Purchasing a new sewing machine is both an exciting and a terrifying experience. Quite often there is a shout out on Instagram asking people for their recommendations on which machine they should buy. I have bought my last two machines without actually seeing them before I handed over my hard earned cash. For the first machine I spoke to the shop over the phone, explained my needs and was recommended a machine that they believed would suit me. This machine worked out well and I used it for a good 5 years before I outgrew it. For my second machine, which I bought 18 months or so ago, I decided to harness the power of the internet. I researched, watched videos, read reviews and with a great deal of confidence in my choice searched for the best online price. Then the machine arrived.
To begin with everything was rosy as I was enamoured with all the fancy smancy features of this new baby. But it did not take long before we started to fall out. Little quirks raised their ugly head, features that I thought would be amazing were a little less than so, stitches I used regularly for some of my favourite makes were different and not in a good way and some functions were not only different but not good at all. My new machine and I were now in a very sour relationship. We had to part company and the new love of my life needed to be found.
This time instead of using the sewing machine version of Tinder, I decided to try speed dating and headed to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. Most knitters and stitchers attending the show would be trying to smuggle their purchases back home before their partners could see how much joy and happiness they had bought. I, on the other hand, was taking fabric to the show with the sole intention of challenging all those little beauties to impress me with their functionality and skills. I had a list and extremely high standards. My last machine was not cheap and I did not want to have to go through this again in a few years time when I had once again found out we were either incompatible or I had out grown it.
Having the machine demonstrated to you is one thing, but you also need to get behind the foot pedal and take it for a test drive yourself. Check out everything that is important to you, make sure it sews your favourite stitch the way you want it, get it to sew the awkward fabric, check it has all the functions you find makes your sewing life easier. Make sure all those nasty little habits your current machine has are not replicated in this one. But you also need to feel comfortable behind the machine, is the lighting good (though under the bright lights of the venue this is a hard one to check), can you get to the foot lift lever easily, are the buttons easy to press, is it easy to find and change to the stitch you need?
You need to have confidence in the representative too. Do they understand their machines? Are they able to answer all your question? Do they care that the machine they are recommending is the one you need and not just the most expensive? What type of support is available after you have bought the machine? What about the servicing? How often should it be done? Where can it be done? Is there a local distributer that you can go to if you need help? If you want to think about your choice can you still have the show offer next week? Remember, you are the important person here. Nobody should be pressurising you to buy anything. If you do not buy it today you can buy it tomorrow when you are happy and confident in your choice.
The advice above is a little less useful to anyone who wants to buy their first machine and have never sewn before in their life. My advice to you is to go to sewing classes and make a garment or two before you go out buying. Sewing teachers are passionate about their craft, they will not get annoyed with you if you ask question after question about sewing. Normally, sewing classes will use robust but basic machines as they do need to cope with a lot of use. This may be exactly what you need, but ask about its suitability for your future plans.
So, you may be asking, did you find your new love? I did, and please do not judge me for my extravagance, in fact I found three new loves. I am now the delighted owner of a new sewing, over locker and cover stitch machine and yes, to my embarrassment, all three previous machines were bought without trying them out. They all managed to exceed my expectations when dealing with my awkward fabric, had none of the annoying quirks of my previous machine and also had the additional functionality to make my sewing a little easier, improve its quality and give me the chance to expand my skills. I was also impressed with the knowledge of the representatives and the time they were happy to spend answering, and on some occasions re-answering, my questions. I never once felt I was being a pain, however many fabric samples were pulled out of my bag, though I will add that there were other brands I visited that were just as nice.
My approach to buying my new machine also had a positive impression on the company I finally choose to buy from, as I am beyond excited to announce that I have been asked to become the new Juki Brand Ambassador for dressmaking.
I am going to thoroughly enjoy sharing my experiences of learning how to get the best out of my new machines with everyone and I am hopeful I will be allowed to join the Juki team at one of the shows to chat about my machines and sewing. Please do come and say hello and even if a Juki is not the machine of your dreams I would love to hear about yours.