SEWING MACHINES.....advice sought

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SEWING MACHINES.....advice sought

Postby lesclarke » 22 Oct 2007, 18:14

I've always kept away from sewing machines as I don't get on with them, they seem over complicated, probably I'm just impatient.

Been considering getting one, and gradually building up experience.
I've got a friend who does my sewing work who can give advice on what features to look for, but not on currently available models.

I've done a bit of research on web and there's general agrement that 'they aren't what they used to be' in terms of build quality, and well known names don't guarantee anything these days.

I found a range of machines that are being marketed at people like me, i.e., with an emphasis on simple / 'foolproof' operation. They are several models in the Singer Inspiration range. I did a few searches for reviews and couldn't find any, but found one lady on a forum saying she had considered them and been put off as 'the reviews were scathing'
Pity as they looked nice and plain and modern, and not 'mumsy'

Has anyone bought a new, fairly basic machine recently, which has proved to be simple to load, and operate, with good build quality etc?
Or had any dissappointments?
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Postby Chris » 22 Oct 2007, 20:00

My suggestion would be not to buy new. Not initially anyway.
Most towns have a little shop that sells sewing machine accessories and does repairs. You will often find that they sell reconditioned machines. People buy them and don't get on with them, or do but decide they want one with more features. Because fewer people do their own dressmaking, or even alterations and repairs (they just buy new) there are a glut of second hand machines to be had, and very cheaply.
You could probably get one at a car boot or off ebay but the reason that I suggest the little shop that sells reconditioned models is that you can also get advice and help. They are usually run by knowledgeable people who won't mind showing you just how to thread up, which is much easier than trying to follow from illustrations and text in a book.
When you've messed about a bit, and discovered how useful the machine is, you may well want to invest in a new one.
Singer machines are very reliable. My mother served her time in tailoring and was using her machine up to her death. It was bought in the 40s - a treadle machine. In the 50s she had the treadle removed and an electric motor added. She was still using it regularly in 1997. It had never been serviced.
Eric also had a Singer from a similar period. He inherited a much newer one when an auntie died - which he put away in the garage until his old one packed in. He packed in 1996, the machine went marching on.
Over the years I used both my Mum's and Eric's, but then found my own in a little shop such as I describe. I bought it for its portability. It's been going strong for ten years or so - mind you, it doesn't get a lot of use these days.
Of course more modern ones have computer chips and do embroidery and buttonholes and blind hems - but if you want all that nonsense better wait a couple of years and your mobile phone will do it as well.
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Postby lesclarke » 22 Oct 2007, 21:12

Thanks Chris, I'd already planned to do what you suggest re secondhand, and visit a local dealer tomorrow, that approach makes alot of sense, I have less and less confidence in new purchases, most things are relatively far cheaper these days, but quality control seems to have gone out of the window.

The appeal of a new model is mainly on the grounds that some of them are targetted at people like me who want to keep it simple.
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Postby Tony James » 22 Oct 2007, 21:30

If it's any help Les my Singer was bought during the First World War and is still going strong. No motors, a little table top hand job. And so it doesn't run away with me. It goes at my pace.

I've just machined the new zip into the cover and done one or two other jobs too.

I borrowed an industrial machine to actually make the cover because the canvas is tough. Electric obviously and it did occasionally drive on too quickly for me.
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Postby lesclarke » 22 Oct 2007, 21:55

Thanks Tony, sadly these days a well regarded brand name can't be relied on to deliver a decent product, in the bit of research I've done on the web current Singers come low down in people's preferences.

With things like cameras and printers over the last few years I've always taken account of reviews, sites like 'epinions' help to point out problems a particular model may have,or confirm it delivers as advertised, but there's not the same depth of feedback available for sewing machines, probably because they are not mainstream 'boys toys'
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Postby johnstoate » 22 Oct 2007, 22:36

I would largely concurr with the rest Les, - Go for decent 2nd hand to start, I would say an old singer , the black heavyweight, Very much 'idiot proof', and if serviced recently, as good as anything new. Avoid, however, the old 'shuttle' one, they are a pain, but surprisingly, there are still a lot about. My current beast is a fairly (1980's) modern one, with zig-zag and such, but I seldom use these features, By using the correct, ball-point needles, most old singers will happily cope with surprisingly heavy canvas for tilts & such. My best was my gran's old 'S19' , Sadly lost in the fire, but served her,(As a professional dressmaker) for thirty-odd years BEFORE I started trying to destroy it! - Without any success at all ! :lol: In short, stick to KISS, a good name 'oldie' and a bit of common sense and you won't go far wrong! :D
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Postby CvdC » 22 Oct 2007, 22:51

It may help that when you buy a second hand machine to ensure that it still has its instruction book.
Given how many moving parts there are in a sewing machine it is a wonder that they do function so well for such a long period of time. It seems that a lot of the new ones offer a lot of decorative stitches which are not of much use to your average puppet maker. However I do find zig zag stitching very usefull to stop fraying and for sewing material shapes onto the costume. For zips you need to have a different foot which ought to come with your second hand machine.
They look complicated but once you have learnt the convoluted threading it all becomes quite simple. Although threading the bloody things can be a pain.
When you make a puppet you need to be prepared to not use the machine for some tasks and go back to hand sewing.
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Postby Chris » 22 Oct 2007, 23:20

If you take the route I suggest Les, ie a reconditioned machine, you are most unlikely to have the luxury of the original instruction book.
However in the shop I got mine they did sell an all purpose instruction book - it seems that machines actually vary very little in their use and mechanics. This is for basic machines of course - not for those that embroider your name and play God Save the Queen. But you are only looking for the basic type are you not?
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Postby lesclarke » 22 Oct 2007, 23:56

Right, I'll jot down a note to watch out for an instruction book.

I don't need God Save the Queen, nor Inno di Mameli.

...which is as we all know the Italian national anthem, as I bought them both last month. I first became aware of the Italian anthem when they played it at a Grand prix a few weeks back, and I think it has some potential for use before and after the show. It sort of stops and starts and definitely has a comic feeling to it.
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