight :)

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  5. I have the ambition 1.5 after auditioning berninas and Fifi is beautiful. the idt is my best friend and the stitching is so pretty! She does lovely buttonholes amd goes through single layers of chiffon and 6 layers of denim. I couldn't find one bad review when I bought her 6 months or so ago! Definitely better value for money for what I wanted than the bernina!

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    1. fifi, what a great handle! i've been hearing good things about the ambition too.

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  6. I have the ambition 1.5 after auditioning berninas and Fifi is beautiful. the idt is my best friend and the stitching is so pretty! She does lovely buttonholes amd goes through single layers of chiffon and 6 layers of denim. I couldn't find one bad review when I bought her 6 months or so ago! Definitely better value for money for what I wanted than the bernina!

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  7. I am not german but I love my german made pfaff6152 tipmatic. Works perfectly in everyway and has the best mechanical sound ever! I am gladd to hear that I am not the onşyone who is strugling with the tension when using twin needle. I though we were supposed to reduce the tension but wrote that you put it up ?!? Still do get good resultd on twin needle?

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    1. haha, the pfaff loves all peoples! i love that mechanical sound too. my twin needle stitching is good, great on some materials-- but obviously i want great on all! if you look below, joannemakes shared a link about using the twin needle on her pfaff, i'm going to check it out later: http://www.mariadenmark.com/2014/08/twin-needle-hem/#sthash.gbKFUA2r.dpuf

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  8. Even tho I still love my vintage Bernina 930, you have almost sold me on a Pfaff. Where is your affiliate link?!

    I am happy to hear that you're over the moon.

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    1. haha!!

      i really am so happy with her. i know it won't be forever, but i also know the next one will be a pfaff. however i do see the love for vintage berninas! i was at a lecture given by kenneth king, and one of the attendees took a pencil out of his bag. the look on his face made me wonder what he'd do if she'd touched his bernina without asking ;)

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  9. This feedback is most excellente! I need a new machine as my Kenmore is too finiky and well, a real mouthy bitch when it comes to sewing anything but quilting cotton. And as I'd love the comfort of being dressed in nothing but a quilt, it's not realistic.

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    1. a mouthy bitch, i love it. she should meet my elna. try some pfaffs, i swear, that IDT is ridiculous!

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  10. You've stitched some wonderful inspiration garments with that baby. Kiss the top for me too!

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  11. After wanting to murder a babylock Audrey I had for a few years because the stitching sucked and it refused to make decent buttonholes then stopped making all but the standard one (their sergers are the best but sewing machines not so much unless you drop major $$$) I went to my local Pfaff store to look at the IDT system because I was so sick of mismatched seams. I was really torn between the top end mechanical and the ambitions before I settled on the new passport. I must admit I was sold on it because of the price point and the way it looked but man I love it. I could never live without the IDT again, it makes beautiful button holes and stitches like a dream! I also really like the appliqué stitch that I've used a shocking amount of times.The machine has a fair amount of negative reviews but I love it. That being said I stand by babylock sergers as the best (love my eclipse) and I wish I had stuck to that thought before I bought my Janome Coverstitch machine as I'm now counting change to budget for when I'll sell the janome and buy the babylock coverstitch to replace it. FYI I also have a vintage singer 401 which is vintage perfection and is my go to buttonhole machine for coat buttonholes when I'm not in the mood to make bound buttonholes but for some strange reason refuses to sew knits. I can take the whole machine apart (including motor) and put her back together all by myself :)

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    1. i felt like the lower ends of other lines i tried were not so great, so that's wonderful to hear about your trials!

      a few friends have babylock sergers, and yeah, they are pretty amazing. maybe you can sell your janome and get closer to your goal???

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    2. Hi! Just wanted to pop in to say that I've sewn many knits on my singer 401 and not had a problem. I set it on a very narrow zigzag (less than 2) and a short stitch length (usually around 12). I mostly use universal needles, but have used ballpoints, microtex, even quilting depending on the fabric. I have heard that stretch needles don't do well in 401s, I've not tried them myself.

      Oona, I have friends here who are Pfaff fangirls -- they love their machines!

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    3. i wonder what it is about stretch needles, that they don't play well with 401s? i notice my pfaff likes jersey schmetz better, now that you mention it!

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  12. I have my mom's Pfaff Creative 1371, it was the machine I learned to sew on. I always thought that IDT was standard on all machines. When I started sewing with friends, I wondered why their walking feet looked so strange.

    I tried a cheap Brother that was highly rated on Amazon (Brother CS600i) and it didn't last me two months! I tried the Berninas at the dealer, and I was *meh*, especially for the price. After looking at the Janome Skyline, Babylock Elizabeth, and Juki F600, I decided on the Juki F600. It has the heft that I loved on my Pfaff, tons of feet, and a lot of the new features that I'm learning to love -- auto thread cutting, auto back tacking, etc. The stitch quality is quite nice too.

    My Pfaff will still be my portable machine and I love the button stitch (the one that sews on buttons, not the button holes) on it. Overall, I'm happy to have the Juki and Pfaff!

