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Sewing machine?
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Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Sewing machine? on 03/31/2012 05:13:14 MDT Print View

Suppose i wanted to make my own quilt, what sewing machine model or basic must-have features in a machine should I have?


Bruce Thibeault
(brucetbo) - M

Locale: New England
Re: Sewing machine? on 03/31/2012 06:03:15 MDT Print View

I use a kenmore model 158.16250. I have the straight stitch foot and a zig-zag foot and have never needed any others, though a rolling foot would be handy for long rolled edges.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Re: Sewing machine? on 03/31/2012 08:11:25 MDT Print View

You do not need anything special. A regular household machine will do it all for you. You only need a straight stitch. Though reverse and zig zag capabilities are nice to have.

Edited by kthompson on 03/31/2012 08:12:37 MDT.

Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
What you need vs what you want on 03/31/2012 09:10:23 MDT Print View

For making gear you don't need all that much. A straight stitch is actually the only thing you truly need. Zigzag stitches can be handy. Just about any machine will do. In fact, I made my first gear on a roughly 100 year old machine that needed you to turn a wheel by hand and that could only do straight stitches.

One thing that I really like on my current machine (a Pfaff from the 1200 series) is a built in walking foot (IDT). You don't need this, but it really helps when you're working with thin and/or slippery materials. I believe Pfaff are the only ones who have built in IDT on a lot of their home machines. You can get a separate walking foot for many machines, but apparently many of them aren't very good.

I would recommend that you do NOT buy a new machine. Also, don't buy a machine that works with computers. Those are unnecessarily expensive and complicated and when they break they're insanely expensive to repair. Around the 1980's they started using more plastic and electronic nonsense (= less durable) for sewing machines. It is my opinion that the best machines were made just before that.

If you can get a good deal on them I highly recommend a Pfaff from the 1200 series or a Bernina from the 900 series (the 930 is probably the best machine they ever made). The Bernina 830 or 730 are also very good machines which shouldn't be too expensive.

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
The Easy Way... on 03/31/2012 10:47:44 MDT Print View

The way I went about finding a machine that suited my needs was to go to the local sewing machine repair place. Talk to the mechanic, not the salesperson, and detail what sorts of materials and sewing you want to do. He or she should be able to recommend a good used machine for relatively cheap that will meet your needs. If you're going to buy a used machine anyway, you're probably going to want to get it serviced--which may cost as much as buying a recently-serviced one from the repair shop anyway.

If they try to sell you a new, computerized, 150+ decorative stitch machine for simple gear making, take your business elsewhere. If they try to sell you an older, workhorse machine with just a few stitches, you're probably on the right track.

Look for things like all-metal gears and internals (the machine should weigh a lot for its size), shiny surfaces and internals, and ask if you can run a length of fabric through the machine when you buy. Bring some thread and fabric--the kind of stuff you'd use on a project--and run the machine through its paces with differing stitch lengths, styles, and in reverse (if it has a reverse mode). That'll give you a good idea of what kind of condition the machine is in.

Anyway, that's what I did, and it worked out pretty well for me.

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
Sewing machine? on 03/31/2012 11:11:26 MDT Print View

As others have mentioned, all you need is a straight stitch. As for machine, here's a free piece of advice: get a vintage Singer 66, circa 1930s-40s.

Let me explain - I got lucky and wheedled my (late) grandmother's Singer 15-91, circa 1949, from my mom, who had had it since 1960. It was in mint condition, except for a worn bobbin wheel that needed to be replaced. It also needed to be oiled and undergo some light cleaning (ie remove built up lint).

Since I had re-built a number of cars when I was younger, and am pretty mechanically inclined, it was a piece of cake to restore this baby to pristine condition. In the process of replacing some parts & working with the machine, I became more familiar with some of the other vintage Singers that are favorites of collectors.

There are a handful of vintage Singer machines (221, 201-2, 15-91, 301 & 401) that collectors tend to focus on, hence they bid up the prices. The model 66 looks similar, and is a sturdy, high-quality machine, but due to being built in such large numbers, and being more of a "home ec" machine in its day, tends to be universally ignored.

Every now and then I will peruse CL out of curiosity, and sure enough, there are usually a number of 66s (also 3/4 size 99s) for sale between $50-100. (It's rare to see the machines collectors like listed above on CL since they are usually cleaned up and sold on eBay.)

There's no need to get one that isn't operational/needs work, or one listed for a higher price by someone who has no idea that it's not worth a higher price. Just keep your eye on a one that is in working condition, and if you get real lucky, one that still has its original carrying case.

