The Soul of Things: Or should I buy that old metal sewing machine?

The Soul of Things: Or should I buy that old metal sewing machine?

A friend told me the other day she was going to start collecting sewing machines. I found this a bit odd, mainly because, though she can sew, she doesn’t on any sort of regular basis. She said she was cleaning her apartment and came across her sewing machine shoved way up on the top shelf of her closet and then, for some reason, had the thought she should start collecting them.

Old sewing machines, especially the really old ones, look quite interesting & cool.

Old sewing machines, especially the really old ones, look quite interesting & cool.

I get it; old sewing machines, especially the really old ones, look quite interesting and cool. They often have intricate decals and ornate brand badges. Most of them still work – mainly because they’re all metal and have less parts to break.

Oldie but a goodie

I used to have an old black iron Singer with a knee pedal. I don’t remember the model number but it was one of the first ‘portable’ models Singer made. The machine did run on electricity and came in a beautiful wood dome shaped case. In reality, it was actually a bit too heavy to be considered portable. I think I found it in the depths of some storage room in an old school building somewhere in Syracuse, NY. I was working for a costume designer, I think, for the opera. (Does Syracuse still have an opera? I can’t remember – it’s been so long).

We had been given the storage room as a work space and told we could have and/or use whatever was in it. I remember sitting in a corner, shelves and tables around me piled high with fabrics and boxes and just stuff, sewing tucks into big white cotton petticoats. I remember the machine being very fast. Unlike a lot of models today who have multiple speed settings, machines back then only had one: fast.

I honestly am not sure what happened to that machine. I know it made the move to Texas but it didn’t make the move to NYC, so it’s been gone from my life for almost fifteen years. I suspect I sold it at a garage sale for $20.00 or something. Or even gave it away to someone who would use it – which is sort of how I think antique sewing machines should navigate through life.

Value: only in the eye of the beholder

I know there are some ‘rare’ models that are perhaps ‘worth’ a lot of money but, all in all, I think people tend to pay entirely too much for used machines. Online auction sites such as Ebay certainly contribute to that. I suppose it’s nice that people can get some money for the old machine that’s been sitting in their basement or garage but, I also think those Ebay auctions get a bit out of hand. And they also trend, often for no discernable reason.

Featherweights are always a popular machine and sell routinely for over $500.00. I found one, which is rarer than the black ones, but it is currently listed on Ebay at $1280.00.

Featherweights are always a popular machine and sell routinely for over $500.00. I found one, which is rarer than the black ones, but it is currently listed on Ebay at $1280.00.

Featherweights are always a popular machine and sell routinely for over $500.00. I found one, which is rarer than the black ones, but it is currently listed on Ebay at $1280.00.

It’s a beautiful machine and comes with the carrying case but no accessories. I honestly think it’s priced too high but perhaps someone will buy it. The value of things is, of course, ultimately measured by what people will pay for that thing (just look at real estate prices in NYC).

The case is a nice touch, since that is all you will likely get with these older machines. Through the passage of time, included accessories & attachments become rare finds.

The case is a nice touch, since that is all you will likely get with these older machines. Through the passage of time, included accessories & attachments become rare finds.

What now?

So, what should you do if you really want to collect old machines but don’t want to spend all of your extra money on it?

Go to garage sales (or stoop sales if you live in the city). When I lived in Texas, I used to frequent yard and garage sales all the time. I almost always found at least one machine at each sale. Some of them I bought but they were never for more than $30.00 or $40.00. If you are buying a machine at sale, ask if you can plug it in to see if it works. Check to see if you can turn the wheel freely and, even if the belt happens to be cracked or broken (they often are as the belts are usually rubber) make sure the light comes on when plugged in.

So, what should you do if you really want to collect old machines but don’t want to spend all of your extra money on it?

So, what should you do if you really want to collect old machines but don’t want to spend all of your extra money on it?

The needle won’t go up and down if the belt is missing or damaged but belts are not an expensive or difficult thing to fix. Check for rust too. Machines that have been stored in a garage or barn often have too much rust damage to ever run well again.

I’ve gotten out of the buy old sewing machines game (I live in a 5th floor walkup in NYC after all), especially on online auction sites. Although many of those machines are cosmetically extraordinary, they lack a “soul”. The only ‘antique’ machines I have now are my Nana’s old Singer 401K and a Singer hemstitcher we purchased for Boardwalk Empire. I’ll never get rid of Nana’s machine. Its sentimental value is immeasurable (even if it didn’t work though it does).

