When I was at QuiltMart in Portland last spring I had a chance to see and test sew on the new Eversewn machines. As a result of that experience, and great conversation with Philipp Ueltschi chief of Eversewn and yes also of the famous Bernina family, I was lucky enough to have an Eversew Sparrow 30 sent to me to test.
Those who follow me in Instagram will have seen periodic posts on this machine and the various projects I have sewn on it.
I have a lot to say about this machine, and the thinking evident behind it, and that is one reason why this very detailed, long, review has taken some time to write.
I have strong feelings about any reviews I post on this blog.
I don't know about you but I am somewhat overwhelmed at the amount of marketing information across the blogosphere, presented as product reviews. Who needs more of that?
The fact is that I if I don't like a product I won't post anything about it at all, except in circumstances where I feel I want to warn my fellow sewers about something that I feel might cause them angst. Who needs more of that either?
I only write exactly what I think about any product I use. I want to make sure that I have thoroughly tested anything new before I comment on it.
Also, full disclosure here, about 20 years ago I did some educational work for Pfaff and one project for Brother. I am pretty familiar with how some aspects of the sewing machine industry work.
I know for example that there is a huge difference between "demoing" or even test driving a machine and using it day-in-day-out for a wide range of sewing challenges.
For that reason I wanted to really use and live with this machine, and assess it based on other machines I have worked with, before I talked about it.
So to put my comments into context, these are some of the projects I have made on the Sparrow 30 over the past 6 months:
- Men's shirts - this was useful in testing buttonholes, for ease of use and reliability, and for stitch quality through various thicknesses, as well as the ability to edge stitch precisely (needle positions were helpful here)
- Swimsuits and lycra leggings - these were great test garments for the stretch stitches - I used both the reverse action triple zig-zag and the narrow zig zag for some details, as well as the triple/multiple zig zag for top stitching through thick chlorine proof elastic
- Fleece- multiple layers of thick fabric (pressure foot adjustment used here)
- General dressmaking (zippers) children's and baby clothing - cotton woven, rayons, and knits - both cotton lycra and modal or rayon
- Mending - darning, satin stitch and various utility stitches. Fabrics included denim and outwear
I really feel that my observations on this machine are based on some pretty thorough test sewing, under a variety of conditions.
Note: I am a garment sewer and although I tried out and played with the alphabets and many decorative stitches I didn't actually complete a project with any of these features.
Now before I get into the specifics of my experience with this machine I want to put this machine and the Eversewn company into what in my own opinion only, is context within the industry.
For a start I have to say the one question I hate being asked most by new sewers, or worse still by the non-sewing relatives of potential sewers is "what is a good machine to buy for someone who is just getting into sewing?"
I really cringe when I hear this because I know that the machines they have budgeted for are more than likely not all that well made and, my worst nightmare, would be so frustrating to the new sewer that they might even give up on life's best activity.
As a general rule, cheap machines are cheap machines, and who wants to tell any mother that?
I am also equally frustrated by sewing machine dealers who present that the only machines worth sewing on are the same price as a small car, or that they should also be the same size as one.
$5,000 before you can try making your first skirt? Really?
I have always felt that to bring in all the happy sewers I would like to into the sewing community there needed to be an achievable alternative.
So last spring when I was in Portland I wondered if Eversewn, with its very reasonably priced, feature rich machines, and cool sewing notion kits, might meet that need. And that it might fill what I saw as a definite gap in the current menu of sewing machines on the market.
That's what I wanted to find out.
That's why I was eager to test this machine.
I also have to tell you I was intrigued by Philipp Ueltschi.
Obviously sewing machines are in his blood but it needs to be said that these are not Bernina machines, I see many aspects that I would call Bernina informed. Eversewn is Ueltschi's own project and if I were to put it into one of my own sentences I would describe this project as:
"Sewing machines made for millennials by a millennial who also happens to know an awful lot about sewing machines."
(Note sure if the company would agree with this assessment but it's how it looks to me).
More specifically my assessment for my fellow sewers would be that this:
The Sparrow 30 is an A1 machine, that performs very, very well and has a whole range of very useful/sophisticated features that are simply not usually found in machines at the price point.
A new or returning sewer who has a specific budget would in no way be settling at all for less features with this well-priced machine, in fact, relative to the competition in this area of the market, would be getting far more for her money than she would get elsewhere.
Now let's get into some of the detail and some of my own favourite features.
Here are the highlights:
I am one who is more interested in sewing functions than in a number of decorative stitches so here are the things I liked, and liked a lot in this machine. All are features seen most often on much more expensive machines:
- The metal body: Although this is a fairly light machine (ideal for some of the sewing retreats I took it on) it is solid. You just can't compare the feel of an all metal body to one that doesn't have it. That said this machine does go really, really fast when set to top speed and although it stayed still no problem at all on my study sewing table at home, there was some hopping when I sewed fast on a portable table. Putting the machine on a piece of old yoga mat fixed that.
- Needle up and needle down: My lovely old vintage machines don't have this and I really miss it. So so useful as a necessary third hand when top-stitching/stretching swimsuit elastic.
- Variable sewing speed: Being able to turn down the sewing speed when doing careful work like topstitching makes all the difference.
- Needle threader: no explanation necessary.
Thread cutter: I don't always use this, often like to trim my threads closely myself, but when I do I always appreciate the long threads on the underside that don't pull out.
Single pattern/tie off function: Neater than sewing forward and backwards at the beginning of every seam, although you have to figure this out, it really does a single pattern of the stitch rather than a mini reverse and forward like some machines.
- Adjustable pressure foot pressure: This is sort of an old school feature but a really useful one I wish they still had on every machine. Loosening the foot pressure for polar fleece was useful, as was increasing it for lining.
- Great lighting: For some reason a lot of new machines don't have this. The Sparrow has nice strong light in the stitching area, which I really like:
It should be noted that the LED lighting here does cast as sort of yellow halo around the lit sewing area, something that startled me at first, but I don't notice anymore.
- Really great buttonholes. Some truth needs to be told here. A straightforward mechanical buttonhole often produces a more reliable buttonhole than many of the real fancy computerized ones. In fact one of my sewing partners, a former high end sewing machine dealer, told me when she watched me make buttonholes on this machine that in her opinion this traditional system makes some of the nicest buttonholes ever. A button placed in the back of the foot determines buttonhole size and the lever that is pulled down whenever buttonholes are made, regulates consistent size for each buttonhole:
- Ease of use: we are going back here to a machine for a new sewer. The Sparrow is sprinkled with a number of really useful illustrations, particularly for threading:
- A nice simple to understand control panel of common stitches on the machine face: It was so interesting to me that our 9 year-old just sat down in front of this machine and she knew exactly how to thread and use it. No problem at all.
- An excellent, stable extension table. I was also very impressed with this, particularly since I had just recently tested a top of the line that did not have these little feet and as a result extension table on that machine bounced around annoyingly:
Issues with this machine.
I found this a nice, easy, comfortable machine to work with. Of the eight sewing machines I have in my workroom this in fact is the one I reach for when I am in a hurry and just want a reliable little bit of sewing done with little fuss. This says a lot.
The only issue I had was with some "bird nesting" in the bobbin area when I was just getting used to the machine.
After a bit of double checking (an old sewing machine technician friend of mine always used to say that the first place to check for an problem would be in the chair in front of the machine ...) I decided that this important thread guide was essential: