Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Exciting news, I have a new Brother!

Blogging about my sewing has led to all sorts of wonderful gifts - like the online sewing community’s unwavering support and encouragement, the unexpected generosity of strangers in terms of giveaways and other thoughtful gestures, having makes appreciated enough to be featured elsewhere and forging beautiful friendships. It has also led to some rather interesting surprises, like this...


Meet my new Brother Innovis 10A gifted to me by Alan Bamber of Bamber Sewing Machines. I say 'new', but I've actually been test-driving this baby for months now, after Alan came across my blog, liked what he saw and asked if I'd like to review this machine. But, I figured it might be more helpful for beginners (or experienced stitchers wishing to switch machines) if I did a series of posts about what you might look for when choosing your first or a new sewing machine.

What I want to know is - would you find these posts useful and if so, are there any burning questions you'd like me to try and answer? If I can help anyone to make an educated decision about what sewing machine is going to suit their needs best, I'd like to try!

For now, I have an interview with the man himself. After chatting a fair bit to Alan, I became intrigued by the family business from its humble post-war beginnings to its successful development over the years. I hope you find it an interesting read!

Bamber Sewing Machines is a family-run business spanning almost 67 years - tell me about its rich history.

My Dad Roy started the whole thing off back in 1946 when, as a boy in post war Salford, he scrambled up a bomb site and rescued a sewing machine. He wheeled it home on a hand cart, cleaned it up, got it working and sold it. From that one machine he built up our business through hard work and determination. Dad is 81 now and while he may not run the day to day business any more, my brother Steve and I take care of that, there could be no better man to turn to for advice or guidance.

We're agents for the top brands of domestic sewing machines - Bernina, Janome and Brother. Steve takes care of the retail side of the business. The general public can visit our Manchester store where we have around 70 sewing machines, overlockers and embroidery machines on display. They're all set up and ready to go so people can sit down and try any machine.

Also on the ground floor, we have a large workshop where we carry out all our repairs. We receive around 35 - 50 sewing machine repairs each week from everyday sewing enthusiasts as well as from schools and colleges. So, we have a very busy workshop. Steve, myself and Shahid all work in the workshop repairing and servicing all these machines.

You also offer workshops to the general public. How does that fit in to the business?

Caring about our customers means offering an all round service beyond just the sale of any sewing machine. So on our first floor – alongside our haberdashery, range of fabrics and sewing machine accessories – we have a classroom which is another busy place. We hire out this classroom and Lorna Knight and Celia Banks are just two of the well known sewing teachers that have made good use of it, passing on their wisdom to many, many people. Two of our own girls (they like being called girls!), Maggie and Kathryn, also run an overlocker course and our quilt club. I would encourage anyone who has a sewing machine to sign up to a sewing workshop in their area. Not only will you make new friends, you will enjoy using your sewing so much more if you learn some new techniques that help develop your ideas.


Just like the business itself, your own role is pretty varied. Tell me a bit about it.

My side of the business is dealing with the education sector and developing our online presence. I arrange the service of sewing machines for schools and colleges in the Northwest region. That's about 300 or so schools, colleges and universities. I know hundreds of teachers and quite a few of them I've known for 30 years. They usually book their classroom sewing machines in for service at least 12 months in advance, which is a good indication of the level of service we offer.

I also organise the supply of new sewing machines, spares, accessories and haberdashery supplies to schools throughout the UK. I produce a small education supplies catalogue and post it to around 6,000 schools and colleges. This brings in orders from around the country and keeps me out of mischief.

Finally, I maintain our websites and blogs and I keep an eye out for interesting people developing their own blogs concerning all things sewing. I like to help and encourage as many of these people as I can, because it's not only good fun, it's the future!

You seem to have your finger on the pulse regarding the online sewing community. Why is connecting with bloggers so important to you?

I understand that anyone that sews and then blogs about their adventures is enormously important. Their posts reach thousands of people and encourage other sewing enthusiasts. I found your blog and liked the way you offered sound, practical advice. I would also throw this question back to you in a way and ask you - do you realise that you are not just blogging, you are teaching?

