What to Look for When Buying a Sewing Machine


Vintage Kids Sewing Machine

Here are some important things to look at when buying your first sewing machine.

  1. User Friendly – is it easy to use & handle

These are some of the features that make using your machine easy;

Speed control, automatic threading, automatic thread cutter, needle up/down

2. Performance – performs well with no weakness

This one can really only be tested when doing a demo. I highly recommend going to your local dealer to try as many as you can. Does it sew through three layers of denim? Does the bobbin jam and make that funny noise? Does the thread get caught around the spool pin?

3. Flexibility & Creativity – has room for you to grow

How many stitches are included? Can you lower the feed dogs? How many presser feet are included? Can you quilt on this machine as well as sew?

4. Maintenance & Support – is easy to look after

You want to be able to get into the bobbin area and dust it out. It gets more dusty than you probably think! You want to be able to have someone on hand to ask questions when you get stuck. Of course this is a service I provide when machines are purchased through me.

5. Appeal – looks attractive

Who doesn’t want something that looks lovely?! Don’t get sucked in purely by this, as often they look great but all of the above is forgotten!

6. Budget

A cheap machine is cheap for a reason. In our throw away society I have never seen so many cheap models out there! The metals they use are weak. There is a lot of plastic! These machines are not balanced, so how can we ever get precise sewing. They are designed to throw away and buy another one as they are too expensive to fix. These days, you can even buy machines in supermarkets and furniture shops. All I can say is…please don’t.

My advice is to borrow someone’s machine for a period of time until you figure out sewing is for you and what you need in a machine based on the projects you would like to sew.

I hope this blog post helps you with sewing machine shopping. You can see other posts on my blog about Sewing Machines.

Best Sewing Machine for Kids

The Bernette B37

This is one of my favourite machine for kids and absolute beginners. My views are based on having used this machine, as well as feed back from many of my students who have purchased this machine.

What to look for when choosing a machine…

  1. User Friendly – is it easy to use & handle
  2. Performance – performs well with no weakness
  3. Flexibility & Creativity – has room for you to grow
  4. Maintenance – is easy to look after
  5. Appeal – look attractive
  6. Budget


The B37 is a computerised machine.

It has Speed Control. This is my number one priority for children! To sew a seam, this is what the children are concentrating on…

  1. sewing with a straight seam allowance, following the line
  2. sliding pins out as they go
  3. reverse stitching
  4. hand position
  5. posture

To have speed control allows the children to slow right down and perfect these skills. I have noticed that children using speed control gain far more confidence and move forward with their sewing alot quicker than those who don’t.

What I also love about this machine is that if the presser foot is not lowered and they start to sew, it will beep at them to remind them to lower the presser foot.

The layout of this machine is attractive, simple and easy to flick through the different stitch options.

All stitches are built in and at the press of a button the stitch length and stitch width are set for you. They are also easy to change.

This machine sews a variety of fabrics including denim.

It is light weight, yet solid and will not jump around or sound tinny when you are sewing.

It is fairly easy to clean. You can remove the needle plate with the mini screwdriver included and dust out the machine.

50 stitches included. You are able to sew decoratively and with stretch fabrics. Buttonholes are automatic and what a lovely feature this is! There is room to grow with this machine if you are an absolute beginner or child.

In summary I believe this machine is easy to use and handle because of the above mentioned features. It definitely performs well with no weakness. There is room to grow if you are an absolute beginner or young child. This machine looks good and has great LED lighting. It is easy to look after, do this and you won’t be needing services. As for budget. This is a standard price for those number one features I mentioned. It is a bit of an investment but this should last you for at least 10 years.

This machine is available to purchase through me. Please drop me an email to arrange. I can have a machine available within a day or two. Please note that by purchasing through me I will sit with you to go through the functions and I am always available to troubleshoot with you, I am a phone call away or you can pop in to see me if you were stuck with something.

This machine retails at Miss Mary for $699.

You can see the full brochure here.

Embroidery Classes

I am so very excited to bring Embroidery Classes back for the children’s school holidays, in Perth this April.

I was hand stitching from a very young age. I have recollections of me sitting at mums feet picking up scraps of fabric, which I can still see now…it was black with yellow and orange flowers on it. (Yep I’m a child from the 70’s). I would sew pieces together to create little pouches.

I then moved onto cross stitch and embroidery. Cross stitch was great to learn how to read a pattern. Embroidery I just did my own thing.

Last week I gifted to my partner some embroidery. He is addicted to Twisties and has been eating them for 49 years! So, I thought I would embroider his very own packet of Twisties to look at everyday. I’m not sure I’m helping his situation, it would possibly be torture for him!

