Embroidery · Embroidery machines · Husqvarna Viking · Sewing · Sewing Machines

Thinking of buying a domestic sewing machine?

Well, congratulations, a sewing machine is a wonderful tool and accessory to have, a gateway to many creative ideas, and a great therapy and relaxation. So how do you decide which machine to buy? Having been an exhibitor at many sewing shows, I have seen so many people overwhelmed by the choice available, often ending up going home with nothing. So let’s see if we can help filter it a bit.

A few questions to ask yourself before you begin looking:

  • Why do I want a sewing machine?
  • What sewing do I do now?
  • If I have a sewing machine, why am I looking to replace it?
  • Is there a new area of sewing I would like to try, but the machine I have does not have the capability to do it?

Don’t be too worried about trying to find a machine with everything you might ever want to do on it all at once. Yes, a sewing machine tends to be a long term investment, but they do have a value as they get older so you can always sell the one you have on, or part exchange it against an upgrade. Many people begin with a simpler machine and as they grow in skill and experience they upgrade to machines with more features.

Ok that has hopefully got the cogs whirring, so let’s have a look at some of the types of machines that are available, by genre (if you have a particular genre in mind, simply click to jump to the genre):
Traditional mechanical machines
Computer sewing machines
Sewing and embroidery machine combinations

Traditional Mechanical Sewing Machines

The technology used in traditional mechanical sewing machines has been around for many a year and they are a great place to start the sewing journey. Modern ones are easy to thread and use, require minimal maintenance and will give years of trouble free service if given some TLC and a service occasionally.

Stitches and size of stitches will be selected by dials and it will be necessary to set the stitch length and width manually to suit. There could be some electronics involved to help control the speed of the machine and for needle piercing power for heavy fabrics.

A mechanical machine will offer, at minimum, straight stitch for joining seams, zigzag for overcasting seams, 3 step zigzag for inserting elastic and repairs, blind hem for easy curtain and trouser hemming (once the technique is mastered) and a buttonhole. It may also have some stretch and overlock stitches, some decorative stitches or a free motion facility for free motion embroidery or stipple quilting.

I’m afraid you get what you pay for so if you’re looking at a sub-£100 machine from a supermarket, don’t expect it to be up to much! The engineering in a sewing machine needs to be excellent, as do the materials used to build it, so if it’s very cheap then this will be reflected in the quality of materials or build. You may end up spending more on a cheap machine in the long term when problems arise from its poor quality.

Ideally you want to look at spending, as a minimum, £150. Go with a reputable brand, ideally bought from a sewing machine specialist, and if you can pop in (or have a virtual demonstration), so much the better. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so only watching YouTube videos before you buy might not necessarily help you make the right purchase.

Why have a demonstration?

When you are choosing a machine, a specialist sewing machine shop like Coles will offer you a free demonstration. Not only do you get to see (and hear) the machine in action and have a go for yourself, you also can ask any questions you might have. The demonstrator will try to ensure that the machine is within your budget and meets your needs and as they are experts, they can offer suggestions that you wouldn’t get otherwise. You would test drive a car, why not a sewing machine?!
Some examples of mechanical sewing machines from Husqvarna Viking:
  • H|CLASS™ E10 – currently £189.00 with 2 years’ warranty
    • A great place to start the sewing journey
    • Easy to use and so reliable, with a good range of sewing and utility stitches plus 3 step buttonholes and a built in needle threader
    • For beginners to intermediate users
  • H|CLASS™ E20 – currently £239.00 with 2 years’ warranty
    • Similar to the E10 but with an additional drop feed mechanism for easy free motion sewing, a few more stitches, a one-step easy buttonhole, and independent stitch width control
    • For intermediate users, or great as a backup machine for taking to class
  • EMERALD™ 116 – currently £339 with 5 years’ warranty
    • A very reliable machine and simple to use, great with heavy and light fabrics alike
    • Includes 1-step easy buttonholes, stitch width control, decorative and utility stitches – it’s just lovely to use!
    • For beginners to intermediate/advanced users
  • EMERALD™ 118 – currently £369.00 with 5 years’ warranty
    • Similar to the Emerald 116, but with a slide speed control and needle up down function to make sewing even more controllable, plus a few more decorative stitches
    • For beginners to intermediate/advanced users

Computer sewing machines

Computer sewing machines started appearing with the advent of the microchip, as long ago as the late 1970’s. They are so much easier to set up than mechanical machines as simply selecting the stitch sets the machine up ready to go. They often have computer controlled upper tensions, with the tension matched automatically to the chosen stitch/fabric combination.  They usually have needle/up down functions to save you having to turn the handwheel. They will probably have a stitch count in the hundreds, with specialist stitches for utility, quilting, decorative and lettering.

