Author Topic: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?  (Read 11577 times)

ShaneD

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Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« on: March 08, 2015, 11:50:08 AM »
For you crafty sewing folks: Would you recommend a newbie sewer invest in a sewing machine, or learn to excel at doing everything by hand?

I don't see myself ever making our clothes from scratch, but I would really like to be able to handle simple fixes and alterations on my own. E.g., right now I've got waiting for attention:

* 2 long-sleeve t-shirts that need to become short-sleeve t-shirts
* 2 turtle-neck shirts that need to become not-turtle-necks (preferably V-neck rather than crew)
* 1 cowl-neck sweater that needs to become a not-cowl-neck (again, preferably V-neck rather than crew)
* 1 pair of pants that needs hemming
* 1 pair of dress pants that needs reinforcing in the thighs (where my pants always die; damn you, thighs!)

My current sewing skills are limited to what I learned a thousand years ago in Home Ec, but I'd like to be able to sew more than make a pillow. But while I know the above type things are possible by hand, is that really optimal (especially trying to sew straight lines)?

Or is picking up a cheap sewing machine a good investment to be able to handle these types of things? There seem to be $30-$50 machines available, and most tutorials I find assume you have a sewing machine. But since I've never had one, it's all a bit of a mystery to me. I'd like to build up whichever skills seem the most practical long-term.

I'd love in future to be able to make larger alterations, like making some shirts more fitted; but for the time being, I'll be happy to be able to make simple changes on my own.

Thanks!

PS -- If a machine is a good idea, I'd love any model recommendations. I'd forgotten how intimidating sewing machines are.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2015, 12:02:38 PM by ShaneD »

zinnie

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2015, 12:20:31 PM »
Hand-sewing takes forever for anything beyond very small surface areas. I mean, it can be done, but I lose patience for anything beyond mending a small tear or sewing a hem. Machine sewing takes long enough! I have a Brother I got at Walmart for $45 ten years ago and it is still going strong. Any machine with 15+ stitches will probably work for your purposes.

I read a book on sewing when I got started and it helped a lot--it was great for learning terminology and also what types of stitches are best in various situations, fabric types, and how to do basic alterations. I would recommend this as it had a lot about both hand and machine stitches, and the former helps  you understand the latter: Sewing Basics: All You Need to Know About Machine and Hand Sewing, by Sandra Bardwell.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2015, 12:34:22 PM »
I learned to sew in college - wandered through the theater costume shop and was plopped down in front of a sewing machine and given a 10 minute crash course to get started, as they were in need of a ton of costumes in a very short time frame. It was awesome.

That being said, hand sewing is not ever going to be as easy or as strong as machine stitched. It is pretty easy to pick up and there probably are even classes offered at fabric stores (Jo Anns, Hobby Lobby or Hancock Fabrics come to mind; wouldn't hurt to contact them to see if they offer sewing classes or know of someplace that does). I know stores that sell the high end machines also offer classes but not sure how much they cost and whether you have to have purchased your machine from them (have a friend that mentioned she was learning through them).

I learn best by having someone actually show me how to do things, and that's why I picked it up so fast (had an experienced sewing teacher eager to teach me, and an unlimited amount of practice by making costumes all the time). But there are plenty of books and video tutorials online as well if you can learn that way.

And basic sewing machines are so cheap to pick up at WalMart or Target. I have one I got at Target for like $50 and it does more stitch patterns than I need. I think mine is a Singer, but honestly, I'd just look at the reviews online for basic beginner machines.


GizmoTX

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2015, 03:38:12 PM »
Get a simple sewing machine to start; you just need straight & zigzag stitches. If used, ask to see it run before you buy. If it hasn't been used in a long time, it may need a sewing machine shop visit to adjust the tension & lubricate it. It should be oiled occasionally. There are lots of sewing videos online. Practice on fabric scraps & pick simple projects. Have spare needles & replace it if your practice piece snags or pulls; needles come in various thicknesses for your machine & should be chosen by fabric type. Place one hand on your work in front of the needle/foot & the other behind, and gently guide your fabric as it feeds under the foot, don't pull it. If your machine has reverse stitch, when you reach the end of a seam, do a few backstitches to secure it, otherwise you should tie off the threads by using a hand needle to pull one thread to the other side & tying the threads together.

