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SWFL

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Reply with quote  #1 
I'm curious to see what people's opinions are about which VSM ( electric cast iron straight stitch ) model is the best or easiest for a total newbie to learn to sew on. I'm assuming it would be a Singer or a clone, just for the easy availability of parts like needles and bobbins.
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Rocketeer

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Reply with quote  #2 
Call me biased, but I think if you're going total vintage, it's hard to beat a quality Singer 15 treadle. There's something about throwing your whole body into it and learning to treadle while feeding fabric etc that I think allows one to feel the most control over the machine -- so I think that's "best." Electric kind of feels like it could get away from you, but also may be a little easier without having to coordinate treadling -- so that may be "easiest." In either case you're using a foot (or feet) to control power/speed, and you have your right hand free to grab the handwheel to start, or stop things suddenly. The bobbin winding and placement is pretty easy on a 15 and the bobbins and bobbin cases are easy to find. Needles are the near-universal 15x1 aka 2020, readily available in all sizes.
A 66 or 99 has an even easier drop-in bobbin system, and all of the above things already said. But I'm partial to the 15 as it was my first machine.

Hope that helps a bit!

Matt
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Farmer John

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Reply with quote  #3 
The machine on has at hand is the best one to learn on.  Learning to sew is more about managing the fabric and the techniques used to join the pieces then it is about the actual machine.  The long bobbin vibrating shuttle machines are simple and virtually foolproof.  The oscillating hook, drop in bobbin of the 66 and 99 models are equally foolproof.  A rotary hook and a drop in bobbin yields a 201.  A vertical bobbin oscillating shuttle yields a model 15.  A vertical bobbin rotary is a 115, etc.  I have sewn entire quilt tops with all of these and enjoyed all of them.  While I haven't sewn a quilt top on a White FR or the White VS machines, I wouldn't hesitate to do so.  The Wheeler & Wilson #8, #9, and D9 all produce quality stitches and are a joy to operate.  Oops, I don't think that I have seen a #8 electric.  The lack of a back stitch lever is no problem, as I can lock stitches faster than I can reach for a reverse lever.  A Davis Vertical Feed makes "technique" way too easy, no puckers or bunching, less to learn, as the sm does it all !   To transition from a DVF to an underfeed machine requires learning to stretch and hold,  (I didn't say "pull") with hands on both sides of the needle, among other things.
     My current quilt top is being made on a Husqvarna/Viking model 21E....Why ?  Because I got a nice one for $25, suitcase, four cams (20 patterns), attachments and all.  The machine is fast, smooth running, and a delight to operate.  I am sewing together 2 1/2 inch stripes, 42 inches long, which I can fly through full speed (1080 spm) with no vibration.  Lovin it !
John
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JonesHand52

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Reply with quote  #4 
The best all around machine? I go with the Singer 15, but better still the Japanese-made Singer 15 "clones" which the Japanese designated the HA-1 mechanism. 

Why? The Singer 15 system is the most copied machine in the world, and for good reason. First, they are simple and strong. They rarely get out of order, and bobbins, bobbin cases (they use the one o'clock bobbin finger on the bobbin case) and parts are easy to get online. Bobbins are available in nearly every fabric store. They are easy to use, easy to maintain. Everyone should learn to maintain their own machines and the Japanese 15 clone is one of the easiest. The Japanese developed a quick release system for their shuttles for ease of maintenance and jam clearing if the thread gets caught up (something any machine can experience for a variety of reasons). Singer 15s require a screwdriver to do this. 

These Japanese 15s are not limited to the old standard body shape, either. Many are in modern body styles, but under the hood they are all 15s, or HA-1 straight stitch machines. Virtually all of them have reverse and dropping feed dogs, but not all Singers do that. 

Here are photos of 3 of my machines of which I speak - my Diamond, my Stitchomatic 050, and my Universal 700 Deluxe. All straight stitch type 15 machines, type HA-1. I should note that I put a different spool mount and upper thread guide on my Universal. 2. Diamond - front view.jpg  1. Stitchmatic 050 - front.jpg  Universal 700 Deluxe - modified, front.jpg 

As a side note, drop in bobbin class 66 machines are nice to sew on, but can get out of time easily and require a lot more maintenance than the 15. The old long bobbin machines, like the Singer 27 or 127, are great machines and simple, but bobbins can be difficult as they only make a "one size fits all" bobbin, generic to all long bobbin machines regardless of minor differences, so that can be a problem. Also, the shuttles are easy to drop, and if dropped on a hard surface they tend to land point first and get damaged. In the old days, a replacement was available at the local sewing shop. No more - you have to order one online, usually made in China. 