A computer sewing machine may also have auto thread trim, and auto presser foot lift (with an extra height setting for thicker projects) plus a pivot function for patchwork, and a bigger distance between the right side of the machine and the needle, to allow for bigger projects such as quilts. They are simple to use once the basics of threading are mastered, so any user level can use them – beginners to advanced.

A few Husqvarna Viking computer sewing machines to chew over:
  • OPAL™ 690Q – currently £899 with 5 years’ warranty
    • This is just such an amazing machine – it has so many features, but is still intuitive and so easy to use
    • It has growth room, so you could buy it as a beginner/intermediate, and grow with it, or buy it as an advanced sewer, and still be amazed at what it offers!
    • If you really think you will be into sewing long term then this is the machine for you
  • SAPPHIRE™ 930 – currently £1499 with 5 years’ warranty
    • The big sister of the OPAL™ 690Q, the Sapphire 930 has a longer arm to accommodate bigger projects such as quilts, as well as additional stitch functions
    • If you’re a quilter then it’s a great machine to go for as it is big, but light enough to carry to classes
  • BRILLIANCE™ 75Q – currently £1929.00 with 5 years’ warranty
    • This is a top of the line computer machine, but still easy to use
    • It has a colour touch screen like the SAPPHIRE™ 930, as well as extra wide decorative and quilt stitches
    • For intermediate to advanced users

Sewing and embroidery machine combinations

This innovation in domestic sewing started to appear in the early 1990’s and allowed for small embroideries to be added to garments. It was simple stuff at first, and quite complicated to set up through using electronic memory cards that went into a specialist port on the computer. Designs and customising designs were quite tricky too. But not now!

We really are spoilt by the choice, ease of use and familiarity of operation these days. Designs are plentiful and easy to customise, or you can create your own design with software – the only limits are your imagination! They come with USB connectivity and the most recent machines have built in Wi-Fi, letting you download your design straight onto your machine, no matter where you are. There is even a phone app, with which you can take a photo of an item and send it to your machine for stitching out direct from your phone! The combination machines are top of the line sewing machines as well, so you get the best of both worlds.

I would recommend buying one from somewhere that can support you, as you need to learn the techniques of hooping, positioning, the right backings and thread and so forth. The investment in one of these is high, but the rewards are amazing – imagine seeing an embroidery you have created on a garment, cushion, or quilt! It can even turn into a cottage industry as there are always clubs, businesses and societies wanting embroidered logos stitching on garments, as well as the massive opportunity in the small craft business. They can be used from beginner to advanced, as the modern interfaces with large colour touch screens make the stitching side easy. You just need to master the art of setting the fabric to embroider up correctly, and to find inspiration.

A few Husqvarna Viking embroidery machines to look at, all with 5 year warranty and free tuition with Coles:
  • DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 40 – normally £2299.00, we have some demonstration models available at £1299.00 while stocks last
    • An easy to use sewing and embroidery combo
    • Great as a sewing machine and simple to set up for embroidery
    • Maximum hoop area 240mm x 150mm
  • DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50 – currently £3059.00
    • A longer arm than the Topaz 40, with more built in stitches
    • Simple to use on sewing and embroidery
    • Maximum hoop size of 360mm x 200mm, so you can do pretty big designs!
  • DESIGNER SAPPHIRE™ 85 – currently £5299
    • Longer arm and larger colour touch screen than earlier machines
    • Has the deLuxe™ Stitch System: the machine works out the thickness of the thread, fabric, and works with the project being stitched to alter the tensions in real time as necessary to give perfect results
    • Technology for sewing at its best!
  • DESIGNER RUBY™ 90 – currently £7499
    • We love the Ruby 90, it has so many features as a sewing and embroidery machine!
    • Big, so can take big projects
    • Massive touch screen, like an iPad
    • Built in JoyOS™ system giving you access to training on board the machine
    • Hundreds of stiches as a sewing machine
    • Will embroider up to 360mm x 360mm (with a turnable hoop)
    • It’s just awesome!
  • DESIGNER EPIC™ 2 – currently £8999.00
    • Awesome plus plus!
    • In addition to the features of the Ruby, the EPIC™ 2 has an integrated dual feed system
    • Long and high sewing area, making it the perfect quilting machine as well as being one of the most advanced sewing and embroidery machines in the world!

