Friday, October 17, 2008
Answers for Penelope
I have been trying to upload two more pictures and am just not able to get them to work. I'll do those later when I have some help.
Treadle sewing machines were used before people had electricity and are still used where people don't have or don't use electricity. The person sewing used his or her feet to "pump" the treadle. This turned the wheel that made the needle go up and down - much faster and often with neater and stronger stitches than sewing by hand. (My sister-in-law still uses an antique treadle machine just because she enjoys using it. She made her daughters' clothes and even some bridesmaid dresses on it.) Treadle machines are "work horses" and need little maintenance.
Sewing machines now (for the past eighty-plus? years) use electricity to run the machine. (There are battery operated ones, but I don't know anything about how much power they have or how good they are.) Most machines use a foot pedal that is attached to an electical cord to the wall and to the sewing machine. A foot pedal takes very little effort to use. Pressure on the foot pedal is what starts the sewing machine and controls the speed. (Some machines that are permantently mounted in sewing cabinets use knee pressure against a lever instead of a foot pedal, but the result is the same.) A basic sewing machine has a motor that turns a wheel that turns gears that makes the needle go up and down.
There are computerized sewing machines with memory. I have an older one that I inherited from an aunt. Frankly, I don't like it. It memorizes what I'm doing and then I have to argue with it when I change what I'm doing. Maybe it is just that particular machine and/or the newer ones are better. But, for the everyday mending and sewing I do (jackets, knit tops, pants, skirts, even evening and concert gowns), I prefer my plain old sewing machine. Personally, until you know you are going to do embroidery and/or add lots of fancy stitching, I'd wouldn't purchase a computerized machine.
Remember: The fancier the machine, the harder it will be to learn to use, the more maintenance it will require; the harder it will be to find someone to fix it; the longer it will be out of commission; and the more it will cost to fix it.
I haven't checked out Consumer Guide or even thought or talked to anyone about buying a machine for the last 15 years, so I don't know what brand is considered best now. I'm old fashioned and think that machines with metal gears are better than ones with plastic. This might not be a true statement anymore.
The machine I use the most is a Pfaff which is about 15 years old. It was the next to the cheapest model, and I have not had any trouble with it (knock on wood). It has a straight stitch (of course), adjustable zigzag, a hemming stitch, makes buttonholes, and has some stretch stitches - some of which I've never used. My favorite machine? A 1972 mid-range model Kenmore from Sears. Unfortunately, it got dropped in one of our moves and never worked right afterwards.
I recommend buying lower-mid-range down to the next-to-the-lowest model. You can upgrade later. I personally would even consider purchasing a used sewing machine as long as I knew that the tension would hold and that the gears weren't stripped.
This is a lot of information, but I hope it helps. Please check Consumer Guide for the top rated sewing machines.