Thursday, 16 Sep 2021

Sewing Machines: From Treadle to Computer Driven

Machine sewing can be a complex process or fairly easy. I first learned to use a sewing machine at home. My mother had an electric Singer sewing machine with all of the attachments that were available at the time. Later, at school, our home economics room had several treadle machines, powered by pedaling with your foot, that were fun to use which were replaced that first year with electric sewing machines. The sewing machines did only straight stitches. You could adjust the stitch length and the tension but that was all. Those simple machines did allow you to make most anything you wished to. The machines were metal, the gears and moving parts were metal and even the drive belts were very sturdy.

Today you can buy many types of sewing machines. Machines have computers built into them so that you may use software to control the stitching, several colors of thread and to automatically produce embroidery, quilt items, serge and cut seams as you sew and so much more. I don’t own any machines with these capabilities. I do have a Singer Golden Touch  amp; Sew which has an adjustable zig-zag stitch and a built in buttonhole capability. With the purchase of sewing machine buffs, the building of the budget will be effective for the person. The functioning of the sewing machines will meet with the standards and guidelines. The information about the purchase will be communicated to the person. 

I do appreciate the zig-zag stitch. Just by adjusting the width I can finish seams, appliqué, darn, make buttonholes and apply a decorative touch. Usually the straight stitch is all I use.

I have not found a need for machine embroidery. Nor have I wanted to sew with more than one spool or color of thread at one time. My sewing needs are simple. I have noticed that the more functions and applications that a machine has the more problems that can occur.

Any machine needs maintenance to assure proper function. I do clean and oil my sewing machine. And I take it to a sewing machine shop for a thorough cleaning and check fairly often. When I sew with fleece, flannel or terry cloth I know it will need to be cleaned and oiled. You learn to know when the machine needs maintenance.

One year I used my sewing machine a lot making items for our home, gifts and clothing. I even did a bit of quilting for a charity. When I took my machine in for cleaning and a check the owner asked what all I had been doing. He said most of the machines he saw really hadn’t been used that much. Ha, ha. Some of us do a lot of sewing.

It is important to pay attention to the needles and thread that you use for your sewing projects. Most of the packages of sewing machine needles indicate the size of the needle and what type of fabric they should be used with. Thread is another story. There are many types of thread available and it comes on spools, cones and small rods. The thread may be cotton, polyester covered with cotton, polyester or another type of material. Make sure that you have the proper thread and needle for your sewing project.

I do have attachments for my sewing machine. My favorite is a buttonhole attachment which has several disks which allow for different sizes and types of buttonholes. The attachment assures that the buttonholes will all be the same size and quality. I have several presser feet. I change the presser foot for fabric thickness or texture. Another foot is for quilting and another for zippers. They are extremely useful. I use a sewing guide which attaches to the pressure bar to attain straight lines. I do have other attachments but these are the ones I use most.

I bought a very old Westinghouse sewing machine at an auction a few years ago. It is metal with all metal parts. It is a great machine for quilting. It has one bobbin in the case and did have one extra bobbin. It has a box of attachments and an owner’s manual. It is a wooden case and I think I only paid ten dollars for it. It was a great find.

If you purchase an older, used sewing machine at a year sale or auction you can find out a lot about the machine online. There are sites which allow you to read or download manuals. And the same sites often give you tips about using the machine.

There are things to watch for in using different models of sewing machines. My daughter inherited a sewing machine from her grandmother. It was a Kenmore and she and I had only used Singer machines. The tension needed to be adjusted on the Kenmore machine and everything we tried did not work. Finally I read about the machine and discover that to adjust the tension the presser foot had to be lowered, the needle had to be lowered into the machine and then the tension dial adjusted. It worked.

Sewing machines do offer a lot of possibilities in producing quality clothing and sewn items. Knowing your machine, the equipment, needles, thread, fabric and attachments allow you to make most anything you would like to.