The Little Traveler – Bernina 125

The Bernina 125 rode home in the boot with good company. It’s not the longest journey she’s taken…

I knew very little about this machine when I put a $20 bid on it. It looked a little bit like Bernina’s response to the Grasshopper but with zig zag.

I spotted the “Serviced by” sticker in the online photos – Paraparaumu (that’s about a 45 minute drive north of Wellington) and a 5 digit telephone number. These little windows into time always make me smile.

I’ve owned it now two years and sad to say I don’t know much more other than reading somewhere that this model may have been Bernina’s first zig-zag machine.

More investigation is needed.

She runs beautifully and came with LOTS of accessories:

There’s a white button in this photo above. I already owned 6 identical white buttons still attached to their original card.

As well as the accessory tray she also has a slide on extension table.

It has a little set of legs that fold down for stability. You can just see the hinges on the short edge but I discovered those after I took these photos!

The most exciting accessory was the original instruction manual which is all in German.

I found a pdf of the English manual online that is exactly the same inside which helped me translate the guarantee page. If this manual does belong to this machine it was apparently purchased in Buchs (Switzerland?) on the 25th of August 1951.

So, she’s very well traveled!

Some more photos here.



It’s the little things…

I picked up a new (old) vintage machine today and boy does it have a story! As well as some beautiful provenance to match it’s beautiful cabinet. I haven’t even really had a chance to look at the actual machine but if the outside is anything to go by…

It’s still in the boot of my car because I need a second person to help me get it upstairs and that will have to wait until tomorrow….which reminded me that I was going to try and catch up on blogging about my (apparently ever expanding) machine collection.

That’s going well isn’t it? 😉

So here’s my lucky find from November 2015 (see, I told you guys I seriously needed to catch up!)

Obviously no vintage sewing machine collection is complete without a Singer Featherweight…actually no vintage sewing machine collection is ever complete…but now my little collection includes one.

They are a little hard to find in New Zealand, even harder to find in Wellington. More often they pop up in Christchurch and Auckland but cost a fortune to send my way due to their weight*. It only recently dawned on me that Fashionable Younger Sister lives in Auckland and so I altered my TradeMe search settings and then coaxed her into being my mule.

Three popped up for sale at the same time so I had my pick of the bunch and I think this was what kept the cost from getting too crazy. I know that sentence doesn’t make much sense if you don’t know what I paid for mine…but let’s just say they can go for in excess of NZD$350, regardless of condition, and I paid a lot less than that for an almost pristine machine complete with accessories, original case (with key!) and original manual.

I liked two out of the three the best. One of these was slightly older – without checking serial numbers the face plate is a good giveaway: In general you’ll find the Egyptian-like scroll work on the older machines. Newer machines have the more basic looking vertical striations. I ended up pursuing the more modern machine because it looked in much better condition.

Early Scroll Pattern v. Later Striated Faceplates from Singer Sewing Info

After I won the auction FYS was the best sister ever and braved a drive into a less-than-desirable suburb to pick it up for me. Don’t worry, she took her new beau with her for protection (I think he’s a keeper, just sayin’). She arrived in Welly for Christmas 2015, carrying it onto the plane as hand luggage in such a way as to make it look light…as a feather.

I picked FYS and the Featherweight up a few days later on my way to pick up my next vintage sewing machine purchase. For a short while (and not for the last time – see April 2016’s yet to be blogged Brother 190 and Pfaff 332-260) my boot contained TWO vintage sewing machines…more on what’s in the other case later…

Like usual I took lots of photos of the featherweight so if you are interested in seeing more you can find them here.

Check out my entire collection on my Weapons of Choice page.

*While the Singer 211 does indeed weight less than many of my other vintage machines, it’s still much heavier than a feather…

My new NEW Singer machine and one for you too!

Hi everyone! Guess what? I have a new sewing machine!

And it’s actually new!

So obviously it’s from Singer and it’s mine until they give me something else.

But don’t get too green with envy ok?

(Hehe, see what I did there?)

Because guess what? My machine is green and you’ll be tickled pink when you see the raspberry version I have to give away to one lucky NZ reader!

Keep reading… 🙂

So what’s this machine all about? It’s a Singer Simple 3223, an entry level mechanical sewing machine aimed at beginners and here in NZ it comes in green (ok, aqua) and raspberry.

So pretty.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room. I am not a beginner sewist. At the most you might catch me calling myself advanced intermediate. So you might be thinking, why did they give you this machine? Good question!

When I think about my current machine (it’s not a Singer, so we won’t talk about it in too much detail, you understand…) it’s not particularly fancy either. It has a lot more stitches than the Simple but really what stitches do you actually use for garment sewing? I use straight stitch, zig zag, blind hem, I insert zippers, I sew on buttons (because I hate hand sewing) and I make button holes.

