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Equipment reviews

wrenn's picture

Equipment reviews (post #31251)

I was thrilled to read about your series of polls since I have lots of opinions about the magazine.  Just finished the poll on equipment articles, but there was no opportunity to include my own comments, so here they are.


Reviewing equipment has the potential to be very useful to potential purchasers.  But to do so one has to be willing to include some negative findings.  Many of the articles are so uniformly positive they are not useful.  I can get a list of features and superlatives from the manufacturers.  What I really need are some honest critiques.

Bernie1's picture

(post #31251, reply #1 of 44)

Wrenn, you are absolutely right. I'm a journalist and I expect articles to be balanced. There is no point doing a review if you aren't willing to criticize and praise. It's probably that Threads doesn't want to offend advertisers but you can't be credible if you only say nice things about every machine that you review. Let's face it - there are some lemons out there and some machines are just manufactured better than others. Readers have the right to know that.

CarolFresia's picture

(post #31251, reply #2 of 44)

When we present information about products and tools, we consider these articles to be "overviews" rather than "reviews." This is for several reasons.


First, one's response to any piece of equipment is very subjective, and since it's only one or two or maybe three of us examining the equipment, we can't really offer an objective assessment that would be fair to the manufacturers or the readers. It's nearly impossible for us to find outside reviewers who are impartial, since the type of sewer who's qualified to assess these machines is usually, however subliminally, partial to the brand she knows best.


Second, we simply don't have the set-up or personnel to conduct truly scientific, systematic comparative tests on the various equipment. We do test each machine, take notes, try to understand how each piece works and what its features offer, but we can't fairly comment on durability over the long haul, or assess motor power and such.


Third, when you purchase a major piece of equipment, like a sewing machine or serger, you should take into account not just the item itself, but your future using it. Even if we said "Buy Machine A," we'd rather have you buy machine B if you have a supportive, local dealer for B and would have to drive 200 miles to get A serviced. We can't review dealers, and they are an important part of the purchase equation.


Fourth, there's a purpose for just about every machine out there, from the bottom-of-the-line, super-affordable ones to the "dream machines." We'd rather let the reader decide which is best for her needs. And we try always to remind her that if she buys from a reputable dealer, there should be no problem with any machine that can't be solved.


Carol

Monkey1961's picture

(post #31251, reply #3 of 44)

Carol,


I do a lot of sewing, and am thankful for a magazine like threads.  I understand genderwise, I am in the minority.  But I think a good way of looking at machines is with a grid, listing some key and basic features, and how well they perform - All the machines may do a simple buttonhole, but you may have more variety with one model vs. another.


I also like to group by price: Under 300.00, 301.00 to 500.00, etc, so you can go to the group that fits your price range.


I am not looking for a consumer reports type of review, but what is useful.  As far as all the bells and whistles, it's important to understand what you will really use, and what will go unused in your sewing. 


George Bolton

CarolFresia's picture

(post #31251, reply #4 of 44)

Hi, George,


Did you see our comparison chart of basic sewing machines (under "tools and supplies" at the left of the home page screen)? In the original magazine version of this, the chart was set up by price range, because we agree that for most people, price is an essential consideration.


What kind of sewing do you do? I'm interested because we don't, as you've guessed, hear from many men sewers, and I'd love to know what you're involved in.


Carol

becksnyc's picture

(post #31251, reply #5 of 44)

Carol,


I'm with George on the chart idea.  Yes, you have included them in the past.  But when I saw you mention "real estate" in reference to how many pages get eaten up by various features, I couldn't help but notice, the dream machine review took up EIGHT pages.  Yikes!


Couldn't we get the same information in less space, with less "eye candy", so there's more room for the articles we crave?  When that many pages are devoted to products, I read it as "advertising" under the guise of "product information".  I don't mean to offend the author of the article or the testers, because it is obvious a lot of work went into it. But if I want indepth equipment information I can go to the manufacturers, Epinions, Consumer Reports, etc.  At $6,000 to $7,000 a pop, what percentage of your readers are so serious about buying a new machine THIS year, that it is worth eight pages?