And that’s when things truly become priceless: when they somehow hold a collection of memories related to a person or time.

Five Sewing Tools that will take your Sewing to the Next Level

Five Sewing Tools that will take your Sewing to the Next Level

I love the feeling of getting sewing packages in the mail, don’t you? This particular box included a new tool that I’ve been excited to try. It is part of my top five sewing tools that will take your sewing to the next level, or at the very least, make your sewing more efficient and enjoyable.

I love the feeling of getting sewing packages in the mail, don’t you?

I love the feeling of getting sewing packages in the mail, don’t you?

1. A sewing mini iron

This is the Clover Mini-Iron. Isn’t it precious? I ordered it from SewingMachinesPlus.com and it is more than just an adorable accessory to your ironing board. A mini iron lets you iron hard-to-get-to seams or helps iron tiny seams on things like mini quilts.

It even comes with a little stand. Awwww.

It even comes with a little stand. Awwww.

It even comes with a little stand. Awwww.

While I know I’ll have many opportunities to use this, I specifically bought it for this current project. My girls and I are working on BFF (best friends forever) quilts and the squares alternate with minky fabric.

My girls & I are working on BFF quilts with alternating minky blocks.

My girls & I are working on BFF quilts with alternating minky blocks.

Using a regular iron to iron over the seams would be a challenge. Hot irons can melt or destroy minky fabric. (For more on how to sew with minky, check out my post here).

Here I folded the cotton fabric seam over the minky fabric and then placed a scrap of fabric over both. Then I ironed the seam down.

That’s what I’m talking about! This mini-iron is worth its weight in gold.

This mini-iron is worth its weight in gold.

This mini-iron is worth its weight in gold.

For fans of mini-quilts, or anyone who wants to iron their seams open, the mini-iron makes short work of it.

For fans of mini-quilts, or anyone who wants to iron their seams open, the mini-iron makes short work of it.

For fans of mini-quilts, or anyone who wants to iron their seams open, the mini-iron makes short work of it.

2. A rotating (rotary) cutting mat

Yep, you heard me correctly. This is a cutting board that rotates on its base. If you’ve ever had a pile of HSTs (half-square triangles) or any other type of project that involved a lot of trimming, you will never look back from making this purchase. SewingMachinesPlus.com sells several different sizes.

This is a cutting board that rotates on its base.

This is a cutting board that rotates on its base.

Here you can see I’ve cut one side of the fabric square. Prior to owning a rotary mat I would have had to move my body or the fabric and the ruler to make the subsequent cuts.

Here you can see I’ve cut one side of the fabric square.

Here you can see I’ve cut one side of the fabric square.

Not anymore. Look how it spins!! The base stays put while the cutting board goes for a walk.

The base stays put while the cutting board goes for a walk.

The base stays put while the cutting board goes for a walk.

Here is my square fully cut. It’s a thing of beauty, no?

Here is my square fully cut.

Here is my square fully cut.

3. Rulers and grids

This is my assortment of rulers and grids. There is nothing like having the right tools for the job. The two square grids were purchases for projects whose final size HSTs needed to be trimmed exactly to the size of the grid.

The large grid on the bottom is 24” long and my primary ruler for measuring and cutting out my fabric. The 2” ruler is my workhorse, everyday ruler.

Lastly, I had to include a classic measuring tape. I have about seven floating around the house and in my backpack and car. You never know when you might need to measure something!

The small, black and silver ruler below the measuring tape is a seam gauge. It helps you mark precise seams at a variety of lengths.

SewingMachinesPlus.com has a wide assortment of rulers and grids: http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/searchresults.php?search_field=omnigrid

SewingMachinesPlus.com has a wide assortment of rulers & grids.

SewingMachinesPlus.com has a wide assortment of rulers & grids.

I also have this heavy, metal, 48” ruler that I use for canvas and large home interior projects, or when cutting very large lengths of fabric.

I also have this heavy, metal, 48” ruler.

I also have this heavy, metal, 48” ruler.

4. A walking foot

I mention my walking foot a lot in my posts here and that’s because I use it a lot. In fact as a rule, I have it installed as my go-to sewing foot and only switch out to other feet as needed. Your machine probably came with one and you tucked it away not knowing what the strange, Star Wars-like contraption was.

Get it out of the box and learn to use it! If you quilt or work with thicker fabric, your walking foot will be your best friend.

Get it out of the box & learn to use it!

Get it out of the box & learn to use it!

If your machine didn’t come with one, I guarantee the maker of your machine sells one as an accessory. Check out all the options available on SewingMachinesPlus.com here.

