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kaitie
09-12-2012, 11:06 PM
Hey guys! I just came into a bit of fun money, and I want to buy a sewing machine. Problem is, it's so hard these days to figure out which ones would be best to buy. I thought I'd see if anyone has advice/experience with them.

I've read a ton of reviews, and it seems like every machine has good points/bad points (obviously). I know what I'd like: manual, no computerized display, I don't need a billion stitches, I'd like a drop-in bobbin and a one-step button-holer if possible, and I need something heavy-duty that can handle thick fabrics and rick-rack and things of that nature.

I'd seen a Janome Magnolia recommended, but the Consumer Reports page on it is less than impressive. I used to have a Singer, which was great and those lasted forever, but I've heard that in recent years they're not made as well and have a lot of problems. It seems that Janome is recommended as the new go-to, last a lifetime machine. I've also heard good things about Brother, but I've heard just as many bad things, so I'm iffy on that.

The other day I found a Husqvarna Viking 116 on sale for $299 (and I can get it down a little less, even), and that one looks good, can handle heavy-duty, and seems to have the features I want. Thing is, I've also seen that one mentioned as being weak on button holes.

Sooo long post to say this is what I'm looking at. Has anyone had experience with these machines, or have one they'd recommend (or not recommend)? I'm really hoping to get something that will last me years and be a good, dependable machine.

Filigree
09-13-2012, 04:39 AM
I have an ancient Elna 2006, pre-computer, that has served me well for costuming and fiber arts for 14 years. If I ever come into serious money I'm getting one of the programmable embroidery machines, so I can import my own text and designs.

Whatever you buy, make certain there is an authorized repair facility within reasonable driving distance. Proximity pays for itself, believe me, especially when you rely on the sewing machine for part of your income.

Devil Ledbetter
09-13-2012, 05:40 AM
The other day I found a Husqvarna Viking 116 on sale for $299 (and I can get it down a little less, even), and that one looks good, can handle heavy-duty, and seems to have the features I want. Thing is, I've also seen that one mentioned as being weak on button holes.

Sooo long post to say this is what I'm looking at. Has anyone had experience with these machines, or have one they'd recommend (or not recommend)? I'm really hoping to get something that will last me years and be a good, dependable machine.I have a Husqvarna Viking 415 "Freesia" and I love it. My sister and mom both have Husqvarnas and swear by them. I got mine maybe 10 years ago and have never had a problem with it. I'm not sewing a lot these days, and I'm not particularly good at it, yet I've managed not to mess it up, and can always figure out how to do stuff on it.

My teenager is now teaching herself to sew on it.

Al Stevens
09-13-2012, 05:54 AM
My wife still uses the Bernina she got for Christmas in the 1970s. Built like a tank. She has a newer one too with the screen, memory stick, and attachments, but the old dog keeps on working. Its 30-year warranty finally expired a few years back. If you can find a used one in working order, they can't be beat. I see them on ebay for about $200.

Judy sews a lot. The Bernina got quite a workout over the years, and other than for routine maintenance, it was never in the shop.

kaitie
09-13-2012, 06:50 AM
I know several of the ones I'm looking at have a 20+ year warranty, so that's a good thing, but I hadn't thought about authorized repair shops. I have a sewing machine repair place down the road from my house, but I'll check and see what brands they can work on. Hadn't thought of that!

I'm glad someone else has had good experience with the Husqvarna's, too. That's the one I'm most leaning toward right now. I'll have to see what the buttonholes look like, but it seems like a good machine, and right now it's on sale for $150 off.

I'll check out the Berninas. I haven't used one before so I hadn't thought to look into them. Thanks for the tips so far, guys.

ETA: Okay, whoa. Bernina is a little bit out of my price range.

Kitty Pryde
09-13-2012, 07:02 AM
I have A Husky Viking 116 that's about 5 years old. I love it! It's tough enough to sew many layers of denim. I borrowed my school's fancy Singer sewing machine for my sewing class and I was appalled by how puny it was! Lots of fancy stitches, but couldn't sew some little girls's purses together! I'd recommend the Husky for general sewing and heavy craft stuff. Haven't used it for buttonholes. It sounds like it would meet your requirements. I haven't had any maintenance problems that I couldn't solve by untangling/dusting it/deep cleansing breaths/cocktails.

