Does anybody sew? Looking for a good forum for sewing costumes and such

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Toadmaster

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My very talented wife has long wanted a really serious sewing machine. She has made elaborate Halloween costumes, and some fantasy / Renaisance Faire type clothing, but she has always been limited by her modestly priced, and lightweight home sewing machine.

I found her a heavy commercial straight stitch machine, and 5 thread serger in great shape and I think a really good price. A somewhat local garment manufacturer had been using them for prototypes, and has outsourced that work, so they were selling off their machines.

She plays online video games but other than that doesn't do any social media like FB or forums. I've found a few sewing forums but none seem like they would cater to her interests, mostly bridal stuff, light weight sewing, quilting, home clothing businesses, or really heavy stuff like upholstery and leather work.

I was hoping maybe we had some here who do similar work, she would like to make Renaissance outfits, corsets, cosplay stuff etc, mostly for her own use and amusement.


Her Christmas haul in the back of the truck, a Juki DDL-5550N straight stitch machine and a Juki MO-2516 5 thread serger. They came with about 10 large boxes of thread and misc tools and hardware.

sewing machines.jpg
 

Silverlion

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Check youtube, a lot of sew-people there. My mom watches them a lot.
As for costuming it will be hit or miss, lots of options out there, but a lot of it is very specific to the costume "genre." That is a cosplay of characters/media, general costuming is rarer, but it is out there.
 

Toadmaster

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She will youtube, and has already found a lot of specific and general informational videos. I find forums nice for "tool" type discussions, good machines / accessories for xyz, where youtube videos tend to be more "this is what I use but it might not be the best for you".

Gamers are known to dabble in costumes, so I was hoping maybe we had some here who might have some good resources to check out. I've actually bought her some neat stuff off of Etsy over the years that members of gaming forums I was on were making.


This is also partly my trying to learn more to help her. She is pretty dialed on the skills, and has made some really cool stuff. She doesn't really know what all is out there since she has up to now only used home grade machines.
 

TristramEvans

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I grew up sewing (on a very old cast iron Singer that descended into an attached wooden table), but I know nothing about the online communities
 

Toadmaster

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I grew up sewing (on a very old cast iron Singer that descended into an attached wooden table), but I know nothing about the online communities
My grandmother mom's mom) took sewing very seriously, always had high end machines, participated in quilting contests,and even had an addition built onto her house for her sewing room, as the standard spare bedroom most use didn't cut it. When she died she had a very expensive computer assisted sewing machine which my aunt laid claim to (although I have never seen her sew a stitch).

When I was a child I learned to sew a little by helping my mother who had a 1950s vintage (all metal construction) Singer sewing machine which was a hand me down from my grandmother during one of her periodic upgrades. It was apparently "the sewing machine to have" when it was new. That one also stored inside the table which seems to have been a thing for Singer.

We have a very old Singer sewing machine that we got when my grandmother (dad's mom) died. That one was made in 1911 as a foot treadle powered machine, and then later converted to an electric motor. I'm guessing when you say cast iron this is more the style you are talking about, Singer sewing machines followed this basic pattern from the 1800s until at least the 1940s.
 

Picaroon Jack

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I can mend socks and sew on patches, BUT I did get a beginner sewing machine back at the end of summer with the intention of picking up more skills. Primarily for historic reenacting projects.
 

Toadmaster

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Most of my experience around sewing machines is home grade machines. These things are insane, the straight stitcher runs 5500 stitches a minute and the serger 7000. Typical home grade machines seems to run 1000>.

Maybe it is just a guy thing but hearing it run makes me think of Jesse Ventura in Predator. :hehe:


 

Toadmaster

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Just to follow up for posterity and in case anybody else finds themselves looking.

So (sew? :tongue: ) it appears there really aren't that many active sewing forums. After days of searching, and finding quite a number with the most recent posts being 1-2 years old I settled on Patternreview. Not exactly what I was hoping for but at least itdoes seem to be pretty active and has quite a lot of information stashed away. Also seems to be a decent place to get information on machines and such.

It also turns out I that have sewing machines from both of my Grandmothers. A Singer Model 66-1 foot treadle type built in 1911 later converted with electric motor (electric motors began to be offered from Singer in the 1920s), which came from my Dad's mom.

I also have a Singer Model 500A Slant-O-matic "Rocketeer" from the early 1960s. This was bought by my Grandmother (Mom's mom) and later given to my mother. This is the machine I learned to sew on as a child and was apparently quite the fancy machine for its day using bakelite discs to offer a large variety of stitches in the days before computerized sewing machines. It was also one of the last all metal Singer sewing machines before the cost cutting (plastic parts) to compete with cheaper imported sewing machines.

Singer 66

Singer 66.jpg

Singer 500 "Rocketeer"

Singer 500.jpg
 

dbm

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My grandma used to have a Singer like that, and when I was into LARP I used to be competent with it.

