Home sewing, it would seem, is enjoying a revival lately. I’m not sure if it’s because of the economy or simply because of a desire to have more control over clothing and home decor selection, but I am happy to see people coming to the hobby. For too many years, it was stagnant and didn’t experience growth. Nor did it attract the younger crowd, but my personal experience says that’s changing rapidly.
Of course, along with the influx of new people to the hobby comes questions – lots and lots of questions.
Should I take a sewing class?
What sort of needle should I use for … ?
What is the difference among available fabrics?
Are there any good reference books available?
I am by no means an expert – I just have several years of sewing experience under my belt, and several more years growing up with an accomplished seamstress. My mother made nearly all our clothing, save undergarments and jeans, and even though I didn’t care much for “homemade” clothing back then, I would give anything to have that sort of wardrobe now. Unique, one of a kind garments – even though they were made with mass-produced patterns. *sigh* Oh the luxury of it all!
I never really got into fashion sewing, although I can do it, and do it fairly well. I am much more a quilter … a fabric artist, not a fashion designer (there is a difference). But I have a very good foundation in the basics, and I thought that information may be helpful to others who are learning. I can’t relay everything I know in one post, but I can spread it out over the coming weeks and share things that I think others may find beneficial. Let’s start with sewing machine selection.
Sewing machine selection (Which machine should I buy?) is a common question I see and am asked by others who know I sew. The truth is, that question can only be answered by the person who will be using the machine, but I am a fan of the idea that less is more when it comes to those who are just starting out. Despite what folks believe, Brother makes a very good low end sewing machine, and they are fine for the beginning or intermediate sewer who is looking for basically three things – a straight stitch, a zig zag stitch and a button hole. Honestly, in the wide world of sewing, these are the things people use the most often. That’s why so many quilters favor the old Singer Featherweights – quilts are comprised almost exclusively of straight stitches, and a Featherweight does that very well. For a fashion sewer, the zig zag and button hole are musts. Anything beyond that – any other stitches – are just gravy. They’re mostly “decorative” stitches, though I rarely see them used on garments. It’s really nice to have a blind hem and elastic stitch, but they are not a must in most cases. And unless you’re going to buy a Featherweight, most low end machines these days include both of those stitches.
So where does that leave the new sewer, eager to purchase their first machine? There are a wide range of low end machines out there (I consider “low end” to be below $500) – and the only machine I would avoid is, sadly, a Singer. Unfortunately, it seems that Singer’s quality has deteriorated in the last several years, and they really are not the machines they once were. Skip them and go for a Brother or White – good entry level machines that are readily avialable at WalMart, Target and Sears. Kenmore is also a very good beginning machine. If you have more money to spend (up to $1,000), you may consider a Brother, Baby Lock, Viking or any number of machines that are available in that price range. But unless you know for a fact that you’ll be using the machine a lot, I recommend the WalMart/Target/Sears variety for beginners. If, a couple years after your first purchase, you realize that you want or need a more robust machine, it’s relatively easy to upgrade, but if you buy a new machine and it sits in the box, that’s just money wasted. Make sure you’re going to use it before investing several hundreds (or thousands) in a machine!
As for the machine I use, it is a very wonderful Brother PC 8500. It is an older machine – I think I’ve had it for years now – I’m guessing maybe eight? WONDERFUL machine! I love it, obviously. It is a sewing/embroidery combination that I bought used. Of course, I purchased it through a reputable dealer who had taken it in on a trade, and I would buy another used machine in a heartbeat. It’s a great way to get a good machine at a decent price.
Next time, we’ll talk about reference materials. 🙂