Posted on

Tools of the Trade: Sewing Machines

I have written a few blog posts on my personal blog about sewing machines and sewing related issues. I just went back and looked them over and noticed that I received quite a few nice comments. So this is probably a topic of interest to a number of people.

In case you don’t have the time to go visit my blog and look for my old articles, let me sum up the important criteria in choosing a sewing machine:

1. What NOT to get

The first sewing machine I ever owned was an old hand-me-down from my husband’s grandma. It was a singer from the 50s/or 60s. I am certain my husband’s grandma who was a minister’s wife and ran a daycare created many lovely things with this machine. But for me, a business owner, it didn’t work out at all. This machine, received for free, was too weak to deal with the stress of daily sewing projects and finally gave up it’s ghost when we tried to make sofa covers with a heavy sailcloth material.

Next I received another hand-me-down machine. I can’t believe I actually paid money for this POS (excuse the bad language, but it’s true) I bought from a friend. In her defense I can only say, she never used that machine and didn’t have a clue about sewing. Neither did I or wouldn’t have bought it from her. It was another Singer, you know the type they sell you at Walmart or JoAnn stores, for a couple of hundred dollars. It constantly had tensions problems and needed adjusting. I don’t know how many trips I took to the repair shop with that darn thing. I most likely could have bought 2 more machines with that money.

2. What you need to look for

I agonized for many months on what type of machine to get. Being poor I started looking at used machines on Ebay and other online places. Luckily my husband discouraged me. He said: why spend  a couple hundred bucks on another person’s problem? What if you get another lemon?

So with heavy heart and mostly empty pockets,  I went to a local sewing shop and bought a Bernina 1008. I have had this machine for 4 years now. It’s the best investment I ever made into my little business. The most important feature in a sewing machine, I would say, is the “accessability” (I know this is not a word but I like it anyways) of the bobbin case. On the two Singer machines getting into the bobbin case was as inconvenient as it could get. Whenever the thing got jammed with lint – which happens a lot with those cheap machines – I had to take a little screwdriver and open it up. So much time was wasted cleaning that bobbin case, I don’t know how I ever got any work done.

The Bernina machine I own has a bobbin case in which the bobbing stands up sideways rather than lay flat. All you do is flip the compartment open when you need to change the bobbin or want to clean the inside. It’s very easy!


3. Computer versus Mechanical Machine

Okay, I have to admit it. I am an old-fashioned kind of girl who grew up in Germany where libraries still had all books inventoried on little flashcards that were held in pull-out drawers. Anyone here remember those? There were no computers at the library until after I graduated. The first time I wrote a term paper on a computer was when I came to the US and encountered a modern library.  In other words: computers still scare me. So I did not go for the modern type of computerized sewing machine that they sell.

My Bernina 1008 is a mechanical machine. After interviewing a number of people I learned that this type of Bernina model was used in schools to teach highschool kids sewing. This machine has no fancy features other than that it can make buttonholes and has about 20 or so decorative stitches. For me it was perfect, and I have never regretted the decision to buy it. But maybe  it is time to get another one so I can give the poor thing  a rest…

Any suggestions? What are you using and recommend?

If you are in the market for a new machine please check out John Giordano’s The Sewing Machine Guide: Tips on Choosing, Buying, and Refurbishing. It’s a great little book I found at my local library when I was looking for advice on what machine to buy!

Happy Sewing!
Ulla Seckler is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.

6 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade: Sewing Machines

  1. Three cheers for Bernina and mechanical machines!!
    I bought the 1008 twelve years(?) ago after being spoiled by my mom’s Bernina every time I visited her with projects in hand. I loved my 1008.

    When my mom passed away four years ago, my sisters agreed to give me my mom’s machine, a Bernina 930 (twenty years old and is a mechanical workhorse). It has a few more features than my 1008 and I get a little hug from my mom each time I use it.

    It lives in a teak sewing cabinet that she bought in 1960 when my parents lived in Taiwan. The drawers of the cabinet are still filled with her little treasures including the button-filled can that I used to play with when I was little.

    1. Awe, your post made me choke up. My mom’s machine went to one of my sisters. But I took a bunch of the little odds and ends from her sewing cabinet. Thanks for sharing, Nancy!

  2. Your ‘what not to get’ sounds alot like my own experiences. Hand me downs and then a super cheap machine that would jam up everytime you looked at it sideways. Now I’m in a really small place and I got rid of it altogether. But just the other day I noticed at a friend’s house that she kept hers on the floor beside of her dining room table and pulls it up to work. Even I have room to do this! So I as just thinking I’d like to get a new one. I really appreciate your review here!

  3. I have a Singer bought at Target about 10 years ago. I’ve never had a problem. But then, I am sort of a rudimentary sewer. My mom gave me a sewing machine when I was 13, but it seems to be living in another state with my brother. 🙁

  4. […] – Model DC4030PRBrother CS6000I Sewing MachineOnSale Janome Computerized Sewing Machine DC3050Tools of the Trade: Sewing Machines .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 […]

  5. hey,you have posted such a effectful article that it will certainly help me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *