Sewing Machines That Have Owned Me

Mom had a Singer Featherweight when I was little. You know, those little black machines, sitting on their own table, with gold pinstriping on them? They ran like rockets, as basically, they were industrial machines made for the domestic market.

She was wise to have such a sewing machine when I was little. I like to understand things, so I wondered if THAT needle could sew through balsa wood. The wood won!

If you didn’t keep spare needles, it was a catastrophe if the last one broke, or heaven forbid, it was lost in the floorboards.

One day I had the last sewing needle in my hand. I was going to sand the tip because there was a ‘hook’ on it. It lived for another garment.

Later, Mom bought a “new” Singer, but I think the Featherweight was the real deal. I wish she had kept it forever.

When I was first married, my father-in-law bought me a top-of-the-line Bernina as a wedding gift. His late wife was a Bernina fan, and though I never met her, everyone talked about how she could make anything she put her hand to. I had some big shoes to fill.

We moved into our first house and I, as a young bride, found there were so many things I could make for our home. By now I made all my own clothes. I took on more projects and the Bernina sailed through it all. What a machine – I knew everything about it for 20 years.

After Bernina, I used a Husqvarna Prisma 990.This was the best workhorse machine I ever owned, though Bernina was a close second. There was no end to the abuse the Prisma could take and I remember it fondly.

I had opened an Interior Design Studio/Workroom and acquired 17 industrial machines. Blind hemmers, strait stitchers, and a number of sergers. The sergers left me the most curious as I had 3 and 4 needle machines AND a 5 needle serger…I was in heaven!

Have you ever threaded a 5 needle serger? There are instructions on the inside of the bobbin cover. Illustrated and in color! Good luck with that.

Then I found the cover-stitch serger…..you know the one that makes that neat stitch-line at the bottom of a t-shirt. I don’t have the words, but I was smitten. Singer, Juki, Janome, Phaff, great industrial machines, and I loved them all.

Alongside stood my little Prisma, a champion, really. Taking all the abuse I could give it. I remember reading in the leaflet that came with it that “This Is Not An Industrial Machine”. Can’t help but wonder why they felt the need to tell me that.

It wasn’t MY fault that the Prisma delivered in every area. Could I help that it was indestructible? Isn’t that what everyone would want?

Later I owned the domestic Brother sewing and embroidery machine. It did such great things and lots of neat tricks. The only machine that could sew in reverse continuously without holding down a button.

Automatic threading…the one that looks cool, not the uncool one with little wires on it. Electronic scissors on my machine! (Now that’s a party trick.) It also sewed sideways so that you could sew UP the leg of your jeans!

Within all that brute strength lay a delicate touch that could sew the finest gauzy fabric with ease. It also came with some of the best additional feet that were ever offered, a good-sized monitor, and lots of neat tools to set up a custom design. And once you have those extras, you never want to be without.

As life went on and I was sewing a lot less I thought I would just buy an off-the-shelf model that can sew straight and zig-zag. Do some home repairs. Light stuff.

No matter what I sewed, I hated-every-minute-of-using-that-machine. I know that the everyday entry-level machine has merit. There’s a use for it. Not knocking it.

But I had electronic scissors! continuous reverse! and satin stitches to die for!! There was no going back. I couldn’t take this on the chin. It was all very emotional, so I donated my machine and started searching.

Now I am the proud owner of a BabyLock, later edition. It’s neat and really does a good job and has what I need, without the added cost of having what I wouldn’t use. It took a little getting used to, they all do, and the manual is user-friendly.

WONDERFUL features: pretty satin stitches and designs, beautiful buttonholes, and electronic scissors! (You don’t compromise when electronic scissors are involved). Has a really good straight stitch and a variety of zig-zags. And there is that cool auto-threader. I am really happy!

Now you are probably thinking that I only like famous name sewing machines and higher-priced ones. Partly true. I am not so concerned about the famous names as I am about what they can offer in my price range.

I like a good quality stitch and a few somersault tricks to keep me amused. I like the reliability of a great performer because it feels solid. Reliable.

Let’s face it, we get what we pay for. After we do our research and see what we want to spend and what we want for that price, it gets narrowed down.

I sold sewing machines for a short time and found that in every brand name there is a model in every price range, that does almost exactly the same things that the other brands do in the same price range. (read that again).

About 20 years ago I was shocked to see the very high-quality domestic machines selling for $18,000. I could buy a car for that amount of money.

But if you’re going to invest in a good machine that is a pleasure to use, and produces an excellent result, it’s best to look into it seriously. There’s something for everyone out there.

At a fraction of the cost of the high-priced machine, I found what I wanted. And consider how long you would keep a high-quality machine. If it’s for 25 years, it would be nice to be totally happy with it.

Do your research because what I want is not necessarily what you want. This has just been my experience.

So what’s the verdict? Test them all. You just never know what is going to make a difference to your sewing. It’s a wonderful hobby, creative and relaxing.

It should be cheaper than just buying everything and it is. If you don’t stock up on all the pretty fabrics you find.

I can hardly resist them, the beautiful textures and striking colors.

Then there’re the notions! I have the best scissors and the greatest variety of them. I don’t cut regular thread with my embroidery scissors. NEVER do that. Never cut HAIR with sewing scissors!

It did take me years to get to this point with notions, but I could never have parted with any of them. It’s in my blood.

Looking at sewing, as something that took center stage in my life, I am glad it was so rewarding, satisfying, creative, and fun. I can’t help it; it’s a weakness.

Once I rented a time-share with another sewer. Just us girls, sewing all week; no interruptions. We stopped for food and slept sometimes. We were free! Away from home, no tv, no children, not enough time!

Regards, Corinne

Next week: all the sewing courses I took in my life and how I use them.

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