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How to Choose a Sewing Machine

So you've decided that you're gonna have a go at sewing, and you want to invest in a snazzy machine - but which one do you go for? Choosing a machine can often be confusing, especially if you've never really sewn before. You don't want to be wasting money on features you don't need, but you may not feel like you know what you should have as a standard on your machine. Read on!

How to Choose a Sewing Machine

Brand

When choosing a machine, there are so many different brands to pick from. Each one makes their machine in a slightly different way, although they all tend to do essentially the same thing and have the same core features. Some swear by one brand in particular, others don't mind which they sew on. We would personally recommend Janome machines for their durability and practicability, but other popular brands are Brother, Viking, Singer and Bernina.

Complexity

Machines vary from fairly simple manual machines (and mini machines), to digitised and computerised ones that automatically adjust to what you're sewing. Deciding which model to go for can often be tricky, as there are so many features! On the whole, starting on a manual rather than computerised machine is often best, as you learn how to work out thread tension and other important knowledge which you may need in the future. Manual ones tend to be much cheaper, starting from below £100, whereas digitised machines begin from around £250. If you are an intermediate or above sewer, then selecting a digitised or more complex machine is often a better choice as it will see you through a wider range of projects with more extensive features such as automatic button holes, free arm, more footers, and a wider range of stitches.

Functionality 

The functionality of your machine can often be the most baffling part - sewing machines have so many features nowadays, even on the simpler machines! As a basic sewer, you will probably use all the standard stitch types on a more basic machine (such as straight stitch), and will need to use a reverse stitch lever. Some mid-level machines offer automatic buttonholes - my advice would be, go for a machine that does automatic button holes, it's such a time saver! Even if you go for the cheapest model that has this feature, you will be so glad of it. All sewing machines use footers to help you guide your fabric and needle together under the machine, but mid-to-high range models tend to have a wider range available, and more easily. Think about the different types of projects you may want to use your machine for and buy accordingly. 

Size

Sewing machines now come in two main sizes - mini and standard. Deciding which is best for you is really dependent upon how much you want to spend, what functionality you want, and how much space you have to store or use it in. Mini machines are great for those who don't want to shell out a lot at first, and offer a good range of basic functions. They tend to be less durable, however, than standard machines. Standard machines are great for most sewing projects, but whilst they tend to last longer, they are also bigger and heavier. 

Price

Prices range far and wide when it comes to sewing machines. You can grab a mini sewing machine for a bargain - often less than £50 - but they often struggle to last anywhere near the length of time that a standard machine does. Standard size machines are a bit more of an investment, however, cheaper options on the market can still come in for less than £100 sometimes, particularly if you manage to catch them on a good offer. As with most machinery, quality costs money, so if you want a machine that does last, it's often a good idea to fork out a little bit more for a mid-range machine that will see you through a good 4-5 years at least. 

Servicing

Don't forget that sewing machines, like most other machines, usually need servicing every so often to keep them running smoothly. All sewing machines tend to need this at some point in their lifetime, so be prepared for this extra cost - which can sometimes include buying new parts to replace worn ones. This is where purchasing a second hand or older machine can sometimes become costly, as the parts may be harder to source, or sometimes, completely unavailable any more. 

 

National Hobby Month: Getting Started in Sewing

So you've decided that this month is going to be the month that you finally start learning to sew... but how do you get started? Read on to find everything you need to know about starting your sewing journey, from resources to equipment and patterns to projects!

National Hobby Month: Getting Started in Sewing

Hand Sewing or Machine Sewing?

First of all, you need to decide whether you want to go for it and get right down to machine sewing, or start off a little more slowly with hand sewing. There are pro's and con's to each - machine sewing is a bigger investment as you'll have to buy a sewing machine, but you can make a wider variety of projects using them. Hand sewing is ideal for a cheaper and slower introduction to sewing but you may find you quickly get bored of the projects available to you, and the time involved in sewing everything by hand. 

What do I need?

Regardless of which type of sewing you begin with, you'll require some basic items to get you going. All sewers will ideally need a sewing box including the following items:

These are the basic items that will get you through most sewing projects. It's worthwhile investing in the best quality you can afford in these items, especially scissors and pins, as they'll last you for many years to come! If you want to start with a more extensive set of equipment, it would also be worthwhile getting some fabric pencils/markers, embroidery scissors and a selection of basic coloured thread.