Image via The Seasoned Homemaker.

Image via The Seasoned Homemaker.

5. A bias tape maker

There will come a point in your sewing career when the pre-made bias tape available in stores and online just doesn’t meet your needs. When you get to that point, grab a bias tape maker, in fact, grab a few (they make different sizes of tape). With one of these humble tools you can make both single and double-fold bias tape and the sky is pretty much the limit as far as your creativity goes.

When you get to that point, grab a bias tape maker, in fact, grab a few (they make different sizes of tape).

When you get to that point, grab a bias tape maker, in fact, grab a few (they make different sizes of tape).

You can make coordinating, contrasting, or complimenting colors of bias tape to match your projects and the process is extremely quick. It won’t be as fast as using premade, but I promise it will be worth it.

Image via Made Everyday with Dana.

Image via Made Everyday with Dana.

Do you use any of these tools already in your sewing projects? What other tools would you add to a list like this? Let us know in comments!

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Brother SE1800 Sewing & Embroidery Machine Review

Brother SE1800 Sewing & Embroidery Machine Review

Brother SE1800 Sewing & Embroidery Machine Review

If you looked at my sewing room right now, you would think I was my own little sewing shop. Seriously. There are seven machines strewn out right now. Some of them have their own little stack of projects just waiting for attention, and some are lined up against a wall waiting for projects.

This year, I added the Brother SE1800 Embroidery And Sewing Machine to my collection. I received this machine from Sewing Machines Plus in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

First impressions

I was very pregnant when this box arrived at my doorstep — about three days after completing my “order.” So, needless to say, I thought this 39 pound box was quite heavy. Lest you think the machine itself is super heavy, you should know that there are a lot of extras included with this 22 pound machine.

I was very impressed with how quickly this machine was delivered to my front porch, and how carefully packaged it was.

After I got my machine out of the box and set up, my first impression of the Brother SE1800 was how quiet it was. In both the embroidery and the sewing modes, this is a very quiet machine.

Putting the Brother SE1800 through the tests

I wanted to put this machine through as many tests as I could, so I began by reading the owner’s manual from front to back (which I highly suggest any new owner do). I then made a list of projects I could make. My goal was to try out as many of my new machines features as I could — which was a lot.

Embroidery patterns are easily downloaded to a USB, which then plugs directly into the left-hand side of the machine.

Embroidery patterns are easily downloaded to a USB, which then plugs directly into the left-hand side of the machine.

I initially set up my favorite sewing machine next to this one and planned to use the two machines together to make projects faster and smoother. However, I found myself using this combination machine for both the sewing and the embroidery parts of my sewing stack.

Switching back and forth between tasks was as easy as turning the machine off and switching the flat bed with the embroidery unit. After turning the machine back on, the display automatically switches to the proper mode.

I used this machine for basic sewing, heirloom sewing, basic smocking, embroidery and appliqué. It also has darning features I have yet to use.

The pro’s

I could go on and on telling you all the features this machine offers, but that would be boring and you can see all those details here for yourself. I will get straight to the exciting part — my favorite features.

My favorite type of machine sewing is heirloom sewing. This machine made pulling strings and sewing lace together smooth and quiet — it has been a very peaceful experience.

Secondly, I also enjoy smocking. Until receiving this machine I had previously only done this with a smocking machine and hand stitching. Although there is definitely a learning curve with this machine, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning a new trick to a timeless technique.

The appliqué process/instructions are different from how I normally do appliqué, but once again I enjoy learning a different technique.

I have, since receiving this machine, had a new baby. The Brother SE1800 has become one of the main machines I use now because of how quiet it is. Although this machine doesn’t replace a heavy duty machine or serger, because it’s a combination machine, it’s done every other project I’ve needed to do.

If you have never had an embroidery machine before, then I highly suggest getting one with a USB port, as this one has, so that data transfer cords are not needed when embroidering — unless you like to be attached to a computer for that part.

The con’s

If there is one thing I would change about this machine, it would be that the owner’s manual would have pictures of the included embroidery programs. The screen showed a picture of the embroidery and appliqué designs, but I wasn’t sure what the exact picture would look like until I did a test run for each one. Although it’s not that big of a deal, I did have to use extra thread and material to do a test run of each one to see it before I placed it on my desired garment.

While I'm unable to add beads & change colors smocking on the machine, I was able to save at least a day working on these side panels.

While I’m unable to add beads & change colors smocking on the machine, I was able to save at least a day working on these side panels.

Is is worth the price?

