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We released “What to Get When You Buy a Serger” a couple of weeks ago, and now we’re covering “What to Get When You Buy a Sewing Machine”!
While you might already have a sewing machine at home, you still need to make sure you leave the store with these things! But before you leave home to pick up your machine…
Organize Your Space (just a little!)
If you already have a sewing machine, determine if your accessories are interchangeable with you new machine. If they are, great! If not, make sure you have separate storage for feet and bobbins. You don’t want to get those things mixed up!
And of course, make some space for your new friend! Zede passionately recommends a stable surface to sew on!
Get High Quality Thread
You need good quality thread! Whether you bought a $200 machine or a $200,000 machine- you need run good thread through your machine to ensure your projects look and perform their best, and to ensure that your machine lasts as long as possible. We’ve got a post on why you should stop buying crappy thread here.
If you have been buying crappy thread, change now! Do an arts and crafts project with it or do some hand basting with it. And reap the benefits for years to come!
Construction Thread for Sewing Machines
Our favorite construction thread is Mettler Metrosene Polyester thread, and Russell of SewpBox Productions agrees! WE like the medium or large spools. The small ones are just a bit too small for the volume of sewing we do- it seems like you wind a bobbin and you’re done!
We used to sell a “Zede’s Neutral Pack”- Black, White, Gray and Magic Mauve.
Construction thread needs to coordinate with you project, but it does not have to match exactly. Most of the time, it’s hidden on the inside or your garment. If you are topstitching, you should be using a topstitching thread or a decorative thread most of the time. So, a few colors of this thread in large spools will take you far.
Decorative Thread for Sewing Machines
We piece together quilts with metrosene, but if you want pretty thread for actually quilting your quilt together, there are a number of types and weights of thread to choose from.
Madeira Cotona Thread 50 wt.– This lightweight thread is more along the lines of traditional quilting thread.
Sulky Blendables– Variegated threads in 12wt and 30 wt for a bold, colorful effect.
Topstitch Threads- Heavy threads for doing decorative topstitching on Jeans or bags.
Machine Embroidery Thread- Machine embroidery thread is awesome for hemming fine garments, or doing our jeans hemming technique with the triple straight stitch. Your decorative stitches will stitch out best with this lighter weight, fine thread.
Bobbin Thread/Prewound Bobbins- For lighter weight decorative threads, wind a bobbin with the thread, or use a lighter weight bobbin thread or rewound machine embroidery bobbin (more on that in the embroidery machine episode).
Needles- Build Your Library
Get your needle library started or start filling it out now! You can’t sew without needles. The Schmetz website has great resources on needles, and if your dealer carries Schmetz, ask them for one of these little needle booklets!
We list a lot of needles, but look at their purposes and decide if you need them right away. We used to carry Schmetz and Klassé needles when we had a retail store, and the Klassé variety pack was a great value to get people started on their sewing journey!
Universal Needles- The standard, the default! Best case, get a variety 10 pack of different sizes! These needles will work on most wovens.
Stretch Needles- These are the most commonly used needles for knits nowadays. They are not to be confused with “jersey/ballpoint” needles. Listen to our episode on needles for stretch fabrics if you plan on sewing a lot of knits!
Microtex– These are the miracle needles! They are super sharp and have a non-stick coating. They’re a bit more expensive than Universal needles, but they could be your default if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars. They work on most wovens and help to keep your stitches even on fabrics with a high spandex content.
Jeans/Denim- If you plan on hemming jeans or sewing through heavy layers, denim needles are strong, have a non stick coating and a large eye!
Specialty Needles- There are waaaay more needles than these, so let your dealer know if you plan to do something special or strange or exciting, and they’ll tel you what you need to be successful!
Get Some More Bobbins
Oh my god, do not leave the store with only the bobbins that came with your machine. Get 20. Buy them for your machine. If you get a machine from a dealer, buy the bobbins there. If you get your machine from a big box store, buy bobbins that have the machine make and model on the package.
Do not mix up your bobbins or use bobbins of unknown origin- it makes a huge difference in your sewing and machine performance, and can even damage the machine! You’re not supposed to over-wind bobbins, so just get more and wind a new one!
Bobbins are sturdy and last almost forever, even plastic bobbins- they aren’t flimsy!
And as we mentioned before, don’t mix up bobbins between machines. Figure out a color-coding system with Bobbin Savers or some other organizer.
