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HisChildBeth | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I had a desire planted in my heart several weeks ago that I would like to make baby quilts for Moms in need.  I was there once long ago so it feels a good fit.  I’m ill and can’t work anymore, so sewing seems like a good way to give back.  I sewed for my baby until I had to go back to work as a single Mom, many long years ago.  I’m not totally alien to sewing, but it has been a long time.

I’ve spent weeks researching sewing machines and I have it down to 2 brands and 3 machines, but when I did all this research I found that what I wanted to do, quilting and some clothes sewing, would probably cost me more like $1000 than $500 to get a machine that will be out of the shop rather than in it all the time.  I wanted to do embroidery too, but that’s another whole new ball game.

Add to that the cost of start up supplies, classes and/or books to learn what I’m doing, the cost of projects and the sum is getting daunting.  Then I go out to look for a good iron because my old one is just that … old, scratched, and spitting.  What do I find but people talking about irons I’ve never heard of that cost hundreds of dollars and you just wouldn’t consider ironing with anything less.  Then I find out that my old rickity metal frame ironing board, even with a new cover, is a basic piece of trash.  I should be making a big thick cover with natural fibers, and yada yada yada.

Years ago I had a Mary Proctor and hated it because it was so heavy so I sold it at a garage sale for $2.  Fan the poor ladies who just passed out.  I now know I sold a hidden treasure for nothing.  Story of my life.  That’s why I have so much junk.  I’m afraid to get rid of anything and later find out later it wasn’t junk.  Of course, I can’t afford to pay an appraiser to come and tell me if I have junk, and the lady from the antigue store would rob me blind if she had a chance.

All I want to do is make something pretty for a Mom who needs something pretty and practical for her baby.  I’m a perfectionist and wouldn’t give something that looks “home-made” (ie, trashy sewing), but can’t I do this for less than a few thousands dollars?

I’ve been at this researching for weeks with nothing accomplished.  I’m getting so scared of the money issue (I’m on disability with a fixed income) that I don’t know what to do!

I found dealers that will take payments on a good machine so that part I can swing, but any help on a good, but reasonably priced iron and ironing board would be helpful.

I am lost in the sea of the internet not knowing what to buy for start up materials as well.  I have a beginners guide to quilting, and a ton of sewing instruction on the web for free, but what I need is a list of basic sewing supplies I need to get started.  The quilting guide book has a list of quilting start-up supplies.  Some things like pins and a decent (not some $1000 German steel) cloth cutting scissors, and basic thread.

Thread!  That’s another whole area I got lost in the other night.  There are so many kinds of thread I don’t know where to start.  I just want some good basic sewing thread and supplies.  I don’t want a degree in sewing, I just want to sew and learn and get better with time.  I don’t expect to be perfect the first time out of the box.



  1. katina | | #1

    Hello there

    You've certainly been doing your homework pretty throroughly, but perhaps in such detail that you've become quite overwhelmed. I don't know if you are mobile, or in what kind of area/community you live. My friend visited me recently from South Carolina where she's involved in a group making quilts for charity. We spent a few happy afternoons making quilt tops from my cottons for her to take back; she'll finish them at home. Then we completed a few to give to some soon-to-be-single moms in this area. They're lovely! Bright and cheerful in the most basic of block patterns with basic grid quilting. Neatly made, but not perfection in the sense that they'd win prizes - any mom would love to receive one.

    My point is that perhaps you may be able to make contact with such a group, or at least with an individual who shares your desire to help, "to make something pretty for a Mom". That will take care of the immediate need for a sewing machine and supplies. Please don't think that willingness to help and be involved are not 'supplies' in themselves. They are the most important part of such an undertaking. If you feel able to make a start this way, I'm sure you'll benefit a great deal from the contacts. You'll hear all kinds of views and opinions, learn about sources of supplies. Many a good used sewing machine has been acquired this way.

    Don't be discouraged - the crew here on Gatherings will be full of ideas.

    Good luck and keep us informed of your progress.


  2. meg | | #2

    May I suggest that you do some yard-sale-ing yourself to find a machine - or network with some sewing friends; perhaps one of them has a machine to sell you. Or check with a machine dealer, many of us trade in a perfectly serviceable machine for a fancier model. A quilting group I belong to often shares fabrics, and we trade and give away to each other. Perhaps you could start there?