Shakesbear
09-13-2012, 10:37 AM
I do a lot of sewing - I trained to teach food and textiles, but specialised in textiles. Most, if not all, of my knowledge comes from owning a Singer 201K and a 30+ year old Elna and teaching textiles. For wear and tear a Bernina is amazing. The models in schools were easy to use and also easy to maintain. Elnas are good, excellent, brilliant machines. Both Elna and Bernina make good stitches - that is they look good, have good tension and the embroidery stitches on the pre-computer age ones are effective but not fussy. I've taught in two classes in the last five years that had Janome. In both classes at any time 30-50% of the machines were out of order for various reasons. I wouldn't have a Janome in my house! Singer - well, some people would tell you that the last good machine they made was the 201K - mine is about 55 years old and would need a good service to get it working again. I am not sure about modern Singers.

Before you buy a machine you might want to consider how much it weighs - so would you be able to life it easily - not just on its' own but in a case. Look at the way it is designed - can you get a sleeve at the cuff end round the arm with ease? What type of bobbin does it use and are they easily obtainable? A friend recently obtained a second hand machine and found the that universal bobbins did not work very well - basically they screwed up the tension. When she had the machine sewing you could hear the bobbin bouncing about! Always try out a machine, especially second hand, before committing yourself. Someone I was at college with managed to get an ex-dem one for half price - it came with loads of attachments and all the instruction manuals. Which leads onto instruction manuals - if you are buying second hand ask if the instruction manuals come with the machine - if you really want the machine and the manuals are not included check online to see if you can get them from another source.

One last thing . . . some time ago a friend phoned me to ask if I could come and look at her machine as it would not work. I went over, we had lunch and I looked at the machine. I know this will sound odd - but it smelt. I had a strange thought and asked if she had oiled it recently - she told me she always oiled it after she had used it. I asked to see the oil. She produced a a bottle of peanut oil. I was not there when she took it to be serviced and have the oil cleaned out . . . seems that the stuff had thickened and glued the machine up!

kaitie
09-13-2012, 09:27 PM
Omg, I can't imagine peanut oil in a machine. Eep! I always used a Singer, so that was my first thought before I heard that the new ones aren't as well made. Apparently, Husqvarna bought out Singer this year, and the ones that are being made now are apparently better, but I don't want to take my chances. The ones I saw looked weak, if that makes sense. Not as well constructed?

As for weight, the one I've been looking most closely at is about 16 pounds, which isn't bad for me. I can lug that around without any problem, but I tend to just set it up and not need to carry it around very much, so that shouldn't be a problem. The sleeve cuff is important, though. I'll look into that for sure. The one I use now has a piece that comes off so you can work small circles easily.

Devil Ledbetter
09-13-2012, 09:28 PM
I haven't had any maintenance problems that I couldn't solve by untangling/dusting it/deep cleansing breaths/cocktails.This is what I meant by "I've managed not to mess it up.":tongue

Alessandra Kelley
09-13-2012, 09:59 PM
Some day I hope to get a better machine, and for that this thread is big help.

At the moment I have a Kenmore (Sears brand) second-from-the-bottom-o-the-line mechanical sewing machine. It cost about $100 seven or eight years ago, is purely mechanical, does straight and zizag and reverse only. It's lightweight, sturdy, and simple to use.

I'd love a buttonhole feature and more control over the pedal at slow speeds for bobbin winding. But for basic mechanical needs with very little maintenance and no computer to go haywire, it does very well.

I've sewn leather, denim, taffeta, silk habutai, and cotton lawn with it. It's not very good with stretch knits. When I was mostly sewing historical reproduction garments that was less of a problem.

I did have a problem once with a bent needle impaling the presser plate and causing a snag which kept cutting the thread. I had to disassemble the machine and file it down. This, however, was a pretty extraordinary circumstance.

On the whole, it's been a really good basic machine, much better than anything with the Singer name on it has been for years.