Well I hope that helps a little. I have concentrated on examples of Husqvarna Viking machines as we know them well here at Coles – it’s worth clicking to have a look at any machine you’re interested in as we have some fantastic offers on our website right now. If nothing here takes your fancy then there are many other makes out there which you can find on the web, but hopefully you now have a bit of a filter onto the genre of the machine for you. Whatever you choose to look at, I would certainly recommend a test drive if possible to make sure you feel happy using it; also make sure there is some support, other than a couple of online videos!

Happy sewing from all at Coles!

Overlockers

Overlockers – a dark art or a most useful addition to a stitcher’s equipment?

The humble overlocker, (or serger as it is known in the USA) was invented around 1838 by J. Makens Merrow and his son Joseph Merrow in Connecticut, USA. It was originally designed to produce a crochet stitch but as time went on it developed in the clothing manufacturing hubs of Connecticut and New York, giving the 2, 3, 4 and 5 thread versions we see today.

So how does it work? Well it is a kind of crochet or knit stitch, with a needle thread (or 2) to hold it together. Not only does it stop the edge of fabric fraying, it also cuts the fabric as it stitches so a pattern can be followed to create a garment panel.

A 3-thread overlock stitch

How is an overlock stitch formed?

  1. When the needle enters the fabric, a loop is formed in the thread at the back of the needle.
  2. As the needle continues its downward motion into the fabric, the lower looper begins its movement from left to right. The tip of the lower looper passes behind the needle and through the loop of thread that has formed behind the needle.
  3. The lower looper continues along its path moving toward the right of the overlocker. As it moves, the lower thread is carried through the needle thread.
  4. While the lower looper is moving from left to right, the upper looper advances from right to left. The tip of the upper looper passes behind the lower looper and picks up the lower looper thread and needle thread.
  5. The lower looper now begins its move back into the far left position. As the upper looper continues to the left, it holds the lower looper thread and needle thread in place.
  6. The needle again begins its downward path, passing behind the upper looper and securing the upper looper thread (the needle goes between the metal and the thread). This completes the overlock stitch formation and begins the stitch cycle all over again.
The anatomy of a 3-thread overlock stitch

It’s worth remembering that this is happening 5,000 times a minute on industrial machines and 1,200 times a minute on domestic versions, so marvel at the engineering that allows that to happen with hardly a thread break! Indeed, they are very reliable pieces of equipment that, if basic maintenance and cleanliness are carried out, will give years of trouble free service.

Types of overlock stitch

Overlock stitches are classified in a number of ways. The most basic classification is by the number of threads used in the stitch. Industrial overlock machines are generally made in 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 thread formations. Each of these formations has unique uses and benefits:

  • 1-thread: End-to-end seaming or “butt-seaming” of piece goods for textile finishing.
  • 2-thread: Edging and seaming, especially on knits and wovens, finishing seam edges, stitching flatlock seams, stitching elastic and lace to lingerie, and hemming. This is the most common type of overlock stitch.
  • 3-thread: Sewing pintucks, creating narrow rolled hems, finishing fabric edges, decorative edging, and seaming knit or woven fabrics.
  • 4-thread: Decorative edging and finishing, seaming high-stress areas, mock safety stitches which create extra strength while retaining flexibility.
  • 5-thread: In apparel manufacturing, safety stitches utilizing two needles create a very strong seam.