Check out this page for Empire. It has links to some basic guides on how to make costume, which might lead you to more challenging stuff for your wife to try her skills on?
 

Antiquation!

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My wife used to run a costume shop that frequently serviced Cirque Du Soleil, and she is an avid costume designer both for cosplaying at cons and for Halloween. She does not use any forums that I am aware of; the majority of her ideas and tips come from a mixture of specialized convention panels (conducted by popular costume designers) based on different techniques, and Instagram and Pinterest (both of which she hates...). Her sewing machine is pretty crap, though; she borrows her mom's for any serious work. You've inspired me to take a look for one, which would make a great birthday gift come March.

Most of her direct improvement comes from collaborating with her friends who are also into the hobby. It's a shame there isn't a more targeted public venue for that exchange of ideas but thank you for locating Patternreview @Toadmaster, that might be a nice place to point her to.
 
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dbm

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There is a Facebook group called ‘Costume Froth’ for discussing making costume for Empire, that might also provide links to other online groups.
 

Toadmaster

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I haven't found any thing specific to her interests, but I have found Facebook does have groups for specific brands and even models of sewing machine. I did find a leather working forum that looks interesting. https://leatherworker.net/forum/

My wife used to run a costume shop that frequently serviced Cirque Du Soleil, and she is an avid costume designer both for cosplaying at cons and for Halloween. She does not use any forums that I am aware of; the majority of her ideas and tips come from a mixture of specialized convention panels (conducted by popular costume designers) based on different techniques, and Instagram and Pinterest (both of which she hates...). Her sewing machine is pretty crap, though; she borrows her mom's for any serious work. You've inspired me to take a look for one, which would make a great birthday gift come March.

Most of her direct improvement comes from collaborating with her friends who are also into the hobby. It's a shame there isn't a more targeted public venue for that exchange of ideas but thank you for locating Patternreview @Toadmaster, that might be a nice place to point her to.
Yeah, that Pattern review forum is the only one I found that is remotely active. There were quite a few that hadn't had a post in a couple of years. It does at least cover general information pretty well.

As far as machines, I'm learning things. One is industrial machines are mostly single function machines, they are very good at that one thing, but most people will need a couple of different machines. I've also discovered that the common idea that they are "heavy duty" is a bit misleading. They are very well built made to run constantly for 12-16 hours a day. They are not necessarily capable of working with heavy materials, some are for light weight materials like silk / satin, most seem to be made to handle medium weights denim, light leather, and then there are the heavy weights than can do canvas and thicker leather. There are even heavier machines made for stitching tack and saddles for horses.
The pair we bought are optimized for mid weight materials so will work well for her projects. I did know this before we bought them, but I've learned a lot more sense.

The part I didn't expect is most home users with industrial machines will have a good home sewing machine so do all the things the industrial machines don't do or at least don't do without having 5 or 6 machines.

Good vintage sewing machines are fairly cheap and many can do a lot of the fancy stuff modern ones do.

I found out the Singer 500 (the tan one) I have cost over $500 when new in the 1960s. In 2020 dollars that is over $4000. It can do a lot of the fancy work including some embroidery that modern computerized machines do. It just does it mechanically with plastic discs (sort of like an old player piano) instead of a computer.

There are a bunch of vintage sewing machine groups on Facebook that could probably help you find something that would work for your wife. The older machines are desirable because they were built much more robustly than the current machines and they can be had fairly cheap, many well under $300. One guy described vintage Singers as a Swiss watch built like an anvil. :grin:

On the vintage machines though, many of the older ones are just straight stitch, zig zag didn't come until the late 1940s. Most people will want a minimum of straight stitch and zig zag in a machine they are actually going to use. It seems like the 1940s was the beginning of "modern" machines capable of doing a variety of stitches became available. Machines started turning to plastic parts in the late 1960s / 1970s, so it seems the most desirable vintage machines for regular use (vs collectible) were made in the 1950s and 60s. I joined a Vintage Singer group and the Singer 301. 401 and 500 are well regarded as good affordable regular use vintage sewing machines with good parts availability. Of course being a Singer focused group they don't talk much about others. I see them on ebay for $100, with really nice examples with accessories, owners manual etc running up to $300-400.
 

Antiquation!

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There are a bunch of vintage sewing machine groups on Facebook that could probably help you find something that would work for your wife. The older machines are desirable because they were built much more robustly than the current machines and they can be had fairly cheap, many well under $300. One guy described vintage Singers as a Swiss watch built like an anvil. :grin:
This is all fantastic information, thanks Toadmaster! I will start looking at Singers and see what's floating around out there. I need to ask my mother in law what machine she has been using. I know it's a vintage one worth a decent bit (and holy crap is it heavy to lug out of the trunk), but I can't remember how old it is or what manufacturer; supposedly she's had it for a very long time though, so it's likely fairly reliable. When I find out I'll report back.

