Put my sewing machine through its paces!
March 1, 2012 7:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm a relatively new sewer and just got my first good sewing machine. It's a Brother CS6000i. Before I get started on the various projects that I've been waiting to do since my old machine broke, I want to get to know the machine well. I've read the manual. Now, what should I do to put it through its paces? Give me your idea of an afternoon of sewing machine boot camp.
posted by ocherdraco to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Get out some old t-shirts and test out the stretch-stitch capabilities -- sewing seams and finishing hems.
posted by dogrose at 7:29 PM on March 1, 2012

Try out all the feet! I thought I had a broken foot in the box of equipment I got from my mom; turns out that's the darning or free-hand foot. (It does look like there's a piece broken off but it's still perfectly functional and I hadn't realized it for...years.)
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:33 PM on March 1, 2012

Sew a buttonhole. It's like magic. The first thing I did when I got that machine was to make a purse out of vinyl and free motion sew a big sparkly pink squid onto it to see if it could handle doing it. It did!
posted by artychoke at 7:38 PM on March 1, 2012

Make a bag.
posted by bendy at 7:39 PM on March 1, 2012

Start calling yourself a seamstress instead of a sewer.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:41 PM on March 1, 2012 [16 favorites]

Also, try out all the stitch options. Learn how to tweek the tension, stitch width and stitch length. Particularly the tension - I can never remember that one.

Practise how to thread the machine a few times until it becomes automatic. I still can't remember how to use the needle threader, and I can never be bothered to look it up, so I use the time honoured method of spit, squinting and swearing....
posted by kjs4 at 7:47 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

cjorgensen: "Start calling yourself a seamstress instead of a sewer"

It sounds so much more professional and accomplished PLUS fools like me won't read it as the infrastructure that carries sewage.
posted by AugustWest at 8:27 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Hahaha, I hadn't thought about that possible confusion. Well, really I'm a quilter, anyway, so that issue won't come up.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:08 PM on March 1, 2012

haha...maybe you could sew in the sewer? put in some nice curtains, maybe? ;P

I, for one, like using my machine for embroidery...drop the feed down, put on a satin stitch (zigzag, but really close together) and use it like a tattoo needle to make drawings in thread...vary your line widths/stitches for different effects...works best on a stiff, non stretch fabric, but you can do it on a tshirt as long as you use interfacing (the tear-away or washable kind works best...iron on is overkill...in a pinch you can even use typing paper...anything to keep the stretch fabric from getting dragged down and caught on the bobbin) it takes some experimenting to get the hang of it, and you will make some truly stunning knots and holes along the way, but the result is well worth it...much faster than hand embroidery, and much less constrained and inorganic than premade patches. Start with lettering and simple designs first...
posted by sexyrobot at 9:24 PM on March 1, 2012

In addition to what has already been said, test out a bunch of different types of material. Denim, satin, stretchy stuff, flannel, whatever you might have in a rag bag (or go to a thrift store and find some hideous stuff that's cheap). Take some fabric and draw some lines lines on it then follow the lines with a straight stitch to get a feel for how it moves along fabric.
posted by HMSSM at 9:29 PM on March 1, 2012

Take some fabric and draw some lines lines on it then follow the lines with a straight stitch to get a feel for how it moves along fabric.

This. I'm still learning how to drive my sewing machine and finding it harder than expected to sew in a straight line.
posted by Eumachia L F at 12:43 AM on March 2, 2012

I recently bought a machine, and need to practice too as my skills are currently in the actual sewer.

I have an ancient machine, but one tip someone gave me was to get a pretty easy fabric to sew like a heavier weight cotton, and then number it every few inches with a marker. Then, sew every few inches matching the numbers on the tension nob to the numbers on the fabric to get a sense of how the increments of your particular machine affects the stitching. Now, this varies by fabric and application of course....and this was basically for someone like me who had never touched a sewing machine before, but that kind of methodology/approach may be helpful for more complex things too.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 12:54 AM on March 2, 2012

If you're a quilter, break out the freehand foot and practice meanders!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:07 AM on March 2, 2012

Buy some thicker needles so that you dont break the machine sewing thick materials
posted by pakora1 at 8:00 AM on March 2, 2012

Make a sampler of all the different kinds/lengths/widths of buttonholes that your machine does, on various thicknesses of fabric. Label each buttonhole. After you make about 15 buttonholes in a row, you'll be pretty confident, and you'll have a sampler to use when selecting the right size and type of buttonhole for future projects!
posted by Liesl at 9:44 AM on March 2, 2012

Machine hemming a pair of blue jeans with real rolled hems usually sets off every demon a machine has. Therefore, I usually start with this exercise when attempting to learn a new machine.

Do it on a day when your self-esteem is high to start with.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 11:44 AM on March 2, 2012

Start calling yourself a seamstress instead of a sewer.

Aside from the obvious problem that "sewer" (the person) is spelled the same as "sewer" (the waste pipe), but shouldn't we be moving towards gender-neutral terms and not away from them? Maybe "stitcher" instead.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:09 PM on March 2, 2012

Response by poster: Eh, I'll stick with quilter.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:19 PM on March 2, 2012

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