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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I would look for a basic machine, you will only need the straight and zig-zag stitches for making hats.  Personally I have four sewing machines that I use regularly, and my favorite is a vintage one from the 40's.  Good luck and happy hatting!  


Thanks Amy,

As I thought. Have been to spotlight today and seen a reasonable basic machine.

Hi Ruth

There are many who swear by older machines as being sturdy, metal and very reliable.  You do just need straight stitch and zig zag for most millinery which older machines do. 

I have a standard Bernina Activa 220, which is only about 6 years old and it's very good despite having no bells and whistles.  I like the features that modern machines have, such as automatic tension, sideways needle movement and being able to make the needle stop in the fabric.  I also like that I can fit a wide range of feet, and will often use the zipper foot for getting close to edges and the walking foot is great when you've got layers of fabric. 

I make flat-pattern hats as well, and the reassurance of a modern machine is good for working with a wide variety of fabrics.   You'll need something that can cope with 5-6 layers of sinamay as well as the finest silk. 

I suggest you take samples of some of the millinery fabric you might be going to sew, when you go shopping!

Hope this helps ... 

Yes, Greer, it does help Never thought about taking in some fabric with me when I go machine shopping.

Good Luck Ruth.  Remember, although you need a basic machine, you still need a strong one with a bit of grunt!

is there a particular make of machine that is recommended, I wonder?

Fabulous advice Greer!  Testing out buckram or many layers of sinamay is the perfect way to know if your machine will be the right one for your needs!  Personally I wont buy another Brother brand machine, and I plan to by a Bernina (only read and heard great reports) when I can afford another.  The only other suggestion would be to put as much money into your investment as you can afford-as it will pay off.  Happy shopping! 

Few sewing machine tips in a previous discussion

I often suggest to my students to start off with a $30 reconditioned machine from the recycle centres. The older machines with no computerization handle the thickness of straws and wire. Particular brand? My old 40+ yrold Elna Light Industrial never misses a beat after almost 5,000 hats & headpieces plus a 40+ yr old Husqvarna as back up. When teaching @Uni Sth Qld I take 5 second hand machines- 2 are Janome, 2 Elnas + a Singer & they all survive. 

thank you, I have not heard good things about Brother from others, too. I am thinking I will centre my search on Elna and Bernina

I have been offered a reconditioned Bernina from a reputable dealer for $599.00. Don't know what model, but it does 3 layers of felt. Is this too much or is it a good price for this make of machine?

Grab it Ruth!!!  Please see my rant about THE Rolls Royce of sewing machines in this thread!!

I have agreed to buy it. Will pick it up tomorrow. Thanks for all your advice, everyone!


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