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
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'