Investing in a sewing machine can be a challenging endeavour, particularly if you are a novice seamstress. There are others that sew because they are particularly passionate about quilting. Others used their machines to a variety of uses, including maybe the production of garments. But if you are just starting out with sewing, all you know are your goals; you have no idea what is necessary or what is expected of you.
You need to ask yourself how you intend to put the machine to use. Do you sew clothes? Do you plan to use it to embroider designs or names onto anything? Will you use it for piecing the quilt or quilting, or will you use it for both?
If you want to sew clothing, you should seek for a machine that has either an over lock or a zig zag stitch. A more polished appearance will result from your application of these stitches to the innermost margins of your seams. They significantly reduce the amount of fraying that normally happens along most seams over time.
The use of a machine that has been pre-programmed with the necessary stitches and designs is essential for embroidery. A sewing and embroidery machine combo will typically come with some lettering and preprogrammed designs already installed on the machine. You can buy additional designs to use as long as your machine has an outlet for adding such things. You can then use those designs on your machine. To upload designs in today’s world, all it takes is the simple act of plugging in a USB design or even just simply connecting the machine to your personal computer.
You will need to use a straight stitch for the piecing of the quilt. You should look for a machine that gives you the option to alter the distance between each stitch. This will help you maintain control over your stitch work even when working on the tiniest sections of the quilt block.
When purchasing a machine for quilting, check to see if it has the capability of having the feed dogs removed. If you choose to experiment with free motion quilting, you will absolutely require this option. When you have them in place, you are free to manipulate the fabric in any direction you like, whether you want to make waves, circles, feathers, or anything else.
Of course, if you plan to crosshatch quilt, you will want the feed dogs up. They will help keep your fabric straight and your stitches on track.
Armed with the knowledge of what you want to do, visit area sewing machine dealers. Look at what they have to offer and ask plenty of questions about the products. If you have a budget, tell them up front so they can help guide you to the right machine. You may also discover that you haven’t budgeted enough for what you want. At that point, you have to decide whether to increase your budget or decrease your sewing machine expectations.
Be sure to ask about service after the sale. Is there a warranty? What is covered for free and what is the extended warranty worth? Does the store provide repair services? You may even find out that the shop offers free classes, sewing clubs, or regularly scheduled demonstrations!
If you plan to do your shopping at one of the big box department stores, be sure to keep your receipt and register the machine right away for the warranty coverage. Since the big stores often shuffle clerks among their departments, you may or may not get to talk with someone who knows a lot about the machines. Get online and read reviews from others who have bought the machine you are considering. You can learn a lot about a machine from the reviews it gets on shopping websites.
Also, look for a machine that fits your personal style. If you don’t like computers, you probably won’t enjoy a fully computerized machine. Opt for something more manual that still provides the features you will need. While it may sound trying, finding a machine to suit your needs has never been easier. There’s a full range of products out there.
Quick Tips for Successful Machine Quilting
Machine quilting takes practice and good technique. Here are a few quick tips that will make your machine quilting easier and more successful:
- To control your stitches:
Put your hands down on the area you are quilting, like a frame, with your thumbs touching. The area between your hands is the only area to pay attention to as you work.
Have in your mind where you will be stitching, and what kind of shape you will be making. Then watch the fabric where you want to stitch – not the needle as it is stitching.
Practice stitching on a fabric sandwich (2 layers of fabric with a piece of batting between) about 24 inches square. Practice stitching various shapes, and pay attention to the sound of your needle. The goal is to move your fabric about 1/8 of an inch as your needle goes up and down.
- About thread:
As a beginner, it is better to use light thread on light fabric. As cool as it sounds to use dark thread on a light fabric, every stitch will be magnified – and every mistake will look worse. If you want your stitches to show, you could use light thread on a dark fabric. For some reason, that combination does not show the mistakes.
A lot of thread for machine quilting comes on a cone. That saves money and time (having to re-thread your machine). If your sewing machine does not have a built in thread stand, you could put the cone in a glass measuring cup, and let it bounce around in there.
Be sure that the thread is coming off of the cone from the top, not un-rolling from the side. (I use this method, and have found that I need to place the measuring cup on the side of my machine, instead of behind it. For some reason the angle that it feeds into the machine makes a difference.)
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