  3. damascusannie | | #3

    Beth--Before you go and spend a whole lot of money on stuff you don't really need, may I suggest that you take a look at the quilts in my webshots albums? I do all of my sewing on treadle, straight stitch machines and I think you'll be surprised at what you can accomplish with a simple straight stitch machine. I use vintage, no-steam irons that I buy at garage sales and thrift stores and I have a professional quilting business, with clients throughtout the country, who want me to quilt their pieced tops--all on a treadle sewing machine. Don't let the hype get to you, you can make beautiful quilts on a good, vintage sewing machine.

    1. dollmarm | | #13

      Great advice I am with you my lady !  My grandmother and my mother-in-law both have very ancient (as they are called) sewing machines and you would think they have the newest designs with what they have put out. 

      In fact my mother-in-law never uses a machine on her quilts - ALL of us hers and her moms were all sewn by hand and the sitches are quite tight!  

  4. woodywoodpecker598 | | #4

    Not to rain on your parade but do you really need a new machine? Alot of dealers have trade-ins, garage sales (have already been memtioned), ads in your local paper, freecycle pages in your area. I find second hand shops(like the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities ect.) a good place for patterns, material, all kinds of sewing supplies, you'd be amazed at what you can come up with. Hope this gives you some ideas to think about, and Congratulations for wanting to help someone else!

  5. sewchris703 | | #5

    Perhaps with all the information you have researched, you are now not seeing the forest for the trees.  I make historically accurate clothing for reenactors and do bridal allerations.  I don't have expensive equipment.  My sewing machines are a $350 (new 5 years ago) Kenmore and a Singer Featherweight (handed down to me by an old friend) that's older than I am.  My iron is a Black and Decker Classic that I got on sale at Lowe's for $20 (new, they're about $30).  Pins, tape measures, etc. can be gotten on sale a little at a time.  Same for fabrics and batting.  Start small and grow.  Check out your local fabric and quilting shops for groups that already do what you want to do and join them.  Another resource is your local non-profit agencies for the homeless and abused mothers/children.  Also local churches.


  6. starzoe | | #6

    I agree with woodywoodpecker's comments. To begin, you don't need anything expensive, begin with fabric and findings from free or thrift stores. Find a group to work with, perhaps even contact churches or volunteer groups. You don't have to do this on your own.Also, you may find that, despite all the work and time you have put into the proposed project, it may not be exactly what you want and you will end up with expensive and unnecessary equipment. You don't need hi-tech equipment to sew simple blankets, or anything for that matter. Think of our foremothers who did very well supporting their households with hand-or treadle machines or no machine at all, using recycled fabrics and ingenuity.Baby blankets--and have you already found a recipient for the blankets?--may not be the most needed item.Start simple with what you have and add to it if and when you need it and can afford it without going into debt.

  7. Josefly | | #7

    You've gotten some good advice from lots of people here. I'd like to add that I got sucked into the expensive iron thing a few years ago, and was very disappointed that it didn't last very long. I replaced it with a Black and Decker from Target. That iron is now spitting and dripping, and I'm going to get another. My ironing board is very wobbly - no matter how careful I am with my irons, they do get knocked over - so who can expect one to keep working properly? (I can't tell you how many times my mother's iron was dropped on hard floors, without suffering at all, but the old irons were more durable and didn't have electronic time sensors, etc.) If a $30 iron lasts me five years, I don't mind so much having to replace it, and I plan to replace the wobbly board with a more stable one, also from Target. That's my strategy.

  8. GailAnn | | #8

    Dear Sister Beth

    Try a Sewing Machine Store that takes in machines on trade.  Often they re-condition used machines and sell them for a fair price.

    I have a Janome, which I bought new, because I liked the buttonhole feature and the fact that it sewed over denim so well.  I think I paid in the region of $300.00 for it 2 years ago.

    The machines I use day in and day out, are Singer Featherweights.  One, made in 1961, I paid $50.00 for at a yard sale, many years ago.  The other, made in Scotland in 1954, I paid WAY TOO much for, but I wouldn't sell it for any price!

    Any Singer made between 1950 and 1974 or 75, will probably be a good, hardworking, reliable machine.

    I do have a Rowena Iron, and it does a fine job, but I've had other less expensive irons that have been quite satisfactory.  An ironing board can be puchased from any Walmart or Target, and one is probably as good as another.

