Monday, February 24, 2014

Sewing Machines: Part I

Hey everyone,

It's time for another update! As promised, here's a write-up about sewing machines. I will start out by saying there are tons of great resources online - some are much better than what I will have included here. But, this will hopefully serve as a good jumping-off point for looking at a machine, and caring for it.

Now, let's start from the very beginning. When I first wanted to cosplay, I didn't have anything. I hauled all of my fabric over to my Uncle's house where he taught me how to use a machine. His machine was huge! He used it for sewing large banners and canvas balloons. Needless to say, my first exposure to sewing machines was quite intimidating.

A few years later, I was fortunate enough to get a sewing machine as my graduation present for highschool. My family recognized how stoked I was to learn more about sewing - but, I really had no idea how to sew. I taught myself about the machine, and patterns, and really began to explore the world of sewing. Since that time, I've come quite a long way in knowing what I like in a machine, and what I use the most.

Introduction to Machines

Finding a machine that is good for you, and your projects, is extremely important. The more expensive and flashier models aren't always the best - sometimes just having a machine that does a handful of simple stitches is all you need. So the first thing you should do is identify what kind of sewing you will be doing, and what materials you will be working with. As a cosplayer, I work with various materials (fabrics, fur, leather, etc.), and often make use of different stitches -- I therefore look for a machine that can handle thicker fabric (such as faux-leather), and stitch things such as button holes or hems.

Your first plan of action should be to check out some of the great tutorials that already exist online. I won't go into great detail about the various types of machines - as I've only worked with two! But there are plenty of professionals out there willing to share their advice.

Things to consider:
  • Types of projects you want to complete.
  • A price range you are comfortable with.
  • Your experience level sewing (with and without a machine).
  • Whether you are looking to buy online, or locally.
  • Think ahead: buy for features you will use now, and ones you want to learn to use.

Parts of the Machine

Understanding what makes up a sewing machine can really educate your decision on what to get. Looking over a basic model can be very informative and can help reveal that foundational knowledge. Keep in mind: not all machines are created equal. However, for the most part, machines will all have some very basic parts. 

The picture to the right identifies some very common parts of a sewing machine. Familiarizing yourself with the different parts, how they work, and what purpose they serve is extremely important before purchasing or using a machine.

To read more about the different parts, check out the Anatomy of a Sewing machine

Major Brands

Now that you've identified what you want out of a machine, and broken down how a machine works - you're ready to shop! I highly recommend going into a store (whether you are ordering online or not) just to look at the machines. Get a feel for how big/small, heavy/light they are. I was quite surprised the first time I had to carry my machine around -- it was much heavier than I thought. So make sure to shop in person first, before you make a purchase.

My very first machine was a Singer, and then I moved on to Brother. I think you can feel secure that you will be given a reliable machine if you buy with one of the major brands, it just depends on what you're looking for. Their features and prices will vary, as will the type of on-going service you receive after your purchase. Here's a few I recommend checking out:
Good luck finding a machine! It can be a tough decision to make, but it will be so rewarding when you actually start working on your projects. Feel free to share tips and tricks here - we're a community to help everyone grow. 



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