PIck my sewing machine
September 18, 2023 11:48 AM   Subscribe

I want to learn to quilt. I live in a condo not a giant house and will not have a sewing room. I have a dining room table which can be used for a couple of hours at a time as a project space. I am not rich. I expect I might do some smaller projects and do the quilting part at home. Should I buy this machine or I dunno..I was going to pit it against something but I don't see anything that looks pitt-able here. I might also hem jeans or such.

I have essentially 0 sewing experience and a close family member who is in expert (Which is relevant because it means that when it comes to sewing, I am that special kind of helpless that comes from being close to someone who would rather do it herself than have something done imperfectly.)
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There may be a quilting group near you, or an Adult Ed. class. Maybe a Craft Guild. The quilters I know love to share resources. If you post to Buy Nothing or freecycle, asking for a sewing machine, odds are good someone will have one for you, though that machine looks nice.

I saw a quilt made from thrifted men's shirts and ties, really cool. The quilters I know amass fabric, complain about it, amass more fabric.
posted by theora55 at 11:53 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]

The only tools you need for quilting would be a machine, fabric, a cutting mat, scissors, and an iron and ironing board. That's enough to get you started. There are 100% a lot of fancy tools you can buy, but those can wait until you have the basics.

That machine is probably fine. It has maybe more stitches than you need, but that's ok. I have this machine, and it works great for home sewing, crafts, and costuming and cosplay. The free arm on the Brother is a nice bonus. Around $200 is a solid price for a starter machine.

Have fun, and don't get discouraged! Sewing and quilting are both very accessible, and rewarding, activities. Start small. You'll make mistakes, and that's ok. Make sure you have figured out fabric storage. You'll be great!
posted by anastasiav at 11:58 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]

I'm just learning sewing now and I have a $90 Brother from Walmart and it's just fine. I haven't done a whole lot with it, and the ideas it's giving me is making me look at other machines (serger, etc), but it's fine for now. It'll definitly get you your 12" of straight stitch that I understand are common in quilting.

If I knew what a few weeks of learning a sewing machine taught me I'd have spent $100 on Craigslist and got something more permanent, but I always knew mine was a starter machine and I'll wait until something breaks or I have a truly compelling need.

As far as quilting goes, I was watching a TV show on it and the woman was using one of these self-raising irons, which are spendy but awesome, even if I don't quilt.
posted by rhizome at 12:06 PM on September 18

I have a Janome Mod-19, which these days is not so well thought of (when I bought it several years ago, people seemed to like it online! And I think I got it on sale? I don't know) and honestly it's been perfectly fine and I do not think it matters that much what sewing machine you have, if you're a beginner doing these types of projects, as long as you are willing to look up how to maintain it. Any sewing machine will be able to do basic quilting; just make sure you can get a walking foot for it, because that DOES make things easier. But that's possible on basically every machine.
posted by branca at 12:06 PM on September 18

That machine looks perfectly acceptable.

My aunt uses quilting kits: patterns and fabric in specific amounts for a particular quilt, so you don't end up with towering stashes of fabric that don't get used. Just Google "quilting kit with fabric", there are loads of options.

For the quilting part (not the piecing together of the design), she rents time on a long arm quilting machine at her local quilting club. I believe there is also an option to pay someone to do the quilting for you either on the machine or by hand at her club.

I would suggest this as a good way to begin learning to quilt, as it only requires the most basic home sewing machine for the piecing, and the kits come with very clear instructions.
posted by ananci at 12:10 PM on September 18

I have a Brother sewing machine from Target. With it I have made a queen-size quilt, though only just barely -- I could not make a quilt even an inch larger than that with it.

With it, I have also made full-length curtains, tons of baby clothes and cloths, clothing for my kid when he was 10 and under, some basic stuffed animals, and I've also done general basic clothing repairs.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:18 PM on September 18

First rule of Quilt Club: fabric scissors only get used for fabric. Way more important than which introductory machine you choose.
posted by kate4914 at 12:20 PM on September 18 [6 favorites]

I think that machine will be just fine (I have a lower end Brother myself). It even comes with a walking foot so you won't have to buy one. The only thing that might bother you is that it has a smallish throat (the area to the right of the needle where your fabric will pass through) so you may not be able to make large or really puffy quilts because they simply will not fit.
posted by Stoof at 12:49 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]

I don't have a recommendation for a machine, although I agree with Stoof that the throat (I had no idea it was called that) looks short. I say that having a compact (two-thirds or three-quarters) sized machine with a short throat that I wish were longer.