Would I have purchased this particular machine myself? Yes, I would have. Although I probably would not have paid the full amount of this machine, Sewing Machines Plus very often has sales going on, and that’s when I would have made a purchase.

Another thing that sweetens the deal is all the extras that they put in with this machine. I was able to get started trying out different features right away with all the tools and extras that came as part of this package (which you can check out here).

Overall impression

This machine is one of the three machines I have out on my sewing table right now, along with a heavy duty machine and a serger.  I’m sure that is where it will stay for quite awhile.  Though I will use the other four here and there, this combination machine really replaced them all in so many ways.

To read more details and see what I was able to do with my machine while I was running through its features, read this. If you have more questions after you have read this, please feel free to ask.


Deborah Olsen writes for gracegardenandhomestead.com from her farm & homestead deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
The Deeper Side of Toy Sewing Machines

The Deeper Side of Toy Sewing Machines

I remember being a child in a store when my mom was deciding to buy another child a toy sewing machine. I was too young for it, making it what could’ve been a dangerous option for me, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t jealous of the other child who would get the sewing machine!

Fast forward a couple of decades or so, and my brother asked me if a toy sewing machine he was thinking about buying would work. My response was something like, “No, they never do.”

Toys are for kids

In a world of game systems & electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves.

In a world of game systems & electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves.

This might be a misconception on my end of things in assuming that toy sewing machines will be, simply put, less than adequate. In fact, one or two of them probably do at least basically stitch together the small projects they come with. But it’s led to a question in my mind that I’d like to explore for a bit. That question is why sewing continues to be an intriguing prospect as the years roll by, to the point that in a world of game systems and electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves. Even for adults, sewing can be seen as a throwback hobby, so why is it so appealing that a younger generation would still add a sewing machine onto their lists to Santa along with the latest Wii and the most impressive riding toy on the market?

Pass it on

Here’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing.

Here’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing.

Well, for one thing, there’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing, and as children, we were kind of prone to looking at what our parents were doing for inspiration. It’s no surprise this tradition passed on to today’s world if you think about things in that context. Our great-great grandparents may have needed to create their own clothes, blankets, etc. in a world that was very different than ours, and even when society changed enough to start negating that need through things like the division of labor, there were still probably little eyes looking up at the quilters and such who continued their crafts in spite of the changes, maybe out of genuine love of the endeavors. That generation could’ve kept the tradition going for another group of young eyes to latch on to, on and up to recent times when little eyes are looking at that little sewing machine that looks so much like the one at home.

Invaluable skills

Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money.

Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money.

It’s also practical! No matter who you are and what you do, you’re probably going to need something mended at some point in your life. Not only does this increase the odds of those little eyes seeing sewing in action, but it provides usefulness to the hobby that makes it a logical thing to learn. Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money. I admit that most kids probably aren’t diving into the sewing world with money in mind, but being able to contribute with such a grown-up task could be appealing to them. Don’t believe me? Try baking a cake in a room full of kids and see how many offer to help!

A family that sews together stays together

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew & watch my superhero movies at the same time!

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew & watch my superhero movies at the same time!

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew and watch my superhero movies at the same time! Because of this convenience factor, it can be an endeavor that comes with good memories and feelings for children. Think about it. If I were making a rag quilt, I could sit with my nieces while a cheesy cartoon played and fray the edges for the quilt. It’s a hobby that allows time for them, and that’s a detail that a child could easily appreciate. With those kinds of good feelings and that pleasant context, picking up a sewing interest isn’t that shocking!

A generational tradition

On the flipside, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles… We might appreciate the interest as well. Why? For one thing, it’s creative, which helps a child expand in imagination and think outside of the box. The little sewing enthusiast could construct a final product that really took time and effort, and that pride could be something that proves fulfilling enough to warm the nearby adult’s heart. Another appealing detail for the adults buying these toys and encouraging the interest is that sewing is a relatively safe activity for a child who’s reached an appropriate age. Clearly, you shouldn’t hand a three-year-old a sewing needle, but an older, more mature child would be able to dive into the hobby with little worry over injuries.

For child and parent then, this could be an easy interest to embrace! So, why was I confused about the continued existence of toy sewing machines again?!

Sewing on the Go: What and How to Pack for Class or Traveling

Sewing on the Go: What and How to Pack for Class or Traveling

Sewing on the Go: What and How to Pack for Class or Traveling

Whether you are attending a sewing class or planning a leisurely vacation, sewing on the go is something you will want to do sooner or later.

We’ve talked a lot about sewing rooms here on the blog, but we haven’t addressed the issue of sewing on the go here before now.