One other thing you might find helpful is a book about sewing. These are often designed for beginners, and have many helpful hints and tips, as well as common problems and how to fix them. If you start sewing on a machine, they can also offer help and advice on using your machine. Our favourite book for this is The Colette Sewing Handbook, which whilst based around dressmaking, has lots of hints, tips and information on fabrics, drape, usage and problems.

Teaching and Classes

Sewing is one hobby that is reasonably adapted to being self taught, through books and the internet. There are many free tutorials all over the web that can introduce you to basic stitches and techniques, as well as projects on items like bags, clothes and home furnishings. 

Some people find it more beneficial to have someone to teach them everything properly, or just need the confidence of having someone there to help them if they get stuck. Check your local community centres and sewing shops to see if they run classes or teaching - quite often you'll find one-on-one teaching, group workshops and sewing clubs available to sign up for.

What next?

First things first, pick your first project! You can either find something on the web to follow (usually a little harder as it can involve you having to make your own pattern), or find a book or pattern to follow. It really is up to you!

Then you will need to source the items that are required for the project - so fabric, haberdashery and any specialist equipment or trimmings.

For an easier project, you can also start with a pre-prepared kit, which usually include a pattern, written instructions, and everything you need to complete the project. Take a look at our range of kits - I'd recommend the strawberry pincushion or felt owl kit as a great start for a beginner!

                                 

Where can I get everything I need?

We sell a great range of haberdashery and fabrics for whatever project you want to start on. Simply take a look at what you need and find it on our site! If you're struggling to find it, try using the search bar at the top, or drop us an email and we'll try to help. 

What if I get stuck?

First things first, don't panic! There are so many solutions on the web for any problems you may encounter, and chances are that somebody has already asked the question somewhere! Most good sewing books for beginners also have help and advice on trickier techniques or common problems. 

If you really can't find the answer to your question, drop us an email and we'll try and help you with it!

 

Shop Sewing Basics

January 03, 2015 by Amy Gilbert

National Hobby Month: Why Start Sewing?

It's time to learn a new skill, as January is National Hobby Month! Whether it's crafts, sports or something else, it's never a bad thing to keep learning something new. We, of course, reckon sewing is the best hobby of them all to have a go at starting, and here's why...

National Hobby Month: Why Start Sewing?

Learn a Useful Skill

Sewing is such a versatile skill to learn, that it really does become useful in so many ways. Once you've mastered the basic, you can make all sorts of things from clothing to gifts to home furnishings. Plus, there's nothing greater than a sense of achievement after you finish each project!

Save Money

This has to be one of the best reasons to start sewing - you can save so much money, whilst creating beautiful things at the same time! If starting a project from scratch, it's often cheaper to buy materials and make it yourself than to buy the same item ready made or mass produced in a shop. Greater advantages to learning to sew are that you can upcycle items and fabrics you already own, creating new pieces for very little money at all! Plus, you can make your favourite items of clothing last a lot longer, as you'll be able to repair them easily.

Pass it On

There's nothing I've learnt that has been so valuable as being taught to sew by my own mum. And once you get to grips with it, it'll be something you can pass on too - whether to family or friends. It's a gift that keeps on giving, and is great in an emergency - amazing last-minute costumes can be stitched up in no time!

Make it Perfect

One of the main reasons I started sewing was because I found it really hard to find clothes that fitted exactly right, or were made in fabrics or colours that I liked. One of the advantages of sewing your own items is that you can choose whatever colours and prints you like best, and make them fit you perfectly (with a little practice!).

Get Creative! 

Sewing is a great way to help unleash your creativity, something we all could often do with a little more of in life! It's a great way of relaxing and unwinding, whilst taking some time for yourself to make what you want, in the way you want. Treat yourself!

Take it at Your Own Pace

Unlike some other hobbies, sewing is vastly adaptable to your schedule. You only have to commit as much time as you want or have, and can work on whatever size project you feel comfortable with. Simply sew as little or as often as you can manage, great for fitting around busy lifestyles.

Want to get started?
Check out tomorrow's post for how to get started! 

