By Marg Marlow
Here are some things to think about your new and wonderful purchase!
What do I want to do with this ‘new’ machine?
What kind of features do I need?
Do I want it cheap?
Do I want the best quality I can get at this time?
Do I want this to really perform for me with the least trouble for many years to come?
There are so many things to think about when buying a new machine. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, especially when we don’t know a lot about our own machine, (except the tension never works, and it won’t free motion!), let alone going shopping at many different stores, looking at many different brands and models.
I have been in the machine business for over 20 years and have sewn on (and owned) most makes of machines. Here are a few hints for your successful and happy ending, purchase.
TopTension: Can I alter the tension dial back and forth many times, then put it back to where the normal setting is, and will it sew perfectly?
Bobbin Tension: Very Important! Can I alter this tension? Remember not all bobbin tensions can be altered, making it very difficult to sew with heavier or finer threads, or sew with threads from the bobbin. Drop in bobbins usually cannot be altered, so a front loading bobbin case with a tiny screw is better. Remember, you want to control the machine, not the machine control you!!
Feed Dogs: Can these be lowered? And if so, is it a very simple task like turning a knob, pushing a button, or do you have to go into a computer program and start pushing many buttons. (I have taught many classes with these types of machines in class, and the student has had to phone the store, or even miss part of the class, and go directly to the store to achieve, what should be, a very simple task).
Presser Feet: Do I have to ‘unscrew’ the foot from the shank every time I want to change the foot? This is time consuming, and sometimes a difficult task to get the screw back in again. Snap on feet seem to be the answer, but remember they will loosen over use, so you will not have the same hold on your fabric when sewing. A foot with the shank attached is the easiest to change, and can be done with one hand.
Free Motion: This has become a very popular type of quilting and embroidery technique. You will need a special foot for this type of sewing. All machines except Bernina, have a shank which is permanetly attached to the machine, so when you ‘screw’ the free motion foot on, the shank is still there, making it bulky, and someti,es hinders your vision. A ‘free motion’ foot, which is simpke to use, is better.
Free Motion Foot: A steel foot is (preferably with the front cut out) easy to see where you are going. A plastic foot distorts the vision.
FHS System: This is attached to the front of your machine and hangs down close to your knee, which, when activated with your ‘knee’, lifts the presser foot, and you have ‘both your hands free’ to adjust your fabric, turn it around, etc. or whatever you need to do at the time. An invaluable accessory!
Embroidery: Many machines come with computerized embroidery. It is usually cheaper to buy it at the original purchase than to add it on later.
Stitch Regulator: This is for Free Motion stitching only. It is an attachment that when you do free motion stitching, it senses the speed your travelling and adjusts the stitch length…no more uneven stitches!..even if your speed changes, which it always does.
Your Sewing Machine Dealer: You have to ‘like’ your dealer! This is a long term relationship! You will be going in for lessons, troubles, and servicing. Be sure they have a ‘qualified’ and ‘Certified’ technician in the brand you wish to purchase.
You all know I own Bernina sewing machines. I have owned a top of the line Pfaff, Husqvarna, and Elna. (All European brands…they have such highly qualified technicians). And of course, I started with a top of the line Kenmore. I have learned to use my Bernina sewing machines to the fullest, but the main sewing we do each day is straight stitching, and this is one of the most important stitches we have to deal with. Make sure your new purchase has a wonderful straight stitch. If it has extra stitches, or the whole deal, great, then it’s there just in case…… You might want to decorate a little granddaughters dress, or edge a napkin, tablecloth, pillowcase, etc., then you have it at your finger tips.
Also check out the ‘Buttonhole’. You never know when you might need one of these. When you do a buttonhole, the upper thread should show on the bottom of the fabric, and the stitches should be tight and very close together. Always test the buttonhole on the same fabric with as many layers as on the ‘real thing’.
Sewing machines are made to sew 2 layers of fabric together, so if you test on 1 layer, it most likely won’t be perfect! Bernina has a feed system called the Box Feed, which means when you are sewing, the ‘complete’ feed dog is on the surface to pull the fabric, hence a very strong feed. Others are on an oval system so that only part of the feed dog is doing the job, and if you look at the Pfaff, this is why they have the built in walking foot. You need this for a strong feed just to sew 2 layers of fabric together.
Make a Wise Purchase, and Enjoy Your Machine For Many, Many Years to Come!!!