Popular TV shows such as The Great British Sewing Bee, the multitude of YouTube tutorials and the increasing popularity of DIY and crafts, have encouraged a rekindled interest in sewing. If you'd like to sharpen your skills and put your creative hat on, you need to arm yourself with a tailor's chalk, tape measure and best of all, a sewing machine that will eventually bring your patterns to life.
From humble beginnings to modern masterpieces
Originally designed in 1790 by English inventor Thomas Saint, the sewing machine's first patent consisted of a wooden awl set to make holes in leather that allowed needle and thread to pass through and hook underneath to form locked chain stitches. Since then, several inventors attempted to improve the design until Elias Howe built America's first functional machine and Isaac Singer created the first commercially successful sewing machine. The fierce competition between the two fuelled the so-called patent war that generated a string of products that included features ranging from vertical needle positions and presser feet to buttonhole stitching and the four-motion feed mechanism.
The invention of the sewing machine took both the textile industry and the consumer by storm, however, gone are the days of the basic, mechanical models that operate manually, powered by a wheel or dial on the side of the machine. In recent years, models have become highly sophisticated, namely electronic ones that use a single motor to power the needle, whereas the speed is controlled by putting pressure on an electronic foot pedal. Latest products are even more high-tech, featuring state-of-the-art computerised products, whereby instead of using dials and buttons, these have either an LED or LCD display, whilst some have large touch screens.
On the other hand, industrial sewing alternatives are built to be robust, typically having superior motors and parts made from cast iron and aluminium, in contrast to domestic models that are made of nylon or plastic. The most common type of industrial machine is the flatbed, which as its name implies, is used to sew flat pieces of fabric together.
Develop your sewing skills
You might be wondering what's the use of struggling with bobbin and pins to create your own clothes when you can buy the ready-made variety from your favourite retailer. Yet, there is real value in being able to make your own garments. Sewing can save you big on money. Not only is buying your own material, designing the piece of clothing and producing the item yourself cheaper, but you can also save when it comes to alterations. In addition, producing your own clothes offers you the flexibility to customise your clothes and truly make them fit your body. Sewing can also save you time. Why wait for your seamstress to sort out a hem or take a dress in when you can finish off the job within an hour or so in the comfort of your home? What is more, as you practice your skills, you'll be able to sew a variety of things like clothing, home decor items, quilts and other bedding, as well as unique gifts for your family and friends.
But best of all, sewing is green since it allows your to repurpose almost anything made from fabric. An old set of curtains can be easily transformed into stylish pillows, whereas an old-fashioned dress can become a nice top for a young girl.
Lastly, the sense of excitement and accomplishment of having created something beautiful with your own hands is second to none.
Choosing a sewing machine
The local market has a wide array of stores that sell domestic and industrial or heavy-duty models and accessories. Many stores also provide the option to part exchange your old item with a newer version, while most can service and repair any type of machine be it an old, traditional one, a computerised one or a specific one such as those used for embroidery. Singer, Bernina and Brother are perhaps the most well-known brands, however, most shops are equipped with other top quality names.
Whether you're convinced on the practically of having sewing skills or you'd like to hone your pre-existing abilities, a sewing machine is the perfect medium for doing both. Yet, when it comes to selecting one, there are a number of things you need to take into account. Initially, you need to take into consideration your skill level and dexterity. There's no point in getting an expensive product that has a range of stitches, buttonholes and quilting features if all you can do is arrange the hem of your skirt. Next, you need to give some thought as to the projects you're most likely to embark on and how often you'll be using the sewing machine. Here again, your skill set plays an important role, as well as the frequency with which you'll be sewing. If you'd like to create an intricate patchwork quilt or you're familiar with embroidering designs onto fabric, you need to opt for a product that can handle the job.
Check whether the machine you've been eyeing comes with extras like a zipper foot, automatic buttonhole foot and extra bobbins or whether you'll be needing other, non-standard options such as speed control, thread cutter, free arm and automatic buttonhole to name a few. Likewise, if you're a novice of this craft or you know you won't be sewing too often, go for a basic model. Last but not least, you need to have a set budget in mind. New machines can be relatively expensive depending on the model and make, but you might want to consider purchasing one that is used.