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This archived content is from Mary Wilkins’ sewing and quilting message board “Sew What’s New,” which was retired in August 2007. It is being provided by “Sew What’s Up,” which serves as the new home for many members of “Sew What’s New.”
From: phaeon
Date: 01-17-2006, 01:48 AM (1 of 18)
I'm just getting back into sewing (learned 20 yrs ago) and am starting to shop for a machine. I have a decent mastery of basic sewing techniques and would consider myself an "advanced beginner", if that makes any sense. I learned to sew on my mom's 1960s Singer, so I have no idea what I'm looking at with these new-fangled things on the market.

I'm not looking for a specific brand recommendation, just some help narrowing down the field a bit. I plan to make some basic clothing for my kids, do some home decor projects (pillows, curtains, etc), and maybe take on a few craft projects. My budget is between $200-$500. So, what's the difference between a $200 machine and a $2000 one?? What features are essential for an intermediate sewer? What features would you consider frivolous? What is a computerized machine good for? Where do I begin?! :shock: This is hard!! TIA for any insights. Cheers, Jen in Ohio
User: phaeon
Member since: 01-17-2006
Total posts: 2
From: SandyGirl
Date: 01-17-2006, 06:15 AM (2 of 18)
mechanical vs computerized? You most likely sewed on and night difference! Embroidery functions and sewing or just sewing? Are you going to eventually quilt? That was my purpose to purchase a machine but did not know to look for a machine with a longer bed to sew on. Gets tight when I try to quilt the top of larger quilts.

I was in your shoes last spring..........I ended up w/embroidery/sewing machine 'cause I got sucked into the the wonderful machine embroidery quilts I saw at the dealer. No regrets here. I will tell ya that I ended up in the 2K range but hey, the hubby has motorcycles, boats, RV's, flies for a hobby, etc...I was due!! You can find decent machines with loads of goodies on them in your price range. You can always upgrade later on as you get back into it! Ask lots a questions of the dealers for each model, use the manufacturers websites for initial searches (saves drive time) and "search" this forum for great ideas and advise! Have fun!
User: SandyGirl
Member since: 09-16-2005
Total posts: 97
From: DorothyL
Date: 01-17-2006, 07:29 AM (3 of 18)
Get yourself a good, basic zig-zag machine. A lot of the fancy stuff has more to do with the feet you use and skills you develop than the cost of the machine.
There are plenty of brand name companies that make a good, inexpensive machine. For garment sewing -- especially for kids -- you need a stretch stitch or two, a few extra feet for blind hem, zipper maybe top stitching and perhaps a few decorative stitches. Almost any good machine will do that. And in that price range they are all about the same.
If you have a good dealer nearby with reasonable prices they offer more support but if you know a little about what you are doing (and it sounds like you do) as long as there is a warranty, you'll be fine.
For a machine in that price range don't agonize over the purchase, just get the machine take it home and start sewing.
User: DorothyL
Member since: 12-09-2002
Total posts: 3883
From: paroper
Date: 01-17-2006, 09:48 AM (4 of 18)
First thing to understand is that unless the machine is advertised as being mechanical, expect it to have some computers on board. There are hardly any totally mechanical machines out there anymore. The computerized machines have been on the market for more than 15 years! It is just so much easier and cheaper to use chips to make the machines than do all the mechanical "stuff" our cars. We are also getting so many more features on our machines because of the computers. Many machine companies make one or two mechanical machines because there is a need for them (still) and they can be turned into treddle machines for people who have no electricity. They are still good, reliable machines and they are usually located somewhere in the mid range of pricing with the dealers and highly advertised as mechanical.