I often feel uneasy giving a hand made gift, especially when they have never made anything before. I’m happy to say he was absolutely thrilled.

Best Tools for Every Dressmaker


Having sewn for years, I feel I have found the BEST tools for your sewing kit.

  1.  A great pair of Scissors is essential!  I personally need mine to be light weight, as I often get arthritic in my hands.  Of course they need to be super sharp and not blunt easily.
  2. Thread Snips that are solid and super sharp.  I bet you know what I’m talking about when you have to try and cut the thread several times, or the blades split from each other…frustrating!
  3. Pins are essential in sewing and having a selection of them makes sense.  We sew with different weights of fabric so we really should use pins to suit the fabric.  I use long, strong pins for heavy weight fabrics.  I have fine pins for using silk, these slide through the fabric without creating pulls.   Long fine pins for when I’m sewing long straight seams.  Short pins for when I’m sewing curves, for example sleeves.  Throw your rusty, bent, blunt pins out and start with a fresh set.
  4. I can’t tell you the number of times I have dropped a stack of pins!  Even when carefully placing them in my pin cushion, it’s guaranteed a few will end up on the floor.  A Magnetic Wand is perfect to quickly clear up any pins.
  5. Chalk Pens are a great marking tool for the sewing box.  Unlike the traditional tailors chalk, the chalk pens create fine lines on your fabric, so you can be more precise and accurate with your markings.

All items here can be found over here Miss Mary Shop

Oilcloth Lunch Bags

I made these oilcloth lunch bags back in 2010!  I look at them and still love them.  I had made one as an Easter gift for one of the kids teachers, they used to tell me everyday that they saw the teacher carrying it to the staff room.

These make gorgeous gifts and are easy to make.

They are made with Oilcloth.  This particular oilcloth I used is Mexican Oilcloth, it is quite thick.  I bought it from www.fabrictraders.com.au you can also try www.metooplease.com.au


With the hundreds of students through my doors and the hundreds of machines I have worked with, I have found that it really depends on the machine you are working with.  I use and highly recommend Bernina machines http://www.bernina.com

You may only use one or none of these tips, or many.

Use a teflon foot if you have one.

Use a size 10 needle.  Larger needles tend to punch larger holes in the oilcloth.

Use a polyester thread.

Lengthen your stitch to 3.

Adjust the tension if needed.

If the oilcloth is sticking to the machine you can place masking tape on the machine to provide grip.

What You Need

50cm Main Fabric for the front & back 

50cm Contrast Fabric for the side panels & base

Sticky Velcro dots

(You will be able to make a few bags with 50cm)


Lets Begin
Cut 2 of Main Fabric (cherries)  19cm wide x 33cm long
Cut 2 of Side Panel (gingham) 12cm wide x 33cm long
Cut 1 of Base (gingham) 12cm wide x 19cm long

Layout a Side Panel with the wrong side facing you.
At the short end of the panel, mark a point at the corners, 1cm from the edges.
These marks indicate where your seam will begin and end.

Join the Base to a Side Panel (joining at the shortest end) and pin.  Repeat for the other side.  It should look like this pic below….Side Panel, Bottom Panel, Side Panel.

Now stitch with a 1cm seam allowance between the dots you marked.
It is important to be accurate with this step.  Be sure to do your backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam.

Pin the Base to the bottom edge of one of your Main Fabric pieces, right sides facing each other.
It should be centred perfectly.  Be sure to split your seam allowance as pictured.  You now need to stitch with a 1cm seam allowance between seam splits.  Again, please be accurate with this.


Open out the seams at the corner by turning your Side Panel to match the edge of your Main Fabric.  Your oilcloth should be standing up at this stage.  The raw edges should be matching perfectly.  Pin and stitch with a 1cm seam allowance.  See the following pictures to see what it looks like.

Now pin and stitch the remaining Main Fabric to the Base and Side Panels following the same steps as above.

Inside out, this is what your Lunch Bag should look like.

Turn through to the right side and point out your corners.  Please don’t be tempted to use your scissors as you may very well pierce a hole!

So the Lunch Bag can stand up without collapsing and to get rid of the ’roundness’ to the seams, you will need to make a few more stitch lines to the side seams.
Take one edge of the side of the bag and pin.  The right sides of the fabric should be facing you now.  You only need to stitch about 3-4mm from the edge.  Get as close as you can to the bottom corner of the bag, and stitch all the way to the top of the bag.
Now just to finish off with the Velcro.  
Layout your bag in front of you.  Evenly space out three (or more if you wish) soft velcro pieces.
Do a double fold and position the scratchy velcro pieces on the bag.