In years past, I made all my own clothes on my trusty Singer sewing machine. All the women in my family sewed – beautifully. In fact, one of my grandmothers made her living sewing for the rich society women in Houston, Texas. She actually employed several women who did the basic, nitty gritty stuff while she did the elegant, designer work. I could give her a picture of an outfit and she could make her own pattern and come up with an exact copy. I still have some of her stitching today and no one can duplicate her amazing work.
Anyhoo … all this talent gave me an inflated idea of my own abilities so my first ever sewing effort was a pleated Vogue dress and lined jacket!!! If you know anything about sewing, you’ll know how ridiculous that is for a beginner. Just like my first needlepoint project: a 3 FOOT by 5 FOOT self-designed rug.
Anyway, a few years ago my sewing machine finally went to Sewing Machine Heaven and recently I’ve been thinking about getting a new machine and starting to sew again. But my poor little baby was nothing like the sophisticated machines of today. About all it did was the straight stitch and the zigzag stitch, which was useful for overcasting seams but not much else. I know today’s machines will pretty much grab the material out of your hands and make clothing for you so I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a decision about the best sewing machine for me. At times I’ve thought about giving up – until I found this book: The Sewing Machine Master Guide: From Basic to Expert by Clifford L Blodget.
What Is So Great About This Book?
It reviews a whopping 100 sewing machines. Now this is no big deal if all it does is *list* them. Heck, I can go to Amazon and find all kinds of machine lists. Instead, it divides the sewing machines by type and explains the use for each kind:
- Home sewing machines
- Heavy duty home sewing machines
- Industrial sewing machines
- Serger and overlock machines (what in the world is he talking about?)
- Specialized machines
- Mechanical vs. electronic
Right away, I (and probably you, too) can eliminate industrial sewing machines which are more suited for factories.
Here are the advantages of a home sewing machine:
==> It’s very flexible, meaning that it can sew many different kinds of fabrics with many different weights.
==> It’s portable – sort of – although I wouldn’t want to carry most machines around.
==> There are a huge variety of needles that can be used for all kinds of projects, like sewing leather and canvas or doing embroidery or even quilting.
==> Speeds range from 500-1400 stitches per minute, depending on the model. Mr. Blodget states that industrial machines go much faster but that they are very difficult to control.
==> They are VERY reliable (depending on the brand) and should last for many years. This brings in the consideration of mechanical vs. electronic as mentioned above. Electronic sewing machines are computer operated, while mechanical ones are not. Yes, the computer-generated functions are cool but that kind of machine won’t last nearly as long as a mechanical one, just so ‘ya know.
==> Stitches: there are usually multiple stitch options on home machines.
==> The motors allow the user to run the machine at a low speed when tricky stitching is required.
==> Home sewing machines can typically sew multiple layers of fabric, although for tougher jobs like upholstery, the heavy duty home sewing machine is recommended.
==> Home sewing machines can handle threads from light weight to medium weight.
Cost is all over the place when choosing a home sewing machine: $100 – (hold on to your seat) – $6000! Ouch. I don’t think I’ll be spending that much. :-)
Heavy duty home sewing machines are beefed up versions of the ‘standard’ home sewing machine mentioned above. Naturally, they cost more and are less portable but can handle ‘bigger’ jobs, like sewing leather or multiple layers of denim to make jeans.
Now, the serger and overlock machines … they’re probably not necessary for the home sewer, unless you are sewing for a living. Why? Because they only sew the edges of fabric and make overlock stitches like the image pictured here to your right.
The Sections I Especially Like
How to test machines and do research: other people’s recommendations are all well and good but I want to find out for myself which machine best suits me, rather than being disappointed down the road. This is THE most important section of the book, IMO.
He includes feature checklists for all kinds of machines so that we know what to look for when evaluating machines.
He includes lots of explanations about how a sewing machine works so that we can trouble shoot, when necessary – like “tension”. I’ve always just fooled around until it seems ‘right’, without really understanding what I’m doing.
Why I Totally Recommend This Huge Resource Book
The author himself makes the case for his book when he says:
“Unfortunately most retail sales people (for home sewing machines) have little knowledge, but will answer your questions anyway. Most stores put out miss-information (sic) about inexpensive machines, telling horror stories about quality problems and bad service. This is meant to scare customers into buying more expensive machines. Most retail sales people cannot be relied upon for reliable information.”
Based on his information, I’ve narrowed my choices down to two:
The first is the Janome HD1000 Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine with 14 built-in stitches which is pictured on the top left of this post. The other is the SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist 600-Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine which is shown here.
If you’re in the market for a sewing machine for either yourself or as a gift, PLEASE educate yourself before buying something that you may grow to despise. The The Sewing Machine Master Guide: From Basic to Expert is the best way I know to make a wise choice. If you hate this book, you can return it for a refund – but I’ll bet you won’t! Trust yourself instead of a salesman!