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  13. I am not a pfaff owner, but totally identify with the love of a good machine and discovering new features that you didn't realise you were missing!
    I wanted to add that I have come across a post by Maria Denmark about using a twin needle on a pfaff and how it needed to be threaded differently to one of her other machines. She said "When threading my current main machine (a Pfaff Ambition) the two threads that goes into the twin needle have to be threaded the exact same way through tension plates and thread holders until they are separated at the needle. But for another machine I use often, the threads have to go through separate thread holders. - See more at: http://www.mariadenmark.com/2014/08/twin-needle-hem/#sthash.gbKFUA2r.dpuf

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    1. thank you for this link!!! i'm going to try that-- my riccar wanted me to separate the threads midway through the process, so this is different.

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  14. I remember taking a craftsy class, and the instructor kept saying 'Use your needle down feature' or something to that effect. I was admittedly becoming jealous of another's sewing machine. It seems like such a great feature.

    I have a Bernina. I bought it in about 1980, so I think I can be forgiven for forgetting why I chose it over the Pfaff. I'm certain I gave serious consideration to both lines. I remember sewing on Pfaffs at school. How can I not love a machine that has been with me for over thirty years? It's never had to be serviced. I've sewn countless garments, including my wedding dress, on it. Keeping an appliance for sentimental reasons would be bad, very bad....but fortunately I'm hanging on to my Bernina because she's such a dang fine machine! Basic, yes! But I'm okay with that, at least for now.

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    1. vintage berninas get big love-- i did drool over several! and yours serves you beautifully, my colorful friend :)

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  15. I've heard good things about Pfaff. Once I can afford to buy a good quality new machine I'll look in to the brand. At the moment, my two decade old Janome MyExcel that I managed to convince my mum to buy when I was ten is holding up impressively. It's buttonhole function's not the best, but the rest of it is pretty fantastic.

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    1. man, i'll use a machine till the bitter end, just ask my elna serger. though that one is mostly bitter, unlike your childhood janome :)

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  16. I'll admit I'm a little partial to my Bernadette (my hand-me-down 1230 Bernina that I inherited from my mom when she started going more for quilter models--I'd never have been able to afford such a workhorse machine on my own). But it does sound like your Pfaff has some great features! Wishing you many more happy years and insane fabric cocktails together. :)

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    1. oh i've heard the 1230 is amazing! i wish the same to you, becky!

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  17. Can I just say what a great review, and now I regret my decision to go for a Huskylock over a Pfaff. Bummed. Out. Also, congratulations on your award haul at Madalynne's best blog awards. You're like the Meryl Streep of the sewing world only you're better dressed.

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    1. thank you, it was a bit of riches, that haul... quite a surprise! and um, i'll take that comparison!

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  18. Well, now, that sounds "Pfafftastic"! Will be considering one if I should ever have my Mum's old Brother konk out on me...

    Say, with all your quilting, I know you must have stumbled on this method, which frankly I think suits your style to a "T" - crazy quilting! It may involve you using / learning some embroidery (if you choose to use it on your projects), but considering the options of fabric, patterns, and stitching methods, I'm surprised you haven't gotten lost in the possibilities. :)

    *lol* LOVE what Leanne just above me wrote "...you're like the Meryl Streep of the sewing world only you're better dressed..." Collaberation coming up in your future with the Great Meryl? Would be very interesting! ;)

    Mugsy

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    1. yes, in fact i've tried some!

      ooooo, okay, whether it's sewing *for* her or acting *with* her, obviously, i'm down for both daydreams;)

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  19. Ooooh I'm intrigued about idt. I doubt my machine has it but I'm gonna have to check just in case!

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    1. do you have a pfaff? i think the 1222 from 1968 was the first with IDT, if memory serves from the instagram trivia up a couple days ago!

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  20. I bought a Pfaff last June and I am madly in love with it. I am so happy to hear that yours is awesome too. When I first got it, I felt like an outcast in a world of Berninas so I am really thrilled to hear that there are some Pfaffs out there. I love the IDT system too, and the needle down function is the bomb too! Pfaff girls unite!

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    1. i know what you mean, there is a heavy bernina club out there, which is great, of course-- but we pfaffers gotta spread the love!

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  21. I got a Pfaff just before you did, I believe, and I am similarly in love (also after trying some Berninas and finding myself incapable of reasoning my way through the price). Mine isn't vintage -- it's an Ambition 1.5, which they have since stopped making -- but you have the same model as my mother in law, I do believe. She bought hers new and it's still kicking along. They really are great machines. :)

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  22. I have my grandmothers' Pfaff 360 (circa 1960) which I learned to sew on. Such a great machine and as my grandma always told me that it was "the best", Pfaff's have always been on that pedestal. I love sewing on that vintage machine, but adore my computerized Singer. I'm planning on getting a new Ambition Essential this year and looking forward to bringing that baby home!

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  23. My hubby got me my Pfaff the first Christmas we were married... 2001! She is the BEST. His grandma and mom always had Pfaff and swore by theirs. I'm not sure he even knew other brands existed! So glad you're loving yours.

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i thankya truly for taking the time to comment, i love a good conversation-- and hope you know my thanks are always implied, if not always written!