1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Who knows about sewing machines?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by modelmaker, Aug 1, 2020.

  1. modelmaker

    modelmaker Lead commenter

    My mother had a sewing machine that she used to keep her children clothed with when we were young, and later, at the height of Carnaby Street fashion in the 60s, managed to get lucrative work from someone who'd found out she had it and knew how to use it to make garmnents to order for his boutique. I'd see her using it, but she'd go nuts if she saw any of her kids fiddling with it, so none of us were ever taught how to use it. Like my father, whose blacksmithing skills helped keep us fed and clothed by supplementing the income from his day job, my parents expected we'd do better than they did in life, when their education ended at 14, so never gave a second thought that we might benefit being taught what they'd had to learn to survive.

    I suspect another aspect of it was they never had the time to spare to be honest.

    Having to attend a boy's school in the 50s and 60s, obviously we didn't need to know anything about sewing. Boys had more important stuff to learn about back then. My sweetheart was fortunate enough to be sent to a posh school where time that other girls would have been taught how to sew and cook was replaced with learning ballet and how to play the piano, so her education as a seamstress, like mine, is limited to knowing that without their existence, she wouldn't get a new frock.

    Anyhow, several weeks ago, it might have been a couple of months now, she had this idea that she'd like to join the army of home hobbyists who have been making facemasks and mentioned it to a friend who said she had a sewing machine she could have to do it with. So the sewing machine turned up one day, but she doesn't know how to use it. I found the manual online and printed it off for her, but it's as clear as mud.

    So today, she collared me and asked if I could show her how to wind the bobbin. I managed to find out easily enough, thanks to youtube, also how to threadle the needle, but in doing so, I discovered that the machine she was given was the most basic one you can get and some parts are missing. So although it's possible it could be used to very limited extent with a bit of bodgery, I made the decision she would be better off if I bought her what she actually needs to get going.

    Where I'm coming from with this, is that if anyone said to me they wanted a lathe and asked my advice what to look out for, I could tell them what to look for, based on what it's intended use was for. I could tell them which lathes might be good enough to knock up a door handle, and the sort of lathe's they's need if they wanted to put a man on the moon. I could tell them which lathe I'd buy twice and those I wouldn't touch, but my knowledge of sewing machines is virtually non-existant insofar as which models are good and which are more trouble than they're worth.

    It wouldn't surprise me if she finds making face masks the start of a fascinating hobby that evolves into making wedding gowns for royalty, but neither would it surprise me if she became bored with sewing a month after she had too many facemasks to dispose of and wanted to persue a different hobby.

    So basically what I'm asking, is what do you need to know about sewing machines? Might you find a dream sewing machine could be found on Gumtree for a tenner after a seamstess died and those disposing of her possessions had no idea what it was worth or do I just stab a pin in what comes up on a website and hope it will be OK?
  2. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    My daughter in law does a lot of sewing. She reckons that while modern machines are lovely and do clever things, the older ones from the sixties and early seventies are much better built.
  3. eleanorms

    eleanorms Occasional commenter

    You probably could find one easily on ebay or gumtree and it would be in pristine condition and perfect. Or it might have been shoved in an attic and rusted up under the needle, never to work properly again. If I were in your position, I would go to John Lewis or Hobbycraft and buy the cheapest, basic new one. Probably £85 to £100. You need to know nothing at all about sewing machines, they just sew. It would serve you well to the end of days. I have a cheap as chips one upon which I made my wedding dress, many clothes for my daughters, my friend's 30th birthday homage to Marilyn Monroe. Now my daughter has used it to make her GCSE art project on kimonos (okay, dressing gowns with bigger belts. Please nobody be offended)
    So I think it depends on whether you believe that she will become Meghan Markle's next organic artisan designer of choice, or make one face mask and then give up forever.
  4. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    If you are at the "how do I wind the bobbin" stage, then you will not be looking for anything above the basic models, so you can avoid the computerised versions with over 300 different stitches.

    Stick with a quality manufacturer: Singer, Brother, Janome or Jones. A good sturdy model with 20 to 25 different stitches will cost you in the region of £120 new.

    As a HT I used to teach maths and DT (resistant materials) but one term had to switch and cover another teacher's classes - food tech and fabrics (apparently also called compliant materials!). I had to learn how to use a sewing machine pretty fast!
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
    modelmaker, Aquamarina1234 and bonxie like this.
  5. colpee

    colpee Star commenter

    Our resident seamstress reckons if you are buying first time and don't know much about sewing machines, buy a cheapish Singer. Lidl sell them occasionally for around £100.

    The biggest risk apparently is getting the cheapest from places like Hobbycraft as key components are likely to be plastic and will not last more than a few months; a rationale you will understand @modelmaker
    modelmaker and nomad like this.
  6. WB

    WB Lead commenter

    Everything was built better in the sixties. My dad has a fan from the sixties that still works. I've gotten through about 4 in the last 10 years.

