Machine Sewing

4

Hello,
I decided I would really like to learn how to sew but right now i have no idea how to. I was just wondering how you started (sewing clothes for dolls, reading books,etc) and any advice on how I should as well.
Thanks!

Although it's certainly possible to learn to sew all on your own, just from books and experimentation, it's easier for almost everyone if you take a few classes along the way — either informally from family and friends, or formally from teachers.

Assuming it's machine sewing you're interested in, I usually start beginners with projects like pillowcases or drawstring bags, tote bags, tool or jewelry rolls, pj pants or nightgowns. My own first hand sewing experiences were in embroidery, then hemming dishtowels; my first machine sewing was cafe curtains, when I was not quite 6.

Your first challenges will include skills like cutting accurately (easier said than done!), learning to control the sewing machine, stitching straight and curved seams accurately, pressing seams correctly and learning to select fabric and pattern that can work together.

If you're thinking about buying a sewing machine, and you happen to have classes available that will let you use someone else's sewing machines, I'd suggest you go that route for first experience; then you can better judge machines when you go looking. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100120140429AApYwiY

Where to find lessons: 4H, if you're young enough; fabric stores and sewing machine dealers; adult ed and community college classes, private lessons. If you're in the US and stuck, try contacting the local chapter of ASG, American Sewing Guild (http://www.asg.org) to see if someone can suggest a teacher. Good books to start with include Simplicity's Simply The Best Sewing Book (which has a home-dec leaning), Connie Crawford's Guide to Fashion Sewing (strictly garments), and the good ol' Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. There are also videos and DVDs available; one I particularly like for a beginner is Crawford's Studio Sewing Skills, which starts with learning to thread a sewing machine and progresses through basic clothing construction, step by step. Check with your local library and grab some books or videos and start playing with some fabric!

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2

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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3

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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5

I am looking to buy a embroidery and sewing machine and i am not sure which one to get as there are many out there. I have never worked on a sewing machine and really don't do that much sewing however i would like to be able to make a quilt also. I do the hand embroidery and cross stitches and while i love it i would like to be able to do different patterns of like my pictures and things like that without it takeing me two years to finish a project. Does anyone have any suggestions?

This is akin to asking for a car, when you really want is a Bat-mobile that can travel on the air, road and water. Nevertheless, there are a few things you could look for to make your dream come true.

There are many reviews and buying guides on the web:
Embroidery machines: http://www.galttech.com/research/household-DIY-tools/best-embroidery-machine.php
Sewing Machines and Patterns Review: http://sewing.patternreview.com/news

Whichever machine you select, get the machine's manual. There is a common assumption that machines are all the same, but it's not true. Used machines can be wonderful, if they've been well cared for. But it does you no good to assume all machines need oil (not true), or to miss out on the machine full creative ability.
Sewing Machine Manuals: http://www.mastersewusa.com/

You can make Couture-level garments on a straight-sew machine, but most modern sewing machines offer more than one stitch. It's creative use of these that make them powerful. I'm speaking of ordinary sewing machines that adjust stitch length, have a Zigzag or other cover stitches, plus whatever geometric or floral designs. For truly giving these options a workout on ordinary sewing machines, I suggest the public library. Seek out books on Decorative Machine Stitching
Fine Machine Stitching http://www.amazon.com/Fine-Machine-Sewing-Revised-Embellishing/dp/1561585866/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257164512&sr=8-2

And consider Bobbin Work. Many an artist has used a simple machine to create amazing works. If the thread, fiber, or ribbon is too thick to go through the needle, why not run it through the bobbin?
Bobbin work: http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/5025/bobbin-work-when-threads-are-too-thick-for-the-needle

On any machine you're considering, ask if the Feed Dogs can be lowered. Fabric is advanced under the sewing machine's foot by way of a moving metal assembly that pulls the fabric through in one direction only. If you can lower the feed dogs, you can move in any direction opening an entire world of creativity. Seek out web articles and books on Free-Motion Embroidery or Free-Motion Quilting it's a world of hoops and stabilizers – but the work can be done on ordinary sewing machines that have the option of lowering the feed dogs.
Anatomy of a sewing machine: http://www.a1sewingmachine.com/image/basic%20sewing%20machine%20parts.jpg
Watch a video on free motion technique: http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/3833/video-manuels-free-motion-embroidery-technique
Be advised: Manuel is working on an extraordinarily FAST manual machine. But it you note the hoop, the rotation of it, the turning of the work, it will make other Free Motion Embroidery directions make sense.
How to do free-motion embroidery http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_c/C-213.pdf

Machine quilting can be done on any straight sew machine. Some are just better at it than others because they have greater torque, or a larger arm. And these are great when you want to throw money at it. But artists can get a lot out of simple machinery if you learn the concepts of what you want to do. You do not need thousands of dollars to start.

Embroidery machines are quite amazing and you'll be deciding between a bunch of Disney or the ability to digitize your own designs. Give some thought about the size of your work, what parts you need done for you, what magic you expect of the machine – and I greatly encourage researching what other artists have done with machine embroidery. You might just find they use a less expensive model (than what the dealer is telling you) to achieve their work.

The Art isn't just in the machine, it's in you.