Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Journey of the Pfaff Quilt Expression far!

I have had the lovely new Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0 sitting on my sewing table for a week now.
I've sewn 2 quilt tops, 1 cushion cover, and a quilt backing piece. So far? It's brilliant!

I was a bit worried how I would cope with the change, and re adjusting my familiarity, but I have settled in perfectly well with the Pfaff. The machine, whilst being quite technical, is incredibly easy to understand, and everything is well laid out. I have now found that sewing doesn't feel like an effort. It's easy. And whilst it always had been relatively easy and simple, it now feels so calming and relaxing. I've always loved sewing, but I now find myself sitting in front of the sewing table even more than I used to. I'm dreaming up countless number of projects I want to do, and instead of feeling overburdened with the idea of so many things I want to create and sew - I'm keen and eager to fly through them all with the Pfaff.

Before I run away with my glee and enthusiasm, I'll let you know how I decided upon the Pfaff. I, like so many I'm sure, did a lot of my research online before even going to see the model itself. For some reason I had Pfaff in mind, and was keen to check them out. I read about the machine on the Pfaff website, and then my husband and I trawled the internet reading reviews from fellow bloggers around the world. Most came back in the negative for the 4.0. I was a little bit disappointed. It seemed like such a wonderful machine, but why were so many sewers having such grief with them?

The complaints that we came across online were as follows:

- The top loading bobbin has a dip where the plastic casing comes off for removal of bobbin. Sewers were finding this dip frustrating to feed fabric along smoothly.

- The machine beeps and lets you know when the bobbin is nearing it's end. Sewers found this also frustrating as the machine would stop and not let you sew anymore, even though there was just enough thread left to finish their seam.

- The machine would eat fabric when sewing 1/4" seams. This often occurred for sewers when they were starting a new seam, not strip piecing.

- People found the machine too heavy.

- The machine would not sew over bulky seams, and would skip stitches.

- Sewing with the 1/4" foot resulted in the fabric veering off to the left, and no longer inline.

- Some issues were had with the Free Motion Quilting.

- Amongst other things.

So, you can imagine my feelings when I read all these comments! I began to think that maybe the 4.0 wasn't for me after all. But my husband suggested we go have a look and see it in action anyway.
We went to one shop first, and whilst the lady was helpful and lovely, I don't believe she knew enough about the product to give a correct demonstration of the machine.

That was when we went to Liz's Sewing Centre in Boronia, after recommendation from my friend Louise at work, who consequently has a Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0, but a model that is a few years older.
Instantly I felt comfortable and at ease in the shop, and the ladies we're incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. After some more research online, we found that a lot of the negative reviews were written  back in the 2008 area. We seemed to think that perhaps Pfaff had taken on board some reviews and had fixed any problems.

Because when I tried the machine in both shops, I found it to work perfectly well. All the problems and concerns I had read about from other people were quickly quashed, as the machine did everything I asked of it. And even now as I have it home, it's doing everything perfectly well.

We folded up a piece of denim and the machine sewed over 4 thickness of the fabric without missing a beat. The stitches were perfect.

I have not had one bit of trouble with the fabric veering whilst sewing with the 1/4" foot. And that is even without a single hole plate (which was recommended as the only option available by others to sew straight.) The machine sews smoothly and straight with it's normal wide width plate that comes as standard.

Yes, the machine is heavy to lift, but is that really a problem? To me, that signifies that it has quality metal parts inside, and not just plastic cogs.

I have not found my machine to eat any fabric whilst starting a new seam. (The only time it did feel like it wanted to eat the fabric was this morning - and that was entirely user error. I had just cleaned the bobbin casing, and didn't have the bobbin sitting correctly in it's spot. As soon as I corrected this, the machine sewed on perfectly.) It was recommended that sewers use a single hole plate to fix this 'fabric eating machine', however I have not had the need to. I can start before the fabric, and the machine just ticks along. (Am I sounding like a Pfaff saleswoman yet???!)

Yes, the machine does beep when the bobbin is nearing the end. Which is fantastically brilliant. It means I won't sew around a whole quilt for the binding, and then realise at the end - oh, pest. I need to do it again. The machine also lets me keep sewing until the bobbin is completely empty. I'm not sure if this is a particular thing that Pfaff fixed from the previous model. If so - well done. It's great!

The Bobbin 'Dip.' 
Whilst maybe not the greatest design thought, I have not found it to be an issue as yet.

