My Biggest Sewing Secret


People ask me all the time, what is the best sewing machine for a beginner?
That's a great question. I always say, the best machine for a beginner is one that you can afford and that you'll actually use. Translation: The best sewing machine for a beginner is inexpensive and simple. The more bells and whistles you get on your first sewing machine, the more confusing the process, and the more frustrating the experience. So if you want to try out sewing, start with a basic machine which you can usually find for under $100.
Why is this important? Sewing can be very satisfying when it goes smoothly, but when a beginner is just starting out it can be overwhelming. The best way to enjoy sewing is to have little victories right away! Start simple and learn the basics on a machine that doesn't break the bank and then as you advance, when you find that you need more features, you can check out another more complex machine.
The reason I say this is my secret is that for most of my early career, deep into my time making costumes for Hollywood movies and TV shows, I used the same $69 Brother Sewing machine I bought I graduated from Tulane!
I knew I needed a machine to be able to travel with since I'd be working at one place in the Summer and then another in the Fall etc. so I needed an affordable machine that was lightweight for moving around so much. I also figured I wouldn't be so upset if something happened to it. So I went to the Service Merchandise in town where I was living at the time and I bought a basic Brother sewing machine for $69 (this was in 1990). I'll never forget how much it cost because at the time $69 was a lot of money to me. So I bought the machine and took it to my Summer job as the Costume Coordinator for the smaller theatre at Williamstown Theatre Festival. I made everything for those shows on that little machine and it was easy move around in my makeshift costume shop there. When I moved at the end of that summer to Houston to be the Assistant Costume Designer at the Alley Theatre I took it with me and set it up in my little office. I would mostly do shopping and fittings, but I also made spats and other shoe accessories on it and made several period men's suits on it as a freelancer.
When I moved to Los Angeles I didn't know anyone in the Movie business. I was starting from scratch. I sent out resumes to every place I could think of and called to follow up, but nothing. I overheard a guy at the dog park talking about working on a movie and struck up a conversation. Long story short, a couple of weeks later he asked me if I had a sewing machine and would I like to work. I said sure! So I took that machine and started as a stitcher on my first movie. Every other job after that came from that day in the dog park and he only picked me, a complete stranger, because I had my own machine.
After many years of working in the industry I saved up and bought my very first Pfaff which was my dream machine. More on that lovely lady later. But my point is that I used that first Brother machine up until I taught my own kids to sew on it.
Over the years I read the manual cover to cover and took great care of it. I cleaned and oiled it, and loved learning about how different needles worked on different materials. I had needles for knits, for basic cottons, just for jeans and even a special leather needle for vinyl and leather. That machine was perfect for working on wardrobe trailers. Light weight and sturdy, it was simple enough for me troubleshoot on my own and hummed along like a charm as long as I treated her right by keeping her clean and having her serviced regularly.
A friend gave me a sticker for that machine that said "Glamor is my Occupation." It made me so happy that I could do so much with that little machine. Sewing is my Super Power. Hope y'all enjoy it as much as I do.

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