Parts and availability are a must, so it sounds like the 3/401 and 500 are a good place for me to start poking around. :thumbsup:
 

Toadmaster

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(and holy crap is it heavy to lug out of the trunk),

Parts and availability are a must, so it sounds like the 3/401 and 500 are a good place for me to start poking around. :thumbsup:
There is a sewing lady on youtube who did a video I watched on things to consider when buying a sewing machine. She refers to the "ugh" factor, that being when you pick it up you go "ugh". :grin: That is a good thing as it means the machine isn't all plastic (which would be light).


If you decide to get her a sewing machine, of course try to find out what she wants, but once you have an idea there are tons of videos on youtube on choosing a machine. A lot more guys with sewing videos than I expected, although still clearly a woman dominated hobby.


There are a ton of old machines to choose from, the three I mentioned are related all being slant shank machines. Slant shank refers to the machines being slightly tilted back at an angle instead of the traditional straight up and down. This supposedly makes it easier to see what you are doing.

All three machines seem to be readily available and some claim these are the best machines Singer ever made. I haven't had to look for much yet, but parts don't seem to be an issue. I see a lot of used and new parts on ebay, and there are several online stores that carry replacement parts for old machines. Apparently if properly taken care of old sewing machines are pretty bullet proof only needing occasional adjustment.

The 500 was the last of the three, some think it is more refined, others think it is overly complicated and prefer the other two machines so personal preference plays a part. Here is a thread I found on a quilting board that may help between the 3. Short answer is the 401/500 offer more features, the 500 has some style features that some like and some don't. The 301 is a simpler machine to use because it doesn't do the fancy stitches. You will see both with and without an A suffix, the A simply indicates it was made at the (then) new South Carolina factory, vs the original New Jersey factory, not actual difference in machine. 301, 401 or 500?

Like I said I have learned a lot in 2 weeks. :shock: Glad that my post has helped someone out.
 
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Antiquation!

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Hmm. It sounds like I may need to quiz my wife on a few things then... :shock: Awesome advice as usual, my limited learning capacity appreciates it!
 

Toadmaster

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I get surprises, but a sewing machine is probably something that should have some direct involvement from the user of it. If you want it to be a surprise maybe you could get her mom to help you decide on a good machine for her.

With the two industrial machines, my wife didn't even know the second machine (the serger) existed. We went to look at the machines and when the lady demonstrated it, my wife's eyes literally lit up with "OMG I must have it", I was just like, you two talk it over, I'll be at the bank getting the money because I knew it was coming home with us. :grin:

A serger sews multiple stitches in one pass. For sewing a seam or a hem she will be able to in one pass do what would take her 3 or 4 passes with a conventional sewing machine.
 

Antiquation!

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Yeah, my ignorance of the subject has made it clear to me I'm going to need to call in assistance from her mom. And to your point, probably involve the wife directly at some point as I know next to nothing about the techniques she uses to make all those costumes or her preferences. :ooh: You know, I live in a dense enough area there's got to be a spot to look at machines firsthand around here somewhere.
 

Toadmaster

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Yeah, my ignorance of the subject has made it clear to me I'm going to need to call in assistance from her mom. And to your point, probably involve the wife directly at some point as I know next to nothing about the techniques she uses to make all those costumes or her preferences. :ooh: You know, I live in a dense enough area there's got to be a spot to look at machines firsthand around here somewhere.
Yeah, I hit the "I know a lot less than I thought" wall very early. Luckily I have invested many points in internet research. :grin:


I see a lot of sewing machines on my "local" (within 150 miles) Craigslist. Most home sewing machines, even those with a table break down into a package easily transported in an average sized car or small SUV. Since they are used it is worth bringing somebody who can run the machine and sew something to make sure it is working well enough. Another plus to bringing someone along is there may be other swag available. My wife scored boxes and boxes of thread, some tools, and a jug of sewing machine oil for an extra $100. She is guessing retail that would have cost at least $400-600.

If you set a budget of $300 you should have no trouble finding something good, and there is a good chance you will still have enough left over to take your wife out to a nice dinner. Even with a budget of $150 you can probably still find something decent. With a few exceptions vintage sewing machines are pretty cheap. I just had a look at the San Francisco CL which covers an area of 1-3 hours from me and there are 146 sewing machines currently listed, 102 of them are under $200. If you are near a metro area I'd expect similar results.
 

jackalope

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My very talented wife has long wanted a really serious sewing machine. She has made elaborate Halloween costumes, and some fantasy / Renaisance Faire type clothing, but she has always been limited by her modestly priced, and lightweight home sewing machine.

