Monday, October 15, 2012

The IKEA SY Sewing Machine : A Review by an Inexperienced Sewer

Hullo, Katie's mom here again, with a sewing machine adventure this time.

I am not a sewer. I embroider. I cross stitch. I can hook a rug. I do steel needle crochet. But any hobby  that involves anything more complicated than a needle or hook , like a sewing machine..... hoooo-boy. The one time I tried, in a class at Hancock, ended in a fit of howling rage because I couldn't even get the **** machine threaded.  So therein is the sum total of my sewing experience.

Well, fast forward twenty years, and  Katie's dad and I go to visit our youngest daughter in a small  town in northern Europe, where she was outfitting her first apartment.  She needed curtains badly, so I turned her and her dad loose in the curtain department at IKEA. Without supervision.

The curtains they proudly pulled out of the shopping bag were 10' feet long by  5' feet wide.  Uh Oh.  It was supposed to be the other way 'round.  And it was 150 miles round trip to take them back to IKEA.

I gulped and promised that mommy would make it all better, somehow. I just wasn't sure how. We lugged the curtains all the way back to Atlanta, and hauled them to our local IKEA, where they just about laughed us out of the place when we attempted to return the European curtains. (Just so you'll know, European IKEA items may look the same as the US IKEA merchandise, but have different item numbers and different measurements.)

As we wandered the curtain department in Atlanta, wringing our hands over our stupidity, my husband spotted a little box marked SY sewing machine.

Sewing machines? At IKEA?  Well, the sewing machine was $69.99.   Replacement curtains would have been well over $100, not to mention we'd be left over with packs of useless curtains laying around the house.  I gritted my teeth. I can do this, I said, and we bought the little bugger.

What follows is a review of the SY sewing machine by a completely inexperienced, all thumbs, non sewing machine user. Sorry, this means I also don't know the sewing lingo, so you'll kind of have to listen to me muddle through this.

First of all, the machine was well packed and well protected, not much waste, and is easy to repack in the same box for storage.  I like that because I won't have to fork out for a special case.  This serves the purpose perfectly well.

It is kind of gummie bear shaped, lots of rounded corners, and not as much pointy stuff sticking out as I remember on the old machine I had tried before.

It's very lightweight. Not a deadweight monster like the last machine I tried, but it still feels solid. It did bounce like a mechanical bull on the leaf of my kitchen table, though, so I had to move it to the center of the table.

In true IKEA fashion, the instructions were short, concise  and simple, and (thank heavens!) were mostly drawings.

I quickly figured out how to wind a bobbin, and SY did a really good job. Nice and tight and pretty even.  And it was quick to do. After the first one, the others were a breeze.  Dare I say fun?

The drawings in the instruction book were pretty informative until I got to the part about threading and loading the bobbin. After putting the book right up to my nose a few times to peer at the diagrams, and a few false starts, I did finally figure out how to put it in properly. This was the hardest part of setting the machine up, but once I'd figured it out, it was  quite quick and easy to change the bobbins out.

The "arm" on the machine comes packed with extra needles and bobbins. The extra bobbins were much appreciated, since I didn't have to drop what I was doing to go buy more. I immediately used three of them on my curtain project.

 Randomly, IKEA included a bobbin that had been prewound with pink thread. That was kind of useless. If IKEA wants to provide wound bobbins, do them in white, folks!
   It also came with a seam ripper, which was a welcome inclusion, since I had to use it almost right away.  These items store in a cubby inside the arm, along with a little brush, a buttonhole foot, and a couple of other little trinkets which will probably be useful at some point. There was enough room left over that I was able to store a small container of sewing pins, too. I like to keep my stuff together!

Threading the machine itself was a dream. It was fast, simple, and ooooooooh, so much easier than the 1970's avacado green Singer I'd tried to do before.  That old Singer would catch thread in the tension wheel thinggy, and it would shred and break, which was one of my huge frustrations.

To thread SY, you simply go up, down, through the loop, and through the needle and voila!!!! You're done! It doesn't catch or snag or shred or pull or make you hurl yourself to the floor, beating your fists and cursing all machinekind.

The needle lift is easy, and when I pulled the threads out after completing  a row of sewing, it didn't catch or snap, or get tangled up in the little saw tooth thing under the sewing machine foot.
 The machine foot has convenient lines underneath it, on the metal plate.

