Finally! We’ve acquainted ourselves with the different bag making machines (Part 1), and through your considerations and research have narrowed down some machines that would best suit you best with your bag making goals (Part 2). It’s now time to go out and test drive them. But it’s not like test driving a new car, you need to go prepared.
Before going, jot down some notes on what is important to you in your new sewing machine and key questions you want to ask. It’s easy when you are there to be overwhelmed and forget some things, but if you can keep coming back to your notes you can make sure everything is answered before you leave. Also take a pen and extra paper to collect the answers to your questions and any other information you might gather on your test driving trip.
Some things you might want take and considering asking are:
- Scraps of materials you want to sew with
If you want to be sewing with particular materials and through multiple layers, take along a variety scraps to be sure the machine can handle them. Take along the heaviest to the finest of materials you will work with to know how the machine handles both. Work out if tension changes are required when sewing the different materials, and how to make those changes. Tension issues is one of the biggest variables when sewing bags.
- What threads work better.
This is particularly important with industrial machines. Threads for industrial machines, and used for making bags, will come in different weights/sizes. Whether your buying new or second hand, the person you are buying from should have some thread for the machine for you to test drive with. However, if you use particular thread/s all the time, take yours with you. It will give you a better idea of how the machine sews with the variables you use in your home studio. Again, be sure to learn how to adjust the machine tension should you need to.
It might be obvious, but depending on the brands, some machines are slightly different…..learn how to thread up the machine and how to wind a bobbin.
- What sewing machine feet are included and what extra ones are available.
A new machine will come with some basic feet options. If it is a second hand machine, check that all the basic feet are there, and if there are extra feet included, find out what they are and what they are used for.
If you are looking at a table top domestic machine to sew your bags, you might want to include a walking foot in your sale. Additionally, if you want to sew oilcloth or vinyl, a teflon foot might be another one you want to invest in. For an industrial machine that comes with a left hand walking foot, you might want to invest in a right hand walking foot for zipper installations, and perhaps some piping/welt feet. For industrial machines, also learn how to change the feet.
- What needles fit the machine and where to get more.
For the different thread weights to go through the different thicknesses of materials, you might also need to get a selection of different sized needles to cover off the variety of bags you want to make. Domestic needles and industrial needles are different. Make sure you have the right needles for the machine your using and where you can get more. Even a second hand seller should be able to tell you this.
- Regulating the speed of the machine
Most new domestic machines have a speed gauge where you can set the sewing speed you are comfortable with. Older domestic machines, and particularly industrial machines, don’t have this. It can be frightening if your new to using an industrial machine and using it for the first time. The dealer or second-hand sales person can give you some tips on how to to get used to the clutch. Gentle pumping of your foot up and down on the clutch is always a good place to start with an industrial machine to get the feel of fast and slow.
- If any maintenance is required and can you do it
Sewing with fabric on domestic machines, lint fibres tend to accumulate. Find out where to clear these out from. And like all machines with moving parts, sewing machines need oiling. With new machines this will have already been done, but with old machines, find out where the oil holes are and how often you should be oiling your machine and the best machine oil to use. Depending on how often your using your machine, it might be more or less frequent.
- After sales support
New machines will come with a warranty, and most distributors will also offer some sort of after sales support. Find out what it is, how long it’s available for, and how you can access it. It could be a simple phone call to ask a question on a particular feature of your machine. The last thing you want is to purchase a heavy industrial machine, get it home and have problems setting it up and sewing for the first time. Use the after sales support to get you through this initial set-up.
For a second hand machine find out the service history of the machine – when and where it has been serviced and what for. Also find out if there is a local service and repair person in your area. If you are buying the machine outside your local area, the person you’re buying it off might not know this, so it’s something you will need to research and find out on your own. However, if you are buying locally, find out who the person is that has serviced it so you can get more history of the machine from them and possibly continue getting services from the same person.
So here we are, you’ve thought about the machine you need for the bags you want to sew, you’ve done your research to narrow down the machine to a few possible options, asked some questions online, and test drove some machines and asked yet more questions. Hopefully you’ve fallen in love with a machine that you know will do everything you will ask of it and you will have a long and happy relationship with it. If that’s the case – congratulations! If you’re not quite there yet, that’s OK. Keep researching and testing those machines until you find the one you’re looking for – it’s out there somewhere!
I hope you have found these three parts to be helpful and if you have gotten all the way through them – well done!!! Please feel free to make comments about your experience with purchasing a sewing machine and what machine you like for your bag making and why. This way we can all help each other.
If you have a topic of handbag making that you would like me to expand on, please message me on the contact page.
And that’s it….where-ever you are and what-ever bag your making, have a great day.