    Your public library will be a source of old Kansas City Star quilt patterns.  They have stood the test of time, and turn out just as beautifully today from quilting cottons as they did 60 years ago from feed sacks.

    I am 100% with you on the subject of Natural Fibers.  Synthetics are not worth the gamble in terms of time, trouble, or energy.  Often the batting will "beard" or work it's way out through a cotton/poly blend.  Who wants to wrap her baby in plastic, anyway?

    Bless you in your Mission and ministry.  Gail

    Edited 4/26/2008 1:40 pm ET by GailAnn

  9. fiberfan | | #9

    For a great and cheap ironing board cover, buy a natural color wool blanket from an Army/Navy store.  I think I paid $15 or $20 for the one I bought earier this year.  The ironning board I use most is a fold up one that hangs on a door.  I don't rememer how much it cost since I bought it years ago but it was probably $30 or $40.


  10. User avater
    missdee | | #10

    I am new to the forum, I live in Liverpool England. I was taught by my father to sew when i was 5 or 6yrs old on an old singer treadle sewing machine. My teenage outfits were unique!! Later on when my daughter was born needs must when I became a single parent all her clothes were made by myself.  I bought a bottem of the range reconditioned machine and payed weekly off it!! It could straight stitch,zig-zag, sew on a zip and do a simple button hole.  I still have that machine upstairs (although it is in retirement now!!!). 

    I think its best to start with what you can afford and not to be taken in by the hype!  The trick to useful products is take your time and sew carefully, it`s your own skills not computerised machines that make a lovely product for a person in need!  How much more lovely is hand embroidery compared to computerised machine motifs?

    I am now looking to buy an older version of a Bernina (a free hand  embroidery dream machine!!).  Yep i`ve moved round in a circle back to i need and must create something unique!!!!


  11. HisChildBeth | | #11

    I hope this is the correct way to reply to all of you that have been so kind and helpful to send your suggests and helpful comments.  Last night was probably not the best time for me to write.  I was whining a bit too much and blowing a lot of hot air. I am so much more blessed than a lot of people in this world that I have absolutely no right to complain about anything!  I have been so tired and sick of late that everything seems larger than life, like getting this project off the ground.

    I found an excellent quilt store that I had been too several weeks ago when they were having a sale, and when I went back in today to see what they had in used machines as suggested, they told me that they would give me the sale price on a new machine I was interested in and it would be cheaper than anything that they had used in the store right then.  Also, it was only $100 more than I could buy it on-line, without S&H.  They also offer 20% discount on all regularly priced merchandise to customers who buy a machine from them.  They have been in business since 1967 so they must know their business.  That was an answer to prayer, and to my joy, the owners of the store a also Christians!  They told me that any time I need help with something, just call ahead to setup a time, and they would work me through the difficulty one-on-one at no charge for as long as I own my machine.  I now have a beautiful Baby Lock Quilter's Choice and I doubt I will ever need any other machine!

    I thought that when we moved a few years ago that all of my sewing supplies had disappeared in the move.  I was very ill then, and someone had helped me pack to move cross country.  In moving some things in a closet today, I found unpacked boxes that I was clueless what was in them.  I should probably not have even opened them and just given them to Goodwill since I haven't seen what was in them for a very long time because of my illness.  Something just told me my sewing stuff was there somewhere.  It was a struglle, but low and behold I found my little treasure trove of sewing supplies, different types of straight pins, pin cushion, good scissors, thread and some other basics.

    Talk about God hearing my my prayerful plea!

    I have found two sites on-line that have patterns for different blankets and clothing items that are needed and also, the local Quilter's Quild has contacts with hospitals and other organizations here in the city.

    I am taking people's advice and starting small!  I am going to sew a great straight seam, and relearn some basics of sewing like straightening material, how to iron correctly, etc.  I'm going to take other advice and head for Walmart or Target and buy a good but fairly inexpensive iron, find a new cover for my old ironing board and line it with an old wool blanket I have.

    Once I'm ready to learn the ins and out of quilting I'll find a good book or class on-line and be hunting around for bargain fabric outlets.  Good fabric and thread I know is important for a beautiful, long-lasting piece of sewn art, so this is one area I don't want to cut corners on too much.  I'll try GWI and SA, and see what they have to offer too.

