Tag Archives: sewing machine

Love your Sewing Machine and get familiar with it!


A little whistlestop tour of some of the main features of most sewing machines and some tips on what some of them actually do!

Get familiar with your machine and get the best out of it…..

Sunday Workshop Dates

Four dates for Sunday workshops to plan before Christmas, not so difficult you might think.  Well, I’ve been ummming and ahhhing and talking to students and friends and here’s the end result; an assortment of popular workshops which have run before and some new ones.  I’m sure I won’t please everyone with this selection but hey, there’s always 2012!

Sunday 30th October – Pattern Cutting Workshop

Suitable for beginners and students who have previously drafted skirt or trouser patterns.  At this workshop beginners will draft a skirt block and pattern and make a skirt toile (sample).  Students who have done some pattern cutting before will draft a trouser block and make a trouser toile.  Students who have previously drafted a trouser block with me will draft a one-piece dress block.
•    Class size limited to 4 people.
•    11am to 4pm.
•    £40 payable in advance to confirm your space.

Sunday 20th November – How to use your Sewing Machine Workshop

Another date for this popular workshop.  The day is aimed at beginners to find your way around a sewing machine including; different stitches, changing the tension, the different settings, cleaning, changing needles, changing feet, threads, using different fabrics and of course threading and sewing!
•    Class size limited to 5 people.
•    11am to 3pm.
•    £35 payable in advance to confirm your space.

Sunday 4th December – Sewing with Knits Winter Workshop

A winter version of the workshop I ran for the first time in August.  Sewing with stretchy jersey fabrics can be tricky on a domestic sewing machine, so at this workshop I’ll show you the best ways to cut and sew knitted fabrics.  I’ll provide you with a choice of long sleeved winter patterns specifically designed for jersey fabrics for you to whip up something to wear by the end of the day. All you need to bring is some jersey fabric of your choice and matching thread.  This workshop is not suitable for complete beginners.
•    Class size limited to 5 people.
•    10.30am to 4.30pm.
•    £45 payable in advance to confirm your space.

Sunday 11th December – Make your own Christmas Gifts Workshop

Everyone loves a handmade gift.  At this workshop you will be able to make a choice of gifts and stocking fillers ranging from soft toys to make-up bags and aprons.  I’ll provide all the patterns, you just need to bring the fabric.  Suitable for all levels of ability, but you need to be able to use a sewing machine to get the most out of the day.
•    Class size limited to 5 people.
•    10.30am to 4.30pm.
•    £45 payable in advance to confirm your space.

As always, if you need more info or would like to discuss in more detail, email me at thiswasmadeby[at]gmail.com or give me a ring on 01273 775951.  Look forward to hearing from you.

How to use your sewing machine workshop

Look at that for focused concentration!!  Heads down working hard, that’s what I like to see in my workshops!

I think sewing machines as well as students must like these workshops as yesterday saw more machines back from the brink of lonely lives of neglect.  One machine had been in its box in a cupboard for a few years, another had almost ended up being dumped.  By the end of the day they were whirring happily.

Their owners had the following feedback on the workshop:

What did you enjoy most?
“Hands on machine knowledge.”
“Gaining a good all round knowledge.”
“Learning more about how the machine works.”

And about the workshop overall:
“Really clear concise info, friendly and fun.  Learned a lot!”

The funniest part for me were the squeals of disgust when we had a go at cleaning the machines…yep sewing machines need a bit of TLC every now and again and these students now know why!

I’ll be running this workshop again before Christmas, date to be confirmed soon.

Workshops – what would you like?

I’m starting to plan Sunday workshops until Christmas.  Already booked for September are “How to use your Sewing Machine” on the 11th and “Skirt Making Workshop” on the 25th.

What would you like to see for October, November and December?

Here’s a list of my existing workshops:

Pattern Cutting – Skirts – make your own skirt pattern
Pattern Cutting – Trousers – make your own trouser pattern
Sewing with Knits – learn how to sew stretch jersey fabrics & make a garment
Customising – revamp and repair old clothes & charity shop finds
Sewing Workshop – a day of sewing what you want
How to use your Sewing Machine – get to grips with your sewing machine
Skirt Making – make an A-line skirt

Or would you like to see something new?

I wait with open ears…

109 year old sewing machine finds a new home with me!

This lovely old lady found her way to me yesterday after being left out on the streets of Brighton.  She’s a beauty, in need of a little TLC but working just fine despite being 109 years old!

Can you imagine today’s machines lasting 109 years?  I’d be surprised if some of them last 9 years.  I love old sewing machines, they’re such beautiful pieces of fine engineering which were built to last.  I can’t bear to see them neglected, abandoned and unloved.  Just as soon as I’ve got this exhibition out of the way I’m going to give her a good old pampering and I’m sure she’ll soon settle in nicely with some other old friends at my place.

The Singer website is excellent – you can actually date your old sewing machine and even find out where it was made (this old lady was made in 1902 in Clydebank, Scotland).  Armed with that knowledge I might name her Morna, which apparently loosely translated from Gaelic means beloved.  That’s what she’ll be again now.  No more pavements for you Morna.

First ‘How to use your sewing machine’ workshop

I thought this would be a good workshop and I was right!  Three happy sewing machines and owners and two people now on the hunt for a sewing machine of their own.  Today we had a 1970′s lovely old Singer in its own work table happily whirring away beside a brand new all singing, all dancing Bernina.  No matter how old or how high spec, they all have the same parts and they all do the same thing and we had them sewing a treat today.
Here’s what some of my students thought of the workshop:
“Fantastically helpful and inspiring, very patient and clear teaching.”
“Really good and useful workshop.”
What did you enjoy most?
“Having time to ‘play’ with my machine and find what it could do.”

