So, as usual, the blog has been some time in the writing. Why? Well, lots of reasons why, but those are for another post! Things are afoot with the cat breeding portion of my life, and we can expect the patter of tiny paws some time soon!
But what’s that got to do with sewing? Nothing at all, so obviously it’s completely relevant to this blog! And I will invariably talk about it, well, just as often as I fancy it!
Right, in a departure from the scheduled programme, I have decided to skip ahead in my sewing story to do my review of the Pfaff Passport 3. Why? Because I want to! Also because it allows me to show off some recent makes. Also because it’s an awesome machine and the whole world and his mum should know about it! Also, mainly because it allows me to show off! Have I mentioned I like to show off? Well, I don’t really, but these new makes are soooooo awesome that I just couldn’t resist!
Just to be clear, Pfaff provided the Passport 3 for the purposes of the review. However, as always, my opinions and generally disorganised thoughts are all my own (I’d worry if these were coming from someone else), and have not been altered or influenced by Pfaff or their provision of a sewing machine. Pfaff are really committed to accessibility, and gave me the Passport to evaluate it for them. They have been very supportive when I’ve had queries, and are generally trying to get it right, particularly for visually impaired people. I love them for this.
So, to the Passport 3! In a nutshell, this little stunner is about the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, it’s the best thing since unsliced, fresh, homebaked bread straight out of the oven… Cuz we all know that’s much better than horrible supermarket sliced! But I digress. It’s awesome!
It all starts with the packaging. Not that I would know about packaging you understand. To me, one box is as good as another. However, Mr Sleepy (because he’s still in bed… I really must come up with a name that sticks for him soon!) says it’s awesome, and he’s a designer, so he knows these things… Apparently! He tells me this frequently! He says it looks a bit like a suitcase, then he rambled on for a bit about the design, the features, the consumer thought process… I, like any well trained, attentive, fully committed partner, completely switched off, began to think about what I’d make for dinner, and said “uh huh” and “oh really?” at what I sincerely hope were all the right moments! They must have been, as he’s still here! Seriously though, when a sewist has a new machine sat in front of them, all ready to be ripped into to find the delights within that pesky box, are they really going to consider the design of the cardboard? Well, Pfaff clearly thinks so, as does my designer, so I must concur that this is a good thing. I shall do so whilst my greedy little fingers begin to work the flaps at the top of the box though!
Everything is really well packaged in the box. There’s nothing loose, nothing rattling around, and, just as importantly, not much excess packaging! No need to run away screaming. I’m not an environment freak, but I do care enough that I will buy recycleable where I can, will minimise my rubbish footprint on the environment, and will definitely get ticked off if there’s a bazillion bits of un-needed cardboard, plastic, foam filling etc in a box where there really doesn’t need to be! This obviously has everything to do with my environmental commitment, and nothing at all to do with the fact that I have unnecessary rubbish filling up my bin, and may have to take an extra trip to the local tip to get rid of it! Nuh uh! Pfaff didn’t send my blood pressure into the red, so again, another positive.
When you manage to shut your other half up (ahem, I mean lovingly listen until he’s done talking) long enough to pull the machine lovingly (Ok, quickly and greedily, but we’ll go with lovingly) from the box, the first impression I got was, “Wow, that’s solid!” The Passport purports to be very light and compact. Compact it certainly is, but light? Call me weak and weedy, (I’ll be offended if you do, but truth hurts!), but light is not a term I would apply to this. Mind you, I’m not sure I’d really want to. If a sewing machine was a feather weight, I’d be concerned about the quality of its innards, and how long it would last. Pfaff seem to have made a good compromise here. The Passport is nowhere near as heavy as other machines of its size, but it is definitly a very solid presence in the hand when it’s picked up. the hard cover doesn’t help its lightness, but it’s a really nice feature that they provide it along with the machine. If you bought this thinking it was so light that you’d be able to juggle 3 of them with 1 hand tied behind your back, you might be a bit disappointed. Please have realistic expectations, as a good quality sewing machine is never going to be super light. Because of this, I don’t look at its weight as a negative. As I say, it’s a good compromise.
The design of this beast has been really well thought out too. With the Brother, I had to stuff the foot pedal into the throat of the machine and secure it in place before I went anywhere. With the Pfaff, that hard cover that I was sorrt of moaning about a minute ago (not that I ever moan, you understand, I discuss… In detail… Often a lot…) is actually really innovative. It uses the dead space inside by having a foot pedal holder. I didn’t really know what this was at first, as, in typical fashion, I didn’t read the manual, but later chatting to others confirmed that I was right! Now, I do have a good reason for not reading the manuals. They’re printed. I’m blind. Problem there! Sleepyhead is dyslexic… Don’t we make an awesome team? I will sneakily fail to mention here that Pfaff manuals are available online, and that I’m one of those people who hasn’t the patience to read a manual from cover to cover. I only touch them for specific bits. No. That wouldn’t suit my purposes. Using the blindy status gets me off the hook, so use it I will!
