Yup – I’m finally there. I’m going to talk sewing machines!
You’re probably hoping that I’ll give you one or two machine names and models to go down and buy, but nope! I’m going to give you the guidelines that you should keep in mind when you go look and play. It’s all a matter of preference!
Let’s start with a bit of history (of machines at least). About 160 years ago when these “fancy” machines first came out, they were prized possessions. Given to women on their wedding day. You can often see photo’s taken of the new couples best – A new house, maybe a horse, a tool or two and the treadle machine out front. This ment you had it made and could provide.
Over the next 100 years, sewing became less popular. Early on, if you had something “homemade”, not only did it mean your husband couldn’t afford the “good things” for you, but for a husband it ment “he wasn’t providing”. Although being able to take the waist in, or do a hem was still thought of as something a “good wife” could do. Later it became more about being trapped and shackled to domestication. If someone gave you a machine as a gift, they’d be thought of as almost primitive and old-fashioned. The machine was given away or shoved to the back of the closet somewhere – maybe being pulled out for a costume or two over the years.
Over the last 20 years or so, the art of sewing has been coming back around. No longer does it mean you’re old-fashioned or stuck being “barefoot and pregnant”, but instead you were in control of your life and could do anything – *gasp* even sew! Even men are getting into the act of home sewing – all this, making machines cool and sought after again. This has created a boom in different styles and types of machines, making your choice more difficult – and more fun!
But then, some people have sewn through all these times and new how “cool” they were!
Buying a sewing machine is a bit like buying a car. There tends to be brand loyalty, there’s of course price and features to look at. Are you an econo person who likes to buy on the less expensive end or are you a luxury person who likes to have all the bells and whistles? The difference can be a matter of $50 – $10,000! Remember – you don’t even know if you like sewing yet? And just like buying a car – “test driving” is a must for a good choice!
Here are the main machine manufacturers that I know of and that you’re most likely to encounter – and I’m pretty sure the list is about the same across the world? (Let me know if I’m wrong on that one?)
- Singer: Staple machine. Your mother and grandmother most likely owned one.
- Babylock/Brother: Think – Luxury/econo – pretty much the same machines, however Brother got it’s start as a serger company.
- Janome: Japanese brand and first to have computerized machines.
- Husqvarna: A Swedish company that’s been around forever and you probably have a something else from them out in your garage.
- Juki: Formerly industrial machines, new to the home market.
- White: These have been around since Singer started, but are no longer manufactured by the same company. A good starter machine.
I highly suggest, if you have one with-in a few hours drive, you go to an actual sewing machine store/dealer. Merely because they will know just about everything there is to know about all the machines they carry and also have a repair shop on hand. They’ll have just about every gadget known to man for the machine you pick out too.
I have noticed that the bigger Joann stores now have a machine area with someone staffed to help you “test drive” and assist you in buying. Which is great to see! If this is the closest you have to a sewing machine store – go with it! And if you can avoid it – don’t buy without trying them out. Just picking one from the Wallyworld shelf because of good reviews from Amazon isn’t the best way to pick out your machine – it’s a starting place to know what to try out. This is an investment in something that could make or break your love for sewing – choose wisely because a crappy machine, will give you the same results – and no one enjoys that!
Things you’ll want to think about when you go in to “test drive”:
- Computerized or not – Computerized will be more expensive and harder to fix. You also have to be more careful if you choose to use a magnetic pin cushion. Computerized will do a lot of things for you, but that also means things can get more complicated. Just like in a car – the more bells and whistles, the more that can go wrong.
- Stitch count – this isn’t like your duvet cover. Machines come with a certain type and amount of stitches they can do. It can range from just one – straight stitch or blind-hem stitch, to 100’s. (Maybe even 1000’s on the really fancy machines?) If you have little girls and you are dreaming of making cute little dresses and pants and pillow cases and bows…. you get the idea, you’ll want some of these fun stitches to use as accents on the hems and cuffs. If you’ve got boys like I do – this isn’t such a big deal. How often do boys want flowers on their hems? I’ve used my fancy stitches maybe twice – once on a nieces dolls dress and once for a pillow I made myself. But it’s nice to know they’re there if needed. I would recommend getting one with a few stitches: Straight of course, zig-zag (just like it sounds) and at least a simple buttonholer (even if it’s multi-step) to make your life easier. Trust me – it makes things so much nicer!
- Where it can be repaired – This sounds a bit odd, but if you ever plan on moving, you’ll want to know if you have to have it repaired by a certified-by-the-manufacturer place or if you can take it in to a simple sewing machine repair shop down the road. I learned my lesson the hard way and had to ship my machine since the closest place was 2 1/2 hours and about $80 dollars away. Not happy! If you are set where you’re at, this may not concern you so much since the place you’re buying it from will probably also fix it. (I think Joanns is the exception here though – I’m almost certain majority of them do not have repair shops?)
- Quilting – Do you plan on doing a lot of quilts? There are specific machines just for this. A regular machine will work just fine to start out with, but if you plan on major quilting work being done, you’ll want to check a few of the quilting specialty machines out.
- Embroidery – There are two kinds of embroidery machines. Combo machines and just embroidery machines. I have the combo machine, sewing and embroidery and it works very well for me. You change a few pieces out and you can do some pretty amazing things! These do tend to run a bit more expensive, but again, if you have a little girl you want to make all those pretty’s for her, this might be the route to take. I will say however, they are coming out with some very cute little boy programs lately, so if your crowd is having babies, this is a great feature. You may want to think about taking a class for this however, it’s a bit of a challenge to master…. I’m still working out the kinks. The stand alone embroidery machines are geared more towards business owners, but if you’re always team mom, this may work out well for you also.
Btw – all machines (except one little tiny company) are left-handed. You’ll get used to it!
Take these things into account. Check out their websites, check out reviews on-line, narrow down a few choices and then go in and “test drive” the ones you think you like. The people at the store will be very willing to spend a few hours showing you features, how-to’s and things you may be looking for. While I would normally say “Then go home and order it for cheaper” this may be one of those times you’ll want to buy it there….. especially if you spent HOURS there! Get to know the people, they can help you further down the road.
If you look at my “assistants” you’ll see what I use, if you want to know. But I’d never tell someone else what the perfect machine for them would be without knowing what they were going for. It’s sort of like underwear – it’s very personal!
I wanted to add as a side note – if you’re way out in the boonies somewhere in Alaska, or bed ridden due to carrying triplets or some such case and really can’t get out to test drive a machine before you buy, e-mail me or send me a note and we’ll talk it through so you can order one off the net with more confidence. After all – we want those triplets born in Alaska to have cute little matching blankets when they arrive!