Get a pair of small, sharp scissors to keep near your machine. Baby Locks come with a small pair of scissors. They aren’t the nicest scissors, but the principle is there! Large scissors can damage your machine bed, scratch your screen or even knock out a lightbulb (we had a customer do this one time!). Even if your machine has thread cutters all over it, get a pair of scissors too!
Zede’s Favorite Scissors- These are sharp, high quality scissors that can be used to snip threads or even to notch or clip curves. We have a pair at every one of our machines.
Squeezy Snips– Snips are nice for embroidery or thread snipping- but I wouldn’t expect them to actually cut a lot of fabric for you.
Leave the store with a commercial thread lift with a metal base. The plastic ones are filled with sand and the leak- gross! Thread lifts help you accommodate large cones that might not fit on your machine or accommodate a second spool of thread for double-needle work or couching.
Thread lifts are affordable and last forever! We’ve seen some people in the group making custom ones with metal-working skills, which is cool too! If you do make one of your own, just make sure the thread path is smooth!
You probably only need one thread lift, because you can move it around to different machines- but we have one thread lift per machine in our studio.
Extension Tables or Sewing Furniture
We debated about including this accessory in the episode, because it isn’t absolutely necessary, but it can be a big help! Extension tables or a sewing table that your machine sinks into create an expansive space for large or heavy projects. Think about a big quilt or a large garment- a support work surface helps!
We did an episode on the benefits of sewing furniture here.
When you shop for a sewing machine, as if it comes with an extension table. Sometimes certain machines come with accessories that make it a better value than the step below it.
Even if you aren’t buying a new machine, you can get a custom table for your sewing machine- no matter the size, age or brand of your machine! Sew Steady makes these custom plexiglass-glass tables made to order.
Extension tables can be nice for workshops or retreats too!
Extra Presser Feet
Depending on your sewing goals and interests, you will want to go home with some specialty feet! Presser feet are one of those things that can last forever- so I wouldn’t hesitate to invest in the feet!
Quilting Foot (1/4″ Feet)– We’re not big quilters, but if you plan to piece quilts, you will want this foot for your machine. It will be called a piecing foot, quilting foot, or 1/4″ foot. The side of the foot is 1/4″ away from the needle, the back of the foot has a mark at 1/4″, and the front of the foot has a 1/4″ mark. So, it’s super helpful when doing a 1/4″ seam!
There are normally two options for the 1/4″ foot, one with a guide on the side and one without. Some people like one or another, some people like to have both. It’s up to you! If you buy a “quilting edition” machine, your machine may come with your machine.
Edge-Joining Foot– GET THIS FOOT! Don’t have it? BUY IT NOW! It will be called a stitch-in-the-ditch foot or an edge-joining foot, and it’s one of the most useful tools you can have in your toolbox! It generally does not come with sewing machines (and maybe that’s because it’s an easy sell), but it will make things like top-stitching, stitching in the ditch, under stitching, and so much more a lot easier than if try to do it with your regular foot.
ATTENTION- an edge-joining foot is different from your blind hem foot or your overcasting foot. The edge-joining foot has a blade/guide that extends to the front of the foot in the center of the stitch path, but doesn’t extend toward the back of the foot into the stitching area- so you can use this foot with any stitch on your sewing machine. If you attempt to do a stitch other than the blind hem or overcasting stitch with the corresponding feet, your needle may hit the guides that extend into the stitching area. We did a podcast episode about the edge-joining foot- listen here.
Zipper Feet- Most machines come with some sort of zipper foot, but we really like the narrow zipper foot. It’s lower profile and helps you put in zippers and even bulky piping.
If you’re going to do invisible zippers, you will not regret getting the invisible zipper foot! We know some people like to do invisible zips without the specialty foot, but we loooove the foot. The foot rolls the coil out of the way, and places the needle in the exact place it needs to be in order to get the perfect insertion!
Zippers aren’t just for garments, either! Home Dec and Bags require zippers too!
Clear or Open Toe Foot- If your machine doesn’t come with one, get some kind of foot with good visibility for appliqué, decorative stitching or couching. It can be nice to have one foot with such good visibility!
Other Feet- We LOVE feet, and we have as many as you can have. If you have a special project coming up, ask your dealer if there’s a foot that will help you get the job done with ease.
Foot Storage- Ask about foot storage, sometimes special feet require special storage, or you can get a handy tackle box!
If you are getting a new machine, make sure to ask your dealer if their are any specials or packages they can include! Always be respectful, of course, but it never hurts to ask!