Shakesbear
09-13-2012, 10:26 PM
Lordy! this thread and made me think so much of college times! One event really springs to mind. Making my final garment I always sat opposite Sally. We got on well and had no problem helping each other out with problems. One day, making our final garments Sally hissed across to me to come and help her. I was very puzzled as she was crouched over the sewing machine. I thought she had got her hair caught in the sewing machine. She hadn't - she was so intent on holding the thin silk fabric steady as she machined pin tucks that she had not realized that she had her very long finger nails under the fabric - and they were stitched to the fabric. Now, that is a sewing machine to reckon with - the needle passed through her nails so smoothly that she did not realize it had happened until she took the fabric out from under the needle. She was crouched over the machine because she could not stop laughing! She needed help because the needle had,in places, gone through two nails as she was using both hands to steady the fabric. I also laughed as I carefully unpicked the stitches. But, as I have already said - what a machine! I can still see her looking at her perforated nails.

VanessaNorth
09-15-2012, 04:45 PM
Lordy! this thread and made me think so much of college times! One event really springs to mind. Making my final garment I always sat opposite Sally. We got on well and had no problem helping each other out with problems. One day, making our final garments Sally hissed across to me to come and help her. I was very puzzled as she was crouched over the sewing machine. I thought she had got her hair caught in the sewing machine. She hadn't - she was so intent on holding the thin silk fabric steady as she machined pin tucks that she had not realized that she had her very long finger nails under the fabric - and they were stitched to the fabric. Now, that is a sewing machine to reckon with - the needle passed through her nails so smoothly that she did not realize it had happened until she took the fabric out from under the needle. She was crouched over the machine because she could not stop laughing! She needed help because the needle had,in places, gone through two nails as she was using both hands to steady the fabric. I also laughed as I carefully unpicked the stitches. But, as I have already said - what a machine! I can still see her looking at her perforated nails.

Oh goodness. This reminded me of that time i ran my thumbnail under while doing something similar. Unfortunately, my nails aren't very long, and i pierced all the way through the tip of my thumb.

You might say i noticed.

I sew with a brother these days, and its good and steady and reliable, but not really a workhorse.

kaitie
09-15-2012, 06:14 PM
The lady at the store told me that she was doing a class once and there is a little plastic piece they use under the feet for thick hems, like jeans and such, and the person accidentally ran the plastic piece under the needle and it actually sewed through it instead of breaking the needle. I thought that was hilarious. Fingernails = more hilarious, though. ;)

Alessandra Kelley
09-15-2012, 06:16 PM
:eek:

(Sits carefully on hands)

MaryMumsy
09-15-2012, 09:38 PM
I have no advice for a specific machine. I'm still using a Singer I bought in 1968. But, before you buy anything, make them let you actually change the bobbin. The bobbin has been the bane of my existence for all these years. It is down a 'rabbit hole' that my small fingers barely fit in, and it only snaps into place in one specific angle. If you are off by a millionth of an inch, it pops right back out. It was obviously designed by a man who never used a sewing machine.

MM

Maryn
09-15-2012, 10:14 PM
My previous machine's bobbin was the same way, Mary! Miss that angle by a millimeter and you could just forget putting in that bobbin.

I'm still using a Kenmore I bought in 1974. It was once that strange yellow-tinged beige plastic, like early computers, but some parts have gotten more yellow and others have faded, so it's now color-blocked like a 1920s Braque.

But it still stitches well. Its buttonholes are not great and never were, and it doesn't serge or have a gathering foot. Maybe I'm due for a new one? This thread gives me ideas.

Maryn, who has more sewing success than writing

kaitie
09-15-2012, 11:44 PM
:eek:

(Sits carefully on hands)

I sewed my finger once. It didn't actually hurt as much as you'd think. I was more concerned with bleeding on the white dress I was making. :tongue

Al Stevens
09-16-2012, 12:32 AM
My wife still uses the Bernina she got for Christmas in the 1970s. Built like a tank. She has a newer one too with the screen, memory stick, and attachments, but the old dog [the machine, not my wife!] keeps on working. Its 30-year warranty finally expired a few years back. She corrected me. It has a 40-year parts and labor warranty, which is still in effect.

Filigree
09-16-2012, 01:51 AM
My Mom once put a needle through her finger while sewing on her old Singer. She had to yell for me to come in with the big wire-cutters. Not a pleasant sight, but we managed with no more damage to her or the machine.

I spent a few bucks some time back and bought the service manual for my Elna. I can take it apart and do minor maintenance on it. But I'm a convert to the once-a-year trip to an approved maintenance facility. It's only $70, their guy is a freakin' genius, and he makes the old machine run like new. The Elna brings me a minimum of $700 a year from contract sewing jobs, so I owe it the love.

kuwisdelu
09-16-2012, 04:34 AM
I have a sewing machine I don't know how to use and I've been considering trying to learn, but after listening to you guys, I think I'll learn something safer. Like lion taming.

Maryn
09-16-2012, 05:03 AM
See, if you lived in my town I'd teach you. Sewing is easy. Making stuff fit, that's hard--but that's tailoring, not sewing. If I can sew at age ten, I think a simple PhD student could probably manage. ;)

Maryn, who can find you tutorials

kuwisdelu
09-16-2012, 05:15 AM
See, if you lived in my town I'd teach you. Sewing is easy. Making stuff fit, that's hard--but that's tailoring, not sewing. If I can sew at age ten, I think a simple PhD student could probably manage. ;)

Maryn, who can find you tutorials

There are a few females around here who have offered to help teach me.

It's easier to find a sewing partner than a romance.

Finding the time remains a killer.

But now I'm seriously scared of maiming myself. The cosplay club hasn't asked me to sign a waiver like the kendo club did... yet...

Kitty Pryde
09-16-2012, 05:19 AM
When I was a kid, a friend's mom put a machine needle through her thumb. It got badly infected. By the time she went to the doctor, it was swollen to twice its size and looked like a revolting zombie thumb. The doctor said there was a fair chance she'd lose it, but luckily she didn't. The sight of that zombie thumb has served as a helpful warning for me when I took up sewing many years later! Keep your fingers off the foot, lest you be horribly zombie-thumbed!

kaitie
09-16-2012, 06:04 AM
There are a few females around here who have offered to help teach me.

It's easier to find a sewing partner than a romance.

Finding the time remains a killer.

But now I'm seriously scared of maiming myself. The cosplay club hasn't asked me to sign a waiver like the kendo club did... yet...

It's not that bad. :) You're more likely to stick yourself with a pin than maim yourself with a needle.

kuwisdelu
09-16-2012, 06:53 AM
It's not that bad. :) You're more likely to stick yourself with a pin than maim yourself with a needle.

Or that time I was dancing with a drill...

Shakesbear
09-16-2012, 01:47 PM
The only time you risk getting a needle through your finger is if you are doing free embroidery with out the foot attached. If you do get the needle through your finger go to the docs and get medical advice. However, if the - squeamish? don't read any further - needle breaks in your finger you MUST go to the local A and E. It helps the medical team if you take the remains of the needle that broke and a complete, unbroken one. The A and E will be able to treat the wound. It is RARE for people to get a needle in their finger when using a sewing machine unless they are really careless. Safety - do not plug the machine/turn it on in until it is threaded and you are ready to sew. This might sound all school teachery, but then that is what I am and this is what I taught.

Filigree
09-16-2012, 03:33 PM
It's rare, especially with the newer machines, so don't let it worry you. My Mom's injury didn't clip bone and healed with normal treatment. If it had touched bone, we would have been at the clinic that afternoon.

Sewing is a great skill for anyone. I didn't learn as early as Maryn, and I'm still advancing my tailoring skills, but basic sewing serves most of my needs.

Alessandra Kelley
09-16-2012, 04:21 PM
I have a sewing machine I don't know how to use and I've been considering trying to learn, but after listening to you guys, I think I'll learn something safer. Like lion taming.

Aw, people are just telling those stories because they're vivid. Don't let it stop you from learning something which gives you so much power.

The making and the wearing of clothes and the use of made things, although miraculous, isn't talked about much because it seems matter-of-fact, I suspect.

If we talked about how amazing it is to make things out of fabrics and threads the way we talked about making meals out of raw ingredients; if we talked about the wearing and use of clothes and all the sewn accoutrements of houses and boats and parades and playrooms and living spaces the way we talked about great food and restaurants; if we were aware of the grace of wearing the way we are aware of the pleasure of eating; then the stories of impaled thumbs would be as noticeable as the stories of kitchen fires and slipped paring knives, something scary but rare and far distant from the reality of the making and using.

Maryn
09-16-2012, 06:19 PM
What a great post, Alessandra!

If you know how to sew even a little, you can also save yourself serious money making everyday items of better quality than what's commercially available. I make napkins, pillowcases, pillow covers, bathrobes and sleepwear, chef aprons, all of them fully suitable for those with entry-level skills. (Have you seen what stores want for two more pillowcases? Eek.) Get a little more advanced and you can do costumes, bags and purses, some toys, cloaks, and capes.

