Are you ready for a new machine?

When I sat down to write about this particular subject- I had a ton of different ideas. I could write about the different types of machines, the history of the sewing machine itself or even write about how they can be used. And I may end up one day doing so, but to keep your eyes from glazing over at this moment. Today is not that day.

I know, it’s OK. You can let that sigh of relief out now.

(Just to let you know- you missed a really great “Bubba-Gump” reference I edited out about the many types of machines. Not sure you should be so happy right now.)

There is so much information out on the interwebs about sewing machines, that buying a new one can be kind of an anxiety ridden nightmare. When doing research you may end up finding too many people giving advice or a whole lot of people trying to just sell you a machine. There are so many blogs that tell you what you may need or want. I don’t really want to add to the problem- but I’m probably going to anyhow.

Every single blog is the same and every single person is an “expert” on this subject.

And to be honest with you- I am no different. I am also a self-claimed “expert”. How did I end up giving myself this title? Because I can (girl power! Am I right?) AND I have spent the last two years of my sewing life wanting to upgrade my machine and refusing to commit until I found “the one.” I have spent these years researching and trying to come up with reasons to buy or not to buy. I have read everything I possibly could about different features and I watched numerous video tutorials. And now I choose to pass on my wisdom to you. You’re welcome.

There is a really big reason why everyone writes about this topic. When it comes to your hobby, you need great tools. Especially when a lot of sewing is sitting in front of the machine. Your machine is kind of the main event.

So sit down, get a glass of wine/beer/coffee (why not all three? Why not Zoidberg?), relax and read my words. I am going to try my best to help you find your dream machine.

(Guys… I seriously giggled out loud while typing my Futurama reference.)

Going back to my previous post about getting into sewing, I told you that my friend let me borrow a machine for my wedding. Well, I had that machine for a very long time in storage. When I came home from Australia and took that machine out of its box, and was completely underwhelmed by it. There was no manual for it, nor feet, not even empty bobbins. I felt so completely lost that I decided I would go down to the shop and purchase a new machine right away! Since I didn’t know anything about machines or my new hobby, I decided I would get a cheaper Brother and eventually upgrade if I stuck with it.

In retrospect I think that was the best decision I could have made. It set me on the right path to finding my dream machine. And it’s what I recommend to everyone starting out. If you don’t have a machine and you want to start fresh, buy one for under $200 and just get to know it.

I know that there is temptation in buying an expensive, brand-new machine as soon as possible. It’s easy to get carried away with the “wants” list versus the “needs” list. And it’s easy just to walk into any shop to look around. But if you go into that shop without knowledge and confidence in what you are buying you will most likely leave with something pretty and shiny, but doesn’t have much real value to you. And you may end up regretting it. Instant gratification is a hell-of-a-drug, isn’t it?

It’s like driving an old economy car. You love it because it has character and it’s been good to you the last 10 plus years. Although it has its flaws, like not going above 75 miles per hour without a slight rattle, it gets great gas mileage and it’s paid off! You can’t seem to bring yourself to replace it because you guys have seen some serious stuff together. BUT recently you saw a shiny red new sports car on the freeway cruising peacefully at 90MPH and you thought to yourself “hmmm, I wonder how much I could get for old Betsy as a trade-in?” So you go into the dealership on a whim and end up with a shiny red gas guzzler (not to mention the horrible gigantic car payments!) and three days later you think you made a huge mistake, but by then it’s too late. And forever you will look at your new car and resent the fact that you didn’t take the time to weigh your options.

Don’t be that guy! Make sure you are prepared before buying.

So here is the “sew-down” on sewing machines. (You will eventually learn to love my puns.) This advice is for anyone who sews and wants to upgrade. Whether you are fresh to the game or not.

First step in this research project is reconnaissance. Get a pen and notebook and put it next to your machine. With every new project you throw at your machine-make a note of any issues you had. Write down how you fixed it and whether you would try that particular project again with your current machine. Write down what feature on a new machine might help alleviate that issue in the future. After a few weeks, months or even years (depending on how often you sew); you will definitely start to form your “dream-machine” list.

With that list in hand ask yourself the following questions:

  • How long do you want to keep this machine?

Will this new machine be your forever love or a summer fling? Not willing to commit to forever? Then how long do you think you will want to wait in between machines?

  • How much do you want to spend?

