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Topic: Sewing machines, a buyers guide  (Read 67723 times)
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« Reply #90 on: January 17, 2012 01:54:13 AM »

I just recently bought my first sewing machine.  I researched and researched and researched and figured I wanted at least a few things in my machine. 

A few things I looked for:

Adjustable stitch length - handy if you'll be sewing with a lot of different fabrics
Ability to lower feed dogs - in case I want to learn free motion quilting
A machine with at least a couple stretch stitches - I heart cotton jersey
A free arm - for hemming, it's a bitch enough already
Adjustable speed - so I can floor it on the straight parts and slow down around curves as needed
A full sized heavy machine - so it doesn't bounce around
A newish machine - so it wouldn't be a total pain to get parts if something happened

Then I listened to everyone's advice about getting a first machine, took my wants with me to a local sewing machine store, and checked out what used machines they had in stock.  They happened to have something that fit all my wants at a price I couldn't pass up.  If I can't figure something out, I can take it in and the lady will teach me how to do it.  Anytime.  For free.  Amazon won't do that.  Wink

So that's my advice.  Read about things you think you might like to do.  See what features make that possible/easy.  Then head to a brick and mortar store.  Sit, sew, talk, ask questions, learn, and hopefully buy if you find something you're comfortable with. 

PS, that Brother machine is available at Wal-Mart for the same price.
« Reply #91 on: May 03, 2012 07:07:31 PM »

Hi all!

I have always wanted to learn how to sew things such as clothes, bunting, cushion covers, purses, etc. So, I've finally decided to learn. I have ordered some books to learn from and now I need a sewing machine and kit.

Can you tell me what kind of sewing machine I should get as a beginner? I have no previous knowledge of sewing machines at all so I don't know what I'm looking for and there seems to be thousands of different machines to choose from so I am pretty confused!

Thanks in advance!
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« Reply #92 on: May 17, 2012 12:21:54 AM »


I used to sew a fair amount, but haven't in years. I want to get started again. I mainly want an easy to use machine that can sew through somewhat thick fabric (a couple of layers of jean, etc.). I was looking at the Jenome HD1000. Does anyone have any opinions on this machine, or advice about it? It's $270 new.


« Reply #93 on: September 21, 2012 12:53:48 PM »

UPDATED 12/ 19/ 07 **Bumping for relevence**

So the craftopedia is down for a bit, but I figure we can start here & when it is ready get our lovely mods to move it.

I do not pretend to know everything about every machine, or even everything about my own machine, I look for good commentary from you other experienced folks which I will incorporate into the original post with proper credit Smiley

I do know how to recognize a good machine, and I'm a pretty good comparative shopper. Smiley

Buying a sewing machine is like buying a car, your level of skill, mechanical needs and budget dictate what you get in your machine. Sewing machines vary in price and quality much like cars. Bernina = Mercedez-Benz, Janome = Toyota, Kenmore = Buick, Pfaff = Volvo, Viking/ Husqvarna = Volkswagon. (Ok, most of the countries didn't line up perfectly, meh)
Knowing the reputation of the brand you are looking at, as well as recent reviews of quality  for the specific model is important. If it's a good machine you will be using it a lot, if it's a poor machine you will not get far fast.

Some people have Hyundais and love them, some people wouldn't be caught dead in them. The middle of the road brands of Singer and Brother sort of fall into the Hyundai category.

So, to use the analogy above, would you rather have a gently used Mercedes? or a brand new Yugo?

Would you buy a car without driving it? Why buy a sewing machine someplace you can't try it out?

When you buy a car from the dealership there is an assurance of staff who can maintain your car correctly, any time down the road, same goes for a sewing machine store/ department within a store. Walmart has no service department, nor does Target. (don't get me wrong, I shop at both frequently, but not for sewing machines).

Like automotive companies, most sewing machine companies have levels or classes of the same thing. Or like Kenmore* & Husquavarna are divisions of larger companies that manufacture all kinds of stuff. Many Sewing exclusive companies have huge numbers of products, accesories and specialized optional components.

* The Kenmore name is owned by Sears, they actually choose products from other companies that meet their standards and make a deal to put Kenmore on the front. It's still good stuff and has the Sears reputation & service to back it up.

So Nitty Gritty:
Never sewn but want to learn how- what should I buy?
This is what you need from your machine:

- straight stitch
- zig zag stitch
- reverseable stitching (most have a button or lever to do this, it's not a setting)
- a light on the machine
- bobbin winder
- foot pedal
- sturdy enough body that if it gets tripped over while sitting on the floor an adult's shoe won't crack the housing
- solid/ well placed footing or base so the machine does not rock or slide while sewing

Sewn some, learning more, want to do knits/ bags/ delicate garments/etc.