 

Or if you're feeling inspired get on it right away - we have plenty of great books for beginners, fabrics and haberdashery available to get you on your way to becoming a sewing extraordinaire!

January 02, 2015 by Amy Gilbert

Product Review: Sew Cute To Cuddle by Mariska Vos-Bolman

 

Sew Cute To Cuddle features an array of popular and likeable characters that any child would love to see sitting on their bed every morning. It seems there are endless characters to create in the book, which features 12 patterns for "easy soft toys and stuffed animals".

Read on for our full review of what seems to be a very popular sewing book at the moment...

 

Initial thoughts

From the outside, the book looks quite fun and modern, like you'd be able to find something in there that you would like to make quite easily. The bright colours and glossy finish make it seem like a great present in itself for any enthusiastic sewer!

The front cover features 3 of their designs, one of which I had a go at making up. The blurb of the book succinctly tells you everything about what's between its pages, and is actually very helpful - mentioning the easy patterns at full size for instant tracing/photocopy, clear diagrams, and unique designs.

Inside, the patterns and instructions do seem very well laid out - there is a clear photograph of each toy in its finished glory, alongside diagrams for each step of the way. There are also useful tips on some pages, where some of the techniques may be hard or confusing. Helpfully, they point you to the kind of skill level you need to complete the projects, as some are a little harder than others.

 

Readability

The book is relatively easy to read and understand, but as some of the designs get confusing at points (for us, when attached legs and arms inside the body of Emma, the girl doll) it definitely is useful to have their diagrams for reference! Being the ambitious sewer that I am, I quite often wanted to sew things on in a different way or sequence to which they had stated, but I stuck to the instructions and it came out okay. There were times when I get a little confused but the pictures definitely helped me through!

My biggest problem was choosing which one to make first...

 

Patterns

I think the patterns in this book are fantastic! So original and fun, and yet they tend to work around similar groups of patterning - for example, Emma and Emilio, the boy and girl, use a very similar pattern that make it easy to complete one when you've already done the other. The only pattern I struggled with was the complication of the Dragon pattern, but they do warn you that it is for more experienced toy makers. I would say the sheer number of parts is what complicates it with that pattern, over anything else!

But all in all, I know most children would love to have any one of these designs sitting on their bed every morning, and I wouldn't ever worry that I'd picked the wrong one to make because they are all so great!

 

Making Up

Making up depends on how well you know your sewing techniques. As a bit more of a beginner, I wouldn’t say that these patterns are easy as such, as there are some challenging elements; however, the challenging elements tend to be fiddly bits, that I’m not sure get much easier with experience, but become something you learn to power through! The toys seem to come together relatively quickly though, which is very satisfying – I made the Emma doll in an afternoon.

It can take a couple of attempts to get everything perfect, but to be honest, mine looked okay having only spent one afternoon on it. Yes, it could have all been a bit neater, and next time I would try to attach the arms and legs a little closer, but overall, it’s not hard to come out with something decent. For the perfectionists out there, it may take a few tries before it all looks neat and tidy, especially if you’ve never made toys before.

 

The other challenge that some readers may have when making, is trying to match fabrics! Whilst some fabrics are easy to source (polka dots and plains etc), some of the fabrics they have used are ones I’ve never seen around. This means that quite often you’ll need to find your own based on the colours they have used in the book, or make up your own set of co-ordinating fabrics. I didn’t find this too hard and used their colours as a base, but for those of you who struggle with fabric matching and co-ordination, this may be more of a challenge.

Don’t be afraid to go with your gut and do a bit of clashing though! As I’ve said, if you get stuck, just follow the basic shades that they have used. For example, they used a funky orange and yellow 80’s type fabric for Emma’s hair, which I substituted for a yellow pinstripe. Dress and clothing-wise, I stuck to a staple bright pink in two different patterns, with a complimentary lime green on the legs.

Although my two pinks for the body and feet didn’t quite match, the green in between meant that you couldn’t really tell and they didn’t look out of place. The secret to using colours that are slightly off matching – place a contrasting one in between, and usually you won’t notice the difference!