Additional variables in the types of overlock stitches are the stitch length and the stitch width. The stitch length indicates how many stitches per inch there are, which is adjustable and can vary widely within one machine. Different stitch lengths create more or less dense and solid-looking edges. The stitch width indicates how wide the stitch is from the edge of the fabric. Lightweight fabrics often require a wider stitch to prevent pulling.

Adding extra variation in stitch types is the differential feed feature, which allows feed to be adjusted: extra-fast feed creates a ruffled or “lettuce-leaf” effect. Finally, some machines contain parts to roll the fabric edge into the stitch for added durability.

So, overlockers are reliable and capable of a host of different types of stiches for many applications in garment construction. It can be said that to get a professional garment construction finish, you need both a sewing machine and overlocker.

The fear factor – threading

Yep the dreaded threading! I always look at it this way: if someone has managed to design such a brilliant piece of equipment and all I have to do is thread it to get such professional results, it is worth the learning journey!

Those of us who have threaded early industrial overlockers, such as the Merrow, Wilcox & Gibbs T series or the Singer 246K series, where the threads ran through tunnels and you need a threader wire and the patience of Job to thread them wonder what all the fuss is about.

So how can we make the threading less arduous? It’s about the correct threading order. If you thread the needles before the lower looper, then the lower looper thread will always break, as the needle thread(s) will be on the wrong side of the lower looper thread and break it.

 Lower looper with upper looper just above it

So this is the best threading order if threading from scratch:

  1. Upper looper (the smaller of the 2 loopers)
  2. Lower looper ( looks like an upside down ‘L’  or no ‘7’)
  3. Needle right
  4. Needle left (if applicable to the machine or stitch technique)

Ensure you thread through every thread guide and that the thread does not double wrap around anything. Also ensure the threads are firmly between the tension discs on each tension unit. It is also important to make sure that the thread does not twist around the needle when threading.

Tension discs

Once threaded, put all the threads under the presser foot (lower it) and turn the hand wheel in the sewing direction for the machine (usually shown by an  arrow around the handwheel and most domestic machines turn the handwheel towards you) to establish a few stitches on a chain. Once done, slowly run the machine to increase the chain, then (having closed all the covers first) put under some fabric under the foot and have a go! Remember the stich is a continuous chain so you can run off the fabric. Also, the knives will be cutting so remember to leave a seam allowance for the knives to cut.

Knife types

One knife moves and the other knife is fixed. If you have a thread running low, or need to change colour, then you can tie the existing thread to the new thread, and pull it through gently, remember to leave a long end to tie the new thread to. If it is a needle thread, the knot won’t go through the needle eye, but hopefully you will just have to thread that.

Thread Colours

The looper threads are not seen on the good side of the fabric so you can go for a neutral thread here such as black, cream, grey, white. The needle thread is seen, so you could colour match here. The looper threads use approximately 4 times as much thread as the needle, which uses about the same as a sewing machine.  So if you prefer, you can use a budget thread on the looper and a premium thread on the needle(s) for best results.

Needles

The needle matters too. Just as with your sewing machine, make sure you have a good sharp needle, of the right class for your machine (check the manual!) and of the right thickness for the fabric being stitched. We recommend a good quality needle such as Schmetz or Inspira for best results.

Cover Seam

Some domestic overlockers are capable of being switched to a cover seam, (the seam you see on the bottom of a t-shirt) and a chain stitch. You can even use an overlocker to overlock and blind hem in one go with a bit of patience!

What can go wrong?

  • The biggest single issue is a mis-thread. So if the stitch is not right, or a thread continually breaks then check the threading. Check the needle is good, of the correct type, inserted the correct way round and is pushed all the way up the clamp.
  • Over time the machine will build up with fluff and lint, which will impair use, so look at the maintenance section in the manual and clean it regularly. When cleaning it out you can also give it a tiny drop of oil at the appropriate points.
  • The sharpness of the knives will dull over time and may need replacing. If you have a needle breakage it may damage a looper surface, causing frequent thread shredding.
  • Consider having your overlocker professionally serviced once in a while to keep it in tip top condition.