I wanted to offer you the Brother Innovis 10A to help people make a decision about what to buy. Too often I see people bring in a machine for repair that is such poor quality it isn't worth repairing and it's so sad to tell them they've spent all their money on a rubbish machine. This machine is relatively low cost, but it's very good quality, will sew a wide range of fabrics and will last. In other words, it's good value for money. My hope is that you will demonstrate, over the coming months and years, that here is a sewing machine that people can trust and have faith in as you use this machine with your many sewing projects.

I would also add that anyone who is considering buying a sewing machine should find a local dealer and call in for a demonstration before spending their money.

A lot of my readers will be interested to hear that you’re launching a vintage site soon. Is there anything you can share about it...or is it strictly top secret?

Keeping an eye on blogs helps me identify current trends and, well, I'm sure most of your readers will know that vintage is huge! I enjoy using the internet so the idea of creating a space about vintage patterns, sewing machines and people was right up my street. It will be called Vintage Persuasion and I hope to make it as interesting as I can, even adding listings of vintage events around the country. Not only will I be showcasing all the current collections of vintage patterns we stock - from Vogue, Butterick, McCall’s and more - I have also approached a few sewing bloggers to demonstrate their experiences as they make up some of these patterns.

Roy, Steve and Alan Bamber - check out the two shelves of beautiful old sewing machines! 


I hope you’ve enjoyed taking this virtual tour of Bamber Sewing Machines!

Please remember to let me know if you'd like me to cover anything specific in my upcoming posts on what to look for when buying a sewing machine. And of course, if you already have a Brother Innovis 10A, I'd love to hear what you think of it!

49 comments:

  1. Wow! You got a free sewing machine! That's awesome. It's really good to hear about affordable, dependable machines, too - that's what people need.

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    1. I know right!?! How jammy of me!

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  2. I've heard loads of good things about this company. Wow. Now I need to dye myself balck coz I am currently green with envy coz of your new machine. lol

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  3. most awesome free gift ever! I have a brother machine and its fantastic

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  4. That's fab Marie, can't wait to see what the machine can do. Great interview too, so interesting, I really wish there had been a company like that near me when I bought my overlocker, I'd have signed up for an overlooking class in a flash. it's really encouraging to hear about schools involvement too. Looking forward to reading the Alan's vintage blog. X

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    1. Thanks for your interest Jane! I'm looking forward to developing the related posts and I agree about how brilliant it would be to have a shop like that close by. In fact, if I ever do find an overlocker workshop I'd still like to go...I only use my overlocker in a very basic way!

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  5. They sound like a great company! I have a Brother Innovis 1500. I love it. It's the best machine I have ever used and wouldn't swap it for anything! Wish Alan's company was closer, I would definitely use them.

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    1. Great to hear you love your Brother so much!

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  6. Great interview Marie - you lucky thing! I'm more than happy with my current machine but it's good to know what other can too none the less, so I can't ait to see what you've made using the brother.

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  7. What an interesting interview - charming and eloquent (from both parties!). I look forward to your upcoming posts.

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    1. Thanks so much, that's really kind!

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  8. Wow, how fabulous! I've got a machine (Janome) that I love but trying to think back when I bought it the questions I asked when narrowing down a selection were how well they'd cope with thick layers, or lots of them, the expense of extra feet, how long I'd expect it to last sewing up to 10 hours a week with proper care and maintenance, how often it'd need servicing, where I could get that done (ie somewhere local), making sure it had the stitches I need ( and let's be honest the vast majority of the time it's straight and zig zag although I do use the triple stitch and a special stretch stitch too) how easy buttonholes were to do on it... Ummm can't think of anything else! Oh and what feet came with it! If I upgrade in the future ill look for one with an integrated walking foot but I think that's the only change I'd make. Mechanical or electric controls seem to be a matter of preference - I like having wheels to turn and the satisfying clunk when you know it's engaged a certain stitch type but others like buttons!

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    1. Brilliant, thanks for this Vicki...so much food for thought!

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  9. Oh wow!! What a marvelous gift, and I am really looking forward to the Vintage Persuasion launch!

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  10. Wow! What a brilliant gift! I think this was one of the machines I looked at when I was getting my new machine last year. Re questions about buying a new machine, I made a list of the features I wanted, and narrowed down my search from it. I don't know if that's exactly what you're looking for though, because I wasn't a brand new sewist then, and had been using my Granny's old machine for a while, so was definate about what I wanted in a new machine.