You now need all of the above and:
- a stretch stitch
- a zipper foot
- a button hole function
- an applique or other wide foot
- a walking foot if quilting is a goal
- ability to drop the feed dogs if quilting is a goal

Brands that are generally considered good used:
Singers over 15 years old (American built models)
Viking/ Husqvarna
Janome that are less than 10 years old (Japanese built models)

Country of origin & general statistics on service:

Bernina: Switzerland, has US based service company for big repairs. Excellent warranty. Many Authorized Dealers around the US, if you want a new one  it's worth looking into these official stores. Pretty much the Mercedez of sewing machines, parts don't come cheap but they last so long you don't need to buy parts very often. Last sewing machine company world wide that is still owned & run by the original family. Budget line is called Bernette, seen as low as $US 199 on sale.

Pfaff: Germany, does not have US base for  large repair service. Many Authorized Dealers across the US. Excellent warranty. Many put Pfaff in the same category as Bernina, a hair cheaper than Bernina. If Bernina = Mercedez, then Pfaff = Audi. Budget lines are Hobby and Smart.

Viking/ Husqvarna: Sweden. {need more info} Budget line is called Huskystar.

Janome: Japan, does not have US base for large repairs. Many Authorized Dealers across the US. Much younger company than most, but like Toyota and many other Japanese brands, have quickly established themselves as reliable machines. Budget lines are Florals and Gem Gold.

Singer: Until 19XX(eighty something?- need more research) American, still owned American but now produced elsewhere.

White: American. Has been around nearly as long as Singer. Long reputation as being good sturdy basic machines, does not manufacture as many higher end or fancy machines. Does produce Sergers and commercial machines as well.

Elna: German? Less popular in the US, I think more popular across Europe (chime in please, sisters across the pond Smiley ). High quality, non-beginner machines. Harder to find Authorized Service in the US.
{{ will come back to this soon!}}

** So I did some research, no wonder everybody looking is asking about Brother & Singer, that's all I could find with prices attatched!! The market is flooded with Singer & Brother machines, every discount wholesaler on the net has dozens of each! Which really should speak for itself, if those machines were selling in the original stores, there wouldn't be so many at the second tier sales places, right?

Thank you for this I really needed it!!
Okay, so I really want to start sewing and plan on taking classes and practicing. I took note of all the above and here are my preferences or what might be best for me.

I'm new to sewing and based on the above I will definitely need
the straight stitch
a zig zag stitch

reverseable stitching (most have a button or lever to do this, it's not a setting)

A light on the machine
And lastly:

bobbin winder
foot pedal
Sturdy enough body that if it gets tripped over while sitting on the floor an adult's shoe won't crack the housing
- solid/ well placed footing or base so the machine does not rock or slide while sewing"

All as SpottedFrog stated for a newbie sewer. I want to be sure to mention that I want a mechanical machine and I aspire to making dresses (red carpet stuff and evening dresses and gowns are my dream and maybe costumes...I don't know if I'll do anything around the house too but maybe?) I thought a Bernina (it's a 'Mercedes' as SpottedFrog stated) would be perfect.

I read that their only mechanical machine is the 1008 but there are NO Bernina dealers near me and I don't have a car. I'm closer to some Janome dealers and even closer to a single Pfaff dealer. So I think what I want now is Pfaff. That way I'd be able to get to them and check out the machine in person.

I should also mention that I'm open to their budget lines as well and hopefully more metal than plastic but I'll take what I can get as long as it sturdy and durable and I can learn on it.

I do want a machine that will grow with me too so I can add or have what spotted frog recommended for someone who has progressed and sewn a little (unless it would prove to be too overwhelming at first or too much than I'll take the above mentioned just fine!)

So, based on all that does anyone have any recommendations? What models should I first look at? Again, I'm thinking of Janome or Pfaff as well as their budget lines but I am most likely going to get a Pfaff. I would like to thank everyone in advance for their suggestions! I really appreciate it Smiley And thanks to this wonderful thread I have a checklist I can use when I shop! Smiley
Dana Wolf
« Reply #94 on: December 02, 2012 10:16:07 PM »

I've been sewing for about 20 years now and I think I'm qualified to give advice on what you need in a sewing machine.  The average person will probably only need a machine that has adjustable needle position, basic stitch options, buttonhole, zipper and blind hem foot attachments, easy to use bobbin winder and extra bobbin casings.  Make sure the machine is well built, with todays machines, you can get all of this for under $200. 