    His fan weighs about 4 tons.
  7. AckyWacky

    AckyWacky New commenter

    It does depend on what you want to make using your machine. For dressmaking you really only need basic stitches. I have two machines. My Janome is a year old and cost £250. It is great for most types of sewing. I also inherited my gran's old Jones machine that is so heavy that I can hardly lift it! It is a tank though and will go through thick material like denim with ease. I had it serviced last year. I do free motion embroidery (drawing with thread) on both machines but the Janome is not very strong and the needle breaks often. There is an awful lot of choice out there but I would say go for the well known brands that get good reviews and don't buy anything over complicated to start with. YouTube is definitely your friend.
  8. bonxie

    bonxie Lead commenter

    A basic sewing machine would be fine for a beginner. You can make a lot of things just with an ordinary straight stitch. Even a decades old Singer with hand crank is fine so long as it is in good, working order! It's actually easier to learn on one of those as the needle moves so much more slowly. I inherited a 1920's Singer that sews beautifully. It's still possible to get spare parts on Ebay.

    A sewing machine that does zig zag stitch is more useful as it can be used for buttonholes, giving seams a bit of 'give' where they need to stretch or for stopping edges from fraying. All modern sewing machines will do straight, zig zag and a range of decorative stitches. The decorative stitches aren't necessary to make items but some folk like to decorate things with them.

    I would avoid buying an expensive computerised machine that is programmable. You also won't want to buy an overlocker or embellisher.

    Janome and Brother are good makes. When my old electric sewing machine finally gave up, I bought my new one from https://www.sewingmachines.co.uk/browse-machines/sewing-machines/
    As I liked sewing and knew I'd be using the machine a lot, I bought a Janome 423S. I'm very happy with it and it arrived quickly. I've had more expensive machines in the past but found I didn't use a lot of the features so decided to stick to a middle of the range one this time.
    nomad likes this.
  9. racroesus

    racroesus Star commenter

    Necessity is the mother of reading the manual.
  10. colpee

    colpee Star commenter

    My father worked in the Singer factory near Clydebank in the 50s for a few years before moving out to join the forestry commision.

    My mother used a sewing machine frequently (and a knitting machine) She had an electric Singer that I have trouble visualising except for, weirdly, the large metal foot pedal. Dad would only be near it for maintenance purposes.

    We had a manual one too, rarely used but I remember it well. Operated by a handle at one end - the sort you see mosly as shop-props nowadays - all metal with that distinctive gold pattern over gloss black paint . Dad used it to mend oilskins and other heavy material
    maggie m and nomad like this.
  11. oldsomeman

    oldsomeman Star commenter

    the manual or maintenance guides are on youtube if you look
    A basic machine can sew masks quite easily you dont need fancy stitching fr them. The design is more important.
  12. sparklepig2002

    sparklepig2002 Star commenter

    I bought one when I retired. I went to John Lewis . The lady was very helpful and talked me through the various types. I went for a middle of the range one. I sew a bit, so didn't want a really basic one. I didn't want a top end really expensive one.I chose a Janome DC3050.
    I have been very pleased with it. I have used the basic stiches for dressmaking, mask making. and Christmas decoration making. I use the embroidery stitches for making home made cards. I love it.


    It was cheaper when I bought it !!
    jellycowfish, colpee and nomad like this.
  13. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    That looks very like our mum's sewing machine. My sister still uses it, it works fine. I can't imagine one you bought now would still work in 60+ years time.
    colpee likes this.
  14. Aquamarina1234

    Aquamarina1234 Star commenter

    I'm using a **** one I relieved school of 20 yrs ago. Does about 6 stitches but does a mask. If you want some masks DOY, just say.
  15. rosievoice

    rosievoice Star commenter

    I have two sewing machines, one is a singer treadle machine about 80 years old, drinks oil and requires the replacement drive belt - a long strip of leather - every twenty years or so. The bobbins are shaped like boats.

    My second is a slightly less than basic electric machine, it’s efficient but noisier.
    colpee and nomad like this.
  16. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    I had my mother in law's old sewing machine. It was decades old but it worked really well and did everything I needed with no fuss. I finally burnt out the motor sewing through a duvet (not a cover, an actual duvet) which was stupid of me, but since then I've never really missed it. I'm too lazy to sew things these days. But although it was old and basic it was a good machine and only broke because I was foolish.
  17. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Sewing machines?
    An excellent thread.
  18. burajda

    burajda Star commenter

    A pity you didnt pose this question earlier. I know 4 people from my educational establishment who have borrowed sewing machines from the Textiles dept and the technician has been giving them on line instructions. The technician actually acquired sewing machines from car boot sales, you may get lucky as car boots are open again. A tenner may get you a decent machine with the right accessories.
  19. Lalad

    Lalad Star commenter

    If you CAN get her one of these @modelmaker I'll happily talk her through how to load the bobbin, thread the needle etc. as I have one right here in front of me that used to belong to my mum and is in full working order.

    colpee and sbkrobson like this.
  20. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    We had one of those at home. One of my earliest memories is the muted cyclical clackety-clackety-clackety as my mum worked on it, and the noticeable speeding up of that sound whenever she got fed up of us squabbling but could not be bothered to tell us to stop any more. She was nice like that, but that Singer machine could talk.
    colpee and Lalad like this.

Share This Page