northstory + co

I went to IKEA and left with a sewing machine

All you professional sewers are going to laugh at me. I’m almost too embarrassed to admit this to the fabulous Ms. Pillows A-La-Mode who can sew anything and everything.


Yes my first sewing machine ever is from IKEA.

You know I love IKEA. I have way too much IKEA in my home.

But above all places to buy a sewing machine, that is probably the last store I would have said would have bought one from. Then again they do sell meatballs on the same floor as couches.

His name is SY.

That’s right I said he. Guys can name their cars Shelby, Marley, Mercedes and Eleanor. I can pretend SY is the understudy for Tom Ford. Deal with it.

SY’s been sitting in my house in his box since July. I haven’t even cracked the seal off his box. Lots of dust.

Then one day my blogging buddy Cheryl from It’s Two AM wrote this taunting motivational entry challenging me to join her in Elsie Marley’s Kids Clothing Week Challenge.

The challenge in Elsie’s words is as follows: “The idea is that we all have the urge to sew clothes for our children, but we don’t always give ourselves the time to do it.  If you commit to sitting in front of your sewing machine, or tracing patterns, or cutting fabric, for one hour each day, then at the end of the week you will have some very well dressed kids.”

Did I mention that I have NEVER ever used a sewing machine?

Not even sat down at one. Pushed a pedal. Threaded any sort of dial or knob. Let alone knew what a bobbin was.

It was my January 2012 New Year’s resolution to learn how to sew. That’s partially why I bought the machine.

Yet he was still in his box.

It’s October.

So Cheryl challenge accepted. This is for you. The tale of what happened when Alex finally took out and tried her IKEA sewing machine (which for the record in case anyone is wondering, gets some really great reviews on ikatbag and Coco’s Loft and Badger Lane.)

I brought the box to the kitchen.

This should be no problem at all.

Ok it’s out of the box.

When do I reach for the glass of wine?

Instructions. Ok. So far so good.

First instruction.

How to wind the bobbin thread.

Successfully done.

Next step. Insert bobbin thread.

Find hidden compartment full of bobbin cases etc.

This is where all hell broke lose.

First it took me a good while to figure out (as there are 3 main threading steps in the instruction booklet) that the first step – a.k.a. the threading the bobbin thread – is to wind the thread that you will be using in the bobbin that is UNDER the needle area.

See below.

IKEA generously gives you an already inserted bobbin full of thread. Which added to my confusion.

By the time the light bulb moment had occurred where I realized the first thread wind was to be used in the bobbin in the same area as the bobbin with the thread in it, I had bigger problems.

Basically even though I also successfully gone and done step # 2 – threading the top thread and needle – I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to pull up the bobbin thread.

I warned you.

Never operated a sewing machine before in my life. And now I am completely embarrassing myself on the world wide web.

It turned out this was because of one simple yet painfully obvious reason (which if I wasn’t in mid angry fit I probably would have noticed the answer in the instruction tutorial and even the hand drawn photo in the instruction booklet vs the 10 You Tube videos that I managed to google in the meantime that didn’t help me at all) and that was that I was putting in the bobbin casing back in upside down.

So yes if you’re wondering, you can close the bobbin case with the case the improper way and stare aimlessly at your machine thinking what fresh algorithm hell you are in.




I finally get this.

First attempt at sewing ever…(using scrap fabrics)

Ends up like this.

Second attempt at sewing went better.

Then the bobbin casing thread got jammed.

I remember once a long time ago reading on a forum about advice on choosing a sewing machine, where a sewer couldn’t emphasize enough how much she would recommend a sewing machine with a drop in bobbin and how it changed her sewing.

I get it now.

3rd attempt at sewing.


Oh yes a stitched line. Finally.

And wait, in the subsequent attempts…

There is hope after all.

Alas by this time it was 4 hours later and that means I had used up about 4 “days” worth of the kids hour a day clothing challenge and had sewn 3 lines across a scrap of an old pillowcase.

