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Choosing a sewing machine?

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 2:56 pm
by sally
Have been using an Elna for the last 15years and its been fab, however I think I may have finally killed it sewing for my brother's wedding. When I replace it, I want to get a machine that will happily do me another 15 years, and would very much welcome any thoughts from our resident professional costumiers.

I do have an overlocker (needs servicing but fine when it works) and of course I handsew a lot of historical stuff, but for everything else, I'd like something with enough features to be really veratile and exciting but not so many that I'll never be likely to use them.

Not sure of budget yet, just after ideas at this stage :D

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 4:01 pm
by Shadowcat
I just recently bought a new machine - I'm a professional costume maker - and got some really good advice from the mechanic who services my machines. I have always relied on Singers, but they are no longer reliable, according to Bill. However, I have a huge number of "feet" that fit my Singers,s o I wanted one the the feet fitted. I ended up buying a Brother.

However, the best bit of advice was not the brand, but the type - a mechanical machine rather than a computer driven one. As Bill said, if a mechanical machine goes wrong, he could fix it in 24 hours. If a computerised one goes wrong, it has to go back to the supplier/manufacturer and can take weeks to be fixed. Although my heart lusts after a computerised Viking/Husqvarna, I bought mechanical. I use the straight, stretch, buttonhole and zig-zag stitches. Eventually I plan on using the scallop one and a couple of others. I had 30 patterns on my last machine, and used 4!!

S.

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 6:03 pm
by JC Milwr
I love my Singer. They are solid built, and seem to last for ever. I've just realised mine is nearly 20 years old, eek!

They aren't the cheapest, but they seem to last, and there are lots of people who service them.

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 6:06 pm
by Shadowcat
I should say it is the modern Singers that are not reliable, not the older models - mine were made more than 10 and 30 years ago. And my overlocker must be 40 or 50 years old.

S.

Re: Choosing a sewing machine?

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 6:18 pm
by Random Mumblings
sally wrote:Have been using an Elna for the last 15years and its been fab, however I think I may have finally killed it sewing for my brother's wedding. When I replace it, I want to get a machine that will happily do me another 15 years, and would very much welcome any thoughts from our resident professional costumiers.

I do have an overlocker (needs servicing but fine when it works) and of course I handsew a lot of historical stuff, but for everything else, I'd like something with enough features to be really veratile and exciting but not so many that I'll never be likely to use them.

Not sure of budget yet, just after ideas at this stage :D
If budget is no object, I'd be going for a Husqvarna. I have a Janome and they are really well made machines, min sews through leather and all sorts without complaint. Other than that Brother are very good too, as are Bernina. Just decide what features you are looking for and what budget you have them look online.

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 6:19 pm
by Calendula
I got my latest one from this place and can recommend them:
http://www.sewingmachines.co.uk/index.htm

I'm not a professional, but I agree with Shadowcat - I've always felt happier with mechanical machines. I have this one, which seems to cope very well with woolens, layers etc, and has a speed control thingy which has been extremely useful.

http://www.sewingmachines.co.uk/Janome4623_info.htm

However, would never part with the old 1960s Jones, which is still going strong!

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 6:28 pm
by Menolly
I'm not a professional costume maker, Sally, but I do a lot of dressmaking. I have a Bernina Artista 180 (computerised machine) and I love it BUT.....Shadowcat is right!
My husband dropped it when he tripped bringing it downstairs for me (avoiding the cat, don't ask!!!). After this, it refused to sew anything forwards :evil:. This was last October and I got the machine back after almost 6 months :shock: . The guys at the local machine centre faffed about for four months before finally conceding defeat - they then sent it to Bogod in London, who sent it to their Cardiff centre and £760-odd quid, a new printed circuit board and six weeks later I got my baby back!

My mother's old mechanical machine on the other hand (Brother) is the same age as my "little" brother (46) and is still going strong even after being shipped in a container to South Africa where she now lives. Go figure!

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 9:09 pm
by Jackie Phillips
Shadowcat wrote:...and got some really good advice from the mechanic who services my machines.
This is the best tip I can give you. Find a reliable repairer / seller (start by asking local schools who they use) and see what he /she recommends. If they believe in the product they'll look after it when it goes wrong.

I have a Brother computerised machine, just the basic of the computer ones, and I love it. My local repair man (of which there is only the one) hates Brother machines and complains vehemently to all who'll listen when I go in (knowing this before I took it to him I pretended it wasn't mine and get a tiny bit less grief).

His recommendations are Bernina (all the schools use them, they don't go wrong), old Singers and Newhome/Janome in that order.