I have been sewing for over 40 years, and if I could have only one machine it would be a Japanese 15 clone. And yes, I do have several Singer 15s of various versions - a 15-30 treadle, electric 15-90, 15-91, plus 66 class drop in bobbins machines too numerous to mention. 

- Bruce

 
Attached Files
pdf HA-1 manual-rotated for printing.pdf (617.49 KB, 11 views)

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hilltophomesteader

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Reply with quote  #5 
My only electric model 15 is a green one I haven't spent any time with so I can't vouch for whether I'd recommend it for a beginner.  I'm partial to my 201 for power & precision (I use it for crafting) and my 301s for quilting - super fast for quilt piecing!  Both are simple straight stitch machines that take a common needle & bobbins.
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Cari-in-Oly

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Reply with quote  #6 
I pretty much agree with everyone else. A straight stitch machine is the easiest to learn. I love straight stitch machines and have several. Too many. My favorite one is usually whatever I'm using at the time. I have Singer 15s, at least 6 or 7 Japanese 15 class clones, a long shuttle machine, 2 Singer 201-2s, a couple of 301s and a Featherweight. We really can't tell you what's best for you, only you can decide that but the options are almost endless.

Cari

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pgf

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Reply with quote  #7 
As Farmer John says, most of sewing is fabric management and planning, so the machine doesn't matter too much.  And Bruce covered the maintenance and "spare parts" considerations.  I'd just add that I think having reverse (or back stitch) is a win when learning -- locking the seam end without it just adds to the fabric management and planning issues.  You could certainly learn without, but if two machines were otherwise equal, I'd go for the one with reverse.

paul

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Rodney

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Reply with quote  #8 
What Farmer John said.  The best to learn on is the one you have.  Do you already have a machine or are you shopping?  I know you specified straight stitch but what kind of sewing do you plan to do?  If you're sewing knits it might be better to consider a zigzag machine instead.  Any of the machines mentioned already will do a good job for straight stitches.  My experience with Singer 15s and their clones is a little different than Bruce's.  I'd give the edge to the Singer.  Just a little nicer fit and finish to me.  Don't ignore the Whites and White made Kenmores either.  They're solid machines.  The only issue with them is nobody I'm aware of is making attachments for them anymore.
 
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Zorba

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Reply with quote  #9 
I will repeat what my dance teacher told me when I asked a similar question years back.

"Get an all metal Singer, White, or Kenmore that can Zig-Zag. Buy it from a sewing machine store who has gone through it and given it a warranty." Although I'd now add "Wards Signature, Penncrest, and the vast majority of unbranded/weird branded Japanese machines" to that NOW that I know more, the advice was very good. The Zig-Zag feature can be turned off until you need it, and buying it from a dealer means it will work. I paid $75 for a White which is STILL my main machine - even though I've now segued into collecting and can fix most common problems - I couldn't when I first started. You don't need doubts about the machine when you're first learning to sew, you'll make enough hilarious mistakes as it is!

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seb58

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Reply with quote  #10 
I started with VSM with my grandma's Singer 15-175 (B as for Made in France) and I agree with the above comments, latter Singer 15s are easy to live with, easy to maintain and make a mean straight stitch... And a perk, they are usually quite cheap to find! I agree about the drawback of having to use a screwdriver to access and service the bobbin area, but, if you can lay your hands on a Singer 191, you'll get the best of the class 15 mechanism with a quick release bobbin area AND a tension unit right in front of you 😉
I don't know about the US of A but here in France, the Singer 191s are 12 to a penny...
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Jpwest

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Reply with quote  #11 
Go with a Singer 401.  Fancy cams for adventure, reverse stitch, can find them
cheap, decent cabinet, and will sew anything.  I keep discovering more things
that I can do with mine.  Got rid of a serger because I learned on this forum 
about a cam that pretty much does the same thing.