That’s pretty much it.

So what can the Simple do? Well, it does straight stitch, zig zag and blind hem. It can insert zippers, sew on buttons and make button holes!

Tick, tick, tick…tick!

I’m going to give you a quick review because I’ll be sewing my next Singer Sewing project solely on this machine and then I’ll be able to give you a better idea of what it’s like to “live” with in a future post. Fluffing around on fabric scraps is fun but sewing an entire garment? That’s a real test of endurance!

The Singer Simple 3223 is a fun, retro looking mechanical sewing machine aimed at beginner sewists. It would also make an excellent backup or travel machine, it’s got a great price tag and it’s pretty colours really stand out among all the white and grey machine options.

I got to choose what colour I wanted and I really struggled. I can tell you what I think of this machine but I am afraid you’re on your own when it comes to choosing which colour!

It arrived in a colour matched box (squee!) and was very well protected, snuggled in a polystyrene inner and plastic bag. Immediately inside the box was the instruction manual and DVD, a dust cover and the electronic foot.

First impressions: It looks like a typical mechanical sewing machine but very pretty. The knobs and machine markings are colour coordinated, there is a thread cutter on the side of the machine and it has a front loading bobbin. The standard presser foot is attached (snap on) and the front sewing bed is nice and deep.

Inside the accessory compartment was a nice selection of standard accessories. There were a couple I didn’t recognise so I had to look them up! They turned out to be a fancy shaped screw driver, a darning plate (to cover the feed dogs in place of being able to lower them) and two different thread spool caps.

The full list of standard accessories is:

  • All purpose foot
  • Zipper foot
  • Buttonhole foot
  • Button sewing foot
  • Seam ripper/brush
  • Edge/quilting guide
  • Needles
  • 2x Spool holder caps
  • 3x Bobbins
  • Screwdriver
  • Darning plate

Ok, Harriet has approved the new addition, now let’s sew!

First thing I noticed was that the thread spool sits sideways and that’s what the caps are for! It might seem strange for me to point that out but this is new for me.

Secondly, I didn’t even need to glance at the manual to start filling the bobbin (in Singer red, of course!). Threading and bobbin winding threading sequence is nicely indicated on the top of the machine with arrows and numbers without being too “Fisher Price” obvious.

I did check about declutching! Unlike most machines I’ve used you don’t need to pull the handwheel to declutch, it’s automatic once you push the bobbin over against the bumper. With a full bobbin I threaded up following the markings, it’s all pretty conventional.

If you do need the instructions they are filled with lots of great diagrams and there is even a DVD if you learn better that way.

I started out sewing on some calico and went through each stitch option before trying out the 4-step buttonhole. Apart from the zig-zag stitch, you can change the stitch length but not the width. All the stitches were really neat and straight and there are 23 of them to choose from including the stretch stitches.

I posted a pic of my first sewing trial on Instagram and was immediately asked if the machine could sew denim. That sounded like a good test to me! I dug out some denim and changed to a jeans needle.

I folded the denim so I had a section each two and three layers thick (because who sews just one layer?!) and started with standard thread for straight stitch and triple straight stitch. It looked good, no complaints from the Simple so far and this denim is fairly thick, I use it for patching. Next I switched out the top thread for a heavy duty top-stitching thread and repeated the process.

Single and triple straight stitch looked great and even the decorative stitches sewed fine! The Simple didn’t sound like it was under any duress and I only had to tweak the tension a little.

I was on a role now so I switched back to standard thread and changed the needle to stretch. I found some cotton knit and tested out the zig-zag and stretch stitch options. No problems again and the fabric stayed nice and stretchy without popping any stitches.

This little machine actually really impressed me! I honestly didn’t think it would eat the denim so easily and if I am brutally honest I did not have particularly high hopes for stretch sewing…but it proved me wrong and lives up to the long standing Singer name.

Ok but it can’t be all roses right? No, it cannot. But they aren’t total deal breakers as you will see. Remember this machine sells for only a little over NZD$300 (on special until the end of May for just NZD$299) and as we’ve already seen it’s pretty capable….and also really pretty.

So, what don’t I like?

First thing I noticed: No number markings on the needle plate. It’s broken down into 1/8th lines  but they aren’t numbered. I was quite surprised when I first noticed this because seam allowance is a really important thing to keep track of as a beginner…and always. Plus I would expect a machine marketed to NZ/Aus would have both metric and imperial markings. Needle plates are removable and therefore replaceable…and that’s the subtle hint I dropped at Singer.