    Also, it's very interesting to read about this shop. I wish there was a shop like it near me!

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    1. Thanks Lynne, I wish Bamber Sew was closer to me too ;o)

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  11. Sweet! I would love posts on what to look for when buying a machine. I've only had two machines so far and I just kind of blindly bought them.

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  12. I think that if you did a post on what to look for when buying a new machine it would be sooo helpful! Actually, I wish you had posted it last month before I bought mine :)

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    1. Oh no, sorry! Timing's a b*tch sometimes eh!!!

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  13. What a lovely shop, and such gentle, passionate people! Not sure the sewing machine review would be useful for me, as I already have one that I'm pretty happy with, but I'd love it if you could keep your readers up-to-date on the beginnings of their Vintage Persuasion blog - it sounds like it'll be a great read. Thanks for all your work on the interview Marie.

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    1. Thank you Nessa and I will definitely keep you all up to date with Vintage Persuasion!

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  14. Wow! What a cool gift. I think a lot of people would find those posts helpful. I just got a new machine for my birthday last year and my mum gave me heaps of advice on what to look for plus I knew things I used regularly that I wanted. But for beginner sewers I think it would be a big help!

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    1. Thanks Kat, hopefully beginners will find them helpful as you say ;o)

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  15. This was really interesting Marie, woo hoo for the new machine- that's great! And the interview was fascinating. I would strongly support the view to buy a machine and overlocker that you can play with first, trying out different models. Plus, Supporting your local machine shop is not only sustainable but there's always someone there to help if you've a problem, and when your machine needs its service. Looking forward to seeing the new vintage site too....

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    1. Here, here Winnie...perfectly said!

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  16. Oh, YAY! So glad you have a fun new machine! And what a great interview! Wishing there was a shop like this near me!

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  17. Very cool! What wonderful entrepreneurs!

    You know, I've mostly sewn with average-to-low-quality sewing machines and I would be interested in learning what a higher-end sewing machine could offer. What are the differences? Why is it worth my money? How is it better? What should I look for when I buy a sewing machine?

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    1. Thanks Adrienne, these are all really helpful questions for when I start my posts.

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  18. I think posts about choosing a machine are useful - I've had quite a few people ask me my opinion/advice when they were planning to get a sewing machine for the first time.

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  19. Oh, that's fab Marie... wish they were near me 'cos they could service my Brother machine (the one I bought myself 6/7 years ago as new has never quite been right re: the tension *sigh*)

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    1. Oh no, how annoying about your Brother! Is there nowhere local to service it?

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  20. Just found your blog and loving it. Maybe we can follow each other on GFC or bloglovin? Please feel free to stop by my blog and let me know. XO

    http://mevamarie.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, just about to go explore your blog!

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  21. Wow, a free sewing machine! Awesome! xxx

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  22. Go on, then, show us what this baby can do!
    I find that it will be very helpful, at least for me, to list what one must look for when buying one's second machine. Because I 'm at a point that I need a sewing machine that will take me to the next level. Oh, and please do cover the topic of elastic stitching!
    Α, και με γεια τη μηχανή! Enjoy!

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    1. Haha, thanks Elpida! I'll try to make the posts as helpful as possible!

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  23. That's just too cool! Enjoy your new machine!

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  24. Hello Marie,
    Thanks for the post about our family business.

    I hope you enjoy using the new sewing machine and I hope your readers enjoy reading about your coming projects using your new Brother!

    Your blog is great fun to read and very informative. If I could pass one piece of information to all your readers it is this - If you're thinking of buying a sewing machine, visit your local sewing machine shop BEFORE you spend your money.

    Anyway, before I go, may I suggest you all take a look a Colleen G Lea's excellent blog. It has tons of sewing tips & advice. Here it is, http://www.fashionsewingblog.com/

    Regards
    Alan Bamber

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  25. I have got that exact machine!!! I love it! I was a total beginner looking for my first machine when I managed to win mine through a competition in a magazine! I find it really simple to use and would be interested to see what you think of it from the point of view of a non-beginner. I love that it basically tells you what you've done wrong before you even realise you've done something wrong. The manual is quite user friendly and it is super-easy to thread/change needle etc and feels smooth and light but still sturdy enough. It seems to have everything I could need at this stage, although I am not sure if it can stitch thick fabric e.g. denim? Catherine

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