by Steffani Lincecum
Finding the Right Machine
Finding Your Sewing Personality
About Presser Feet
IPS FOR SMOOTH SEWING
Fabric Weights and Uses
Interfacings, Stabilizers, and Stays
Balanced Stitch Formation
Troubleshooting Common Sewing Problems
HE BASICS: STANDARD PRESSER FEET
Straight Stitch Plate
Straight Stitch Foot
Satin Stitch Foot
Standard Zipper Foot
PROJECT: Pencil Pouch
3 PRESSER FEET FOR EFFICIENCY
Button Sewing Foot
Invisible Zipper Foot
PROJECT: Zippered Cross-Body Bag
PROJECT: T-Shirt with Ruched Collar Trim
PROJECT: Boho Knit Skirt
4 PRESSER FEET FOR ACCURACY
1/4-Inch Guide Foot
Adjustable Guide Foot
Nonstick or Teflon Foot
Blind Hem Foot
Rolled Hem Foot
Edge Stitching Foot
PROJECT: Oilcloth Gardening Apron
PROJECT: Baby Blanket
PROJECT: Simple Kimono
5 PRESSER FEET FOR CREATIVITY
Darning/Free Motion Foot
Open Toe Appliqué Foot
PROJECT: Lace Appliqué Dress Refashion
PROJECT: Monogrammed Pillow with Free Motion Thread Painting
PROJECT: Linen Napkins with Decorative Stitching
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My husband and I call sewing classes “magic shows.” We started saying this after I told him about getting oohs and aahs of revelation from students, as if I’m performing some sleight of hand. I felt that same way when I took a sewing class from Natalie “Alabama” Chanin and she enthralled the group with her demonstration of the physics of sewing and taught us all about “loving our thread.” What seems like magic, and sleight of hand, is actually knowledge of how the machine works and, of course, practice.
I have learned in more than thirty years of professional sewing that the keys to success are the right tools and plenty of practice. I started my sewing career with the very basic knowledge of how to thread a machine and wind a bobbin, eventually making everything from costumes to curtains. There was a mystery box of items that came with the machine, and some other items I got from my grandmother, but in the beginning, I used only the basic foot that came on the machine. I learned from zipper package instructions how to use the zipper foot and even figured out that you could use it to install piping!
But do you know that feeling you get when you’ve lost your sewing mojo? Do you get frustrated when everything’s going fine, but suddenly your machine decides to jam or make thread nests under your fabric? So, you rethread, and the same thing happens, rethread again, and the machine works. What the heck happened? Well, I learned after trial and error, reading my manual, and taking lessons that all these problems were fixable and—better yet—avoidable, if I just understood how the machine worked.
With Sewing Machine Magic, I give you the distillation of all my research, trials, and errors! No matter how long you’ve been sewing, you’ll find information, tips, and guidelines in this book to help you enjoy a smoother sewing experience. Your sewing mojo is right here. Make some magic!
FINDING THE RIGHT MACHINE
All sewing machines do the same thing: they join layers of fabric together by inserting threads between them. As you explore different kinds of machines, you’ll find that most machines add a variety of unique features to this basic function. The key to determining the best machine for you is knowing which of these extra features you need or want.
Just like other appliances and even cars, there are many manufacturers that sell several types of sewing machines. Every brand usually sells all levels of machines, from entry level and less expensive basic machines, to intermediate machines with more features, to high-end machines that are more expensive, with more elaborate features.
Different brands are known for different things, and you’re bound to hear lots of opinions when you start researching. Choose the brand that feels right when you take it for a “test drive.” And, be sure to purchase your machine from a friendly, helpful sewing shop—one that is available if you run into problems, offers classes, and, of course, provides general maintenance. Because you’ll probably find your favorite brand, let’s, for our purposes, assume that all brands are equal and just look at the various features you’ll want to consider.
Types of Sewing Machines
There are three main types: mechanical, electronic, and computerized. There are also machines with features designed specifically for decorative sewing and quilting enthusiasts.
Mechanical machines are the basic workhorses of the sewing world. They perform the functions that the average sewist needs and are usually the most affordable. You choose different sewing functions on these machines by moving mechanical levers and dials. On some mechanical models, you can move the needle position to the left or right, in varying degrees. You can also make manual buttonholes on most models, but you’ll need to mark the size of the buttonhole on the fabric and then move the stitch dial to form the buttonhole.
Electronic machines fall in the middle of the field, both in price point and in number of special features. Some features include the ability of the machine to stop in a “needle up” or “needle down” position and to adjust the needle position in small increments for really precise sewing. Electronic machines have more decorative stitches than mechanical machines do, including stitches that are programmed and stored in the machine’s memory. They can also stitch small letters and numbers in a line of decorative stitching, combine decorative stitches, and store those sequences.
They also have a selection of automatic buttonholes, requiring no manual adjustments. These are great features to have, especially if you’re doing a lot of garment sewing where you need precise needle position for topstitching or needle-down position for accurate corners and curves like those in shirt making and tailoring. Controlling stitch length and width, stitch selection, and even changes in tension settings are done by interacting and levers.
Computerized machines, also called embroidery machines, are the top of the line. They have all the utility stitches, decorative stitches, memory capacity, and needle-position features of the mechanical and electronic machines, but the computer in these machines allows the user to stitch very complex embroidery designs. They can be programmed to stitch letters and numbers, as well as monograms and words much larger in scale than those stitched on electronic machines. These designs are stored in the machine’s memory or can be downloaded from another computer or stored on a USB stick.
Computerized machines with advanced embroidery capabilities are compatible with separate embroidery design software that allows you to create your own designs. They come with various hoops that hold your work in place and usually a separate embroidery unit with an arm that moves the hoop back and forth while the needle works in decorative and zigzag patterns to create the designs. These designs can be much larger than the single rows (up to 1/3″ [8.5 mm] wide) of stitching you get with an electronic machine. Some computerized machines have feeding mechanisms that not only feed forward and backward but also sideways, allowing what are called Maxi Stitch patterns up to 2″ (52 mm) wide!
Any of these machines can be used for quilting, garment sewing, tailoring, and repairs. Some are designed specifically for quilters and have unique features, such as a larger space between the needle and the upright part of the machine (called harp space) to maneuver large, bulky projects. They also have stitches that replicate hand stitching and come with accessories such as free motion feet.