Carol Ahles

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I am just starting out, although I took a class years ago, I was not very good – especially in adjusting tension and all those little things. I am getting a sewing machine now that I am retired – what would be the best? I'm thinking of a Brother XR 7700

What features do you want? Are you on a budget? Most machines will sew just fine with the upper tension set on 4 and left there. IMHO, it's easier to teach you what a balanced stitch
looks like than try to fight through the screens of some programs to adjust something that the computer is doing "wrong".

My personal experience with Brother machines has not been good, but ymmv. I'd strongly urge you to consider trying out a number of machines at local sewing machine dealers if at all possible, and finding the machine(s) that will work for you.

My minimal criteria (I do a lot of garment making, some quilting, no machine embroidery other than freemotion): Very good straight stitch, at least a pretty good zigzag, non-jamming bobbin case, buttonhole that doesn't drive you nuts, adjustable presser foot presser, at least a fair range of presser feet made for the machine. For my own use, I also want stretch and regular blindhem, a couple of stitches I can use for fagoting, a couple of hemstitches, and some stitches that are good for faking blanket stitches for applique. My primary machine is a 10 year old Viking electronic, middle of the line.

Because I sew so many garments, I also have a serger and a coverstitch machine — personally, I'd sooner have a good serger and a so-so sewing machine than a fancy sewing machine, but again, that's personal preference.

Some help:
http://www.cet.com/~pennys/faq/smfaq.htm
http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/tvt046.asp
http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00130.asp
I also urge you to read the first and last chapters of Carol Ahles' book Fine Machine Sewing (available from most libraries).

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Do you use all the attachments or just the basic ones,?
Do you use your machine a lot or just in rare occasions ?
Is it really worth spending a lot of money on a machine when at the end you only use it so rarely?
What is your opinion ?

I sew virtually all of my family's clothes on a Juki 5 thread serger and a 12+ year old midline Viking electronic sewing machine with 30 stitches. I rarely use the decorative stitches (just not our style), but do use the utility stitches. I don't use any attachments (if you're talking about stuff like a Griest buttonholer) because the machine has a good keyhole and straight buttonhole included that can be made any size. I do use a lot of specialty presser feet, including joining, blindhem, edge stitching, narrow hemmers, zipper feet and cording feet. I do not do machine embroidery except for a bit of freehand work — I don't like the flat look of machine embroidery.

If you're interested in exploring what a machine can do with (mostly) utility stitches, there are three books you should consider from your library:

Carol Ahles: Fine Machine Sewing

Nancy Bednar: Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques.

Singer Instructions for Art Embroidery and Lacework (an amazing book that's been reprinted several times, showing decorative techniques done with a straight stitch only treadle sewing machine. Remarkable stuff.)

If you're considering buying a new machine, buy one with the basic stitches and a few decorative stitches — don't buy a machine by number of stitches per dollar spent… you'll probably regret it. And please distinguish between stitches and "stitch functions".

If I were to lose both of my main machines tomorrow, I'd probably replace the serger with another good 5 thread machine, perhaps a tier up in the Juki line from what I've got, and I'd probably buy a straight stitch only industrial needlefeed machine, and stick a Greist buttonholer on a garage sale straightstitcher for buttonholes.

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3

I want to learn how to sew. i want do be able to make dresses for my two little girls and start selling some I make but first I need a sewing machine. I saw a Singer Futura CE-150 Sewing and Embroidery Machine at walmart because I would also like to embroider but costs $539 and I cannot afford that. Does anyone have any suggestions on a good sewing machine.

For embroidery, consider learning to do free motion embroidery on a sewing machine… any sewing machine will do. Here's a pro working — though his setup is a little easier, it's the same idea:
http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/3833/video-manuels-free-motion-embroidery-technique
And something less fancy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8hFRab26BE

As far as a sewing machine, I'd definitely suggest you want to get a model with a blindhem stitch… otherwise my basic suggestions are below. Please note that using a home sewing machine for business voids the warranty (they're not meant for the duty cycle of sewing for a business), and that as soon as you learn the basic machine operation, I'm going to strongly suggest that you want to borrow Carol Ahles' book, Fine Machine Sewing, from the library and at least learn her methods of machine blindhemming — it'll save you lots and lots of time.

If you truly are going to use home machines to make stuff to sell, I'd buy a basic sewing machine (see below) and a decent 4 thread serger ASAP. Add computerized embroidery to that if you wish later.

My basic beginner sewing machine rant:
Take a look at Kate Dicey's essay on choosing sewing machines at
http://www.katedicey.co.uk (and take a look around at her site…
there are a lot of nice little tutorials there!). The FAQ she
refers to is at http://preview.tinyurl.com/l5rzu6 now.

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 at a
specific price 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, if new, decent and budget
was my choice: Janome (who also does Kenmore).

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