Hello and welcome back!.. First off thank you so much for all the sweet notes and tweets about this series of posts. I really can't tell you how happy it makes me when I am able to share something that makes a difference to you. Sewing Machine features can be baffling, let's dig right in.
Yesterday's post was about Sewing Machine brands, and which brands excelled in different areas. Today I thought I would buzz through some of the common and special features you will find on the newer machines on the market. Please know that this does not mean that I don't think you should get a used machine since I happen to be rather fond of solid older and vintage machines but they come with their own challenges that we will talk about in a later post.
When you are looking for a machine it can be good to have in mind why you want it and what you are wanting to do but also to be open to the fact that you might want to do more at some point. The features of your machine can help expand your sewing world but can also limit it so making sure that you are buying up by at least a little bit can be a good idea. Example - even though you so far have only used the straight stitching option on your current machine it would not be a good idea to get a straight stitch only machine unless you REALLY knew what you were going to be doing with it ( fast production sewing in this case)
Stitch selection - Even the most simple machine will come with an adjustable straight stitch as well as a zigzag ( numbers 1 & 2 in the photo) and most will come with even more stitches with some being utility and others being more decorative. Some that you will want to ask about are a stretch stitch (#5) for working with knits if you don't have a serger, and some sort of blind or over casting stitch (#7) for tidy seam finishing. More stitches are great but don't use them as the deciding factor in which machine you choose. For the record my machine has well over 600 and I have not used 1/3 of them yet and if I use them all before I die .. well I just don't think it will happen!
If you are going to quilt you will want a 1/4 piecing foot ( with or without guide) and a walking foot. If you are going to do a lot of garment sewing a zipper foot is a must as well as a buttonhole foot. Feeling like getting fancy? Free motion quilting feet make that easier as well as open-toe feet with a carved out bottom for decorative stitching. Some or none of these feet might come with the machine you are looking at. As you compare machines start a chart so you can keep up with these details!
Moving farther out are some of the more esoteric features you can find on today's machine and they can make sewing even more enjoyable and easier on the body.
Good lighting is a must. Some of the newer machines come with very bright LED lights and others with bulbs, pay attention to how the light shines on the machine bed .. good lighting makes for good sewing.
The knee lift, the most over looked, under appreciated and wonderful accessory which is available with some mid- upper level machines. If you have never used a knee lift it can take a bit to get used to to but after that the option of hands free lifting and lowering of your pressure foot becomes a feature you will never again give up.
Needle threader anyone? While not a make or break feature a good dependable built in threader will save you lots of time and your eyesight if you have to change threads often ( as with embroidery). Take the time to learn exactly how yours works since they all have their own tricks for best performance
A need for speed.. or maybe not so much! Speed control when first learning to sew can be difficult for some people to master. It is either hells-bells foot to the floor or not being able to get the machine to start stitching. A speed control option gives you the control to set a maximum speed your machine will sew so that you never need fear things getting out of control. As you gain confidence you can continue to adjust for more and more speed until you are handling your machine like a race car driver in full control.
And last but not least ( since this is becoming a book!).........
Pressure Foot Pressure Adjustment- Makes adjusting for different thicknesses of fabric a breeze and is a MUST HAVE if you want to do a lot of knits
Needle-down stop option- With a single push of a button you can set many machines so that they stop with the needle down or up for various sewing applications- this is a great feature!
Easy to use tension adjustment - Yes, and let me say that again.. YES you can touch the tension dial on your machine. You need it, and it needs you to be able to adjust for differences in fabric and thread combinations. Make sure is it up front, visible and you learn what those little numbers mean!
So there you go .. I am sure there is something I have missed.. and if you have a mind to let me know and I will ram it in there somewhere!
In the mean time I would love, love, love it if you would take just a moment to share this post with the wider world by clicking on the Facebook or twitter link at the bottom of this post.. thanks.. really.
Up next.. taking a real machine test drive.. and maybe a video too!.