Sewing Machines For The Visually Impaired
For the visually impaired, learning or continuing to enjoy pastimes such as sewing or knitting can be challenging. One problem for sewers is deciding which sewing machine will best meet their needs. After considering some of the obstacles the visually impaired must overcome, I’ve come up with three suggestions that are easy to operate for almost any kind of project.
These machines are among the best options. However, each person’s ability and prior experience are different. I will explain the options further after describing my 3 top picks.
- 6 Best Sewing Machines For Beginners On A Budget
- 10 Easy Sewing and Needlework Tips and Projects For The Visually Impaired
1. Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine
The XM2701 is an excellent starter machine for anyone, but it also has some features that make it especially appealing to the visually impaired. The knobs for adjusting tension, stitch length, or stitch width are easy to adjust by feel. The same is true of the large stitch selection knob.
This machine features 27 built-in stitch choices. Among these are a zigzag, blind hem, and special stitches for stretch fabric. The machine also features a one-step buttonhole stitch and foot.
The machine also has a top-loading, drop-in bobbin, which is less complicated and has less tendency to jam than a side-loading bobbin and case. As with many new machine models, the XM2701 includes an automatic needle threader. You’ll just need to learn how to lay the thread across the threader, then let it do the work for you.
This Brother machine has been at the top of many reviews as a dependable, reasonably tough machine. It comes with six basic presser feet, four bobbins, extra needles as well as a twin needle set, and plenty of instructions to help familiarize you with the machine.
2. SINGER | Tradition 2277 Sewing Machine
Personally, I prefer the Singer brand over Brother for their higher durability and performance ratings overall. Still, I’ve found it’s hard to find one with straightforward controls and a top-loading bobbin. This machine has a side-loader. For someone who’s been sewing for a while, this should not be an issue. For a beginning, visually impaired sewer, it may take some getting used to.
It’s also a challenge to find a Singer 2277 new. Amazon has them refurbished for about $100. The Singer website carries it new but was out of stock when I last checked, as it’s pretty popular. If you prefer a new machine, the Singer 4432 Heavy Duty or the Singer Esteem II 2273 are comparable but a bit more expensive. These machines also feature side-loading bobbins.
Other than the bobbin issue, the Singer 2277 is easy to use, with a metal frame and the Singer brand name of excellence. The machine has easy knob adjustments, 23 built-in stitches: 6 essential, seven stretch, and nine decorative. It also features a one-step buttonhole function.
There’s an instructional video online that will help explain all the machine’s functions. It does have a built-in needle threader and comes with several basic presser feet, bobbins, and other accessories.
This Singer machine comes with a faceplate cover, which means it can be used for freehand quilting as well as basic sewing. This feature will appeal to experienced sewers or beginners who hope to expand their skills in the future.
One possible issue with this machine is the tension setting of the side-loading bobbin. If the tension is not set correctly when you first receive it, the thread may bunch up and jam the bobbin area. A visually impaired person may need some help to adjust the bobbin thread properly. But once this is accomplished, the machine will run well for a long time to come.
3. Brother Sewing Machine, GX37
Of the three machines featured here, the Brother GX37 features the most stitches and presser feet accessories. I place it third only because it’s a bit higher priced than the XM2701. Amazon offers both refurbished and new machines, but with only a $7 difference, going with new is probably the better idea.
The GX37 features 37 stitches, needle threader, one-step buttonhole function, and six snap-on presser feet. It has a top-loading bobbin and easy knob adjustment. All the machines I’ve listed here include a free arm feature for cuffs and hems.
The GX37 gives you more options for decorative stitching and blind or narrow hems. These features make it especially fun to use for doll’s or children’s clothing. The machine has a fairly bright LED light, but any of the above machines may require extra lighting for the visually impaired.
The machine comes with a written manual and an instructional DVD. There is also online assistance available if you need it. It’s built to last with a metal frame easy-to-maintain mechanisms.
I was unable to determine if this machine has an adjustable feed dog feature. If not, Brother more than likely has a compatible faceplate cover for those interested in using the machine for quilting freehand. Basic quilting is possible even without this feature. The visually impaired will need extra lighting and possibly magnification for most quilting projects.
Sewing Machine Buying Guide for the Visually Impaired
When shopping for a sewing machine for the visually impaired, there are some basic features to keep in mind. Making a careful choice can be the difference between years of enjoyment or quick frustration. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Keep it Simple
Although all the electronic bells and whistles may seem appealing, it can be difficult for a visually impaired person to see and interpret the small readouts on most computerized machines.
That said, there are a few exceptions with a large readout screen. But the prices begin to skyrocket as you explore this option. If you’re unsure of your sewing future, it’s a good idea to start with a more straightforward machine that can be easily adjusted by touch or labeled with braille if necessary.
This feature is called a boon for the visually impaired. That might be so, but I have to honestly say that I can see pretty well and still have a hard time using the self-threading mechanism at times. It may come down to practice and determination.
But if you find the self-threader frustrating, there is also an option of easy-to-thread sewing machine needles, just like easy-to-thread hand-sewing needles. These can be found in several basic sizes to meet most sewing needs. It’s an option worth mentioning.
Most sewing machine lighting is pretty much the same, no matter how it’s advertised. Compare wattage if a machine boasts an exceptionally bright LED light. Most visually impaired sewers will need to use extra lighting or learn to control the machine by hand rather than sight.
For those who have little to no experience with sewing machines, a top-loading bobbin will give fewer headaches. These bobbins do not generally require tension adjustments, and there is no separate bobbin case that must be threaded just right to prevent jamming.
However, an experienced sewer will have little trouble with a side-loading bobbin, even if their sight begins to fade. The only potential issue will be if the tension gets out of wack. But then, even sighted needleworkers may need a professional to fine-tune the bobbin tension.
Some extra, inexpensive accessories will be helpful for those who are visually limited or blind. These accessories will give greater control and lessen the chances of injury.
- Sewing Machine Needle Guard. Some machine brands may have their own needle guard accessories. Check the website for your machine. If you don’t see it, try a universal guard.
- Magnetic Seam Guide. This little gem has a strong magnet that adheres to the faceplate at the desired distance from the needle. The guide will keep the stitching at an exact distance all along the edge. This is especially helpful for decorative embellishments.
- Thread spools without extending edges. Most common thread spools have edges where thread can become caught, causing the machine to jam. Rough places can be difficult to see. Using thread without these edges may be a help to the visually impaired. This thread is available in a variety of sizes. Larger spools may require a special thread holder that will sit beside the machine.
- Vacuum cleaner Micro-attachments for easy cleaning. The last accessory I will mention here is an attachment for efficiently cleaning out the machine, especially the bobbin area. Allowing lint and other debris to build up in this area can cause all kinds of problems and even shorten the life of your machine. This attachment will make it easy to ensure the machine compartments are entirely cleared out, even if you can’t see them well.