{I'd hazard a guess that more than a few of your readers also prefer PBS style news over the major networks' ad-drenched blurbs. It's the same principle, in my silly little head!  :-)} 


On the subject of objective reporting, if you can give pros, you can give cons.  If there are only a few of you that tested out the machines and you still found all of those advantages worth printing 8 whole pages (am I getting repetetive? :-)--please don't tell me that you also didn't find some DISadvantages, too.  If we can trust your observations on the advantages, why wouldn't we appreciate your observations on the disadvantages?  A wholly glowing article smacks of advertising, and therefore turns me off to it.


But, that's just me...


Becksnyc

Monkey1961's picture

(post #31251, reply #6 of 44)

Hi Carol,


I have been sewing for many years, I have been a volunteer in a Historic house museum in Norwalk, and made my own costume for a living history day, a tail coat and shirt were needed.  When It came time to do the shirt, I contacted David Coffin, and he was fantastic in sending me drawings to fit my size ( I was at one point over 400 lbs.) Being so large, it was hard to get fashionable clothing, so I made my own.  Now, I have lost a lot of weight (now 245) but find I am a combination of sizes, so I draft my own patterns and make shirts, and vests, Sew curtains for the house, etc.


I have a featherweight and a Singer 401 that do everything I need from a machine, and a Babylock serger. 


Threads is wonderful, and isn't like so many shops where they tell me to have my Wife/Girlfriend/Mom come in, as I might forget what I am being told about the machine or notion!


Shirtmaking is a great book, and I have read many of your fit articles, but one day, it would be great to see an article on fitting Mens clothes - they can have sloping shoulders, a pear shape, very thin legs, large belly, but with men's clothing you don't the same options for correcting fit.


I have also made quilts for friends when they were leaving, one side with a nice design, the other with people signing and writing a message - So you can feel all warm and cozy, and be reminded of those who are distant, but still in your heart.


 


 


 


 

Bernie1's picture

(post #31251, reply #7 of 44)

I'm with you, Monkey - I'd like to see articles on fitting for men. I make shirts for DH and am making a coat for my brother-in-law who lives 500 miles away so any measurements need to be accurate. I like DPC's book but it's sort of mind-boggling the amount of work he puts into making one pattern.

CarolFresia's picture

(post #31251, reply #8 of 44)

I agree about David's book--it's really shirts elevated to an artform! One of these days I'm going to do that, but for now...I whip things out much more speedily.


I'll be sure to mention this interest in fitting and sewing for men. It's hard to tell how many of our readers do this, and how many of them do it just for practical reasons, and would rather have the magazine focus on more "inspiring" clothes for women. I do think I'd be more likely to make, say, trousers for my hard-to-fit spouse if I had some good info. on construction.


Carol

FitnessNut's picture

(post #31251, reply #10 of 44)

Hi, Carol!

I, too, sew for men....if only my husband and brother-in-law! When in design school, we had to take classes in pattern drafting and sewing for men. I must say that I enjoyed it very much and often use the techniques in women's wear, not just for shirts, but also for pants pockets, fly and the waistband/centre back seam. We didn't venture too far into this area in the two courses we took....we drafted and sewed pants, shirts, and a vest, and drafted a jacket. We received instructional material for a number of other garments as well.

I have to admit that I haven't played much with menswear design (the bridal parties keep me too busy!), but it could be very interesting and a challenge for the intermediate/advanced seamster. It strikes me that this could be the basis for a number of articles, should the demand be there, of course. It is very interesting to investigate, nonetheless, and many of the techniques are easily adaptable to sewing for women. (Think how durable the pockets on men's pants are made.)

Sandy


Edited 3/16/2004 1:39 pm ET by Sandy

Follow your bliss ~~ Joseph Campbell
Bernie1's picture

(post #31251, reply #11 of 44)

Maybe just an occasional article on fitting for men would satisfy most of us - maybe one on pants, one on jackets, one on shirts.

edgy's picture

(post #31251, reply #12 of 44)

I agree w an earlier poster that if you can provide the positives of a machine, you can provide the negatives. That is, if you've actually used them. We can get the positives on their website -- they're never going to tell us the negatives.

We're smart enough to figure out if what you find negative wouldn't matter to us. But if the buttonholes are consistently amateurish, or the feed is bad or the tension doesn't seem to be consistent -- that's a lot more important to us than the machine reviews you have been providing.

