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 have several machines, but still do most of  my stitching by hand.  I do like the older mechanical machines., if you hit a wire with a computerized machine, you will knock it out of time.  Also try to look for a machine that has a smaller, less obtrusive head, so that you can have more maneuverability with.  Also look for a machine that has or can be used like a free arm. 

Yes Bridget the free arm has made my life easier. My husband cut the surround away to allow this. Excuse the pin rash but it came like this & I have kept it up out of convenience. Another tip is to hang tape for binding and wire behind my machine so ready to go.  The lamp is the original one also as it does not have an inbuilt light due to its age. It also has a knee control to raise foot. Cost $100 20yrs ago but has many years of working life yet. 

Looks like a great, sturdy machine, Elaine!  You can't knock these old machines.

I have two twin Bernina 1230's, and LOOOOOOVVVE them both!! I also have a Bernina 700D serger. Bernina, hands down, is a precison made work horse!! In my opinion, Bernina is THE Rolls Royce of sewing machines!!  AND you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for a brand new one.  These two machines are ca. 1990, and I got them both for about $500.00 each.  Any good, used Bernina is a solid investment, and will take pretty much anything you can run under it!! I have over 40 years of professional dressmaking, and over 20 years of hatmaking experience , and have sewn on, and sold most any brand machine you can name, and nothing comes close to the Swiss made Bernina. I still have my mothers 1976 Bernina 830 Record. She paid $900.00 for that machine back then. It is now a collectors item, and has appreciated in value. Collectors are paying anywhere from $800.00 to $1,000.00 for this machine, depending on condition.  I can't think of too many other machines that actually appreciate in value, like the Bernina!!  Grab a good used one whenever, and if you can find one!!

My darling little Bernina Activia 220 just sailed through 4 layers of leather.  Love it to bits. :)

BRAVO Bernina!! I would assume you used a lance point leather needle?

Sure did, Elsie.  I've got a whole wardrobe of needles for her - and so each to change over :)

Greer, I've sewn on every machine brand you can name, as I used to sell sewing machines when I was in my 20's.  I did a line of totebags for an art festival several years ago, and my Bernina went through 4 layers of tapestry, plus 2 layers of leather!!  You know--the area when your stitching the leather strap at the sides with seams!!  The next power lever would be an industrial machine, which I've also had in my lifetime, and still, the Bernina is just one notch down from an industrial!!  The Swiss make excellent watches, chocolate, army knives, and sewing machines!! All with the same exact precision!!

I think it depends on what your needs are.

I have a Brother sewing machine, and it has worked well for me. And it was inexpensive. It has an overcast stitch, which is nice. (Not as good as a serger, but since I don't have a serger, this is a fine second-best.) The needle stops down in the fabric, another nice feature. (And it has a ton of decorative stitches that I don't use.) I have a walking foot for it, which I love. Not powerful enough to handle a ton of layers of very thick fabric. But for most "everyday" uses, including sewing newsboy hats, it does the job fine.

That said, I make fewer sewn hats than I do traditional blocked hats in felt. And for those I do all the stitching by hand.

I alternate between a couple of basic machines but my favorite is my vintage green Grasshopper machine!  Best of luck!

How about a pic Dee - never seen one. Does it do zig zag as well ?

yes, I'd like to see a picture, too. Never heard of a Grasshopper sewing machine



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