4.25.2008

sewing tips friday

I'm going to start posting a little column every Friday with sewing tips. This will include equipment info, techniques, tutorials, etc. Please don't hesitate to request a topic in the comments section. This week's topic will be...

Sewing Machines:

Sometimes I get e-mails asking what kind of sewing machines I use. Keep in mind that sewing is my profession, and I do it all day every day. In other words, I've spent a bit more on my machines than the average person might want to spend. My machines are both Berninas. I really, really like this brand. I did a LOT of research before I bought them and just found that they would be perfect for my sewing needs. Other brands are good too, but this is just what I chose. Since I'm a professional who needs a workhorse of a sewing machine, I could have opted to buy an industrial model. However, I used industrials when I was in school, and I was not a big fan. They take up a lot of room (which I don't have in my small studio), and they break a lot and require an experienced repairman to get them running smoothly again. I don't have the time or patience to deal with that, and I'm not sure it would be easy to find a good repairman around here. If I still lived in New York, I might have gotten one because I know there are experienced ones around those parts. Although industrial machines only perform one function. You have to buy separate machines for straight stitching, buttonholes, etc.

My regular sewing machine is a Bernina Activa 210. I paid $750 for it. I love it. It's very basic and doesn't have a bunch of embroidery crap on it. I like that. I wanted a no frills machine. (For $50-$100 more you can buy the 220, which has the embroidery stitches.) The quality of my sewing has improved greatly since I purchased my machine. It comes with a foot that allows you to edge stitch perfectly at any width. You also have the option of choosing whether you want the machine to stop with the needle up or down, so you don't have to reach over and turn the wheel every time you want to put the needle in the right position. I haven't had any tension problems with it at all. You might get a skipped stitch every now and then unless you buy higher quality thread such as Metrosene or Gutterman. I have to say that my favorite thing about this machine is the automatic buttonholer. It's awesome. The buttonholes look 100% professional. The cheap machines I've had in the past could never do a buttonhole right. So look for a lot more buttons on the styles in my spring collection!

My overlock machine (or serger) is a Bernina 1150MDA. I got it for about $1000. It's my new best friend. It makes seams that look beautiful and professional. I never have any tension problems. If anything were to break I could just take it to my local Bernina store, and they would fix it for free (for up to five years, as stated in the warranty). Very convenient.

Like I said before, other brands are good too. Just make sure to do your research before buying. You can find all sorts of reviews of machines online.

38 comments:

Deborah said...

Great sewing machine review. I'm in the market for a new one, and I keep putting off doing my homework. I don't know many people that use this brand, so it was a nice introduction.

erica-knits said...

I am just about to sit down to sew, so this Friday sewing tip idea is fantastic for me! Sounds like an amazing sewing machine Jenny, I'm drooling over buttonholes!
I have a question, how do printed cotton fabrics hold up for clothing? Is there a difference between the printed cotton fabric sold on reprodepot and superbuzzy compared to quilting cottons?
Thanks!

inzoolina said...

A column every Friday sound very good for some one like me who is new in sewing, thanks!

Sandy said...

I have been thinking about a new machine lately. Bernina owners seem very happy.
Thanks for the review and I look forward to a friday column!

erica said...

i need to figure out what a good starter machine would be for me. all i know is: your seams do indeed look beautiful!

amy said...

i am so excited about this new series! thank you for sharing!!!

Meghan said...

Love the tutorial idea! Your peter-pan collar demonstration is excellent.

I just bought an inexpensive Brother and it seems adequate for the light sewing that I do. I am concerned about the button holes, though. They don't look polished but I'm also not sure what is realistically achievable with other machines? What about yours do you like? Better yet, do you have a photo?

Kaylyn Machelle said...

I love this...Just another reason to be looking forward to Fridays! Thanks Jenny!

Chrissy said...

I have a very expensive Pfaff sewing machine and I love it! It was definitly worth it. I would be interested in seeing how you make a perfect U-neckline without turning it over. I hope you know what I mean as I am not too familiar with english sewing vocabulary.

*karen said...

I just found an old Brother machine at the thrift store. It's barely been used and everything works but I might still take it in for a check-up. I like that it's all metal and feels sturdy. It's just a basic machine but I don't really need bells and whistles. My mom has a Husqvarna/Viking machine that she likes. She really disliked the Singer she had before.

Anywhoo, I love the idea of sewing tips every Friday. Especially coming from you.

Collins said...

Thank you so much for the sewing machine review. I have been looking for a new machine for a few years, but I am so scared. My basic kenmore is a work horse that has been so good to me. My daughter is 10 and always wants to sew something when I am sewing, so I think the kenmore would be perfect for her.I also don't want any of the embroidery features. Handmade Kate loves the bernina and suggests it as well.
I love this picture, my cat does the same thing.

Anonymous said...

This is great! Would love to see a column on ways to finish cut edges (for those of us who haven't splurged on a serger yet).

Karène said...

I bought a gingham shirt from your first sale. I am amazed by the easinnes of the shoulders. How do you sew sleeves with that much easiness to the body?
I hope you'll write about that someday!

http://nocreamcorn.livejournal.com/ said...

Great idea!
I have a request for a future tutorial. I would be pumped to see a good tutorial on zippers and on buttonholes. I am so afraid of them and i don't sew enough because I avoid them at all costs. Sucks.
So anyway, just an idea!
By the way, your cat is adorable!

habitual said...

There's also patternreview dot com....great reviews for machines if people want to do further research!

