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!

Events · Patchwork · quilting

Join us on 25th October for Project Linus 2021

We have a really special event coming up next week at Coles Sewing Centre. We will be hosting two quilting sessions in aid of Project Linus UK and we would love it if you could come along and sew with us.

Project Linus UK is a volunteer organisation that provides new homemade patchwork quilts and knitted blankets to local hospitals, children’s hospices, women’s refuges, foster carers, special schools, bereavement services and many other places where support is given to children ‘in need of a hug’. These beautiful and unique quilts and blankets help to provide a sense of security and comfort to sick and traumatised babies, children and teenagers across the UK. It is also a fantastic opportunity for volunteers to contribute to their local community while doing something they love.

Some of the beautiful Project Linus quilts from previous years

At Coles Sewing Centre we are proud to be supporting Project Linus again this year. On Monday 25th October 2021 we will host two sessions for you to stitch a quilt, one in the morning (10am to 1pm) and one in the afternoon (1:30pm to 4:30pm). As we have to allow for social distancing this year then numbers are limited and booking is required, but the £2.00 booking fee will enter you into a prize draw and all money will be donated to Project Linus. We would love for you to join us for one of our Project Linus quilt making sessions – we’ll provide the fabrics, threads and sewing machines, all we need you to do is come along and sew! You can book your place online here.

If you are unable to come to the sessions but would like to make a quilt at home, we suggest you make one of the following sizes:

  • Neonatal: 20” x 16” (51cm x 40.5cm)
  • Incubator quilts: 40” x 32” (101.5cm x 81cm)
  • Baby quilts: approx. 24” – 30” square (61cm-79cm square) or 24” x 30” (61cm x 79cm)
  • Children’s quilts: approx. 36” – 42” square (91.5cm-106.5cm square) or 36” x 42” (91.5cm x 106.5cm)
  • Teenagers’ quilts: approx. 42” square (106.5cm square) or 42” x 48” (106.5cm x 122cm)
  • Knitted blankets: approx. 24” square (61cm square) or larger

All quilts must be machine washable and please do not add embellishments such as ribbons and buttons, which could come off and be swallowed. You can drop any completed quilts and blankets off with us at any time and we will pass them on to our local area co-ordinator.

You can learn more about Project Linus UK on their website, it’s a wonderful charity that makes a big difference in children’s lives when they need it the most. Any contribution, large or small, is gratefully received – from donations of fabric, wadding and thread to making a quilt or a blanket, it’s up to you how you take part. So please join us on Monday 25th October to help provide security and comfort to children in need of a hug.

Embroidery machines · Machine care · Sewing Machines

Tension caused by tension!

One of the biggest issues people have with their sewing machines seems to be tension. The tension is the amount of pressure placed on the upper and lower threads to form the stitch. There is an upper tension and a lower tension: one controlling the top thread and one controlling the bottom thread.

A basic view of a sewing machine tension unit: the discs for the thread, spring and adjust dial (clockwise tighter, anti-clockwise looser)

Before you adjust your tension

The first and simplest thing to do to correct a tension issue is to check the needle is okay – check it’s the correct thickness for the fabric (heavier fabrics require a thicker needle) and not bent or blunt. 

Secondly, check and re-check the threading!  Ensure the presser foot in its raised position when you thread the upper threading, as this opens up the upper tension discs that control the thread flow. The thread needs to go in between the discs, and through all the relevant thread guides. When threading the bobbin case, follow the direction of threading as per your manual, and ensure the thread goes under the tensioning spring (please check your manual for precise guidance on how to thread your machine).

No matter how experienced a sewer you are, it is surprisingly easy to mis-thread your machine so if you find a big bird’s nest of thread underneath your stitching then the chances are you have missed a critical part of the threading, so check, and check again!

Looping like this is a common sign of a mis-threaded machine

If the tension is still not good, there may be fluff or a lump of thread under the bobbin case tension spring, or in between the thread tension discs. Work a used needle in between the upper discs and under the bobbin case spring, you may be amazed at what comes out!

Adjusting your tension

If the knot is showing below the fabric, then the upper tension needs increasing, (clockwise) e.g., from number 4 to number 5.

If the knot is showing on the top of the fabric, then decrease the upper tension (counter-clockwise) e.g., from number 4 to number 3.

Only adjust the upper tension, the lower (bobbin case tension) is factory set and should not be adjusted! Always keep a note of the original number setting to refer back to – it can be helpful to take a quick photo of your current settings before you make any changes.

Increasing and decreasing the upper tension on your sewing machine

If the fabric is puckering, change the needle for a finer (new needle) and use a good quality thread. If there is still a slight pucker, then decrease the upper tension (anti-clockwise) by half a number at a time until it looks okay.

So if you find yourself with tension issues, don’t panic – the majority of problems can be solved by following these steps!

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!

Accessories and feet · New in · quilting · Sewing

New and improved – the Adjustable Clear Quarter Inch Piecing Foot

The Husqvarna Viking Clear Adjustable Quarter Inch Piecing Foot

The Clear 1/4 Inch Piecing Foot and the Clear 1/4 Inch Piecing Foot With Guide have had a makeover! Husqvarna Viking have made these essential feet adjustable – meaning that the needle hole in the foot is now oval shaped, allowing you to adjust the needle position. This is great news for those of you who want a bit more flexibility and accuracy with your Clear 1/4 Inch Piecing Foot. If you’re not sure what these feet are and what they do, then read on!

The Clear 1/4 Inch Piecing Foot is used for piecing during quilting, as well as appliqué and topstitching. As it is clear, you can easily see your fabric through the foot, while the red lines help you to line up your fabric at the start of your sewing, at corners, and at the end of your sewing. For extra accuracy you can use the Clear 1/4 Inch Piecing Foot with Guide, which has a metal guide that runs along the edge of your fabric, helping you to keep your distance perfectly exact.

The Husqvarna Viking Clear Adjustable Quarter Inch Piecing Foot with Guide

These new and improved feet will be arriving in store soon but you can place an order now and we will send one out to you as soon as it arrives in stock. You can see more about the Clear 1/4 Inch Piecing Foot here, and more about the Clear 1/4 Inch Piecing Foot With Guide here. If you have any questions about this hugely handy foot, then please comment below and one of our team will 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