With any craft, it helps to have the best tool for the task at hand. Tools perfectly suited to the job make your work easier and help you complete tasks more efficiently. Recently I started questioning if I had the best sewing machine for my work and started searching for a new one.
To provide some context, I grew up sewing on mechanical Kenmore machines. In fact, my childhood machine which I still own and occasionally use is pictured below, immediately followed by my second machine, a graduation gift that is no longer with me. When I bought my first machine for myself in 2003, I wanted to have the latest technology and every option available so I bought the then top of the line Husqvarna Viking Designer 1 (pictured above). Over the years, I learned a few things that formed the basis for my latest machine search.
First, I don’t need every available sewing machine feature. I used the embroidery capabilities of my Viking exactly once: the instructional class for the machine. I never touched it again. I prefer hand embroidery. I am also not particularly interested in machine quilting. The reality is that I sew garments, lingerie in particular. I am also a minimalist at heart and only want what I need and use. This lesson alone helped narrow my search considerably.
Second, the user interface for a machine makes a difference to me. My Viking has multiple menus and lots of stitch options. To access stitches and make any adjustments I have to use the touch screen. Since the time to complete a sewing project is motion driven, this is a time waster since I change stitches and needle positions frequently. I knew I wanted a faster way to access stitches and make adjustments without having to go through menus or touch screen motions.
Third, I frequently stop my machine with the needle down to check my stitching or pivot. I needed to continue to have the ability to do this hands free via a tap on the foot pedal or even a knee lever.
Finally, though I have always wanted an industrial machine, the reality is that they are not a good fit for me. Because bra making uses several different stitches, I would need an industrial machine for each stitch type and there is not enough pure straight stitching through just fabric to justify a standard straight stitch machine. Industrials also fall down on my requirement to be portable, which is important given how many times I have moved over the years.
What really pushed me to buy a new machine was my search for better results with silk charmeuse, especially when sewn on the bias. It just seemed like it took a lot of work to get good results on my Viking. I really wanted to find out if there was a better tool for the job.
After researching and testing the machines I was most interested in (an entire process unto itself!), I was set on getting a Pfaff since I really like their IDT feed system. Also since Viking makes Pfaffs, I was also comfortable with how they sew. However, like the Vikings, the Pfaffs have a screen based menu user interface, one of my biggest issues with my current machine. This ruled out a machine that felt comfortable and handled fabric very well. (P.S. Sarah at Grey’s Fabrics has a great deal on a Pfaff Creative Performance right now).
Back in April at a Susan Khalje couture sewing class I tried out Leisa’s Bernina Aurora 430. While I did not really connect with it, given all the raves about Berninas from Leisa, Sarah and the others in the class I decided to give them another try.
Armed with a bag of fabric samples from my studio, I tested Bernina machines on silk chiffon, silk charmeuse, silk charmeuse on the bias, lace, tricot, silk organza and more. No matter which fabric I tried, I got great looking seams and I liked the fabric handling as well. There is definitely a difference in the fabric feed versus my Viking.
I will skip my least favorite part of the process – getting the best price – to the happy ending. I purchased the Bernina 530! It may not be as pretty as my Viking but it really suits me and my sewing and I am having a lot of fun with it!
What machines are you using in your sewing room? Please share!