Has it stopped me sewing? No. I’ve started my next project already and I’m using my magnetic seam guide to keep my stitching in the right spot. Another option would be to use pretty washi tape, you can relocate it as needed and I‘d be lying if I said I’ve never done that myself on my other machine. Several times I’ve had tape markings on the plastic bed halfway between the needle plate and the upright arm!

Secondly, the bobbin door is spring loaded and opens just short of completely flat. You can’t fold it much further down because it gets hung up a piece of plastic that sticks out. It’s not a big deal but at first I found it a little awkward to put the bobbin in. This is also possibly a result of the extra deep sewing bed which is a good feature for new sewists. Hey, you can’t please everyone! I do have pretty big hands and I’m just used to a bit more room on my other machine, anyone else might not even notice 😉

That’s kind of it…so what’s next? Well I’m currently sewing a dress out of very naughty slippery fabric so that’ll be a good challenge for the Simple and then a new coat for winter…that’s a big ask right? But I think she’ll be ok…watch this space…

Now, to thank you for reading my little Singer Simple 3223 review I have the pleasure of giving away a raspberry version of this machine to one lucky NZ reader. So exciting!

To enter jump on over to the Singer NZ Simple 3223R product page to learn more about the machine, check out the description (big hint drop). While you’re there look out for the special competition code (you’ll need it to fill out the entry form – it is not the sewing machine’s model code!) then just hit the button below!

Sorry this competition is now closed.
What do you think of the new colourful Singer machines? I’d love to hear all about your current machine (or lack of…), tell me in the comments below 🙂

Good luck everyone!


I was given the Singer 3223G Simple Sewing Machine you see me using in this post to review as part of my work with Singer Sewing Company Australia New Zealand. All opinions expressed in this post are honest and my own. I freely chose to review this product because I genuinely believe it is a good product, I enjoyed using it and will continue to use it in the future. My samples were stitched on calico, denim and cotton knit using Singer Universal, Jeans and Ball Point needles, Gütermann 100% Polyester Sew All and 100% Polyester Extra Strong M782 thread.

Nobody puts Ami in a box…

Please note: I am an amateur vintage sewing machine collector, I do this for fun – Please do not ask me to help you value your machine or buy/help you sell it. None of my machines or accessories are for sale and I do not give away, lend or sell my manuals, scanned or otherwise for free or for any sort of payment/trade.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I really need to catch up on introducing all my sewing machine acquisitions from the last little while (read: two years!) and that’s a good blogging goal for 2017. I promise not to bombard you with machine post after machine post, I’ll mix them in with sewing posts.

You can see them all here and while some of them come with a simple story many of them deserve full posts.

Today I’m jumping ahead to show you my most recent purchase: Ami, a handheld battery operated “freearm” sewing machine.



Some of you would have seen the video of her on Instagram already.

I found this little sweetie where I find most of my vintage machines…TradeMe. She was only $15.00 and I’d never seen anything like it. While one potential buyer was busy asking if it would hem jeans I just hit the “buy now” button 😉

You snooze, you lose.

img_1603Here it is with my Elna 2130 for scale. It was made in Japan and I have no idea how old it is. At this stage I couldn’t even take a guess…but feel free to suggest away in the comments!

She runs on two ‘C’ sized batteries and with no bobbin she sews a tidy chain stitch. There is an on/off switch on top and the little dial at the front right is the hand wheel (thumb wheel?). After switching it on this helps it get started and speeds up the stitching too.

img_1607Top: Top stitch
Bottom: Chain stitch (underside)


The little extension table slides and clips on and after I made my little video I discovered the wind out foot underneath the needle plate that adds more stability.


It came in the original box, for which the seller apologised profusely for the damaged lid, and original instructions. It’s nice to have the box but let’s get real, she isn’t going to be living in there 🙂



But speaking of the box, on the outside it looks like Ami also came in a dark colour scheme.


It sits nicely on the table but according to the name you can operate it while being held in the hand, hence the ergonomic grip shaping under the arm.


I’m not convinced but I still love her. And that’s my little Ami handheld battery operated “freearm” sewing machine.

Have you seen an Ami sewing machine before?

If you’d like to see some more photos check out the overflow page here.


My Singer 99K-13

I’ve fallen really far behind with taking photos of my completed makes lately. Two dresses and two robes (one of which is my Named Asaka that Nikki has dropped a “subtle” hint about 😉 ) have posts written but no photographs yet.

On top of that I am about to hem a third dress, a fourth (another version of the second dress) is half way done. Dress number five is cut out and yesterday I wore my Lady Skater for the first time in ages and instantly remembered that I needed 3 more of them…sigh…also I may have accidentally bought the new Victory Hannah dress along with 10 of my work colleagues.

