I have a young student who needs a sewing machine. So I will be blogging from time to time about the sewing machines on the market as I search for the perfect sewing machine for her. 

It’s been awhile since I have shopped for a sewing machine, so it is the time to see what is on the market. She needs a lockstitch zigzag machine. A lockstitch is a machine that sews forward and back. It has a bobbin case that holds a bobbin wrapped with thread (centered diagram).

 The zigzag  allows the machine to overlock (finish) the seam allowances (left diagram ) and, because the machine can sew zigzagged seams (right diagram), a lockstitch zigzag machine can also sew knits.

 I would like to find a machine  for her that:

1.       Has all medal parts

2.       Zigzags
3.       Blind hems
4.       Has an automatic buttonholer that is easy to use *
5.       Has a feed-dog that drops so the machine can sew on buttons
6.       Is portable
7.       Is fast, but also sews well at a very slow speed
8.       Uses standard, low-shank feet
9.       Has a straight-stitch plate to prevent fabric from jamming down in the race.
10.     Has screw-on feet – When sewing at high-speeds it is better to have everything screwed on  tight – I don’t trust the snap-on feet I’ve used them and I don’t like them very much.
11.     Can wind a bobbin as it sews
12.      Has a straight stitch plate.
13.     Can be set so that when one stops sewing the needle is either down in the fabric, or up out      of the fabric*
14.   A knee pedal that lifts the presser foot would be nice*

I am very happy with the machines I own, and wish I could find her one like the ones I have, but they are no longer on the market. The new machines do have features that, while I don’t need them, I would like my student to have. I starred those features in the above list.

Here are the machines that I own and use:

 My principal machine is a 269 Pfaff (above) that is a cross between an industrial and a home sewing machine. It is a lockstitch zigzag. It was probably built in the fifties. It’s fast and sews like a dream. I LOVE this machine.

I also own two portable lockstitch sewing machines. One is a 2000 Hobby lockstitch zigzag (right)  that I bought probably 30 years ago. I use it in the classroom to demonstrate how to use the zigzag. This machine is slow. I’ve never liked it much, but it is useful to have when teaching.



Its biggest problem is that it has a zigzag plate, but does not have a straight stitch plate. The straight stitch plate prevents the fabric from jamming in the race (photo on the right).

My second portable (left) is a featherweight lockstitch that was manufactured in 1941. This fabulous little machine is available on E-bay. But it doesn’t overcast, make machine overcast buttonholes, or sew on buttons. Attachments can be bought to allow it to do that, but they don’t really work all that well. So this machine is off the list for my student.


I also have an Elna 686 (above).  This is a secondary machine that one buys after one buys a lockstitch machine. It’s a four-thread mock-safety which can be converted to two or three-thread for overlocking (the home sewing industry calls this type of machine a “serger”. )  I don’t use it very often because I tend to sew mostly wovens which I clean finish with lining.  When I do overcast I zigzag a small finish on the seams like that used in high-end French couture (shown at the top left of this post). I find zigzagging  faster and easier. When I sew knits I sometimes use my Elna.  The four-thread makes a great seam in knits.

More later,



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  • Awww… would have loved to have read this while I was hunting for a new sewing machine. I'm a few weeks too late! I settled on a Bernina 1080. Pretty good so far, except not as many stretch stitches as I would like (The lightening bolt zig zag is a great stretch stitch for seams, which the Bernina does not have). Fabric often gets caught in the plate.


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