Tip #1: Invest in a solid sewing machine.
DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT buy the Sew Crafty Mini Sewing Machine. In a word, this thing sucks. It is downright awful. I bought one for 40% off the ticket price of $15-ish dollars, and THAT was too much to spend. Just don’t do it. I have taken a poll and NO ONE likes this thing. Don’t be fooled by the price. It’s a total waste if you can’t use it (and this thing is UNUSABLE, trust me. A cheap piece of junk).
Instead, get a hand-me-down GOOD sewing machine from a neighbor, a lady at church, or your mom. Or from a rummage sale or on Craigslist.com. (I wouldn’t buy from eBay just because you want to be able to test it before you plunk down your cash).
Kenmore and Singer are great names, and even a sewing machine from 1972 will work just right (as will a treadle sewing machine. Those things were built to last!). You should be able to pick up a working, used sewing machine somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-75. I just did a Craigslist search and came up with PAGES of results in the $50 range. You really only need something to do straight stitch and maybe a zig-zag, so don’t think you need tons of bells and whistles for your paper sewing; you don’t.
If you don’t want to spend even that much, I suggest finding a friend who has a machine you can borrow every once in a while and test out. You may fall in love with stitching and end up investing in your own!
My machine is a Baby Lock Natalie. I paid about $150 for it new on clearance (the shop was going out of business). I would normally not spend this much on a machine just for scrapbook pages, but I do some craft sewing and a bit of garment sewing, too (for the girls) so I knew it would get put to good use. I’ve been really happy with it.
Tip #2: Find a Mentor. I hate reading instruction manuals, so it was much more fun and enjoyable to call my sister and have her help me figure out my machine. Threading the darned thing is completely counter-intuitive! But if you can’t find someone local, watch videos online. They’re the next-best thing to having someone to call and say, “What the heck is a bobbin?”
Tip #3: Change Needles Often. The needle will get dull, particularly if you are sewing through several layers of paper and/or cardstock and/or chipboard. By changing the needle, you can ensure it will glide like buttah. Needles are relatively inexpensive. If your sewing machine is starting to rip your paper instead of sew it, you may be in need of a needle change. (Definitely change needles if you borrow someone else’s machine, or if you are sewing paper and fabric!)
Tip #4: Practice. Before you put needle to the card or layout you’ve just created, test out your skills on scrap paper. You want to know how to start and stop, turn corners (it’s easy to do if you stop with the needle in the down position, then lift the little latch-thing that raises the foot, and turn the paper, then put the latch-foot-thing back down), and create designs. You also want to test stitch length; what might look good for a pillowcase or skirt won’t look so hot in paper.
Tip #5: Keep It Simple. Don’t think you have to change the thread color for every page, or do fancy stitchwork. Keep it simple with red, black, or white, and you’ll find it matches most everything! It also keeps down on the number of bobbins you need to have on-hand, and on the number of times you need to thread and rethread your machine.
Tip #6: Have Fun! (Yes, this is a bonus tip, in case you were counting…!). Sewing on your scrapbook pages (and pretty much anything having to do with your scrapbooking) should be fun, not anxiety-producing. If you’re getting all stressed out, step away from the machine. Try hand-stitching, faux-stitching, or just plain lines drawn with a pen. No one will ever look at your pages and say, “Wow, you really should have stitched that.” If they do, send ‘em to me.
P.S. Here are a couple of recent pages I created using my sewing machine: