Bells And Whistles

2

I'm new to sewing, and I don't know what sort of things I should watch for when buying a machine. I also don't know what kind of price I should expect to pay if I want something that's good enough to last me a long time, but doesn't have gadgets I don't need.

I hope to use it to work with cotton and linen primarily if that helps.

Thanks!

http://www.cet.com/~pennys/faq/smfaq.htm

If you're on a budget, I'd suggest a good used machine — the cheapest new machines are often unrepairable, and are so persnickity about adjustments that they can be incredibly frustrating. I'd really sooner see you with a machine with some scuffs and nicks and only a few stitches that won't frustrate you. When you outgrow the machine, you can always trade it in or keep it as a backup machine.

Things I want for a beginner to have in a machine:
— very good straightstitch
— good zigzag — 4 mm is plenty wide enough for most purposes.
— a method of making buttonholes that isn't frustrating (automatic buttonholers are easier than 1 steps are easier than 4 steps, are easier than buttonhole attachments like the old Greist attachments — however, the Greists made very nice (though limited sizes) of buttonholes)
— adjustable presser foot pressure

Nice to have, but can be lived without:
— three step zigzag (great for elastic application)
— blindhem and stretch blindhem stitches (saves hours!)
— a few decorative stitches (just for fun)

If you've got the budget, I'd suggest considering an electronic machine — they don't stall at slow sewing speeds the way many mechanicals will, and they sew very nicely.

I'd also send you to a real sewing machine shop… several, if possible. Tell them your budget, that you're a beginner, and ease of use and quality is more important than all the bells and whistles. Ask to see machines in your price range, and also ask to try a couple of good quality machines outside your price range so you can see differences in quality of stitching and ease of use. (Elna, Viking, Pfaff, Bernina…) — not the embroidery machines, ask to try one they might sell to a picky person who has a separate embroidery machine.

There are quite a number of pre-loved machines around, many of which are sitting on shelves in repair shops, taken in on trade, overhauled, and ready for a new person. There can be some excellent values there.

Always ask (new or used) who will service the machine, what the turnaround time usually is, availability of parts, can it be done locally, or will warranty service require it to be shipped off elsewhere.

Suggested reading:
John Giordano: Sewing Machine Book
Carol Ahles: Fine Machine Sewing (especially the first and last few chapters on care and feeding and selection of sewing machines — also skim the chapters on hemming.
Gale Grigg Hazen: Owner's Guide to Sewing Machines, Sergers, and Knitting Machines

Your local library is likely to have both books on the shelf.

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i liked it So much , and i want to learn how to sew stuff so i could be a designer in the futur . But what do you think ?

The Bernina Artista series are all good machines — and Bernina partisans will tell you there is nothing better than a Bernina. I'd disagree because they just don't feel quite right to me, but they are indeed mechanically sound machines, though they tend to be quite pricey for features compared to some other good brands. I'm also not into computerized embroidery. (If I want to embroider I do free motion or hand embroidery).

Some things you might want to consider:
1) if you have a combination sewing/embroidery machine, you can't sew while the machine is stitching out a design. Quite a few friends who do computerized embroidery have an embroidery machine and a sewing machine. In some cases, two machines are less expensive than a combo machine.

2) If you're going to be spending that much on a first machine, you might also want to look at some of the offerings from some of the other good home machine makers like Elna, Janome, Pfaff and Viking (in alphabetical order). That way, you can know you've made the right decision for you, no matter what brand or model you wind up choosing.

It's generally not the machine, it's the brain and the hands operating the machine, that really control the quality of the sewn product. See if your library can get you a copy of an old, old book called "Singer Instructions for Art Embroidery", done in several editions. Every stitch in the book (and there's some magnificent work) was done on a straight stitch treadle sewing machine.

While there's no point handicapping yourself by buying a crummy, balky, hunk o' junk sewing machine, if you're working on a budget, you might want to consider putting some of that sewing machine money towards lessons and going with a machine with fewer bells and whistles. In the long run, it may be more beneficial to learn to use a simpler machine well, particularly if you intend to go to design school.

You might also want to start reading at http://www.fashion-incubator.com — lots of things there for new designers.

3


You can start machine embroidery (ME) for less than $600.

An embroidery machine (EM) can be purchased for around $500. You can start with about $50 in supplies. A reader/writer/card unit can be purchased on-line for around $120.…this can be added later.

Visit sewing machine dealers or purchase from Walmart or Costco. I started with a Brother EM from Walmart, then about five years later, traded up for a Babylock with more bells and whistles.

Brother and Babylock are very user friendly and the most compatible with software and design files.

The lesser expensive EM most likely will have a maximum embroidery area of 4 x 4.

There will be built-in designs and fonts, but for more selection the machine will require a reader/writer unit with a rewritable memory card in the format of the EM for sending designs downloaded from the Internet to the machine. You do want to be able to take advantage of products on the web where you can find thousands of free designs to download.*

If you go higher in the price of the EM, you will get a larger embroidery area, and USB compatibility.