forward

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2015, 03:54:52 PM »

Follow the others advice in this thread, it is good.  I bought an inexpesive machine about a month ago and my conclusion is, it is worth it.  I have only ever sewn buttons back on by hand previously.  I purchased mine to make a t-shirt quilt for my duaghters high schools graduation and it is going fine.  That said, a week ago i powered the machine right through my thumb and had two threads coming out both ends.  It hurt, alot! But after a week of eyeing the machine wearily and giving it a firm talking to, my thumb is pretty well healed and I am ready to get back at it.

deborah

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2015, 03:58:13 PM »
Better done by hand:
* 1 pair of pants that needs hemming
* 2 long-sleeve t-shirts that need to become short-sleeve t-shirts

Just as well done by hand and machine:
* 1 pair of dress pants that needs reinforcing in the thighs (where my pants always die; damn you, thighs!)

Easier by machine
* 2 turtle-neck shirts that need to become not-turtle-necks (preferably V-neck rather than crew)

May be very difficult depending on the cut:
* 1 cowl-neck sweater that needs to become a not-cowl-neck (again, preferably V-neck rather than crew)

If a machine is a good idea, I'd love any model recommendations. I'd forgotten how intimidating sewing machines are.
I've had a look at your list. There are some things I would do by hand because it takes less time and is more difficult to do by machine because they are more fiddly. Where does the cowl begin in the cowl neck (it may start lower down than where you want the V, which would cause the V to gape)? When changing any neckline, you need to work out how you are going to finish it before you start cutting (I presume you do not want a raw edge at the neckline). This can be quite difficult, because you won't have much fabric, and it may be the wrong shape.

An old Bernina is good, something purely mechanical. However, I would borrow a machine from someone - mother, aunt... for a weekend if I was in your situation. It doesn't sound like you really need one. If you need to do this again in less than a year, you might start thinking about it, but chances are you could be offered the one you borrow.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2015, 04:02:07 PM by deborah »

Metta

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2015, 05:57:11 PM »
However, I would borrow a machine from someone - mother, aunt... for a weekend if I was in your situation. It doesn't sound like you really need one. If you need to do this again in less than a year, you might start thinking about it, but chances are you could be offered the one you borrow.

+1 to this. It is easy to borrow machines.

lizzie

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2015, 06:46:09 PM »
I've had the same question as the OP, mostly because I find sewing machines very fussy to deal with. I always seem to have problems getting the bobbin put in just so, not to mention winding it, and changing the needles.

Maybe it's just the one I have, a White? DH gave it to me about 10 years ago and I took a few classes at the time. I'd love to get back into it but getting the machine up to speed is daunting to me (and now the spool pin broke off too). I hate to be nonmustachian about it but if there were an easy to use sewing machine for dummies it might be worth it.

ETA unlike the OP I'd like to make clothes from scratch in addition to doing repairs and alterations. I have this kind of weird idea that learning to sew by hand might help me "get" sewing on a deeper level.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2015, 06:48:16 PM by lizzie »

deborah

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2015, 07:11:17 PM »
Until the 1860s almost all clothes were made by hand. But within 10 years of a decent sewing machine being invented, almost all clothes were made by machine - that is how rapidly it penetrated the population, even though sewing was generally done by women at home, communications/transport were slow and sewing machines expensive. Sure, every piece of clothing can be sewn by hand, and there are a number of techniques that can not be done by machine.