My office is really social, we have everything from the usual sports teams (cricket, netball, spontaneous lunchtime mountain biking) to drawing clubs. A brief lunchtime chat revealed an unexpected count of 11 ladies who sewed and 1 who wanted to learn. There was some sort-of-serious joking about staring a sewing club and now 12 of us meet every second Tuesday after work on our mezzanine level to sew.

We may have just found our Sewing Club uniform, or at least a fun group project for the more confident among us to lead the newbies astray and then we’ll see if anyone notices when we all rock up to work on a Wednesday in the same dress…I’m actually not at all sure it will suit me but I’m keen to try it if only for the fact that it’s the most interesting indie pattern I’ve seen for a long time! I already have fabric picked out that I am happy to sacrifice.

This weekend is a long one so maybe I’ll find time to take photos of my outstanding makes but in the mean time I’ve been busy adding to my vintage sewing machine collection. I have several new/old machines to write about and it’s easier to take and edit photos of them instead!

The last machine I wrote about was my Elna One but I’m actually starting with the machine I bought immediately after the Universal Apollo, way back in June of 2013.

This little 99K-13 came up on TradeMe with two others all from the same seller. A smaller version of the 201K that started this all, I decided one of them must be mine!

They were all in slightly different condition and each came with a different selection of accessories. I thoroughly scrutinised all the photos and ranked them in order of preference. There was a bit of interest but in the end I won my first choice for $36.00.

When it came time for pickup I discovered the seller was my local Mary Potter Hospice so it was doubly nice to see my money going towards a really great charity.

My machine came with the original wooden carry case (and key!) and the knee controller clips nicely inside this case. It also came with the original oil tin and motor lubricant tube and several feet. The instruction book, which is suspect was not originally with this machine, is missing its cover and I also received a book about the motor.

The third book is for a zig-zag attachment (image above) that sadly wasn’t with the machine. I need to find one!

(edit: or maybe not!!)

The “K” is for Kilbowie, the factory in Clydebank, Scotland where she was manufactured and the serial number places this in a group of 30 000 machines made in 1946.

She needed a light clean but she sews beautifully. All I needed to do was change out the little rubber bumper on the bobbin winder, the belt was fine.

What I love the most about this machine (apart from EVERYTHING else) is the bobbin winder assembly. It’s so clever and it really illustrates what I love the most about vintage machines. I wish I could wind all my bobbins with her.

Permit me a little nerd-out here (jump ahead if it gets too much) – the whole bobbin winder assembly runs off of the balance wheel. The bobbin sits on the spindle, located by a little pin and then you lock the whole mechanism down so that the rubber bumper is against the balance wheel.

A tongue of metal sits against the bobbin and is part of the spring-loaded stop latch that holds it in place. Just like with modern machines you first need to de-clutch (release the stop motion clamp screw) and then you can begin to fill the bobbin. As the bobbin fills and the thread on the bobbin gets thicker it lifts up the metal tongue of the stop latch. When the bobbin is full the tongue is at the right angle to automatically release the catch and the whole mechanism returns to its original position. The rubber bumper is no longer against the balance wheel and so it stops turning.

At the same time there is a threaded section on the spindle turning a toothed disc , called the worm wheel, hehe. On the back of this disc is a raised circular section that sits off-center so acts as a cam. The thread guide sitting beside this has a little extension that is held against the cam on the back of the worm wheel with a spring and works as a kind of cam follower. the cam action moves the thread guide back and forth feeding the top thread onto the bobbin evenly.

It’s only 20 seconds but I could watch this all day long, it is truly delightful.

I recorded this video for a Pecha Kucha style presentation at work. The night before I got home late and still needed to get a video of the bobbin winder. The only camera in the house that could record video AND attach to my tripod had a flat battery, so…

The 99K was made from 1911 until the mid 1950s and the only significant design change during that time was the stitch length adjuster.

My machine has the earliest example, a simple screw in knob with no numbers to indicate stitch length. Later this changed to a lever with an indicating scale of stitches per inch and later they separated the scale out with a little indicator in a slot of its own.

You can also see the bobbin winder design simplifies, the worm wheel and fun little waving thread guide disappears. None of my other machines, modern or vintage, have this feature and they all fill their bobbins evenly. I wonder if this is perhaps due to how modern thread is spooled?

So that’s it.

I just think this little machine is really beautiful and so I wanted to share it with you, sorry it took me almost 3 years!

I have some more photos if you are interested, on their own page here.


“Old man, how is it that you hear these things?”*

Last weekend I added a new machine to my little vintage collection.