The machine does have a dip in the casing where the top loading bobbin sits. I could imagine that this could be frustrating for some people, but I have not found it to be an issue yet. The only thing I have found so far with it, is when I am sewing two rows of sewn squares together for example. And say, one row of squares has the seams ironed flat to the left. If that row of left-pressed seams is on the bottom as I sew it, the seams do hit the dip, and tend to pop the other way. Now, that could be a problem if you let it be one. I however, have quickly adjusted to just lifting the fabric slightly as it comes to the join, and letting it ride over the dip. And if that doesn't work, all it takes is a quick poke of your finger to flip the seam back the right way. It's no trouble for me, and if that is the only quirk of the machine that may be frustrating - then to me - it doesn't matter one bit!

Possible frustration with the Bobbin Dip would be a left pressed seam getting caught. 
Note the seam under the cream fabric. Bear in mind, this is an already sewn piece of fabric. 
'Tis just for illustration purposes.

As for the Free Motion Quilting, I have only had a short play of that so far. When I tried it at the first shop I went to, we had great trouble getting it to work well, and to not skip stitches. My husband and I put that down to the thread used, to an old needle, to incorrect tension, and not enough knowledge. I then found out, when I went to the other shop, that we had the wrong foot on at the first shop. No wonder it didn't play properly.

So, at the second shop, the lady set it up for me and showed me how to do it myself. And I was able to tick along quilting just fine. And since I've had it home, I have had more time playing with it. I have found that I need to adjust the tension to sit on 5.2, and to adjust the pivot height of the foot to 2. This may only make sense to you if you have a 4.0 sitting in front of you, but so far, that's what I have found to work best.

Things I love about the machine so far? 

The built in thread cutter.
How did I ever survive without one for so long?!
I can piece something, press the button, have my threads cut, and be done in a matter of seconds. It's brilliant! This is one very reason why sewing feels so easy and simple now!

The Automatic presser foot lift.
I was concerned I would struggle with this. The machine does not have a lever to lift your presser foot up and down. Instead it automatically puts it down for you when you start sewing. You can either program it to lift at the end, or just easily press a button. I have quickly fallen into the habit of using this function, and I really like it. I almost feel rather lazy.

The stitches.
I have 222 stitches I can choose from, including 3 different alphabets. The stitches look beautiful, and I'm greatly looking forward to playing with them in the future. You can also adjust the width of the stitches, which I think is pretty nifty.

The 1/4" stitch.
It's perfect. No, really. It is perfect. I always thought I was sewing a pretty near on perfect 1/4" stitch. But this machine really does it accurately. I have done a few tests now, and yep - every time! The only piecing I have done so far is squares, and the seams butt and match in perfectly well.

The smoothness.
Oh gosh, it's smooth. I know that sounds silly, but it really is. It just slides along so beautifully. I like the gentle whirring sound it makes, and I like how it feels like nothing is an issue for this machine. It feels simple.

The bobbin.
I love that it lets me know when it's getting to the end. So very clever and will save me a great deal of frustration!

The style and look.
I know. It doesn't really matter how a machine looks. But this one sure is pretty. I like how big and wide the machine is. It feels solid. It has a very wide throat, which will be great for quilting, and a nice wide sewing space. I also like how wide the sewing foot is. I wouldn't have thought that would matter here nor there, but it's nice to have a wide surface to put your foot on and find easily under the table.

It's a Pfaff.
My mother has a 30 something year old Pfaff, that is a jolly weight to lift, and a solid beast to use. I learnt to sew on that machine when I was 5, and it is still running perfectly well to this day. It's got German origins, which I also have. I feel an interesting connection and attachment with Pfaff. Some strange romantic notion from my childhood obviously.

In general.
I really like it overall. I have greatly enjoyed my week of sewing so far. I feel like I'm getting to know the ins and outs of the machine, and figuring out how to use it properly. I think with any machine, and any brand, there can always be 'lemons,' and one should always research carefully before making any purchase. I felt like we were taking a risk with buying the Pfaff initially, but I am ever so glad we did. It will be interesting to see how our journey progresses and where it takes us. But for now - I have a wonderful new sewing machine that I thoroughly enjoy using, and consistently look forward to using every day. And that is money well spent.

A follow up review will come in a few months!

Please note: This review is entirely my own opinion based solely on a weeks worth of use with the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0. I am sure some people have had some issues with this particular model, and I in no way want to make light of their struggle, or highlight particulars. But I felt that the Pfaff is a great machine, and deserves an honest review from someone who is very happy with it. I'm sorry that it hasn't been so happy a journey for others. Hopefully Pfaff have simply altered from previous models and I am fortunate enough to have an updated version.
Please, if you are looking at getting a Pfaff, or any machine for that matter, always do your research and talk with the professionals first before making a purchase. I am extremely happy with our purchase, and I think I will be for a long time to come.