So I would recommend a sewing machine if you are making clothes. I have two Berninas from the early 1980s which are still going strong today - and until recently these exact machines were used in most classrooms around here for teaching as they are built to last. I find it incredible that I could do a degree in Fashion Design in this decade, and find domestic sewing machines being used that are thirty years old and have not been replaced by newer models. These machines (801, 830, 831...) all have very easy threading, and some of them have a knee lifter (which is really good to have). Bernina brought out a new machine they called the 830 ten years ago, so don't confuse the two. https://www.google.com.au/search?q=bernina+record+830&biw=1282&bih=732&tbm=isch&imgil=xW-OXqwu8pAUjM%253A%253BHmOQzbiLBwgwLM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fqisforquilter.com%25252F2012%25252F10%25252Fbernina-830-record%25252F&source=iu&pf=m&fir=xW-OXqwu8pAUjM%253A%252CHmOQzbiLBwgwLM%252C_&usg=__h4ovU2gP9DyHQRQXR4LJ1_FrAdY%3D&ved=0CCYQyjc&ei=8fL8VPGeIqPEmwW754LABg#imgrc=xW-OXqwu8pAUjM%253A%3BHmOQzbiLBwgwLM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fqisforquilter.com%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2012%252F10%252FBernina-830-record-2.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fqisforquilter.com%252F2012%252F10%252Fbernina-830-record%252F%3B1109%3B807 is a picture of the machine I mean.

10dollarsatatime

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2015, 07:20:07 AM »
Hand sewing does take forever, although learning the basics is not a terrible thing.  Sometimes it's less hassle to pull out a needle and thread to stitch a busted seem, than to pull out the machine to do it.

I got my sewing machine and serger for free by posting a wanted ad on craigslist.  I made it sound as pathetic as a college student could sound, and lucked into a set of 90's berninas when some woman upgraded. 

PMG

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2015, 08:03:44 AM »
There is much good advice here.

I second borrowing a machine.  Likely there are multiple people in your aquaintance who have one in the garage they would get rid of if they "got around to it". 

You tube tutorials exist for potentially all the projects you mentioned.

Expect to ruin some things.  Knit is tricky and can look homemade and stretched out quickly.

Use approprate needles for your project.  e.g. ballpoint stretch for knit. 

Buy a used sewing machine.  Potentially danerous for the novice to get one that needs tlc to run properly, but an old Singer is worlds betteer than a new Singer.

I learned to sew on my Mom's high end Bernina that functioned perfectly and rarely needed adjustment.  As an adult I can make a cheap finiky machine function, but had I learneed on something that jammed and tangled and dropped stitches and broke thread constantly I might have never enjoyed sewing.

Hand sewing?  fun, portable, restive, decorative.  Takes much less space than a machine.

good luck!

PS cannot find spell checek?  please excuse typos. 

ShaneD

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2015, 11:25:57 AM »
You folks are positively amazing. Thank you so much for your thoughts. It's an embarrassment of riches in here.

I've no one to borrow a machine from, sadly -- most friends and family are too far away, and those that are local don't sew at all. (Though I do have them looking out for relatives with machines hidden in closets or attics somewhere.)

If I'd known how to sew, I could've saved good chunk of change and a number of pieces of clothing over the years, so all your info is making me feel really good about looking to invest an easy/inexpensive machine of some kind and jump in. (Exciting, though scary.) I'm already all over YouTube, and thank you, Zinnie, for the book recommendation. (Next to the library.)


I have this kind of weird idea that learning to sew by hand might help me "get" sewing on a deeper level.

Similar to what I was thinking, Lizzie. And like 10dollarsatatime said, basics are always good to know.

(BTW, I'm relieved to hear someone else with similar issues/hesitations. Sewing machines are so damn fiddly!)



Follow the others advice in this thread, it is good.  I bought an inexpesive machine about a month ago and my conclusion is, it is worth it.  I have only ever sewn buttons back on by hand previously.  I purchased mine to make a t-shirt quilt for my duaghters high schools graduation and it is going fine.  That said, a week ago i powered the machine right through my thumb and had two threads coming out both ends.  It hurt, alot! But after a week of eyeing the machine wearily and giving it a firm talking to, my thumb is pretty well healed and I am ready to get back at it.

ACK! Hearing it was worth it makes me feel good, forward -- even despite the thumb attack!



Better done by hand:
* 1 pair of pants that needs hemming
* 2 long-sleeve t-shirts that need to become short-sleeve t-shirts

Just as well done by hand and machine:
* 1 pair of dress pants that needs reinforcing in the thighs (where my pants always die; damn you, thighs!)