Maryn, who feels more like sewing than writing

Shakesbear
09-16-2012, 06:29 PM
What Alessandra and Maryn said.

Some free patterns here http://mccallpattern.mccall.com/free-downloads-pages-748.php that may inspire. The patchwork teddy is so sweet.

kaitie
09-17-2012, 07:04 AM
Well, I went down and tested out the machine I'm looking at today (the Husqvarna Viking). It's a nice machine, and I was pleased with the buttonholes. It took a little finagling to get them just where I'd want them, but they're much better than my current machine, and easier to work as well (one stitch setting instead of four).

My boyfriend had me play with an electronic one, and honestly I just can't get into them. Part of me wonders if I'm being silly wanting to get a slightly lower-end model and if I shouldn't wait and get one that's a little fancier, but I'm not a fan of the electric in general, and I just can't see myself needing the fancy stitches and everything. I've never needed one before, you know? And while the electric had some fancy schmancy features, it didn't feel like I was really even sewing. That probably sounds strange, but when all I had to do (literally) was push a button and press the peddle and let it do it's thing until it was done, it just seemed like I wasn't doing anything at all. I could see it being useful if I had to make a ton of clothes to sell, but I do this as a hobby and for gifts, not as a job.

Anyway, I was happy overall with the Viking. I liked how it handled thick fabrics, and considering one of the big projects I'm hoping to do soon is a slip-cover for my couch, I need something that can handle thick layers. I honestly think I'll be happy with it. Now I'm just being indecisive and afraid of picking the wrong one and spending that much money.

Shakesbear
09-17-2012, 09:49 AM
I think you have to go with YOUR instinct. I understand the feeling of being silly - but if you are not comfortable with an all singing all dancing machine don't get it.

Filigree
09-17-2012, 09:53 AM
What Alessandra said. The injuries are rare, usually small, and most of us brush them off as a price of making stuff. There's far more wonder in it than pain.

One of the things we often take for granted as an industrial society is the easy availability of cloth, thread, and sewing implements.

I grew up in a historically rich area of the American Southwest, where several cultures mixed more or less successfully. I learned to use a drop spindle from some folks who spun their own wool near Taos. I did volunteer archaeology gruntwork on some of the Chaco Culture sites in the riverbottoms of the Four Corners. I've seen Navajo weavers at work, and done card-weaving on my own. When the Jean Auel novels were first coming out, I did workshops in flint knapping and bone needle-making. I've even sewn couture clothing *by hand*.

It's not easy. Those experiences remind me whenever I hit the fabric store or thrift store how precious fabric and sewn clothing used to be - and how lucky I am to have an electric sewing machine.

Shakesbear
09-17-2012, 11:38 AM
One of the things we often take for granted as an industrial society is the easy availability of cloth, thread, and sewing implements.

Filigree - YES!

Maryn
09-17-2012, 05:34 PM
I suppose it stuck with me because I was already interested in sewing, but as a kid I read a book titled "Neighborhood Needle" about a single needle being shared by everyone in a village--and the girl who lost it. (No tears, now--happy ending!)

Kaitie, I'd probably make the same selection you did, a machine able to handle heavy fabrics. My hesitation about electronic machines is the speed at which electronic anything becomes obsolete, plus the I-Never-Needed-That-Before factor you mention.

BTW, I've made slipcovers once, so if you need any help, maybe I can give it. You know to create a drop, right? (Extra cloth which allows the surface on which cushions go to compress with the weight of use.) I learned from a 1940s-looking book with the delightful title "Let's You and I Make Slip-Covers!"

When I buy, I'll seek a machine which can not only handle multiple layers of heavy fabric but one which handles apparel knits better than my Kenmore, which skips a lot of stitches even with a ridiculous amount of prep.

Maryn, wearing more knits than in 1975

MaryMumsy
09-17-2012, 08:25 PM
I remember skipping stitches. The problem was with the needle, there was a special one to use for knits. One fabric I will never work with again is velour. I made my Daddy a bathrobe for Christmas about 30 years ago. I think there is still fluff in my machine.

MM

Maryn
09-17-2012, 10:07 PM
The knits needle did help quite a bit, but I still had to use a sizing or tissue paper between layers. Major PIA. More than anything else, that's what's nudging me toward replacement.