Machines are freakin expensive y’all! When you see those price tags you will need some ice chips and a chair. You’ll have hot flashes and think the “big-one” is coming.

All the really nice machines are super expensive. So you pretty much need to calm your sh*t and think about the first question again. How long do you want to keep this machine for?

If this machine is the last one you’ll ever buy and you plan on giving it as inheritance when you pass, it needs to have EVERYTHING you want and is going to be really expensive.

But if this machine is a compromise and you will most likely upgrade again in the next few years- don’t spend crazy amounts of money on it. You can find a machine for less than $1000 that may be a compromise and definitely not be your “dream-machine”, but it will last you until you make a final decision.

  • How often do you plan on sewing?

This question will help you determine how big a motor you need and what type of warranty you need. Parts on a machine need to be serviced and can wear out fast if you use your machine often enough. So getting a machine that has a bigger motor or a longer manufacturer warranty might be more beneficial.

  • What do you sew?

Can you get away with two different cheaper machines than one expensive machine? Or can it be a “simpler” machine? Sometimes less is more and having a machine that only does a few things might be better for you and your projects.

  • What options on this new machine are deal breakers? The things you MUST have?

Look to your “dream machine” list for guidance. This is a tough question because this is where compromise needs to be thrown to the wind and where your budget will go up automatically. With every grand stand you will have to pay for it. And for the amount of money you will end up spending on this new machine you have to make sure it comes with the bells and whistles you want or need. Even if it means waiting a bit longer to buy or financing the machine.

I have a dream machine list the size of Texas, but my absolute grand stands in a new sewing machine were: Larger throat space, better lighting, automatic tensions and upgraded (user friendly) technology.

I also wanted an automatic bobbin sensor, but ended up without it after doing a bit of research on that function. Turns out a lot of people who have it turn it off because it wastes thread. The hack for this, which I have been using ever since, is to fill two bobbins with the same amount of thread and use those to sew. That way when the top runs out you know the bobbin is out too. Freakin’ thoughtful hack eh?

  • Where can you buy your new machine? Do they ever have specials/promotions? Do they have trade in deals? Do they sell floor models? Do they provide financing?

Research your local machine shops. Learn about them through the white pages or yelp. Read customer reviews and ask your sewing friends about their reputation. The last thing you want or need is to buy from a place that has poor customer service. I didn’t do this step when I bought my serger and ended up buying from a shop that was OK but the owner is a questionable human being.

Sign up for their mailing lists so that you can be the first to know about advertised sales and promotions. Ask the sales people whether they know of any deals coming up in the future you can wait for. Check to see if they ever sell floor models which may be cheaper than fresh out of the box. Also, check to see what their upgrade policies are. My current shop offers a deal where if you upgrade (trade-in) your machine within the first year of buying it from them, they will transfer the amount you paid to the new machine.

After all this research– do more research. Take time to watch videos on machine tutorials and get to know brand ambassadors. Every major machine manufacturer offers machine specs for their machines online. You can even compare different machines to each other. Take the time to get to know and learn about your chosen loves.

Who knows, when you are done researching, you may end up knowing more about the machines than the person trying to sell it to you. That happened to me and it felt AMAZING. I ended up knowing a function on a machine I liked- that the seller didn’t know about and I ended up giving her a demo. Not only did I know more than her about that machine, but I was able to share my knowledge with her. She got really excited about the machine and wanted to play with it too. There’s nothing cooler than being able to share that love with a like-minded individual. I am also pretty certain I could have left that shop with a job.

I hope this list helped. Chris wants me to add in that you don’t actually NEED a machine with a laser. My “Dream-Machine” has a function on it that measures applique length by using a wand and laser. This laser also makes it so you can sew straight lines with a guide, which is very useful for sewing darts. But that item alone made the cost jump up $600. And that’s a hefty price tag for a freakin’ laser. (Insert maniacal Dr. Evil reference here “You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads!”) This was also what I reference above that I knew about and the salesperson did not know. Lasers are awesome my friend. But being that there is an awesome hack for this that costs about $10 or less… I decided I didn’t *need* the built-in laser after all, well not right now at least…

Give me a shout and let me know what machines you are looking at, which ones you currently own, if you are curious about my machines or just want to have a chat about machines in general.

Narwhals are real! An introduction to my blog.

