Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Talking Sewing Machines

Margaret Mary, Therese, and I had recently discussed the topic of what to look for in a basic sewing machine; a Ravelry group (log in required) is also exploring the topic.

Margaret Mary is the most experienced seamstress of all of us Church Ladies. Below follows her advice, which I am sharing in her (extremely busy) stead.

I've owned 2 machines; a Singer I bought in college (fairly basic, steel body, a few decorative stitches, all mechanical - no computerized features, automatic buttonhole attachment), and a Viking/Husqvarna I got about 15 years ago (more decorative stitches and auto buttonholes, computerized features, I can get tons of add-ons and bought a foot that does quilting through multiple layers).

I've sewn miles of fabric, literally, and would feel perfectly comfortable with a machine that had only the following features:
  • Stitches - straight stitch (obviously), zig-zag, and running zig-zag for knits. Everything else is extra. I use my decorative stitches on little girl dresses, etc. But none of them are on the essentials list.
  • Buttonholes - The most basic machines have buttonhole features that will make the stitches but not stop automatically at a certain length. This is workable, but not nearly as convenient as a machine that will automatically make ten identical 16 centimeter buttonholes on the front of your blouse. If there's a choice, go with something that does buttonholes automatically.
  • Construction - It is almost impossible to find a metal sewing machine anymore. This was a big surprise to me when I was shopping, but C' est la Vie. I used to like using my magnetic seam gauge and pincushion stuck on the machine, but I'm not so old that I can't adapt.
  • Computerized - again, not essential, but easy to use. When my old, mechanical one was not working quite right, my husband or I could take it apart to various degrees and make it better. That's not as possible with the new one.
  • Case - get a case for storage unless you have a dedicated table for the thing or never plan to use it away from home. It's likely the case will not be included in the price of your machine.
  • Find out where you can have it serviced. You'll want it to be someplace local and fairly convenient. Repairs on any model are outrageously priced, so look into a warranty of some kind, but don't overpay for one. Really, unless you get a lemon, machines need few repairs. I had to replace a presser foot on my Singer and the arm that lifts my Viking broke once. Those are the only repairs I've ever had in a lot of years, but the prices are ridiculous.
What about you? What do you like about your machine? Do you have a great story about how you acquired it?
Image source


Anna said...

I've been reading this blog for about a month now, and this is my first comment! It's perfect timing because I was sewing a dress for myself earlier today.

I won my Janome machine in a drawing during the Project Linus Make-a-Blanket day. It's a Janome 3050, and I absolutely love it! It's computerized, has 50 built in stitches, a bobbin winder, automatic threader(I think...I kinda forgot about that earlier today and just thread the needle myself), and several other convenient features. It runs like a dream!

Yes, plastic machines might not be as durable as metal machines, but they are far more portable! Especially when you're in a small house or apartment, it's nice to be able to set up and take down your sewing machine quickly. My mom's old Singer machine was rarely moved because it was such a pain to put it away.

The Road Scholar said...

I inherited a Kenmore Model 1974 from my mother-in-law who had purchased the machine for my sister-in-law to use during high school home economics classes. It was never used beyond that. The man who tuned it said, "Don't ever get rid of this machine. They don't make 'em like that anymore." It is a workhorse!
I also have very basic Janome serger too, that I can't live without.

berenike said...

I have a Singer from about 1937, and I love it. It appears to be able to do all sorts of ruffles and what not, for some of which I have the attachments, but I've never tried them!. If I were to use it more, I would hunt down a treadle table. I should admit that I only ever use it for seams and hems using a straight stitch. It's so beautiful, smells wonderful, and weighs a ton ...

Daniela said...

I was fortunate enough to find the last all metal model made by Bernina one day while browsing in a local sewing store. It was top of the line at the time of manufacture (1996). I got a great price, and while it may be archaic by present day standards in terms of its capabilities, for me the heavy metal structure (feels like a real machine) outweighs its deficits and I'll just pretend it's 1996!!