Advantages easy to use, many uses, lightweight and good old fashioned controls
Disadvantages none for me
|Ease of use|
|Cleaning & Maintenance|
|Value for money|
I’ve decided to write a review about something that I have been using for a while now, but it’s not something that I would have thought I’d be using quite so often, and quite so well in fact, even if I do say so myself.
The item in question is not something that many men have used, and I’m not being sexist, (I think), but please correct me if I’m wrong.
What I’m talking about is in fact a sewing machine, yes you heard right, a sewing machine, with the very famous sewing machine brand of Brother stamped onto it, with this particular Brother sewing machine being called the Brother XL 5500.
This machine is defiantly not an industrial machine being a neat size of approximately 400mm long by 250mm high by 160mm wide, so it fits snugly onto most tables. The curvy white plastic body is solid yet lightweight, so it can be moved around to where ever you want to put it, and with the rubber pads on the base being adjustable it can be set up so as not to wobble at all, although when it sewing at full pelt it can vibrate a bit.
As for actually carrying it around there is a very sturdy handle on the top of it which drops down into grooves so that it’s not in the way when not needed, but there ready when you want to pick up the machine.
There even a cracking little way to get the thread off the spool and onto the bobbin, filling the bobbin in a matter of seconds, ready to slot into the lower threading position, this is explained clearly in the instruction manual and some little diagrams on the machine itself.Plus, there is a rather smart little storage idea, consisting of a draw type unit which clips into place underneath the needle area, doubling up as platform for your material.
I don’t know if I was given extra bits with this machine but it came with a small white bag which contained many spare parts, such as needles, spools, a cloth tape measure, small screwdriver, bobbins, spare spool pin and more.NOTE:
As for actually setting up this sewing machine, well, I won’t go into too much detail about how to do this as that could be classed as ‘padding’, but I will say that the initial set up can be a bit fiddly, it took me a few attempts to get it right, but once I figured it out I was stunned by how simple it really is. In fact, just do what I did and follow the easy to understand instructions, these, together with the diagrams on the actual machine, show you exactly how to get the thread through the needle and also onto the spool.NOTE:
Anyway, once set up properly, with the needle now being able to pick up the thread from the bobbin below, it was time to get sewing, so I grabbed some scrap material and began stitching it together, using the different setting to help get the feel of the machine, to see what sort of stitching is was capable of doing, and there are so many, with there being about 15 different styles of stitching. These stitches are split into two sections, which are all controlled via the knobs and dials above the stitching diagrams. This is where the machine gets a bit complicated but really shows what it is capable of, offering so many different ways to finish off your sewing designs.Again, I won’t go into what the settings are, (padding), or what style of stitching you can achieve, but suffice to say that there’s a stitch on here for every one needs, with the opportunity of even setting the actual strength of the stitch itself, the tension I think it’s called. So if you want a neat stitch which will look good on you freshly designed piece of art then this will give you that. Or if you’re not so bothered about a rough stitch, maybe as it’s a quick repair job on your underpants or bra, then this will do that as well.
Your material is firmly held in place once the ‘foot’ is lowered, which is done by using the well positioned lever which is just to the right of the needle area, and with the ‘zig-zag presser foot’ gently dragging the material along from underneath the sewing action is so smooth and almost effortless, although find that gently pulling the newly sewn material from behind does help stop any snagging.
And for stronger seams there’s the option of ‘reverse stitching’ which is achieved by pressing down the grey lever on the front of the machine, the lever which looks like it would leave a mark on something if you pressed it. You just press this one down and slowly press on the foot peddle, the presser foot goes into reverse and stitches over what you have just done, creating a double seam, thus stronger, hey presto.
The difference in speeds does affect some of the stitching patterns, leaving different size gaps in certain ones, which can make your stitching look very scruffy indeed. So if you want to use certain stitching then try and keep a constant speed which you’re happy with.
Such stitches as the blind hem, stretch blind hem, shell tuck and other similar to these will be affected by changes in speed. ( Core blimey, I sound like I actually know what I’m talking about).
As I said earlier there are a few things on this machine that I have yet to try, such as the ability to darn, embroider, create monograms and even gather, but as I have not used these as yet I can’t comment on them. But if what I have used on this machine is anything to go by then I’m guessing that these abilities will be just as easy to use with some quality finishing.As for maintenance, this machine has to be cleaned and oiled every so often, but the instructions are again easy to follow and the oiling process takes a matter of moments but will keep the machine running smoother for longer. I’ve not had to change the bulb yet but I have taken the casing off to see how easy it is to get at and, using the supplied screw driver and the clear instruction, it was so simple to do so when the bulb does go I will have no trouble changing it.
What more can I say about this machine, apart from the fact that I’m actually glad that I managed to get the hang of it as since dragging it out of the pits of my daughters abyss of a cupboard, I’ve used it many time since, actually using it more than my daughter who I initially bought it for.
The outcome being that I can happily say I am getting better at using it to sew such things as pillow cases, curtains and more, and as I mentioned, I’ve just finished creating that rather fetching little Viking dress for my youngest daughters school project, (see the pictures, what do you think? not bad for a first attempt at dress making..? a new career path looming maybe?. In fact I’m expecting a call from Vivienne Westwood or John Galliano at any moment now).
So for all you budding fashion designers and clothes makers, or even those that want to darn their own socks, try this one out as you’ll be amazed how easy it is to actually use, I know I was.
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