I like the Berninas. I'm a Husqvarna/Viking fan (I am addicted to the free arm) and have a serger on layaway!

Looking forward to Fridays!

Jonesie said...

yes!
i can't wait for further tips from you jenny! you are one of my sewing role models!

Julia said...

thanks jenny. i'm kind of in the market for a serger, and i'm basically just looking on craigslist right now. do you have any tips on what to look for when buying a serger? thanks!

also, i would love (in the future) to hear some tips on drafting (and sizing) clothing patterns. thanks! and i'm loving the new blog.

sally said...

Woo hoo! Looking forward to your Friday posts!!

emily said...

great idea. i sew a very little and i get so intimidated by it, so this will be a good friday check-in for me. (hm... maybe i just have a crappy machine...)

marie said...

ooh merci for this! i am thinking of buying a good, simple machine this year..ill have a look at berinas when i get around to it!

t-da said...

that is really a great generous idea, I love your blog. thanks

diane said...

i love this new column, thanks for the tips! i always have tension problems with my machine (a Brother), it makes me crazy!

katy said...

thank you for sharing your sewing knowledge!
i have my mom's old sears/kenmore machine from the '60s (complete in all of it's avocado-glory!), but if we had the money i'd be getting a nice new machine (my poor mom hasn't been able to sew since i moved out 5 years ago!). i've never attempted a buttonhole with my machine, but i need to learn because i have a stack of vintage patterns that involve lots of buttons...
i'd like to second the notion of a tutorial for drafting/sizing patterns. my husband is very tall and very slim and can't find clothing very easily, so i've been trying to make him things, but i can't find properly sized patterns - it'd be nice to know the right way to resize them! also for resizing vintage patterns for different proportions (i'm on the small side, but i do not have a 20" waist!)
i'd also love to see some tips on picking out a good fabric, maybe some general suggestions for types of fabrics that work well and places to get them. (online?) i've not had much luck finding nice fabrics for clothing - perhaps i'm just too picky! all of the 'apparel' fabrics i see locally just look -old-, don't feel nice, or are extremely wild and silly (who uses hairy fabrics?). and i'm afraid to order things online because i can't touch them...
anyway, yay for sewing tips fridays!

Kelly said...

Can I please second the idea for tips on how to finish edges for non-serger people? That would be great.

I'd also like to second the idea about chossing apparel fabrics. I'm sure you have some good advice.

I'd also love to hear your tips on pattern-making and altering patterns.

But honestly I'll take whatever tips you're giving :)

Mountain Mom Alison said...

Love your work, and your blog. I look forward to your weekly tutorials! Alison

Nicole said...

Great idea! I love reading about sewing, especially since I am a novice!

Personally, I don't think that is all that expensive for quality machines... especially if you are using them as the basis of your livelyhood!

Marianne said...

I'm looking forward to the sewing tips evry Friday now! I would really like a tutorial on:
- How to sew sleeves/armholes nicely (I'm crap at this)
- How to sew insets (e.g. like the one on your tova dress)

Oh, and I also LOVE my Bernina Activa 220. I got a good deal on it but I don't really need the embroidery stitches. I also have two Husquarnas (one from the 60s & one from the 80s)which are also great 'workhorses' and good starter machines. One of them I pulled out of a dumpster but it still runs great!

AsianCajuns said...

I love this idea of having weekly sewing tips. Keep it up!

casey said...

thank you so much for posting this! :) I really don't need another "basic" machine (I have three), but eventually I would like to get an overlock. good to know it's worth saving up my pennies for a bernina! :D

Hannah said...

I look forward to your sewing tips! What a great idea!! I have a brother sewing machine that I have had for about 3 years. It is not without its share of problems, I can't wait to buy a new one. Thank you so much for posting about your machine! Can't wait to see what you will post next!!

Leanne said...

I use my great-grandmother's bernina and I absolutely love it!
Picking out quality fabric sounds like a great tutorial ..

Amanda said...

Great idea for a weekly column - and one I will greedily lap up. Thank you

Kr Vinot said...

Jenny,
Thanks so much for Friday Sewing tips. You've ready my mind! I've been wanting to learn to sew and my next step is to decide which machine to buy. I've narrowed down to..Bernina..Singer...Brother in general but no specific machine. I've read you should go to a dealer to test them out, but haven't been able to find that in Atlanta...so I need to keep looking into where to go. Would love to own a Bernina for a less than $500, but not sure if one exists yet. I love your blog!

claire said...

awesomeness!

thanks jenny, it's really great that you're spreading the love.
we're all in awe of you, you know.

conflictedthimble said...

this friday sewing column is a great idea! i am a pretty amateur seamstress, and i use my great-great aunts singer 404 sewing machine from 1962 (i have the receipt to prove it :o) unfortunately, i don't have the ability to do buttonholes on it - anyone have any luck with vintage machines and button holers?

lopi said...

thank you for the tips
I just bought my first sewing machine, a Husqvarna and I can't wait to make something wearable
BTW, your cat is adorable!

lalaland said...

I just discovered your blog - I especially love the sewing tips.
Last week I bought myself a Bernina serger (after years of wanting one). So I'm excited to read how much you love yours.

Robin said...

oh my goodness, just discovered your blog, and your kitty is so incredibly beautiful that she is now my desktop image. i hope that's okay! :/ I lost a beautiful black and white kitty over a year ago and he looked like your sophia. whenever i see b&w kitties that resemble him it just melts my heart.