My Machines

I love sewing machines. I have eight (now only six), and I’m still pondering the need for more.

My machines (in order of acquisition):

1. Janome Combi 10. The first machine I bought myself, back in 1985. I love this machine and will never part with it. It’s what I’d class as a semi-industrial — solid steel body, very powerful action, but limited stitch range with electric cams. It also has a two-thread overlocker on it which I use quite a lot. The main drawback is that the needle only has one position (centre), so not good for quarter-inch seams (though I now have a special foot that gives me the proper seam), but quilting with the walking foot is a breeze, even over the bumpiest of seam allowances. This is the machine I use for laundry bags, where the size of the seam allowance isn’t critical and the overlocker stops the internal seams from unravelling in the wash.

2. Janome MemoryCraft 8000 (deceased) — the very first home embroidery machine on the market. I bought this in 1991 and it was my main squeeze for over two decades. The adjustable needle position is great for patchwork, and the embroidery motifs decorated many a T-shirt, napkin and pillow case. Unfortunately the computer became very temperamental and I couldn’t get it serviced because the circuit board was corrupted. I finally accepted that it was no longer a useful machine in 2022.

3. Brother SuperGalaxie 2100 (deceased). Another embroidery machine, this one bought in 1999 — truth to tell, I never used this machine very often, but I kept it for some of the embroidery designs, which included scripts, monograms, quilting and applique motifs. It wasn’t a good patchwork machine, even with a quarter-inch foot, so it only got used for the decorative stuff. The circuit board started to die around 2010 and eventually the electronic tension mechanism failed, so it had to be discarded.

4. Singer 99K from July 1928, in a bentwood case. This was my paternal grandmother’s sewing machine. I don’t use it often as it really ought to be re-wired (nothing dangerous, just old) but it’s portable and it has a sweet straight stitch.

5. MyLock overlocker — this was my mother’s machine, and I inherited it after her death. I took a course on overlocker basics in 2017, but I haven’t used it since then. It’s an absolute bitch to thread and it’s very temperamental. If I didn’t have the Combi I’d be tempted to trade it in for a new air-thread machine, but I can’t justify getting another overlocker. For now it sits in a corner, sad and ignored.

6. Janome Horizon MemoryCraft 9400 QCP (what a mouthful!). My new main squeeze, bought in June 2016. I love this machine and have used it almost continuously since I brought it home. I can get an accurate quarter-inch seam, I can quilt without tucks and I can even do a binding in one step. The only problem I have with it is that the numerical stitch directory on the lid is completely different from the folder-based options on the touchscreen, and the patchwork and quilting folders are under “dressmaking” (the T-shirt logo). I got the software upgrade and tried basic ruler work but it wasn’t very successful.

7. Pfaff Passport 2.0. I bought this from a friend in 2017 — she needed the money and I needed a machine that weighed less than 15 kg. It’s really nice to be able to pick it up and not worry about overbalancing or straining something! It’s a good piecer and I’ve started using it for my once-a-month AHQ sewing days if we’re doing quilts.

8. Singer 201K bull neck treadle from early 1955, in a parlour cabinet. I bought this just before Christmas 2017. I had been looking for a 201 for some years to replace the one my parents threw out in the late 70s or early 80s — it had belonged to my maternal grandmother and was never used after my mother got an electric Singer (which, I remember, had plastic cams that you had to insert to get the different stitches). Sadly, I had no idea at the time that I was going to become so involved in quilting just a few years later — if only I’d known I’d have taken it myself. I still kick myself every time I think about it. When I mentioned to some friends that I was looking for a treadle machine, I was directed towards Rosemont the Patchwork Shop in Mogo, NSW — they had cleaned and restored this one and the sale was to benefit a children’s charity.

As for future purchases: I’d like a Singer Featherweight (hard to find in Australia, and very expensive) and a Singer 301 or 404 or 501 (the Rocketeer). You never know, one may turn up when I least expect it.