I was calling it a day.

And found some whiskey never mind wine.

So Cheryl I couldn’t complete an item of clothing but you did get me to actually to use a sewing machine for the first time in my life and I’ve already bought the pillowcase that I am going to try to make my first piece of kids clothing with – a skirt.

Or maybe I’ll swing by and get some cool dish towels and finally try Lil Blue Boo‘s idea of a dishtowel skirt that I have been wanting to do forever.

But either way, thank you Cheryl.

A different kind of Pandora’s box has been opened and for once, I’m really glad.

But I am so not even trying your knitting right now…

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  • Reply
    Vintage Living Magazine
    October 17, 2012 at 9:02 am

    This is wonderful! We all have to start somewhere. Having that Ikea sewing machine probably means even more thrift shopping, since now you can repair any less-than-perfect finds. All the best in your future sewing adventures! 🙂

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      It totally means I can look at old clothes in a different way now! I am already thinking what sweaters I can change into winter hats.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Alex, this is a fantastic post! I feel like I can relate wholeheartedly. I do not have ANY experience using a sewing machine but randomly decided I should learn how to use one. My mom gave me her ancient sewing machine that hasn’t been used in decades and I tried to teach myself. After a few hours (& Google videos!) of accomplishing absolutely nothing except getting beyond frustrated, I gave up and haven’t tried again. Your post totally inspires me to give it another shot… or at least put it on my 2013 New Year’s Resolutions! ;). So after your first experience and troubles, would you recommend the Ikea model you bought?

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      I like the machine because it’s small and compact in size. That is I can port it anywhere as I currently don’t have a main sewing/craft room. I can hide it away in a closet vs having a sewing table. I also am one of those weird people that is probably going to wind up sewing ‘sideways’ so I like that I can move it around relatively easy. It is louder than I anticipated.

      I’d buy it again but that’s b/c I bought it to do crafts, hemming, misc little kids clothing, pillow cases. If I was to be a professional sewer with garments etc, I’d probably invest in something a little more. The review done by ikatbag is very thorough and she sews constantly and even said the same thing. Go check that out! And go try to sew something and blog about it too!!!

  • Reply
    Pillows A-La-Mode
    October 17, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Yay!!! So proud of you!!! The sky is the limit now! 🙂

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 18, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      It totally is. If I can get a skirt done the next step is a hat or a dress.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Wow! Its good that you bought this! I love IKEA, A couple of weeks ago, I was going to buy it, but my mom stopped me & gave me her old one! I just started doing my own pillows with my moms help! (I will be posting my so not fun experience soon! )

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 18, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      Nice!! Can’t wait to read about it. Maybe you can explain zippers to me?

  • Reply
    October 17, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Oh Alex… this had me in tears, it was so funny and completely cathartic as I remember the time I tried to sew on my step-mom’s machine.

    But You GO Girl!!

    First hurdle completed! You got it out of the box AND stitched some lines!! Challenge won!

    Love it Love it Love it!

    We’re going to have have to set up some sort of challenge between us to keep the sewing going… but of course it must include wine methinks!!

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 18, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      I think we should do a shot every time the bobbin thread gets jammed. That way when we sew, the creation will probably turn out vs us concentrating on making something correctly and not being able to understand why the outcome isn’t what the pattern said it would be. Baileys? Winter is coming…

  • Reply
    October 17, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Oh god don’t remind me… I bought a sewing machine in a fit of craftiness and like yours did, it gathers dust. I’m actually a little afraid of it! I sewed all kinds of stuff as a kid but I think my years of higher education bumped that knowledge right out of my head. It is now an emblem of shame, sitting all alone in my craft room. Maybe if I had a scrummy cupcake like yours I’d have more motivation, lol:P

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      I totally laughed at the higher education line b/c I can relate. I find it hilarious and embarrassing that I have a University degree, yet it took me almost 4 hours to sew a single line of thread. I’d be really screwed in an apocalypse.
      Yes the cupcake did wonders. Bake some cupcakes then try it again and blog about it. We can start Cheryl’s cathartic drinking sewing club!

