Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Looking to buy a sewing machine?

Singer Machine Advert
To those who haven't entered the world of sewing machines, it might seem like a simple thing to choose one. It's not though, you only have to talk to anyone who owns and uses a machine and they will have a strong opinion about which machine is best - it is a very personal thing!

So where does that leave you when you haven't got a clue and don't know where to start? let me share with you some of my experiences with sewing machines and a little advice.

I am now on machine number 4, and the first I bought new. I learnt to sew on a New Home machine that belonged to my mum. It was heavy, metal and sewed like a dream. I was certainly spoilt! but it broke down and was never fixed. As an art student I used Bernina machines and was introduced to machine embroidery - still using a basic machine!

A Jones machine, just like the one I owned for 20 years
 When I went off to university my Mother-in-law bought me a Jones machine. It was second hand, flat bed, metal. with variable stitch length and width. It must have been 20 years old when I was given it and I had it for about 20 years. It served me well, but as I got back into sewing it finally gave up and I ended up borrowing a Toyota from a friend. It was rather clunky and made me realise that I needed a good machine. I set about looking for something and finally settled on a Janome CS1000.

My current machine
So what should you look for?
Well that depends on what you intend to use you machine for. If you want a machine for occasional light use then you will choose something different than if you are intending to sew regularly.
There is no point buying a computerised machine with 300 fancy stitches if all you want to do it take up a pair of curtains.
In my experience a good mechanical machine is a better investment than an electronic/ computerised one. Unless you want to create logos, and extensive borders a machine that has a few basic stitches is of more use - you'll just fine you don't use the features of the more complex machines.

Way too many stitches! when would you use all these?

Look for a machine that allows you to change the length and width of the stitches. If you do want extras look for those with stretch stitches for sewing knits and one step buttonhole functions.
Make sure the tension can be adjusted and check if the feed dog can be lowered to allow for free embroidery work.
Just don't go there!

As for quality - buy the best you can afford. If you have a very limited budget it might be worth buying second hand. Careful searching on eBay can lead to a good machine for less than £50 if you're lucky. If buying new, avoid the cheapest and unbranded machines. The play where I work had bought some of these - they are hideous, the stitch quality is poor, the parts of the machine are not very sturdy and if broken you can't get parts to replace them, so it's false economy. If you are in the UK a good place to start would be John Lewis. They have a range of cheaper machines from about £50 upwards and you should be able to get a good beginners machine for less than £180. It's also worth noting that the John Lewis' machines are made by a well know and sewing machine company and often come with 2 year warranty.

John Lewis Machine
Janome - similar?

Singer are a good company and I know many people that love their singer machines, especially older ones. My Mother-in-law had a Singer treadle until recently and loved it. Personally I've never got on with Singer machines, but there are so many other good brands there are plenty to choose from. It's worth having a look at Brother, Toyota, Pfaff, Husquavara, Elna.

Something a little more industrial

If you want to be sewing on a daily basis or handling heavier fabrics you might need to look at a sturdier machine, considering an industrial or semi industrial one.

The Bernina I want - indestructible?

When I bought my Janome 2 years ago I didn't realise how much sewing I would be doing. Don't get me wrong, it's a great little machine, but rather lightweight. The stitches occasionally snag and it is starting to get a little clunky. I have decided I need another machine, so I can keep my Janome as backup and also let my daughter use it, as it's so easy to thread and use. I'm on the hunt for a Bernina. They are sought after machines and not cheap, so I'm looking second hand. Early in my teaching career I taught textiles and the school had 4 Bernina machines. They were treated badly by the students, and it was then I learnt how to take the machine apart and put it back together again. and they would sew just as beautifully. to be honest you could throw them across the room and they'd still work (not that intend doing any of that).

What are your thoughts on machines?


  1. I never did get along with Singers either, I guess its just bad Singer karma. Even when I worked in a sewing factory, I always broke the Singers but the Brothers worked fine. I love Brother industrials BTW. If I could get hubby to wire the house for 3 phase I would probably have one.
    Until then, I love my elna circa 1978...

    1. I'd love an industrial, but both the wiring and space needed are the issues - maybe when my hubby sells the car in the garage I can convert and have a studio... I've never used an Elna, but know many who have. which model are you using?


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