Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Sewing Machine Woes
My sewing machine broke, and it broke hard.  It has been an long and emotional 7 weeks.

I have found several things on my journey.
1.  There is an inherent conflict of interest between the shops that sell new machines and fix old ones.    
2. I am very emotionally attached to my machine. It is the tool that allows me to express myself through my art. It was quite the rollercoaster of emotions trying to get it repaired and did not always make for sound decisions on my part. 

3. When having to accept undesirable eventualities, the garden is a great place for solace and healing. If I want to feel better, all I have to do is step outside. 

The longer story:

On Aug 18, I was happily sewing along on my Juki, quilting a rather large quilt, and I pushed the thread cutting button on my machine, like I have done 1000 times before, and heard a loud clunk.  It sounded like the motor was seizing and the needle would not go up or down.  I cut my quilt loose from the machine, panicked and then took a deep breath. The quilt was 3 days from being finished and I had a show deadline approaching.  I really wanted to enter this quilt, and now I did not have a way to finish it.

The next part took 2 days. Eventually after taking the bottom off the machine, and then comparing the insides with it's cousin, the 98E, I saw the problem.  There was a chunk of plastic in the wrong place, physically preventing the wheel from turning. Carefully turning the machine to different angles and using a pair of tweezers and gravity, I was able to remove it.

During the next 2 days, I also started making calls to various shops.  One shop said it would take 8 weeks to repair. In my mind, this was not a good choice.  Aside from the fact that my deadline was too close, I just couldn't imagine life without my machine for that long.  Little did I know that my path would eventually take just around 7 weeks....

Since the wait was so long, I thought I would get the process moving.  I found a replacement part online and ordered it.  It took 8 days to arrive, which was phenomenal that the part was both available and that it shipped and arrived so quickly.  Although, in my impatience, it felt like an incredibly long time!


All the shops had really long wait times. I picked the shop with the shortest turn around time, 3 weeks, and dropped it off.  I told her what the problem was and that I had the replacement part.  Without looking at the machine, the sales person tried to blame me for the problem by telling my that I oiled my machine too much.  She also did not ask me first how frequently I oiled the machine....?? A $40 deposit was required.  After a few days they told me that the repair was too extensive, and that I would have to ship machine back to the manufacturer for the repair. I don't understand why they would let me leave the machine with them if they don't fix the problem that I brought it in for? Instead, they used 3 days of my time, charged me $40, did not make any repairs, and then used scare tactics to try to get me to buy a new machine from them (now for $40 off!). They warned me that sending my machine to Juki would cost at least $600 and it could cost even MORE!

I reached out directly to Juki, and over the course of a few emails, they gave me the name of a repair person in Georgia, Elbert Shirley, who could both do the repair and had worked for Juki manufacturing and repair for many years. I had reservations about shipping my machine all the way to Georgia. This was a mistake on my part. 

the insides of my Juki TL 2010Q,
part of the broken cam that is still inside the machine is circled in red

I started calling EVERYONE, in town and out of town. Now at least I understood that I needed to specifically ask if they could do the repair that my machine needed, a thread cutter cam assembly replacement.  The original shop (with the 8 week wait time) did NOT do that repair. The next shop had just lost it's mechanic.  Another shop did not work on my brand.  I found a mechanic in a small town willing to do the repair in 10 days to 2 weeks.  It was an hour drive there and an hour drive back.  Then I sat and waited.  

During the week wait time, I began to wonder if the machine was now a big door stop?  I could not afford a new machine.  I decided that the time was perfect for selling my Juki QVP sit down long arm machine. It is great machine but I don't use it anymore because I mostly use a walking foot now, and it does not have that ability. I eventually found a buyer who offered me less than half my asking price.  I had tried unsuccessfully to sell this machine at least 3 other times, so I agreed.  It was worth a LOT more than she paid me, but it was enough to buy a replacement machine if I needed to.

Then things started breaking around my house.  My freezer. My sink disposal. And I made a big mistake on my taxes and would be paying a hefty penalty.  It ate up almost all my earnings from the sale of my machine. Despair started settling in.

Meanwhile, at 10 days of dropping off my machine, I called, and was informed that there were only 4 machines ahead of mine. They were also angry that I called, they wanted me to wait to be called.  At 2 weeks, I called again, and was informed that there were now 12 machines ahead of mine, and that the first estimate was wrong. Again, they were very hostile on the phone. I remained calm, friendly, respectful, and asked for a new estimated date of completion.  At 3 weeks, I called again, and they hadn't started the repair yet and put me on the phone with the actual repair technician. That did not go well, so I decided to go pick up the machine. They gave me a receipt which had an anticipated 5 week return time date. Another 2 hour total drive time.  This was a complete bust.  A waste of my time, and gasoline. And a significant loss of trust.

I was frustrated, overwhelmed, angry and disappointed and almost out of money.  I decided to ship my machine to Elbert in Georgia, which I should have done from the start. 
my Juki at FedEx, there is a reason why it feels so heavy....

It arrived in 5 days, and he immediately made the repairs because I had sent the parts with the machine.  In 2 days it was ready to ship back to me!!!  I had it back fully functioning and purring like a kitten in a total of 8 days. Total cost of repair including shipping, parts, and labor was about $320. Expensive, but doable, and much less than a new machine. Perfect!

The frustrating part is that it seems like everyone knew about Elbert and how great he was but they were not going to tell me about him.  One shop eventually let on they that knew about him, but when I was seeking a repair, they were very quiet. I expect the people I do business with to be professional and honest. In this chase for the all mighty dollar, perhaps my expectations are unreasonable? I also bought fabric from two of the shops that I sought help from. And, now I am left wondering if I even want to continue supporting them on that level? Am I being too cynical? What do you think? 

In the interim, I joined a new Juki facebook group and garnered significant new information that will help with my older Juki, the 98E. That information, (and new part for $50) has now made it possible for my old 98E to quilt perfectly again, and will now be my backup machine. It had been skipping stitches and was repaired at 2 different shops, but was not actually repaired.....which was why I bought the TL 2010Q.  (....and the reason why I question the ethics of businesses that both repair old machines and sell new ones.  This is not just a theoretical conspiracy theory, it has been my repeated experience).  On the timeline of this experience, the 98E was up and running the day before I got my 2010Q back from Elbert.

On the up side, I have freed up some extra space by selling the big quilting machine (space that I love and is now usable space!!!) I made 2 new quilt tops (on my Pfaff), and have started a 3rd. I now have 2 Juki's that are sewing wonderfully! I lost my momentum for finishing up the quilting on the large quilt when this all started.  I have decided NOT to worry, I will get back to it. I have given up on several exhibit deadlines and I am okay with that. 

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