Easier by machine
* 2 turtle-neck shirts that need to become not-turtle-necks (preferably V-neck rather than crew)

May be very difficult depending on the cut:
* 1 cowl-neck sweater that needs to become a not-cowl-neck (again, preferably V-neck rather than crew)

If a machine is a good idea, I'd love any model recommendations. I'd forgotten how intimidating sewing machines are.
I've had a look at your list. There are some things I would do by hand because it takes less time and is more difficult to do by machine because they are more fiddly. Where does the cowl begin in the cowl neck (it may start lower down than where you want the V, which would cause the V to gape)? When changing any neckline, you need to work out how you are going to finish it before you start cutting (I presume you do not want a raw edge at the neckline). This can be quite difficult, because you won't have much fabric, and it may be the wrong shape.

Thanks so much for the recs, Deborah. I'm actually surprised that you recommend hemming pants by hand. Hand-sewing them is easier then?

BTW, the cowl neck starts right at the jugular notch, like a high crew neck. It's a nice (machine-made) sweater in a color that's really hard to get, but the cowl never thrilled me -- and then the cowl and body started separating at the seam. Gave me the thought to take the cowl off, but the crew neck left would be a bit high for me. I figure I could cut a decent V in there, but haven't figured out how to deal with the raw edge.


Thanks so much, everyone. I really appreciate it.

And Frankies Girl, what a great way to learn!

deborah

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2015, 01:55:25 PM »
I recommend hemming pants by hand because:

  • time: they are very quick, and take less time than it does to set the machine up,
     
  • difficult to machine: they often have very solid seams at the sides that are difficult for a machine to sew over,
     
  • fiddly: they are a small circle that is difficult for a novice to sew, and an invisible hem is also difficult to set up and sew.

Roots&Wings

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2015, 05:47:17 PM »
I recommend hemming pants by hand because:

  • time: they are very quick, and take less time than it does to set the machine up,
     
  • difficult to machine: they often have very solid seams at the sides that are difficult for a machine to sew over,
     
  • fiddly: they are a small circle that is difficult for a novice to sew, and an invisible hem is also difficult to set up and sew.

+1

Hemming pants by hand is fairly easy, even for beginners with next to no sewing experience and little patience. I had a quick lesson (from my mom...many online tutorials though), and can now hem pants in about 20 minutes.  Good basic skill :)

I borrowed a Bernina sewing machine for some shirt modifications (short sleeve to sleeveless), but in hindsight, they would have come out much better if I'd been more patient and done them by hand.

PatStab

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2015, 09:56:25 PM »
hand sewing can work well for lots of hemming jobs.

I have 4 kinds of machines and have sewn since I was a kid.  I haven't made anything for the last
year or so, but as my weight drops, I intend to start up again.  I have tons of fabric, patterns and everything else.

Get a simple machine to start on, machines nowadays are very expesive.

ShaneD

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #15 on: March 12, 2015, 09:13:02 AM »
I recommend hemming pants by hand because:

  • time: they are very quick, and take less time than it does to set the machine up,
     
  • difficult to machine: they often have very solid seams at the sides that are difficult for a machine to sew over,
     
  • fiddly: they are a small circle that is difficult for a novice to sew, and an invisible hem is also difficult to set up and sew.

+1

Hemming pants by hand is fairly easy, even for beginners with next to no sewing experience and little patience. I had a quick lesson (from my mom...many online tutorials though), and can now hem pants in about 20 minutes.  Good basic skill :)

I borrowed a Bernina sewing machine for some shirt modifications (short sleeve to sleeveless), but in hindsight, they would have come out much better if I'd been more patient and done them by hand.

Thanks, Deborah and step-in-time. And interesting to hear, step-in-time, that you think your shirt modifications would have been better done by hand.

Then a super-newbie question: how do you folks manage to hand-stitch in a straight line? The stitching part I can manage okay: it's the not-looking-like-a-child-did-this part where I get iffy (even with pins as guides). Perhaps chalking out a line to follow?


NumberCruncher

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #16 on: March 12, 2015, 09:53:01 AM »
That being said, hand sewing is not ever going to be as easy or as strong as machine stitched.

