How To Choose a Sewing Machine

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This is my baby. It is 26 years old this week. My Dad, who taught me how to sew,  got it for me for my college graduation and it has never let me down.

The only thing it has needed in 26 years is a new light, some oil and a few cleanings.

Let’s discuss some factors when choosing a new machine. What do you look for? What do you want it to do? What is important to you?

Do you want to buy new or used? What is your budget?

If you’re looking to sew basic items of clothing and home decor, you probably don’t need alot of fancy stitches.

Maybe you just want to use the machine a few times a month. Maybe more.

Let’s explore a few things:

First of all, look for a machine whose bobbin winds on the top of the machine. Many machines advertise that their machine winds the bobbin in the case right below the needle and you never have to move the bobbin to another location. You can just sew right after you wind the bobbin. That sounds pretty alluring, doesn’t it? Well, I’ve sewn on many machines like that and heard from many frustrated people and the problem is that the bobbin thread tends to get all caught up in the bobbin case and the result is a huge tangled mess. Then, once you get the tangle out, which can take about half a day, it happens again. And again. And pretty soon, you don’t want to sew any more. Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s not your fault. It’s the machine.

Also, beware of the bobbins that unscrew in the middle. These are another source of frustration as the thread invariably gets caught in the middle area causing a bird’s nest of tangles as well.

Singer sewing machines are notorious for this. I’m not saying that all Singers are culprits,  (the featherweight Singer machines from the mid 1900’s is wonderful!) but most are like that. The very old treadle Singers don’t have that problem, but most made since about 1965 are problematic. People keep buying them because when people think of a sewing machine, they think of Singer.

My mom got a brand new Singer when I was 10, and she didn’t sew, so that meant it became my machine. It’s a wonder I ever kept sewing because the bobbin thread would become like a birds nest all tangled and I had to cut threads just to get it out of the bobbin case. Do you own a Singer? I’d love to hear from you if you have a Singer that you love. Tell me what model it is so we can promote it.

I happen to like Bernina the best. I have sewn on Viking, Pfaff, Singer and Kenmore machines (and a few other obscure brands.) I liked the Viking and Pfaff all right. They weren’t Bernina, but that’s just me. The Kenmore I have in my possession works just fine. It was my step mother’s. I am going to give it to one of our daughter’s as her first machine.

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It stitches well. It doesn’t have fancy stitches and it’s a little loud (all things I could live with), but it does have one feature I’d have to get used to: I have to hand crank the fly wheel to get the needle out of the fabric at the end of the seam. I’m not big on that, but that may not bother you in the least. Maybe not all Kenmore’s are like that anymore. This one is pretty old. Do you have a Kenmore? Do you like it?

The Bernina I have is made entirely of metal parts. No plastic, folks. As I mentioned above, I have not had any trouble with it. I do oil it when I should and keep it free of lint, but that ‘s all the maintenance I do besides a tune up every few years where they clean the tension dials and other mundane stuff.

The interesting thing is that no matter who I take it to for the tune up, they end up begging to buy it from me. They know how good it is. I know how good it is, and there’s no way I’m going to sell it!

It has basic stitches and about 12 embroidery stitches, that I haven’t used often. It sews a great looking seam, and it’s just plain reliable. Now, the features it doesn’t have are: a built in button hole maker (I’ve done just fine without one, but it would be nice) and a buttonhole stitch (which would be nice if you want to machine buttonhole stitch on a quilt). Other than that, it’s got everything I need or want. To get those features, look for a newer model.

They began making a computerized version soon after this model. I don’t really want one as they are much higher in price and I don’t need a computerized model. If I were desigining my own quilts or embroidering designs I downloaded from the computer, then maybe. If that is what you’d like to do, check into them. I just looked at a new computerized model last year and it was nearly $10,000. I nearly fell to the floor. But that one had all the bells and whistles. It threads your needle, it cuts the thread, etc.

Bottom line, go to a dealership and test drive one first.  Try all the makes and models.  Take notes on which ones you like and why.  Ask if you can take one out on loan for a few days. Most places will let you. When I get mine serviced, they give me a loaner so I can keep my business going. If you don’t like one model, try another until you find the perfect match for you.

Out of curiosity, and knowing I was writing this post today, I got on ebay and saw that my model Bernina (930 Record) is going for $995.00 with 23 bids and 4 1/2 days left on the auction. My guess is that it will probably go for around $1200 by the end of the auction. I’ve seen them go for around $1600. It just depends on the availability at the time you are buying one.

So, look on ebay and your local Craigslist and newspaper. Check with your sewing machine shop and quilt shops in the area and ask around. It’s worth your time and perseverance to get a good machine. Think of it as an investment because you will hopefully get years and years of reliability out of it.

Do you like the machine you own now? Why or why not? I’d love to  hear about it. So would the others who read this post.