I've never had a sewing machine smoke, that must have been off putting!
When I use fabrics that fray like crazy, I use a zig zag stitch and overcast the edges. Even a straight stitch near the edge helps a lot.
Cheating is an option. . . . Cheaters never win and winners never cheat, but smart knitters who want to retain an iota of sanity do, cheerfully. ~~Kory Stamper