Readers Questions – part 1

Readers-Questions-Your-AnswersWelcome to the first ever Readers Questions.  A place to share all those decades of sewing knowledge and experience.

Please give advice in the comments.  It's OK to add a link to a relevant article on your own site or someone else's if that helps.

If you have a burning sewing question that needs an answer from the readers, you can use this page to Submit Your Sewing Question.


What is the best way to transfer a stitchery pattern onto fabric, other then using a light box. Something like transfer paper, iron on pen etc? Thanks


I have a question about my sewing machine.
I have been very happy with a Singer Touch and Sew 626.  The machine was built around 1966.  I have not had any problems with it until just recently.  The machine won't sew neatly.  The bobbin winds, but then when I sew, it is a mess.  I took it in for service and was told I would need a new ‘bobbin winder drive' . The part would have to be ordered and it would cost $65.  Labor would cost $150.
I could buy a new machine for around $100 – but should I?  I'm not inclined – but am I being impractical?  I do household sewing – I want something practical and durable.  I really want to keep my old machine, but is that practical?
I would really like your opinion.


Hi there, I'd like to make a good quality A line shift dress. Structured and wrinkle free. Also I'd like a satin type lining matching dress. Could you recommend a lining fabric? Thanks  Tina 🙂


I am a really new seamstress, and am enjoying learning!! I am really trying to learn the nuances of sewing with knits, and purchased 3, 2-yard pieces of material to make (presumably) skirts. Only one of the pieces of fabric was heavy enough to make a skirt that I could wear without a slip! 🙁 I am wondering if anyone has pattern ideas for a 2 yard piece of fabric of very light weight knit? Thank you!!


Thank you for such interesting questions.  I hope you'll take the time to leave your answers below.

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39 Responses to Readers Questions – part 1

  1. mason says:

    THANK YOU!! I have decided to hold onto my Singer and seek a second repair estimate. I will look into purchasing a separate bobbin winder in the meantime. I appreciate and value the counsel all of you have given me 🙂

  2. Lisa says:

    Maryellen: Try Girl Charlee. They stock a ton of knits and offer many patterns on their website.

  3. Tricia says:

    Maryellen, it you would still would like to make a skirt out of the lightweight fabric, you could try to add a lining with another lightweight knit.

    You can also find some great patterns by doing an online search. This cardigan would work for some lightweight fabric and has some great instructions for beginners:

    You can also find some great patterns at places like:

  4. Judi - Klein, TX says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments to Mason. I have the same Singer machine and have been thinking about a new one. Mine works just fine, and I even found bobbins on ebay for about 50 cents each (72 cents each with shipping). After reading the comments, I think I’ll keep my old Singer.

  5. Shannon says:

    Tina, I purchased a lining from called Ultresse Lining. It’s inexpensive and yet feels wonderful. I haven’t sewn with it yet but maybe consider getting a sample if you’re interested. Unfortunately it only comes in white.

    MaryEllen, I’m with the others that suggested scarves. Here are 4 that I like:

  6. LJ says:

    There is a product I used for my embroidery project called Sulky® Sticky Fabri-Solvy. It comes in paper size and can be placed in your ink-jet printer to copy your design. Once you make the copy, you remove the backing and stick it to your fabric; wonderful for an intricate design and so much easier than tracing. I did find that the outside edges started to curl away from the fabric but I solved that by basting around the edges. I even had to make 2 copies of the design because of it’s size but it was easy to overlap/line-up the two pieces. Once the embroidery is finished, you must be able to soak the project in water, so do keep that in mind. I loved how this product behaved.

  7. Sandy Thompson says:

    Hi Mason
    I would suggest you look into newer machines. I held on to my older machine, really heavy built and when I went to buy a cheap machine, it did so much more than my old machine did. I was sad I had waited so long to look and see what was available. The old one I had did a straight stitch and zig-zag, that is how long it has been. I have a small brother and a Brother embroidery/sewing machine that I love. I like the Brother as when a person gets used to a Brother they have similar pieces and it is not a problem to sit down at a new one and get sewing pretty soon.

  8. Vicki says:

    Tara, if you are serious about sewing and quality, I’d suggest a new machine. You can get a really great machine for under $200. “Sew/Vac DIrect” is a great online place to start. I’d suggest a Janome Jem.

  9. cdahlgren2013 says:

    For Tara, you can use wash away stabilizer. You can print or trace right on the stabilizer, press it on your fabric and sew right through it. Then when done stitching, you can wash it away.