Well...hand sewing can be as strong if you know enough and take enough time...not that I recommend that all the time, mind you. ;)

There are so many times that I've had to mend almost new clothes from a reputable place where the seam just started falling apart...I just stitch them up by hand and never worry about them again.

Then a super-newbie question: how do you folks manage to hand-stitch in a straight line? The stitching part I can manage okay: it's the not-looking-like-a-child-did-this part where I get iffy (even with pins as guides). Perhaps chalking out a line to follow?

Chalking a line helps, for sure. I'm actually constructing something from scratch right now and finally started chalking lines to great effect. Doing something like a back stitch (see first link below) also seems to make me sew straighter. The biggest thing is practice, though.  Do you have some clothes that are beyond repair/scrap fabric? Practice some different techniques before repairing anything, whether using a machine or not. Or if you're lazy, repair the more casual clothes first - things you don't wear to work or out on a date or something. :)

Some links for hand sewing:
http://www.renaissancetailor.com/demos_handtech.htm Old school clothing construction. :)
 http://annekata.com/2010/07/hand-sewing-101-felled-and-half-french-seams/ Good general advice for seams
http://www.burdastyle.com/techniques?category=3&most_recent=1&page=1  Some tutorials

I have a Brother machine I got as a gift, but I hand sew more frequently as I don't have a formal sewing area set up and most of my projects are mending. Anything with long, straight seams? Definitely worth it to get the machine out, IMO. Other things...meh.

On a V-neck idea in general...tricky. I remember my first attempt at a V-neck, and it was not pretty. O.o The internet is your friend, though, and there are so many tutorials you just need to search for the right one. The Refashionista might be great inspiration as well (and she has great progress pics): http://refashionista.net/

ShaneD

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #17 on: March 12, 2015, 10:40:57 AM »
Thanks so much, NumberCruncher!

I've a bunch of clothing to get rid of in a pile. I think I'll hold onto a few pieces to use as my practice canvases.

NumberCruncher

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #18 on: March 12, 2015, 11:37:54 AM »
Thanks so much, NumberCruncher!

I've a bunch of clothing to get rid of in a pile. I think I'll hold onto a few pieces to use as my practice canvases.

Glad to help!

Old clothes are great for cleaning rags and other uses as well (cloth shopping bags, pillow cases).  :)

For practice, keep in mind different types of fabric. t-shirt fabric is very different from denim fabric, etc. This is especially true when using a sewing machine - you need the right setting and needle or you might break something. This is really only a concern with the extremes - very thick (upholstery, proper denim) or thin fabric (like a chiffon), or really stretchy fabric (significant amounts of spandex or lycra). If it starts making a weird noise, just stop immediately! I...may have experience with this... (my v-neck attempt was with very flowy, light material) Any sewing machine manual should walk you through it, though, just read it! If you get a used machine that has been separated from its manual, you can probably find it online.

deborah

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2015, 02:34:22 PM »
The iron is your friend. If you want a straight line to follow, press it, open it out and follow along it. I prefer this to chalk which can rub off while you are sewing. If you want to turn over a hem, press both the turns first. When you are sewing more than one seam, press as you go.

It gives a better result, and it's amazing how much better your sewing can look after its been pressed.

straycat

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #20 on: March 12, 2015, 02:49:16 PM »
I chose a Singer sewing machine (on sale from Amazon for $90 approx.) and invested in a 6-week sewing course offered at my local community centre last year ($100). Well worth it. It has saved me so much and allowed me to do so much fun things. I am far from being an expert but after 1 class I was hemming my own jeans/pants (I am only 5'1" so this is a common need for me and I was paying at least $15 every time I needed it done). I also learned how to follow a pattern and love working on things like finding vintage patterns at the thrift store. Or just being able to alter things I find cheap at the thrift store. Love it. I hadn't done any sewing since home ec in grades 7-8 but picked it up easily. The basics are quite simple. Good luck!

