The Sewing Place

Machine recommendations.

sew_fi

Machine recommendations.
« on: September 21, 2017, 10:28:25 AM »
Hi everyone,

Forum and sewing newbie here. I've done some hand sewing in the past but am completely new to machine sewing and am about to buy my first machine, so I thought who better to ask for recommendations/advice to get up and running.

I wear a lot of stretchy leggings so to begin with I'd like to make some of those and then maybe progress on to more difficult garments like bikinis, swimming costumes and cycling shorts when I get more experienced.
I have done a bit of reading around and given that I'm going to be working with tight-fitting garments made from stretchy materials, I'm thinking I'm going to need an overlocker, but from what I can tell most of the overlockers aren't suitable for finishing things like hems and waistbands so I'm not sure what to do.

I saw some of the more expensive overlockers that can coverstitch as well but ideally my budget is £400 so they're probably out of my price range unless I could buy 2nd hand, and I don't know if that's advisable with how complex these machines are.
There are two machines within budget that might do everything I need, however I'm not sure so I'd appreciate any advice you could offer. The first one is the Elna 664 Pro and the second one is the Brother 4234d.

The Elna can do a 2-thread flatlock stitch which, from what I can see, would look fine on the ankle cuffs or waistband of leggings if the looped part were on the inside, as then the only thread visible on the outside would look like a ladder stitch. I may well be misunderstanding this though!
The Brother machine is capable of doing a blind hem stitch which would definitely look fine on leggings but would it be suitable for tight-fitting clothing that has to stretch? I read somewhere that it could unravel.

The other option would be for me to buy both an overlocker and a sewing machine, but in order to do this within budget I'd need to find relatively cheap models of each and I'm therefore concerned about sacrificing quality in trying to cover both bases within a relatively small budget. So I suppose my main questions are:

would either of the overlockers do everything I needed in order to make leggings (if so I could always buy a sewing machine at a later date to make the swimwear etc)?
Or if not, would it be feasible to hope for two separate yet good quality machines within my £400 budget?

The lady who wrote this article apparently works with activewear companies in the US and she recommends the Brother 1034D overlocker:
https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2016/01/strong-sewing

It costs about £180 so if it's any good and I could also find a good sewing machine for somewhere around £120 then the two machines option could be viable...

Thanks,

Fiona

Bodgeitandscarper

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2017, 10:38:38 AM »
I have the Brother 3034 overlocker which works very well, but can't comment on the 1034, not sure that helps you though!!  I'd definitely want an overlocker for what you're going to do, and ideally a coverstitcher, but many sewing machines do a stretch stitch, and I used to use mine for hemming t-shirts before I had a coverstitch machine.  Also a sewing machine would be more versatile, as the sewing bug may well bite and you find yourself sewing other things!

rowe1311

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2017, 12:11:03 PM »
Juki seems to be well recommended and I got mine for £430, but there is a cheaper model but I can't remember either of the model numbers.  I think it was about £330.  I really like my machine and I think Juki have a good reputation. 

I also think a sewing machine might be needed to.  I haven't tried leggings without a sewing machine, but it might be doable with a flatlock stitch.  I have used it on the hem, but not the band.  A google of flatlock stitch band on knits might be able to find out if this is possible! 

If you do go down the route of a sewing machine, I would always have a look second hand first.  You might find someone has one they would be willing for you to have, or borrow, for the time being, but often they sell for £30 on gumtree.  They might need a service but I think older machines are better than the new budget ones.  If you get a good one, it feels like such a bargain. 

