Purchasing A Sewing Machine

Thursday, 17 March 2011, 8:00 | Author : Kricket
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Have you thought about purchasing a sewing machine, but realized you didn’t even know what type you were looking for?  We don’t always know what kinds of stress we are going to inflict upon our machines , but I would like to help you discover a sewing machine that will accommodate any cosplay situation.  Although I can’t take the place of a sales representative, I would like to share the basic features that you should be able to locate prior to purchasing your machine.  I hesitate to recommend specific brands or models because there are so many brands on the market (Brother, Bernina, Elna, Husqvarna/Viking, Janome, Kenmore, New Home, Pfaff, and Singer)  and I have not had sufficient experience to strongly suggest one over the other.  The final decision is up to you; I can just establish some of your search parameters.

Find a Local Dealer

Fabric stores and large department stores will keep several models on display, if you would like a “low-stress” shopping environment.  However, you’ll find a larger selection if you go through a certified sewing machine dealer – oftentimes this is a sewing machine/vacuum repair shop.  You can locate these dealers by visiting the manufacturers’ website and clicking on the button labeled, “Find a Dealer”.  If you do some quick cross-referencing you may be fortunate enough to find a multi-brand dealer; someone who is certified to sell the top brands and who will not have any particular bias towards one company.  Likewise, if they do sewing machine repairs in-house, they will know which models are more likely to breakdown and which will stand the test of time.

Set A Price Point

You know where your comfort zone is when it comes to spending money on expensive equipment, so have the money set aside and know the maximum you are willing to spend on your machine before you speak with a representative.  Without restriction, you could easily spend thousands of dollars on a sewing machine (the intricacies of which would be wasted on a beginner).  The representative can help you find the best model that fits within your budget.


Understanding Your Machine

The following list introduces you to the most common sewing machine features.  If you can’t locate all of these features on your sewing machine, then you must decide which features you cannot live without.


Decorative Stitches
Every machine comes with 6-10 basic stitches, such as straight stitch, zigzag, reverse, overcast, hem stitches, and buttonholer.  Anything beyond this is “decorational” and has limited use in cosplay.
Computerized LCD Screen
This screen displays your current stitch settings, including: stitch number, length, and width; needle position; and recommended foot.  Despite the electrical wiring, I’m told that these machines are actually cheaper to repair.  Check to see whether or not  you have to toggle the screen between different settings.
Start/Stop Button
Instead of pressing down on the foot pedal, you can make your machine start and stop sewing with the push of a button.  Honestly, I think this could easily get out of control for beginners and I would not want to take away my own control of the machine.
http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/Janome-DC2011.php Variable Speed
Usually, I would not bother limiting the speed of my machine, because you can learn to control your speed by exerting the appropriate pressure onto the presser foot. However, if you are new to sewing, you may find this feature handy.
http://www.mrvacandmrssew.com/janome-dc1050-computerized-sewing-machine-p-986.aspx Variable Up/Down Needle Position
With the flip of a switch, you can chose what position your needle defaults to when you stop sewing.  It can be quite handy to have the needle automatically rest “down” within the fabric, so that you can lift the pressure foot and pivot to a dynamic angle without jumping a stitch.
Free Arm
You machine’s sewing surface is separated into two parts, the “bed” and the “free arm”.  By removing the bed, you will reduce the surface of your sewing space, thereby enabling yourself to stitch around cuffs or pant legs.  Double check that the free arm is not too wide for such tasks.
Foot Release Lever
There are different styles of release mechanisms, but all of them allow you to quickly change the foot you are using.  (In this picture, it is a upward-facing lever in the back)
Automatic Needle Threader
This device slides out and if set up correctly, will thread the eye of the needle for you with a simple twist.  This feature is a common luxury, although, I personally prefer to do it the old fashion way.
http://www.bonanza.com/booths/sousewandsew/items/Sears_12_Stitch_Freearm_Needle_Clamp___Double_Thread_Guide Double Needle Thread Guide
Most machines will have one thread guide near the needle clamp, but it is possible to find machines that have two separate guides specifically used for double needle decorative stitching.
http://www.bernina.com/popup-fF-n2-i315-p355-sEN.html Two Spool Holders
I like the versatility of two spool holders, even if you only intend to use just the one.  It can come in handy if you plan to use double needles or even if you plan on threading your bobbin while you sew.
http://www.berninasewingshop.co.uk/01-sewing-machines/bernina-1008se-sewing-machine-free-ext-table-embroidery-foot-p-265.html Thread Cutter
Many machines allow you to sever your threads using a tiny cutting blade that is mounted on the side of your machine.  If you are willing to spend a bit more money, you will also be able to cut the threads with the push of a button, the Auto Thread Cutter.
Sewing on Vinyl and Leather
Ask your representative which models will be more capable of sewing through these tough materials.  Also, I have been told that certain feet will help feed vinyl smoothly through your machine: Walking Foot, Teflon Foot, or Roller Foot.
Additional Goodies
In the storage compartment of your machine, there will be a fairly standard bag containing a screw-driver, seam ripper, lint brush, extra spool, 4-5 feet, and bobbins.  Take a quick glance to see what additional accessories they have provided.


Should I Purchase The Low-End ‘Specials’?

Fabric stores always sell at least one sewing machine that costs $80-$100, as their affordable model.  It should be quite obvious that this will be bare-bones essentials (you certainly won’t have all of the features listed above), but it will be enough to get the job done.  As long as you are willing to take care of this machine, it should last you for many years, until you are ready to upgrade.




Two Spool Holders
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