I don't work with velour often, but I bought some last spring when it got really cheap. Am I going to live to regret this? Is it worse than velvet?

Maryn, not sure how much she can take

kaitie
09-17-2012, 10:35 PM
I have a problem with stretchy anything on my current machine. Well, honestly anything that isn't cotton. It does okay with satins, but it depends on the kind and the mood the machine is in that day. :tongue

I've even had to do some tricks with light-weight cotton on occasion to make it sew smoothly.

Velour is difficult in general, but that's just the fabric being a pain to work with, I think. Velvet wasn't too bad, though.

MaryMumsy
09-18-2012, 03:27 AM
The knits needle did help quite a bit, but I still had to use a sizing or tissue paper between layers. Major PIA. More than anything else, that's what's nudging me toward replacement.

I don't work with velour often, but I bought some last spring when it got really cheap. Am I going to live to regret this? Is it worse than velvet?

Maryn, not sure how much she can take

IMO velour is far worse than velvet. I've worked with both, on the same machine, and the velvet was a piece of cake compared to the velour.

MM

Filigree
09-18-2012, 03:52 AM
I can second that. My Elna purrs through velvet, but the shorter fibers of velour just seem to gum up everything. Maybe they're more thickly-clustered?

The Elna also throws snits at stretch fabrics, but I seldom sew those.

Alessandra Kelley
09-18-2012, 05:37 AM
I sew stretch fabrics by hand. There's got to be a better way.

Flicka
09-23-2012, 02:40 AM
I have a very basic Brother which (mostly) works just fine. However, since I've started making quite a lot of clothes, I'm thinking about upgrading. I'm curious about what the best option for me would be. I don't do really use stretch fabric (since I mostly do early 20th century patterns and styles) or denim, but I will want to do velvet, thicker wools, satin, delicate fabrics etc. etc. I don't need a gazillion stitches, but I'd like the option of really looooong stitches (for basting) and nice buttonholes (which my current machine does very well, not automatic but good). I basically just want as quick and hassle-free sewing as possible.

So, assuming that money is not an option, what would you recommend? Manual? Digital? Make? Model?

Silver King
09-23-2012, 05:00 AM
...So, assuming that money is not an option, what would you recommend? Manual? Digital? Make? Model?

I'm not familiar with sewers for home use. I do, however, have extensive experience with machines for high-volume manufacturing. The best brand I've found, bar none, is Juki. And I've tried them all. Well, most of them, anyway.

Juki has models available for home use, which is what I'd shop for if I were in the market for a sewer. That's not to say it's superior to other brands, but I'd feel confident in that choice.

Shakesbear
09-23-2012, 08:42 AM
I sew stretch fabrics by hand. There's got to be a better way.

Use a zig zag stitch on the sewing machine. If it is a fine fabric then length about one and a half to two and width about one. The idea is that the slight zig zag means that the stitch has a bit of stretch as well. Experiment on some scraps and you will see what I mean. Do some stitches on a double thickness of scrap material and then pull the fabric, the stitch should go straight when you pull and then back to zig zag when you stop pulling.

nicolethegeek
09-23-2012, 07:09 PM
My DH bought me a new machine for mother's day this year, and it far out-classes the other three machines I have (2 Singer, 1 Brother). It's a Singer "Curvy" (model 8770 I think). It was about as much as a starter Husq or Bernina at my dealer ($500 for them, just over $600 for mine). It is an electronic model, so I won't use it for going back and forth to quilting classes, but I am beyond thrilled with it. I had no desire for an embroidery machine, but I did want decorative stitches. I chose this machine over one slightly cheaper because it also had an alphabet, which I use to make clothing labels (three kids and an adult all with "Veggie Tales" shorts can make laundry sorting interesting). I wanted the decorative stitches for several reasons, mainly to cover my poorly skilled and lazy butt... I can't stand how long it takes to hand-stitch a hem, and I can't topstitch straight to save my life. Enter in the decorative stitches, and you can no longer tell that my topstitching isn't perfect (or at least not as easily!), and my hems are now "design elements", often in complementary or contrasting colours (but don't tell anyone it's because I couldn't find an exact match in thread colour!!!).