  • Reply
    the home tome
    October 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Ha ha! I laughed out loud at that pic of the tangly-jumbled first sewing attempt! That is a familiar sight to me. I learned how to sew in 7th grade home-economics class, then did a bit of sewing with my mom (pillows etc) with my mom as a teenager, but I have lost the knack. And don’t have my own machine…but I do remember that threading the machine as being akin to rocket science.

    I do have sewing fantasies now – I think they sell these hand-held things that are supposed to be okay for easy jobs, but I’d probably botch that up!

    Sewing machine at IKEA?! – they really DO have it all!

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      I am all about drop in bobbins now. If I ever decide (or get good enough) to warrant upgrading to a higher machine I am so getting a drop in bobbin one. That was beyond rocket science. There is no way it should be able to fit back in upside down.

      Hand helds? Oh I can just imagine what could possibly go wrong with that.

      IKEA sells suitcases and backpacks now!!

  • Reply
    October 18, 2012 at 6:10 am

    out loud and proud! go for it- sewing stuff combined with Ikea….marriage made in northstory heaven! totally looking forward to your creative output, the subject of future posts.

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      I am so picking up a stack of fabrics the next time I go into IKEA and seeing if I can make anything from it. You watch how fast I go reaching back for the iron on hem tape and e6000 glue in 6 months.

  • Reply
    Victoria Elizabeth
    October 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

    My sewing skills are limited to hemming curtains. Maybe a pair of pants, if I needed them immediately, and couldn’t take them to the dry cleaner in town… and that Rorschach-blot of thread? Gave me post-traumatic flashbacks.

    My machine is pretty old, and it works fine. MOSTLY. When it doesn’t, it’s always the bobbin/thread/jam/mass of thread. My mother has tried to discuss bobbin tension with me, and I’m just like, you don’t understand… it goes along fine! Mostly. And then it just explodes. For no reason.

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      Yes that blot of thread was so lovely. I just kept thinking “Will they take back an opened box?”

      Bobbin tension? Oh yes. I’ve read about it. I still have no clue what fresh hell that is. Right now I am trying to sort out that knob on the machine. I found one that works and I am not touching it.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Ok! I will explain you about zippers! but BELIEVE me, I’m not good at this, my poor mom had to explain me everything a hundred times 🙂

  • Reply
    October 18, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    LOVE this post! I laughed. Like a lot. But in a good-natured-good-for-you-I-would-do-all-the-same-things way.
    I’ve been wanting to start sewing forEVER and I feel a little evil because part of me is grateful that you did it first so 1- I know what to expect and 2- when I inevitably make the same mistakes I will feel better
    In any case I’m always impressed by someone trying something so totally new and you are no exception – so CONGRATS!

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      I suck at reading instructions but at the same time a lot of instructions suck at explaining things. A simple line stating “The first thread step is to be inserted as the main thread for your bobbin” would have shaved off about about 30 mins of this exercise. The upside down bobbin however was completely my fault. I am now encouraging everyone to try this so that we can compare war stories to submit to CraftFail.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    October 20, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Oh my goodness! I’ve been asking for a sewing machine from Santa the past 6 YEARS. I guess I’ve been a bad girl. My husband is the expert sewer since I don’t know how to operate one.

    I’m sorry it took 3 hours, but it looks pretty good now that you got it started! The second line is my favorite look. 🙂

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      October 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm

      Get Santa to bring you one with a drop in bobbin. That thing is the bane of my existence right now!

