Monday, August 5, 2013

My machines

It seems like I've been chatting about my arsenal of sewing machines a lot this last week, so I thought I'd introduce them.
Here is the "aerial" view of my sewing room, which is the only angle I can get all 4 machines in. Up front are the sewing machine and serger, with my vintage machine on her own table. The coverstitch machine is tucked into the corner.
This is my main machine, a Janome 4623LE. My hubby gave her to me for Christmas, just after we were married and long before the sewing bug really hit me. He is a wise man. She's a really wonderful machine - basic, but with all the features I need. I use her every day.
My serger also gets a workout every day. She is a Brother 1034D and was also a gift from my sweetheart. Yes, he spoils me. I really love this serger. I've had her nearly 3 years and she's never complained, despite heavy daily use. I find her easy to thread and simple to use.
When I first got her, I did get the threading sequence confused on occasion, so I added a little crib sheet with a Sharpie. I find this insanely useful, so I thought I'd share. The numbers in blue are the threading sequence. The red annotations tell you which thread goes where - L for left needle, R for right needle, upper for the upper looper and lower for the lower looper. The two thread paths that are starred are the two threads that are visible in the seam, so those are the ones I always make sure match the garment fabric.
Another tip, which I use for both serger and coverstitch, is how I keep that darn hex wrench close at hand. Lose this thing and it is impossible to change your needle, and I am a neurotic needle changer, so I do it often - generally every time I change the thread, which I do with pretty much every garment. I use a little ball of putty (AKA Sticky Tack) to keep the wrench stuck to the machine. This way, it's always here when I need it.
The third machine on my main table is the cover stitch machine. I have the Brother 2340CV, and I love it. When I initially was considering getting one of these, I really questioned how much I needed it. I mean, all it does is hem knits, right?? But I do sew a lot of knits and I had gotten more and more dissatisfied with the results I was getting with twin needles or other methods. But as it turns out, I use this machine all the time. At least 3 times a week, possibly more often. She hems, she binds, she attaches elastic, she makes beltloops; all effortlessly and beautifully. Seriously. She's amazing and I can't live without her.
Here's one little tip for the coverstitchers out there. I like to use regular sewing thread in the needles when I coverstitch, but if I don't have 2 spools, the spool pin doesn't accommodate a bobbin well. I discovered that a bobbin actually works great if you stack it on top of an empty spool of thread. It brings it up to the height it needs to sit and feed smoothly.
Last, but definitely not least is my Singer Touch & Sew 603E. This machine was a gift from a good friend who didn't have room for her. She's an absolute powerhouse of a machine. This girl with sew through 8 layers of heavy denim like it was nothing, and come back begging for more. Her stitch is beautiful and sturdy. I use her for constructing heavy duty items (like jeans) and also for topstitching when I'm using contrasting thread, so I don't have to constantly change thread.
But what I truly can't do without is her buttonhole. Seriously, these things are so beautiful. Perfectly stitched, every single time. The vintage buttonhole attachment does have a bit of a learning curve to it, but once you've got it, you'll never go back. These buttonholes are a work of art.

So, those are my girls. Together, we make beautiful things. Although there are lots of other machines out there that I *could* happily add to my arsenal, these four ladies are what I really need for what I love to do.

So, how many machines would make you feel content? Do you think a serger is essential? What about a coverstitch? What machine(s) can you not live without?

19 comments:

  1. Looks like you have some great machines!

    I currently have 5 domestic sewing machines (2 of which are always set up) and a serger. I'm still dreaming of a coverstitch machine - someday I'll get one! I may eventually decide I need an industrial machine (I've come close to getting one a couple of times but it never worked out), but I really want a coverstitch more at this point.

    If I could only have the bare minimum, I'd have to have one sewing machine (and it would be a hard choice between the two I have out all the time!) and my serger.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I ended up getting the Janome 1000CP cover stitch from my local dealer - haven't picked it up yet, but it was on sale. Thanks for your tips on machines! One tip my friend used when cover stitching with a bobbin was to drop it in a cup behind the machine, and it worked fine.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awesome group of machines you got there!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm jealous of your coverstitch machine, but I'm also finally getting good results with the twin needle, so I'll probably just use that unless I can find a super cheap coverstitch. I'm also surprised you have a mechanical SM. It seems like computerized machines are all that is out there sometimes unless you buy vintage.