And you all know when I say “new” I really I mean “old right?

67 years old.

Not the oldest in my collection but certainly the cutest:

It’s an Elna One, affectionately know as a Grasshopper, Elna’s first production machine and the first ever mass produced portable free arm sewing machine.

These machines, in production between 1940 and 1952, weren’t originally given a model number but almost everyone knows them as an Elna 1 or Elna One and I think you can guess where “Grasshopper” comes from.

I’ve been hunting for a good example for quite some time. When they do come up on TradeMe (NZ’s equivalent of eBay) they often have no case or are in pretty bad shape and the good ones go for crazy prices.

There’s one currently up asking for an opening bid of NZD$450, which is particularly ridiculous considering they have only uploaded one photo (the first photo is free) and it has a single sentence description.

Really? For $450 I think you can shell out that extra 25c for a second photo…or go wild, spend a whole dollar for four photos!

/end rant

My Elna One is date stamped April 1948 and I picked it up for NZD$60.00.

It came with it’s clever folding carry case, accessory box and the original power cord which is in excellent condition. The body paint is pretty good too, only a few chips here and there, mostly at the sides on the base, probably from the edges of the carry case.

Even the light still works! I am however a little sad that there was no instruction booklet.

I used a pdf I found online to wind a bobbin and thread her up and everything works perfectly.

After I removed the wad of fluff from under the feed dogs she sewed like a happy purring kitten.

I’m currently sourcing a reproduction manual to tide me over until I can get hold of an original.

I love vintage sewing machines. They are so beautiful and often very clever.

After threading up to wind the bobbin I was trying to figure out how to declutch and couldn’t see anything in the manual. So I just started winding and realised it was already declutched. I think it happens when you fold out the special little guide that carries the thread down to the bobbin.

I also love how the military-look carry case opens. There are two little buttons, one on each side that you press. The case folds open flat and a smooth surface folds open again from some wire clips. After you fold the base inside you can place it flat upside down on a table. Then the whole thing slots over the free arm to give you more sewing surface.  

It’s knee controlled which I like because it’s still quite unique to me and I really love how the arm folds up to sit in front of the machine. I also have a knee controlled Singer but you have to completely remove the arm and clip it inside the wooden case for transporting.

And that’s about it…except that it’s not. You see between this acquisition and my last I may have acquired an extra machine or two…or three…ok, three!

I never got around to writing about them but that doesn’t mean I love them any less…although the Grasshopper is my current favourite and it will take something pretty spectacular to knock her off the top!

I love them all, especially my “baby” Singer, a 99-13 and all her original accessories…and there may be something else pretty special arriving from Auckland at Christmas time with Fashionable Younger Sister, who is my TradeMe Mule…

So I thought that my machines deserved their own page, somewhere for pretty photos, to collect information about each one, links to my posts, useful websites, and updates about the ones that need some restoration/parts. 

I’ve been working on it for a while, setting everything up took ages, so it’s still a work in progress but here it is so far..

I’ve also added a button link to my side bar.

I am considering rotating these machines so that I actually use them, in place of my usual Elna 2130 so keep your eye out for them sneaking into the odd construction photo.

And that really is it.

Ok, it’s not. I am pretty enamoured with my Grasshopper. I took a lot more photos. A LOT MORE PHOTOS! So to keep this post from overflowing I have given them their own page here.

It’s worth a visit, even if just for the Harri outtakes 😉


*Kung Fu Pilot Episode (TV Series, 1972)

Master Po: [after easily defeating the boy in combat] Ha, ha, never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?

Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.

Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?

Young Caine: No.

Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?

Young Caine: [looking down and seeing the insect] Old man, how is it that you hear these things?

Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

Sewing toys: Coverstitch obsession edition

WARNING: This post is loooong. I was going to break it up into two but I decided it’s easier to keep it all together, then those of you looking for coverstitch information can find it all in one place.

You can use these links to navigate:


I was a very lucky girl this Christmas, “Santa” didn’t know what to get me so I asked for something I’ve been thinking about for a while: a coverstitch machine.

Santa knows what a coverstitch machine is, we’ve discussed them before. He said, “If you make me a hoodie with cool stitching then I’ll put one under the tree…”


So I went into full investigation mode. It’s hard to find a lot of information about coverstitch machines, even more difficult to find one to test drive here in NZ. It seems that, like overlocker machines in the home back in my Mum’s day, cover stitch machines are only just beginning to gain traction with the domestic market.

(I will refer to my overlocker a few times in this post, it being the closest thing I have experienced to a coverstitch. Overlockers and sergers are the same thing. In NZ we call them overlockers so that is the term I will continue to use.)