I found her a heavy commercial straight stitch machine, and 5 thread serger in great shape and I think a really good price. A somewhat local garment manufacturer had been using them for prototypes, and has outsourced that work, so they were selling off their machines.

She plays online video games but other than that doesn't do any social media like FB or forums. I've found a few sewing forums but none seem like they would cater to her interests, mostly bridal stuff, light weight sewing, quilting, home clothing businesses, or really heavy stuff like upholstery and leather work.

I was hoping maybe we had some here who do similar work, she would like to make Renaissance outfits, corsets, cosplay stuff etc, mostly for her own use and amusement.


Her Christmas haul in the back of the truck, a Juki DDL-5550N straight stitch machine and a Juki MO-2516 5 thread serger. They came with about 10 large boxes of thread and misc tools and hardware.

View attachment 14327
Not a pro, but I'm quite a nerd when it comes to costumes. My equipment is not as great as yours, and I use a basic Toyota (sorry, my mistake - idk how my sclerosis works, since I've mistook J17XL for Singer Runway once again) most of times, but when it comes to tutorials and such - I'm a hoarder. I don't have any particular recommendations about forums, as one big cosplay community I liked was closed recently. Another one is Alliance forum, it's not very active but there's a lot of discussions about fantasy costumes and such. But I'm not sure whether linking to another forum is prohibited or not.
But as for books, this is a must have: https://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Medieval-Tailors-Assistant-1200-1500/dp/0903585324 (Sarah Thursfield, The Medieval Tailor's Assistant)
Also this https://reconstructinghistory.com/ blog has patterns for different periods (including Dark Ages). They're really well made.
 
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Toadmaster

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Thank you, the book looks like it might make a nice welcome to your new sewing room gift and I'm sure the site with patterns may be of interest to her.
 

gisellem

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Not a pro, but I'm quite a nerd when it comes to costumes. My equipment is not as great as yours, and I use a basic Toyota (sorry, my mistake - idk how my sclerosis works, since I've mistook J17XL for Singer Runway once again) most of times, but when it comes to tutorials and such - I'm a hoarder. I don't have any particular recommendations about forums, as one big cosplay community I liked was closed recently. Another one is Alliance forum, it's not very active but there's a lot of discussions about fantasy costumes and such. But I'm not sure whether linking to another forum is prohibited or not.
But as for books, this is a must have: Amazon product (Sarah Thursfield, The Medieval Tailor's Assistant)
Also this https://reconstructinghistory.com/ blog has patterns for different periods (including Dark Ages). They're really well made.
You have explained it succinctly. Toyota sewing machines are really cool. Just like Toyota cars ...
 

Fenris-77

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When I made my Boba Fett costume I found the most useful sites weren't sewing sites but cosplay sites. Mind you, I didn't need help with anything as exciting as a industrial grade sewing machine either. I wish I'd had a better machine though, the fabric I used to make the vest was pretty sturdy and my sad little home machine liked it not at all.
 

Toadmaster

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When I made my Boba Fett costume I found the most useful sites weren't sewing sites but cosplay sites. Mind you, I didn't need help with anything as exciting as a industrial grade sewing machine either. I wish I'd had a better machine though, the fabric I used to make the vest was pretty sturdy and my sad little home machine liked it not at all.
Hmm I no longer get notices for this thread, just happened to see it pop to the top.


The issue you had with the vest is why she wanted something better than a cheap home grade machine. The cheap being the bigger problem, they just aren't made for running heavier materials.

Since I started the post I have discovered a few other sites, costuming and cosplay sites are definitely more active than the sewing sites. I guess as with most things getting into more specialized sites will turn up more specific info.

I recently discovered this one on prop making and costuming which interestingly may prove useful to both my hobbies and my wife's hobbies.

RPF Costuming and Prop maker community
 

Nobby-W

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When I made my Boba Fett costume I found the most useful sites weren't sewing sites but cosplay sites. Mind you, I didn't need help with anything as exciting as a industrial grade sewing machine either. I wish I'd had a better machine though, the fabric I used to make the vest was pretty sturdy and my sad little home machine liked it not at all.
Hmm I no longer get notices for this thread, just happened to see it pop to the top.


The issue you had with the vest is why she wanted something better than a cheap home grade machine. The cheap being the bigger problem, they just aren't made for running heavier materials.

Since I started the post I have discovered a few other sites, costuming and cosplay sites are definitely more active than the sewing sites. I guess as with most things getting into more specialized sites will turn up more specific info.

I recently discovered this one on prop making and costuming which interestingly may prove useful to both my hobbies and my wife's hobbies.

RPF Costuming and Prop maker community
A friend of mine used to make canvas goods like webbing and backpacks when he was in the army. If you hunt around (try ebay maybe?) you can get secondhand walking foot machines for manageable sums of money.
 
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