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Monday, 4 March 2013

Pfaff Ambition 1.5 Review... Teething problems?


It's here!! My new toy; The Pfaff Ambition 1.5. I brought it from GUR Sewing Machines, and look at all the free goodies! Because of annoying work getting in the way I only managed to steal a few minutes here are there before toddling off in the evenings (I've been on nights).

Now I have to say I do love it now.... but there were a few moments it nearly found itself flying through the window and I was seriously regretting spending £660 on a make I had never used before.

You would expect even the cheapest of sewing machines to be able to sew a straight line so I went straight to trying out the fancy decorative stitches. And all I got was a knotted mess on the back of the fabric.


I could not work out why it was doing this!! It couldn't even manage a straight stitch without creating uneven stitches and screwing the fabric up. The obvious issue seemed to be the tension but no matter what I tried I couldn't crack it. The manual troubleshooting pages recommended re-threading the machine which I swear I must have tried a hundred times which made no difference. I have heard that newer machines can be a bit picky with the quality of thread used. Admittedly, the back thread was a cheapy I brought of eBay but never have had a problem with before (and having just brought my second spool of 1000m was really hoping this was not the issue) so changed to some white cotton I may have 'borrowed' from mum. It made a small difference but certainly wasn't a cure. I then tried re-threading the bobbin as the ones I was using were wound by the Elna. Again this made a small difference but nothing spectacular...

Then I got really annoyed with it and asked the engineer to look at it (Scott that is!). Now here comes a bit of role reversal.... He had never used/fixed a sewing machine before so, very unlike a man, he read the instructions.... Although I had flicked through them I hadn't read in depth because I thought I knew what I was doing (HAHA). Turns out it was the threading after all... I had put the thread through the machine fine but had not put the spool cap on... I never needed to with the Elna and the fact that the thread bounced about didn't make a difference... apparently on this one it DOES!


So hurrah! I can now sew a straight line... Excellent. But...

Going back to the decorative stitches, they were now sewing well but the thread kept randomly snapping, even sewing really slowly didn't help. The only thing I didn't change was the fabrics; basically the only fabrics I use are cottons or polycottons so if it wasn't going to like them it may as well have gone in the bin.


Then it hit me! I wonder if the needle needs to be changed? I am a bit of a slap dash sewer sometimes and quite rarely change the type of needle I use but this was the only thing left! So I swapped the one that came already on the machine with a Schmetz Universal 80/12 (what I am used to using on the Elna) and all my problems seem to be solved! 

This still baffles me slightly though, why put a crappy cheap needle in a machine? The first thing you do out of the box is test it, they must get so many people wanting to return them because it's not working well - and the problem is so easily rectified!



Even with the lower quality thread it was sewing with ease! YAY! It only took me 2 days but I was finally at a point to try and make something with it! 

The only one thing I am still not sure of is when you first turn it on and go to sew it seems to jam, make a funny noise then carry on... On inspection of the seam it sews perfectly well so I wonder if this is it just calibrating itself. It only ever does it on the first use after turning it on.... I dunno!

I was still a little dubious about putting my quilt though it so I decided to make a bag (convenient as we were going to a wedding do that evening and needed something to go with my outfit).

No I didn't make the applique haha I stole that off a top I was throwing out.


Ok so it's not my best work but I rushed it as I wanted it that evening. Also, that shiny dress fabric is a absolute bitch to work with. It was leftover from my prom dress, how I managed to make a whole dress out of it who knows!!

Yes that's me in the black and pink dress and the peroxide hair!
But anyway, back to the machine... It sewed the bag with no problem at all! With the cheap thread too which made me very happy!

I have literally one played with it (in full working order) for only a day or two so it is really difficult to pass full judgement yet. I am very much a creature of habit and I was very used to everything about the Elna... So I am still very much getting used to the Pfaff.