I wouldn't think most people would need automatic threading mechanisms, built-in electronic embroidery system, complex stitches (overlocking or extra embroidery), computerized controls, one-step buttonhole maker or thread thickness options.  Frugal5.com is a neat site that determines the best cost effective machines.  They claim that the SINGER 4411 Heavy Duty and SINGER 3323S Talent 23-Stitch provide the best value at http://www.frugal5.com/Best-Sewing-Machine-For-The-Money
lyns quilts
« Reply #95 on: January 18, 2013 05:31:51 PM »

If you can afford to spend a lot on an expensive sewing machine,go for it, I couldn't to begin with and now I wouldn't . 25 years ago I went to Sears and paid $100 for a new Kenmore sewing machine. It worked great for me for 10 years. Then I wanted one with more stitches to make quilts. So I bought a Brother machine for $150 (new) from WalMart. I have used it for the last 15 years and it is still working great after 60 quilts. My daughter got the Kenmore when I bought my Brother and she is still using it . The key is regular maintenance,keep it in a safe place and covered when not in use. I'm getting ready to buy another Brother when I find one with a bigger bed for my quilt blocks.Don't judge some of those basic sewing machines by the price tags. Price doesn't determine value and quality.
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« Reply #96 on: February 06, 2013 11:03:09 AM »

I think it's for the dust.  I know my MIL's machine just sits in her closet for years at a time.  If she didn't cover it, the dust would be monumental.

Sewers are for ninja turtles--seamstresses are for sewing Wink

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« Reply #97 on: March 14, 2013 08:06:22 PM »

Great post-- just what I was hoping to find!  Thanks for all of the knowledge, everyone.  Very helpful for someone who is A. completely lost on this subject and B. reticent about walking into a sewing shop and asking for advice on buying used/vintage as, well, they're going to want to sell me one of their new machines...

I have a couple questions, though... I'm trying to work on doing searches but it's slow going (23 pages of results just on the keyword "vintage"), so please bear with me.  I haven't come across these specific questions yet.

A question is on the portability issue (I searched and didn't see anything similar).  Craigslist has a lot of older machines in cabinets.  That's fine and i might be able to find a place to put one... but I'd like something portable.  So, for example, if I go visit my mum so we can sew together, or I take a class and want to take my own machine to learn on, I'm not lugging around a cabinet.  Can machines be removed from the cabinets for travel, or are they simply... mounted in there/don't have any sort of base to sit on?  (Can I even take a class with my own machine?  Or will they want me to use theirs?  Am I going to hear "oh, I don't know how to show you how to use such an old machine" if I have something like a Singer 99 or something?)

I'm also wondering if I might "outgrow" a straight-stitch machine.  I don't plan on doing anything too complex, but there's a Singer 99k I'm looking at on Craigslist and I see it's simply straight-stitch and not even any reverse option (I don't think, from what little I can see in the pics).  Will I regret not having zig-zag and reverse?  It seems a lot of people swear by these machines, so maybe not... but I'd be willing to look at some of the C-list machines that look like they might be 70s-era (Kenmore, etc.) as well.  (The 99k is $40.  Seller says it doesn't have any attachments but it belonged to their grandmother, who took good care of it.  It would be a bit of a hike for me, and very inconvenient this weekend, to go see it-- should I even bother for that price?)

Are they or are they not difficult to re-wire?  It's not something I'd be confident doing myself, but still, from my limited reading it doesn't sound like it's TOO hard or should be TOO expensive.  I called a repair shop today, though, and the person I spoke with told me not to even bother if the machine needs rewiring as it would require replacing the entire motor, would be prohibitively expensive, etc.  But, I assume that the older Singers (99, 201, 15-91, etc.) are almost certain to need rewiring, right?  And so many people seem to have them that it can't possibly be a bank-breaking or near-impossible venture...

(Grumble: oh the joys of C-list listings with next-to-no info... I want to Google the model number for reviews!!  Speaking of which, has anyone ever heard of a Kenmore 1120?  I see one listed, but I can find almost nothing on it, and a list of Kenmore model numbers doesn't even show that one.  I thought perhaps it was a typo and it's really an 1102, but I can find next-to-nothing on those either, inc. pics so I can compare with the ad's pics.  Before I contact the seller and possibly offend them by saying "uh, are you sure of what you have?" I figured I might see if anyone's heard of this model...)

Thanks for the help.  Smiley  I don't even know how to evaluate the machines in all these ads I have up in my browser right now, lol.  And I can't go see them all.  So I'm trying to do a lot of Googling and email questions to sellers.
« Reply #98 on: August 20, 2014 02:17:46 PM »

Hi guys, I'm about to buy a used sewing machine. I found two in my area, one of them is actually brand new Victoria 270e branded machine. The second one is an older, used Brother sewing machine, the seller says it's in perfect condition. I have used a new type of Singer sewing machine before. I attached the picture of the Brother sewing machine and the Victoria one. I have no experience with these older types of machines, so I am looking for advice. What do you guys think, which one should I go for?
« Reply #99 on: October 12, 2016 02:11:12 AM »

Thank you for such an awesome post. Really detailed and informative. I came here looking for some advice on buying a sewing machine and this guide has really saved me from a lot of frustration. Keep it up.
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