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Chaly

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Reply with quote  #12 
Welcome to the forum, SWFL!

The tools, sewing machine, for learning to sew will depend greatly on the type of sewing you will be doing - quilting, free-motion embroidery, garment construction, mending, etc.

If you don't need zig-zag - a Singer 15 or clone will serve you very well (easy to maintain, parts/attachments plentiful, and inexpensive to purchase).

If you need zig-zag -I would recommend a basic all metal vintage zig-zag machine that is commonly found - ditto what Zorba had to say.  Just my opinion that a decorative stitch machine adds complexity that a beginner may not fully appreciate nor be able to repair/maintain as easily as a basic zig-zag.
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NigheanRuadh

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Reply with quote  #13 
I'm a little late to the party, but I'll throw in another vote for a class 15 clone.  My eight-year-old son has been making a small quilt on one.  I did change it from electric to handcrank, though.  His first experience sewing was with my 1970s Singer Genie, and he always had a bit of difficulty with controlling the speed.  He loves using the Home Mark (15 clone) handcrank.  I saved all the electric components, so I can reverse the change if I want to, but I'll probably leave it at least until my other three children learn to sew, as well.  The Home Mark does have a reverse and a feed dog drop.
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Jim/Steelsewing

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Reply with quote  #14 
If your thinking about a Singer 15, go with the 15-91 potted motor, or a 201. Too expensive? Try one of the zillion 66s made. Those three Singer machines fit your requirement: cast iron, straight stitch and the upper tension dial is right in front of you (instead of the truly bizarre front mounted location on other 15 models which is never duplicated again on any newer machine). All three (15-91, 201, 66) have a reverse and take easy to find bobbins and needles - and all can be found in working condition for a hundred, or way less in many cases.  Plain, simple, easy to use, not a whole heck of lot to go wrong an d I am speaking  of the electric models. One should probably learn how to juggle before getting on the unicycle...
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WI Lori

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Reply with quote  #15 
"Newer" 66s have reverse. Some older 66s have the Revco reverse added. Really old 66s have back clamp feet (can be pricey to find the set of feet). I don't think you can go wrong with any cast iron straight stitcher. They were built to last, and have!
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Cari-in-Oly

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Reply with quote  #16 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim/Steelsewing
If your thinking about a Singer 15, go with the 15-91 potted motor, or a 201. Too expensive? Try one of the zillion 66s made. Those three Singer machines fit your requirement: cast iron, straight stitch and the upper tension dial is right in front of you (instead of the truly bizarre front mounted location on other 15 models which is never duplicated again on any newer machine). All three (15-91, 201, 66) have a reverse and take easy to find bobbins and needles - and all can be found in working condition for a hundred, or way less in many cases.  Plain, simple, easy to use, not a whole heck of lot to go wrong an d I am speaking  of the electric models. One should probably learn how to juggle before getting on the unicycle...


Jim did you have your coffee before you wrote this? The 15-91 is still a 15, the upper tension is still on the face plate, not on the front.

Cari

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Jim/Steelsewing

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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cari-in-Oly


Jim did you have your coffee before you wrote this? The 15-91 is still a 15, the upper tension is still on the face plate, not on the front.

Cari


Obviously not. Doesn't matter though, 15 is a 15. Want a few? Stop by the house. I'm at that point where I'd sooner give them away than look at another one.  I'm sure they're perfectly fine machines and the ones I have do sew well, but I just don't care for them. When I sit down to sew i wanna sit down and sew, not get up and crane over in some twisted weird left hand bend to re-thread if something goes amiss. =)

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It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
There is grace within forgiveness, but it's so hard for me to find - Ben Gibbard
My adventures with VSM's: http://steelsewing.blogspot.com
*QuiltnNan and asshat may be synonymous...
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Cari-in-Oly

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Reply with quote  #18 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim/Steelsewing

. When I sit down to sew i wanna sit down and sew, not get up and crane over in some twisted weird left hand bend to re-thread if something goes amiss. =)


This is one of those times that being left handed comes in handy. I guess it's become instinctive and I use my left hand so no contorting necessary. [smile]

Cari



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