More Sunday workshop dates

I’ve planned all my Sunday workshops now until September.  Where does the time go?!

There are 5 of them and among some popular ones that you’ll have seen before there is a new one hiding – Sewing with Knits: how to sew stretch fabrics.  Covers all you need to know to sew stretch (jersey) fabrics on a domestic sewing machine and the price includes a pack of jersey needles for your machine and a choice of pattern to make yourself something on the day.

Here’s a full list of dates:

26th June – Pattern Cutting Workshop
17th July – Sewing Workshop
14th August – Sewing with Knits
11th September – How to use your Sewing Machine
25th September – Skirt Making Workshop

Full details of all the workshops can be found here.

As always, if you have any questions or would like to book a place please contact me via email at thiswasmadeby[at]gmail.com or give me a ring on 01273 775951.

Discounts for my students at Brighton Sewing Centre

The lovely owners of Brighton Sewing Centre, Nicole and Melinda, have very generously agreed to let my students have a 10% discount in their shop, hooray!

Brighton Sewing Centre is across the road from Just Sew where I teach my classes and they have a great selection of fabrics, equipment and haberdashery.  The discount also applies to sewing machines; of which they have a good range and friendly knowledgeable staff on hand to help you try out machines.

So, if you book a block of four of my Drop-in Sewing and Dressmaking classes you will be able to claim your 10% discount throughout the six weeks that you have to attend your classes.


Which sewing machine should I buy?


I am often asked this question.  There is no one simple answer.  Obviously the first consideration is your budget.  If you have £500+ at your disposal (you lucky thing!), go for a Bernina.  They are the bees knees of sewing machines; solid and well made.

Also now snapping at the heels of Bernina and I believe challenging them for their number 1 spot are Juki, who make most of the world’s industrial sewing machines and are now successfully using some of that technology in their range of home sewing machines.  I have used a Juki overlocker for a few years (see my post about whether or not you should buy an overlocker here) and since I’ve also started using a Juki sewing machine, I’ve found I’m now using it more than my Bernina or my industrial sewing machine.

If your budget can’t stretch that far, then worry not, an older Bernina could still be yours.  Second-hand Berninas come up regularly because they are such well built machines and that means there are still a lot of them around in perfect working order.  I got a second-hand one a few years ago for just under £300 (you can find them cheaper) and I even got a full one year guarantee with it which included parts!  You would be lucky to get that with most new machines today, that’s how reliable Berninas are.

To get a decent starter sewing machine you’ll need a budget of approx. £200 – £250, at this price range (and less) there is a lot out there to choose from and that’s the problem;  there is a lot of rubbish.  In my opinion, you do get what you pay for, so if possible, save up, combine a few Christmas and birthday presents and get the best you can afford.  If you want to buy a new machine, here are a few tips:

  • don’t ever buy a sewing machine from somewhere like a discount supermarket, yes it might only be £50 but there’s a reason for that – they’re worse than useless;
  • stick to these known brand names regardless of where you’re shopping: Juki, Janome, Elna, Pfaff, Frister Rossman, Husqvarna, Brother;
  • buy from a shop that actually has machines out for you to use such as specialist sewing machine retailers and John Lewis.  If you subsequently have a problem with the machine you can go back to the shop and they will be happy to give you some help.

A good alternative to buying a new machine is to go to a specialist sewing machine retailer and buy something second-hand, ideally that is made mostly of metal rather than plastic, brands like; Bernina, Pfaff, Frisster Rossman, Husqvarna, Elna.

Metal machines whilst seeming more impractical in terms of lugging them around, will be able to cope with more layers and thicker fabrics.  They can also be easier to maintain and repair.

What should my sewing machine be able to do?
Avoid the many “all singing, all dancing” machines with loads of fancy stitches, I guarantee you won’t use them.  All you need, especially on your first machine, is:

  • straight stitch
  • zig-zag stitch
  • a small selection of stretch stitches
  • buttonholes
  • ability to control the stitch length and stitch width
  • it should have a “free arm” (so you can slip sleeves and trouser legs under the needle easily)


  • a speed control
  • the ability to adjust the presser foot pressure (see more about what that actually means here!)
  • and the ability to drop the feed dogs to do free embroidery.

If quilting rather than dressmaking is more your thing, have a read of Liz from Quilty Pleasures guide to buying a sewing machine for quilting here.

So there you have it, shop away.  And remember…………..once you’ve bought your machine they love to be used so don’t shut it away in a cupboard!!  Have a read of my post on “Progressive Sewing” for a suggested list of garments to make in which order; to make sure you keep learning new skills and practising existing ones.

Your friend the sewing machine

Another productive day of sewing skirts with a lovely bunch of people.  It was a birthday present for one of the participants – what a great idea.  The day was full of achievements including getting a long neglected sewing machine up and running.  Sewing machines should be sewing up skirts, not abandoned and lonely in cupboards.  Sewing machines need love too you know.

My favourite quote from today was this:

What did you enjoy most about the day?  “Realising my sewing machine is my friend and saying goodbye to Wonderweb.”

Even the word Wonderweb makes my ears bleed.  Throw it in the bin and get your sewing machine out!!!!