Aug 21, 2012 at 8:51 am #1293195
Jordo _99BPL Member
So, I've completed a few projects now and I'm just trying to decide if I should get a better sewing machine or stick with what I have.
What's the biggest advantage of a good sewing machine over something that is only $100?
I have a EuroPro (I'll try to get a picture after work) that I picked up for $30 at a garage sale and it's doing pretty well. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for a good deal on something better but it's got all the stitching variations I could ask for and doesn't give me too much trouble.
I guess I'm mostly looking for reasons to upgrade but on paper a $300 machine doesn't look much better than a $100 one if they have most of the same features. I do know that a nice machine will go through thicker material and probably operate more smoothly but how does that affect gear making?Aug 21, 2012 at 11:31 am #1904566
@socal-nomadLocale: North San Diego county
You have to ask yourself a question are you doing this for fun or do you want to improve some day to sell your designs. For fun: just keep buying cheap machines. If you want to sell designs get a commercial machine.
If your going to upgrade get a commercial or sail rite machine spend $400.00 to $800.00 so you have a more powerful machine that can take the abuse we put our machines through. Plus their are neat attachments that help you sew better for example a cross grain folder attachment or a walking foot.
I have been keeping my eye Craigs list that were you can find deals on commercial machines in the $400.00 and under range. You can also find great deals on old home machines made out of metal with metal gears for the price of $30.00 to $200.00 on Craigs list also. Try and find machine with 1 amp motors if you can. I have a old Riccar machine that does great.
TerryAug 21, 2012 at 12:39 pm #1904590
@flriderLocale: The Southeast
If you're looking for a personal use machine that's going to need to stand up to both ultralight and heavyweight fabrics, your best bet is actually to go to the local sewing machine repair shop. Talk to the mechanic, not the salesperson. Describe what you want the machine to do and what sorts of fabrics you intend on working with.
He or she will be able to point you in the right direction and will likely have a cheap(ish) machine in-house to do the job. It'll save you the cost of having to fix up a Craigslist machine (which can run more than the initial cost of the machine itself), and will help ensure that you have a quality machine that meets your needs.
Hope it helps!Aug 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm #1904657
Jordo _99BPL Member
Thanks, I'm starting to realize that there's probably not much reason for me to get a nice one for now…maybe I'll run into issues when I start making packs.
I would love to make gear for a living but I don't see it happening because there is already a large number of people doing it with more experience and starting up would be a conflicting issue with gaining customers without quitting my job. (I'm still young, and chipping away at college/car loans every month…probably this time next year and I'll be debt free and could start considering it)Aug 21, 2012 at 8:29 pm #1904763
There are some advantages to the quality of an older "all mechanical" sewing machine as typically made in the years 1950-1970 or so. These machines were built like tanks and if reasonably well oiled would exhibit little sign of wear. The older sewing machines were the first machine in the household, predating electric grinders, blenders, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners…. and these machines were ESSENTIAL when first introduced because there was no large "ready made" clothing industry, yet (sewing machines made the "ready made" possible).
For most backpacking work, you have not much real need for fancy stitches, but if you are doing a lot of clothing, you may want to go beyond the sewing machine to a Serger that fully finishes clothing stitches for attractiveness (on the inside or "wrong side").
The best straight stitches are made by machines that make only straight stitches as the mechanical contraptions that allow the needle to dart left and right for fancy stitches allow some lateral needle play not found in "straight stitch" machines, and the straight stitches are really straighter. Most of your straight stitches in jeans, for example, are made on industrial machines which only stitch straight stitches and that do it about twice as fast as a home machine.
Most of the old mechanical sewing machines have better construction than a modern machine, and more expensive mechanical machining was used. A really fine old machine could have cost several hundred dollars in the 1950's, and the inflated cost of modern dollars would be well over $1,000 for such a machine if it were made today.
The older machines were made to be repaired. Not quite that true for a modern "bargain" $100 machine. It isn't difficult to pay $50 for a yearly "maintainence" and routine "adjustments" visit to the shop.
Keep your eye out for these older machines and most of the old Singers, Pfaffs, Vikings, Whites, and a number of others were quite good and can be had for not much money today. Many of them mainly need a good cleaning and lubrication to run great and look good.
The advice to get the advice of a sewing machine mechanic is good, but make sure that you let him know your most common sewing will be straight stitch work with a little "bar tack" (fine zig-zag) thrown in. You won't be doing blind stitches to hem pants and skirts, and you won't be doing decorative stitching. You will be sewing several layers for strong ridge lines with lap fell seams. You won't be doing much work with rufflers or button holes.