The most important advice I would give you is to buy at at a dealer. The lower end machines now are not all that different from a few decades ago, but they change quickly. The things on the machines, even low end machines are so much more than our mothers had. You don't know how quickly your needs will change once you start sewing. Many dealers have trade in/trade up policies, usually within the first year of sewing. Most of the ones that do will offer full trade in price toward a higher model within that year. They will also give you basic training on the machine. Many have "clubs" you can join to get support for your sewing and learn new techniques or just have some "fun". You have a "real" person to talk to about problems you are having with your machine and if they are an authorized dealer, you have someone who gets regular factory training to repair your machine. If you purchase a used machine from a dealer, they will usually carry some warranty. If you purchase at a dealer, make sure that they test your machine before you take it home. Minor adjustments are needed on most machines and it can make the difference in your satisfaction.

On the other hand, if you purchase online, most machines will not carry a factory warranty. That means that the repairs have to either be made by the seller of the machine (if he will stand behind his product) or you must pay for repairs from your own pocket. The cost and agony of shipping your machine back and forth to the selling agent if you buy over the internet can be disappointing.

Bernina 200e, Artista V5 Designer Plus, Explorations, Magic Box, Bernina 2000DE & 335 Bernette Serger, Bernina 1530 Sewing Machine, Bernina 1300 DC Overlock (with coverstitch)
User: paroper
Member since: 02-03-2004
Total posts: 3775
From: debsews
Date: 01-17-2006, 10:03 AM (5 of 18)
Mom, who is 80 just got a new Kenmore and paid about 200 for it. It has sixty stitches and does a lot of neat stuff. She too had a 60's Singer and it stopped working because I think it had never seen the inside of a shop. I bought a low end Viking for my first machine, paid less that 200 and was really thrilled with the machine until I sewed on a 2K machine. It's just a matter of going out and test driving them and buying from a dealer. It is essential that you have some help and advice and you'll only get that from a dealer. Don't get sucked into buying from WalMart. You'll find good deals if you look around and ask your dealer if they have any preowned machines. I would say to do a little reaching beyond what your comfort level is right now because I outgrew the little Viking and wanted something that can do more. The beauty of a dealer is you'll usually have a year to trade up at full price so you can see if you're serious and than go for a better machine.
That's all the advice i have because I love to sew but haven't gotten really good at it yetl
User: debsews
Member since: 09-16-2005
Total posts: 254
From: SummersEchos
Date: 01-17-2006, 11:18 AM (6 of 18)
Hi Jen,
Welcome to Sew Whats New.
I would go to different dealers and try out the machines. Then I would narrow them down to what I liked. You know what you want to sew, now it is time to test run as many machines as you can.

