View Full Version : Sewing machine advice - what to buy?
December 28th, 2003, 03:50 PM
Okay, I'm in the market for a good sewing machine. I want high quality, but not necessarily professional quality (I save that for cooking LOL).
Aside from tips (always looking for tips :D), would you please rank your favorite sewing machines? Namely, you dream machine, second choice, third, fourth, and sew on (harharhar, I'm a geek)?
Now, does anyone know where on earth that thread is where we were all talking about sewing machine do's and don'ts??? :?
Thanks so much!
December 28th, 2003, 08:11 PM
I have some familiarity with a few brands. And I've heard good things about some others which I'll also share.
My dream machine - a Viking Designer (which is a sewing machine and an embroidery machine all in one), but since that costs about $5,000 it's out of my league!
I currently have a Viking Platinum 770, which I love. It's not an embroidery machine, but it is a good machine and I have really enjoyed having it.
Here is a nice description of Viking products:
Bernina is also a good brand. I didn't really like Berninas when I tried them, but that's just personal taste. There was nothing wrong with the machines. In fact, my good friend has a Bernina and just loves it. Berninas have this one special faeture that no other has - a knee-lift for the presser foot. It feels awkward at first, but then it's a dream, because you can keep you hands free and lift the presser foot with your knee.
If you want an Embroidery/sewing combo, Babylock and Brother have good ones. I just got a Babylock Ellure on a fabulous sale recently. They are phasing these out, I think. But it was a great price for a combo.
One thing that is really important. Don't rule out used machines purchased from a reputable dealer! You can get some fairly new, great machines at a fraction of the cost. People will often "trade up" after a couple of years to a better machine, but their old one still works marvelously. But be sure to go to a dealer that has a good reputation. One that is a dealer for the big name machines like Viking or Bernina.
Some people swear by Singers. I don't know, since I never used one. I had an Elna prior to buying the Viking. Mine had a few problems, it was hard to locate extra feet (had to use mail-order), etc. Actually, it's sitting in my closet right now with all of those extr presser feet. The problems I had were that the threads would sometimes ball up at the start of a seam and it was not good for sewing heavy fabrics.
Here's more reviews:
Anyway, good luck with your hunt.
December 29th, 2003, 06:12 AM
Well, as Tealady and I seem to have the same taste in sewing machines, I don't have much to add to that.
I went looking for the sewing machine thread once upon a time, and I couldn't find it.
December 29th, 2003, 06:31 AM
"Back in the day", Singer was a good name, back before they started using PLASTIC for their 'guts'. WHen they were all-metal gears, they were great. But I would STILL take a new SInger (plastic parts and all) over ANY machine that has the "non-drop-in bobbin" or an oscillating hook.
I haven't had one of the fancy fancy machines, because it's just beyond me to spend several thousand on a machine (I keep seeing dollarsigns and food depletion to pay for the machine) and haven't ever really spent more than $500 on a machine. And that won't TOUCH the big=boys of the sewing-machine world (Bernina, Viking/Husq, Elna, NewHome/Janome and others) BUT: I have a Kenmore that is 15 years old and still going strong. As it gets older, I have to put it in the shop about once a year to have it tuned up.
Allow me to tell you how I sew: I have had a friend tell me (more than one friend, at different times, and these girls have never met each other) that I sew "Like a Chinese Sweatshop". I put the pedal to the metal, baby. I sew like TBear drives: like a bat outta hell. bwahahahahaha :twisted: That means that yes, I DO break needles (which *can* screw up your timing and then that needs to be fixed at the shop) and I am rather hard on a machine. THe Kenmore has stood up to the test. It was MADE by Janome (used to be "New Home"). Kenmore farms out the work to others, and Janome has been making their machines for them, I guess. About 2 years ago, I thought my machine had given up the ghost, and so I went looking. Janome was the brand I wanted, but I didn't need/want all the fancy things (when in heck am I gonna ever need to embroider a horse or a flower on quilt=squares????) so just a basic Janome. I really looked hard at their "baby", which was $799 on sale. Then I went to check out the KEnmores, just in case. Turns out that this Kenmore looked IDENTICAL to the Janome I'd just been playing with for the past hour. Same features, same....basically EVERYTHING except the little nameplate. And the price was ~$400.
I ended up getting my old Janome (excuse, me, "Kenmore") fixed and have had it another few years. I am getting to a point where I will probably need to have it replaced. I WANT to get another machine to have onhand for when THIS one need repair, and have been toying with the idea of getting a cheapie SInger, but really think that I should just spend the $400 and get a good Kenmore (because it's Janome) and be done with it. I'll then have a machine that's sturdy as heck (I abuse my machine something fierce) that I won't have to worry "where to get parts???" and "Do you know how EXPENSIVE a new motherboard is for a sewing machine???" and use my Current Kenmore as the backup..... But the salesman isn't probably gonna KNOW that the Kenmores are made by Janome. You'll have to go LOOK at the Janomes, THEN go see the Kenmores. It was my techician here that said "Hey, that's a Janome on the inside! No wonder it's working so well for you!"