My 2 cents,

Nancy

pdclose's picture

(post #31251, reply #13 of 44)

Carol wrote: "I'll be sure to mention this interest in fitting and sewing for men. It's hard to tell how many of our readers do this, and how many of them do it just for practical reasons, and would rather have the magazine focus on more "inspiring" clothes for women. "


Well, quite frankly, in my opinion if you can offer eight pages of "eye candy" and positive, glowing non-feedback (really gratuitous advertising wrapped up as an "article") on $6000+ sewing machines, then surely you can spare two pages for an article on sewing for men.  I'd bet you easily have as many readers who sew for men as those who will actually go out this year and buy those top-of-the-line machines you spent 8 precious pages on.


BTW, men's clothing can be "inspiring" too.  Hawaiian shirts are a category all to themselves, and appeal to both sexes, for example.  You need to think more creatively.  The tuxedo shirt craze among women (from a few years back) is another example of an idea for men that translates across the sexes.  It would be quite easy to have an article focus on a specific feature for men, then show in a sidebar how this feature could be adapted/embellished/translated for women.  You can have your cake and eat it too!


Diane Close

CarolFresia's picture

(post #31251, reply #14 of 44)

Diana,


Believe it or not, our surveys suggest that more of our readers own high-end sewing machines than sew for men! Not what I would have expected (as a non-high-end machine owner who sews for a spouse who wears nothing BUT Hawaiian shirts all summer). Given that we don't get a lot of response to "do you sew for men?" we haven't pushed the envelope in that direction much, but this forum is revealing that there are people who are quite interested, so I'm sure we'll explore that avenue in the future.


Another reason we haven't done much with men's clothing is that, for the most part, we publish articles that are submitted, unsolicited, by authors, and there are very, very few (none that I can remember in the past 2 years) on men's clothing. Seems we need to look around and find something.


"Monkey," are you reading this? Do you  have a good article up your sleeve? FYI, David Coffin is moving on to greener pastures in Oregon, and his last day is April 2d--maybe he can do an article free-lance,when he's not busy painting watercolors!


Carol

pdclose's picture

(post #31251, reply #15 of 44)

Carol wrote: "Believe it or not, our surveys suggest that more of our readers own high-end sewing machines than sew for men!"


Hmm, perhaps the problem is in who is answering those surveys? I've subscribed since 1990 and haven't seen one, nor participated in one, until now.  Are these random mailings? Announced in the magazine (hidden in the back)? Can't say I've seen any until the big fat obvious cover protector of my current issue announced it. I know I'm nearsighted but still... :-)


I'd be interested to know what percentage of your readership actually answers the surveys? Are you basing your decisions on 5% or 50%+?


Diane

CarolFresia's picture

(post #31251, reply #18 of 44)

We send out the surveys to a random sampling of subscribers, and have an exceptionally high rate of response--I'm not sure of the actual percentage, but it's closer to 50 than to 5. Threads readers are, apparently, very highly invested in the magazine, and tend to respond to questionnaires at a rate that is much higher than industry average for this type of research. So we feel pretty confident that over time the answers we get do reflect the "average" Threads reader.


In this past issue, we included a survey inside all the copies sold on the newsstand, so that we can get an idea of who's buying the magazine there rather than subscribing. We're curious to see what kind of response we get from those questionnaires.


Carol

Jean's picture

(post #31251, reply #16 of 44)

Re. sewing for men. I've given up sewing for the man in my life, boys - OK, but my DH is far more critical of what I sew for him than what he buys off the rack, so in order to save my marriage I gave it up. ;-) Men's shirt collars are a pain anyway, but you should have seen the professional job I did on a grey herringbone sport coat I tailored for him - 40+ years ago. Anyone would have been proud of it, but it went largely unappreciated. I chalked it up to experience and concentrated on sewing for my kids instead.


 


I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don't hurt.

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
help to provide free mammograms for women in need
FitnessNut's picture

(post #31251, reply #17 of 44)

I wish I had your problem ;-) My DH drives me nuts to make him clothes, and I have made him some nice things in recent years, but with the sewing business I just don't have the time or inclination. Its a nice change from the fussy stuff, especially as its just about all machine work, but I can't seem to make the mental shift as far as the patternmaking is concerned. I end up spending too much time trying to remember how to do certain things... digging through my stuff from school, etc. I just want to get on with it. Must be an age thing ;-)

Sandy

BTW, men's shirt collars are simple, fast and easy if you use industrial techniques.....not the lousy instructions included with most patterns.

