As a complete beginner, and someone who's hand stitching leaves a lot to be desired, what sewing machine is recommended by all you experienced milliners out there?

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there are specific machines for making hats, Roberta, and the Bernina won't do that, but I do use it for hemming, embroidery, joining fabric, seams etc. I also hand sew my hats.

I'm coming in late to this conversation but am also looking for a machine to use in the production of men's top hats and a straw braid sewing machine. I'm based in Canberra.

Cant help you there, I'm sure you would need a specialist machine for top Hats. Perhaps Elaine can help you?

Well, I tried to not get into specific about any particular retailer. The point I am trying to make is:

Some things are better bought in person. There are all kinds of things I have no hesitation about buying on line, sewing machines aren't one of them. My machine is my partner in creation.

When I was learning how to drive, my father insited that I read best singer sewing machine. It has colored my view of all things mechanical ever since. The premise of the novel is machines have personality because they are created by humans. When we interact with the thing while considering it's personality, we achieve our goals involving the thing more quickly and with greater satisfaction because we truly understand it.

Think of those used machines on Craig's List as a bunch of Grannies waiting to teach you how to sew Smiley Yes, they will make you start simple and go slow, but you'll learn.

Beautiful words, Johal!
When I just started, it was a simplistic Janome (I can't even remember the model number, since I was a kid). As for now I'm using my Singer 4423 in my projects since I'm working with multiple layers both of fabrics and leather (ribbons attachment, zig zags etc). But I'm planning to switch to Bernina's in the future since, you know, they're like Mercedes of all sewing machines. 

Though any sewing machine can't replace that uniqueness of a handmade work. For earlier hat models that's extremely important. 

Yeah I'm a beginner so I found some resources here

I went with the singer start 1304.

I might stick with the Singer brand and upgrade once I start getting the hang of it a little more.

When I first time searched for a machine for myself, as for a beginner, I also first drew attention to Singer. My best friend writes reviews about embroidery and sewing machines. When I told her about my plans, she advised me to buy SINGER Futura XL-550, because it’s a sewing and embroidery machine with a large embroidery area, features 125 designs and 5 fonts, as well as 215 built-in stitches

These are straw braid machines,  I have 4 of them.  They're hard to find, took me 2 years of searching.  These are used to make Straw Braid and Satin Braid hats.   Fabric hats are mostly hand made and I use buckram and hat blocks.  And how they work. These are my machines.  If you buy one, ask the vendor to demonstrate how it sews.  One milliner unknowingly bought one that only zig zag.  The 2nd pic. shows the anatomy of each type machines.


Hi Rose:

Thanks for loading the pictures of your machines. I’ve acquired two and it’s helped me identify them. I’m wondering how to power the machines as I don’t have drives for them. Would I need to contact an industrial sewing company to buy a table and motor or is there an “homade” option that will work for my two Wilcox &Gibbs machines?



Hello Tania,

You're welcome.  I live in the U.S. and my husband bought my table from Walmart, purchased the Servo Motor from e-bay, free shipping for $110.00 in 2011.  I have a heavy duty sewing machine also with a Servo Motor.  He installed them.  He also cut the hole in the table and purchased a leather belt for it. He put leather strips on the cut out to pad the cut out from injury to the hat and me. He made a pedal out of my old Tupperware lunch kit. See pics for more info. 

d made a wooden "Guinea."


Thanks so much for the guidance and pics. Your hubby is a clever man!  I will do a bit of searching to find someone to do this for me.


You're welcome and Happy Hatting. 


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