If you fancy a trip to cheshire to get one, I'm happy to take you to him.

Jackie

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 9:29 pm
by gregory23b
I used a Bernina at School, in the early eighties - still going are they?

I did a sewing class so I could take in my trousers properly ;-)

As it happens in the late 1980s I had a small collection of old singers (i relaly liked them as machines for their own sake), the youngest was even then 30 + yerars old the oldest nearer 70 used to pick them up for a few quid often includng the carry cases, anyway the hand cranked singer I had was able to sew through 20 layers of cotton drill (for a jack), whereas my mum's leccy one went 'wwwhhhirrrr-scthum and couldn't get the pressure up when I tried the same on hers. oops

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 9:55 pm
by Handbag
my main machine is a Husqvarna (Huskystar) and i love it. i then have 2 electric singers that are at least 30 years old and then my absolute baby is a hand wheel singer that is 50 years old. dont use it much now but would never part from it.
my other half has a brother he picked up cheap in dunelm, seems to go okay
deffo recommend husqvarna or brother
:lol:

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 11:12 pm
by Tuppence
bernina, bernina, bernina, bernina.

basic level ones (mechanical) are best.

only machine I've ever had that hass the torque to get the rough everything I make at reasonable speed . - can handle everything from a tulle evening gown to a leather gamby - and has quite recently actually.

mine was given to me by a friend who inherited it 10 years ago. I use it nearly every day. her gran had had it for about five years before that (and used it lots).

service it regularly (twice a year ish), and only major repair it's ever needed was when I bent the needle carriage, and that was v. cheap.

new ones aren't cheap - c. £800 or so for a bottom of range one.

but you should be able to get one second hand.


bernina are just the best!

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 11:12 pm
by Tuppence
oh - not a brother.

my (first*) back up is one of them and they're useless!!!

*and what's wrong with having four sewing machines????

Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 11:27 pm
by Shadowcat
"oh - not a brother.

my (first*) back up is one of them and they're useless!!! "

Have to disagree with that. My Brother has, so far, been great - no problems. But then all of my machines have sewn leather, and umpteen thicknesses of denim. But then I was told that my Singer Starlet was useless, as 98 out of a batch of 100 had to be returned to the factory. The only time mine went wrong since 1971, was when I lent it to a student.

If you like a a particular brand of machine, then it is the best - I never could get on with Berninas - was offered one when a friend was disposing of stuff, and refused it - and it was top of the range!

S.

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:21 am
by Tuppence
the brother is just soooo slow - aaand has no torque

likewise for the brothers I used at school and college.

they'd have been more use at a scrap merchant

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:25 am
by Deb
My favourite machine ever was a brother, best part of 20 years old did 2 stitches (straight stitch or zig zag) and went on for ever. Second Huskys, Janome and Bernina - hate singers with a scary passion(except for the old hand driven machines which I have a soft spot for).
Always work on the principal the less it does the less goes wrong and this is seconded by my local repair man - he was thrilled the first time he met my old brother, he got all sentimental about days when he didn't have to deal with all the computerised sh***

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 2:30 pm
by Annie C
agree with tuppence, I wouldn't give house room to a Brother, Lightweight and unreliable IMHO. Bought a old industrial Singer back in 1991, cost £30, fantastic, minimal servicing needed, reliable coped with the finest silk chiffons to thick layered wools/ even took leather in its stride. ( very posh evening/wedding attire maker professionally for many years before 2nd child born so it did get used day in day out) Still have it and use it!
The only drawback may be if you don't have the space for a free standing item, but would recommend an old industrial to you if you want one that will go on and on and on 'cos thats what they were built to do rather than the new domestics that are in essence for the 'hobby' market and thus have a limited lifespan...beware of too many tricks /gadgets its more to go wrong and put there to up the price!

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 2:31 pm
by Annie C
agree with tuppence, I wouldn't give house room to a Brother, Lightweight and unreliable IMHO. Bought a old industrial Singer back in 1991, cost £30, fantastic, minimal servicing needed, reliable coped with the finest silk chiffons to thick layered wools/ even took leather in its stride. ( very posh evening/wedding attire maker professionally for many years before 2nd child born so it did get used day in day out) Still have it and use it!
The only drawback may be if you don't have the space for a free standing item, but would recommend an old industrial to you if you want one that will go on and on and on 'cos thats what they were built to do rather than the new domestics that are in essence for the 'hobby' market and thus have a limited lifespan...beware of too many tricks /gadgets its more to go wrong and put there to up the price!

