Product Type: John Lewis Sewing Machine
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A better quality compact sewing machine.
John Lewis Mini Sewing Machine
Member Name: col81
John Lewis Mini Sewing Machine
Advantages: Wide range of stitches, compact yet not so small it's rendered useless
Disadvantages: No variation of speed when using footpedal, can unthread itself if thread becomes caught
I have recently been re-bitten by the craft bug and have begun to make soft toys for young children to give me a bit of income whilst on maternity leave. I have been tempted to buy a sewing machine for a while but don't have the houseroom for a full size one so I went on the Google hunt for a compact one, checking out any reviews on Dooyoo along the way of course! I found lots of cheap and cheerful machines which didn't seem to have many features and then I stumbled across this machine from John Lewis. I bit the bullet, bought it and after having used it for a good while, here is my review!
The machine is a compact one which means it is smaller than a full size and has fewer features. The size is fantastic for my needs. It isn't so small that it moves around when you use it and it's not too big that it takes up a great deal of space. It is lightweight but not flimsy and it certainly does all I need it to. More on that in a bit. As you can see from the picture, it is a lovely fuschia pink colour and is made from glossy plastic so it does look rather funky. It is available too in a pastel blue colour but I do feel the pink is the better choice!
On opening the box, the machine was well protected within a polystyrene casing and the footpedal and AC adaptor were safely tucked in a hole especially made for them. I have kept the polystyrene as it's very useful to keep the machine stored in the box and protected by the polystyrene. There are full instructions included also which explain how to thread the machine, how and why you might want to change the tension of the stitches and each part of the instructions has clear diagrams so even a novice can get started no problem.
*Mains adaptor - I was really pleased to see that the machine came with an AC adaptor. Some of the other compact sewing machines I'd seen whilst googling were battery operated or had the capability of using a mains adaptor but didn't come with one. This John Lewis machine does come with an adaptor and doesn't take batteries. The adaptor cable isn't particularly long, perhaps just over a metre, which for me is fine, but depending on your needs may not be long enough. (I've given 5 stars for battery life to show that it always runs fine and never runs out of power because it's got to be plugged in!)
*The footpedal - the footpedal makes the machine go and stop. That is all it does. There is no variation of speed depending on how far down the pedal is pressed which can be a bit of a pain at times especially when sewing something which a particularly narrow hem or seam allowance and you'd like the machine to go a little slower. If I want to take something slowly, I have to sew manually by turning the wheel on the side of the machine and going stitch by stitch; ends up being a slow process! The speed of the machine isn't too fast anyway so as long as you're vigilant, you shouldn't need to do too much manual sewing. The footpedal is very lightweight and doesn't take much pressure to make the machine go so if, like me, you rest your foot on it whilst your fingers are in the way of the needle, be prepared to have your fingers taken off!!! Due to its light weight, the pedal can move about a bit so I try to wedge it against something to stop it slipping.
*Types of stitch - there are a surprising number of stitch variations on this machine. On the front of the machine there is a dial with the letters A to J on it and next to it are pictures of the types of stitch and their corresponding letter. There are variations of stitch length with the straight stitch and when the dial is turned, there are incremental lengths to which the stitch can be set between each setting (does that make sense?) so for example, if you're turning the dial from stitch A to B, there are little clicks inbetween A and B to set the stitch length to a more accurate length. There are 3 sizes of zig zag stitch, a scalloped stitch and a running zig zag stitch, all of which produce lovely effects. Again, this is a good number of choices which not many of the other compact machine had.
*Reverse stitch - Very few of the other compact machines I saw had the ability to sew in reverse. This machine does. There is a lever on the front of the machine which, when depressed and held down, reverses the action of the machine allowing stitches to be secured at the beginning and end of a row of stitches. A must have feature in my eyes otherwise all my handiwork simply unravels!
*Accessories drawer. At the bottom of the machine on the front there is a small drawer where I keep all the bits and bobs I need to use my machine. Included with the machine are 3 plastic spools ready to be filled with thread, a needle threader and a spare sewing machine needle (haven't needed it so far!). I also keep a stitch unpicker (is there an agent noun for that?) which I've needed to use regularly and I can fit a small bobbin of thread in there too. The drawer can be a bit fiddly to pull out at times but I'd rather that than it flying out each time I tip the machine up when putting it away!
*Light - there is no light on this machine to help you see what you're doing. However, it doesn't really make a difference; if necessary, a table lamp placed appropriately will do just as good a job.
*Presser foot lever - The lever to lift up and down the presser foot is made of plastic but does not feel flimsy in any way. It gets used a lot and I haven't noticed it feel the strain.
*Free arm - the machine has a free arm which means that there's a gap between the bottom of the machine and the surface its stood on so that you can get the ankles of trousers or the sleeves of tops in a suitable position for mending them.
*Tension dial - there is a tension dial on the front of the machine allowing you to change the tension of the stitches. I haven't quite got my head around changing the tension for different weights of fabrics but it is all explained in the instruction manual. One complaint I do have about the dial is that when I've threaded the machine, after a while the thread seems to get caught up or held tight by the tension dial itself leading to the needle unthreading more frequently than I'd like.
So, how does it perform? Very well. I have used it on lightweight cotton fabrics and is perfect for the job. I have successfully sewn heavier fabrics like corduroy but have yet to attempt denim. I don't think it'd be suitable for heavyweight fabrics such as thicker denims. With smaller pieces of fabric, there have been times where the fabric has become caught up in the teeth beneath the presser foot but this can be remedied by better initial placement of the fabric before sewing. Threading up the machine is very easy and a step by step guide is in the manual. As I mentioned earlier, the unthreading of the needle when the thread gets stuck is a pain and I don't know if it's down to a design flaw of the machine or if it's just my bad luck. Clear instructions are given as to how to fill a spool with thread using the machine also. To my mind it's the perfect machine for a beginner to use or someone who is doing light crafts or light repairs to clothes, etc.
Price - I paid £59 for this machine on the John Lewis website which I feel is an absolute bargain considering the number of features this machine has compared to other compact machines on the market which retail at around £20 to £30. It is certainly worth paying slightly more to get the quality machine and the quality results. And it's bright pink! What more could you want!
So, to summarise, this machine is compact yet sturdy, easily housed, does lighter sewing jobs, has a good range of stitches and stitch tensions, has a reverse gear, is easy to thread although it can unthread itself at times and is great for beginners or those wishing to do light sewing work. I think it's a bargain and hope to get a LOT of use out of it. Well done John Lewis!
Summary: A solid, well priced machine which is perfect for my light crafty jobs.
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