Sewing on the go won’t work if you aren’t properly prepared, so I’ve made this short video to cover all the areas you need to address to ensure you have what you need when you take your sewing on the road.

Here’s everything you’ll need:

Sewing on the go: portable machine

Janome Jem Gold

I already discussed this machine in my beginner sewing machine buying guide. It is definitely my choice for best lightweight portable machine.

Sewing on the go: machine carriers, luggage and totes

You definitely want to think about this before you get ready to take your sewing to go. I hadn’t ever considered this myself until the day before I taught my first sewing class at the community center. I suddenly realized I was going to have a lot of equipment and gear to lug and I had no idea how I was going to carry it all!

So I grabbed a thick piece of table linen and whipped up a humongous bag to carry everything.

So I grabbed a thick piece of table linen & whipped up a humongous bag to carry everything.

So I grabbed a thick piece of table linen & whipped up a humongous bag to carry everything.

While this bag has proven itself to be quite useful in other ways, I don’t recommend this solution for sewing supplies and gear. I only used it that one time for this purpose and then I found a more suitable option. I have appreciated the ample sack for carrying beach supplies for myself and my kids, and it carries three of our ukuleles in boxes safely in the trunk when we travel with them these days.

For toting your sewing machine and supplies, save time and trouble by ordering one of these great choices from Sewing Machines Plus:

Here is a link to SMP’s full selection of trolleys, totes, and cases.

Sewing on the go: sewing supplies

Here is the list of supplies to be sure to include in your travel sewing kit:

Here is the list of supplies to be sure to include in your travel sewing kit:

Be sure to get an extra pair of dress shears to keep in your go bag at all times.

You’ll also like to have a portable rotary cutter.

Here is the combo cutting mat/ pressing board mentioned in the video.

And here is that Rowenta travel iron.

The clover mini-iron is available in a couple of different options:

Here are the cooling sleeves for the mini-iron.

And that’s what you need to be well equipped for sewing on the go. Happy travels to you!

The Traveling Tailor

The Traveling Tailor

Sewing machines and supplies aren’t exactly the most portable things. Sometimes, when I’m not working fulltime on a show, I’ll get a one or two day job that requires me to schlep a machine and supplies to a work space. These are my least favorite kind of jobs – for no other reason than I have to transport my machine and a small kit of sewing supplies somewhere.

I live in New York City. I haven’t owned a car in over ten years.

What’s the big deal, you may ask, just throw it all in your car and go. Well, that’s the thing: I live in New York City. I haven’t owned a car in over ten years. The last time I drove was about two years ago. And I’m not a huge fan of Uber or even good old-fashioned yellow cabs. Cars are just not the most efficient way to get around the city. So, I’m usually dragging a sewing machine up and down the subway stairs to get to where I need to go.

On the go

I know I’ve recommended these machines before, but Brother makes some incredibly good and lightweight machines. I have two SC9500s. They are so lightweight that I carry them in a tote bag on my shoulder. I then use a backpack to carry my supplies: scissors, threads, rulers, chalk, a small collection of notions.

Other Brother machines that are very light weight are the CS5055 and the ES2000.

I also bike a lot, which is always the most efficient way to get around the city, and have been known to strap a machine (in a box) to the rear rack on my bicycle.

When going to a job that is only one or two days, sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to bring, especially if you’re trying to not lug your entire shop down the length of Manhattan and across the bridge to Brooklyn.

Here’s a list of what I usually bring to a short one-day job:

  • 1 pair of tailor’s points or small scissors
  • 1 pair of medium sized shears
  • 1 pair of pinking shears (because I’m certainly not bringing a serger along to finish seams.)
  • 1 gallon sized Ziploc of thread. Must have colors include black, grey, white, tan, a greeny-brown, nude, and a yellow-orange for topstitching on jeans.
  • 12” see through 2” wide ruler
  • 1 soft tape measure
  • Tailor’s chalk, red marking pencil, pencil, black disappearing ink pen
  • Seam ripper
  • Metal hem gauge ruler
  • Small container of straight pins
  • Extra bobbins for machine
  • Small collection of hand and machine needles (I always bring some leather needles and double needles, just in case.)
  • 1 gallon sized Ziploc of bias tape (black and white), elastics, twill tape, and hem tape.
  • Small containers of snaps and hook & eyes.
  • Muslin pressing cloth
  • Small collection of nude spandex and netting scraps and interfacings

Lighting is key

Sometimes it’s nice to bring along a small light of some kind. I often find myself sewing in inadequately lighted spaces. I tend not to bring a lamp because, well, the subway. I always make sure the light in the machine is working. And the flashlight on an iphone can be extremely helpful in especially dark circumstances.

