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Singer Chainstitch Sewing Machine Review

As an avid paper crafter that also enjoys sewing and quilting, I was hoping to combine the two and start sewing on my cards and scrapbook pages.  But being the cautious person that I am, I didn’t want to risk ruining my sewing machine parts or settings with the paper crafting supplies.  I purchased this mini Singer sewing machine (the Singer Chainstitch Battery Operated Sewing Machine) a few months back to use solely on these paper projects.

Things started out well, with the instructions being easy to follow and the machine packed pre-threaded and ready to sew – it is marketed to young kids after all.  But unfortunately things went downhill from there.  I tested the machine on a single sheet of lightweight cardstock and more than half of the stitches “skipped”.

This was about the time I realized that a “chainstitch” (using just one spool of thread) is going to much different than a standard sewing machine with a bobbin and a spool.  Because not only does that chainstitch need to be continuous to be effective, you have to tie off the end or the whole thing will pull apart – just like crochet.
After this I tried two layers of cardstock to see if a bit of thickness would help.  Just looking at the top, I thought that it had helped, but scroll down to see the reverse where all of the stitches have been skipped.

Then I did three layers just for fun and the machine stopped half way across my test.

Starting to get discouraged, I went back to the test fabric that was included with the machine (blue) and also pulled out a piece of pink felt.  Surprisingly the machine worked perfect on both of these materials!

So at this point I’m guessing there is something about the texture of paper that the machine doesn’t like.  For my final test I used a piece of ribbon on top of some cardstock and got some improved results.

To sum it all up, the machine is perfect for a little one that wants to learn how to sew fabric.  The machine is easy to use and very safe (covered needle and all).  But this is absolutely not the machine for paper crafts or other serious sewing needs because of the nature of a chainstitch.  I’m not quite ready to give up yet, so I’ll keep testing on ribbon.  And if nothing else I’ll save it for my daughter in a few years.

Pros:

  • Easy to use right out of the box
  • Works well on fabric and a single layer of felt

Cons:

  • Does not work on non-fabric materials
  • Chainstitch can ravel
  • Cost of 2 size C batteries is almost as much as the machine
Any one have any advice for someone wanting to sew without using their main sewing machine?  Let me know if you have tested other “mini” machines.

Singer QuikFix Mending Machine

I was fortunate to recently receive this cute little SINGER QUICKFIX MEND MACHINE (also known as the SINGER Pixie-Plus Craft Machine) as a gift from a friend. I was so excited about it, because at a glance it met all the requirements I have for a machine: compact, easy to use, easy to store, has all the “necessary” features, and is made by a reputable company. Another bonus was the fact that this little cutie runs on batteries (four AA batteries, to be exact). I craft at a folding table in my living room, and have young children. Those cords can be a hazard, and anything I can do to get them out of the way is fantastic! This machine is billed as “perfect for all your mending and hemming needs…designed for all those little mishaps that happen.”

The QuikFix includes:

  • the machine itself (measurements, including carrying handle: 10.5″h x 11″w x 5.0″d)
  • 1 general purpose foot pedal
  • 2 thread spools
  • 2 metal drop-in bobbins
  • 1 needle threader
  • 1 extra needle
  • 1 power adapter
  • needle threader

And its basic features include:

  • eight stitches and a pattern selection dial
  • a reverse stitch button
  • sewing speed control
  • sewing light
  • free arm (for sleeve cuffs and pant legs)

The thread colors included in mine were orange and turquoise, which I totally loved. It also happened to come with two bonuses: an extra spool of buttery-yellow thread and an extra metal bobbin. Who doesn’t love a little non-advertised freebie?! It was in a whole separate bag. I still haven’t figured out why, but I’ll take it! I don’t know if they are included in every box or not. The machine retails for around $70 and is sold online at Amazon, Target, and other retailers (mine came from Target.com).