I have only sewn fleece knits so far with it, but it had a built in straight stretch stitch that has held up well to the wear and tear my kids put on those hoodies. I had no problems with skipped stitches, and I was using an universal needle. I would use a jersey needle if and when I sew lighter weight knits, but for the polar and jogging fleeces, it doesn't seem necessary. I purchased an overcasting foot for under $10 (can't recall the exact price, purchased online at Nancy's Notions), and my DH was extremely happy when I declared how nicely it kept the edges, and that it would now be a while longer before I heavily started begging for a serger!!

This machine suits my sewing needs perfectly. I can sew dresses for myself or daughter, pillowcases for everyone (who wouldn't want a sock monkey print pillowcase on their bed?!!?), basic clothing for my son with extra layers at the knees inside, large and small quilts, and anything else that suits my fancy. I am not experienced by any means, but the learning curve with having my first electronic machine has been an extremely pleasant one.

Maryn
09-23-2012, 10:49 PM
I sew stretch fabrics by hand. There's got to be a better way.I recently had a problem with a polyester knit with a gorgeous drape that my machine just refused to stitch. The good people at Craftster.org gave me a slew of tips, and I found a combination that worked on that fabric. So try some of these:

--Needle labeled "Stretch" (not just "Knits" or “Ball Point”)
--Narrow zigzag stitch rather than a straight stitch setting on your machine
--Greater pressure (not tension!) from the presser foot
--Tension adjustment--note carefully how it was set before you start messing with it, though
--Don't let pins get under the presser foot at all, and certainly don't assume you can stitch over a pin (which I do all the time)
--Stretch the fabric slightly as you stitch
--Stitch continuously rather than stopping and starting (not easy, either)
--A "walking foot" instead of the regular presser foot, if one is made for your machine (mine's way too old)
--Sewing through something that tears away--tissue paper, toilet paper, old newspaper, used gift wrap, etc. (watch for ink smears) (This helped a lot!)
--Spray-on water-soluble stabilizer, a solid or powder which can be dissolved in water, sprayed on the areas you will stitch, then washed away completely with normal laundering. Sulky is one brand. Sold in fabric stores near machine embroidery supplies or in notions--if you’re lucky. (I wasn’t.)
--Spray starch, applied after garment pieces are cut all along the edges and allowed to air-dry. Washes out completely.

Maryn, whose next machine will be more knit-friendly

Liralen
01-14-2013, 08:40 AM
I sew stretch fabrics by hand. There's got to be a better way.

Serger! (in case you ever check this older thread, lol)

I've got a Husqvarna 2+2. I've made, among other things, professional wrestling costumes with it. Even embroidered on leather. Hope you're enjoying yours, OP. :)

Sadly, anymore sewing doesn't really save money (unless you've got a stash of fabric you've hoarded). Most of the time, for everyday stuff, I can buy something for less than what the fabric would cost, let alone my time :(

Maryn
01-14-2013, 05:53 PM
Yes, I can buy something cheaper, especially if I give my time a monetary value, but I've done extremely well both at fabric hoarding and at shopping the sale items at Fabric.com. (The quality of what I get there is generally leagues above what's at JoAnn, the selection huge in comparison.) If I do my job right, I get something of Lord & Taylor quality which actually fits, for Penney's prices.

Maryn, who no longer sews on cheap fabrics except to experiment

chloecomplains
01-17-2013, 01:51 AM
Sadly, anymore sewing doesn't really save money (unless you've got a stash of fabric you've hoarded). Most of the time, for everyday stuff, I can buy something for less than what the fabric would cost, let alone my time :(

This is why you don't make everyday clothing! I used to do very well for myself making cosplay outfits, and although I don't do costuming anymore, I still like making quilts and small items: handbags, appliques, book covers.

And I use a New Home that's older than me. I've bought 'better' machines, and none of them have been as good as the old one. :heart: a good serger, though.

nicolethegeek
01-17-2013, 06:05 AM
I sew clothing to be more economical. I can make better quality clothing than what's available here ready-made. I have children that are very hard on their clothes and I am very hard to fit.

I also find sewing and quilting to be very soothing to the soul, along with my knitting and crocheting. That's a cost I can't measure in dollars alone.