So far:
  • The automatic needle threader takes a bit of getting used to. It's not as accurate as the Elna (but that might just be me) and it's not spring loaded. With the Elna you could just pull it down, put the thread in place then just let go and it would thread it for you. The Pfaff is a little more tricky as you are meant to twist the thread slightly differently which I find tricky. Again something I will get used to!
  • Automatic tie-off function... JUST FAB! It really is. The Elna had a tie off button but is a little bit unpredictable  I would press the button at the beginning of a seam but it wouldn't repeat stitch until an inch into the seam. The Pfaff it so efficient at it. It automatically ties off at the beginning and (once i found the correct button) at the end of the too! 
  • Start/Stop button - so you don't have to use the pedal if you don't want to. I never even knew this was an option with many machines but it appears to be very useful! Specially when sewing intricate stitches that take a long time (and your leg goes numb from being in the same position). I quess it's main use is for people who do a lot of machine embroidery.
  • IDT (Integrated Dual Feed) is very good for even feeding of fabric, particularly when layers slip off each other easily (like with the bag).
  • The bobbin alarm is VERY useful! I read one some reviews that it was annoying because once it alarmed it didn't let you continue (e.g. if you only ave a short distance left) but mine does so maybe there's been a software update? I hate it when you get to the end of a seam and realise you have only sewn half of it.Very useful feature!
  • The choice of stitches is vast. Many I will probably never use but at least I have the option! 
  • To add to the versatility of the machine, you can pick a stitch and change it's width and height to fit exactly what you want from it... and does it well too! Looking at the inside picture of the bag I made, I used stitch 140 but made it thinner so it worked for sewing the pocket on. It's lovely!
  • Having a touch screen worried me too as I want the machine to last a LONG time and thought this may be a weakness of the machine. It's actually really well made, not like the cheap screens you see in most phones. You are meant to use a stylus but I also find it picks up fine using the nail on my little finger. The only thing is it's quite compact so it's easy to hit the wrong thing but you quickly get used to it!
  • Another HUGE benefit of having a big screen is it tells you absolutely everything. This isn't the best picture as it only shows a few things. On complicated stitches it tells you which foot to use, whether the IDT needs to be engaged, type of needle to use (only for really specialised stitches though), recommended tension setting and if the fabric needs stabilising. 
  • You can also sequence different stitches and letters to make a combination of whatever you want. 
  • The is a large work area towards the right of the needle which is really useful for bigger projects.
  • Not that I have tried it yet, but it is meant to be VERY good for free motion sewing. This is one of the main reasons I brought it. I am sure I will be blogging about my attempts!
  • Finally, it lights up like a christmas tree!! It's super bright and a really clear light rather than being quite yellowy which the Elna is (in comparison anyway - not sure I noticed before getting the Pfaff).

I have blabbed enough now, time to use this beast! xx

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for this review, very helpful, sounds like a great machine!

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  2. Thanks for the review! That was very helpful!I am trying to decide weather to buy Ambition 1.5 or Expression series....

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  3. Thanks for the review - just thinking of getting this or the 1.0. Do you ever have problems sewing heavy fabrics, like denim?

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    1. To be honest I haven't really used it with anything like denim etc yet. At the moment I tend to mainly use quilting cottons. Having said that, I have made a few purses with it which when finishing I have to sew through several layers including interfacing. It didn't struggle at all, I'm sure you wouldn't have too much trouble!

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  4. OK, thanks! I'm caught between the Ambition and a Juki. Hard choices!

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  5. Am really struggling to decide between the Ambition 1.o & the 1.5 so I'm glad I stumbled across your review because I wasn't quite sure about the touchscreen & was weighing up whether I was prepared to pay extra for the bobbin sensor.. thank you for posting this:)

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  6. Hello, I wonder if you still going the same when you start to sew. You've found the solution? It is exactly the same. Greetings from Spain.

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  7. I am also interested in the jamming sound and hesitation the Ambition 1.5 makes at initial start-up after turning on the machine. I just got my machine two days ago and find this disturbing. After the initial start, everything is smooth until the machine is turned off and on again. Is this a flaw in the machine? Wondering if I need to contact my dealer.

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    1. HI Karla,
      I believe that it calibrates the needle on start up every time you turn the machine, mine still does it now, never causes a problem. I assume it is to do with the various needle positions the machine has! Don't worry about it! Over a year on and I really love my machine, would definitely recommend it!

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    2. Thank you! I notice that it does calibrate the needle on start-up. So that is the source of the "jamming" type sound the first time it starts to stitch after being turned on? Good to know it hasn't affected the overall function of the machine. I am just beginning to try out the features and stitches, The one step buttonhole worked great!

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  8. Hi I stumbled across this blog while troubleshooting.... I also have this machine and it seems I frequently get jams where the top needle creates a jumbled mess of thread under the bobbin plate after only a few stitches...the needle freezes and I get a message that tells me the motor is overloaded. Do you ever experience that or know what it might be? Aside from that I also love this machine!

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    1. Apart from the initial issues I had when first getting used to the machine which I have talked about in this blog post, the only other time I tend to get this problem is if there is some stray thread in the bobbin case (sometimes this happens if the cotton breaks and it gets caught in the bottom without me realising). Otherwise maybe a tension problem with the bobbin when its wound on? I am not too sure to be honest, like a say i rarely have this problem! Ill be interested to know if you get to the bottom of it! xx

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