SEAMS SIMPLE

A modern sewing machine makes dressmaking easy. Our expert panel tries six models

WITH the same clothes displayed in high-street chains from Perth to Penzance, it seems as if the only way to dress differently from the common herd is to make your own. It's a shame, then, that sewing has become a rare subject in most schools, a trend that sewing-machine manufacturers, afraid that their market could eventually vanish, are trying to reverse.

Anyone who hasn't sewn a single seam since their long-past schooldays will find that machines today do almost everything but make the clothes for you. The more expensive machines - which can cost up to pounds 2,000 - have computers which choose the stitch length and width (eg, for zigzag or overcast stitching) and sewing speed for you and memorise complex embroidery designs that use scores of different stitches.

The selection of machines we've tested is more likely to suit someone who wants to do fairly basic dressmaking. The simplest machines do relatively few stitches; as they become more expensive, the machines can do a wider range of stitches and have such features as the facility to make buttonholes in one single operation.

We asked a group of students and staff from the Higher National Diploma course in fashion at the London College of Fashion to try out the machines and give their judgement on which are the easiest to use and have the best features.

The prices quoted here for all the machines except the Elna are manufacturers' recommended prices (Elna has no recommended retail price, so the usual shop price is given). In reality, most other sewing machines are sold at considerable discounts, and you may even find them at half the price quoted here.

THE PANEL

Justin Brogan, Alan Cannon Jones, Jacqueline Staple, Graham Tuckett, Kitu Patel: all from the London College of Fashion.

THE TEST

The panel gave the machines ratings for how easy they were to carry and set up, how convenient they were to use, how comprehensive the instructions were, the range of features, and value for money.

**SINGER CONCERTO 4

pounds 699

This computerised model has a liquid crystal display window that gives users information about what they are doing, such as what stitch the machine is set at. It has 23 types of stitch, including decorative stitches for embroidery. Most of the panel did not find the machine especially convenient to use, however. "It sews beautifully, but it is complicated to use," said Kitu Patel. Alan Cannon Jones, however, disagreed. "The machine is well made with a robust casing. It had the best instruction booklet and it is easy to thread. This would easily take a range of fabrics," he said. "This is a machine for the more enthusiastic sewer or embroiderer. The reverse lever was hard to use," commented Jacqueline Staple.

**BROTHER STAR 3

pounds 499

This machine sews 15 types of stitch, has an automatic one-step buttonholer and a bobbin which is loaded from the top. It was fairly popular with our panel. "Easy to read stitch selector," said Jacqueline Staple. "Good shape, smooth operation, good instructions, easy to use," said Alan Cannon Jones, though he found the bobbin space "small and fiddly". Graham Tuckett was unsure how long the back-tack switch would last.

*TOYOTA 4077

pounds 319

This basic machine with 11 types of stitch was one of the least popular. The panel found it less easy to set up and use, and the instructions less easy to understand than those of other machines. "Inconvenient to wind bobbin as accessories' box has to be taken off," said Graham Tuckett. "Old style, heavy to use, with basic sewing features. The instruction book is just adequate. But it's probably reliable," was Alan Cannon Jones's verdict. "An average sewing machine.I don't like the idea of having to take out the accessories' tray to change the bobbin," commented Jacqueline Staple.

***TOYOTA 5080

pounds 459

The panel liked this streamlined model, which has 16 types of stitch and a top-loading rotary hook to make it easier to load the bobbin and see if it is running out. It scored well all round, except on how convenient it was to carry and set up. "A nice machine for the average home user," commented Jacqueline Staple. "Good smooth runner. Very clear instructions," said Graham Tuckett. "Very smooth to operate and easy to thread," said Alan Cannon Jones. Like the other Toyota, this has an automatic four-step buttonhole feature.

*JANOME JD 1818

pounds 450

The panel did not find this very convenient to use or think that the instructions were easy to follow. It was convenient to set up and carry, though. "Old-fashioned styling; this machine has basic but adequate features," said Alan Cannon Jones. "A bit clumsy on the sewing motion," commented Graham Tuckett. "Basic and easy to use," thought Jacqueline Staple, while Kitu Patel was unimpressed with the stitching. The machine does one-step buttonholes and 18 types of stitch.

****ELNA CLUB

pounds 445 (usual shop price)

This machine was the clear winner in our test, popular on all counts. It has a computerised panel which lets you change stitch at the touch of a button. The panel thought it had very good features, including one that lets you set the needle so that it either clears the fabric when the machine stops or stays in the fabric when turning a corner. "A very nice all-round machine," commented Jacqueline Staple. "Very good all-round features, some usually found only on industrial machines. Great design, smooth running," said Justin Brogan. Kitu Patel was particularly impressed by the indicator light that shows which stitch the machine is set at.

NEXT WEEK: DRILLS

COMPILED BY STELLA YARROW

Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris
architecture

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past