Gear up

I’m not very high tech with my carrying cases but there are lots of really lovely ones out there if you’re not into backpacks and tote bags.

http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/sewing-accessories-cases.php

The key is to keep everything super organized. And don’t worry about not having all the thread. Unless you’re topstitching, most things can be sewn with black, white, or tan. I know some tailors that only use those colors of thread. It really is ok if your thread doesn’t match exactly. And sometimes you just have to use what you have, especially if you are a traveling tailor.

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

Sewing lovers get their own version of March Madness! If you’ve been wanting to buy a new sewing machine, upgrade your current machine or purchase a different type of sewing machine March is the time to do it.

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

With the amazing sale at SewingMachinesPlus.com you can save up to $400 on the sewing machine you’ve been lusting after since last year.

As an added bonus, you’ll get FREE shipping on all orders over $49 – every day! And an additional 10% off qualifying items. Take a look at a sampling of the sewing machines included in this fabulous March Machine Madness Sale.

HQ Sweet Sixteen Long Arm Quilter with True Stitch Regulator

This quilting machine is ideal for quilting projects of any size while seated. The throat space is large enough to handle a king size quilt! The easy to use touch screen makes it easy to choose your stitches and easily access them the next time while the unique light ring brightens the area being quilted with 28 LEDs. One of several patent-pending features on the Sweet Sixteen is a low bobbin alert. You’ll never run out of bobbin thread and not know it again.

Singer 4432 Heavy Duty Extra-High Speed Sewing Machine

This machine is a workhorse! The heavy-duty metal frame stands up to daily use and provides skip-free sewing. The stronger motor enables you to sew through heavy weight fabrics without a problem. Its complimented by the adjustable pressure foot lifter meaning you can sew lightweight and heavy fabric easily. And buttonholes are no longer a struggle with the automatic 1-step buttonhole feature.

Every March Machine Madness purchase comes with optional no interest financing at the sale price. And just like all purchases from SewingMachinesPlus, you’ll get a lifetime of support from the talented customer service crew.

Check out the full line of products on sale at sewingmachinesplus.com!

Must Have Sewing Notions and Supplies

Must Have Sewing Notions and Supplies

Last week, I told you about my dream sewing room furniture. This week, I want to share with you my must have sewing supplies. And no, I don’t actually own all of them since I don’t yet have that dream sewing room. Call this my dream sewing supplies list, I guess.

Must Have Sewing Notions and Supplies

Dress Form

I adore making cute summer sundresses. Right now, I measure myself, cut along what I hope are the right lines in the pattern and hem it by hanging the dress on closet hanger. Not ideal, but so far at least, they’ve all come out fine. I’d love a dress form though so I could check the fit and make minor tweaks and modifications as I go. I’m kind of between dress form sizes right now, so I’d have to make a call on which size to get – or if money was really no object, just get both!

Amazing Sewing Scissors

Alright, so I do have a pair of fabric scissors. I couldn’t consider myself a sewer if I didn’t. But I don’t love them. The handles are hard plastic and someone (not naming any names) used them to cut paper at some point, which kind of screwed up the cutting surface. I’d really love a pair of fabric scissors with a softer handle, especially since breaking my right hand last year. Even better, the ones I linked to have a purple handle! That’s my favorite color. Definitely on my sewing supplies wish list.

How about you?

Long Ruler

I don’t necessarily need to cut long, straight lines making sundresses, but I do need to measure long stretches of fabric to line up pattern pieces. Right now, I use a soft measuring tape. I pin it down on one side and pull it taut to measure. It’s not ideal, but it gets the job done. A yard stick or long ruler would go a long way towards making measuring easier.

What’s on your sewing supplies wish list? Sewing Machines Plus probably has it! Check out the website and let yourself dream.

What You Might Not Know About Your Favorite Thread

What You Might Not Know About Your Favorite Thread

Click the image to get your thread!

Shop Thread Now!

Shop Thread Now!


Choose the right type of sewing thread for your next project

Any sewing enthusiast knows that a seam is only as good as the thread that holds it together. From polyester to silk, the type of thread you choose for your next project can leave you happy — or horrified. Luckily, we’ve put together a brief rundown of five popular types of thread, so that next time you’re at the fabric store, staring down hundreds of spools, you can confidently pick the right one for the job.