USB compatibility offers USB Direct Connect – a cable will come with the EM to directly connect to your PC and/or USB Flash Drive/stick drive. Either of these devices will indicate to the PC that a removable drive has been installed and that is where you will send the designs you want to use on the machine.*

Purchase supplies as you find them on sale – check the ShoppersRule and Allbrands websites – they usually have the best prices and variety. JoAnn Fabrics has thread on sale almost every month and if you sign up for the store flyer, you will know when the thread will be on sale. The flyer usually has at least one coupon. Also, check the Internet for JoAnn printable coupons.

Start with ME thread in basic colors. Polyester can take bleach, Rayon cannot. Bobbin thread comes in black or white – buy both….white for most items and black for darks.

Embroidery machines are designed to slightly pull the top thread to the back of the design, so the bobbin will only show on the back of the embroidered item.

Purchase medium weight stabilizer in tear-away (white is fine as the excess will be removed), cut away (white and black) and a water soluble stabilizer for placing on top of napped fabrics, such as towels. This provides a smooth surface for the stitching and helps prevent the stitching from sinking into the nap.

The machine will come with extra needles, tools and a manual – keep the manual handy. When learning to use the machine, open the manual and go step-by-step through the entire process, then refer to the manual as needed.

Excellent resources are: Jeannie Twigg’s book, Embroidery Essentials. Websites – Embroidery Library, ABC Embroidery and Ann The Gran.

*Before downloading embroidery designs/files, create a folder on the hard-drive of your PC. Name it Embroidery or EMB Downloads….something easy to find.

When downloading, select the design in the format of the EM and save to the folder you created on the hard-drive. Also, keep in mind the hoop size. A 8 x 6 design will not be accepted by an EM that is limited to a maximum 4 x 4 hoop.

The downloads will most likely be a zipped/compressed file. This has to be opened before it can be used. Highlight the zipped file and open or extract the file. Give the opened file an appropriate name and then delete the zipped file.

Should the design not come in the format you need, there is a free software program – Pulse Ambassador that you can download from the Internet, then open the design in question and save it in the format needed.

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2

there are so many brands out there and i'm really confused. I don't need too many 'bells and whistles'. i would like to be able to have some control over how it works though. thanks for any suggestions.

A lot of the better software have demos which allow you to test it out before buying it. It's best to test them out, and find out which one suits your needs the best.

Whatever file format they output to, there are several free programs that can convert between all the different formats, to upload to your machine. Wilcom TrueSizer does a great job opening and converting between almost 30 different formats.

I use Brother PE Design Pro, and think it's OK. It's not the most full-featured digitizing software, but it was a good deal with a Brother machine, and suits the simplified work I do.

The team that does advanced embroidery digitization swear by Wings' Modular 2 with the CorelDRAW extensions. It's quck and easy to input vector artwork for digitization.

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3

Trying to decide what kind of sewing machine to get. I'm essentially a beginner, interested in quilting, making stuffed animals, and clothing. I've gotten conflicting advice regarding computerized vs mechanical machines.

I've had people tell me I need a computerized machine that has all the bells and whistles and embroidery and stuff

Others have said I need a good used mechanical machine that will have fewer functions but be more durable.

Any input or recommendations would be appreciated.

http://www.cet.com/~pennys/faq/smfaq.htm

What I want for beginners in sewing:

– a machine that doesn't scare you
– a machine that isn't balky (cheap new machines are often very
balky or need adjustments often and are rarely repairable —
just too frustrating to learn on!)
– very good straight stitch
– good zigzag (4-5 mm is fine, more than that is gravy)
– a method of making buttonholes that makes sense to you
– adjustable presser foot pressure (which helps some fabric
handling issues)
– accessory presser feet that don't cost an arm and a leg
(machines that use a "short shank foot" typically handle
generic presser feet pretty well. Some brands of machines use
proprietary or very expensive presser feet)

If the budget stretches far enough:

– blindhem and stretch blindhem stitches
– triple zigzag (nice for elastic applications)
– a couple of decorative stitches (you won't use them nearly as
much as you think)
– electronic machine because of the needle position control and
because the stepper motors give you full "punching force" at
slow sewing speeds — mechanical machines often will stall at
slow speeds.

Please go to the best sewing machine dealers around and ask them
to show you some machines in your price range, *especially* used
machines you can afford. You'll get a far better machine buying
used than new, and a good dealer is worth their weight in sewing
machine needles when you get a machine problem — often they can
talk you through the problem over the phone. While you're trying
things out, try a couple of machines (sewing only, not combo
sewing-embroidery) over your price limit, just so you can see
what the difference in stitch quality and ease of use might be.
You may find you want to go for the used Cadillac. Or you might
want the new basic Chevy. Might as well try both out.

Suggested reading: John Giordano's The Sewing Machine Book
(especially for used machines), Carol Ahles' Fine Machine Sewing
(especially the first and last few chapters) and Gale Grigg
Hazen's Owner's Guide to Sewing Machines, Sergers and Knitting
Machines. All of these are likely to be available at your public
library.

Used brands I'd particularly look for: Elna, Bernina,
Viking/Husqvarna, Pfaff, Singer (pre 1970), Juki, Toyota

New "bargain brand" I'd probably pick: Janome (who also does
Kenmore).

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