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Aside from the traditional hand or foot-operated models you see in second-hand shops, there are three types of sewing machine available â?? electronic, computerised and overlooker. Electronic versions use a motor to drive the needle and feed the fabric through the machine. A foot pedal allows you to control the speed of sewing while your hands handle the fabric. They vary greatly in price and what they can do â?? although even the most basic versions will have a choice of several stitch lengths and styles. A computerised sewing machine has several motors for very precise control, plus a memory chip so it can store many different stitch types and sewing techniques.

Computerised models usually also have an LCD screen and keypad to navigate your way through the available options, and you can download information from the internet and other resources onto the machine. Overlocker machines give seams and hems a professional finish and are good for the advancer sewer, but are an addition to, rather than a substitute for, a sewing machine. The type you choose depends as much on your ability as your budget, but a good computerised model should see you right through from beginner to accomplished sewer with no worries.

Basic machines will have a choice of about six stitches, while top-of-the-range models can offer more than 300. At the very least, you should demand a choice of different-length straight stitches, a zig-zag stitch and a buttonhole stitch. Other options include quilting stitches, an overlocking stitch, blind hem stitches and decorative stitches. Cheaper machines don't have a free-arm option, either, which is very useful when you're sewing round trouser legs or shirt-sleeve cuffs.

Most good machines will come with more than one 'presser foot' (the part that holds the material down as it passes under the needle), each of which helps to do different jobs. Look for a model that includes at least a lightweight foot, a zipper foot, a buttonhole foot, a foot for delicate fabrics and a narrow hem foot.

If you will use your sewing machine only for basic jobs like making pillowcases or darning your socks, go for a good-quality basic model with enough features to keep a novice happy and enough scope to let you hone your skills. If you are likely to be using your machine more frequently, for dressmaking or for more decorative tasks and home furnishings, you should look at mid-range models that offer more choice of stitches and accessories. If you are going to be using heavy upholstery fabrics you will need a sturdily built version, while if you are looking for a lot of decorative stitches, think about a computerised machine that can handle these with greater precision. If you plan to do embroidery, quilting, decorative touches and detailed craftwork, then go for a top-of-the range computerised model. The original purchase price may seem excessive, but you are better off buying a machine with all the features you will ever need than finding out your choice is inadequate and having to buy another.

One last thing to consider is the weight of your machine â?? if you have a dedicated sewing table then this won't really be a problem, but if you want to be able to move your sewing machine from room to room, then something that takes two people to life is not going to be right for you.



Author R. Germain
date added Wed 12 08 2009

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