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Newbie wants to purchase new machine.

Suzyq | Posted in General Discussion on

Hi.  I’m a real Newbie to sewing….I’m taking a class which starts in 2 weeks and I am so psyched about it!  I also have been looking online and in the fabric store for a machine that I can grow with.  The Viking machines seem like a solid and reliable brand and one of the women at the store recommended the Platinum Plus.  She couldn’t rave enough about the embroidery features and she said that I’d be using that in no time.  Is that true?  I thought it looked beautiful, but am I dreaming and looking too far ahead?  Haven’t sewed since JHS about 35 years ago but I don’t want to fuss too much with a used machine either.  My co-worker has a low-end Brother and by her talking about sewing, it sounds more like a chore for her than anything else.  I feel that this will be a good hobby for me and will bring out my “creative” side.  I appreciate all replies and opinions.  Thanks;-)  Sue


  1. MegVT | | #1

    Welcome home to sewing!!!  You'll want to find a reputable dealer, one with whom you feel comfortable. 

    You do want a machine which will not give you fits.  In my humble opinion, unless you long to make fabulous embroidery, you'll be happier spending money on a machine which doesn't list embroidery as its' strong suit.  A good machine may have a few fancy stitches, but as a person getting back into sewing you probably won't be doing lots of embroidery right off the bat.  You will be needing the straight, ziz-zag stitches right away, though.  AND, once you get into the sewing, you can always upgrade machines.

    Try lots of different machines to get a feel for them.  Don't count out used machines, either. 

    Meg, who owns a 1981 Pfaff 1222E with integrated dual feed (a machine I just love).

    1. Suzyq | | #2

      Well thanks Meg for your advice.  It seems to me anyway that there are a lot of folks who have multiple machines to do the job at hand.  There are the embroidery models and the quilting models and the ones that are the workhorses doing the every day chores.  I just didn't want to get something that I'd outgrow quickly.  But it makes sense to me.

      1. kayl | | #3

        May I suggest a couple of Taunton Press books (no, I don't own stock in

        the company, just like these two books!) One is Carol Ahles Fine Machine Sewing, and it's about using a sewing machine for some fairly

        sophisticated decorative techniques... many of which can be handled

        by a plain ol' zigzag machine. The first chapters are about getting

        the best results with your sewing machine... threads, needle, stabilizer, fabric handling, tension -- they all contribute to good results. Knowing how to change things on your machine so that you get

        the best possible results is going to help you keep from wanting to

        toss the machine out the window some evening. <g> (been there, strongly considered doing that!).

        John Giordano's book is about figuring out your sewing style (thrifty?

        love all the bells and whistles??) and choosing and maintaining a sewing machine, old or new.

        Things I would look for if I were shopping with you:

        --very good to excellent straight stitch

        --tension that's easy to control

        --presser foot pressure that's variable

        --controls that "fit you" (for instance, Bernina makes wonderful machines, and the controls drive me bananas. They're great for many people and make me feel like a total klutz).

        --sturdy (which does not necessarily mean "metal gears", but does mean that the basic construction can drive the needle enough to penetrate, say, 6 layers of denim, and that the machine itself is repairable if something goes wrong. Some of the cheapie discount store specials are close to expendable.)

        --zigzag is nice

        --a buttonhole mechanism that doesn't drive you nuts.

        --a good dealer who'll take care of your machine properly

        You might well consider a used machine right now, one that "fits you

        pretty well", and has a bit of growing room, but not every bell and whistle on the planet. There are some very nice used but older machines sitting on the shelves where someone has decided to go for the top of the line, all the goodies, ultimate sewing extravaganza machine. Especially if you can get one in working order at a reasonable price, you can then spend a bit on books, better fabric, lessons, maybe even a serger. And when the embroidery bug bites and you go for the top of the line, you'll have an old faithful ready to

        sew while the other machine embroiders, or ready for nasty jobs like sewing coated upholstery fabric.

        FWIW, I sew mostly garments. 95% of the machine sewing I do is with a

        straight stitch. Probably 4% is with the zigzag, three step zigzag or buttonhole (there are three styles built into my machine.) There are

        about 20 other stitch patterns built into my machine, and they get used perhaps 1% of the time. I'd probably never miss them if they were gone. Other folks would feel differently.


        1. carolfresia | | #5

          Kay, thanks for bringing up the Carol Ahles book.

          Before I came to  Threads, I avoided that book because I assumed that it was about fussy, heirloom sewing, which I never planned to do. Well, as Kay has pointed out, it's really about how to do the best job using the machine you have. Ahles has done an incredibly thorough job of studying and explaining all the variables involved, and I learned a huge amount from reading it. It will really empower you to understand how to solve many stitching problems, and how to enjoy whatever level of technology your machine possesses.

          Plus, Carol Ahles is very, very charming, and I get a kick out of "hearing" her voice in my head as I read the book!


        2. Suzyq | | #6

          Thanks to you too for your advice.  I did order a couple of books already and may look into these also.  I like computerized gadgets and like looking at what the machines can do.  But like anything else, I know that the basics must be mastered first before the fancy stuff can be attempted.  I'm excited about learning something new.  I am hopeful that I'll enjoy this and that it will be a hobby that will stick around and be appreciated by others.

          1. kayl | | #7

            One of the interesting things about sewing machine design, imho, is that the prettiest (straightest, most even) straight stitching comes

            from a machine that does only straight stitch. And some fabrics handle better under a narrow presser foot, with narrow feed dogs than with a

            machine that is designed to be able to do ultrawide stitching designs... so sometimes, a couple of machines are better than one!


          2. kayl | | #8

            Oh yes... if you want to see what someone who can really use a machine

            can do with just an old treadle, straight stitch only machine, you might see if your library can get you a copy of "Singer Instructions

            for Art Embroidery" -- it's been reissued several times over the years.

            Amazing and delicate lacework and embroidery done basically freehand

            on a treadle machine.

            I'm flabbergasted (and humbled by the skill therein!) every time I look at that book.


          3. FitnessNut | | #9

            Isn't that book amazing???? It is very humbling indeed to look at those photographs and realize that the work was done with only the basic technology. Every time I need an inspirational kick in the butt, it is one of the books I pull off the shelf.

          4. kayl | | #10

            Yup, no digitizers, no wash-away stabilizers or sticky hoops, just really knowing how to manipulate the medium. Truly amazing.


          5. sarahkayla | | #11

            The bells and whistles are just that.. You need a strong machine that does several stitches nicely.. most of the fancy decorative stuff will get used rarely...if at all.

            a zigzag is a great thing.. you can use it to do a lovely satin stitch that can look lovely on applique..

            sarah in nyc

  2. suesew | | #4

    I would second most of what already has been said. But-- you can't try something that your machine can't do. I'd aim for something better than basic. And if you can afford it , go for a computerized machine. I sew on a Viking#1. Have fun.

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