Here's a picture/link of one that is for sale on CL in SoCal:

Singer 66

And here's a link to a review of the Singer 99 (3/4 66):

Singer 99

The thing about older Singers is that there are (a) zillions of parts available; and (b) zillions of modern knock-offs that still use these core Singer bobbin & needle standards.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Re: Sewing machine? on 03/31/2012 19:55:16 MDT Print View


I really appreciate all the advice, I really had no idea where to start. I actually flunked "home ec.". Apparently spraying the teacher down with water from the kitchen sink spray hose was frowned upon in that establishment! Ha! but it ws fun!


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Singer Sewing machine? on 04/01/2012 01:28:28 MDT Print View

Oh Yes! Bees Knees.

Typically, when set up properly, these old Singers will sew anything from 8 momme silk to heavy Cordura of X-Pac.

Love it and KEEP it.


Teryk Morris
(mTeryk) - F
One more thing on 04/01/2012 02:35:37 MDT Print View

As everybody said you don't really NEED many features and just about any machine will do. One feature you may want, however, is a free arm. Probably not needed for a quilt but useful if you want to make clothing or bags.

I found a Husqvarna 6440 for a little over $100. It is a solid machine and the low gear and free arm are handy. It isn't computerized but it does a fair number of stitches which means it can be difficult to tune-up if it is out of adjustment. I wouldn't suggest buying one that needs work (unless you are into that kind of thing) but if you find one in good shape it's a really nice machine. Some people try and get a ton of money for them on E-Bay but I see them on craigslist for reasonable prices every once in awhile.

Not sure where you are located but this machine looks good to me.

Eugene, OR

David Scheidt
(dscheidt) - F
Re: One more thing on 04/01/2012 09:45:32 MDT Print View

Freearms are nice, but they're not required for garment or gear construction. Almost nothing you buy was done with one. (Leather goods and shoes are the exceptions, and they're done on specialized equipment.) turning the thing your working on inside out, usually gives you enough room. So does working in an order that means the least amount of sewing of enclosed seams.

Where freearms are very nice is mending and modification. I have a pair of trousers that I need to patch the knee on. If I had a working machine with a free arm, it would be a simple task. I don't, so I need to rip out six inches or so of the out seam so I can get the work area under the needle, and then sew up the ripped outseam. That's too much like work, so it's not happened yet. There are lots of similar situations when you want to add to gear, too.

Another thing: If you buy a machine that does zig zag stitching (which is very handy for doing bar tacks, button holes (and openings for drawcords), and attaching stretch materials, and unless you're buying an industrial machine, I'd recommend it.) make sure you get, or can get for a reasonable price, a straight stitch needle plate (and presser foot). The zig zag plate has a slot for the needle to pass through, since the needle moves side to side. The straight stitch plate has a hole for the needle to pass through. That keeps fabric from being pushed into it, and gives better stiches and better feeding. Use it whenever you're not zig zaging.

Kevin Beeden
(captain_paranoia) - F

Locale: UK
re: straight stitch needle plate on 04/02/2012 10:27:18 MDT Print View

> The zig zag plate has a slot for the needle to pass through, since the needle moves side to side. The straight stitch plate has a hole for the needle to pass through.

Just make sure you remember to swap to the zig-zag plate before you set the machine to zig-zag...

Trouble is, with most modern machines, it's so very easy to adjust the zig-zag, with a simple slider control. And so very easy to forget you have the straight stitch plate in place...


David Scheidt
(dscheidt) - F
Re: re: straight stitch needle plate on 04/02/2012 15:47:59 MDT Print View

>Just make sure you remember to swap to the zig-zag plate before you set the machine to zig-zag...

>Trouble is, with most modern machines, it's so very easy to adjust the zig-zag, with a simple slider control. And so very easy to forget you have the straight stitch plate in place..

Yeah, my 20U had the needle bar clamp broken when I got it, almost certainly caused by someone engaging zig zag when it was supposed to be locked into straight stitch. If you find yourself prone to this sort of behavior, a post it note stuck over the controls might help.

I, of course, have never, ever broken a needle on the straight stitch presser foot....

James Reilly
(zippymorocco) - M

Locale: Montana
another thread on 04/08/2012 13:56:52 MDT Print View

I started a thread over in gear swap that turned into a nice companion to this thread

I ended up going with a Newhome 844 that came with all the books and was probably built in the 70's 80's I got it very cheap and seems to be functioning well. I have made a rain skirt and a hip pocket for my backpack. Very fun.

I am going to post back on that thread with the results once I finish testing the machine. I really want that Pfaff 130 in the original picture but it ended up having a 6 week wait to be tuned and have the motor added. I wanted to get started now!

Good luck!