  10. Linda Cianciolo says:

    I am a sewing instructor and wholeheartedly agree with the comments of the others. The “oldies are the goodies” and, and in my opinion, are the best, most reliable , and most versatle machines. I have sewn on $1000 machines I personally would not give two cents for. I always recommend a reliable store or repairman for service that will not want to sell you another machine. If you go into a sales and service store, they more than likely will tell you that your machine is not worth fixing. They would rather sell you a more expensive machine and get paid a high commission!

    You mentioned you are a new sewist, so my advice is to make sure you are experienced with woven fabrics before you attempt sewing knits. Consider taking a class on sewing with knits (I just purchased one from and check your local library for sewig books that might help you. It is important to cut the selvage (finished edge of the fabric) off prior to cutting out your pattern, making sure that the stretchiest part of the fabric is cut properly for the pattern pieces that go across the body, not vertically. Also, use lots of pins, as knits shif easily. Lastly, if you decide you love to sew with knits, purchase a serger with differential feed (many low cost models offer this feature as standard) and remember to usea ballpoint needle. There are loads of Internet sources, blogs, and YouTube videos to inspire you.

    Happy sewing from Arizona! .

  11. Debbie. Andrews says:

    Hi Mason,

    Another thought just occurred to me regarding your Touch n Sew. The brand new 2 part bobbins will not work well at all with your machine. That fact alone is what made me switch to a different machine. If you’re able, try getting your hands on some vintage bobbins for your machine and try winding them. That could possibly be part or all of your problem.

    Good luck!


    P.s. please keep us posted on your machine.

  12. Ruth L says:

    I would get a second opinion on the repair but ultimately, repairing a good, solid older machine is better than buying a new, inexpensive plastic machine that won’t hold up and in the end will be a big disappointment. My 1970’s Singer developed problems that were unrepairable and despite spending $500 for a new machine, it does not compare to the heavy-duty quality of my former machine!
    Best of luck to you!

  13. Karen says:

    Mason I would buy a bobbin winder for now and check around for the repairs and have that done when you can. The new 100.00 machines are good for a few hours are sewing and than disposed of.

    Tara you could use china silk for the lining.

    Maryellen I would make a cardigan out of it I wear them a lot over sleeveless things I have them in long and short sleeves.

  14. Breck says:

    Tina: I love using handkerchief/lightweight linen as lining fabric for most woven items. I admit I prefer natural fabrics to polys and blends.
    Another choice might be a smooth cotton broadcloth.

    Mason: Basically I agree about a second opinion and seriously … if there is nothing else wrong with the machine and you love using it, getting it fixed may be your best choice. Most modern machines are not as sturdy as the old workhorses of the pre-‘plastics’ age.

    Maryellen: Have you considered making tank tops or camisoles? Simple patterns and great for thinner knits!

  15. Natalie Q says:

    Mason – I definitely would get the old machine fixed, but would shop around on the price to fix it. The labor cost seems very high. I would ask others who sew if they know of anyone who fixes machines as a side job rather than as a business. I found the man that works on my machines through an alterations seamstress. He’s retired and fixes machines as a hobby so his prices are about half that of those who are in the business. Hang on to those older machines. They really are superior!

    MaryEllen – I recently acquired some very light weight knit for a bargain price, but it was really too thin to make much out of. I ended up making a cardigan that I love using this pattern:
    It’s in German, but you can use google translate and was very easy to put together. I’ve found it to be great for layering over sleeveless tops and really dresses casual tops up a bit.

  16. Stefanie says:

    A cute option for ltwt knits is an infinity scarf. There are nice directions in the Aug/Sept issue of Sew It Today (I bought it at Joanns but it may be carried other places.) You could make 2 with 2 yards. There are other nice simple projects in that magazine too. If you want a garment, I would look at the pattern companies (check out their websites to search for patterns at home) for a drapy cardigan flutter style – they usually show both sides of fabric but would work for that. Good luck! Remember to use a ballpoint needle to sew knits.

  17. Lori says:

    Mason–watch for an old Singer, I picked my 401a with all the accessories and cabinet for $5. It takes some time, does anyone have a machine they can loan you? I find lots of good machines of the age you have for $50.

    MaryEllen–perhaps a pencil skirt in two layers, the 2nd layer can act as a lining if your knit has the right stretch. Check out an online tutorial using knit and a lace T-shirt repurposed for the outer skirt.