Buying an overlocker

Once you have read this blog, think about what stitches you might want to use. Ideally go for a demonstration and don’t be frightened to ask to see it on different fabrics. Ask how easy it is to thread, though don’t expect to be shown how until you buy it! Talk about the applications you might want, e.g. rolled hem, cover seam etc., and take some fabric to try.

I would be very careful about buying a sub £300 overlocker, you get what you pay for (and “buy cheap pay twice” certainly applies here). Think about the construction and design that had to go into producing the product. The components need to be of quality metals to give longevity and trouble-free service, and it needs to be easy to thread!

Here are some ideas, all of which come complete with free tuition and 2 year warranty.

HUSKYLOCK™ S15

The HUSKYLOCK™ S15 is a great 2, 3, 4 thread overlocker, with built in rolled hem. Flatlock is possible as it has a moveable upper knife and it has colour-coded threading and open thread guides, so it is easy to thread. It has a free arm, so you can put sleeves or trouser legs straight onto it.

HUSKYLOCK™ S15
HUSKYLOCK™ s21

The HUSKYLOCK™ s21 has 2, 3, 4 thread overlock, plus 2 or 3 thread cover seam (narrow or wide). In addition, it has flatlock and rolled hem.

HUSKYLOCK™ s21
AMBER™ Air S|400

The AMBER™ Air S|400 has 2, 3, 4 thread, plus flatlock and rolled hem. It is very easy to use and thread with its easy jet air threading for the loopers and needle threaders for the needles.

AMBER™ Air S|400
AMBER™ Air S|600

The elite of the elite, the AMBER™ Air S|600 has jet air threading, 2, 3,4 thread overlock and rolled hem. It also has a colour touch screen to help you set up error-free cover seam and chain stitch.

AMBER™ Air S|600

We are happy to take you through a demonstration and advise you better. We have some fantastic offers on at the moment and you can view our range of overlockers on our website here. Why not give us a call on (0115) 9881550 to book your free, no obligation demonstration?

Neil Coles, October 2021

Credit:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overlock

Husqvarna Viking · New in · Offers · Sewing Machines

Back in stock: the H|Class E10 and E20

After an 18 month wait, the H-Class E10 and E20 are finally back in stock! These mechanical sewing machines from Husqvarna Viking are the perfect machines for beginners and are also very portable, making them ideal to transport to classes or sewing groups. To celebrate having these popular machines back in the shop we have some great offers on, so read on to learn why one of these fantastic machines could be the sewing machine for you!

The H-Class E10 is a perfect starter machine. It is a simple, easy to use machine with straightforward threading and a built in needle threader, and weighing in at only 5.7kg it is the lightest sewing machine we have on offer. It comes with all the basic accessories and stitches you need to get started with garment making and crafts, plus right now when you buy an E10 from us, you will receive a pair of Fiskars dressmakers’ shears worth £25.99 for free.

The H-Class E20 has a few more features than the E10 but at 6.5kg it is still a lightweight machine. The stitch width is adjustable with a simple dial and it includes more stitches, incuding a simple one-step buttonhole. The feed dog can be lowered with the flick of a lever for free motion stitching, darning and sewing on buttons. It comes with a few more accessories than the E10 as well, including a blind hem foot, a darning foot and a quilting foot. Along with all those extras, when you buy from us the E20 also comes with a free Prym Starter Set worth £41.50, which includes all the basic equipment any sewer needs in their kit. That’s an awful lot more features and accessories for only £50 more!

Both the E10 and the E20 are simple and reliable machines, and with the deals we currently have on offer, either machine would make the perfect present. And if that wasn’t enough, until 31st October 2021, Husqvarna Viking are offering a free, limited edition Selkie Patterns paper pattern with new machine purchases (250 available, see our blog post for more details).

If you’re looking for a basic mechanical machine then you can’t get much better than the H-Class range. Being from Husqvarna Viking you know they are a quality you can trust, but if you do have any issues then they also come with a no quibble 2 year warranty that includes both parts and labour. Don’t forget, Coles Sewing Centre is a national service and warranty repair centre for Husqvarna Viking machines, so we can look after you for the whole life of your machine.