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #21 on: March 12, 2015, 03:07:26 PM »
It would never occur to me to try to hem pants by hand. I am extremely slow at hand-sewing. That said, I have done only casual pants, where you can just do a straight line. It's not the approved method, but when I come to the thick side seams, I usually just lift up on the presser foot a little.

straycat

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #22 on: March 12, 2015, 03:11:09 PM »
I haven't had any problem with side seams when hemming pants if I am using a decent and proper size needle. The thicker needles that say they are for denim, I use those! If you try to use the same crap needle for everything, they will snap! I know from experience :)

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #23 on: March 12, 2015, 04:27:05 PM »
Overall, I prefer the quality from hand sewing.  If you know what you're doing, the precision work with a needle and thread is faster when you do it by hand than when you do it with a machine.  The only exception is on long, straight runs of stitching or places where accuracy doesn't matter, such as if you're making a random design on top of a quilt.  Then, you can just stomp on the switch and let the machine go at top speed.  I can't match the top speed of a machine doing something simple and repetitive, such as buttonholes or long, straight seams.  Machines can't match my speed or versatility when working in multiple colors of thread or precision patterns (unless they're embroidery machines... in which case expect to pay.)  If you change directions or tensions too often, make sure to factor in the time you spend ripping out bad seams or untangling thread, because that's part of the machine sewing experience.

Hand sewing is far superior to machine sewing if you're blind stitching or trying to hem clothing without the stitches showing.  You simply can't get that kind of stitch out of a machine.  Same goes for French seams or serger techniques: you can do it by hand, but not by machine unless you have just such a specialized machine.  Although the running stitch is very flimsy and likely to tear, the back-stitch is stronger than a machine stitch because you can't undo the stitching by pulling out the top or bottom thread.  Should one thread break in a machine seam, the nearby stitches unravel.  Not so with the back stitch, which from the right side is indistinguishable from a machine sewn seam.  If you're working with fabric that stretches, the feed dog on a machine will tend to pull your material and cause the stitching to be uneven.  If you sew by hand, you always control the tension.  You can decide exactly where to place each corner because you control the length of each stitch.  You also tend to get it right the first time, because the fabric can't slip or fold under itself and still get sewn the way it happens with a machine.

Overall, I do own two machines for grunt work and long, straight seams.  I use it for side-hustle mending or for stuff that doesn't show.  For anything higher quality that I might want to give to somebody, I do the work by hand.  Then again, I learned as a child and invested a lot of time in getting my hand technique right.  If you're just starting out or trying to learn as an adult, you should probably skip the advanced hand work and go straight to a machine.

PatStab

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #24 on: March 12, 2015, 07:14:40 PM »
People sewed all garments by hand until the sewing machine was invented.  Can you imagine sewing all those big heavy gowns by hand?  basic sewing machine wasn't invented until the 1840's.

Vertical Mode

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #25 on: March 12, 2015, 08:38:29 PM »
I learned the basics on my mother's trusty old Kenmore. I love the thing, use it for shirt alterations (buy them at the consignment store with the correct critical dimensions, tweak them to fit). Buttons and other small repairs are done by hand.

I'm definitely going to invest more time in refining my skills, just a matter of when I can get around to it.

h2ogal

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #26 on: March 12, 2015, 09:24:54 PM »
Another vote for the machine!  I LOVE my sewing machine.  I have a very simple basic inexpensive machine.  Its all I need.  I dont make clothes, but Ive made Quilts, Curtains, slipcovers, covers for outdoor furniture cushions, tons of unique halloween custumes, pillow cases and custom bed linens, fancy christmas stockings, holiday aprons, tablecloths, etc.    For a while my hobby was making very fancy/artistic rag dolls.

One year I made everyone's Christmas presents.  (the kids got toys also, but everyone got at least 1 home made gift)

Gosh, another reason to retire!  More crafty sewing!

Sunnymo

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #27 on: March 13, 2015, 07:56:08 PM »

An old Bernina is good, something purely mechanical. However, I would borrow a machine from someone - mother, aunt... for a weekend if I was in your situation. It doesn't sound like you really need one. If you need to do this again in less than a year, you might start thinking about it, but chances are you could be offered the one you borrow.

Another vote for a good solid mechanical Bernina.

My mother had one for many years; making her wedding dress then many of our childhood clothes. She then actually owned a Bernina agency for a number of years in the 80's/90's and would loan her original machine out when customers had a machine fail in the middle of a project. Invariably they would come in gushing about the machine.