Hello All!

Welcome to THE BLOG!

I’m Jax and I’m an avid sewer. And I’m guessing you may be too, even if you don’t know it yet.

It’s really nice to meet you.

You probably ended up here for one of many reasons. I can only guess that it might be because I either forced you to “follow” me OR you are looking for a kindred spirit in the sewing world. You may be an outcast or an introvert or may be looking for something a little less-than-perfect. You may be looking for a blog that uses a slightly sarcastic and self-deprecating tone. Or a different approach to blogging than sheer support, optimism and positivity. Although I can be those things and more, I prefer to stay 100% real with y’all. And that means you get to see all aspects of sewing – the good, the bad, the ugly. It is just YOU, ME and THE BLOG– and we have nothing to hide. No sugar-coating and no pretending every project is the BEST ONE EVER! Because I don’t think that actually helps anyone learn, including myself. After all, I am still learning just like you.

Why have I always wanted to learn to sew? Honestly, I have always loved the idea of making my own clothes. I celebrate individuality and I’ve always loved the idea of designing and making things that no one else had. It’s probably why I always shopped the vintage section of the thrift store.

When I was 12 I had a friend who knew the basics of sewing. She took lessons and would come back and try to show me the things she learned. I always admired her talents and wished I could learn to sew too. I remember she would take her jeans and add triangles of cotton to the bottoms so that they would flair like bell bottoms. It was a simple trick to take her normal jeans to fashion trend without having to do much. I soon started asking my mom for lessons but it was always a hard “NO.”

A few years down the line and I was inspired again. I had decided to take a psychology course as an elective in high school and one day we had a lecturer from the SF Fashion Institute visit us. She taught us a class on fashion, marketing, advertising and how color played a vital role in all these things. I was very keen and answered almost all of her questions correctly. She took me aside after class and told me I had “the eye.” And that I should definitely pursue a career in fashion marketing or even design. She told me that they would teach me everything from design to marketing included how to sew.  I was beyond excited over this new prospect of my future and went home to ask my mom. Once again it was a hard “No.” I even got a lecture from my mom about how impractical fashion design was. She told me there was no way I could make money off it or get a job. (Boy was she wrong, eh?) Back then I let my mom dictate everything in my life, so I too deemed the idea impractical and moved on.

Soon sewing turned into one of those things that I would learn someday, but not today. Eventually I started to say “I don’t have time to learn that.” This is typically what all people think or say when they want to learn something that they are too afraid to learn. I mean it was my magical narwhal and if I caught it what would I do with it? (Chris would like me to link you to this page here)

Flash forward and few years later and my wedding day was fast approaching. I had taken it upon myself to make sure that it would be the cheapest wedding ever. Everything for my wedding turned into a D.I.Y. project. Including making 12 table runners for picnic tables. I had borrowed a sewing machine from a friend (who told me to keep it) and I bought fabric I absolutely adored online. I was finally going to learn to sew! I had no choice… right? Wrong! After taking significant time researching how to make a sewing machine work, threading it, and dealing with bobbins. I tried to sew the fabric and it ended up tearing. I started to cry. I was so discouraged by this time that I didn’t want to even bother trying to learn to sew anymore. My dreams of tackling this skill would never come to fruition ever! I was done. I packed up the machine, put it into storage and then bought a magical glue called “stitch witchery” and I thought why sew when there’s glue that does it for you? Practical. Right? Right?


By the time my daughter was being created I had abandoned and forgot all about wanting to learn to sew. I had a career and a very interesting romantic life. I had built a tiny family with my friends and menfolk. And I spent all my time managing one of those things. Hobbies were never really an option because I was too busy with everything else. I started nesting and buying random stuff for my kid that I totally DID NOT NEED! But something I absolutely loathed doing was looking for clothes. There was never anything for girls that I really liked in the stores. I had a problem with the cute little sayings like “daddy’s little princess” or the fact that girls only seem to wear pink? Why couldn’t it be “daddy’s little paleontologist” and greens or teal? I was really disappointed with what ready to wear was offering me. And I think EVERYONE on the planet heard me speak about it.