Well, that's my thoughts. If I had all the money in the world, or somebody RICH was offering, I'd probably still choose the Kenmore. Unless they were willing to pay for ALL future repairs for me. Then I may go with a super-expensive machine. But I doubt it. I have been VERY happy with my Kenmore, and the only other machine I'd probably ever take is the Janome/NewHome.....and even then, still probably not one of those computerized things. (scary)
HTH, and I do want to know what you decide to buy, whenever you take the plunge.
December 29th, 2003, 07:11 AM
Well, I'm partial to Singers. Probably just because I 'grew up' on one. I have my mother's Singer and it's older than me! Well, by a year or two. :D :D :D It's a 403a that was 'born' in 1963. All metal. She still sews great! Mom taught me how to sew on that machine many, many years ago. It had been sitting in storage for a few years, covered in dust, dirt and muck. I had it serviced and it's just like new.
About 10 years ago I bought my own singer from a repair shop. I guess someone just never came back to pick it up. Anyway, this singer was 'born' in 1983. Mostly plastic. Gives me lots of trouble. When I put the pedal to the metal the whole machine shakes!! So, I use mom's machine instead.
It's a workhorse. I made a denim rag quilt on it from old jeans that turned out great.
So, there's my 5 cents worth!! :D
December 29th, 2003, 07:31 AM
I still have my old Singer (I have one from the 70s, an old school Home-Ec machine, the kind with the weird green front-cover plate) and it works well, except for something funky when we zigzag with it. But that thing is a WORKHORSE like K says, and built to endure a nuclear blast, I swear!
I also have an OLD (antique, treadle-type machine) White, and a newer (has a motor attached to the backside) Singer (black spindle-type machines, both) and they are really pretty cool. They ONLY sew straight lines, but...... The White is in a tiger-oak cabinet and sits in my livingroom, a conversation-piece. I would LIKE to see if it works at some point (just been too busy to DO it) and sew things on it. A quilt or a dress for me. Something like that.
I am watching this thread closely to see what other ladies like and why......
December 29th, 2003, 09:43 AM
Well, I was looking for one a while back, and I ended up wanting a Babylock Denim Pro... but it's $300, and I can't afford that... so I went looking on the Target website and found a Brother something or other... for $100- the only one on the website. The sad thing is, mere WEEKS before I decided I wanted to sew, my mom got rid of her old Singer, cause it wasn't working anymore and it was taking up space.... Oh, how I MOURN for that!!! :(
December 29th, 2003, 03:26 PM
viking vintage 1994-before that a kenmore and even before that a singer. Maybe its a progression. Viking dealers usually give good trade-in values and service as well.
December 29th, 2003, 05:01 PM
Have you considered used machines?
My mom got a brand-new Husqvarna machine at a garage sale for $50 -- the woman who owned it had *maybe* used it once or twice before getting bored with it. Great deal!
December 29th, 2003, 07:02 PM
say what you will, but i have a pretty new (circa 2001) Kenmore than i'm absolutely in love with. i just got a Singer Serger for christmas and I"M SO EXCITED I DON"T KNOW WHAT TO DO but i digress..... i love my kenmore. wasn't really interested in sewing tents or anything, i just love to make things. it's got enough stitches to keep me happy and it's mostly self-servicable, so long as i don't try to fix the timing or anything.
I sew like TBear drives: like a bat outta hell. bwahahahahaha :twisted: That means that yes, I DO break needles (which *can* screw up your timing and then that needs to be fixed at the shop) and I am rather hard on a machine
that's me to a tee, which probably means i should have mine serviced......
anyway, i say you should keep in mind your budget. if you're not out to sew the world, don't pay more than you need to for your machine. keep in mind the amount of sewing you plan to do and the amount of sewing you'll actually get done.
December 30th, 2003, 05:36 AM
OK, that settles it. Peanut and I are gonna take our Kenmores and sit Kathie between us (the one who told me I sew like a sweatshop) and drive her NUTS. I think she WOULD go nuts, too. She's very meticulous and exacting when she sews and takes half-again as long as I do to sew a garment. And when she gets to the end of a seam, she'll remove the fabric from under the presser-foot and pull out exactly 8" of thread andthen snip it in half so there's 4" on the project and 3" dangling from under the presser-foot. Me, I figure out what is my next seam, get that puppy there and sew directly on to the next seam, not wasting hardly ANY thread. And if I can't do that, I have a little 1" square of flannel that I sew across......
Peanut and I will set up a chant over here til you can't think anymore, Steph.