    Thanks to evyerone for writing me with helpful suggestions.


    Edited 4/26/2008 11:48 pm ET by HisChildBeth

    1. katina | | #12

      Good luck! What a great group we have here in Gatherings.

    2. dollmarm | | #14

      We all need to share - how ever we feel - illness can cause upset the apple cart you might say.  I am recovering from a bad fall where I broke that supporting bone in my right foot in 4 places and fractured the bones in the paw of that foot  3 weeks before Last Easter !  When I fell I hit my left side bruising and causing damage that was not noticed until my appendix ruptured - I almost died.  I had to have emergency surgery.  I had so much infection I had to be cut open from the belly button down.  I was one sick lady for a while.  THEN I had hubby, his mom and my daughter coming through my home and re-arranging to their liking as they helped.  SO many things got lost, so I thought until I got back on my feet properly.  I had to have another surgery for I developed a hernia in the belly button so the surgeon re-did my scar ( that was healing weird shape and re-did my belly button - that was the day before Thanksgiving.   I am still healing and still have more to do.  One toe is still not straight, but PTL I can walk and even wear a few of my heels once again.   I am told this all can take 6months to a year to 2years for a complete healing of all that was involved.  SO I keep you my daily prayers as well. Congrats of your wonderful find !!!   YOU have been given some great insight and again - take it slow and enjoy all that you are doing and ASK away for there some wonderful insightful  ladies through out this whole gatherings group.  AS you learn slowly you will gain more insight and will share soon yourself.  Thanks for the opportunity to get to know you and be a part of what you and we all need - to share !  :~)

      1. HisChildBeth | | #15

        Dollmarm I am so sorry you have had such a rough time!  I can so sympathize with you. Illness, or injury especially when that leads to illness, can really knock the wind out of your sails when you get a little older.  When I was a kid I did all kinds of stuff like skateboarding, water skiing, bike riding and in those days there was no safety equipment!  Some how I never managed to get seriously hurt except one time when I got bullied and beat up on the playground.  Turn the other cheek, and do not strike back in wrath.  Now I walk gingerly, especially on stairs.  I'm terrified of stairs because of serious balance problems.  I use two handrails in my house.  One of my worst falls was just over the threshhold of my front door.

        I do appreciate all the help people have offered.  I'm just bummed that right now I can't concentrate enough to really start using my new machine.  Maybe when they figure out what is wrong with me this time and I get all fixed again, I'll be ready to rock and roll!  It is like staring at a Christmas present but you can't open, only it is worse because it is just sitting there staring at me.  Typing this note is the sum total of my level of effort right now.

        I did smile though at your comment about wearing heels again.  I haven't been able to wear heels for so long that I know I would break my neck if I tried.  Now I wear velcro sport shoes because I can loosen them when my feet swell :-)

        Thanks for your prayers, and I will raise you up also as the Lord leads.

        1. dollmarm | | #16

          Thanks for sharing more so I can pray best for your needs as the dr's work with you.  Only the LORD knows and our faith is tested.  I do not have to tell you just how much you learn in the midst of the madness at times' there can be this unreal peace even as the tears fall. I would have to have a homecare nurse come three x's a week to open up the wound and drain it and make sure no infection was setting in.  That was the worst pain ever.  I was on such intense medication and painpills.  My daughter was afraid I was going to get addicted to them.  But they kept my stomach so ill.  I was so so thankful to be off them. I did have to go through a cleanse to get all the last effects out of my system.  I wear a cover patch over my scar and have to wear the spanx for support of the muscles.  I am slowly exercising but as soon as they were is much pain I have to quit.  I stretch and dance and box and jump on a Rebounder trampoline.   I have tummy exercises and am so looking forward to getting back into total shape.  I use to be a runner and want to get back to it.  I know it is better to be slow at this all for the inner healing takes time.  It will for you too.  Keep the brain fresh - keep reading and sharing this will sharpen you.  Best wishes for you and your hubby as you see the doctors,   :~)  Keep us all inform with all the progress. 

    3. zuwena | | #17

      Just wanted to add my two cents.  The Quilter's Choice Babylock is the machine I was going to recommend.  I don't have one but I looked it over carefully a year ago and would have gotten it had "quilting" been my first choice.  It has lots of great stitches to enhance quilts, a needle threader, and basically runs solidly.  I'm in the New York area and the store that I deal with usually offers something like the deal you received --so Happy Quilting.  Z

  12. User avater
    VKStitcher | | #18

    Hello Beth,

    You have received a lot of good information so far re: equipment and supplies.  I'm glad you found a machine that fit your needs.  You'll enjoy using your new Baby Lock.

