Are you ready to step up your sewing game? We’re here to help.
This week, join Diane Gilleland for her class, T-Shirt Quilting: Warm Up Your Life Story, which starts at 9am PST on August 21st. This top-to-bottom quilting class is great for quilters and sewers of all skill levels.
To go with Diane’s class, we’ve also got an amazing giveaway from our friends at Bernina, who not only provided us the machines you’ll see during the class — but also gave us one to give to you!
That’s right, you could win a Bernina 530, a power house of a sewing machine excellent for all of your sewing needs including free-motion quilting. This gorgeous machine has a retail value of $3,099 and it could be yours. **UPDATE! The winner is Natasha P. !
Simply enter below, watch Diane’s class, and check back here on August 29th, when we’ll be closing this contest. After you enter the contest be sure to read Diane’s post below on the features to look for in a sewing machine before you purchase one.
6 Machine Features That Make Sewing Much Easier (And More Fun) by Diane Gilleland
I learned to sew on a machine that my Mom had received as a high school graduation gift. It had all metal parts, weighed a ton, sounded like a factory at work, and handled just your basic straight and zig-zag stitches.
That machine is still going strong to this day, a testament to engineering and the value of ongoing maintenance. But as I’ve moved on to using modern machines, I’ve realized what a huge difference a good machine can make in your sewing practice – especially if you’re just getting started. Here are some features that are well worth seeking out when you’re shopping for a new machine and all of them are present in the Bernina 530 we’ll be using in my upcoming class.
Precise Straight-Line Stitching
This is perhaps the fundamental thing to ask of a sewing machine: can it sew a straight seam? Meaning, can you place some fabric under the presser foot, start sewing, and end up with a straight line without having to hold and move that fabric too much? Many cheaper machines have a tendency to shift fabric as they sew, which requires you to vigilantly correct that movement to keep a straight seam. But a good machine should do that work for you! This is why you should never buy a machine without sewing some seams on it first. Visit local sewing machine dealers and don’t be shy about test-driving.
Adjustable Sewing Speed
On that old machine I learned on, the only way to sew at a slower speed was to try to press the foot pedal down as lightly as possible. Many modern machines, however, have a dandy sewing-speed control that lets you sew as fast or slow as your project requires. When I need to sew a tricky seam with lots of direction changes, for example, cranking that speed down helps me stay accurate. And when I just need to sew a long, straight seam, I can increase the machine speed and fly right through. And while you’re starting out, being able to keep your machine operating at a slow speed gives you some space to build your confidence. This little feature is worth its weight in gold.
Built-In Needle Threaders
Given my indocrination on an older machine, I have an obscure skill: I can thread a machine needle with my non-dominant hand while squinting mightily. But I don’t use that skill unless I have to. Why bother when modern machines will thread your needle at the press of a lever? Saves time, not to mention your eyes.
Fine Needle-Placement Control
Most machines will allow you to move the needle to the right or left as a particular stitch requires. But when a machine offers a wide variety of needle positions, you’ll be surprised how much control that gives you. The Bernina 530 we’ll be using in class has 11 different needle positions – that allows you to line up for accurate seam allowances whether you’re sewing patchwork or garment seams. It also allows you to create the most comfortable sewing configuration for you, which means sewing is easier on your body (and you can do it longer).
Oh, the machinations I used to have to do to get even buttonholes when I was sewing in high school Home Ec classes. (In my day, we had to measure each buttonhole separately and mark the fabric – and then be careful not to sew over the marks.) If you want to make clothing, look for a machine that lets you program the size of your buttonholes, and then manages the sewing for you. Heck, many modern machines will even sew on the buttons for you!
Variety of Specialty Stitches
As you’re starting out with sewing, it’s natural to assume that all you need are the basic straight stitch and maybe a little zig zag here and there. But a machine with a wide variety of decorative stitches is like a creativity savings account. Once you master the basics, it’s amazing how those extra stitches can inspire you to take your sewing in new directions. Play around with your machine’s blanket stitch, and you might find yourself getting really excited about the possibilities of applique. Learn to sew starry borders or heart-shaped stitches, and you may find yourself customizing that boring shirt you never wear.
I do still sew on that ancient machine from time to time, and I love that it’s taught me to fully appreciate the wonders of today’s machines. Dare I say it: you young whippersnappers don’t know how good you’ve got it!
(No. I don’t dare say that.)