I’ve been sewing for all but 7 years of my life! (A long, long time.) Sewing is just part of who I am. If you are reading this Blog, you probably have the sewing bug, too. My first machine was given to me by a Mr. Clause, on a Christmas morning, when I was eight years old. It is (I still have it) a hand-cranked toy Singer sewing machine, about the size of a small toaster oven. I started my sewing career making doll clothes. My seams were all on the outside of the garments, but I thought they were just beautiful. My precious Mother sewed most of my clothes as far back as I can remember. When I came home from school there would be a pretty new dress and/or petticoat spread out across my bed. It is such a great memory. I started taking sewing classes as soon as I was old enough. I told you all of this because I want you to know that I have lived through many phases of sewing machines — good and bad. This brings me to my main subject . . . .
ALL MACHINES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
“What to Look for in a Sewing Machine”. Trust me, they are not all created equal.There are some features that will cause you to love or hate sewing. For that reason alone, it is so worth purchasing a machine that will make sewing fun and uncomplicated for you, since I am almost sure you will want to enjoy your time spent at the machine. I want to help you find just the right one. There was a time, early in my career, when I loved sewing but hated to sew. Yes, you read that correctly. It may not make any sense to you, but I will explain. “In the good ole days . . . “ today’s features and machine accessories were not available and instead of working smart without wasting time, there was usually a hassle while working on some of the details on the machine. I either chose the wrong machine, didn’t know how to use the features on the machine, or didn’t have the features that I needed to make the experience enjoyable. So, let’s get started with what features I recommend that you will truly love me for and won’t want to live without ever again.
- First of all, you want a machine that exceeds your abilities. Stay with me. I have purchased many machines, refusing certain features that I just knew I would never need or use. Big mistake! When you buy a machine you will totally enjoy sewing when you have the features that make sewing fast, easy and professional looking. (I like the term custom made, or hand made, not home made.)
- A variety of attachments – for many of us who have been sewing for a while, sewing was more work than play. Even if we were doing it for fun it could become very stressful – not a feature! It wasn’t because we could do it, but because we either didn’t have one of the fantastic presser feet or attachments available today, or simply because we didn’t know how to use them and never took them out of our accessory box.
- Take, for instance, a little presser foot called an “Edge Stitch Foot”. If you have ever tried to top-stitch, or stitch along the edge of anything and keep it straight or in the right place, you know what I’m talking about! I sew for a living and I can truthfully tell you that I use this foot almost every day.
- Automatic Needle Threader – I don’t know how I ever got along without this feature. I would just love to hug the person who invented it! It saves so much time – no tweezers – no magnifying glasses – not all those “hits and misses” with your thread.
- Automatic Tension – First of all, you don’t have to think about changing the tension or constantly checking it. It just does what it is supposed to, without your help. Hallelujah!
- Good Lighting – Seems like no matter how many lamps I have I don’t have enough. The better the lighting on your machine, the easier on your eyes. (Small Light Product and Magnifier)
- Needle Up – Needle Down – This is another one of those features that deserves a hug for somebody. This feature can keep you from murmuring! You can select the option of having your need stop up (out of the fabric) or down (in the fabric). It may not seem like such a big deal, but it is. It keeps your fabric stable when you stop and pivot (corners) or when you have to raise the presser foot to adjust your fabric, just to name a couple of reasons to have it.
- Automatic Buttonholes – I don’t know anybody who likes doing buttonholes. But, I can tell you truthfully that I don’t mind it anymore now that I can do them automatically. Another frustration by the wayside.
- Drop In Bobbin – vs. Front Loading – I have used many, many machines. The drop in bobbin is soooooo much easier to use than the front loading bobbin for so many reasons. Take a look at why:
- If your machine is in a cabinet, you don’t have to remove the drop in cover and/or raise the machine out of the cabinet – what nuisance!
- You don’t have to be a contortionist to see where the bobbin goes or to get your face up in the machine to see where the bobbin goes.
- It is easier to put in and take out due to ease of reach.
- Free Arm – This feature is especially useful when hemming pants and sleeve cuffs and sewing on patches in tight places. It’ also very helpful when sewing or mending inside sleeves and pants legs.
- Reverse lever – This feature is for sewing backwards – you aren’t seeing things! Many times when a stitch needs reinforcement you will want to sew back and forth for extra hold. I also use this feature for sewing over heavy seams (like blue jeans).
- Drop feed dog – This feature is especially helpful if you do any free hand stippling, or sew on buttons.
- Superior feed system – superior feeding of your fabric as you sew. This feature will help you create beautifully unwrinkled seams when sewing on several layers of fabrics, when sewing on slippery fabric or any other fabric that tends to come out uneven when sewing. It feeds the fabric in a way that the top and the bottom stay together. Some call it differential feed
- Adjustable pressure setting – The pressure dial allows you to select the amount of pressure applied to your fabric. It is helpful for adjusting the presser foot to hold the fabric tighter or not so tight if it is thick or if you want to do free motion quilting and cannot lower your feed dogs. Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eod9DHkSARs.
- Extra high presser foot lift – You will absolutely love this feature if you make quilts, totes, or hem jeans – anything where you need to fit something thick under your presser foot. You can damage your machine if you pull on your fabric to force it through a tight fitting presser foot. You can actually damage the timing among other things.
My point is this — sewing today is not what it used to be. That’s a good thing. Some people say that our grandmother’s would have a “hissy fit” if they saw that we were not sewing by hand anymore. I say — no way. My Grandma would have loved today’s new machines and all their bells and whistles. Somehow many people today think that something that is machine made does not have the same value as something handmade by Grandma. I will admit, I have some beautiful things that my Grandma Weaver made for me and I wouldn’t take anything for them. BUT, she would love, love, love to have some of the beautiful things I have created with my machine, just as much.
Products From this Article
The Sewing Machine Accessory Bible: Get the Most Out of Your Machine—From Using Basic Feet to Mastering Specialty Feet
Whether you are a beginner or seasoned seamstress you will find loads of information to help you get the most out of your sewing machine. It contains everything you would want to know about feet attachments, working with specialty fabrics and much more.
Anyone who owns a serger can tell you that it can be an intimidating little piece of equipment. If you’re just getting started with serging or would like to learn more then this is a great book to add to your sewing library. It’s an easy read, full of detail and plenty of photos. Great for a beginner.
Distinctive 1-4 (Quarter Inch) Quilting Sewing Machine Presser Foot with Edge Guide – Fits All Low Shank Snap-On … and More!
Create the perfect 1/4 inch seam every time. All you have to do is line up the edge of your fabric to the edge of your guide and voila! Perfect for quilters or projects that require a quarter inch seam.
Don’t underestimate the need for good lighting. Although most sewing machines come with a built-in light, you might still need an additional light source to illuminate the area and avoid eye strain.