Anyway, enough of this waffle, and back to the machine.
Removing the cover leads to a very, very compact beast of a machine. The plastic parts are thick and sturdy and don’t look like they’ll crack like some of the other brands do. the metal parts are all well polished with no sharp edges, and the moving parts move really easily. The one thing I really like is that the sewing bed has metal which extends right back to the limit of the throad of the machine.
Speaking of the throat, this is the one thing that might put some of you off. It is very, very small. Not small enough to make sewing projects difficult, but small enough that sewing anything of a reasonable size is hard. That being said, Pfaff make no bones about this. The Passport is designed as a portable machine, not as a do everything work horse, so it would be stupid to buy it for that. That being said, it does do a bit of everything, and does it well. As a beginner machine, you really can’t go wrong with this. Just don’t try and sew a king sized quilt with it!
This naturally leads me on to sewing, and this is where it really comes into its own. If you thought I was gaga over a quarter inch foot, just imagine the increase in general delight and happiness when I discovered the quarter inch foot… With built in IDT! For those not in the know, it is basically a built in walking foot. Why is this so great? Well, it provides really even feeding of fabric at the top and the bottom, so less slippage, yaaaaay! Slippage is such a massive pain! With this, I can be lazy (as if I ever would!) and not pin as much, another yaaaaay! I hate pins! I can now sew multiple layers still using the quarter inch foot, something I couldn’t do with other machines. As I’m on a role here, yaaaaaay! I can also use any other foot on the machine that’s compatible with IDT, so I can put in zips with a walking foot, can use the zip foot for sewing curves (more about this in another post), and can be a lot more versatile with how I use the machine. Let’s here it for the yaaaaaaaays!
For me though, and for anyone who likes to sew multiple layers really, really straight, or straight line quilt really closely together, having a quarter inch guide with a walking foot already on there is just about the awesomest thing since awesome was invented! I’ve done some really beautiful projects with this, and the finished results are really, really good. It does also come with a quilting guide, but it’s not great for me to use as it’s the wrong shape. It has a screw to hold it in place, so in theory, my Husqvarna quilting guide that I was able to use on the Brother should fit as well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Well it does, but it wobbles from side to side as the screw mechanism doesn’t hold it well enough. This is the main thing I’d like to see change with this machine. Having sold my Brother, I’m now not sure how I will do wider line quilting. I’ve done it, but it wasn’t massively straight sadly. I’m planning to put some cable shrink plastic stuff on it to see if it grips better, so watch this space. Gotta love self alterations!
Anyway, back to sewing. It does it beautifully. It goes slow, but nowhere near as slow as the Innov-is 55, so it’s likely to be a bit more frightening for complete beginners. It also feels very different to sew on. Whereas the Brother gently eases the fabric forward in quite a forgiving manner, the Pfaff almost sucked it out from under my fingers. Not that it was going particularly fast, you understand, as when I started with this I really took my time, but it felt a whole lot more business-like about it. “Right, I’ve got a job to do. You’ve asked me to do it, so I’m gonna!” I was a bit scared of it at the start as it does mean business, but I really, really like it now, and actually get frustrated with other brands that don’t do it. I like to feel a bit of tension on the fabric as it helps me guide it better. It is pretty quiet even when working at high speeds, and the duel feed means that once you have your straight line, you pretty much don’t need to touch the fabric at all to keep it in line. The stitching is really nice and even, and the quality is great. It’s got decorative stitches, but as with other machines, the manual doesn’t give them names so I don’t know what they are. This makes me sad!
Accessories: Again, this is from memory, so apologies if I’ve missed anything. It’s annoying as I always forget to write down what they come with out of the box, and I like to use it for a few months before I review it. As I have a head like a sieve, by the time I come to review, I’ve forgotten most of it! Anyway, it comes with the standard foot already attached, and has a non IDT version in the box, basically the same foot but it doesn’t have a slit cut out of the back of it. To be honest, I’ve no idea why you wouldn’t want to use the IDT, but there you go. I’m sure somebody somewhere has a reason. Then you get some fancy stitch feet, a button hole foot (automatic, another yaaaaay!), an adjustable blind hem foot and a zip foot. So you get enough for the basics, but not much more. This made me sad. I wanted the quarter inch and the button sewing foot at least as standard, particularly as Pfaff makes such a big deal about being quilter friendly. I do hope they take that on board! It also comes with an extra thread spool, so I’m assuming that it twin needles, but there was none in the accessories. There’s a handful of bobbins, a cool quick unpick with the lint brush built into it, a quilting guide, thread spool caps, some needles, and I think that was it. Pfaff didn’t bother with the little accessory bag, opting instead for a resealable plastic one. No big problem in my book as everything gets dumped into the little compartment anyway! Speaking of, theirs is really surprisingly big and roomy, and they haven’t wasted the space at the back either, giving you a tiny little lidded compartment behind the free arm. I really, really like this, as I’d always considered that bit wasted space on other models. Obviously it has a free arm (I don’t think any of them don’t!), and it does have a speed control.