 

Word of warning

One small thing to note is that if you’re making any of these toys to sell, they must comply with safety regulations. The book doesn't really mention this except for on the very last page, but it is important if you use this book to go on to make your own designs (or just want to make sure your makes are super safe for kids).

 

Overall Rating: 5 *****

Overall, this book gets a 5/5 because I think it’s a great all rounder for most people, and not a bad start for those who’ve never attempted sewing toys or stuffed animals before. The patterns and instructions are clear and concise for the most part, which really helps when making up, and some projects can be done in a day.

 

October 28, 2014 by Amy Gilbert

NEW Sewing Club in Bournemouth!

Happy thursday everyone, and welcome to October, the month of woolly jumpers and piles of autumn leaves!

Our biggest news of the week is that we started a sewing club on wednesday night, and it was sensational!

 

 

 

What did we get up to?

Well, as it was our first meet, we thought we'd get started with something relatively simple. My wonderful two friends Sarah and Heidi decided that they would have a go at making some adorable little felt owls using one of our kits.

We learnt how to do some basics (it's always good to know how to knot thread properly!) and what stitches are best when sewing with felt. A beautiful blanket stitch was the name of the game for the evening, and for beginners, theirs were looking pretty good!

 

   

After 2 hours filled with numerous cups of tea, and at least 7 biscuits, we finally brought into the world two beautiful little owls - named Su Peng and Gloria. They had to have names for their little quirky looks and traits!

 

 

As I'd already made an owl, I had a go at doing some contrast blanket stitch on a christmas-themed felt sewing project, so I made a little christmas mitten decoration for the christmas tree! This required a lot of concentration on blanket stitching even for me, as any bad stitching was pretty obvious!

 

 

All in all, it was a great evening and we had a lot of fun sewing, chatting and getting stuck and unstuck!

If you'd like to get involved in a sewing club and live in or around the Bournemouth area, get in touch! We want to encourage people to have a go with sewing, and sewing clubs are a great way to become more confident in your skills and learn a few new techniques

For a small weekly fee of £6.50, you can socialise with like-minded people, have a go at making some new things and take away lifelong learning which can usually be applied to a wide variety of sewing projects! Come along and support each other in your projects, learn from each other and be inspired for new projects. You might even find yourself teaching everyone else a thing or two! Sessions can be spent working on something you've already started, or finding something new for the week's theme. Machine and hand sewing projects are both welcome!

Our first official meeting will start on 4th November, 7.30 - 9.30pm in Southbourne. Fabrics and haberdashery items will be available to purchase on the night, or you can bring your own as required. Refreshments are included - I always need at least a few cups of tea to keep me sewing!

Email info@mysewingbox.co.uk for more info and to sign up.

 

October 02, 2014 by Amy Gilbert

What are Fat Quarters?

Ever heard or seen talk of 'Fat Quarters' but not quite sure what is being referred to? Read on to find out more about the rise of a new cut of fabric...

 

 

Fat Quarters are becoming increasingly common with the rise in popularity of quilting in the UK. Originally an American term, a Fat Quarter refers to a cut of fabric which is essentially half of a half-metre of fabric, but cut in half as a square (along the selvedge) as opposed to across the width of the fabric (which normally creates a quarter-of-a-metre strip much wider than it is high).

 

What's the point? I hear you ask...

Well, Fat Quarters are usually associated with quilting and offer a great solution to buying a variety of different fabrics in small quantities to make up parts of a quilt. Their size means they are great for creating sections of a quilt with a variety of textures/colours/patterns that can co-ordinate, without having to waste money buying extra metres of fabric just for the sake of needing a square sized piece of a certain height. But they are being used for more than just quilting nowadays, and in the UK they offer a great option for sewers that enjoy patchwork, applique or making lots of smaller sewing projects, along with those who want to try out quilting.

How do I find/buy a Fat Quarter?

Most fabrics (especially craft fabrics and cotton fabrics that are suitable for quilting) are now offered as Fat Quarters, including most fabrics on our own website. To purchase, simply find your desired fabric and select 'Fat Quarter' from the drop down box to add one fat quarter to your basket.

Fat Quarters are also frequently sold in bundles that take the hassle out of co-ordinating colours, themes and patterns between fabrics as they comprise of a pre-selected bundle of fat quarters, usually in packs of 5 or 6. We offer Fat Quarter bundles ourselves, which can be found here, which are a great-value option for those wanting to try them out. You get a great selection of fabrics to use and a discounted price from buying them all separately - simple and hassle-free to get started!