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:13 pm
by Panda
I love my grans old hand cranked singer. I stll have to convince my dad to take the old foot powered one to be serviced though....

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:32 pm
by sally
Cheers everyone. I do have a number of hand cranked antique singers, plus a treadle one, but lovely though they are for straight sewing, one that does at least zig zags and an elastic stitch is high on my list, will have a mooch round the sales on the online suppliers :D

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 6:05 pm
by Dave B
a slight Cuba here, but I think Mathew from our group has a room full of tredle machines, mostly Singers, to get rid of in a hurry. He should be at Tewkers if anyone wants to collar him about it.

Posted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 8:36 pm
by ViscontesseD'Asbeau
We also have a frighteningly large collection of old Singers, Pfaff etc but for more modern stuff I use my mother's 1971 Brother. It can do most things the latest ones can do but has the added advantage of being as strongly built as the old machines (still metal) yet has less to go wrong on it (nothing computerised).

Apparently some of the latest ones are useless for many things as they 'sense' the thickness of fabrics so if you do some weird stuff like sewing together fur, for example, they misread it and stitch too loose. We got our's fully reconditioned in a backstreet shop about a year ago and now it's good for another 40 years. A reconditioned older electric machine that can do all the fancy stitches, has different feet etc might be a good bet so long as you have a reliable repairer with spares. Our Brother machine works as well as the day my mum bought it in 1971 - it's fast and versatile but a solid workhorse.

Posted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 8:52 pm
by Shadowcat
[quote="ViscontesseD'Asbeau"]We also have a frighteningly large collection of old Singers, Pfaff etc but for more modern stuff I use my mother's 1971 Brother. It can do most things the latest ones can do but has the added advantage of being as strongly built as the old machines (still metal) yet has less to go wrong on it (nothing computerised).

Apparently some of the latest ones are useless for many things as they 'sense' the thickness of fabrics so if you do some weird stuff like sewing together fur, for example, they misread it and stitch too loose. quote]

Ooh, I am glad mine is an old style Brother and not a fancy one - I hate machines that think for you - I have problems enough thinking for myself, without a machine joining in!

S.

Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 7:36 pm
by Sledge
I am currently using a Toshiba machine - which does most things I want, but still have and use an early 1980s Singer - and I also have an early 1900s Frister & Rossman and a 1920s singer(that has all the attachments), and I am ashamed to say these 2 machines don't get used.

A Bernina!!! A Berninan!!

Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 8:50 pm
by myladyswardrobe
I have to add to the general chorus of a BERNINA!!!!! I have one and it was and is brilliant.

My one is an activa 145 (which I don't think they do now but they will have a newer one in the range). Its a mostly mechanical machine with a computer small screen which provides info on stitch length and width, correct foot for the stitch I want to use, symbols for half speed sewing, needle down or up when finishing etc.

I absolutely love it - its NEVER fazed by anything I sew unlike my old Brother which fainted when faced with sewing through a thin layer of buckram and two layers of WAAF barathea for a WAAF Officer's hat brim! Thats when I realised I needed a new machine!

So, if you want a recommendation, get a Bernina!! They are worth their weight (which is heftly) in gold!

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:32 pm
by Lady Winchester
i hope you dont mind me hijacking your post i have read it, i have a 20 ish year old Pilkington which weighs more than Eleanor ! it is on its death bed and i would like to get a new one eventually, as with most of you when i sew it can be heavy duty and / or thick fabric

would a bernia still do this?

Karen

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 9:51 pm
by Shadowcat
Absolutely, but I also saw one sew through a finger once, too. Put me off them for ever!!


S.

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 10:18 pm
by Lady Winchester
yeah i have already managed to take a chunk as was not apying attention

what are Must Have;s with a new machine?

Karen

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 8:55 am
by Shadowcat
See my comment at the top of the thread about buying mechanical, not computer driven. You can spend a lot of money and time getting a computer driven one mended.

Straight and zig zag stitch are basics, buttonholes are helpful, although I can't get the hang of my automatic one, and will go back to the old one for that! Sturdy if you are sewing heavy fabric - you don't want it waltzing off with the fabric as you sew. And for me, easily buyable accessories like bobbins, needles, light bulbs, and specialised feet. (I have a Singer and a Brother, and the 20 or so feet I have collected over the years fit both.)

S.

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 12:12 pm
by Lady Winchester
thanks

Karen

Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2007 3:02 pm
by Nigel
Debs uses her Benenia banana or whatever it is for jsut about anything and everything

so yes theya re robust and yes they will handle msot jobs

pricey but well worth it