Maximum

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2017, 13:20:36 PM »
Welcome to TSP. This is a really friendly and helpful place to be - never be afraid to ask what you might think is a "silly" question. We are all still learning.
I do think a basic sewing machine should be your first machine and I agree that older second hand machines are much better value than modern, cheaper low end machines. Do you have a local sewing shop that sells, services and maybe runs classes? An older machine from a well established shop should have some warranty plus help and advice. You don't need tons of stitches - a reliable straight stitch and reverse, zig zag, 3 step zig zag and maybe a blind hem stitch with the appropriate foot. Be careful of using the stretch stitch, it works really well but is the devil to unpick   :devil:
I'm reluctant to recommend a Brother overlocker because my first one was the 1034 and it nearly put me off for life! I found it clunky, noisy and difficult to control - it was impossible to start slowly. It went back to the shop several times and back to Brother twice but because it 'worked' ie stitched they said it was fine. I have seen other 1034 that were OK so maybe I was unlucky. I eventually traded it in for a basic Juki - love at first stitch!
You have obviously done lots of research so keep us posted and keep asking. Hopefully someone on here that knows your area can recommend some reliable retailers that can help

Maximum

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2017, 13:33:52 PM »
Have a look at Jalie.com. Lots of patterns for stretch material. You can look at the instructions before purchase and they have videos to help as well. Patterns are multi sized from children to adult and they include instructions on how to stitch stretch fabric if you do not have an overlocker. Patterns are either pdf download or via UK stockist Habithat.

sew_fi

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2017, 15:36:18 PM »
Thanks for the replies. They've all been very helpful and thanks to your suggestions/advice I think I might have found a solution to cover both sewing and overlocking within budget.

rowe1311, I didn't realise that good, 2nd hand sewing machines could be had for so little.

Maximum, your experience with the Brother 1034 has put me off the cheaper ones as I had read something similar elsewhere, but as Bodgeitandscarper is impressed with the 3034 and there's a Brother dealer near to me, I'm tempted to get the 4234d and see how I get on, as it can sew a blind hem and it's £350 so under budget. According to this article, the blind hem stitch is fine for being stretched: https://www.scatteredthoughtsofacraftymom.com/free-short-legging-pattern-serger-blind-hem/

This means the 4234d should be all I need to make leggings, which will keep me busy for a while. In the meantime I could keep an eye out for a 2nd hand machine and hopefully pick one up (and get it serviced) with the remaining money.

Are there any older sewing machines (or just brands) in particular that are worth looking out for, in terms of being good and reliable? I've heard Singer metioned a lot...

Also that Jalie site is brilliant! I was preparing to make my own pattern through trial and error but will probably start with one of theirs now.

maliw

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2017, 19:06:51 PM »
I bought a 1043D in 2003 and used it for years but I found that it jumped about a bit if I sewed at speed. I decided to 'upgrade' and bought a Babylock Imagine. I passed on the Brother to DDIL and she still uses it and is happy with it. I could be temperamental if not threaded in the right order
At leisure on the leisure penninsula

SkoutSews

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2017, 19:25:06 PM »
I could be temperamental if not threaded in the right order

Me too!  ;)

Maximum

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2017, 09:37:27 AM »
Glad you liked the Jalie site. Another one to look at is Fehrtrade.com.
Very old Singers (mainly straight stitch only) are very good but really heavy. I wouldn't touch a plastic Singer even if I was paid.
If you buy second hand I suggest you do it locally and test it yourself with your own material, even if buying from a shop. Don't begin to think about descriptions that say "no foot pedal or power cable" or "I've no idea if it works as I don't sew".
If you buy a new overlocker please try and get some tuition on threading and set up adjustments as 4 threads are a bit more involved than just 2.
No need to buy 4 cones of every colour either. Mid grey and mid beige/taupe/fawn blend in well so you only have to match thread to fabric in the left most needle and a standard reel will be fine. If you will use a lot of very pale fabric you might need cream cones as well.
You have probably already found out but try not to pin knit fabric as it causes holes which ladder. Use small bulldog clips or hair clips that snap shut to hold edges when sewing and use weights when cutting out. If you have a charity shop nearby, get some knit garments to cut up and practise on rather than waste new fabric.
Let us know how you get on.

