Sew, What's New?

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Hi All,
I had a really poopy brother machine for about $100 a couple years ago. I was disheartened when it jammed and consequently died. I have renewed urge to begin sewing again (spawned from all these beautiful textiles I bought along my travels in asia) and I'm back in the market for a machine! Any advice on something around the $250-$350 range for entry level? I'd love to have a computerized one but that is expensive, I know. I'd love the ability to tie off and have a sewing on/of buttom vs just a foot pedal. And any machine that promises to be jam free! I don't need anything fancy, really. Just good enough for altering clothes, easy buttons, maybe some light quilting (but no embroidery), shams & sheet & pillow sets, drapes..... I looked and Janome, brother, bernina but now it seems I'm even more confused then ever. Have pity on this beginner and offer some good advice! (-:

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Comment by Laurie on October 27, 2009 at 12:51pm
You need to decide what functions you need from a machine before you buy. Are you going to be making clothing with it? Will it need a built in button-holer and fancy stitches? There are a lot of good, older machines out there. With everyone wanting the newest of the new, you can probably get yourself a real bargain on an older machine.
I'm not one for the embroidery function. Seems everyone I know has one these days so I can always get it done elsewhere without the expense of owning one myself. I love a pure, mechanical machine. No computers to mess with my functions; easy to clean, oil, and maintain myself! Plus, the older model machines were better made with metal parts. Today's machines are made with plastic parts which don't hold up well over time and are not as durable! Many of the older model Singers (make sure you get a gear driven model) were real work horses in their day!
Comment by Lynne Demeter on July 27, 2009 at 8:00am
My advice is to stay with a dealership. I worked for a dealer for several years and got to know the in's and out's of sewing machines and their manufacturers. Stay away from Walmart!! The machines made for Walmart are the lowest quality machine and 9 out of 10 times was the machine coming in for service at the dealership. There's alot to choose from but the suggestion to check out the refurbished machines is a good one. Lots of ladies upgrade and trade in their machines, so there is usually nothing wrong with these machines and you may be able to get something a little better. Kenmore at Sears have also been quite reliable. Also, if you go to a dealer, even if you buy a used machine, you will get service and a warranty.
Comment by Laurie C. Fowler on July 24, 2009 at 1:32pm
I've owned many models of machines and I agree that a tempramental machine is NOT what a new sewer needs! I have been sewing for over 40 years and I just bought a singer INGENUITY. It has everything I need and performs well. It has an automatic needle threader that is great for older eyes. I bought it from Walmart for less than $200. I must say that I also have a Janome serger for more options. The combination of the 2 machines provides every thing I need as a home sewer. I would love some of the more expensive machines, but alas - I am a working stiff. Definatly don't buy a machine on ebay - I bought a Yamata serger (which is identical to the singer version) and it was a piece of you know what. The second needle would never stay in and it was so frustrating to sew on that I almost gave up on segers all together. I had no recourse for the defect. Thankfully I hung in there and really like the Juno, by Janome. Good Luck! Laurie Fowler
Comment by Lydia on July 24, 2009 at 2:29am
Hi there, Unfortunately there aren't really any machines that are reliable at that price level. The Bernette line from Bernina are pretty good. The Bernette 66 might be in the price range you are looking for but it only has a foot pedal, not tie off. If you can spend an extra couple hundred get the Bernina 210.
Comment by Ags on July 23, 2009 at 1:57pm
This is great! I love reading about everyone's experiences with machines and their personal preferences. I've had a simple Viking that I've had for over 20 yrs. and I've loved it and only needed to have it serviced once...and all my sewing repair guy had to do was put a piece of felt on the base of the thread spool holder to keep the thread spool from spinning too quickly. It's foot pedal just recently went kaput though, so it's out of commission until I get that replaced, which makes me sad. I think the Vikings are good machines. My repair guy says that's because they have all metal parts, unlike most of the machines today which have mostly plastic parts that wear out or brake easily. It seems all the women in my family have always had problems with Brother machines so I stay away from those. I've heard only good about Janome and I think they can be fairly reasonable. My 11yr. old daughter has her eye on a Janome that she wants "so badly", ha! I have a vintage Kenmore which I absolutely love, all metal parts in this one too, and is also a workhorse which I need since I sew a LOT. Like the other comments, knowing what you're using it for and how often you will be using it, will help determine what machine you want to buy.

I'm curious about the Pfaff machines. These machines have come highly recommended to me, but it seems that they can also be "temperamental" as someone here put it. Is this typical of all Pfaff's, or is it just a fluke with some machines?
Comment by Marilyn Macrae on July 23, 2009 at 1:05pm
Did you know that you can go into most sewing stores and buy beautiful refurbished machines for half the price. They don't always have them out because they want to sell the high priced but as you start walking out the door ask either for a discount, ( I received 200 off a 1600 Janome for my sister) or if they have any refurbished or trade-ins... A lot of people like to trade in perfectly good machine just too upgrade.. I just bought the Janome 350e that came with embroidery designs. I told them I wasn't interested but could they do better on the price and they did
Comment by Mary Ellen Edwards on July 23, 2009 at 12:28pm
Yes I too am going to have to jump in here and put in my 2 cents. I agree you should look at all the features available and decide on the ones that are most essential. Nowadays many of the basic machines come with a variety of stitch options. I also agree that you need to buy it from a store that offers lessons and follow-up classes and on site repair. That leaves out the discount, big box and online purchases which in the long run do not save you any money or time. Another little caveat is that now Pfaff, Viking and Singer are all one company. I own one of each all of varying age. My Pfaff is atop of the line computer embroidery machine and is more temperamental than a teenage girl! You are smart to choose a machine that serves your needs best and by pass all the bells and whistles until you are more experienced and ready to deal with the complexities of them. Good luck and happy stitching!
Comment by Savta Klavta on July 23, 2009 at 11:44am
I had a simple cheap Singer since 1980, and it's still in fairly good shape. Last year I decided to upgrade, went to every sewing shop in town and tested every machine, Including Baby Lock, Jenome and Pfaff. Also checked on-line reviews at This site covers every machine under the sun. Once I knew what functions are available, made a list of functions which I had to have. I think it's very important to buy from a shop which would be able to answer you future questions and service your machine, but this might be impossible with a $200 machine. Then you'll have to keep it free of lint, use the right size needles, and oil it (only the ones which require oiling).

I decided to buy a Pfaff on 1/2 price sale, which was still way over $200. It's a dream compared to my old Singer, but I still am very careful about the right needles, tension, no lint, etc.
Comment by GrannyPatti on July 23, 2009 at 10:43am
We got a Kenmore that was made by Janome for my d-i-l. She has been very happy with it
Comment by Ann Hirsch on July 23, 2009 at 10:39am
I agree with Nancy the basic Pfaff's are the workhorses of the industry. I have a fancy Viking now but still use my Pfaff for any heavy duty sewing. It is a very durable machine and for basic sewing I prefer it to the Viking. Good luck!

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