If you are new to sewing and you don’t know where to start, then this post is for you! One thing I see fairly often on sewing boards is the question;
“Do I need to buy a sewing machine, a serger, or both?”
I am happy to report that with a little creativity and the correct stitch, almost everything can be done on a simple sewing machine. I’ve been using my grandmother’s machine that she bought in the early 90’s and it works great (I do have a serger/cover stitch machine, but I can and do sew without it). In fact, while you can make fabulous garments with only a sewing machine, you can’t get by with only having a serger.
I purchased my serger when I was making and selling dance costumes so that my garments would have a professional look on the inside. Sergers finish the seams so that they look the same as store-bought clothing. If you are just learning to sew, stick to a sewing machine for now and think about getting a serger once you’ve mastered some sewing basics.
If you don’t have a sewing machine yet, you might be overwhelmed by the choices available. If it is not in your budget to get a fancy machine, don’t fret! I’ve been using a Singer machine that was originally used for teaching in classrooms and it is super simple. It’s a Singer 9015 and it has 9 stitches. I believe a comparable machine would be the Singer 1408 if that gives you an idea.
As technology advances, so do the machines. Some models can have over 100 stitch options! While I can’t look at these machines without drooling, I can tell you that there are only a few stitches that are necessary to finish a garment and they are as follows;
- Straight Stitch – for sewing fabrics and seams that don’t stretch (wovens)
- Satin Stitch – for sewing button holes and applique
- Zig Zag Stitch – for sewing fabric that stretches (knits) as well as finishing off the seams of woven fabrics so that they don’t unravel.
If you have a machine and all it does is a straight stitch, you can still successfully sew garments. My grandmother did a lot of her sewing on an older Singer that she bought in 1952 and all that machine did was a straight stitch. I still have it and I use it for sewing heavy fabrics – that machine is a work horse! For finishing the seam allowances she used pinking shears so that the fabric wouldn’t fray.
Most machines come with an assortment of presser feet. I use my buttonhole foot, the standard foot and the zipper foot. Some helpful feet that I wish I had are the invisible zipper foot and the walking foot.
Whichever machine you choose, see if you can find the instruction manual online first. Reading through it will give you a good idea of what the machine is capable of. In fact, I just re-read my instruction manual last week and learned a few things that I had forgotten. My machine can do free hand embroidery! What a surprise! I can’t wait to try it out.