"Kenmore, Kenmore, Kenmore" (I just love that they have been made by Janome. That's why they're so good) Another good thing about Sears is that (well, at least in years past) you can take it back if you don't like it. I bought a Kenmore serger years ago and just did not like it after about three days. That gave me enough time to (and I did NOT sew on it like a sweatshop) do several different things with it, like try the differential feed, and sew on cotton and poly and stretchy and non-stretchy fabrics. I just didn't like it, and it was $500 I think. I took it back and they were really good about it. You COULD get a Kenmore, take it to the repair shop and find out who made the 'guts' of the machine. But a quick trip to a Janmoe/NewHome dealership would probably get you acquainted with the low-end Janomes (about $700) and that's the one that the Kenmore was copying.
I also agree with the "figure out how much you PLAN to do and how much you will REALISTICALLY do." I sew to save money. How many things would I have to sew to even come NEAR breaking even if I bought a $2000 machine??? And how many stitches do I really NEED? I got one once that did little flowers and duckies (Babylock, from the fabric store) but it was an oscillating hook and the da-- thing would jam about every third seam-end and it drove me NUTS. It went back the same afternoon. I missthe duckies and flowers, but i have SONS. How often do you really think I'd need duckies and flowers (so girly) on their clothes????? I use straight and zigzag and what they call a "***otting" or "darning" stitch, and have used the decorative zigzags on my own clothing from time to time. My Kenmore does 36 stitches, but I could have gotten away with a pretty basic model.
That's a ***otting stitch. it goes on the left, then a little left-of-center, then in the center, then right-of-center, then on the right, then back. It's really good for darning socks or mending holes in things, or for butting two heavy fabrics (vinyl?) together and stitching them without a seam-allowanced seam, if that makes sense.
I guess what I'm saying is that I got one with more bells-n-whistles than I really needed. When you're shopping, the salesclerks will show you the "bells-n-whistles" models, and you start to think you NEED all that crap. But when it gets down to it, I use the straight, zigzag, ***otting, and the automatic buttonhole feature. Literally, ALL the "other stuff" just sits there. And I sew quite a bit.
January 5th, 2004, 05:49 PM
I have only owned two sewing machines. My first sewing machine was a Wards. The only reason I bought it was because it was the only thing available because I lived in the sticks. I had so many problems getting a normal stitch that is was a nightmare. :twisted:
Nine years ago my DH bought me a Janome Memory Craft 9000. It is a Embroidery/sewing machine. I just love everything about this machine. :P It sews a perfect stitch everytime. I mostly quilt and I can make my own labels for my quilts. It will write anything I put in it plus do many fancy stitches. Nine years ago my machine was expensive but I saw online that now, new, it only costs about $1,200. Janome has a newer model 10,000 but I still love my 9000.
January 13th, 2004, 05:13 PM
Well, Stephanie my advice is buy the best you can afford!
Buy from a reliable dealer and try the machine out first. I got free classes with my first Singer which taught me all the bells and whistles of the machine.
I am a Singer gal myself. I taught myself on my Mom's Singer tredle machine when I was a teenager (Mom passed away when I was 5 yrs. old)
My husband bought me my own Singer 401A in 1961, the year we were married. It sits in a cabinet.
I also purchased a portable Singer to take to quilt classes. Another purchase I made is a Singer Serger.
My husband claims that if it could be done, I could whip up a meal on a sewing machine.
Well, I have got 30 shirts to shorten for the line-dancers, so I better get back to my sewing.
This majorbabetoo wishes you Good Luck on your hunt for the right machine. Have a good day!
January 21st, 2004, 06:41 PM
I've blabbed about this before . . .somewhere. I have a circa '70's Husquvarna/Viking. Major workhorse. I'm all in favor for buying used machines, especially from a dealer--they've been serviced and usually come with a warranty. LisaJaney would like my bobbin door though! It works fine for me.
There are two kinds of machines, generally, on the market. At least those with decorative stitches. Mine comes with cams that make the the patterns. These machines are gear driven. The newer machines use stepping motors which are infinitely more variable in their stitch variety. Mine is an old cam/geared machine. The decorative stitches are less ornate and their is no embroidery capability. But it is sturdier. I've sewn on my mother's Pfaff and it is a stepping motor one. Sews like buttah'. But it is more expensive to service and more stuff to "break." Depends on how fancy you want to be.
I have virtually no interest in machine embroidery as I use my machine for clothing repairs and fashion sewing. And there are usually plenty of professional seamstresses who can do embroidery. That is the cheapest option for me right now.
I have an old Kenmore overlock machine. Once you get a PhD in threading the thing, it is a marvelous wonder. I'm still getting to know it.
Steffers, (IMHO) go to several different sewing centers and try out as many as you can. You can tell that different people like different features. The sales people are usually informed and I've found they aren't really pushy. Just take your time. If you live near a community college you might want to take a sewing class (if you have time, LOL) it's a good way to learn the basics. The teachers are usually marvelous and happy to answer any questions. And they will be less biased than sales people. Good luck and let us know what you decide!