Debbie said...

Hi Sam!
I too have a Pfaff Expressions 4.0 and I also love it! And I couldn't agree with you more on your points that ended up selling you on the machine. At first I thought you were kidding about what you've already sewn with it, but you've really been having some fun! I need to find more time in the day to sew and quilt.

I just wanted to say that I loved your review of it, and I'm glad you're happy with it.

Mary on Lake Pulaski said...

Great information. If I am able to upgrade from my current Pfaff, I expect I will get the Expressions 4.0.

Stitchin' time said...

Sam, great informative post. If I wasn't so impressed with my Janome I'd definitely be giving the Pfaff's a look. You're right about the demonstrating and it's good to have someone who knows the machines as the service, if something goes wrong, is usually better too and sometimes the problem can be sorted with a phone call - like when you have the wrong foot on!
You seem very busy with your new machine and I'm looking forward to seeing the projects you make with it.

Allen said...

So glad to see this post! I agree with you!

I bought the same machine a year ago and had the same trepidation after reading so many negative comments online. But, I think the positive people tend not to write reviews as you have done ;-)

I have not had any issues that were not user related. I bought it for quilting but have since explored apparel. The ability to remove the base so I can sew a circular area like an armhole is perfect. The sensormatic automatic button hole foot is amazing!

Dana said...

You may have come across my reviews, but generally I too am happy with my machine. The bulky seems wernt a case of folding up fabric it was where there were 4 or 6 intersecting seams as with my keleidescope quilt. I would be interested to see how you get on if you make something like this as its the one thing I havnt managed to overcome. Oh and to completely cure your seems flipping, get a perspex table (mine came with the qe4) as removing the toolbox and having the dip flush with the table solves the problem. If you ever want to talk machines do email or leave a message on my blog its good to have another QE4er to discuss issues with.

Cheryl said...

I was so happy to read your blog on the Pfaff Quilt Expressions 4.0. I've been looking at it, and also have heard negative things. But I already have a Pfaff, and I Love it, and can't imagine that there would be issues on the machine. I'm gonna buy my 4.0 machine next week!

Cindy said...

I have the same machine and love it! Did you know the automatic presser foot lift will lift up a little or all the way if you "tap" the foot pedal? If you tap it too slowly the machine will make one stitch. If you tap it quickly it will raise (or lower) the presser foot. Took me awhile to figure that out. :)

Sheila Wickert said...

I received an expression 4 from my husband for Christmas. Since retiring a year ago I started back up sewing more than just mending. I sewed on a pfaff 1222 As a teenager. And bought a secondhand one when I got married. It died after 16 years. I've Since had a Brother and Singer Curve.
I joined a quilting club this summer and looked into what features I wanted in a quilting machine.
I loved the features of the expression 4.
I have had 2 classes on how to use it so far. I was googling online help with the machine when I came across your informative blog. Thankyou so much
If and one knows of tutorials on using the machine please let me know.
Phoenix AZ

Brooke Schwanke said...

I am currently doing my research and am leaning towards this machine, when I came across your review. I too have seen many negative reviews and have also noticed most of which are 2008 and very few newer ones but the newer ones all seemed to be fairly positive. You made a comment about the weight of the machine and that to you that says that it is well made and more metal. That is one question I have had that I cannot seem to find an answer to...... Is the machine made with metal components instead of plastic. Also in my research online I can't seem to find prices. My local quilt shop has one and I believe it was around $900, but that was about a month ago when I was in and looked at hers and I could be mistaken as I have looked at several. If you don't mind my asking how much did you pay for yours?

Effie said...

I've had issues with mine... Top tension for one and the beeping bobbin drives me nuts... I just keep pressing the OK button and eventually it lets me keep sewing, there must be at least two meters of thread left when it beeps, enough to finish most seams. I've come to terms with it now.. I've always had Pfaff machines but am looking into getting a Juki

Jeanne A, (McLeod) Treschuk said...

Just walked in the door with my new Pfaff QE 4.0. I have used my once top-of-the-line Pfaff 362 for 45 years and decided to dip my toes into electronic sewing. I'm excited to begin. A question for you, have you purchased any J bobbins on line? If yes, could you tell me what site and other info. I like to keep a good supply of new bobbins on hand. Thanks,,

Nonnapixie said...