    I've got a Pfaff 2038 and a babylock imagine that I use the most. But then there's also a Singer 201A that has the buttonhole attachment (should I ever get her timing fixed--seems like the money is just never there), an 80's model Kenmore that would make someone an excellent starter machine if I'd ever just post it on eBay or something, and a Dressmaker machine that I never could get along with. I keep meaning to thin the herd, but never seem to have the heart to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for showing off your girls. Ok, well that sounded wrong, but you know what I mean.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love the hex wrench on top of the machine! I should do that, too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Like Brooke, I have 5 machines -- but, they are very different machines!
    My basic, gets-used-the-most is my Pfaff Tiptronic 2030. She's the first computerized machine I ever owned, and I can't believe I waited so long to go digital. She does nearly everything I want, does it well, and with a minimum of fuss and bother. Despite what I was warned, repairs in the 10 years I have had her have been infrequent (one, while she was under warranty, one, eight years later), and inexpensive ($0.00, and $80.00, respectively). she does nearly everything I require . . .
    I also have a Baby Lock Evolve 8-thread serger. Yep, I said 8-thread. It was a Christmas present from my husband, who was in Iraq at the time. Maybe he missed me or something, and went a little overboard. Except for the class to learn to use the machine, I have never used threads 6, 7, & 8. A 5-thread with differential feed would have served me well. That said, differential feed gets used, and appreciated a lot, when sewing knits, anything that stretches, or gathering/attaching in one smooth operation. How did I manage without it?? also: the jet-Air threading system in the Baby Lock is without compare. really. I love my Baby.
    A couple of Christmases ago my husband surprised me with an Elna Embroidery machine. A complete indulgence. It does one thing: it embroiders. I love it!!! So much fun!!! He bought it, because he thought I would really use it now that we have grandchildren. And, well . . . I have made some things for the grands -- really, I have. But, it has such wonderful wearable art possibilities for little ole me!! To say nothing of its textile art possibilities with regard to quilting, and other Home Dec projects.
    With the Embroidery machine (he brokered quite a deal, here) came an Elna Press. I could never have predicted how much I use, and appreciate the press!!! I don't believe I have ever put in such a sharp crease in pants, before!! Yes, it is much-loved come laundry day (or whatever day after doing laundry that I get around to ironing); but it's real value is in fusing interfacing, quickly, expertly, and doing several pieces at a time. This is a machine that I would never have requested, but won't ever be without.
    Last, but hardly least is my 1939 Featherwieght Singer. It is a family heirloom that I treasure. My mother bought the machine used in 1945. It's a portable, that is now housed in a treadle machine's cabinet that dates to the 1870's, and was in my mother's family - but no one is sure of its origins. It does very little -- sews medium-weight wovens, backwards or forwards. That's all. But it does it very well. It consistently sews tight, perfect stitches, seam after seam, year after year, generation after generation. It is my dedicated quilt-piecing machine, as only straight stitching on medium-weight cottons is required. Perfect.
    What would I not use??
    I dasn't say! since I have a serger that, with minor adjustments makes a lovely cover stitch, I don't feel a great need to own a cover stitch machine. And yet, if i did own one, I might likely find it as indispensable as Katie does.
    I'll give that some thought.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That was fun to read! I have three machines, my 1994 Baby Lock sewing machine, my 2012 Brother Project Runway sewing machine and a mid-90's White serger. I have been using twin needles for knit hemming and am satisfied with the results but everyone is so effusive in their praise for coverstitch machines that maybe I'll look into getting one.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I sew on just my Janome 8900 and my Babylock Imagine serger. I love both of these and do all of my sewing on them!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have 2 machines, a HV Designer 1SE and a 936 serger. I use them both every time I sit down to sew. I'm currently wondering about the coverstitch myself so thanks for sharing all that little lady does. g

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have 2 mid-1990s White sergers (one threaded in black and one in white, although I change colors if need be). i use them for knits, but also for finishing edges of seams on wovens. I have a 1 year old Janome, a 10 year old Singer, a 15 year old Janome, another Singer whose age I forget, all on one table, which I slide around to use as the mood moves me. In the laundry room upstairs, I have the late 1970s Brother sewing machine which my dearly beloved bought me when we'd been dating about 3 weeks. (And people wonder why I married him after only 2 months: how could I not keep such a thoughtful man?). I also have a 1910 vintage White treadle machine which is set up in another room: it's decorative as well as useful. I use that for hemming my husband's jeans, and it's always loaded with Levi's gold. It's a monster; it will sew through anything! I have not been sewing much since about April (save a dress for a wedding we attended in July), but it's comforting to know I can march right in and attend to anything if the mood moves me.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a great collection! How awesome that they all get used so frequently. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have a question about your Brother coverstitch machine, - how smoothly does it accelerate? I have this same machine and unlike my sewing machine and serger, it has jackrabbit starts.
    I push the pedal and I can hear it powering up, but nothing happens until a certain point and then it takes off in a sudden burst of speed for about 5 in. until I can slow it down again.
    Does/ did your machine do this too? If this is not normal, then it's off to the repair shop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yikes! I've never had my coverstitch do that! In fact, she behaves pretty much exactly like my Brother serger in terms of foot pedal sensitivity and speed. If your serger is also a Brother, maybe try switching the pedals to see if that's the problem? If so, it would be an easy fix, otherwise I'd definitely get her checked out. She should sew smoothly, without fits and starts.

      Delete
    2. Thanks so much for your reply on this. I've put up with this for awhile and can hem okay, but I really want a more gradual start up for trying binding.

      Delete
  14. How cool! Thanks for showing your machines! I've been wanting a coverstitch, but potentially looking to get one soon. :) I love my bernina 1006, which is a mechanical sewing machine and have the same serger.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have to own up to being a SM hoarder. My main goto machine is a Janome 6500 but I also have a Bernina 1080 and some vintage machines,my favourite being a Singer 401G with tophat cams and a buttonholer. Makes superb buttonholes. I also have a Singer 201 treadle and got a buttonholer in a charity shop last week but haven't tried t yet. I too have a coverstitch machine, Janome1000CP but don't use it too often. My Bernette 334d overlocker is over 20 years old and still going strong.
    We do have an Elna 60something which has a shot motherboard but it will still do a straight stitch but no adjustment. I am loathe to part with it. I cannot bare to see mechancal machines being dumped. BTW I love your maxi dress

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have 4 machines too, and not so very dissimilar to your's. I have my main one (a babylock that I love, love, love), a serger that I got as a birthday present from my parents about 14 yrs ago, a vintage work-horse that I got specifically to go with a vintage ruffler foot I have (I make a lot of full-skirted dresses and now can't live without a ruffler foot), and a blindhemmer I just got a couple of weeks ago. The machine I now use the least is definitely the serger. I've noticed an evolution in my sewing regarding it: when I first started sewing I didn't use one and had to work up to it, then I used it almost to death for several years, but some years ago I started getting more into vintage and couture finishing techniques so it sits unused a lot the time now. I've even considered letting the serger go, but have decided that the occasional times I do use it, I'm really glad it's there!

    ReplyDelete