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sew easier how to buy a sewing machine
by Yee-Fan Sun
| 1 2
continued from page 2

where to shop
If you're buying new, the best place to get yourself a sewing machine is at a good fabric store or sewing machine dealer. The sales folk at these sorts of specialty shops should be able to answer your questions much better than someone at a department store or Costco-type establishment, and they'll have floor models available for you to test-drive as well. Best of all, sewing shops will often offer you a free lesson in how to use your newly purchased machine -- which you should by all means take.

Bear in mind that the price you see is generally going to be the list price of the machine, and that these prices are sometimes negotiable. But if an attempt to haggle still doesn't yield a new sewing machine that fits your budget, you can also try going the refurbished or secondhand route. Try sewing machine repair shops (oddly enough, these often double as vacuum repair stores), many of which have good quality used stock available from other customers who have upgraded. You can also find machines at yard sales and thrift stores, as well as on ebay, but as these sources generally offer no guarantee that your machine will actually function, only buy if you can get a dirt-cheap price.

test-driving the machine
Whatever route you choose towards snagging a machine, it's a good idea to give the machine a try before you shell out any dough. If buying secondhand, of course, this might not be possible, but still, it never hurts to ask.

Stores sometimes try to cheat by demonstrating their sewing machines with an extra-stiff fabric that'll show off the machine's stitches to utmost perfection -- while this is all well and good, what you really want to know is how the stitches look on normal fabric. This is why it's a good idea to bring your own material to run your test, and make sure that the machine is threaded with regular thread rather than something more heavy-duty. If you think you'll be doing a fair amount of sewing on thicker material -- upholstery fabric, for instance -- ask the salesperson to put in an appropriately-sized needle, and test the machine by sewing through a few layers of your fabric to ensure the motor's strong enough for the job.

Check that the stitches are straight and even on both the top and the bottom, that you can stitch in reverse easily, and that it's easy to wind the bobbin. If there's anything that looks funny, mention it to the salesperson. If a simple adjustment fixes the problem, fabulous. If not, and the seller launches into some lame and lengthy excuse for what the problem might be, try a different machine -- and preferably a different shop as well.

o o o

With your new machine purchased, it's time to put it to good use. Pick a project, and start stitching!

o

check out these related articles: 
sew what? sewing 101 | make a futon cover | make a duvet cover | make a throw pillow cover | make a pillow sham | make a bolster pillow 

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