Sewing Machine 101 – Picking out the best for you

Today will be the start of a several part tutorial on sewing machines. I’ll be going over the process of how to select your machine, how to use your machine, and how to care for your machine so it’ll last as long as possible. There will be little blurbs along the way for tips and tricks as well.

I had the opportunity to work at a sewing machine shop (I sold sewing machines during that time) for about 6 months and I learned a lot about sewing machines, companies, and who’s the best for what type of sewing machine. Many friends have come to me for my opinion on what machine would be the best and why. After realizing I more or less say the same information every time, I decided it’s time to write it all down for others to enjoy and use.

*DISCLAIMER*

All the information below is biased, personal opinions and NOT sponsored in any way! You may have different opinions or information than I do and that’s okay! I’m not here to tell you who’s right and who’s wrong. This is all MY opinion and MY knowledge.

 

Sewing Machine Companies:

There are several different sewing machines out there. I am just going to touch base on the companies that I know the most information about.

Brother –

  • Sister company to Babylock (Which is why their machines look similar in a lot of ways).
  • Cheaper made machines (plastic parts) so prone to breaking if worked too hard.
  • Cheaper parts = cheaper machine so good start machines when learning or on a tight budget.

Babylock –

  • Higher quality machines vs Brother
    • (Fun fact! Babylock intentionally has Brother machines cheaper so you’ll want to upgrade to Babylock machines. They look the same for that reason. “Yes, it works the exact same as a Brother machine, but it won’t break as quickly.”  I have had a sale person tell me that exact line.)
  • Costs more than Brother due to the different innards used. However, the machines work just about the time.

Singer –

  • Not worth the time. Seriously. Just don’t. They use to be good, but not anymore. If you can find an older machine and a shop willing to service it, you’re set. However, do not get a new machine from them.

Pfaff –

  • See above. Same story. They got sold to China and the machines are just NOT the same anymore.

Janome –

  • Metal innards, so less breakage.
  • Higher end of the price range, but the cost is worth it for the machines
  • The company focuses on quilters and clothing makers.

Juki –

  • Not a lot of personal information available. I didn’t sell them, or service them.

Bernina –

  • Not a lot of personal information available. I didn’t sell them, or service them.

 

Best Kind of Machines from Each Company

Most sewing companies have one specialty they prefer to focus on, or one of the first companies to create that type of machine, so they more “perfected” on that type of machine.

Brother/Babylock – Embroidery machines were one of their focuses so their embroidery machines are setup pretty well. The sewing normal sewing is good as well. If you need a serger, Babylock is the company to get them from.

Singer/Pfaff – Back in the day sewing machines were great from them. Now a days, no so much.

Janome – Janome’s focus as been on sewing machines mostly. Yes, they are expanding to embroidery, but their sewing machines are the main focus if you were to get a machine from them.

Juki – Their older sergers are very durable. Not much information passed that.

Bernina – The sewing machines are good. Not much information passed that.

Where to Get the Machines

I am going to get a lot of flack for this answer, but it’s the honest truth: Go to a shop to test the machines, purchase online unless the shop has an AMAZING deal.

I love Ma and Pa shops. I worked at a Ma and Pa sewing shop. It’s a wonderful place because you get to play with the machines and test what you like. However, the prices aren’t always the best out there. HOWEVER! I have seen many good deals that make purchasing from a shop better than online. Some shops will have upgrade options (trade up the machine within a year and we’ll put the cost of the machine towards the new machine), or payment plans (Which, most cases this IS a credit card. Be sure your credit score is good enough to allow this). Ma and Pa shops may also offer extra goodies or classes that make shopping there worth the difference.

So keep and eye out on the deals and see if they’re worth it to you, or if Amazon has something better.

How to Decide What Machine is Best for You

This is one of the hardest questions to answer because what is recommended depends on what YOU want in YOUR machine. Do you want an old fashioned no tech machine? Do you want something that will automatically cut the bobbin and top threads with the push of a button? Do you want something that’ll warn you if a bobbin is low? How about speed control? Do you want the option to not have to use a good petal? How many stitch types do you want (As a side note: you need at least forward, backward and zig zag for the minimum. Everything else is a perk).

Depending on what you are after will depend on what you need in a sewing machine. The best idea is to have an idea of what you want, how much of a budget you have, and got explore. Check out a sewing machine shop, tell them what you want and see what they offer. Don’t tell them your budget or they will low ball. However, when they tell you the price, feel free to say “That’s out of my budget. What’s the next step down?” and keep going until you get a chance to see all the options for what you want. After you see it all, make a decision from there.