Why I'm writing is that I have to say that the way you described yourself ("I am that special kind of helpless that comes from being close to someone who would rather do it herself than have something done imperfectly.") is not just perfectly expressed but sums up my existence as well (including my journey of attempting to learn how to sew) so I had to pipe up and say, "you're not alone." What makes it worse is that I have ideas about what should be done and how it should be done, having seen things up close, but I can never actually translate that glimmer of understanding into action or results. Good luck with your quilting adventure!
posted by sardonyx at 2:01 PM on September 18

A couple things - that Brother is probably fine. What you should be aware of, however, is that the bottom end of the sewing machine ecosystem is designed to be disposable. Typical service/repairs for machines are about $100 and if you bought a low end machine, you're going to need that service sooner than a mid level machine and it will quickly eclipse the initial cost of the machine to the point where you wonder whether or not you should just buy another machine and feed the beast.
Sometimes you'll get lucky. In 1995 or so I bought a bottom of the line Elna and across 20 years I drove that thing like a rented mule. At one point, I worked it too hard and the bobbin mechanism got out of sync with the top thread. I brought it in for repair, got a quote and I bought a substantially better machine which is in the mid-tier and is so much better than my old machine.
Things that I like about the new machine that I wouldn't give up:
Needle threader. No, it's not hard to thread a sewing machine needle compared to a sewing needle, but boy does it make it way faster.
Half-stitch button (or whatever it's called). It toggles the needle up or down. As a side effect, when you let up on the pedal, this machine stops in the same state it started. This is great for seams that need pivots. You sink the needle with the button to start, sew up to your corner, lift the foot, pivot, drop the foot and go.
Auto-tensioning. AFAICT, it gets it right for most fabrics.
Max speed adjust. This is a slider that sets the maximum speed that the machine will run at. If I'm doing very precise work, this helps so much.
A clear, well-written manual that has how-to's for that machine.
Things that I don't care about:
A billion stitches. Seriously. I do fairly complicated things and I use: straight, zig-zag, satin, triple stitch and not a lot else.
Auto button-holing - this is a jig/foot that you load with a button, pull down a lever, and start running and it does the 4 steps of button-holing automatically and auto-sizes to the loaded button. In theory this is great, but in practice - meh.
In addition to *good* scissors (I bought my first really good pair two years ago and they are so much better than anything else I've ever used), I would add a rolling cutter to go with your cutting mat.
posted by plinth at 6:53 AM on September 19 [3 favorites]

I got this starter Brother machine in April and have been happy with it. It sounds like my sewing machine needs are very similar to yours. I picked that one because it seemes to be recommended a lot for beginners, but there are a lot of similar machines on those lists, possibly including the one you picked.

I also had 0 sewing experience. I forced myself to sit down and read the manual and follow all the steps to learn how everything works, which is not in my nature. However, I was intimidated by the machine. I'm glad I did that; it made me much more comfortable.
posted by Mavri at 7:56 PM on September 20

Brother is generally a good brand, but most new sewing machines aren't great, in my opinion. Personally I recommend a refurbished vintage machine. I have a 50s Singer Slant-O-Matic and it's aces, here's a similar one. It barely costs more than the Brother and it's orders of magnitude better. (You can find 'em cheaper but you want to make sure you get one that's been professionally tuned up already, or at least you can see a video of it working.) Singer or Kenmore are the easiest to find good ones secondhand, and it's easiest to get parts/manuals for Singers.

The disadvantages of vintage machines are that they're heavier if you're lifting it up onto the table every time, and they sometimes don't have as many safety guards. They aren't generally more expensive to fix though, and they usually are fixable and worth fixing, which isn't always the case with the entry-level new ones.

YouTube is full of amazing tutorials for any kind of project you can think of, and you can also find someone who will give a video tour of whatever kind of machine you end up buying. Any time I've struggled with a sewing thing, I've been able to find multiple people breaking it down on YouTube.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 5:35 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]

« Older Let sleeping westies lie...and get a picture...   |   Academic Papers On Food Cooperatives From a... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments