Sewing Machine FAQ for RCTQ August 2005
- From: "frood" <froodbuffy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 02 Aug 2005 13:55:25 GMT
Here is a compilation of a lot of what others have already about buying a
first machine, plus a couple of other comments. This FAQ also applies to
those who are in the market for a new machine, having used one particular
model for a few(?) years. Many thanks to Salley Holmes and Lee Hinton for
helping get this together.
First, if you're considering buying a machine as a gift for someone else,
the consensus is that you should give, perhaps, a card or a spool of thread
as a token of your willingness help to enable the recipient to choose the
machine that suits him/her best. By all means do some homework to help
him/her to narrow the choice down, but a sewing machine is a personal item
that should be chosen by the person who's going to use it. Think about it.
Would you want someone to buy you a car without your input?
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you shop:
How and what do you sew? Are you interested in sewing clothes, home decor
items (slipcovers, curtains, etc.), sports costumes like skating, etc. Do
you want an embroidery machine? IS IT SOMETHING YOU WOULD USE OR JUST
SOMETHING YOU WANT? This is an important distinction to make. What
feature(s) would you use and need? (Why pay money for things you don't need
and don't want?) If you do mostly quilting, then maybe you only need a few
stitches rather than a whole array of stitches. How easy it is for you to
learn programming (a must in some machines)? How large a machine do you want
(will you be taking it places), does it pack up easily if you need to take
it someplace? What kind of classes are given? Does it have a freearm and do
you need one, what kind of extra feet are available that you need, etc. Do I
need a machine that can be updated with new cards, attachments, programs,
Now, which machine is the best one? There's no such thing as the one best
machine just as there's no such thing as the one best car. This FAQ can only
give general advice because there are so many sewing machine manufacturers
and models out there. Once you've narrowed your choices down you may be able
to get advice on specific models or even dealers from the alt.sewing,
rec.crafts.textiles.sewing, alt.sewing.mach-embroider (if you are looking at
embroidery machines) or uk.rec.crafts.sewing newsgroups.
Having said that, nearly every maker makes wonderful machines ... but they
all have had periods where they have made junk. You might want to read your
national consumer magazine to see if they have recently reported on sewing
machines - this would be a good place to at least start. Sewing magazines
occasionally run such features, too, so check them. Remember, though, that
no survey can cover all the available machines, and that a sewing machine is
a very personal item. What suits a reviewer may not suit you. And talk to
friends who sew to get their opinion on which makes are reliable. After
that, the person who is going to use the machine should be the person to
pick out what they want, within the constraints of your budget, of course.
Your budget may limit your choices, but especially if you are new to sewing,
I would suggest going for an all purpose reliable machine with fewer
stitches rather than a machine with lots of stitches, but also turns out to
be picky about the type of thread you use, won't sew on thick or thin
fabrics, and sulks and chews the fabric up if you dare to LOOK at it wrong.
You need to know that your machine will be reliable or learning to use it
will be a very frustrating experience. Whilst it's a waste of money to buy
features you won't use, it's also false economy to buy a machine that you'll
"grow out of" if you can afford one with more features.
Unless you get a fabulous bargain in a private sale, one thing to also
consider is the dealer from whom you buy. A good, honest, reliable dealer
can help make your sewing experience wonderful, and help you pick the right
machine for YOU. Some dealers offer a trade-in/trade-up policy where if you
decide after a few months that you'd like a fancier machine, the dealer will
credit all or a large part of the cost of your initial purchase to a better
machine. Don't be taken in by the claims that all-metal interiors are better
than plastic: there's cheap plastic, which may crack and warp, and there's
nylon, which is lighter than and a hard-wearing as metal and doesn't need
The most basic machines are straight-stitch only, and old ones can be picked
up very cheaply from sale rooms, some sewing machine dealers, and garage/car
boot sales. The next step up is a machine that does zigzag stitching. The
basic zigzag machines usually do some sort of blind hem stitch and maybe a
couple of decorative stitches. Even if they don't have a built-in buttonhole
you can do a manual buttonhole with a basic zig zag machine, but it's no fun
after the first few. If you are planning to sew a lot of clothes, buying a
machine that has an easy buttonhole maker may make good sense.
After that, the number of stitches increases (along with the price) and you
are in the realm of medium to high end sewing machines. Electronic machines
give the same penetrating power at all speeds and usually a needle stop
up/down option. Right at the top end, for several thousand pounds/dollars
you can buy a machine that will connect to your computer and embroider
images that you've designed on the PC.
However much you're planning to spend, you'll get more for your money if you
buy second-hand. People often trade in their old machine when they buy a new
one. A trade-in will be much cheaper than the same machine when new, and if
it's been serviced by the dealer and has a dealer's guarantee it should be
fine. There isn't much to go wrong with sewing machines. Unless one has
really been hammered - used non-stop - parts don't seem to wear. Check the
finish of the paint: if it's worn or has lots of nicks from pins, it's
probably been used a lot.
When you go to test-drive machines, take along samples of the type of
fabrics you'll be sewing. Dealers often use a stiffened felt-type fabric for
demonstrating their machines: almost anything will sew well on it. Take
samples of light-weight fabric such as fine sheeting or voile, and\line some
heavy-weight such as upholstery or denim. If you have a pair of old jeans,
cut off the leg and try sewing over the bulky seam. Also try out the sort of
things you'll be sewing - do you use a lot of zippers? You'll need to test
the zipper foot. Buttons mean checking the buttonhole facility. Make sure
that YOU do the sewing - don't just watch the dealer demonstrating. If the
dealer won't let you sew on the machine, leave the shop.
When you've decided which machine is for you, there's the price. You
wouldn't buy a car at the price on the windscreen, would you? Well, a sewing
machine is just the same. Haggle (nicely). It isn't rude: it's good business
practice. Every pound/dollar you get knocked off the price is another spool
of thread to use on your new machine. Ask "Will you take $xxx for cash?"
"Will you throw in the xxx foot for that price?" Say "That's more than my
husband/wife/anyone else who isn't there wants me to spend - can you knock
something off?" "I like this, but machine xxx at dealer yyy is nice too, and
it's less". Don't push too hard, though: you need after-sales support.
If you want extra feet, the quilting kit, or lessons, now is the time to
negotiate for them. You may be able to get them thrown in or at least\line
reduced in price.
If you're buying a lower-end machine, a good bargaining tool is to make it
clear to the dealer that you'll come back to him/her when you're ready to
upgrade to a fancier model. You don't have to tell him that it may not be
within this lifetime.
There's a frequent debate in sewing newsgroups about buying on-line. You may
be able to save a lot of money, but it will be at the expense of local
support. A machine bought on-line may not have a valid warranty. You have to
decide whether the money you'll save is worth the support and warranty.
Once you've got your new machine home, take care of it. Clean it out at the
end of every project, and give it a nice new needle after every 6 hours of
sewing. Protect your investment by using good-quality thread and needles.
Oil it if the manual tells you to, and do bring it in to be serviced if you
notice something is wrong.
Most of all, tho, enjoy your new hobby!
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- RCTQ FAQ August 2005
- From: frood
- RCTQ FAQ August 2005
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