BrendaP

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2017, 10:04:33 AM »
If you want to sew with stretch fabric these days an overlocker is a must-have.  It's a doddle to wizz up the seams of leggings or a tee shirt.  Overlocking is also the neatest way (Hong Kong binding excepted) of neatening the seam allowances on non-stretch fabric.

BUT - an overlocker won't do everything, you still need a regular lock stitch machine for some jobs (inserting a zip, making buttonholes, and a lot of fiddly little repair jobs).

A cover stitcher for hems on stretch fabric is a luxury; a twin needle in a regular machine will do almost as well.  Th front looks just the same but the back is slightly different.

As others have said, consider getting a second hand/vintage regular machine.  The older non-electronic machines do usually stitch very well, although if it's your only lock-stitch machine you will probably want one with a swing needle/zig-zag.  The old black Singers only do straight stitch.

You are doing your homework, which is good, but if possible you should buy a new machine from a bricks and mortar shop where you can test drive it.  My overlocker is a Bernina 115o.  When I did the test drives it was so much smoother and quieter than the Brother overlocker.  I know a lot of people on here love their Brothers, but it wasn't for me.



Brenda.  My machines are: Caroline a Singer 201K-3 born 1940, Thirza a Featherweight 221K born 1949, Azilia a Singer 201K born 1957 and Vera, a Husqvarna 350 SewEasy about 20 years old. Also Bernina 1150 overlocker and Elna 444 Coverstitcher.
http://paternoster.orpheusweb.co.uk/

sew_fi

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2017, 10:33:10 AM »
Glad you liked the Jalie site. Another one to look at is Fehrtrade.com.
Very old Singers (mainly straight stitch only) are very good but really heavy. I wouldn't touch a plastic Singer even if I was paid.
If you buy second hand I suggest you do it locally and test it yourself with your own material, even if buying from a shop. Don't begin to think about descriptions that say "no foot pedal or power cable" or "I've no idea if it works as I don't sew".
If you buy a new overlocker please try and get some tuition on threading and set up adjustments as 4 threads are a bit more involved than just 2.
No need to buy 4 cones of every colour either. Mid grey and mid beige/taupe/fawn blend in well so you only have to match thread to fabric in the left most needle and a standard reel will be fine. If you will use a lot of very pale fabric you might need cream cones as well.
You have probably already found out but try not to pin knit fabric as it causes holes which ladder. Use small bulldog clips or hair clips that snap shut to hold edges when sewing and use weights when cutting out. If you have a charity shop nearby, get some knit garments to cut up and practise on rather than waste new fabric.
Let us know how you get on.

Some great tips there, none of which I'd considered (even that pins will cause knit fabric to ladder, which seems obvious now)!

sew_fi

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2017, 10:38:13 AM »
BrendaP your Bernina looks very nice. Before joining this forum I was just going to buy a machine online, but it definitely sounds like I need to go to a shop to see/use one in person. Plus I'm also thinking that will save some grief further down the line if the worst happens and something goes wrong with it.

Bodgeitandscarper

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2017, 15:59:51 PM »
In response to the pins and knit fabrics comment - I've jut bought some ball point pins, perfect for knits  0_0

Mama likes to make

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2017, 17:31:08 PM »
I have the Elna 664 and I really love it. I really only use the overlocking on it so can't comment on anything but that. It is very easy to thread and I've had mine for a few years and touch wood never had any bother with it. I do make a lot of leggings and stretch items with it but would use a twin needle on my regular machine to hem the items or occasional use the three step zigzag if I'm in a hurry and don't want to switch needle.

sew_fi

Re: Machine recommendations.
« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2017, 10:37:43 AM »
I have the Elna 664 and I really love it. I really only use the overlocking on it so can't comment on anything but that. It is very easy to thread and I've had mine for a few years and touch wood never had any bother with it. I do make a lot of leggings and stretch items with it but would use a twin needle on my regular machine to hem the items or occasional use the three step zigzag if I'm in a hurry and don't want to switch needle.

That sounds promising. Is yours the 664 or the 664 Pro?