This is a luxury purchase. Between my Elna 2130 and Bernina 1150MDA I have two very good machines that allow me to create anything I want. I love sewing, I sew a lot and I often sew with knits/stretchy fabrics. The “want” was strong. 😉

So I am going to share my experience of choosing a coverstitch machine and what I think of the machine I purchased. This is from my point of view and based on my personal sewing experience, I am not an expert. I hope this post will help any of you who are also considering one.

Disclaimer: By reading this post you release the curious kiwi from any responsibility should the following cause you to run out and buy a new sewing machine!

So what is a coverstitch machine?


If you are familiar with an overlocker, a coverstitch machine is similar except that they have no knives and only one looper with 1 or 2 needles. On higher end machines you may also have a 3rd needle.

I am still learning everything that my coverstitch machine can do but the most simple way to introduce you to coverstitch is for you to go grab a rtw t-shirt. See the double row of stitching on the outside of the hem and at the sleeves? It looks a bit like twin needle stitching but inside it looks like an overlocker stitch and encases the raw edge. This is a 2-needle coverstitch.

A 3-needle machine gives you two different widths of coverstitching – using the centre needle plus the left or right needle for a narrow width of 3mm OR using the two outside needles for the wider width of 6mm. And of course you can use all three needles at once.

You can also use the coverstitch to apply the “overlock” looking stitch as a decorative finish to the outside by stitching with your fabric “upside down”. You often see this type of decorative stitch on sports wear, sometimes in a contrasting thread colour.

Stitching with only 1 needle threaded creates a chainstitch. At first I wasn’t really sure what chainstitch was for, apart from embellishment (you can use a thicker thread in the looper), but I have read that it is great for basting because it unravels easily when the correct thread is pulled. Since developing my spot-the-coverstitching-vision I’ve noticed that on some of NH’s t-shirts there is 1 or 2 lines of chainstitching at the shoulder so perhaps it is also good for reinforcing those areas.

Some high-end overlockers can also convert to coverstitich. When I was investigating my overlocker purchase I looked at a few machines that could also coverstitich but chose to buy a dedicated overlocker. The price jump to a machine that could do both was out of my budget at the time but I was also advised that converting them can be difficult and that machines that do both can be a compromise of both designs. I was already 100% overwhelmed by the overlocker options so I decided at that time I would buy a dedicated coverstitch machine when I was ready.

Having said that however, I also know people who own these machines, use them as both overlockers and coverstitchers and love them.

Here are my tips for sewing machine shopping (for any type of machine):

  • Each brand is different – consider the brand you are familiar with but don’t forget to look at others
  • This is an important purchase so it’s important to “test drive” your options
  • Set a budget and decide what you want your machine to do
  • Think about how your sewing will evolve, try to buy a machine that you can “grow into”, consider any bonus features you can use in the future
  • At the shop try threading and converting the machine yourself
  • Take samples of fabrics that you sew with and try them out
  • Try all the features
  • Ask lots of questions
  • If the sales assistant isn’t helpful, go elsewhere
  • Make it fun!

My ideal coverstitch machine was less than NZD$1000, 3-needles/4-thread, had a free arm, and was not super chunky.

The options:


Bernina 009DCC/L220

I have a Bernina 1150MDA overlocker that I LOVE so it seemed logical to investigate Bernina first.

On their website they have a picture of the 009DCC, it is a 2-needle/3-thread coverstitch machine with no free arm. It has front dial-style tension adjustment knobs that look a little old fashioned in my opinion but I was prepared to give it a test drive.

I looked at this machine about 6 months ago and emailed my local Bernina dealer to ask about costs and if they had one in store for a test drive. They are near my work so it meant I could pop down during my lunch break for fun sewing play time. They replied that Bernina were releasing a new model soon and would let me know when it arrived. I rung them about 2 months ago after hearing nothing and got the same response and they didn’t seem inclined to help me further.

When I started looking more seriously just before Christmas I rung a different dealer outside of the CBD. She confirmed that Bernina are releasing a new machine but also offered to ring them to ask when it would be available and how much it would cost. The 009DCC will be replaced with the L220 in March 2014 and will cost NZD$1399 – This was way outside my budget and impatient kiwi didn’t want to wait that long.

Here is a sneak peak I found of the L220 and a YouTube video. It will be a 3-needle/4-thread machine but I cannot see a free arm.

Brother 2340CV

Next I grudging looked at Brother, I say “grudgingly” because Brother makes me think of printers and $199 sewing machines from Harvey Norman. However, since their sewing machines are fairly cheap…perhaps their coverstitch would be too?

