Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sewing Machine Advice

I'm often asked for advice on what kind of sewing machine to buy.

Because Sew Mama Sew has been having a month of sewing machines, I thought it timely to post about the machines I own, and link to the wealth of information about all sorts of machines there and on blogs around the world. Perhaps you'd like to review your own machine and link in to the meme...?

Leisl has also started a Flickr group to show off your sewing machine/s - I'll sew you mine if you sew me yours...

I have an almost embarrassing number of sewing machines, but my favourite of favourites is my simple straight-stitch industrial Singer. Bought for $250 in about 1994 and probably the most used and best travelled machine in the world. And the overlocker below has been a constant companion.

I bought this industrial three-thread overlocker for $150 in about 1988. It used to be in a lovely black and gold antiquey-looking casing. By the mid-90's, a few parts needed replacing and (as it's an obsolete model) I had to buy another $100 machine and get a mechanic to merge the two of them. Despite my instructions to keep the lovely black casing, he gave me the dodgey grey one and kept the black one for himself.

I have a collection of old domestic machines that people can use in classes. I think these older Bernina and Janome machines are the most perfect option for home-sewing-bag-makers-on-a-budget. They have the solid metal parts and gears to handle going through the bulk of fabric that you encounter with bags. (New Berninas and Janomes are great too - but I can't afford to collect them!).

My experience of newer machines (that people bring to classes) is that you have to spend a fair bit of money to get a new machine with the equivalent ability (and accessories) to plough on through thick bag bits. Those new plastic machines for under $400 don't really cut it for lumpy sewing. I bought these Berninas through a dealer who offers a great back-up warrantee and free service within the first 12 months. You pay a bit more for that (like... about $400) but it's good to have that back-up. (My advice: Get to know your local sewing machine dealer, kids!)

I picked up this Janome at an op shop for $30. It had supposedly been electrically tested, but was blowing smoke when I took it home. Strangely enough, I knew that a machine blowing smoke is not necessarily a big problem - it's often in need of a new condenser (geez, I sound like I know what I'm talking about...!), which isn't expensive at all. A full service and a new condenser cost me $120. A good, solid machine for $150.

This Singer was an impulse buy at the sewing machine shop. $150 including warrantee and service within 12 months. Solid metal parts. Cute retro styling. I'll have that, thanks. Something broke on it just after the 12 months warrantee period expired and the mechanic still fixed it for free.... like I said, get friendly with your dealer!

Ahhh... old faithful. This is the machine I got for my 16th birthday. It's seen some action. It's travelled around the world with me. And now my wee girl won't let me near it. Apparently it's HER machine (she sews things together by using the handwheel). I still use this one when I do buttonholes.
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Things I forgot to photograh:
I also have an old Pinnock like Lara's - which I've never used (because all those buttons confuse me... I must ask Lara for a lesson!!). My sister-in-law gave it to me. And I also have a Toyota domestic overlocker (also from the sister-in-law, who was upgrading). It's not my preferred brand but I use the overlocker all the time.
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Now, if you think that's an embarrassing collection, don't get me started on my irons and pressing equipment!!

14 comments:

Kirsty said...

Now I'm all excited about getting "the dragon" in working order. Wonderful collection Nikki.

rachelmp said...

Ohhh, I love all your sewing machines Nikki! Shame I have to work or I would be running off to play with mine x Rachel

Sandra @ Pepperberry and Co. said...

Wow! Those oldies are so gorgeous. I want one!!

our shabby cottage said...

I think you need to ring the ABC programme "Collectors" and get them to come around and do an article on all those machines!!!

Leonie said...

My collection is exactly the same as the first three of yours. I love them all to bits too.

Fer said...

Oh I hear you! I have an industrial Singer as well, a 211 that used to be used for sewing upholstery at a furniture makers. We call it The Thug, because it is.

The old Bernina's and Singer's are just the best. I'll never get rid of my 830, even though I've upgraded to a 1230.

Great post Nikki!

laura said...

My mother gave me her Viking (one of the first electronic ones)about 25 years ago but it died after a few years. I then bought a Janome Memory Craft 8000 (for $2,000!!) at least 15 years ago (I pray that it doesn't quit). My New Home 3 thread serger is also old and I paid over $500.00 for it. In the meantime my mother has blown through about 3 more machines, I kid you not!! I also have my great grandmother's electic Singer that has a lever you press with your knee to make it go (it still works great) and my former MIL gave me a very old portable Singer. So many machines...
BTW don't you ever sleep?!

chris said...

Last count, I had 13 machines, but I think 1 or 2 more may have snuck in since then.
Roger is my favourite mechanic, too. He gave me a great deal on my coverstitch machine last year and always has whatever bits I need for my old Singers.
And, you know, you sew (and teach) for a living. Don't be embarassed about how many machines you have - these are tools of your trade. You obviously look after them well - be proud. ;-)

Pinktulip said...

What an impressive collection! Wow! My local Singer shop sells new and secondhand machines and I often visit to see if there are any bargains. I am very keen to lay my hands on an industrial sewing machine, but they are scarce...

Tania said...

Oh my giddy Aunt! Can't say anymore - too bizzy picking jaw off floor.

RosaMaría said...

tienes una hermosa colección!!

Handmade said...

That overlocker is a doozy! I'm a Bernina fan - I've got a collection of Berninas - I even have some old ones for sale at the moment .... I'll be listing them on ebay soon - and we all know ... the old ones are the best!

Sherrin said...

My god! That is some collection!!!

Anonymous said...

great post Nikki love your collection!! Do you have a model number for the first one on the list? If you do can you please post it? xxx