According to the directions, you can operate the QuikFix two ways. Option one is the foot pedal, which will operate when the machine is plugged in via AC adapter. Option two is to install the batteries, and then turn the machine to either low or high, and it will begin automatically sewing. I took this to mean that if the batteries were not in, the automatic options would not work – this was in fact incorrect! So that is an important safety tip. Make sure the switch is in the off position before you plug in the machine! I happen to think the low speed is perfect for small projects, like hemming pants, mending holes, and sewing on paper craft projects. The high speed seemed quite fast (and other problems developed…read on).

The QuikFix, like most other machines I’ve seen, comes with a small drawer to hold its sewing goodies. My extra two metal bobbins, a spool of thread, a needle threader, and the extra needle all squeezed in just fine.

This machine has eight basic stitches available. Again, that’s all you really need if you are truly using this machine for its intended purpose of quick hemming and mending. I found the stitch selector dial and the tension selection dial (not pictured above) to be very hard to turn. I thought at first it was because the machine was new, but even after repeated attempts neither one turned as easily as I would have liked them to.

The machine thread a bobbin and holds the spool of thread much like other, larger machines do. In my opinion, the green plastic pieces seemed a bit…cheap. They work fine, I just constantly worried about them breaking on me. They don’t feel very heavy-weight. But again, this is an inexpensive machine designed to do quick-and-easy work – not heavy duty stuff.

The instructions that accompany the QuikFix include decent quality black and white photos, and very good step by step instructions for winding the bobbin, threading the machine, threading the bobbin, actually sewing, adjusting the tension, replacing the needle, and a good overview of the machine features (although, that is at the end, and I think it should be at the beginning – don’t you want to know what it does before you get started?). It’s important to note that with this machine, you must always use a metal bobbin, or the magnetized bobbin case will not be able to function properly, resulting in a lack of tension on the thread. Also noted on the Quick Start guide is the tidbit that the bobbin sits in the bobbin case with the thread tail coming out on the right side of the bobbin (clockwise), and that this is different from most regular sized sewing machines. Also included in the instructions is a troubleshooting guide, which I had to refer to often.

I really liked the clear sliding cover above the bobbin. The two other machines I have used have not had that feature, so this was a new one for me.  The drop in bobbin seems much easier to use.

I set the thread tension dial on 5, and started testing out stitches. With all eight stitches, the same thing happened. They would start out fine, and then one of two things would happen: either the end result would have skipped stitches (see above and below) or the thread would break. To address the skipped stitches, I first emailed fellow reporter Wendy Jordan to make sure it wasn’t operator error. Then I double checked the troubleshooting guide, and saw that the problem could be one of three things – the needle eye was not centered, the needle itself could be bent, or the presser foot was too loose. I removed and re-inserted the needle and slightly tightened the presser foot, which seemed to help.

Pictured below is the broken thread problem, which to me was much more frustrating. The troubleshooting guide hypothesized that the issues causing the thread to break were a bent needle, that the needle shank was not properly seated, or the thread tension dial or thread guide were too tight. I removed the needle and re-inserted a new one, and adjusted the tension dial and guide. Unfortunately, this problem continued to occur. I never actually got more than one 8″ line of stitches before the thread would break in spectacular fashion – it almost looks as though it gets knotted and then breaks. I tried the tension dial on all settings, to no avail.

Here is my quick list of pros and cons for this sewing machine:

Pros:

  • affordable price and compact size
  • runs on batteries
  • easy instructions
  • good range of basic features

Cons:

  • thread breaking is a problem
  • the skipped stitches required quite a bit of TLC as well (I readjusted the needle frequently)
  • some of the plastic parts seem inexpensive, and feel like they might break easily

Overall, despite the thread breaking frustrations, I really like this little sewing machine. I intend to keep fiddling with it, and call the Singer customer service line to see if they have any solutions for me. For the price is seems handy for its intended use.

Do you have a QuikFix, or a similar machine? How do you like it? And if you’ve experienced thread breaking problems like I did, please share your tips on how to resolve them – I’d love to hear it!