• Which sewing machine? 30 April 2013 | View comments

  • There have been a number of occasions that people have asked Granny D – “what kind of machine do you use”, and it has now become apparent by the number  of times that Granny has been asked that it would be a good idea to include it in a blog so that everyone can see what she has to say and will also work as a point of reference if someone asks in the future.

    Granny D began sewing as a young girl and she used her Mum’s elna machine – she cannot even remember what type within the range it was but knowing Granny T it would have been the best that her money could buy her all those years ago. So until she had to go out and buy a machine for herself she thought there was only one machine, but since beginning her Granny D business these are some tips that could help you choose the right machine for you.

    Who will use the machine??
    Are you a beginner or are you experienced?
    A beginner? Well I would suggest that you get yourself an inexpensive machine to start with ( you can get them from around £50). They should have the basic stitches available and give you an option to reverse (for finishing). You may well find as Granny D did that the basic machine might be just fine for you and you will end up with a long and loving relationship with it.

    Experienced? An experienced sewer will look for more features i.e. more stitching options, button hole makers, and longer arms for sewing bigger items. Sewing machines range in options and Granny D would suggest that computerised machines be bought by those who have had a lot of sewing experience – at least for the first time.
    In short it is not always a question of the most elaborate machine will give the best results – Granny D wants lots of people to sew and not be put off by things you don’t understand and therefore under utilise the machine.
    A general guide – the more expensive a machine the more options you will have.

    What will your machine be used for??
    Light crafting (cotton fabric and felt) dressmaking, cushion covers, table cloths and light home furnishing as well as repairs and alterations. A basic machine would do just fine for these things, but if your dressmaking involves legs of trousers or sleeves look for a machine with a long arm as an addition which will help.
    If you are doing upholstery, look for a machine for heavy use.
    Crafting with heavy fabric or quilting you will need a machine with a wide variety of stitches.

    Frequency of Use.

    How often will the machine be used?

    If a machine is only for occasional use, a basic machine should do the job just fine. It is not essential to have a huge amount of stitches but even the basic machines can offer up to 20 different stitches which is more than enough to start.
    Weight and Storage.
    Will it need to be packed away after use? Then it is really important to read the description of the machine and see what the weight is. Consider a machine that you will be comfortable lifting and packing away.
    Also consider if you are sewing heavier fabric that the machine must be a little heavier so that it does not move on the table as the fabric feeds through.

    Does it come with it’s own storage area underneath and is in a desk like compartment – these are more expensive but it may be worth it because you can keep all your bits of fabric and cotton in that space – saving you having to find extra cupboard space if it is a premium in the first place.
    Does it have a cover? If it is a stand alone machine that you will either pack away or leave on a sewing table then it is a good idea to make a sewing machine cover one of your first projects to test your lovely new machine out.
    Different types of  machines.
    Mechanical sewing machines: Mechanical sewing machines are basic models, with no electronic foot pedal (which I do recommend that you get). They can sew most materials but can be found for as little as £20, best suited for the occasional repairs and very light work.
    Electronic sewing machines: These machines work by a single motor which sends an electric impulse to work the needle. This, in conjunction with the foot pedal and feeding mechanism can be operated allowing you both hands freed to guide the fabric and adjust the speed. Stitch types and lengths are selected by using a dial. This is similar to the one Granny D began using when she moved to Scotland.
    This model would suit most needs of home sewers. Remember that the more the function and stich variety the higher the  price. These can start from as little as £50.
    Computerised sewing machines:
    These machines are best suited to an experienced sewer who is now ready to upgrade to a more versatile machine. These machines work by using several motors to control different functions of the machine.
    The accuracy of the control makes it possible to produce hundreds of different stitches which are selected by pressing a key and in most cases using a touch pad linked to an LCD display screen. They may even have a feature which will memorise past projects and download designs from the internet when connected to a PC.
    Overlocker sewing machines:
    Overlockers are essentially a finishing machine, mainly items like hems and seams but they can also be used for other decorative options.
    The main benefit of an overlocker is that they can sew a seam, finish the edge and cut off the excess fabric in one step – saving you so much time. It can be very useful if you only want to do simple projects such as making curtains or taking up hems but does not  have the versatility of a sewing machine and Granny D would not recommend only having an overlocker for anyone who wants to experiment  sewing different things. It cannot for example do buttonholes or zips (and believe Granny D when you think you won’t need that function she is sure that one day you will). They are great for sewing knitted fabrics however and give a more professional finish to projects.
    Having an overlocker is a useful addition to your sewing machine if you sew frequently. By the way a tip from Granny D – overlockers are also known as “sergers”.
    Confused by Jargon?
    If all the technical terms seem to be completely baffling then Granny D has put together a glossery of terms which may help.
    Bobbin – a bobbin is a small spool for holding thread. Sewing machines need 2 threads to make a stitch. The need thread which comes from the top of the machine and the one from the bobbin which comes upwards from under the needle plate. Thread is wound onto the bobbin (you can get machines that offer this on an automatic switch), and then fitted into the bobbin case and put into place.
    Buttonholes – most machines have a buttonhole feature in either a 1 or 4 step process. The fewer the process the easier it is.
    Feed Dogs -  these are saw-shaped teeth that move the fabric through the machine. As the needle stitches, the feed dogs grab the fabric, moving it under the “pressure foot” and the term “drop feed dog” simply means that the feed dogs can be used in either the up or down postion. When the feed dogs are down you can use the machine for work such as machine embroidery, where fabric can be moved freely under the needle.
    Free arm – this is a cylinder on the be of the machine which allows you to sew items such as sleeves and trouser legs. This usually works by detaching a piece on the base of the machine leaving the arm protruding.
    Intergrated drop feed – the teeth drop down, making it easier to move the fabric move easier and more freely and is used mostly when quilting or embroidering.
    Intergrated dual feed – if you are sewing 2 pieces of fabric together as in quilting this clever feature ensures a smooth and equal feeding of both fabrics.
    Knee lifter – This is a lever which can be pressed by your knee to allow lifting the presser foot and drop the feed dogs without taking your hands off the work. This is best used when quilting, or sewing around curves or appliqué.
    Lock stitch facility – Used when ending a stitch or embroidery to stop unravelling but if you do not have this facility do not worry all you have to do is reverse back over the last bit of sewing.
    Needle plate – This plate is the part which fits over the feed dogs on the bed of the machine and has a hole for the needle to pass through.
    Presser Foot -  This will hold the fabric in place against the feed dogs so that it does not move about while sewing. You can buy specialised presser feet for different projects.
    Stitch Selector – On basic machines this is usually a dial to select stitches which may include straight left margin or right margin stitching – zig zag. On a computerised machin this is done by pressing a key or using a touch pad.
    Twin needle: this gives parallel rows of stitches if you are after a more decorative or stronger seam.
    Needles – These come in boxes and some are all the same size and others are a mixture of for instance 80 point to 100 point. The heavier the fabric the thicker the needle needs to be.

    What machine does Granny D use for her crafting business you ask? A basic machine that has 20 stitch options, buttonhole and zipper facility, and has a reasonable weight so that it doesn’t fly around the table when sewing. Granny D has managed to do blinds with upholstery fabric and pvc items like the pvc cushions and other pvc/oilcloth items in her shop. Take a peek right now and see how they look. http://shop.grannyd.co.uk/


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  • Comments

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    Carole Created on 01/05/2013 10:50

    Very informative Din...sounds like you know your sewing machine inside out. Keep up the good work xx

    Stef Created on 01/05/2013 17:47

    Thank you for this!!!!! really so useful and clear, exactly what I needed!!
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