Take me to the Fat Quarter Bundles!

Easter Bunting Project

Easter Bunting for Beginners

Looking for a project to fill your Easter weekend? Easter bunting is an easy way for to get to grips with your sewing machine a bit better and brighten up your home with the colours of spring!

Our Flo's Garden fabrics would be great for this project as they are fun, bright and colourful - we recommend alternating Flo's Garden Birds and Flo's Garden Scenic and Pinstripe Citrus Lemon. If you're feeling even more colourful, you can add in Pinstripe Pink and Flo's Garden Toadstools too!

You can find them by clicking on the names above or the images below, which will take you to the correct product pages so you can add them to your basket really easily - just select the length you need and add!

 

 

 

 

What you'll need:

0.25m Flo's Garden Scenic

0.25m Pinstripe Citrus Lemon

0.25m Flo's Garden Birds

0.75m Plain Backing Fabric (Spectrum White is good, or if you're feeling colourful, Spraytime Tiffany Blue)

3m Bias Binding or Ribbon

 

1) Cut out your triangles of fabric size 16cm along top/bottom edge and 22cm along diagonal. You should get six from each patterned fabric and 18 from the plain fabric. Make sure you cut them so that the pattern of the fabric is the right way up with the 16cm edge at the top!

2) Line up your patterned front piece with a plain back piece, right sides together. Sew down the two 22cm sides of the triangle, allowing yourself 1cm border for the seam allowance.

3) Trim off some of the excess fabric towards the point of the triangle you have just sewn, to allow a sharper point when turned out.

4) Turn out the triangle so that the right side of the fabric is now on the oustide. Tip: You can use a pinhead to help you push out the point of the triangle. 

5) Do the same for the rest of your triangles. You can iron them flat at this stage if you wish.

6) Now trim off any excess thread or points of fabric hanging out of the top of the triangle.

7) Time to assemble! You can use either bias binding or ribbon. Assemble your triangles in the order you wish to place them. 

8) To attach the bias binding/ribbon you will basically be folding it in half lengthways, sandwiching your triangles along the top unsewn edge in between the two halves of the bias binding/folded ribbon.
Start by sewing 10-15cm of the bias together for one end to hang from, then place your triangle between the bias binding/ribbon and continue to sew in a straight line, topstitching over your triangle and bias binding together. 

9) Continue to add triangles next to each other, leaving a small gap between, and sewing over the top of the bias binding with triangles sandwiched inside. 

10) When you get to the end, sew the ends of the bias binding/ribbon together again like you did at the start. 

11) Hang with pride in your beautiful home!

 

 

If you're struggling with this project and need a little help, let us know either on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mysewingbox or drop us an email at info@mysewingbox.co.uk and we'll try our best to help you out! 

 

Simple Envelope Cushion Project

Hi everyone!

This is our first post for one of our own projects, and we hope you like it. As always, we'd love to see what your finished product looks like so if you've had a go at making it, please share it on our wall for everyone to see!

This is a really easy project, no putting in zips and if you don’t feel confident to sew buttonholes, you don’t have to as the back can be left or Velcro added to secure. A great project for beginners to get used to their sewing machines!

Take a look at the pictures below if you need some extra help. Any problems or questions, drop us a comment or message!

If you want to make the cushion in this owl fabric, you can find it on our website by clicking here and adding to your basket.

  

Envelope cushion cover

 

What you need

½ metre fabric

cushion insert 36cmx36cm

2 buttons (optional)

Instructions

1. Cut a square 40cm x 40cm for the front

2. Cut 2 oblongs 40cm x 28cm

 

3. On the inside, fold over edges for the back and sew a  1cm hem. Fold over another 3cm and hem. Finish by topstitching along the outside edge.

4. Pin right sides of front to right sides of back, overlapping the two back pieces and sew all round with 1cm seam.

5. Cut corners on all 4 sides  and press seams, then turn out to right side and press before putting in cushion insert.

6. Add buttons if required.

Easy!

 

April 07, 2014 by Amy Gilbert