A blog about styling, patterning and making stays and corsets for modern, historical and fantasy looks.

Corset-making tools for beginners – Sewing Machine

First of all, you do not need a sewing machine to make a corset. People sewed Corsets, Stays, and Bodies by hand for hundreds of years until the first sewing machines hit the market (in about the 1840s) and probably even for some time after. That being said most modern makers will want one.

Before you buy a new machine ask your friends. It is very possible that someone you know has a machine that has been sitting in the basement or closet for years they would give you or sell you for cheap. You can also try Pawn Shops, thrift stores, and the like to see if you can find one. In that case, you should probably assume you will spend a few dollars (or pounds, euros, shekels, etc) to have it serviced.

Toy & Handheld machines

There are a number of “Toy” and “handheld” sewing machines that you can find sold for very low prices, often under $50. From everyone I have spoken to these are likely to cause no end of pain and trouble.


New Machines

It is very possible to get a new machine from a major manufacturer (Singer, Brother, Janome, Juki etc) for about $150 and in some cases less. A refurbished machine can work very well. While I have a collection of machines the first one I got was a Project Runway branded Brother that I think I paid about $175 at Walmart a few years ago.

If you later choose to upgrade and get a new machine assuming you have space in your work area it can often be worth having a second machine setup with white thread so you can go back and forth as needed.

Embroidery Machines

Computer embroidery is its own subject and can do very cool things! I will admit that I don't use my embroidery machine nearly as much as I probably should. If you want an embroidery machine you can one for as little as $350 new. Used ones can be found if you look around. Many embroidery machines also work as sewing machines so you can use one machine to do both things. You can also use it to decorate the corsets you are making as well as sew eyelet holes if you like instead of using metal grommets.

Industrial and Semi-Industrial Machines

The machine in the machine above is a Juki TL-2000 Which is a semi-industrial. Industrial machines are also used by some makers but these machines are large devices that are built into a table. These machines do one thing only (in this case a straight stitch). The assumption is that in a factory setting different parts of the production of a garment will be done by different people at different machines. While I would never part with My TL-2000 it is not a machine I would suggest buying as a first machine.

Classic Machines

The Sewing machine was invented in the 1840's so there are a lot of used machines out there. There are people who collect and use machines from the 19th century but that is well beyond the scope of this blog post. I do have to say that it would be pretty cool to make an 1890's era corset on an 1890's era sewing machine.

There are many good machines from the post-WWII years out there. These machines in general were made of metal and as long as they were well taken care of will server for years to come. The best place to get these is generally from a local shop that can also repair them. Machines like this can work for years to come but will need some TLC from time to time. Plan to take it in for a clean, lube, and adjust every year or two and it will probably be good for another 50 years.