Sunday, April 18, 2010

Introducing my other children

Sandi asked me in a comment recently about sewing machines and which functions I thought were useful ones for dressmakers to have, so I thought this would be a good time to introduce my work-horses.
Firstly, my ordinary machine.  I've had this little beauty for about twenty years now and it's been wonderful all this time.  It's a very basic Janome machine, that is capable of forward stitching and zig-zag and has a reverse toggle.  Yup, that's about it!!  Of course it does buttonholes too, but that is just a manipulation of the zig-zag stitch....  It also has six fancy stitches, which are on the far right of the green and blue labels on the top right.  I've used these stitches only once or twice in the whole time I've had it.  I've done all my adult sewing on this machine.  I really like it because, being so basic, I can service it myself, and have managed to carry out a few minor repairs once in a while too.  The most complex thing I've done is change its drive belt.  It has no computer and so no fancy automatic functions, but this suits me to a T.  My mother has a wonderful computer driven machine, and the one time I used it it's automatic "needle up"/"needle down" function both startled me every time it did it, and frustrated me too.  Plus, she always seems to be having to take it in to get "looked at". because some timing thing is out or some such trivial disfunction, which renders it unusable.  So annoying.  This would drive me round the bend if it was my machine.  
The one "modern" application I've seen on new machines that I think would be pretty useful is the automatic buttonhole maker.  I've seen shirts made using this function and the buttonholes are works of art, while my efforts fit into the category "the best I can do".  After years of practice though at least I think I can say my buttonholes are now consistent, if not as perfect as the computer produced ones.  Meh.  Other than that, I've never felt the need for more than the basics offered by this machine.  It's sewn its way through countless garments for me, countless clothes for my children through every stage of their lives, er, three shirts for my husband (poor man!), quilts, handicrafts, the curtains for two entire houses...  I couldn't be happier with my little beast.

And here is my overlocker.  If my ordinary machine is the golden child in this family, then my poor overlocker is the problem child.  The Cain.  The evil sister.  
I got another Janome, and the big plus with them both being Janomes is that I can use the same foot pedal for both machines, I just switch the power cord from one machine to the other and bob's your uncle.  Handy.  I have a love/hate relationship with this machine.  When all is going swimmingly then we are happy and harmonious together, completing our project.  If my overlocker is having a bad day, say has taken a dislike to the fabric I'm using, or has been threaded in a way that some tiny weeny little thing is not quite right then it can rapidly become the machine from hell.  Sometimes it can be the tiniest thing, one thread de-threads itself, overlocker throws a tantrum, and the re-threading can take ages, and use metres of thread.  I really only use the basic 4-thread serge, and the rolled hem function.  I don't trust my sanity to try anything trickier on this thing...
There is a note in my overlocker instruction book that has me puzzled.  For oiling of the overlocker, it recommends once a week for normal use, and once in ten hours in continuous use.  (double take) Huh?  Every ten hours?  I'm wondering if this is some manual-writer's idea of a joke.  I can imagine a few nerdy Janome technicians hunched giggling over their computers, "Ha ha ha, I've got a good one, let's recommend re-oiling every ten hours, hehehe!!"  I mean seriously.  And what is "normal" use anyway (ah, the age-old question...!)  I only use my overlocker about once a week, anyway.
What machines do others use?


  1. I have a Kenmore sewing machine. It is made by the Janome company. I've had it for ten years. It's pretty basic. No problems. And I have a White serger. Easy color coded threading.

  2. I have the same evil overlocker. Personally, I lust after the top of the range BabyLock but don't have a handy $3500 to seal the deal. My sewing machine is a fairly basis Singer with automatic buttonholing. I'd like a machine that can handle thicker fabrics such as denim better, but for most jobs its fine.

  3. I"m laughing about "10 hours of continuous use" - who could stand to serge for 10 hours straight? That would be MILES of fabric. Anywho. I sewed for years on a $5 yard sale machine my college roommate found for me. straight and zigzag.Made alot of teaching clothes with it. Then it started skipping stitches and KEvin bought me a Kenmore for around $100 about 8 years ago when I started sewing seriously again. (then he oiled the old one and it works just like new! so I have two. Maybe I'll teach someone someday) It has a 4 step buttonhole which feels like heaven! It's made 7 shirts for Kev, 5 for Gideon, a couple for myself. But I can see that computerized buttonholes would be lovely - I knew not that such a thing existed!

    And thanks for your suggestions on my shirt!

  4. I use Janome too =) Well, it's not perfect machines, but the big plus is that we have very good service for them, as some other manufactures doesn't have more "serious" representatives in my little country =)
    I was thinking of making some post about "my" sewing machines in future too =)

  5. I use a 10 year old Kenmore that I bought for about $100 It's very basic - straight stitches, zig zag and a button hole function similar to yours.
    Last year, I bought a Singer serger from a local store. Love it for my knits.

  6. Now I have seen your machine, or as you call it ‘the work horse’ which I think is a very appropriate name in your case, I am even more amazed at how you have been able to sew such a variety of different textured and thicknesses of fabrics. This to me emphasises you definitely have true hands on skill and a lot of patience. I am looking at a new machine to give a better feed through of the fabric with a consistent quality of stitching. Sick of fabric being chewed and sucked into the feed dogs, the skipping of stitches, breaking of thread or and needles. I also must be a bit lazy as I like the idea of a few automatic features especially for button holes and would adore a walking foot. Great to read the feedback from other seamstresses, thanks for including comments on your tools of trade. My admiration of your work has climbed to a higher level.

  7. Thankyou Sandi, that's so sweet of you!

  8. thanks for sharing this!! I found it very helpful in my searching for the perfect sewing machine for my needs! :)

  9. Popped over from the sewing room link. I think I have the twin to your overlocker, I have a Janome 134. I would love to "love" this machine because of the professional finish it could give, but I spend more time rethreading than sewing with it. I inevitably end up just using the zig zag on my old trusty Bernina, which hasnt quite the same finish.