Cotton thread

Cotton thread is washable & wearable but has "give" — which makes it great for quilting, piercing & appliqué projects.

Cotton thread is washable & wearable but has “give” — which makes it great for quilting, piercing & appliqué projects.

A common “go-to” for many sewing enthusiasts, cotton thread is washable and wearable but has “give” — which makes it great for quilting, piercing, and appliqué projects. Keep in mind, though, that the lower the weight, the heavier and thicker the thread. If your next project is a thin blouse or lingerie set for example, consider using 50 weight cotton thread: this thin thread has less bulk, so your seams will lay flatter. For an “all-purpose” quilting thread, a middle-of-the-road 40 weight cotton thread is ideal (for both machine and long-arm quilting); it’s thin enough to glide easily through thick fibers, but strong enough to secure your quilt. Finally, a 30 weight cotton thread has the thickness necessary for dramatic accents in topstitching and quilting stitches.

Rayon thread

Rayon is relatively inexpensive & provides a decorative finish with shine.

Rayon is relatively inexpensive & provides a decorative finish with shine.

The most commonly used thread for embroidery, rayon is relatively inexpensive and provides a decorative finish with shine. Rayon thread also has high tensile strength: it doesn’t break easily and is very stretchable and flexible, even when wet. However, rayon is usually not colorfast and often fades or bleeds from fabric.

Polyester thread

Stronger than rayon thread, polyester thread is a great "all-purpose" choice that can be used for most sewing projects, both hand- & machine-sewn.

Stronger than rayon thread, polyester thread is a great “all-purpose” choice that can be used for most sewing projects, both hand- & machine-sewn.

Stronger than rayon thread, polyester thread is a great “all-purpose” choice that can be used for most sewing projects, both hand- and machine-sewn. Polyester thread has some “give” to it, so unlike cotton, it won’t break when you use it with stretchy fabrics; polyester thread also remains bright after several washes. If you need a thread that will slip through fabric easily, you can also choose a glazed polyester thread, which will have a wax or silicone finish. It’s important, however, to avoid using glazed threads for machine-sewn projects, because the glaze can rub off and jams your machine.

Metallic thread

Designed for embroidery, quilting, & decorative stitching projects, metallic thread can be used to create beautiful topstitching designs.

Designed for embroidery, quilting, & decorative stitching projects, metallic thread can be used to create beautiful topstitching designs.

If your handbag needs touching up, metallic thread may be the perfect choice. Designed for embroidery, quilting, and decorative stitching projects, metallic thread can be used to create beautiful topstitching designs. Often available in gold, silver, and copper varieties, metallic threads are smooth, strong and vibrant.

Silk thread

Thin but strong & flexible with a lot of "give," silk thread is also ideal for basting stitches and tailoring curved areas.

Thin but strong & flexible with a lot of “give,” silk thread is also ideal for basting stitches and tailoring curved areas.

When sewing silk or wool fabrics, silk thread is the obvious choice. Thin but strong and flexible with a lot of “give,” silk thread is also ideal for basting stitches and tailoring curved areas.

Now choose wisely

Overall, the key to a durable and professional-looking finish is choosing a high-quality thread that closely matches the weight and fiber content of the fabric you’re working with. Take it from us: using the perfect thread will make sewing your next project that much more enjoyable.


Click the image to get your thread!

Shop Thread Now!

Shop Thread Now!

Beginner Sewing Machine Buying Guide

Beginner Sewing Machine Buying Guide

Buying a beginner sewing machine is an exciting decision that will impact your future in wonderful ways, but only if you choose a good beginner machine.

There is a huge difference between a great sewing machine and a not-so-great machine

Beginner Sewing Machine Buying Guide

The difference a well designed machine makes to a sewing beginner’s journey will save an enormous amount of frustration.  With a good machine, you will enjoy the process and learn to sew without trouble. With a poorly designed nightmare of a machine, your progress will not be near as fast. That is, if you progress at all; many beginners have thrown up their hands and given up on learning to sew thanks to an overly complicated or inferior beginner sewing machine, and this is a shame.

I’m speaking from experience here. If someone had told me these things I could have been spared an awful lot of trouble and tears. I’m not exaggerating to say tears, either; I not only cried but also screamed and wanted to tear out my hair in frustration when I was learning to sew. Learning to sew seemed so hard to do, but this was only because I was trying to teach myself on a terrible machine. I bought it at the same store where I shopped for groceries and it was, to put it mildly, a piece of junk!

If I had only known that I could have bought a much better machine for about the same amount of money, I could have enjoyed my beginner sewing experiences so much more. I’d love to save someone else that same trouble.