  • Reply
    Deb Weyrich-Cody
    November 2, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Okay, so now that I’ve wiped the tears away…
    Threading that Ikea bobbin is like trying to drink water lying down; you could do it but why would you? (Gravity is your friend; ) PLEASE take it back. Why be frustrated with your machine, when there’s so much you can learn about sewing? Besides, lots of machines are portable: even the really expensive ones that do everything except tie your shoes. Here’s a drool-worthy site…
    Could you take some lessons, or do you know anyone who could give you a hand? Too bad they don’t teach this at high school anymore. If you want, send me an email and we can talk…

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 4, 2012 at 10:05 am

      I can’t take it back it’s past the return date. The good news is the bobbin and me are getting along much better now that I am putting it in correctly. I even made a skirt that I need to blog about because I still stare at it floored that it was me that made it.

      I’m going to get my mom to show me some of the basics and found a fantastic blogger who has some amazing How To tutorials. Right now the biggest thing that I need to practice is sewing in straight lines and around curves. That’s taking a bit. 🙂 Thanks for the offer to help. If I wind up crushing my fingers under the needle I’ll definitely take you up on that.

      • Reply
        Deb Weyrich-Cody
        November 4, 2012 at 3:29 pm

        Good to hear you’re having such great results – there’s nothing like that feeling of accomplishment, is there?: )
        But (OMG, you’re giving me the heeby-jeebies just talking about it) just try to remember, if you do happen to get nailed by the needle, resist the automatic impulse to pull your finger away, ‘k?
        P.S. about sewing the curves: try to focus on turning your piece when the needle is actually in the material; go slow and (keeping tension with your fingers on both pieces of fabric) stretching out any little puckers as you go.
        Hope this helps (and makes sense; )

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    This was amazing…thank you for taking us along with you on this journey! I, too, had an lol moment when I saw your first stitch attempt. At least you have a sense of humor through this all! I’m a beginner sewist, too, and am slowly but surely working my way through Raechel Myers’s Sewing 101 course online. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for structure to follow as you manage these uncharted waters. Happy sewing!

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      Ok I’ll so check those out! 🙂 I’ve recently only discovered some very popular sewing blogs out there which are amazing yet I am still convinced that if I manage not to cut my fingers, then that’s considered a success story by the end of the day.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    You make a frustrating story sound hysterical! Maybe some people are meant to blog instead of sew? Anyway, you make me feel better! My bobbin threads ALWAYS scramble together under what I’m trying to sew. Honestly, if it wasn’t for that, I might even enjoy it instead of only doing it when I HAVE to! 🙂

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      November 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      HAHAHA! It’s true! I think certain people have certain talents and that’s what makes their blogs about a given subject stand out. Like if I could bake I’d be making awesome cookies to show off but I can’t ice a cookie to save my life. Bobbins and me are now a unified front, mind you I am debating on (and this is a huge IF) I get good enough to warrant buying another machine, the drop in bobbin thing sounds blissful.

  • Reply
    November 12, 2012 at 2:43 am

    My first sewing machine is a SY too!!! I love it, because, as you also said, it’s compact, and light, and not too complicated and cheap! You are great, I would have surely given up on sewing if I had been left alone with it for the first time. Luckily my Mum is very good at sewing, and she taught me how to do it. The most important thing I found out about sewing, that is 50% sewing and 50% problem solving…

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      December 20, 2012 at 10:29 am

      How are you finding the machine as of today? My husband accidentally broke off the bobbin thread winder (the little stick that you pull out of the side), It’s been really fun trying to fix it.

  • Reply
    November 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Congratulations on your new sewing machine!
    I am currently teaching 3 friends to sew, and they have all bought ikea machines based on the positive reviews on the internet and they are doing fine with them. They really are a fabulous quality/price compromise. However, the instructions aren’t super clear, and one friend had real problems with the bobbin – she got it in back to front and ended up with a similar mess to yours. Once you get the bobbin in ok and play a bit with the tension it will be fine. But as I tell my friends – sewing will make you smile, laugh and proud, but will also leave you in tears and furious at times! Good luck and enjoy it 🙂

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      December 20, 2012 at 10:30 am

      To this day the bobbin drives me batty. Even though I know how to put it in, it’s still a bit slippery. My bigger issue is with the sewing part – aka me – b/c I am so having a hard time learning how to do my turns and curves. It is gratifying I must admit actually having a finished piece, even if it’s a train wreck of seams inside.

