How to Test a Sewing Machine

To many folks, especially newbies to sewing, testing a machine may seem like an intimidating experience. Here’s a way to test a machine and find a good dealer at the same time.

We would recommend trying several brands (not just different models of the same brand) just for the sake of comparison. Each machine has its own feel and touch, and personal preference will have a lot to do with how much you’ll enjoy using the machine you finally purchase.

New machines have so many stitches that you’ll probably only be able to test a few. Be sure to test the basic stitches you’ll need for a garment, such as a straight stitch, zigzag, buttonholes, and overlock. (To make sure you cheek the machine’s basic equipment. We’d recommend taking along a checklist.)

Fabric samples -- You’ll need pairs of 18- by 3.in. fabric samples of different weights and fibers; you usually sew two layers together, so test with two layers. This length will allow you to adjust the stitch width, length, and tension, and the width allows you to do several stitch runs spaced so a previous line of stitching won’t affect the stitch quality of the run you’re on. Include the following fabrics: knit (any fiber type), silky lightweight polyester, silk charmeuse, heavy fabric with a coating—like a rubber. backed upholstery fabric or nylon of backpack weight and plain 100% cotton like muslin.

A ¼ yd. of each fabric will be enough to test several machine brands. The knit will tell you how well a machine performs on stretchy fabrics. The results on the polyester will tell you how well the top and bobbin threads interlock, while the slippery silk tells you how well the feed dog and foot hold and move the fabric. Heavy, coated fabric tests how strong the top tension is and whether the machine can pull the thread so it doesn’t get stuck in loops on the underside of the fabric.

One should also take along the legs from a pair of old jeans to test the machine’s ability to penetrate thick, densely woven fabric, particularly across the welt seam of the outer or inner leg at the hem.

Thread and needles -- A knowledgeable dealer and dedicated sewer realizes that making perfect stitches takes a balance of thread, needle, fabric, and tension. Such a dealer stocks a good selection of quality thread and needles available for sale and testing. However, if you’d like to be prepared, bring a selection of fine to heavy needles, and the following threads: a mid-weight polyester (Mettler’s 100 or Gütermann All Purpose threads are good); size 50/3 100% mercerized cotton, like Mettler; (30/2 100% cotton (this may be labeled as embroidery thread); and a heavy-duty poly or cotton. We’d use the mid-weight poly on the knit for stretch, fine cotton for the silk and polyester silky, regular cotton for the muslin, and heavy duty for the upholstery fabric.

The test -- Start by asking the dealer to demonstrate the machine. Tell the dealer your budget up front; we’d beware if the dealer insists on demonstrating on a much higher priced model after you’ve indicated your price range. (If the dealer just wants to show you a video, that’s probably not a dealer you’re going to get great service from.) The dealer may go through the basics using a loosely woven, starched white fabric called demo cloth. The loose weave makes It easy for the needle to penetrate and the stiffness prevents the fabric from being pulled downward and upward by the needle so the stitching never puckers Then pull out your samples and ask the dealer to run through several stitches on each one Even if a machine is advertised as having a self- adjusting tension, the reality Is that you may have to adjust the tension for fabrics outside of the norm— fine fabrics like batiste or thick fabrics like batted quilting, for example. Hopefully you’ll find the dealer willing and eager to change needles and thread to match your samples.

Now it’s time for you to accustom yourself to the machine. If you can’t make acceptable stitches, don’t be shy about asking the dealer to show you how.

Hang on to your samples and label them. After you’ve tested several brands, take a look at all the samples, compare them, then make your decision,.

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Thursday, 2016-10-13 12:31