What I Own

I know this question is going to come up, so let me break down everything I have and what it does.

Brother SE400 – This was my first embroidery machine that has now become my normal sewing machine since my Babylock Encore has finally given up the ghost.

Brother PE500 – This is my embroidery machine and nothing else. This one doesn’t have the 2-in-1 option that the SE400 has.

Brother PE770 – I own 2 of these guys thanks to a friend selling her 770 to me because she didn’t use is. This has a larger size from the SE400 and PE500

Juki Serger – The model I have isn’t even created anymore. I was given this serger after my grandmother realized she was too blind to sew like she use to. This serger is very, very old, but still works like a dream.

Babylock Serger –  Yet another “This serger isn’t made anymore” moment. This was one that I’ve had for many, many, many years and still works well.

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How to Dye Wigs with Fabric Dye

I had made a tutorial on how to dye wigs with ink and since then, I have learned another technique on dying wigs: Using Synthetic Fabric Dye.

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The reason synthetic fabric dye works is because wigs are synthetic as well! Convient! Now, there are a variety of synthetic dyes out there that you can use. I have used the two dyes I just linked and they both have worked quite well for me.

So, here’s the process on how to do this. In most cases, just read the directions on the bottle and follow them.

Step one: Add the dye to the pot of water and mix.

I actually have a pot I use specifically for my dyes that we got. At the time of these photos, I was living in an apartment and I used the pot on the stove and did my best to clean any splashes so they can’t dye anything. In the future, the goal is to have a spot outside to do this.

As for what I use for stirring the dye and wig, I tend to just grab a few skewers and call it good.

Step Two: Insert your wig and make sure it’s all soaked.

I can already hear the questions popping up on the comments so let me answer it here: The color of the wig will affect the final color! The lighter the wig, the richer the color. No, you cannot dye a black wig another color, you cannot lighten a wig, and asking to change a red wig blue will end up purple. You treat wig colors like fabric colors when dying them.

Step three: Stir, stir, stir; wait, wait, wait

Friendly reminder that the pot of water needs to be hot! You will have the heat on and you need to keep mixing the wig! The longer you soak the wig, the more color will soak in. Also, remember that the color you see when the wig is wet will be lighter after it is dried. So if you see the perfect color, give it another few minutes to be just a little too dark. You will thank yourself.

Step four: Pour and rinse

I cannot stress the importance of rinsing the wig in a metal container. YOU ARE WORKING WITH SYNTHETIC DYE YOU WILL END UP DYING YOUR PLASTIC SINK OR SHOWER IF YOU POUR THE DYE. There is a reason fabric ends up in a washing machine to get rinsed out: they’re made of metal. Metal won’t take to the dye. Do not blame me if you get a colored sink. I just warned you.

Now, dye rinsing on wigs will take forever. FOREVER. Just let the cold water run through the wig. Once the wig is cool enough to pick up, you can start moving the fibers around and help. Also, yes, your wig will be a ratty tangled mess. I will show you how to fix that.

Step five: wash, wash, wash.

The amount of washing needed is pretty crazy, but you need to make sure all the dye is out of the wig. What I tend to do is wash, add shampoo, rinse out, shampoo again, rinse out. If the water is still colored, do it again. If it’s clear, start putting in the conditioner. However, leave the conditioner in.

Note: To answer the pending question: You can use your own shampoo and conditioner. You do not have to use wig shampoo and conditioner if you do not want to. I personally have not seen much of a difference if I use normal shampoo or wig shampoo.

Step six: Comb, detangle, rinse.

After the water is running clear, place the wig onto a wig head and stand and start GENTLY combing out the tangles. I tend to add more conditioner in this step and slowly, SLOWLY work my way up the wig and remove all the tangles. I cannot emphasize this enough, but you need to TAKE YOUR TIME when removing tangles. It’s better to work one tangle at a time, work from the bottom of the wig up, and do NOT pull on the fibers. Wigs cannot grow hair back. You lose fibers, they’re gone. So TAKE IT EASY.

Once all the tangles are gone, rinse out the conditioner and let the wig dry.

Step seven: Style and enjoy!

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(Photo courtesy of Lochlan O’Niel)

As you can see, the wig is much lighter than the photos of when the wig was wet. This is why it’s important to wait out the color just a little longer than what you think. A lot of coloring is trail and error.

Happy wig coloring!