Follow your bliss ~~ Joseph Campbell
CarolFresia's picture

(post #31251, reply #19 of 44)

Sheesh! You can tailor a jacket for me, anytime, Jean, and I guarantee it will be appreciated!!


Carol

Jean's picture

(post #31251, reply #20 of 44)

LOL Don't hold your breath!

I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don't hurt.

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
help to provide free mammograms for women in need
Monkey1961's picture

(post #31251, reply #24 of 44)

I am sadden to hear of David Coffin leaving the area, but hope he will write for Threads in the future.  He has inspired me to do better work, and to observe and apply logic to my work, and the results have been fantastic.


I would like to take a survey for Threads.  Being in the minority of Male subscribers, I would have thought someone in marketing would want to know what makes me subscribe to Threads, and I offer my opinion on a regular basis.


I would like to work on an article for Threads, can you provide me with information on how to submit work?


 

becksnyc's picture

(post #31251, reply #40 of 44)

Since I've altered men's clothing full time for 13 years, I can't say I'm eager to know how to make said garments.  Men's clothing is fairly standard and available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.  Suits are complicated to make well yet fairly inexpensive to buy (as compared to the time needed to sew them).  ANY slip-ups are super obvious because of the standardization and high quality of factory sewing.


So, no articles on making men's tailored clothes, please.  Other items perhaps. 


A good idea would be more on altering RTW for men, if anyone would be interested in saving $$$ on that.  Hmmmmm.... who could write articles on that I wonder???


 


Smiling,


 


Becksnyc

FitnessNut's picture

(post #31251, reply #41 of 44)

Stop smiling and start writing!!!!! (Well, you could keep smiling....)

As usual, you are on target here. Good quality men's clothing is readily available at all price points. I can't say that I've made use of the courses I took at design school in this area very much....a few things for my husband and brother-in-law, but not much else. Having some alteration skills in your arsenal isn't such a bad idea....or at least some written directions on file to get you started when necessary.

Why don't you consider submitting a proposal to Threads? I think the info is on the web site somewhere ;-)

Sandy

Follow your bliss ~~ Joseph Campbell
Monkey1961's picture

(post #31251, reply #42 of 44)

I have done some tailoring of men's clothing, for various reasons, but the main ones are to have a jacket or trousers that truely fit, and I tip my hat to you with regard to alterations, because not everything can be altered to fit as well as a garment that is made to fit right the first time.  I have made quite a few garments for people who have had physical challenges for fitting - one shoulder sloping, a waist and stomach much larger then chest measure, etc.


For people who have these fitting problems, often a ready made garment does not have enough fabric to alter, or looks wrong on the person, so a pattern can be altered to correct the fit and made perfect.  I have often found very good buys on fine fabrics, and using tailor's techniques, have turned out some fine clothing that has worn well for many years.


I think having control over fabric and fit has a high value, and if people look good in the clothing they wear, and are more confident, it is worth the effort.  But if you have someone who can wear off the rack clothing with minimal alterations, and they are happy to wear fabrics not selected for the individual, but the masses, more power to you.


I have read MANY articles on fitting problems for womans clothing, and on some tailoring techniques, so why not work on some of the Men's clothing?  And I must tell you how rewarding it is to work with anyone who feels they stick out because of ill fitting clothing, and how happy they are with the results!


So I would like to see articles on Menswear of all sorts once in a while!


 


 

becksnyc's picture

(post #31251, reply #43 of 44)

I agree that RTW doesn't do justice to every body, and that a tailored garment can give confidence to those with serious figure problems.  I also agree that there are limitations in what alterations can be performed on a ready-made garment. 


I wouldn't object to occasional articles on men's clothing, I just think that articles on tailoring suits for men would not be useful to the majority of Threads readers, for the reasons I mentioned before.  The rare reader who has the technical skill AND the need to custom make suits would need alot more knowledge than what Threads could provide in an occasional article.  So, if I were looking for that kind of information, I would probably look elsewhere.