User: SummersEchos
Member since: 09-29-2004
Total posts: 884
From: LeapFrog Libby
Date: 01-17-2006, 06:08 PM (7 of 18)
I would like to add a word of caution.. You may already know this, but if so , good.. With any kind of electronic equipment (computers) you have to be aware that a magnet can totally ruin the works.. So, if you have a magnetic seam guage that just attaches to your plate on the bed of the machine, lock it away somewhere or give it away.. Do not use it on your new machine when you get one.. That is an expensive lesson some people learn the hard way.. I had sons who were into music so I learned when they were still young and at home about magnets and electronics with a blurry blob about 4 inches around on my bedroom TV.. (they were horsing around with a magnet and touched the tv screen).. they had extra chores for 6 months to pay for that.. Good luck on your search.. I can attest to the good service my Janome gives..'92 or '93. and My old Kenmore (from Sears) 70's model, and my Singer featherweight portable from the 50's.. All 3 still sew great ! ! ! I am 71 now so I don't think I'll be buying another.. (almost forgot I also have a serger and a coverstitch machine)... :bg: :bg: :bg:
Sew With Love
User: LeapFrog Libby
Member since: 05-01-2002
Total posts: 2022
From: phaeon
Date: 01-17-2006, 09:41 PM (8 of 18)
Thanks for all the replies (and the advice about magnets...!) It will help me get started looking. One more question, then: I don't think I want a computerized machine. Automatic headlights and windshield wipers in a car annoy me to no end, and suspect that the same will be true of a "smart" sewing machine. But it sounds like there are no longer any truly mechanical machines being made- or are there? I don't want to give up quality just because I don't want computerization, though. Or maybe it doesn't make a difference in the $200-$500 range? Any insights here? TIA!
User: phaeon
Member since: 01-17-2006
Total posts: 2
From: Kylnne2
Date: 01-18-2006, 01:05 AM (9 of 18)
There is a big difference in mechanical and computerized machines as already posted. I have both and I love them both and use them both constantly for different types of projects. There is also a difference in mechanical machines. Some have a rotary hook (usually jamproof) and some have an oscillating hook. I suggest to test drive some different models and check out if you prefer a vertical (rotary or oscillating) or horizontal bobbin. The horizontal top loading rotary bobbins with slant spoolpins imo give smoother flatter stitching. My computerized Kenmore has a top loading bobbin and my Pfaff with the dual feed has a vertical bobbin. Neither have jammed both have rotary hooks. Usually a machine with some electronics built in electronic foot control, speed control on the head of the machine and a one step buttonhole has full needle penetration no matter what the speed and I would pick a model with this for more power.
User: Kylnne2
Member since: 07-10-2004
Total posts: 629
From: paroper
Date: 01-18-2006, 03:15 AM (10 of 18)
It isn't that they aren't out there, it is just that the fully mechanical machines are few. For instance, in the Bernina line there are several machines, maybe 13-14, not quite sure at the moment. They range in price from just over $200 to close to $8,000. Of that line, only one machine, somewhere around $800-1000 is mechanical. I'm not sure, but I believe that Viking makes one or two, Nechi used to make one, I'm fairly sure they still do. I'm sure that most machine lines have at least one mechanical machine. The Bernina mechanical machine is a good, solid, reliable machine.

It isn't that the mechanical machines don't have their place. It takes more a more steady energy supply to keep the non-mechanical machines going so that can't be made into treddle machines. People want more stitches, more button holes, more bells and whistles and these things are easier and cheaper with computer chips. Since mechanical machines are the exception, you'll need to request information if you specifically want a mechanical machine.

I don't know that whether a machine is computerized or mechanical is such an important consideration. I have a Bernina purchased in 1992. It has a roller ball and a computerized screen. I've never had any problems with this machine and I've logged thousands of hours. I cannot imagine how many stitches/hours I have on it since I sewed on it professionally for seven years..up to 7 days a week, sometimes for 12-14 hours straight. I already have more than 7 million stitches on my embroidery/sewing machine that I have just played with on occasion for embroidery over the last 2 years. I'm still using the 1530 for all my sewing and it is every bit the machine it was when I purchased it. In all those years, it was in the shop once for cleaning (bad me...should be regularly).

I would test drive the machine, find a machine I liked, check out the dealer carefully and buy. Make up some little sewing bags that you can take with you and test drive all the different machines. Make the bags just a like with different types of fabric swatches. Write on the outside of the bag with a marker which machine you used. Take a notebook and make notes about the features of the machine and the dealer. It wouldn't hurt to take a look at the higher models too. Reason? You may be buying feet and accessories for your machine. It is nice to be able to trade those up without replacing the extra feet (later). Find out if you buy feet for your machine, you can use them on the higher models. Same thing if you end up with a machine that embroiders. Ask to see the higher models. You'll be buying accessories for your machine and designs. You would be miles ahead if you could use the same format and accessories if you decide to trade up.

DO NOT LET THE DEALER OVERSELL YOU! These guys are like car dealers. Decide how you will use the machine BEFORE you go in: What will you sew, clothing, home dec? Do you want to do a little quilting? Would you like to have an embroidery option? Do you need a lot of extra stitches or would you like just a few...would you use them? What is the number one type of sewing you would like to do? Stay with your objectives. Always walk out of the shop and get some air before you buy. Go get a Coke or a cup of coffee and clear your head before you purchase. Don't buy at the first dealership right off. Every brand is different and they all have wonderful features. Give yourself some space. Take your time. Do ask each dealer if the machine is serviced on site. Also, be sure and ask about the dealer's trade in/trade up policy. Years ago my dad bought a car from a dealer. They had that policy on their cars BUT you had to trade up within the line. My dad bought one brand of car from the dealer, regretted that he didn't buy a different brand. He couldn't trade across the brands. The car was great, but it wasn't as posh as the other. You never know that when you get the machine home that you may decide you want the one higher within a year. Your sewing style and needs may change. It is just a nice option to have.