I complained so much that eventually Chris’s mom, Sue, suggested I learn to sew. “I’ve tried and it never turned out well.” Was my reply… to which she said “Oh don’t say that I will teach you!” you can only imagine my excitement when I heard the offer. I mean … finally someone wanted to teach me to do something I’ve always wanted to learn. I practically jumped out of my skin with joy. But I replied with “OK, well, I’ll think about it.”  What?!? “I’ll think about it”… I had been thinking about it! For at least for half of my life by then!

This offer was eventually forgotten and we all sort of went about our life. Lore was born and I had reluctantly bought the cutest non-conforming clothes I could. And when she was finally vaccinated enough to take her to Australia, we did. Oh those days were the best, I had finally quit my job and had time to just relax and spend six wonderful weeks with Chris’s family.

Within a week of that trip Sue had brought out her sewing machine and told me that she WAS going to teach me to sew. At this point I forgot about the offer and brushed it off like she wasn’t serious about it. But let me tell you something about Sue- when she sets her mind to something, there is no use trying to tell her “No.” It is always best to let her take the lead and it always works out marvelously.

Soon she whirled me off the craft store and she started to teach me all about paper patterns, fabric and notions. She helped me pick out something to make for Lore and showed me how to find what I needed. Then she took me home and sat me down to go over the entire project. She showed me everything I needed to know to start a project. Washing fabric, cutting out the pattern and fabric pieces, reading the paper pattern directions, Sewing machine basics and all about how the machine works. It truly was a crash course in sewing; It was fast, but luckily I caught on quickly. After all this she sat me down in front of the machine and told me to have had it then walked away. This was it, my narwhal.

I don’t think I wanted to do anything else for an entire week. I was determined! I learned to sew a zipper, hood and a casing for the elastic band. I even learned the seam ripper… Oh so many seams ripped. I think there was a day that all I would hear from Sue is “Nope, you can do better. Seam rip this and do it again. Cup of tea?”

But by the end of the trip I was hooked. I had made a hooded zip up vest with matching sweat pants for my 9 month old daughter. And although it wasn’t the best thing ever made, I made it and I was so proud of myself. I felt so confident that I could go home and do this over and over again. Sue had empowered me by showing me how hard it wasn’t and she helped fulfill a lifelong dream I had. All this time, all I needed was someone to show me that I could do it and it wasn’t that hard.

This confidence was amplified when we took our daughter out in that outfit and I received non-stop compliments from other moms. “Where did you by that? That’s so cute! OMG I need that!” and I would reply with “I made it!” and the reactions were priceless. It ranged from amazement to congratulatory but my favorite response was “no way? What pattern did you use and where did you buy the fabric?” I had no clue any of those answers, but it felt great to be part of a community of like-minded individuals. I soon found out (through the internet) that there was this vast subculture of people just like me. People who wanted to learn to sew for various reasons and were also embarking on a lifelong journey.

When I got home I took out the sewing machine from storage and I set it up and started to collect fabric, patterns and just experiment with sewing all sorts of things. Nothing could stop me and nothing did. I have spent the last 2.5 years constantly learning, watching, and sewing. It’s been magical. I’m absolutely obsessed and I’m still excited about sewing projects.

So now I’m writing this blog. Not just because I have a lot to share, but a lot to learn as well. I am in no way an expert. I can give advice of the things I know or have tried, but I am still growing. I want to be able to share this love with everyone I meet. And I hope that through this blog I can inspire people to pick up the hobby.

When I started collecting information I noticed something. There was too much information on the web and it was never in just one place. There are so many different sites and blogs on sewing. And it can be a bit overwhelming to navigate on your own. So I am hoping that I can provide a sort of one-stop-shop for the essentials. Along with my own flair for giving too much advice that no one asked for, along the way. Of course it will take time and I am really hoping you will stick with me while getting this blog in order.

I am also hoping to provide thorough sew-a-longs on my projects page. On that page you will eventually see better instructions or tips on how to sew a pattern. And I am hoping other people will comment their tips and tricks too. Or even ask questions. Maybe we can build a constructive community of many people giving their useful advice on how to construct that particular garment. Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone who tried to sew the garment made a comment on what they liked or didn’t like? How they navigated the directions. Or useful advice they could give to someone else trying the pattern for the first time?

If you have gotten this far in my introduction, kudos! I know it’s a bit long, but I’m glad you stayed. I really hope that you will continue to follow me on this journey and that you feel like you can share yours with me as well.

Ultimately, I need more friends who sew!

And I am really excited to start our journey together.