I wish every man could experience the confidence that comes from a "bespoke" suit.  Most of my customers have to make due with altered RTW, sometimes resorting to lower quality seperates because of figure challenges and the prohibitive costs of quality custom work.  I guess if American men thought more like Europeans, that a suit is an investment to be worn for 20 years....I also weep that tailoring is a dying art in most areas of the US.  Available in the major cities, sure, or if you want to fly to Hong Kong...


Just some thoughts...


Becks

Monkey1961's picture

(post #31251, reply #44 of 44)

I understand about having an article on men's suits and the length would be prohibitive, but perhaps separate aspects could be broken down, like fitting solutions for pants.


I know from making garments for myself, if they fit well, and are of a timeless style, with proper care you can get many seasons out of dress slacks or a Sport Coat/Suit Jacket. 


But since the techniques are less fussy with tailoring compared to dressmaker or pattern instructions, I think that many of the tailoring techniques can be adapted to many types of clothing.  I work for a clothing manufacturing company, and made a point to observe how they put sections together, then adapted it to my work.  It really speeded things up.


I know that Martha Stewart Living magazine issued special issues devoted to one subject like Care of clothing that covered irons, pressing, washing, things I take for granted everyone knows.  Maybe Threads could do a special issue to cover items like Menswear or Serged techniques for this limited market.

punky's picture

(post #31251, reply #29 of 44)

BTW, men's clothing can be "inspiring" too.


Amen to that!


Tracy (aka Punky)

cafms's picture

(post #31251, reply #30 of 44)

Carol,


I made a shirt for my future husband more than thirty years years ago as a birthday gift.  I couldn't measure him properly (he's tall and skinny) without having to explain why, so got the shirt tail way to long and accidently put the cuffs on backwards.  But he wore it anyway and we still have it.   I've made his shirts ever since.  He is so sweet to tell everyone that I make them.  I also made his suits when he first went to work for IBM but after three children came along I couldn't keep up.  My two sons still want shirts I make.  They were born first so I did a lot of sewing for males.


Cynthia Guffey, who has been mentioned several times, has a class I've attended where she discusses a tailored shirt/blouse.  I found that most of the things she suggests are the things I do in making shirts.  The buttons are just on the other side.   


So many of my sewing friends find sewing for men intimidating but it isn't really that different from sewing for women.  The main problem I have is finding fabric like RTW in my area - either woven or knits.  Would love to see an article on sewing for men.


 

Bernie1's picture

(post #31251, reply #31 of 44)

That reminds me of a shirt I made for my husband about 20 years ago from Leiter's fabric (does anyone remember them? I LOVED that source). It was a shirt with a yoke and the fabric was a nice blue heavy duty cotton that was tough to cut but otherwise had a very excellent hand. As I was cutting open the buttonholes (with a seam ripper) my hand slipped and I sliced right through the buttonhole. I was so angry I threw the shirt across the room and swore I'd never sew again. My husband retrieved it and took me out to the local fabric store where we bought an applique shaped like an anchor. I sewed it over the slash and he wears his "anchor shirt" still, even thought the cuffs are frayed where his watch rubs and it's a bit too small nowadays. He refuses to toss it.

cafms's picture

(post #31251, reply #35 of 44)

Those little appliques can be memorable.  I put a little fish on the knee of the oldest son's pants when he was very little.  All three children wore the jeans and remember them to this day.  If they need a repair the joke is that they need a fish.


The watch is really hard on the cuff and the pant pocket.  I've tried to think of ways to add a little extra reinforcement there but haven't had any luck.  Maybe make an extra cuff and wash it a couple times with the shirt so it doesn't look so new when it needs to be put on.

FitnessNut's picture

(post #31251, reply #32 of 44)

Cafms,

I think that the reason so many women find sewing menswear intimidating is that there aren't a lot of resources available to teach the different techniques involved. Almost all sewing articles and books are geared toward sewing for women. David Coffin's Shirtmaking book is an exception. We all know that the men in our lives will not wear something that screams "homemade". On men's trousers, for instance, the pockets, fly and waistband are all done differently than on women's pants. The only pattern I ever purchased for men's pants did not use the appropriate techniques. Let's just say that they weren't worn often. Taking the courses in men's patternmaking and sewing at design school was an eye-opening experience.

Sandy

Follow your bliss ~~ Joseph Campbell