I am a beginner but I'd really like to get it right by buying the right type of machine (for delicate materials and basic materials like cotton to make bras etc.)

Would a serger be better? I'm a bit clueless but I'm determined to learn.
Thanks in advance to anyone who answers,

A serger is very helpful for jobs like attaching elastic and sewing covered seams, but you'll still need a good sewing machine too. The one you're looking for for lingerie will have adjustable stitch length and width, adjustable presser foot pressure, and will sew well with size 8/60 sewing machine needles — take a pack each of microtex points and stretch points along when you're testing, as well as common lingerie fabrics like batiste, silk charmeuse, and stretch satin. I'd also suggest you look carefully at electronic machines because of the fine control they offer compared to mechanicals. But mechanical machines will certainly work for lingerie.

Suggested reading:
Jan Bones: Lingerie Secrets
Karen Morris: Sewing Lingerie that Fits
Kwik Sew's Beautiful Lingerie
Singer Sewing Library's Sewing Lingerie

Otherwise, here's my standard beginner sewing machine advice, all of which is also applicable to you:

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

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

Filed under Embroidery Library by on . 3 Comments#


My hubby wants to buy me a sewing machine that is made in the USA and I can't seem to find one. Can anyone help ??? Thanks so much

I believe the only company in the US making sewing machines still is Merrow, and they're industrials — they're inventors of the serger.

There are some excellent machines out there, though, that are not US made.

You may want to poke around at 's sewing machine review section when you get your machine choices narrowed. Some of my friends who do machine embroidery prefer to have separate embroidery and sewing machines — they can keep sewing while a design is stitching out. I only do hand and free motion embroidery, so I haven't looked at embroidery machines.


It is a New Home Model 609. Says CHAIN STITCH on upper left. Probably from the 70's. It has 29 stitch patterns + buttonhole stitch settings. It is a nice machine. Obviously it must lockstitch, I don't know. I'm confused. I read about chain stitches and lockstitches. Still confused.

Chainstitch ability is relatively rare among home machines (though it's now found on a serger fairly commonly). I suspect one of the stitches the machine is capable of is a two-thread chainstitch, which can be useful for something like embroidery or basting. The other stitches are probably standard lockstitches.
You may need an adapter of some sort to get the chainstitch.

Try out the stitches. You're looking for one that looks like straight stitch on top, but the bobbin thread makes a chain on the bottom:
check figure 1 here: or you're looking for a 1 thread chainstitch like this, done by a chenille machine:

Here are some chainstitched examples from an old Willcox & Gibbs treadle:
<> Farther down the page is a piece of a Kenmore manual showing converting a lockstitch capable machine to a chainstitch. Some of the older machines did a 1 thread chainstitch.

Lockstitch looks like the diagram on this page– same top and bottom:

My MIL's clothes, when she was a girl, were made on a Willcox and Gibb chainstitcher she now owns. When she wanted to get sent home from school, she'd unravel part of her dress. She found the chainstitch very helpful in that endeavor. <g>

You might try asking questions specific to your machine in the yahoo group "wefixit" — it's a group of sewing machine "shade tree mechanics" and includes a number of professional machine repair people. There is a tremendous collective knowledge pool in that group, and I wouldn't be surprised to find someone might be able to tell you exactly how to set up your machine for chainstitching.

Filed under Embroidery Library by on . 2 Comments#


i am new to this whole embroidery machine thing so i dont know anything yet. i am looking to buy a machine so i can add designs to my own creations that i started for my kids. i want to monogram but also do those cute little designs for cheering, fairies and trucks and cars, things like applique. im not doing quilting and i already have a serger and a sewing machine. so this would be all it is used for. will make several items but dont want to buy a $1000 machine until i get into making my money back.

can you give me a run down on what i need to look for.
i dont like the cards that you have to buy for certain designs. i would like to find clip art or free designs online and send them to my machine through usb port or something. also handmade designs maybe that i can design myself. is there accessories i would add to do all these things or would a certain machine have it all.

also what about the thread. i would like it to have multicolor on one design but i think only the large industrial machines do that.

In order to get a machine that will transfers via an USB port, and create your own designs or even use clip art you will end up spending $1,000 or more.

The Brother PE II has the USB option.

To create your own designs is another heap of money.

You cannot just download clip art and sent it to the machine. It has to be digitized in a machine embroidery format.

To do this you have to purchase digitizing software. This can cost $300 and up.

Forget the cards, they are practically obsolete – almost every designer has the option to download directly from their site.

Embird is a popular software that many people use for digitizing.

You start with Basic Embird, and then add plug-ins (digitizing it one) as you learn and want to expand your talents.

You can do just as well with the $500 dollar Brother at Walmart or Costco and use an reader/writer unit and rewritable memory card, which you can get for just over $100. With Embird, that is still around $1,000.

There are many free embroidery designs you can download from machine embroidery sites without digitizing your own. You would still need the USB or a reader/writer and card.

Thread – There are stops already in most designs and this is where you change colors – you can use any color you want.

Editing software (Embird Basic) can be used to add stops where you want them for color changes.

About the only thing the industrial or professional models can do is work faster, using multi needles and multi spools of thread – the design colors stitch out the same on the home version or or pro version.