Bernina 200e, Artista V5 Designer Plus, Explorations, Magic Box, Bernina 2000DE & 335 Bernette Serger, Bernina 1530 Sewing Machine, Bernina 1300 DC Overlock (with coverstitch)
User: paroper
Member since: 02-03-2004
Total posts: 3775
From: HeyJudee
Date: 01-18-2006, 12:44 PM (11 of 18)
The most important advice I would give you is to buy at at a dealer.
I agree with Pam. A few days ago I was at Walmart browsing through their sale fabric. A woman who had been given a gift certificate for Christmas was buying a sewing machine and the lady working in the sewing department was helping her get the necessities for the machine. Her advice for sewing needles was that ball point needles were better because they would not tear the threads in her fabric. There was no mention of ball point needles used for sewing knits, etc. And the other bit of info was that the machine was easy to use...look at the book and everything is there!!! So the woman walked out of there with a new sewing machine, ball point needles and material to sew drapes. I think it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall and watch how she makes out.
TTFN from
User: HeyJudee
Member since: 01-25-2005
Total posts: 1366
From: LeapFrog Libby
Date: 01-19-2006, 11:44 AM (12 of 18)
I really would like to encourage you to tackle this aversion to electronics.. If you buy a totally mechanical machine , I fear you will soon be discouraged because of the limitations in scope.. I am 71 years old, but I love my machines that have all the beautiful stitches that I can no longer embroider by hand because of the pain.. Also, I love the adjustable speed control on my Janome . (comes in handy for GD's lesson times, she cannot handle speedy stitching at this stage)..
Sew With Love
User: LeapFrog Libby
Member since: 05-01-2002
Total posts: 2022
From: MartySews
Date: 02-03-2006, 07:06 PM (13 of 18)
Wal-Mart has a great little Brother 6000T machine that is computerized (think automatic tension settings) for around $200. It comes with several presser feet and a little quilting table plus a walking foot. Several ladies in my sewing guild have bought this machine for classes because it only weighs 10 pounds and it has over 60 built-in decorative stitches. Hope this helps.
Happy Stitching!
Marty :up:
It takes one moment to change a life.
User: MartySews
Member since: 02-23-2003
Total posts: 504
From: Tom Land
Date: 02-03-2006, 08:09 PM (14 of 18)
Jen, you have been given a lot of good information and suggestions. I would strongly advise going to your local dealers for reasons already given. Take some samples of the kind of fabric you intend to sew and try them on the machines.
Electrionics are much easier to use and ussually more dependable. Electronic machines have now been around for 31 years and are now the rule rather than the exception. Don't be intimidated. Today's electronic machines are very durable and magnets will not hurt them. Electronic machines all have at least 3 very strong electromagnets in them if a magnet would hurt them they would destroy themselves.(I often pass the big magnetic pin holders around the machines to emphasize this to my employees).
Back to shopping. Don't let the sales person tell you about the machine. Make him/her show you. Then try it yourself. If you don't feel comfortable with the machine or the dealer move on to the next machine or dealership. Don't allow yourself to be pressured. And yes, there are still a lot of good mechanical machines made.
Good luck and happy sewing.
Have fun or don't do it, Tom
User: Tom Land
Member since: 09-21-2005
Total posts: 514
From: stitcheasy2003
Date: 02-04-2006, 06:41 AM (15 of 18)
If interested in buying a machine email me
<email address removed for privacy>
User: stitcheasy2003
Member since: 01-28-2006
Total posts: 20
From: Ria
Date: 02-26-2006, 08:35 AM (16 of 18)
I was in this predicament a year ago, the ladies on here helped me so much. I ended up with a brother for sewing and an embroidery machine also by brother the 6500. It was very difficult deciding but I went with what I learned on the net. I am so very happy with my decision. The smaller brother I got at walmart, great prices there, I don't remember exactly but around 160.00 I think. The embroidery Brother 6500 was a thousand and I am so happy I went with this. I love it. Good luck and let us know what you decide.