  • Reply
    December 20, 2012 at 12:29 am

    I’m clueless about sewing machines. But I think it would be a good skill to have because many times I’ve had seams rip on clothes and just threw them out because I didn’t know what else to do. Nice clothes, too! Also for the stupid curtains I have that are bunched up on the floor. I’d like to shorten those and not have to pay someone to do it. And the two comforters I have that are ripped on one side – the side pointed away from the bedroom door. And for less than a hundred dollars you can actually get a real sewing machine?! I think I’m going to IKEA this weekend! My only concern: Is the instruction manual easy for beginners to understand, or is it really “techie” for lack of a better word? Because I am not exaggerating when I say I’m stupid at this. Literally a know-nothing novice who doesn’t understand exactly what a bobbin is.

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      December 20, 2012 at 10:42 am

      I used Heat N’ Bond iron on tape to shorten my curtains and I had this sewing machine at home. I didn’t trust myself to shorten them in a straight line on my own just yet. Try that!

      The instruction manual like most instruction manuals out there assume that you know something about sewing in general. The parts are all very clearly labeled and made out. But it did take me a bit to go why do I need 3 threading steps.

      I realized step 1 in the booklet is to wind the thread on the bobbin case (which is essentially the little spool that holds your thread that you will be using to sew with), then Step 2 is to thread this thread that you just wound up in Step 1. And Step 3 is to pull it up from underneath the needle area (see the compartment picture above with the round looking thing – that’s a metal bobbin case under the needle area) meaning you have to insert the bobbin thread that you wound in Step 1 into that metal bobbin case. So there’s two diff things. Bobbin thread spool (step 1). Bobbin case (step 3). I don’t know why they didn’t give them different names in the world of creating sewing. Like even thread casing would make this more sane. But if millions of sewers can handle this, it’s obviously just me.

      Believe me I didn’t know what it was either before I got my hands on this. They rather assume that you know this. So if you don’t, like I didn’t, it can take a bit before the fog clears up in your head and you go Ohhhhh.

      Because to top it off, IKEA gives you a bobbin spool full of thread already in the metal bobbin case under the needle area and you’re sitting there going, um, do I use this too in the threading? I have no shame in admitting this obvious idiocy. If anyone who knows how to sew reads this they’re probably like girl you need sewing lessons like stat.

      It’s a good little machine. It is a bit loud. But I didn’t buy it to make my own clothes. This is more for crafting, sewing hems, pillowcases etc. I’m happy with it b/c it’s portable and I do not have the luxury of being able to leave my sewing machine in a room just for sewing. Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    February 2, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Hi!! I’ve had this idea in my head for ages of attempting to make a quilt out of the baby grows my kids have grown out of that I don’t have the heart to get rid off. It’s been nothing more than just a vague idea (i have no idea how to even start making a quilt!!!) until wandering through ikea today when I noticed their machine. I was checking out reviews on the Internet when I stumbled across this page – LOVE IT!! I think I may give it a go…… You may also have no idea …… but do you know if it would be any good to make a quilt??? (Or am I being massively over ambitious????)

    • Reply
      [email protected]
      February 2, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      Thanks for coming by! I am the WORST person ever to ask about quilt making but if you check the comments section and go visit: – she is an amazing seamstress and maybe could offer more insight on what you need to make a good quilt. Or visit Danielle over a StoryPiece who recently did a quilt for her brother:

      Hope that helps some! For the record I like the machine still. I just haven’t been um, a great sewing student this winter.

  • Reply
    Nicole F.
    April 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I got the machine for Christmas, it’s now April and I just pulled it out of the box, have tried for about an hour tring to figure out the bobbin, your info was helpful so when I get home from work I will revisit the machine. Thanks.