  18. Ginger says:

    Tara, here is a tutorial about transfer embroidery patterns.
    I also like to use my windows on a sunny day. Works like a light box.
    I’m not affiliated with that site, just enjoy her blog too.

  19. says:

    Mason: I agree with Daryl. You won’t get much for $100 and grow to hate it. Get a second opinion. If that is the only thing wrong with the machine and you love it, get a separate bobbin winder.

  20. Jackie says:

    Mason, Two suggestions. 1) Did you try a new needle? Sometimes that is all it takes! And 2) Aside from buying a new machine (and as with the suggestions above, if you do, either buy an older used one or more expensive new one) get a separate bobbin winder.

  21. Graceeh says:

    Unless you buy a higher end machine these days, many of them have plastic moving parts. I’d be willing to bet your old machine is all metal and hardened metal at that. Unless you are paying for repair quotes, I recommend getting another quote but, one way or another, definitely getting your old sewing machine fixed. Try to ensure they are replacing it with original factory parts. Good luck!

  22. Daryl says:

    Mason your machine is old and might need replacing. You should go to a sewing machine dealer to test machines and not buy a cheap $100 machine. The only machine you can get for that price is an old used machine or a new machine sold at Walmart and the like. A good quality machine will cost you at least $400.00.

    Have you cleaned and oiled your machine well? Also make double sure you have inserted your bobbin correctly. I too have an old Singer that I use for classes/retreats and if you accidentally place the bobbin in the wrong way your stitches sew all messed up. Also make sure you threaded it correctly. Never pull your thread out of the machine, cut it and re-thread it..Also never pull your thread when you have the presser foot down ads that can mess up your tension too.

  23. Lindi says:

    For Tara: I hardly use my light box. For me it is easier to tape the pattern with the fabric on top to a window. I usually use a Frixion pen to draw my design. It disappears after you iron it WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED stitching, or a Micro pen matching thread color as close as possible. This is not anything to stress over because you will be stitching over top the lines. If your fabric is dark and you can not see through it to trace the lines, invest in Saral tracing paper, the non wax one. It comes in white. Good Luck, D.G. L

  24. Daryl says:

    Tara you can purchase a red transfer marking pen and trace around your paper design, then you iron it onto your fabric and you can iron it a few times before the transfer is no longer good. You can purchase at places like Joann Fabric. It’s a bit of work, but tracing on paper is easy enough. Just be warned that if there are words/letters/numbers, they will transfer mirror image!

  25. Karen says:

    My old Singer – purchased about 1975 – was the last model to be built in the U.S. It began having some problems a couple years ago and I bought my fourth Singer to replace it, which was a big mistake. New machines have a pitiful LED light. I had to return it to the factory right away for a new bobbin mechanism. Wish I had sent the old one to Singer for repair! Your cheapest option might be to look on Craigs List for a used machine. You may find one just like yours!

    • helene says:

      Keep your Singer & have it repaired. The newer ones are now made in China, along with a couple of higher end name brand models. With that information, I am in search of a made in USA machine now.

      • El says:

        Helene – you could also check out European made machines. I am very happy with mine. Japan has a good one too.

  26. Debbie. Andrews says:

    Hi Mason, has the parts and repair manual for your machine. Terry, the owner of this website has an awesome reputation for being extremely helpful and friendly.

    Hope this helps. Incidentally, it was trouble with my T&S 601 that eventually led me to my 401a, not a T&S. It is basically the same machine without the in place bobbin winding mechanism. Just something to consider if you decide to go with a different machine.


  27. El says:

    Mason: Shop around and check out the new machines. The newer machines have some very useful features that you would enjoy. Be prepared to pay more than $100 to get a better quality machine.

  28. Alice Zenner says:

    Mason, your repair estimate seems very high. I would consider a second opinion. I recently had a similar problem and the repair to my gears and fully clean the machine was only $85. This included labor. I also have a Singer, but there was no Singer Service in my area so I had to use an independent repairman. My machine is now running like a dream.

  29. Nancy says:

    Mason: I would definitely repair it but I would get a second opinion on the repair and costs, if possibe, by checking out Quilt shops or a sewing and vacumn repairs. That sounds really high to me for that age machine. You also are not going to get the same quality machine by replacing it with a new $100 machine.

  30. Margaret says:

    Why not buy a bobbin winder. Simplicity makes one.

  31. Sally says:

    For Tara, You can trace the design on tool and then onto your fabric with chalk.

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