I've now had my Pfaff Quilt Expression 4 for just over a year. At first I loved it, despite its habit of dragging the first stitch or so into the feed dogs, even when strip piecing. However, I have now had so many problems with it that it's driving me mad! I'm a new free-motion quilter and at first the machine worked beautifully and I learnt a lot from the Craftsy website. Then suddenly, when FMQ-ing, the needle kept snapping with an enormous bang as it hit the plate. I got through a whole packet of new needles in the course of two days! The machine went back to the workshop (the needle threader had ceased to work in the meantime and they replaced that)and I was told that the thread was looping off the reel, catching round the machine's spool, and pulling it tight so that the needle was pulled backwards, missing the hole and hitting the plate, snapping it off with the huge bang, despite the fact that I'd used the correct reel cap. I was therefore told there was nothing wrong with the machine and advised to use a thread net to stop the thread catching round the spool. Also, the machine kept stopping with the message "fabric too thick" when FMQ-ing - "come on", I said, "you're a quilting machine for goodness' sake!" Despite using the thread net, I have found that the problem still happens from time to time. Now I am also having trouble with skipped stitches when FMQ-ing as well. I have tried re-threading both the top thread and the bobbin, plus removing and replacing the needle but the problem is still there. Interestingly, I have no problem in piecing or sewing "in the ditch" and the problems arise when free motion quilting only. I have an open-toe foot, which I bought separately (at great expense) and which is definitely the correct one (a "J"). The bobbin thread is also breaking suddenly and I've done everything I can think of, including everything suggested in the machine's manual to no avail and I'm very nearly reduced to tears by all this. I was so happy and excited when I first got my lovely new machine, but am now wondering if I should have paid the extra few pounds and bought the Bernina. I should be interested to know if anyone else has had similar problems.

Lee Watts said...


When you are free motion quilting do you change the pivot height? I find that it works really well on the 4.0 if after I choose sensormatic, I then change the pivot height to -2 or -3 and disengage the auto lift function. Lower your feed dogs and it should be ok.

I have had this machine since June of 2010 and it works like a charm. Hope this helps.

Quiltjane said...

I bought the first generation of Pfaff QE 4.0 and experience all the problems listed above. I am disappointed in Pfaff that they did not recall all the earlier models and replace them. I will never buy a Pfaff again and am looking at the Bernina.

Cindy said...

I posted earlier and said I love my machine. Now I can say I did love it after trying to FMQ with it. I feel so stupid paying so much money for this non-quilting machine. And it really angers me that they are still selling this flawed machine.

Unknown said...

i have just purchased a used pfaffQE4.0 and am having trouble feeding fabric thru for chain stitching. will check the tension and pivot height.
Previous machine was a pfaff 2046 and it have a much better info booklet.
i do love all the other features mentioned.

ronsondalby said...

The list of complaints you mentioned for this machine all seem to be on the one particular blog (I won't mention its name). I haven't had any of the problems and I am so sorry that that other blog will have turned people off buying the Expression and missed out on a great machine.

imgonnasmile said...

I have had this machine for 10 months and love it! Last night my upper thread was breaking while FMQ, did all the normal things. Finally took the brush and cleaned the post above the needle and gently above it, and a straight pin fell out! That was the problem! Now, on the fonts, I wish the letters g, p, y, would have longer tails. That's my only complaint :)

Linda said...

I have always been a PFAFF girl . The QE 4.0 is good but I have been having problems with F. M. Quilting. Having the top thread cobbling up into the bobbin. Looking into buying a single hole plate as I am told this will help with the accuracy. I feel the machine only likes some threads. Quilter Michelle Hill has a very helpful self written comprehensive booklet on this machine.

Ms. Flower said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms. Flower said...

I bought my QE 4.0 in October 2009. From what I've read wish I had waited. Pfaff has had issues with this machine. When I bought the machine I was diagnosed with breast cancer so didn't use the machine for over a year. I own a Viking D1 & love it, but I wanted the IDT & large harp of the QE4.0. I realize the throat plate large opening is for 9mm stitches but it does eat fabric especially 2in squares in piecing. I'm not even sure if the IDT Works better than a walking foot. I am just now really working on FMQ. I watched a YouTube video from Village Sewing on the QE4.2. He (John) says demo will also work for the QE4.0. It is very good he explains ever button the machine & it's uses. He also explains FMQ. I think I need to go faster to fix my problems. I am anxious to try. John explains how Pfaff has worked on the problems & how much better it is now. I wish I had waited a yr or 2 before buying or could get a newer model. I paid 2500.00 & really don't want to invest any more into this one. Recommend watching the Video.