Start with a mechanical model sewing machine

My first recommendation is to start with a mechanical-only model. There are awesome computerized and electrical sewing machines available, and soon you will definitely want to add one of these to your collection, too. But I recommend you start with a mechanical model for two reasons.

First of all, you don’t want to confuse yourself with too many options and features when you first start sewing. I think it is best to focus on learning the basics of sewing on a good, basic machine.

And perhaps more importantly, you need to have a mechanical back-up machine in your collection before you buy an electronic or computerized machine. That’s because computerized machines require regular maintenance that you cannot do yourself. Nor can you repair any problem that might arise on a computerized machine at home.

When your machine is away, sometimes for as long as a few weeks, you cannot sew—unless you have a mechanical backup. So I think this needs to be the first sewing machine you buy.

I’d think I was sewing and then realize that I was sewing without thread! Argh, this is what made me scream and want to tear out my hair when using that machine!

Don’t buy a beginner sewing machine without these features:

Built-in needle threader

You’ll be threading your machine every time you sew.  With an easy machine, you are going to love sewing and want to make lots of things, so you will thread your machine thousands or even ten-thousands of times.

Save yourself a lot of time and trouble by getting a machine with a handy dandy built-in needle threader. Even if you are young with great eyesight and steady hands, this will still make needle threading go a lot faster for you. I wouldn’t buy a machine without this feature.

Top loading drop-in bobbin

The poorly designed bobbin system was the thing that caused me the most frustration on my first sewing machine. On that thing, the bobbin was concealed inside the front of the machine. To change it, I had to take the case off the front and then remove the bobbin casing to get to the bobbin which was held vertically inside.

Besides all those extra steps, the problem with this system was that there was no way to see that my bobbin was running low on thread. So what would happen is that my bobbin would run out without me knowing it. I’d think I was sewing and then realize that I was sewing without thread! Argh, this is what made me scream and want to tear out my hair when using that machine! I’d have to remove my project from the machine, rewind and replace the bobbin, and then start all over again. NOT fun!

A top loading bobbin system is so much better. With this system, the bobbin just pops out and drops into place without your having to disassemble a bobbin casing to get to it. Even better, this kind of system is accompanied by a see through cover plate. So you can see at a glance when your bobbin thread is low. Believe me, you want to get a machine with this feature.

Free arm capability

With a free arm, you can sew narrow, round garment pieces such as sleeves and pant hems. If a sewing machine won’t convert to free arm sewing you can’t sew these things easily, if at all.

As a beginner sewist, you will want to make many small projects. That’s because they are easy and satisfying, not to mention useful. Not having the ability for free arm sewing is unnecessarily limiting. There are basic beginner sewing machines that do limit you in this way. Be sure the machine you buy includes this important feature.

My recommendations for your beginner sewing machine:

I always recommend Janome brand machines. That is because I have seen for myself that Janome offers the best quality and the best value, by far. From my experiences with my own nightmare first machine to my experiences helping others with frustrating machines when I teach sewing classes, I have seen clearly that there is a big difference in user friendliness between different makes of machines. I can’t imagine buying any other brand and I recommend them as being the best choice for beginners and experienced sewists alike.

Janome Sewist 500

If I were buying a beginner machine, I would buy the Janome Sewist 500. I like this one because, besides offering my must-have features listed above, it goes beyond being a basic machine and offers a lot of options without being overly complicated. It has 25 different stitches, including some decorative stitches, and a one step buttonholer. I love this option on Janome machines, it makes sewing buttonholes as easy as pie.

Janome Jem Gold 660

I would also recommend this machine as being a great choice for a beginner sewing machine. It too includes all the features I would demand. And besides the fact that the price is nice, this machine is also lightweight. This makes it easy to grab and go to class or wherever else you’d like to take it. While it only has eight stitches to choose from, these include everything you need. Almost all sewing uses either a stretch or a zigzag stitch. This machine performs both, and with adjustable stitch length and width. It also has two different useful stretch stitches and a buttonhole stitch.

With either of these as your beginner sewing machine, you will be sure to enjoy learning to sew and you won’t have to suffer needless frustration. Either of these high-quality Janome machines will continue to serve you well long beyond your brief time as a beginner.

To save yourself another easily avoided frustration, be sure to read my guide to machine needle selection, too. Besides using a poorly designed beginner sewing machine, nothing else can cause you as much trouble as using the wrong size or type of needle. You won’t have to suffer this problem when you clearly understand which needle to use when.

Happy sewing to you!