Accessibility: This machine is pretty good. It has raised buttons for everything. The start and reverse buttons are really clear, and located within easy reach on the front of the machine. The other buttons, keypad, tie off etc, are higher up. they are raised, but slightly less prominent. This didn’t bother me at all, but may some, for example diabetics with less sensation in their fingers. The buttons were small. Everything beeps when it is triggered, but the beep is a small pip rather than a big, positive one. Again, it wasn’t a problem on this end, and I like it because it’s discrete, but for an older person with hearing problems it may be an issue. Setting the stitch width and length is also easy, although it’s worth remembering that the first time you press a directional button, it beeps, but doesn’t log the press. I suspect this is because the machine is making sure you actually want to move the width and length before it messes up your current settings. If you alter a value then decide a few seconds later you want to change it again, you will need to do that initial press before anything happens. I’ve found that the easiest way to know if things are being logged is to place a finger on the needle shaft and feel when it starts to move in response to my presses.
The Passport has a tie off function which is prominently located and easy to find. I use this a lot, as tying off is a nightmare for me. It also has built in thread snips so anyone who struggles to cut it won’t have to worry any more. Needle threading is more tricky than on other models, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult. I’d suggest that you would need a reasonable level of dexterity to do it easily, as you need to guide the thread through some pretty small hooks. Over all, it’s an accessible machine with some minor faults which happily don’t impact me, but may for others.
Neat features: This baby has loads of them! It has automatic button holes which are awesome. It has a little tucked away stitch guide which makes its home inside the front of the machine, so there’s no extra bulk to carry! Obviously the IDT (built in walking foot) is unique to Pfaff, and is really the major selling point for me as it enables me to quilt much more accurately, and using the normal feet I already have, without worrying about a big, bulky, squeaky walking foot. It has adjustable foot tension. I’ll not lie. I’ve never used this because I’m too scared to mess with it, but others have and they rave about it, as it enables you to sew heavy and lightweight fabrics with ease.
Automatic thread cutting: This deserves a category all of its own because it is soooooooo amazing! you buy a sewing machine. It has a thread cutter on the side. You think, that’s just fine. Cutting thread only takes a minute. Then you use it. you quilt loads of little lines. You end up with nice, close threads on the end, but big dangling tails at the start of each new line. You wonder idally about the amount of thread you waste doing this. But hey, everyone does it. Then you curse as you accidentally sew those tails into your next line of stitching. But hey, it’s a sewist’s curse… Then you use a machine which has automatic thread snips. You reach the end of a line. You press a button. The machine makes a very satisfyingly mechanical, industrial sort of whirring and clunking (yep, I know I’m wierd, but this kind of thing does bring me happiness!). Suddenly, no more thread. You start your next line. Because there’s only a tiny bit hanging out of the needle, you get no hanging tails anywhere on the work. “Nice,” you think to yourself, “But a bit of a luxury. I like it, but I don’t need it.” Then you go back to your other sewing machine that has no snips. You start to sew. You sew tails into your work. You get tails caught up in the feed dogs, making wrinkles in the work where there shouldn’t be wrinkles. You get tangles. You echo quilt off a bit of thread that got accidentally sewed in, rather than the actual stitched line. You curse yourself, the project, the machine, the world, the universe in general, and you vow never, ever, ever again to use a machine that doesn’t have snips in it… Ever! As long as you both shall live! And that won’t be long if you have to use a machine without snips, because you’re so cross that he’s gonna get it! Even if he’s just opened the door of the sewing room to offer you a cuppa… Ahem, no, I am not speaking from personal experience there… Honest!
In a nutshell: I love the Pfaff Passport 3, and can’t recommend it highly enough. It has some little niggles like my thread guide not holding well, the lack of supply of a quarter inch foot on a machine that is geared for quilters, and the slightly limited accessories in the foot department in general, but the thread snips, the IDT and all the other cracking features more than make up for that! If you have something in the region of £550 and want a really solid machine that will withstand going to and from classes with you without breaking your back, but will still let you explore your projects at home, then it will be money well spent if you put it on the Passport 3. I couldn’t be without mine now! I actually want a bigger model so I can sew larger things!
Now to the show off bit! Here are some makes that were done completely on the Passport 3. The hold all was a bit tricky to get through at the end due to its bulk, but not impossible. As you can hopefully see, the Passport does some beautiful stitching, and the finished quality is really good.
I’ve also done an unboxing video on Youtube.
Apparently, unboxing is all the rage now. I wouldn’t know. I’m not hip, but my hip designer told me to do it, so I hear and obey! I’ll be doing an actual sewing video with it as soon as said designer has a minute to help me film it, so again, watch this space!