Today I would like to talk to you about main seamstress tool - sewing machine - and more accurately, I would like to talk to you about advanced (or so called upgrade) sewing machines. There are many options today on the market to choose from, but with variety often comes confusion, so today I would like to give your some tips on what to look for in a sewing machine if you are looking for an upgrade. At first, I want to disclose that I am not a salesperson, and I am not a technician, so I cannot give you many technical details; but what I am is a pretty good seamstress and all the tips I will give today are based on my 10+ years sewing experience. Also, I would like to thank Elna for sponsoring and providing Elna Excellence 720Pro machine for this review - a machine I had my eyes for a very long time, as it stands out from the crowd with full pack of advanced features, yet timeless classic design.
Here is my video review, and scroll below to read the text version!
Let's start from the beginning: what is an advanced sewing machine and how are they different from basic ones? Sewing machines are similar to cars: main task of a car is to get you from point A to point B, and any working car will do this task; a better car will not make you a better driver, but it will make your journey safer, faster, pleasurable and more comfortable. Same with sewing machines: advanced sewing machine will not make you a better seamstress, but they will make a process much more controlled, much more enjoyable, much more comfortable and much faster.
You can first notice an advanced sewing machine from it's sturdy metal frames - this adds stability and helps reduce vibration while sewing, making process more quiet and more comfortable. It also gives adds durability for the machine, so it will last you longer under intensive sewing.
Aside from metal frame, advanced sewing machine usually has better control systems - for example, here is a photo comparison of Elna Excellence 720Pro controller vs. standard basic domestic machine controller. Elna controller is much bigger, more stable and much easier to control than the basic one, which gives you much more accurate control while sewing.
Advanced machines also have speed adjustability, so you can easily set desirable speed based on your project or skill level. Little control things like that allow you to set machine to mode that works best for you and control the quality of your sewing results better. Elna Excellence 720Pro has a max speed of 1200 stitches per minute, making it one of the fastest machines in the market.
If I could give you only one advice today, it would be to test a sewing machine in shop yourself (most official dealers offer this service free of charge) - again, very similar to a car, you need to feel if the machine is right for you, if it fits all your needs, if it's your machin e. After all, you are getting a machine that will last you many years, so you have to be sure you are choosing the right one! I am testing today Elna Excellence 720Pro machine by making an A-lined buttoned shirt dress (you will find a pattern for this dress later on Elna's website - make sure to check it out!). Of course, you would probably choose a simpler task to test your machine, but make sure to test it on different types of fabrics (silk, cotton, jeans, stretch fabrics), sew through several fabric layers and make several different seams (straight stitch and buttonhole stitches are a must to test).
Out of all stitches a sewing machine can offer, the most important one is straight stitch - look for a machine that will provide you high quality straight stitch, no matter how many layers you are working on. Elna Excellence 720Pro presser foot can be lifted extra high (one of the highest in the market), so you will be sure that it will go through all the layers you may need.
One feature that I love, but it often does not get enough credit, is the knee lifter. Can we take a moment to appreciate this little helper? It will allow you to sew more efficiently, without having to take hands off your project. I got so used to this feature that I know try use knee lift on all machines, even the ones that don't have it, ha!
Another nice feature I would like to mention is independent bobbin winding. It's as simple as it sounds: wind a replacement bobbin without having rethread the main thread. While this might not be a must feature to have, I really like to use it: while I run out of thread in bottom bobbin, I already have a replacement bobbin winded up and can continue sewing in seconds!
If I would have to rank stitches according to importance, I would put straight stitch to the first place and I would give second place to buttonhole stitches. If a sewing machine cannot make nice buttonholes, it will ruin the look of the garment you worked hard on - believe me, I've been there. Ideally, it would be great if a sewing machine would have a few types of buttonholes to use for different projects, but make sure it makes standard - rectangular shaped - buttonhole perfectly (cannot stress enough the importance of this). Can we take a moment to notice how beautiful these buttonholes Elna Excellence 720Pro made?
One more important feature to look for in an automatic thread cutter. This is one of those features that you may think you don't need, but once you start using it - you cannot go back. Seriously, this is one of the most time saving features a sewing machine can offer, as thread cutter will so neatly cut all loose ends, you will forget about the snipping tool.
Though straight stitch and buttonhole stitches are main stitches you should pay attention to, selection of decorative stitches is also worth attention, especially if you like to customise your clothing or decorate it. These stitches may not be an everyday necessity, but it's a nice option to have. Elna Excellence 720Pro over 400 stitches, including 3 alphabets for custom personalisation touch (I mean, why not add your name on your clothing? Only minutes to do, but what a nice touch!).
Last point I would like to tackle today (honestly, I could talk about sewing machines for hours, but have to save your time, ha!) is set of accessories machine comes with: look what kind of feet are included, does the extension table come along, does it have a cover, does it have a compartment to put your tools in and etc. All these little things can quickly add up significant amounts, so take that into consideration when comparing different machine models. I was very pleasantly surprised how many accessories come with Elna Excellence 720Pro - from extension table and a cover, to a huge set of different feet!
To summarize these tips: look for a sturdy metal frame machine with good control systems, speed adjustability, automatic thread cutting, knee lifter, independent bobbin winding, test straight stitch on several different fabrics and different layers, test buttonhole and decorative stitches and see how you like them. You are selecting a partner that will follow you through many sewing adventures, so you must be happy with it!
While making this post I tested Elna Excellence 720Pro machine and my verdict is… I highly
recommend it! As you can see, it has all the features I look for in an advanced sewing machine and so much more, because we tackled only a little of what this machine can do. I tested this machine while making an A-line shirt dress - a project which is quite difficult by nature, as it requires lots of precision and accuracy - and I was very pleasantly surprised how well the Excellence 720Pro tackled this task. Having a reliable sewing companion is crucial for every seamstress and if you are currently looking for one, I recommend you to check this machine out! If you are in Europe, here is a link where to get this machine online, directly from Elna website: https://www.elna-naehmaschinen.de/de-de/models_sewing.php
And here are a few photos of my new dress, made using Elna Excellence 720Pro machine. How pretty is it? I think I have a dress for hot summer days in the office, ha! If you would like to have one, too - make sure to check Elna website for the pattern of this beauty.