We often see machines in our workshop that people bought because they wanted something cheap and simple but when they break down it’s clear that they’re a false economy. Remember, if you don’t recognise the brand then it’s likely to be difficult or even impossible to find replacement parts.

The E10 and E20 are very reliable machines – despite their popularity we hardly see them in the workshop for anything other than their annual service. Even so, it’s good to know how to take good care of your sewing machine, so if you’re interested in these machines or if you have one already, keep an eye out for our upcoming post on maintaining a basic sewing machine – it’ll be full of tips on how to keep your machine running smoothly.

You can see more about the E10 on our website here, or if you’re looking for a few more features then you can find more about the E20 here. If you have any questions, just comment below or give us a call on 0115 9881550 and our team will be happy to help!

Fabric · New in · Patchwork · quilting · Staff

What’s new at Coles?

Hi, my name is Ellie and I’m in charge of the Coles Sewing Centre website, although you might know me from the shop as I used to run the Mail Order department. These days I mainly work behind the scenes keeping the website up to date with all the latest products, and that’s a busy job because we have a lot of products! I will be posting with updates about the latest additions to the Coles catalogue, from newly arrived fabrics to the current courses and the latest Husqvarna Viking machines.

This week I will be talking patchwork and quilting fabrics, as we have just had a delivery of some real beauties! We have a new collection called “Hand Stitched” that was designed by Karen Lewis Textiles for Figo Fabrics – this a lovely range that draws inspiration from hand sewing and the natural world. As you can see from the pictures below, “Stitches” brings to mind sashiko embroidery, while “Tossed Leaves” and “Plants” have a simple and elegant foliage-based design.

“Hexies” is my personal favourite from this collection, although I can’t decide how I would like to use it – I’m about to try English Paper Piecing for the first time and it would make gorgeous hexagons, but wouldn’t it make a lovely needle case too? Of course I could always combine the two…

Our other new addition this week is some Christmas fabric – with only three and a half months until Christmas then now is the time to get started on your Christmas makes! We have four new fabrics from the “Traditional” collection by The Craft Cotton Company, which include traditional Christmas plants such as holly, poinsettia and mistletoe, with festive metallic highlights.

We now have all of our fabrics online, so you can buy the Hand Stitched collection on the Coles Sewing Centre Website here, while you can find the Traditional Christmas Collection here. If you prefer to choose your fabrics in person then why not come and visit us at our Nottingham shop? We are once again open 9:15am to 5:00pm, Monday to Saturday. Come and say hello!

Sewing · Staff

Hello from all of us here at Coles Sewing Centre!

How have you all been? What a strange 18 months we have been through!

Well we are delighted to still be here, and all our staff have stayed with us. In fact we have 2 new members of staff, apprentices, George Farmer in the sewing machine service department, https://www.colessewingcentre.co.uk/service-repairs and Carys Brandy in the shop https://www.colessewingcentre.co.uk/. You will probably speak to Carys if you call us by phone on 0115 9881550/1, or come into the store, so say hello and make her feel welcome! The store is now open as normal from Monday to Saturday 9.15 am to 5pm, we do ask you to wear a mask and respect social distancing instore for both staff and customers, thanks.

Our newest member of staff, Carys

George has been with us since November last year and is learning very quickly. He is great with overlockers too, so if you need your sewing machine or overlocker, servicing or repairing, we have a great team here to do it for you . You can or pop in with it, or we can collect it from you, by our van in the local area, or by courier https://www.colessewingcentre.co.uk/shipping-and-returns. There is a loading and unloading bay at the front of the store, or pull into Lennox Street by our side door. You have time to conduct dropping your machine off for repair, but hey why not use the metered parking bays nearby on Lower Parliament Street. It’s £2.40 for an hour, but we will give you 10% off your shop, so spend £24 and park for free! Nottingham Parking: https://www.transportnottingham.com/driving/parking/

Our classes are back too! Lower numbers due to social distancing, but here nonetheless. More details: https://www.colessewingcentre.co.uk/courses.html

During lockdown we have seen a great uptake in sewing. If you need help or inspiration, why not get in touch at info@colessewingcentre.co.uk, we would love to hear from you, or see your lockdown projects!

Well that’s all for now, but we will blog again soon!

George working on an Epic