I have recently taken up an interest in sewing, and after making several hand sewn garments I opted to upgrade to a sewing machine. After speaking to several people we decided to hit Souk Al Mubarakiya in search of that perfect machine. The goal was to find something “cheap and nasty”, as we weren’t sure if this interest was going to be a long time thing or not.
Can I tell you my dismay when we returned home after a very long fruitless search? Every single store that we went into (and we went into heaps) had a number of sewing machines, with the cheapest starting at about 60KD ($210)! This was far more than I wanted to spend! I was looking for something around the $20 range… Not to mention how confused I got; there are so many brands, and styles, and terms that I had no understanding at all…
So my husband and I decided to reconsider our attack; I needed to increase my commitment to the hobby, raise our willingness to spend more, and decide what features I wanted exactly.
We agreed to stick to a well-known and trusted brand. This alone would raise our expenditure, however a trusted brand would generally have less issues such as breakdowns. Brands we looked at were Bernina, Janome, Singer…
A quick look at the pricing structure of the brands, and I straight away ruled out Bernina as being too expensive. They looked like really nice machines… but for my first sewing machine I wasn’t willing to spend that much.
I am a sucker for numbers and features (a sales-persons dream), although I will still buy with reasonable research backing my decisions.
Computerised Vs. Non-Computerised
This is a big argument in the tailoring industry. To be honest I can’t fully distinguish the difference between the two; from what I can tell generally the computerised models will have more features such as embroidery, more decorative stitches, and generally more automated. However, I have also seen non-computerised models that have more stitches than the computerised…
Number of Stitches and Options
Oh yea; numbers! The more the better, right? Well according to most reviews online, it is recommended to not buy a machine with heaps of stitches. Apparently most people won’t use most of the stitches, ending up sticking with the straight stitch and the zigzag stitch. To a point I will agree with most of the arguments; so far I have only really used four stitches: straight, zigzag, a stitch with a mixture of the two, and a locking stitch.
The width and length of these stitches are also important. I often find that depending upon the task, I might decrease the width of a zigzag stitch. For example, to “serge” the raw edge of material without a huge seam, I will use a low width setting.
Basting, also known as a running stitch, is also great in a higher setting. The machine I ended up buying only goes to a 5, and I find that for very basic basting (such as fitting purposes) this actually ends up being a bit small, as an afterthought I would have preferred a stitch length of 7.
Buttonholes – they are a pretty staple part of many garments. Naturally I wanted the most convenient and easiest option. Most commonly you can get four-step buttonholes and one-step buttonholes. Now since I’ve never used either, I could probably get used to either, but of course the one-step automation option would prove to be more accurate (compared to me, of course)!
Up-Down Needle Position
Best used when adjusting your material during sewing, most people state that an up-down needle is vital to sewing. Some machines can be set to finish in a certain place, others can’t. As far as I can tell, if there is a quick way for you to lower or raise the needle, then setting a default finish position isn’t necessary.
Free-Arm and Extension Tables
If you sew on a table with enough space, the extension table isn’t really necessary. My desk is really small (and I mean I have less than 5cm’s each side of my machine). Whilst an extension table would be helpful, I honestly think a bigger desk would just be easier.
The free-arm feature is an absolute must! Already I have used it several times, and that was before I even got to doing sleeves on my first dress. Small corners (particularly rounded areas) were just so much easier to sew when using the free-arm.
The lights are really useful to be honest. Maybe it’s because only one of four ceiling lights work, and the two lamps beside my machine aren’t that bright (don’t worry I will get around to replacing those lights). The lights highlight in just the right place, making the stitches visible (really helpful if you have a thread in the same color as your fabric).
Built-In Needle Threader
Whilst not a necessity, I honestly couldn’t imagine not having a needle threader; it’s so much quicker and easier. Seriously if you can, just get it.
Where and How To Buy
After more research, we returned to the Souk to find that perfect machine (with a now higher budget). We had filtered down to several ideal options, we were ready to make a purchase… but alas; no one sold any of them!
Every store we went into, we discovered, either sold outdated/retired models at highly inflated prices – one machine we saw was on sale (i.e. not the full price) for 100KD ($300) more than buying and importing from overseas – or models for professional tailors. There were no real mid-range options. Furthermore, each store sold exactly the same models! I understand that your suppliers and distributors are the same, but surely having something unique in your product line/services would make your business more profitable?
Lucky for us, Amazon has released their global shipping option (allowing more computerised products to be shipped internationally). It must have been a sign, as many of the models that I looked at online also happened to be on sale.
We ended up buying a Janome Magnolia 7330 from Amazon for 138KD ($485) including shipping. Considering the prices at the Souk compared to the features I ended up with, I got a REALLY good deal. I am very happy with my sewing machine, and wouldn’t ever want to go without it.
Your Experience With Sewing in Kuwait?
So what was your luck with buying sewing machine, or any products to be honest, in Kuwait? Did you find a reputable retailer that no one has heard about? Did you have to go out of your way to buy anything in particular?
Barbara, one of my wonderful readers, found a great store in Faheel that sells both industrial and household sewing machines at pretty reasonable prices. It’s directly behind NBK on Street 11 (Sharia Al Mecca). For more details, check out her comment below.
Update – Warning About Voltages
A lot of people have issues with importing products from the United States and other countries. I want to remind you that different electronics may use different voltages. Kuwait uses 220V-240V. Ideally when buying online you want to check that the electronic will use 240V. If not, you will need to use a Power Transformer. This will convert the voltage to work in Kuwait. There are risks to using a power converter, such as power spikes.
Note that I’ve been using a power converter for the last three years with my sewing machine without any difficulty.