Know anything about sewing machines?

Hi, crafty-types!

My 8-yo stepson just took an 8-week, after-school class on sewing and requested a sewing machine for home. I’ve always wanted to learn how to sew, so I am all for this. I have hand-sewn/mended/etc. for years but have very little experience with machines.

Now we are beginners navigating a world of confusing machines. I want something that is easy/safe for an 8-yo. However, I also want a machine that can handle heavier fabrics.

My mother always had a table sewing machine from the 70s that still functioned like a dream. I’m not sure how easy those are to acquire any more…

If anyone has any wisdom to share, I’d be very grateful!

Your best bet is to go to a fabric store like Joannes and ask around they can guide yo to the best machine possible. If you are looking for a machine like your mom’s you can go to antique or thrift stores, or you can find a sewing machine repair shop who just might have that kind of machine but it may cost you. 10 years ago I wanted to buy one and they quoted me $350.
Since you have a beginner sewer they do make “student” machines that has just the basics that you would need.

In terms of safety, there are two significant issues: one is the possibility of getting part of your hand under the needle; the other is sewing through a pin or something and having it break and fly up into your face.

The only machines that will effectively avoid this are toy sewing machines, which are so underpowered they are useless. Basically you are best to just be aware of the risks, and make sure he is supervised and following good protocol (remove pins before sewing that part of the seam, positioning hands where they won’t go under the needle).

I have an old basic kenmore machine which my 9 year old uses, and a very expensive Pfaff that only I use. The kenmore is 22 years old, and still going strong. I don’t know if it is still the case, but when I got my kenmore Sears offered an annual service of it for free.

It is worth knowing whether a machine is serviceable yourself. The Kenmore I have it is easy to oil it, replace bulbs, etc., yourself. The Pfaff is not designed for the user to be able to do anything but use it and clean out lint. It costs me $125 per year just to have it serviced (I am a textile artist, it gets a lot of use).

I would try talking to a dedicated sewing machine store & repair place. The one that is local to me I would trust their opinion 100%, they really know their stuff. Then if you can narrow it down to a few possible machines, there are a few places to find good reviews and opinions:

I have a 9 year old daughter and am teaching her to sew on my Baby Lock. I don’t let her use it unsupervised because, as pointed out above, hitting the hand or fingers with the needle is painful at best.

The relative cost of sewing machines has really gone down; there was a time when I would have suggested a used machine or one of those basic Singers for under $100. But you can get one that does many different stitches, buttonholes without a separate piece, and has a drop-in bobbin for around $150 on sale. Especially since an adult want sto use this machine too, I’d definitely consider paying for that little better than basic.

I am really happy with my Baby Lock, by the way. I’m a quilter but I also do a bit of general sewing and some crafts, and it is great to use and very reliable.

My recommendation would be for a non computer Singer or Janome. New or second hand (make sure you have it serviced though)

I teach sewing btw.

My mom taught me to sew on her old Singer. I know and can sew the basics, but am not an expert. My first thought to the OP is to consult Consumer Reports and see their recommendations. The tip to ask around at Joanne’s Fabrics is a good one too.

Don’t go to JoAnn’s, it’s really a discount store and the merchandise will reflect this. Instead, go to a quilting shop, one that sells both fabrics and sewing machines. Ask about a refurbished machine, and tell whoever helps you that this machine will be used by your stepson and yourself. A lot of serious sewers will trade in used machines to get the newest machine with all the latest bells and whistles, and the trade ins are carefully examined and serviced, and repaired if necessary.

Don’t buy a machine that costs less than about $200 (American) when new. These machines are crap, and they are just waiting for an excuse to break down. They are impossible to sew with.

The old Singer Featherweights are legendary for their reliability and ease of use. I’ve never had one myself. I just checked eBay, and it seems that they run from about $175 to $500, depending on what accessories they have and what the seller feels is their worth. These are OLD machines, though, so getting service and parts can be a problem.

You’ve gotten good advice on choosing a machine. I’m popping in only to say that whatever machine you get, keep the bobbin case clean. I once bought a new machine because I thought the old one had died. A friend looked at it, took the bobbin case completely apart, and removed three years worth of lint. I thought blowing lint out of the area I could see was enough. It wasn’t.

And if you get a machine that resets the needle position when it’s turned off, check the needle position when you turn it back on.

Also, I’m told that the newer machines don’t need oiling. So if you buy a machine and it doesn’t come with oil, that’s why.

Buy lots of needles and bobbins when you buy the machine. That way you won’t have to worry about getting the right ones later.

If the store offers lessons, take 'em.

If you want a good solid non-computerized machine, the Viking Husqvarna 116 or 118 is worth a look.

Simger really hasn’t made a good machine since the Touch and Sew and Athena lines in the '70s. Personally, I’d rather buy a Touch and Sew for $50 or so on craigslist, then spend the $100 or so to have it serviced, but the trick is not to buy one that’s actually broken. Most of them are just gummed up with old oil or gone out of time, which is a simple adjustment to fix, but you will find some with stripped gears. Repairing Touch and Sews has become a hobby of mine, and while they’re conceptually simple, some of their gears are a serious pain to replace.

I have never had a problem getting parts for my Singer 1910 “Red Eye” treadle machine, Singer is great for still having parts available for everything. A machine only 20 or 30 years old is still relatively new.

For that matter, we aren’t having much trouble getting parts for the 19th Century (we are unsure of the exact manufacture date) Adler treadle industrial machine. At the recommendation of Adler we often use… Singer parts. For a machine at least 130 years old (hard to be sure, because the documentation is all in German and none of us read it at the shop).

No, seriously - if it’s a Singer you should be able to get parts. Especially these days were the internet makes it trivially easy to contact the company.

Or maybe what others consider a problem and what I consider a problem are two different things. I will agree, though, that the newer Singers aren’t as good as the older models. But then, I’m probably biased in owning a working antique and also using them at work.

For a beginner sewer keep it simple - you don’t need fancy stitches or computerized parts for a first machine.

And yes, keeping them clean is important. Every used machine I’ve gotten I’ve first cleaned out lint and old oil. Probably more of an issues with machines of the vintage I’m using but it’s a good idea to get in the habit of maintaining your machine on a regular basis.