Liralen
01-17-2013, 06:24 AM
I've had my life down to pants and tops or sweaters for a long time now, mostly black, white and grays, a little pink, purple, splash of teal, with the occasional wrap dress. (I have an extensive collection of variations of the black wrap dress :o )

One of these days I'm going to get down to business though and start working my way through the fabric stash. I don't love to sew -- I do it for the end result, and I think I'm physically incapable following a pattern, probably related to my incapacity to follow a recipe as is.

Finding fabrics I like is difficult, too, since I prefer soft, drapey stuff. That comes at a price! And everything around here seems to be geared to quilting.

Worst project ever . . . full floor length, hooded, satin lined velvet cape . . . for a 6'6" wrestler.

Alessandra Kelley
01-17-2013, 07:50 AM
Fabrics.com can be fun, but I have found their fabrics to be a little random. You don't always get what their description says. I once ordered several silks for a dress I was making. Some of it was taffeta and crêpe as described, although the taffetas seemed almost random weights, some quite substantial and some barely lining weight. The charmeuse seemed especially prone to mislabeling. One length was clearly some sort of shiny lining fabric instead, and I had my suspicion that it was rayon, not silk. Another time I got a bolt of cotton twill and when it arrived the bolt label said it was 50% polyester, completely unacceptable for my natural-fibers historical-reproduction sewing. It turned out it was cotton and mislabeled -- when I phoned they assured me it was so, and a burning test verified it -- but the mislabeling itself was a little weird.

Also their delivery time is very long. Packages take ages to arrive.

I like fabrics.com for good deals on fabric, but I have learned not to rely on it when it is really important that I get just the right fabric in a timely fashion.

Orianna2000
02-17-2013, 02:19 AM
For ten years, I used a Brother XL-5130. It was an inexpensive machine, but boy, was it a mechanical workhorse--sewed jeans and corsets with no problem. I faithfully kept up the weekly maintenance (dusting and oiling) and never needed to have it serviced or repaired. Then one day the stitches started skipping badly, and from the research I did, it was likely the timing and the repairs would cost more than the machine was worth. So I went looking and after some debating, bought a Singer Stylist.

It's computerized, which took some getting used to, but I like some of the features that are only available on computerized machines, such as auto needle positioning. When you stop sewing, it will either raise the needle to the upright position, or lower it into the fabric, depending on which setting you use. Very useful. I also really like having the speed control. I'm a sewing teacher and some of my students use my machine during their classes. The old Brother would stall out if they didn't press hard enough on the pedal, and if they pressed too hard, it would go racing and terrify them. The Singer can be adjusted so it only goes at a steady, slow pace, which the students are much more comfortable with. Also, it makes beautiful one-step buttonholes! You just press the button and zip-zip-zip! You have a perfect buttonhole. With my old machine, I never did get a decent buttonhole. In fact, I learned how to make buttonholes by hand specifically because they were so time-consuming and ugly.

As for the Singer's flaws, I don't like how dim the light is. I even duct-taped a book light to the side of the sewing machine to try and cast more light on what I was sewing. I also don't like how sometimes the pedal does nothing. I'll push all the way down and it's completely dead. I'll pump it a few times and eventually it will start up. That gets frustrating. But it was a bargain on Amazon--half the price that Hancock Fabrics charges for the exact same machine.

As far as sewing accidents, the worst that's ever happened to me was the time my cat swallowed a needle. He loved to eat thread and ribbons, which is SO dangerous, but I hadn't realized his proclivities yet, and so I left my pincushion out. He tried eating the thread and ended up with the needle lodged in the back of his throat. The vet said we were fortunate--if it had gone into his stomach, he would have needed surgery. As it was, it cost a lot of money for them to sedate him and pull the needle from his throat. Now we have a rule: no kitties in the sewing room!

Also, I make all my students sign a waiver of liability promising that they won't sue me if they cut, stab, prick, puncture, or otherwise injure themselves while sewing.

kaitie
02-21-2013, 04:09 AM
You can get swatches on fabric.com, too, so that's what I do when I'm doing a serious project. I'm going to be doing some upholstery soon, so I'm going to order probably a dozen swatches just to see how the colors and weights really look. It costs, but it's worth doing when you're going to be spending sixty dollars or more on fabric, I think.

I ended up buying a Janome sewing machine, and it's been awesome. I used it for Halloween costumes and some dresses for a friend's daughters, and a few aprons so far and it's been fantastic. I even sewed some really thick faux leather without any trouble.