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 use very old, very nice 1930s Singer sewing machines 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! We have about 13 of them in our studio at the last count!

One of our beauties in the studio we use on a daily basis - and nothing else!

One of our beauties in the studio we use on a daily basis – and nothing else!

Deciding on what machine to go for largely depends on what you want to do with your machine…..Do you want to just do a bit of dressmaking with an array of fancy stitches?  Some serious upholstery projects?  Or just have a play with freehand machine embroidery?

    • If you’re after something to see you through some really tough fabric, then a ‘flatbed’ machine is probably best – these are bigger, more industrial-type machines that take up more room but will serve you well when it comes to making curtains and other bigger projects.
    • Most modern machines will have a selection of decorative and functional stitches, some digital sewing machines will even do the sewing for you – you don’t even need to put your foot on the pedal!  Modern machines are great but we have found that a few people who own a new machine have said they are very light weight, even ‘throw away’ quality.  We think it depends how much you will be using your machine.  If it’s just for the occasional small sewing job, these would be fine.
    • If it’s the freehand machine embroidery you want to have a go at, then most machines old and new will have the ability to do this – it just takes a little practice to get used to the technique.


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 feed dogs whilst you’re sewing. 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!

Our Freya who makes all our lovely badges.

Our Freya who makes all our lovely badges.

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.

We hope you don’t have to kiss too many frogs!


To Eden and back…

I packed my boot full of our brand new recycled cosies as well as an array of studio bits and bobs (including one of my darling Singers!) and made my way over to the Eden Project to set up our new display there. After not getting lost on my way to the warehouse I got a lift down to the Link Shop (which is a new retail space right down between the two biomes) passing behind the scenes where gardeners, chefs, people with clip boards and walkie-talkies were all running about making everything run smoothly for the 3000 visitors they were expecting.

Down in the shop I met Wendy who is the main lady at the link shop and a great character – worth going just to meet her even if you don’t buy a tea cosy – which you should of course!

We lugged rustic crates and suitcases about, moved sacks of coffee and banana trees until we’d got the Poppy Treffry space just right, I then set to work putting all the products out and attaching barcodes – all this whilst throngs of people milled about the shop, looking over my shoulder and asking me questions as if I worked there! – I just had to bluff my way through those!

The products are unlike anything we’ve done before – they’re made form 100% recycled and vintage fabrics and are really colourful and funky and they are all completely different from each other. It’s a bit of an experiment as I wanted to do something special for Eden that tied in with their green view of things.

It was a busy, if sweltering, morning but I’m pleased with the display so hopefully you can go and have a look for yourselves and keep me posted on how things are looking down there – you are my eyes and ears chaps!



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