  • Reply
    April 23, 2013 at 4:10 am

    Well, looks familiar, my husband bought me the same machine for my birthday on 12th ~April, I use to be an industrial machinest and make luggage in the 70’s, piece work and haven’t sewn since…. This is a challenge and I think for the first time you did amazing. I have yet to get it out of the box but I will I promise, got so many ideas … when I get it out of the box….

  • Reply
    May 3, 2013 at 11:05 am


    Can you PLEASE by some way share the manual in English? I bought one but I dont find the instructions in English 🙁

    Thanks a truckload!

    • Reply
      May 4, 2013 at 8:12 am

      That could take me awhile. If only that I’d have to find it first (this tells you how long it’s been since I’ve actually sewn something).

      Maybe this will help in the meantime.

      • Reply
        June 13, 2013 at 3:41 pm

        Alex, like Sri, I would really appreciate it if you could kindly share your english manual with us. The link is the assembly instructions without the instructions on how to start using the machine. Please help, my machine sits without any warm affection from me!!

        Trillions of thanks beforehand


        • Reply
          June 13, 2013 at 3:56 pm

          I would love to help you out but I can’t find my manual. I’m not even kidding. Your best bet is to email IKEA and ask them to send you one. If that fails tweet them!

          • thuski
            June 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm

            I think I am going to get in touch with IKEA and hopefully, they will sympathize with those of us without that holy english manual 😀 Thanks nevertheless!!

    • Reply
      November 4, 2014 at 11:35 am

      Maybe this will help the people looking for the manual

      And you can find other manuals for the Sy machine (maintenance, etc) at

  • Reply
    Carole Cooper
    August 31, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Hi Alex, I bought this machine a few months ago, and have got to a point where I needed some extra bobbins. When I contacted Ikea, they stated that they were unable to supply any more. I was very disappointed with this statement, as I have tried several other makes and they quickly jam up. Have you encountered this, and do you happen to know if I can get some that work in the machine? Many thanks. Carole. New Forest, UK.

    • Reply
      September 11, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      Hi Carole, I honestly haven’t touched my sewing machine since probably January of this year so I can’t speak for anything about it all since I wrote the post. Do normal bobbins that you can buy at stores not fit into it? The only problem I have had is the plastic thread holder accidentally snapped off due to a household mishap of where it was stored. I managed to glue it back together but I know they didn’t sell a replacement part for it and that worried me bc if it breaks the machine is pretty much useless.

      • Reply
        Carole cooper
        September 12, 2013 at 3:24 am

        Hi Alex,
        Thanks so much for your reply. I have been trying various bobbins and have found some that will work. I suppose for the price you cannot expect miracles but I would have thought they could have sold packs of bobbins. I am pleased with,y machine and have already made a quilt on it out in the garden. I have a posh Janome as my main machine but needed a small one to cart around. Carole

  • Reply
    December 28, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    My IKEA sewing machine is bunching the thread just like yours did.Suddenly yours does not anymore…. Could you please say what you did between those steps that made the machine work – which is why I read this post to begin with – and only had a few before photos and then after photos.

    • Reply
      December 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      Sorry wish I could help more but I honestly haven’t used this machine in almost a year. Not because it was a bad machine but because I just didn’t take to sewing. From what I remember it only jammed once and then once was fine thereafter. I did link up to some bloggers who did reviews for the product (this wasn’t a review as much as it was the story of the first time I used a sewing machine) so try and check with them as they may have more advice than me.

    • Reply
      Carole cooper
      December 30, 2013 at 3:18 am

      It is important to leave a long thread from bobbin and top thread, hold onto threads when first starting, this should cure all. Always use correct bobbin and thread on machine not on a bobbin winder.

  • Reply
    June 1, 2015 at 11:40 am

    A practical question… I am assuming you did not have to put oil in first time you used it… did you?

  • Reply
    October 6, 2015 at 11:35 am

    When thread holder brakes you can’t get a replacement so machine is no use any more

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