I confess I haven’t owned a cheap sewing machine in a very long time and I have been very wary of recommending any to anyone for a large part due to mistrust of something cheap.  But of course if you’re new to machine sewing, taking it up for the first time and wanting to learn, then buying a £500+ machine may not be an option so those cheap machines are what many beginners are going to start on. So when today I had the chance to pick one up at a ridiculously silly low price due to a special offer in a new store opening I took it so that I can test out the machine and see for myself what it can do.

The machine in question is the Singer Tradition 2282. They are often sold in stores such as Aldi and Lidl for around the £80 mark. Researching current prices today I’ve seen it for as much as £130 (seriously, do not pay that for it, it is easily available at the £80 price!).

First impressions on taking it out of the box is that it was heavier than I expected for the price, cheap machines tend to be very lightweight as they have no metal parts, this claims to have a metal chassis and while I haven’t taken it apart to check I can believe that from the weight. Some of my machines are so heavy I regret not taking up serious weight lifting every time I have to move them, this one has enough weight to feel sturdy yet is still light enough to move around easily.

Singer Tradition 2282 sewing machine

Singer Tradition 2282 sewing machine

Setting it up is simple, threading is straightforward if you know how to thread a machine already and the instruction manual is clear if you don’t. I had only 2 niggles on the setting up, one more important the other. Firstly the bobbins it is supplied with fit so snugly into the bobbin casing that they won’t just drop out when you let go of the holding lever, I had to use a pin to flick them out, an inconvenience rather than a problem though.

The more important niggle is the automatic needle threader that isn’t really automatic. I have machines that have really automatic needle threaders, you put the thread around and press a button and hey presto – the thread is in the needle! Of course I would never have expected anything like that at this price level but to call it an automatic needle threader is rather misleading – it is a manual needle threader that happens to be attached to the machine! Without any automatic needle positioning it is also very easy to damage and frankly I can’t see it lasting very long, activate the lever to pull it down with the needle, which you have to position manually, not in exactly the right place and the fine wire hook that does the threading is going to bend out of shape and become useless. Don’t let that in itself put you off though, just accept that it may not last and you may need to thread needles without it soon, there are plenty of needle threaders available for anything from a few pence to a few pounds to help with this though.

I’m not going to run through all the different stitches, suffice to say it does all the basic stitches a beginner would need plus a few more and has a basic 1 step buttonhole. The manual doesn’t explain what these stitches are called nor what they are used for though so if you don’t already know you’ll need to do a little research. It does have a blind hem stitch but there is no blind hem foot included, the manual explains how to do a blind hem stitch but you will get far better results if you purchase a blind hem foot to use instead of the zigzag foot it comes with. The other feet included are zipper foot, button hole and button attaching foot.  The buttonhole it made was well balanced (equal each side) as well which is a plus especially as it doesn’t have a balance adjuster. Since the machine uses clip on feet there are a wide range of feet that could be used with it. If buying non clip on feet you will have to make sure you buy low shank feet though as this does not have adjustable shank levels, it’s low shank or clip on only.

So how does it sew? Surprisingly well actually. All the stitches it produced on a mid weight cotton were even and well tensioned. The fabric fed through the machine well although it needed a more control to guide it through in a straight line than on my other machines (on my favourite I can practically let go of the fabric and it will still go through in a straight line!). It struggled terribly on jersey and fine weight fabrics though, even with specialist needles I found it impossible to get good stitching on jersey or fine fabrics. This is not uncommon with machines in the lower price brackets though. It did manage to sew sweatshirt weight jersey though so realistically I don’t see it’s inability to do a good job on fine weight fabrics or light weight jersey being a reason not to recommend it to a beginner since it is unlikely a beginner would be sewing such fabric anyway, bear it in mind if you do want to sew fine fabrics or jersey though.  Everything I tried it on from a shirt weight cotton upwards it managed fine although when I tried several layers of a thicker fabric it did falter, again something a beginner probably isn’t going to need it to do anyway. I also suspect the lack of any control over foot pressure was contributing to some of the difficulties – there is no way to adjust the amount of pressure the foot exerts on the fabric on this machine.

For me personally it is slow, clunky and noisey, but then I am used to top of the range machines, to someone not used to them it’s probably pretty damned fast and quiet. It’s certainly faster than some other cheaper machines I’ve seen in action. It does vibrate a bit as well especially when you run it at full speed, but nothing that can’t be lived with. A mat underneath it would possibly reduce the vibrations a lot as well.

One thing the machine does not have is the ability to drop the feed dogs, it does however come with a darning plate to cover them. If you are hoping to use this machine for free motion sewing (embroidery) then there are a few things you need to be aware of. The manual mentions free motion and the need to use the darning plate but doesn’t explain how to actually use it for free motion and it doesn’t come with any sort of foot suitable for use in free motion. With free motion the fabric must be able to move freely over the needle plate and not be held down against the plate by a foot. With this machine and it’s included feet this is not possible. You can buy a low shank embroidery foot to use on it but once the darning plate is in place the gap between the foot and the darning plate is too small to allow free movement of the fabric. You therefore need to either sew with an embroidery foot but without the darning plate or sew with the darning plate but without any foot on the machine. The 2 videos show how the fabric moves with and without the darning plate in place – top video with, bottom video without. You can see how much easier it moves in the video without the plate and how it wants to bunch up around the foot with it in place (I have used an embroidery foot I already had to do these).

Not using the darning plate will be fine for most situations but because the feed dogs are still raised and moving there is a risk they can catch on the fabric or the threads at the back so make sure you use a firmly woven smooth fabric or back the fabric with a stabiliser first.

Using the darning plate but no foot is more tricky, without a foot the fabric will pull up with the needle every time so must be made very firm with stabilisers or stretched and held firmly within a frame to prevent this. Not having a foot on the machine hugely increases the risk of getting your fingers caught by the needle as well so is not to be recommended unless you know what you are doing! If you really must try it without a foot then use a frame – with a frame you keep your hands on the frame, without your hands can get very close to the needle and the risk of them going under the needle is higher than when there is a foot in place!  I strongly suggest that if you want to try free motion you wait until you have a low shank embroidery foot and work without the darning plate for the sake of your fingers!

And before anyone who knows me points out that I work with no foot and no frame and whizz away at high speed on mine without harming myself 1 – I’ve been doing it for many years, 2 – I know really well what a needle in the finger feels like (agony doesn’t come close!) as I have hurt myself doing it before and 3 – I really should know better but am sometimes an idiot when I want to get something done!

Overall I am pretty impressed with this machine. For the price and spec it’s pretty good. It would never be able to replace my machines but for a learner or occasional sewer who works within it’s limitations then it is absolutely fine!