Thank you all for your kind words. There's a saying "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." Well, he had a good laugh on my account. When I showed up to the table shop with my Bernina for a final fitting and adjustment, to everyone's surprise the machine didn't fit the table cut out at all. The technician took my measurements in metric, converted them to American, determined that this was exactly the same as a Singer 20U, and cut the hole. Just as I started to say "how could you do that!!" .. the very upset technician blurted out that the Bernina 850 wasn't a true "commercial machine", but a home machine that was tricked out with a few commercial features. Look here, it doesn't even fit a standard commercial hole. My head was reeling.. a standard commercial hole?
The real business end of any machine is the needle, and the 850's needle size range is limited to light threads normally used in home sewing. If someday I wanted to make purses, the 850 might or might not be up to the task. Lo and behold, the shop did have a Singer 20U33 in good shape. So I negotiated a trade up on the spot.
The Singer 20U is a commercial artisan machine. It does only straight stitch and zig-zag in a most straight forward manner. None of the fancy cams internal to the Bernina. No large collection of presser feet. Equipped with a 3/4hp servo motor, The Singer 20U can pound through many layers of shoe leather. It can take industrial needles from size 10 (closest to home needles) to size 19 (I can make my own footballs size with V92 thread, oh joy). I haven't figure out the max stitch length or width yet, but I can do 2,500 stitches per minute. 2500SPM scared the crap out of me when I tried it! One extremely interesting aspect of this machine.. it does free form embroidery stitches.
The machine has two knee lifts. One lift is for the presser foot. I'm told that once you start sewing with a presser foot knee lift, you're finished for life with the lift bar. The second knee lift controls the zig-zag width and is normally used with a lever that controls the length. The technician told me that skilled operators can stitch flowers, symbols, lettering, and layers of stitches to form almost 3D sculpture on the fabric. If you've ever played an organ after a lifetime of piano lessons, you know it is a completely different skill set because you play keys with your feet. This might have possibilities!
I left home with a Bernina, and came home with a Singer. At least I am still true to my blog name. I might not be able to work on the robe for a few days. I have to move all my stuff out of a self-storage unit back into my house by Saturday. When I put my house up for sale, the broker told me I lived in too much clutter. So I moved my clutter to a storage unit. In six months, only 3 people looked at the house for 10 minutes and never called back. The house is off the market and my clutter is coming home.
One last surprise. The only part of the Cabaret Robe I sewed was the belt. I emailed pictures to the costume designer. About 2 weeks later she called me in a panic. The belt wasn't a belt. It was supposed to be a hem on the front edge of the robe. I think I have about 6 feet of seam ripping to do, very patiently too.