I did not get far enough along in my investigation to learn how much this machine costs – perhaps around NZD$600? – I pretty quickly discounted it from my list. 

While it is a 3-needle/4-thread machine, it looks hideously clunky, has no free arm and I read some not very encouraging reviews about it online: There are difficulties in releasing the thread tension after you finish stitching and the foot controller is laggy when you start stitching.

Elna 444

This will sound silly (and vain) but when I was overlocker shopping I investigated Elna first. My sewing machine is an Elna 2130 (now discontinued) and it’s a great machine but when it came to the Elna overlockers I really didn’t like how they were painted up all “Fisher Price”. I think the newer machines are different now but at that time the thread path colours were overdone and it made me feel a bit babied. I kind of like my machines to look more grown up 😉

Their coverstitch isn’t so bad and I was willing to give one a try.

Unfortunately Elna have given the majority of their dealership rights to Spotlight, ugh!
I could write a ten thousand word essay on how bad their customer service is so don’t get me started. I was immediately not enthused about purchasing through any of their stores considering I might need to go back there for servicing and purchasing accessories. I rang them anyway and left a message but have not heard back from anyone to this day…there are a few other dealers in Wellington who sell Elna machines and I soon found out that the 444 isn’t available in New Zealand.

I also learnt that Janome make the Elna coverstitch and from what I read online the Janome would possibly be slightly less expensive.

So of course Janome were next:

Janome CoverPro 1000CPX – NZD$899 (on special)

I rung Wellington Sewing Services in Kilbirnie where the gentleman who answered the phone replied to all my questions including confirming the price and quickly suggested I come in for a test drive.

Finally, some real service and a machine worthy of my time.

While waiting for the weekend to roll around I read some great things online and watched some YouTube videos. This 3-needle/4-thread machine has the more upright look of a traditional sewing machine with a long arm promising lots of sewing space. It also has a removable piece on the sewing bed that reveals the free arm.

On Saturday NH drove me to the shop. The gentleman who I spoke with on the phone pulled out the machine and showed me how it worked. Then he un-threaded and re-threaded it to show me how easy it was and let me have a go using the samples of stretch fabric that I bought along with me from home.

It was AMAZING! My two fabrics were very different, one a slinky lycra and the other a cotton jersey, but it stitched both pieces beautifully without changing any settings.

The machine in the store had white thread in the two outer needles and a variegated thread through the looper:


Next I was shown how to correct skipped stitches by adjusting the differential feed.

TOP TIP! This is the most common complaint I read online about ALL coverstitch brands and not many people know this trick. I also leant how to stop “tunnelling” in merino by using a wash away stabiliser.

I was so impressed not just with the machine but with the service. It was my first visit to Wellington Sewing Services and I will definitely be back. It’s an amazing store with lots of stock and the gentleman who helped me really knows his stuff. He picked up quickly that I was an experienced sewist – there is nothing worse than being overly babied – and I enjoyed being allowed to use the machine with little interference so I could make up my own mind.

While I played around he talked a bit more about the machines features and motor. He has been servicing and repairing machines for quite some time and has a very high opinion of Janome in general.

I probably should have test driven another machine as comparison but after 30 minutes it was too late, I was SOLD! 🙂 I took the machine home that day along with a free pair of fabric scissors and a long strip of the wash away stabiliser.

A boot full of Christmas shopping: Doing it right

Other machines I could have looked at, but discounted due to cost was the Babylock at NZD$1999 and the Pfaff Coverlock 3 or 4 at NZD$1699 and NZD$2599 respectively.


Unboxing the Janome CoverPro 1000CPX


The machine came in a really good quality box, wrapped in plastic. The lovely man at Wellington Sewing Services filled out my warranty card and dropped in a free pair of fabric scissors so technically my box had already been opened but he resealed it with packing tape.

Harri was excited about the prospect of a new box to claim as her own – a chunky bit of polystyrene on top kept her out of it…for now…

On the top layer were my free scissors (not as nice to use as my Mundials, but always good to have a spare set floating around!), plastic bag with manual and warranty card,  vinyl machine cover, foot controller and plastic box filled with the standard accessories.

Inside the plastic box:

  • 4 thread spool nets
  • 2 accessory screws
  • Schmetz needles (it uses the EL X 705 needle system)
  • 4 thread spool caps
  • Tweezers
  • 2 screwdrivers
  • Needle threader
  • Lint brush

Manual, warranty card and…umm, an “Important Notice” about not letting children play with the machine unsupervised.

The only bad thing I read online about this machine was complaints that the instruction book was lacking detail – I’m not sure if perhaps I have a newer book with more information but it was about what I expected. Similar in content to the instruction books that came with both my other machines.