She had an original 830 (as per Deborah's other post recommending Berninas) that then became my sister's and is happily living in my sewing machine cabinet and would be currently around 30 years old

Also - don't skimp on essential supplies such as thread and needles (get the right ones for the project - do not take a 'one size fits all approach'. When these are constantly breaking or otherwise impacting the quality of the finish it will lead to you being disappointed/discouraged.

Megma

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #28 on: March 13, 2015, 09:18:30 PM »
I'm surprised to hear so many championing hand sewing, I find machine to be way faster/easier and only hand finish something when I absolutely have to.

Before buying a cheaper machine from Amazon or target, I would buy a vintage one from Craigslist, they're so much better! And probably cheaper. I actually got a vintage 1920s singer with a million attachments, accessories and original manual for free! I did have it cleaned and serviced professionally which cost $60.

I make a lot of my clothes (skirts are really easy, make skirts!), make gifts for people, donate items to charities, and am currently making a quilt. Quilts are also not that hard to make!

pancakes

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #29 on: March 13, 2015, 11:48:36 PM »
Another vote for a good solid mechanical Bernina.

My mother had one for many years; making her wedding dress then many of our childhood clothes. She then actually owned a Bernina agency for a number of years in the 80's/90's and would loan her original machine out when customers had a machine fail in the middle of a project. Invariably they would come in gushing about the machine.

I inherited my Grandmother's Bernina. It is well over 40 years old now and the best sewing machine I've use (granted I've not used many).

My issue is that I'm just not great at sewing or reading patterns.

I'd love to learn to sew better so that I could make my own clothes. It wouldn't actually be any cheaper than buying but because I'm not a conventional size it is time consuming and frustrating to buy clothes. My size also means that I'd need to alter patterns which I have no confidence doing.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2015, 03:20:09 AM by pancakes »

deborah

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #30 on: March 14, 2015, 01:21:36 AM »
Before buying a cheaper machine from Amazon or target, I would buy a vintage one from Craigslist, they're so much better! And probably cheaper. I actually got a vintage 1920s singer with a million attachments, accessories and original manual for free! I did have it cleaned and serviced professionally which cost $60.
That's why I suggested an old MECHANICAL machine.

pbkmaine

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #31 on: March 14, 2015, 04:36:03 AM »
I hem and mend by hand. Not because it's faster or better, but because DH likes to watch TV or movies with me in the evenings and it's easy to pick up a piece of clothing and sew while sitting there. For a sewing machine I have a very inexpensive Brother that was highly rated on the Wal-Mart website. It's quite light. I use it for making envelope pillows and slipcovers and curtains. My oldest friend, who sews complicated things like fitted dresses, uses a Bernina she got 40 years ago. So I think it depends what you will use it for. I like my Brother because it weighs nothing and so is easy to pull out of the wooden box I store it in.

Megma

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #32 on: March 14, 2015, 11:20:49 PM »
Before buying a cheaper machine from Amazon or target, I would buy a vintage one from Craigslist, they're so much better! And probably cheaper. I actually got a vintage 1920s singer with a million attachments, accessories and original manual for free! I did have it cleaned and serviced professionally which cost $60.
That's why I suggested an old MECHANICAL machine.

Yes and I agree but there have been some other posts suggesting cheap options from target, which work, but for $60-100, better to go used/vintage in my opinion (and yours).

ShaneD

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Re: Learning to sew: by hand or buy machine?
« Reply #33 on: March 19, 2015, 10:00:43 AM »
I'd love to learn to sew better so that I could make my own clothes. It wouldn't actually be any cheaper than buying but because I'm not a conventional size it is time consuming and frustrating to buy clothes. My size also means that I'd need to alter patterns which I have no confidence doing.

I hear ya on both counts Pancake, and share your frustration. I'm hoping I can get good enough doing the smaller stuff, then eventually ramp up to the bigger projects.


Thanks so much to everyone here. This has been a huge help, and so much great info and advice. I'm feeling way more confident about tackling this sewing thing. I'm so glad I asked!