    My ironing board is so old!  I got it at K-Mart when I was in college (almost 30 years ago!).  It's a lovely 70's era avocado green, but still works.  :-)  My husband had an odd-shaped ironing board when we got married, but we gave it to Goodwill because it was heavy and hard to find covers for it.  It was just in the last year that I found out that it was probably a Mary Proctor!

    I don't know if you already have an outlet for your quilts.  I make afghans and quilts for Project Linus and also pick up the blankets at a local drop site and take them to the chapter coordinator.  The blankets are given to children who are sick, hospitalized, in shelters, or in other crisis situations.  You can check here to see if there is a chapter near you.  Your local sewing/quilt stores may know of other organizations in your area that would love to receive your quilts as well.

    Welcome back to the sewing world, and welcome to this group.  There are lots of great people with great talent and ideas here.  Let us know how your projects turn out.

    1. User avater
      Flax | | #19

      excuse me for interrupting, but could someone please describe what a Mary Proctor is?

      1. Palady | | #20

        With VKStitcher's pardon, and because I am of the age to recognize the Mary Proctor name -

        It was THE product name during the mid 20th century.  Late 1930's possibly into the 1950's.  Irons, and associated items (boards + kitchen equipment) were manufactured with the name.  Were you to browse ebay, you'd likely find products being bought for considerably more than the original price.

        Ah yes, nostalgia.



        1. User avater
          VKStitcher | | #21

          Jump right on in!  Thanks for providing more information about Mary Proctor products.  My husband's ironing board was passed along to him from his aunt and was probably older than he is.  The cover was worn, and we couldn't find a replacement to fit, so we gave it away.  I didn't know at the time what a collectible it was.  ...and I could have made a cover for it!

          1. Palady | | #26

            >> ...and I could have made a cover for it! <<

            Smiled at that read!     Thanks for th chance to do so.


      2. Ralphetta | | #22

        I LOVE my old, gigantic, square-ended Mary Proctor ironing board! It's over 45 years old and I've been looking for one like it on Ebay for a couple of years because it's getting fragile. I've found nothing to equal it in newer items.

        1. BernaWeaves | | #27

          I have a "Big Board" (TM) that fits over my regular ironing board.


          It's a great big rectangle that fits over a regular ironing board when you need a lot of extra flat ironing space.


          1. Ralphetta | | #28

            That's a good idea. When this one finally passes away, I will keep that in mind.

          2. damascusannie | | #29

            We made our own big board and I use on top of a rolling storage unit. I figured I might as well have some storage if I was taking up that much floor space in the studio.

          3. Ralphetta | | #30

            What makes this ironing board special, in addition to being longer and wider than others, is that both ends are squared off. The one end is hinged from one corner of the end to about 16" down the the other side. unlike standard ones with the point in the middle, it's off to the side. It took a bit of getting used to, but the fact that I can have a rectangular board in a flash, makes up for it.

          4. dollmarm | | #31

            I thank u too for the site - I like that sqare size -  I need more space when I iron and that looks like I want  !  :~)

    2. HisChildBeth | | #23

      Thanks for the link to Project Linus.  I have found a couple of other leads on the web, and my local Bernina store told me that the Quilter's Guild has ties to several places here in the Raleigh area.  There is also a Project Linus coordinator in Raleigh.  Now I have to learn how to quilt!

      I have a real simple starter project and then a project in beginner's guide I bought so I should be busy learning the basics, but first I had to do all the essentials shopping for cutters, mats, ruller, pins, etc.  So as soon those things arrive I'll be all set for my first real quilt.  My first project is a Magic Quilt Pillow that turns a throw into a pillow.  I'll start that with scissors and then do the next one with my new tools since it is a 9 block wall hanging.

      Thanks for your link to Project Linus.


      Thanks to everyone for being so nice!  God Bless You and Yours!

      1. katina | | #24

        Good luck - I'm glad it's all working out.


      2. User avater
        VKStitcher | | #25

        You're welcome for the link.  I live near Raleigh, too.  I've sent you a private email...

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