Choosing a sewing machine – good luck!

One of the questions we get asked the most is ‘how do I choose a sewing machine?’ We don’t profess to be experts on this – we have very old and very nice sewing machines which we use and which do just what we want (most of the time!), but they’re not high tech and weren’t the result of a lot of research. There’s a quote from Poppy in our little film for the Eden project where she says ‘you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a good one’ and that is certainly true of the way we work, our machines have come from car boots, the dump, charity shops and the odd sewing machine shop (oh yes and ebay), quite often chosen because they’re pretty, about 13 of them at the last count!

one of our beauties!

one of our beauties!

We use old Singer machines which are really very simple but you can also do the technique on many different machines that will be far easier and do much more than our Singers.


Your best bet to start with is your local sewing shop as they will have a wealth of experience on the subject, although be clear on your budget before you go in and don’t let yourself be seduced by the array of possibilities! It’s a good idea to write a list of what you want the machine to do first and then you’’ll know whether those extra features are of value to you or not. Experience says you should look for a machine that is metal rather than plastic and quite heavy and sturdy.

Our machines have a little screw on the undercarriage which allows you to drop the feed dogs and then we hold our fabric stretched tight in an embroidery hoop but if you can’t find one which does this then you can purchase a metal plate that covers the teeth whilst you’re sewing, or, we’re told, that it works if you set the stitch length to zero, though we haven’t tried this so can’t vouch for certain. We don’t use an embroidery foot when we’re stitching but again this is something you may have to experiment with for yourself, kissing frogs again!

Once you have your sewing machine you’ll find most bunching up and bobbin snarling issues are down to tension of the cloth, the machine and you! So you just need to play with it, and relax, till you get it right.

If you attend one of our courses Poppy gives plenty of advice on sorting out annoying snarl ups or there are also 2 books from Poppy packed with advice alongside the projects for you to complete.

Good luck!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. greedy nan
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 16:59:17

    Can you do machine emrboidery with a treddle machine?


  2. Rosie
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 20:01:40

    Hi Poppy, I’m interested in doing some freehand embroidery. I haven’t yet found a sewing machine that can cope with the thickness of fabric that I use, so I was wondering what model of Singer machine do you use? I have found an old working one, desk and all, which has a new belt attached but no motor. It seems like a good buy but i’m not sure if the machine will be suitable. It’s code number is Y6368549 if that means anything to you. I’d really appreciate some advice before I part with my hard earned cash!


  3. Andrew Stephens
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 23:03:53

    I’m trying to get to grips with freehand embroidery with mixed success. Without a foot the thread keeps snapping, or at best bunching on the underside. Changing the tension makes no difference. I’m using a 12″ hoop – could this be too big, allowing the material to move up and down, or is it because the material is too thin (I’m experimenting on an old cotton bedsheet)?
    When I do use a foot it seems to put a little too much pressure on the material so I can’t get a fluid movement. Any suggestions much appreciated!


    PS I enjoyed reading your freehand book by the way (xmas pressie to myself) – plenty of inspiration!

    PPS Did I read correctly on your website, that you guys don’t even use hoops for freehand work?


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