I guess it must have some kind of digital wizardry, because when I tried experimenting with  different tension settings, stitch sizes,  or any of the four decorative stitches, it sorted itself out and just...... worked. The stitches looked neat on both sides of the fabric, and there were no hanging threads, or baggy stitches on one side.   Hurrah!!!!!!

Pompon cushion

I was easily able to do simple hems on all the curtains, including a pair of heavy velveteen curtains. 

 I was also able to make a nice decorative pillow with pompon fringe, and SY had no difficulty getting past the elaborate and thick, loopy trim, nor did it have any problem getting through three or four layers of  the thick velveteen, even when I used the large scraps to make another pillow. 

At one point, I did have to do some....errr...creative sewing when the end of the  hem kind of stuck out to one side. I simply folded it back, doubled it over (it was a good eight velveteen  layers thick at this one spot), raised the foot, and slowly rotated the hand wheel to tack it down. When I hit the pedal to reverse over this spot, it worked fine, once the thickness had been pinned down.

I really liked the extra bright light on this machine. My eyesight is not so great, so this was a real bonus. 

The handle was convenient, too. 

I have only a few mild complaints about the IKEA SY, but none are dealbreakers.

The instruction book gave instructions for a "Blind Hem Stitch", which I would have loved to have done on the curtains. However, after much internet research, this apparently works best when you have a blind hem stitch foot, which this machine does not come with. I experimented for a couple of hours, but just couldn't find the optimum position to do this stitch. I could do it if I turned the big blue disk hand wheel thing by hand, but it was time consuming, and after about five inches I was just wore out from doing it, and greedily put the pedal to the metal.  Ended up ripping out all those stitches.

I wish  the pedal hadn't felt sorta cheap, and had been more "controllable", if that makes sense. If I'd been able to make it go much slower, with consistency, I feel sure I could have mastered that blind hem stitch, even without the special foot. 

When I carefully pinned together fabric and ran it through the machine, no matter how careful I was, the top fabric would "bunch" a little bit. But it did seem to iron out smoothly in the long run, so it was no crisis for the easy sewing I was doing.

To be fair, this was more than very probably my fault, since I am such an inexperienced sew-er, suffering from a complete lack of technique.

However, on the plus side, as an inexperienced sew-er, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with this inexpensive, easy-to-use machine, and was easily able to accomplish what I wanted to with pleasingly acceptable results.....and then some, since the daughter child's care package will now include the two nice pillows.

I may finally get cracking on piecing together that piecework duvet top I've meant to do for the last couple of years......
Cushion from curtain scraps, embellished with doily I made during our visit

You can learn more about the IKEA sewing machine at their website.


  1. These days, this is only available in top quality gadgets, though. This is a very amazing function that helps you to save persistence of reducing the discussions clean. With just the breeze of a handy, the discussions may be snipped. You just have to force the key to stimulate this function and the product will cut the line at the end of the stitching.

  2. Speattle13.11.12

    On long seams, it is not uncommon for the top fabric to bunch a bit. This is because the feed dogs are only touching the bottom fabric and over a long stretch the layers of fabric will not feed through evenly.

    There are special attachments for most machines that will evenly feed both layers of fabric. Quilters often use these.

    The bunching is most likely not your fault, but just the way fabric works in a machine. Experience does help as one learns to ease the top fabric along.

  3. Its look beautiful and comfortable and i always wish to purchase this kind of machine and get rid of manual sewing machine. Thank you for tell about this read more machine now i will work more fast and without extra work.

  4. Thank you for this post. It has been extremely helpful to me in learning about what types of fabrics it can sew. You've really covered all your bases and my questions. Thanks!

  5. You don't need a blind hem foot to make a blind hem, it just helps. Look at this link: - you will just have to guide the fabric yourself instead of lining it up using the foot.

  6. Anonymous20.12.13

    A very helpful review. Thank you very much. Going to buy one for my granddaughter today.

  7. Thanks for the helpful review! I'm wanting to buy a sewing machine for odd jobs without spending too much, but was worried the ikea one just sounded too cheap. Happy to hear you got on so well with it so might give it a go myself.