Sunday, April 4, 2021

Weekend Review: The Complete Sewing Machine Handbook

The Complete Sewing Machine Handbook / Karen Kunkel
NY: Sterling, c1997.
160 p.

I'm going through some of the older books on my shelves this month, and this is one I picked up at the thrift store a while ago. It is a great book even if it is nearly 25 years old! In fact, I'd like to see it updated, since it's really solid apart from the one section on computerized machines. 

It's made up of 8 chapters, starting with buying a machine (points to consider), getting to know your machine, needles and thread, and moving to stitching basics (straight stitch, zigzag, buttonholes, blind hem), decorative stitches, specialty presser feet, then the aforementioned chapter on technology in the sewing room, and finishing off with some tips on care and maintenance of your machine. 

There is a ton of great info in this book, presented clearly and succinctly, perfect for beginners who are just starting out with their machine sewing hobby. There are numerous clear photos to illustrate parts of a machine, stitches, presser feet, techniques, etc. Every time she discusses something there is either a clear list of steps or images to follow. She's a really good communicator. She shares a trick to checking your machine tension that I haven't seen elsewhere -- sew a line on a folded bias square, then pull it evenly from either end. Both threads should break together; if just one breaks the tension isn't balanced on that side. 

Even after sewing for so long myself, I still learned things, especially in the decorative stitching and specialty feet chapter. I now have a couple more specialty feet on my wishlist (fringe foot I'm looking at you!). I found that there were some really basic things I wasn't doing in my sewing, to use my machine to its full capacity. And it gave me a bit of a bug to try out some of the stitches I've never used before -- I don't take advantage of some of the abilities of even my pretty basic machine. 

I got busy with some scraps and various kinds of thread and tested out some of the patchwork stitches. Here's my sampler trying out the feather stitch -- in regular sewing thread (blue) to topstitching thread (pink) and in rayon embroidery thread (gold). I liked all of them. Then I tried bobbinwork using handwound embroidery floss in the bobbin (coral). That didn't work well in the decorative stitch but in a plain zigzag or straight stitch it looked kind of cool. 

So this book has inspired me to try to use elements of my machine I haven't been using, and to be more careful to keep it running well by regular cleaning and by ensuring I'm using the right threads and needles for my projects so there's no extra strain going on there. I think it's a great book! 

1 comment:

  1. Oh that sounds like a great book. I get a book from the library from time to time all about the accessory feet and it's excellent to see what they can do.


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