The instructions include a large diagram of the machine, naming all the parts, information on how to set it up and what each dial does. Clear threading diagrams are followed by instructions on setting up each stitch type including correct tensioning. The final section includes machine care and a troubleshooting table.

Back to the box – under the foam I was surprised to find the machine pre-threaded with all three needles in white. Nice!

From the front it looks almost like a normal sewing machine.

From the side you can see the extra depth. Hand wheel, stitch length dial and differential feed located similar to my Bernina.

More vanity talk: Online I saw a lot of images of this machines with lilac coloured handwheel and knobs – I’m glad mine is dark grey 😉

Ohh free thread!

On the front right is a quick reference guide of tensions for each stitch type.

On the left, recommended settings for heavyweight fabrics. On the right, for light to medium weight. As with any tension settings these are just starting suggestions and the manual explains how to tune these for a balanced stitch depending on your fabric.

The slider below this is an additional adjustment to the looper thread tension, used when sewing heavyweight fabrics.

Inside the front cover you can see the thread passing through the looper take up levers (the three fingers at centre) and on to the looper, which is tucked under the feed dogs. The white knob near the base drops the looper out (to the right) so you can easily thread it. You click it back in when you are finished and bring the thread to the top.

A nice clear threading diagram and…

…quick reference for threading each stitch type.

It’s really easy to thread and tension plus the long arm gives you a lot of space to manoeuvre fabric around. It’s also fast (not quite as fast as the Bernina, but I’m ok with that!) and it’s very quiet.

The extensions table piece removes easily to reveal the free arm.

All lined up it appears as if I am trying to collect every brand of sewing machine, and I need a bigger table, hehe! Oh and I just noticed that all the brand names are printed in red. 

In reality they don’t sit on my table like this. I’m usually only using two machines at a time so the spare machine sits near the back. Ideally I’d like to position my table perpendicular to the wall so that I can put the overlocker and coverstitch back-to-back.

The only problem I have right now is that the foot controller is identical to the one for my Bernina (but the machine plugs are different so I still have to have both under the table) it’s hard to tell which to step on for each machine. First world sewing problems, I know, solved with a bit of fluorescent pink tape wrapped about the Janome’s cord 🙂

My first official project with my new machine was a fabric cover – look at the naff vinyl one it came with, yuck!

I never used to cover my machines but a certain furry helper who likes to eat thread means they need to be hidden when I am not around.

I ran out of the circus stripe (as NH refers to it) so I used some of my precious retro sewing machines. I hemmed the bottom with the coverstitch, pretty!

It’s not all super amazeballs however, and to prove I’m not begin paid by Janome to gush about their machine 😉 here’s a quick outline of things I wish it had:

There is no on-board tools storage. When I rethread my Bernina, I do it from scratch, every time. Because reasons. Anyway, I flip open the cover, slip out my tweezers (and screw driver if I’m changing a needle) and get on with it. I also need the tweezers to thread the looper on the Janome and it would be nice if it had a slot inside the front cover to take at least the tweezers, but also perhaps the needles, brush and small screw driver. Instead they live in that little plastic box. The designer in me wishes they had made better use of the spare room inside the cover.

On board storage – Bernina 1150MDA

My Bernina also has a needle threader. While the Janome machine has more room to make threading the needles a little easier the little stick thing they give you for threading is hard to use. I’ll admit I haven’t really tried very hard to get the hang of it yet, I’ve been doing it “manually” so I’ll persevere and come back to you on that. Perhaps there isn’t room for something like the threading mechanism on the Bernina but it would have been nice to see it included if possible.

Needle threader – Bernina 1150MDA

Lastly, I wish it came with a few of the accessories – I did investigate them before buying so I knew they were fairly expensive. You can buy “generic” attachments, but I have read mixed reviews about them.

I will be buying the centre guide foot (NZD$79.00) and hemmer (NZD$39.00) because I already feel I need them. Later on I may get a binder but to use that you also need to buy the special attachment plate. This comes to a grand total, for binder and plate, of NZD$269.00! Ugh Janome, you could have at least included the plate, why did you bother to give me those attachment screws?!

At least Harri is happy with her new box 🙂

Coverstitch Tutorials


I’ve been collecting a few tutorials onto a Pinterest board, most are specific to the Janome but there’s some great general info as well, feel free to take a look:


That’s it, phew!

I am excited about all the things I can sew with my new machine and so is NH. He thought the variegated thread that was in the store machine was very cool and then I made the mistake of telling him about the fluorescent, the glow-in-the-dark and the colour change thread spools I’ve seen on the Gutermann rack at Made Marion…oops 😉