I am one of the folks who would suggest buying engineering and manufactured quality in a sewing machine over having dozens of useless "pretty stitches".
A good straight stitch is really a pretty stitch, and a mediocre straight stitch will always look a little cheap… even if you take great pride in having made the piece of gear.Aug 21, 2012 at 9:37 pm #1904795
Paul McLaughlinBPL Member
I second the motion on the older machines. Newer machines that are inexpensive do not hold up well, while an older machine may be very simple but rugged. I learned to sew on my mom's Singer Featherweight, 1947 model. I sewed packs, tents, you name it on that thing and never had to adjust or service it, ever. I still have it, actually, but now I use an old Viking Husqvarna that I've had sine the 80's. I got it because I wanted zigzag (the old Singer just goes straight). I think I paid $300 or so for the Viking, used – at the time the equivalent new machine was around $1000.
A simple test is to pick up the machine. If it's good and heavy, then there's plenty of metal in there and it will hold up. Some of the newer machines are so light there can't be much metal in there.Aug 21, 2012 at 10:12 pm #1904814
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
Back a number of years, our materials were much heavier, so we needed sewing machines that had the power to stitch through leather and five layers of denim.
Not so much anymore. Our materials are much lighter. Fabrics that are less than one ounce per square yard really don't need much power. The newer machines do the zigzags and bar stitches and eight types of something else, and they cost about $75 new from the factory. For that price, I can throw it away and still be money ahead on the maintenance costs of an old Singer.
–B.G.–Aug 22, 2012 at 5:37 am #1904870
B.G. has expressed a view that a number of others have had. They are content to use "disposable" machines and produce good results from them.
Hike Your Own Hike.
Sew Your Own Stuff.Aug 22, 2012 at 8:31 am #1904897
@flriderLocale: The Southeast
Jim Butch said: The advice to get the advice of a sewing machine mechanic is good, but make sure that you let him know your most common sewing will be straight stitch work with a little "bar tack" (fine zig-zag) thrown in. You won't be doing blind stitches to hem pants and skirts, and you won't be doing decorative stitching. You will be sewing several layers for strong ridge lines with lap fell seams. You won't be doing much work with rufflers or button holes.
Very good advice. Be as clear with the mechanic about what you intend on doing as possible. (S)he will then have a good idea of what might work for you in a machine. For gear making, straight stitches can do everything–though a zig-zag from time to time doesn't hurt, either.
If you intend on making clothing, that's an whole 'nother animal entirely. I'm not qualified to comment upon clothiering, other than that it's different from gear making, so I'll leave that up to other folks.
I'll just say that I did go to the local repair shop and described my needs. The mechanic (and part-owner, actually) hooked me up with a great vintage-70s Husky Viking that runs like, well, a sewing machine. The only thing I've had trouble with on it so far is eight layers of 1,000 d Cordura for the meeting point of two rolled hems on my pack.
Other than that, it's done everything I've asked with no complaints that weren't caused by spacing issues (the space between the machine and the chairback).Aug 24, 2012 at 4:46 pm #1905803
John Almond sez: if you intend on making clothing, that's an whole 'nother animal entirely. I'm not qualified to comment upon clothiering, other than that it's different from gear making, so I'll leave that up to other folks.
Most clothes you buy are down either are done either with an overlocker or with a straight stitching machine. Button holes get done with a specialized button hole machine, as do some other operations. (And lots gets done with machines that are set up to do exactly one thing very well.) For the sort of clothing that it makes sense to make, you can do nearly everthing with a machine that stitches in a straight line. Reverse is handy. A zig – zag is handy, so you can do button holes, but you really can do them by hand.
To answer the topic question: the advantage of a good sewing machine is that they work better. They have better material handling abilities, they deal with difficult materials better (and difficult doesn't always mean "thick". Slippery is a pain, too.), they make better stitches. On home machines, you can find features like automatic buttonholes that make life easier. Industrial machines have knee lifts or auto presser lifts, and fancy ones have thread trimmers, automatic back tacking, cycle stitching, and more. They also take attachments for folding, binding, attaching tape and such like. All of that combines to make them less tiring and faster to use.Aug 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm #1905994
I picked up a Pfaff 130 from one of local shops. This particular machine was made in 1954 in "West Germany". It is fun to use and will sew heavy and ultralight materials perfectly. I have used it for cuben, m50,eightD, lacrosse, supplex, and leather. These machines fully serviced run $200 to $300. Mine came with a one year warranty. Also, there is a group called the old Pfaff forum that is a good resource for learning more about the machine. It will do straight and zigzag. My model also gas the "coffee grinder" embroidery attachment on the back though I have not used it.
I hope you find what you are looking for.
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