A lot of people ask, what type of sewing machine should I get? A regular one? A serger? An overlocker? What's the difference, anyway?
I am no expert in sewing machines, but I wanted to write a post about the different types of machines out there and what they do. I will say, if you can only buy one sewing machine, buy a basic sewing machine that can do at least a straight stitch and a zig zag stitch, with the ability to adjust the length and width of your stitch. This is a sewing machine that will do everything you need it to do, whether you sew quilts, garments or accessories, whether you sew with mostly woven fabrics or knit fabrics. A sewing machine that has a straight stitch and a zig zag stitch has you covered.
Beyond that, what's the difference between machines? I have three sewing machines, and they all do something different. I have a regular sewing machine (it also has an embroidery module, but I don't do much embroidery) that I used for many years to sew just about anything I wanted. It is a Bernina, which is generally considered to be a top notch brand, and since it's at least 20 years old and still going strong, I will say Bernina is a great machine.
The Bernina has many, many stitch options, and as I mentioned, a straight stitch and zig zag stitch is all you need to sew whatever you want, as long as you can adjust the width and length.
These are my four most used stitches. The bottom is a straight stitch. The next one up is a zig zag stitch, and as you can see, I adjusted the width on it as I was sewing. The very narrow zig zag is frequently used in sewing knit fabric, as the zig zag can stretch a little better with the fabric.
The next stitch up is a triple stitch, and it is also frequently used in sewing knits, because it is very strong and hard to snap the threads. I have no idea what the top stitch is called, but it is gloriously stretchy and I used it to sew almost all of my knit fabric hems, until I bought a coverstitch machine (we're getting to that one!).
About 2 years ago, I decided to expand into the world of sergers (also known as overlockers, for those of you wondering), and received a Singer ProFinish 14CG754 (it was a birthday gift). It only took me six months to work up the nerve to open the box.
If you've been looking into buying a serger, I'm sure you've heard how complicated they are to thread. It definitely takes a little more effort than some machines, but mostly because you have to thread four spools instead of just one.
It does look kind of complicated in there (also really linty. Always take an opportunity to clean the lint out of your machine! Also, excuse my lint brush, while I take the opportunity to clean it out). But as with most things, once you do it a few times, it because second nature. I can thread my Bernina with my eyes closed now (and probably behind my back), because I've been doing it for ten years. I'm not quite there with the Singer yet, but give me ten years...
If you are new to the world of sewing machines and are wondering just what it is a serger does, it makes lovely strong and stretchy seams for your knit fabrics. It also finishes the edges of your seam, which is handy for woven fabrics, so you don't have to worry about fraying.
It's excellent for garments that have a lot of negative ease (i.e., garments that are really close fitting), because with four threads, that seam is going to stay put. I'm not going to say that the threads never show on the top, but as you can see, they're not very visible.
I always use four threads in my serger, but there are ways to use two or three as well. I just find that four threads does pretty much everything I want, and am too lazy to unthread and rethread more than I have to (which is why most of the garments I make with the serger have gray thread).
Once I realized how easy the serger was, it was a short jump to buy a coverstitch machine.
It's a Brother Pacesetter 2340CV. Like the Singer, it's a fairly basic and relatively inexpensive option. And like the Singer, it does everything I need it to, and I love it.
Also like the Singer, it needs a session with the lint brush.
The coverstitch is even less complicated to thread than the serger, because there's only one thread that requires a complicated route through the base of the machine.
The coverstitch is basically only good for hems. But if you are like me and just want to FINISH the hemming so you can enjoy your beautiful new garment, then it is worth every penny. As you can see, the coverstitch makes that beautiful double row of stitches on the top.
And on the bottom, if you line it up just right, it finishes the edge.
I'm still working on the lining it up just right part. Maybe the more expensive machines do that part for you. I don't know. I don't care. I love my Brother, even if it takes more effort.
That was a very basic rundown of the sewing machines I know and love. Do you have any questions about sewing machines? Send me an email or leave a comment and let me know!