Saturday, August 29, 2015

Getting Started

A topic that keeps coming up is learning to sew: where, how, tools? I enjoy all aspects of sewing and almost get itchy fingers thinking about all of this. The conversation today on Facebook was about sewing machines for those wee ones in our lives. It's a vintage sewing machine group so, of course, they all think an older machine is best. I heartily agree yet...

A beginning sewer needs to be able to actually sew: that means either having a dedicated space or the ease of setting up a space at a moments notice. I would love for everyone to have a sewing room with space for cabinet models and table work space but that doesn't happen too often. Even as an avid sewer I have only had dedicated space a few times and even then not a sewing table that wasn't covered in projects. Back to reality, most of us might have the luxury of having a corner of a busy room with one desk or cabinet model with a nearby table that is shared with all sorts of other activities. The rest of us will need to store a portable machine in the bottom of a closet or the corner of a sturdy table. That means these great vintage sewing machines and their associated weight of 30-40 pounds is almost a hardship. Those beginning sewers will want something they can easily move out of storage or they won't sew at all and lifting weight probably isn't something you want your eight year old to be doing. Sigh. That is going to mean either one of the most sought after models that are lighter weight (Singer 221, the Featherweight, Singer Genie, or Kenmore 158-10X0's) but are becoming more expensive. It is no wonder that beginners look to the big box stores and their plastic sewing machines. STOP! While you might begin to sew on one of those sewing machines, you will not sustain your sewing because it will be so painful: bobbins jamming, needles breaking, tension issues, seams that don't look like you would expect, etc. It comes down to where you want to feel the pain: pocketbook, body, emotional frustration, or or a combination of all three.

Might I suggest you try an option of getting the best vintage sewing machine that can still be moved upon occasion but will give you great sewing results and is a pleasure to sew with? You know how much I love a wide variety of Singer's but I'm going to suggest an older model Elna or Bernina that is still within a decent price range.
Elna 62C (blue top)
The Elna 62C's are a great model that has stood the test of time and are not too much for weight, about 22 pounds. They have great versatility with straight and zigzag stitches plus come with a whole collection of cams for additional stitches. You might buy a model that doesn't have too many cams and add to your collection as you find the need. Although they take special bobbins they are not way out of price, standard needles, and regular presser feet. All I have had to do with a neglected model was to oil and loosen things up with a hair dryer: they have all come back to life.
Bermina 807 "Minimatic"
Bernina is such a great brand and seems to be one that never goes down in price but I have bought several for a reasonable cost of $100-200. In comparison to a plastic model of the same price, you will have a sewing machine with superb stitches and long lasting quality. Most were made as portable models and cabinets were almost an afterthought. I have a Bernina 807 Minimatic that is just a dream, weighing only 19 pounds. There is a modest variety of stitches with no additional cams, takes regular needles, uses class 15 bobbins but works best with Bernina bobbins. Presser feet are specialized so if the model you find doesn't come with them be prepared to buy a non-Bernina set for $30 that will work fine or just stick with one wide zig zag foot that will take you quite far in your sewing projects. Older model Berninas, with fewer features, can be more reasonable but still expect to pay around $200.

You might find a Singer 221 at a good price but they are only straight stitch and I think most beginning sewers will want the ability to use a zig zag stitch. I love the Kenmore 158-1030-1040-1050's and you can still find them for around $100 and are a good bet.
Kenmore 158-1030, 1050, 1060
 The Singer Genie's are so cute and retro but I find the machine itself to run loud and somewhat laborious so it doesn't get my full recommendation.
Singer Genie
 And what about those grandkids? If you are going to stay close by and sew with them, an electric sewing machine might be fine but I think a hand crank gives them the feeling of accomplishment without having too much speed or lack of control. Just be prepared to bring it along because it's so much fun!

Singer 99 with handcrank

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