"Alas for those who never sing, but die
with all their music in them" (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

Brother 6500.....Brother 8060......PED Basic...
User: Ria
Member since: 02-13-2005
Total posts: 121
From: milehigh2
Date: 03-13-2006, 10:31 PM (17 of 18)
I think we all go through the "what kind of machine do I really want" dilemma when we're in the market for our first serious sewing machine. I grew up using my Mom's old singer, then bought a cheap Brother at a pawn shop that I used for years until it literally fell apart during a mad rush to finish 8 quilts in time for Christmas one year. Being in a rural area I was forced to run to Wal-Mart and grab a machine to finish the quilts, and I was lucky to have bought a nice non-computerized Brother that has been a great machine too. It has a nice selection of stitches, as well as as a metal bobbin case (which was one feature I wanted - thinking it would be more durable than all the plastic in some of the cheaper machines). More recently I purchased a Viking machine while searching for a sturdy simple machine that I will soon buy in multiples for a sewing school I am starting. I got the basic mechanical model (it's a Lena) and I love it. Not fancy mind you, but it's a workhorse. I love not having to tear it down for oiling, it's nice and quiet, and I can't find anything that it won't sew (even the heaviest denim). I still only get the urge for a computerized machine when I am in a shop and seeing them in person, but for run-of-the-mill sewing I'll stay with my mechanical machines. I think you have to consider the brands available closest to you when you're picking out a machine so service and training won't be an issue, especially if you sew often. I also think your machine, no matter what brand or features, will only be good to you if you're good to it. Take the time to learn everything about it, and care for it properly and most of them will last for many years (even most of the less expensive ones). Think about what you want to sew, and tell dealers that when you go in for test-drives. It will help them point you in the right direction. The Viking dealer I purchased from offers a 1 year full-price trade up in case you want a fancier machine (you don't lose a penny on your trade in). That was a big selling point with me. You can get a great machine with your budget. Make sure to tell us what you choose!
User: milehigh2
Member since: 03-13-2006
Total posts: 6
From: Sancin
Date: 03-14-2006, 04:44 AM (18 of 18)
I was in a similar situation about 12 years ago. My beloved very aged Elna Supermatic died on the operating room table and as I needed to shorten a pair of pants :sick: I bought in a hurry d/t, you guessed it, the sale ended that day. I did not like the noisy lug that I got (mechanical), but I was not sewing a lot. As I neared retirement I started sewing more. I had heard about computerized (electronic) machines and I wanted one,though did not think I could afford the then current cost. I wasn't sure what they could do so bought one that was, supposedly, 1/2 electronic and 1/2 mechanical from a shop that really wasn't very helpful and actually not truthful. I think I had thought that a computerized machine was one with a screen that would show me pictures of what each button I pushed would produce (which many do) and I thought the 1/2 mechanical would help me when the computer couldn't . Not so - in fact there was obviously not computer screen and the only part that was computerized were the stitches (as far as I could see and understand) and perhaps the speed. And I found I could not always get the stitches to do what I wanted or expected. You probably learned, having a lever to push and the machine will stitch in one place is an obvious handy feature. I now have another, a Janome quilter's companion, which I expect is computerized, but more importantly does do what I want - or at least I now understand what I can expect. Having learned from the first electronic machine I knew what to look for in the latest one. When I had my original Singer Featherweight and then the Elna supermatic I was used to having the machine do my bidding and not the other way around. I sewed everything and anything.

I agree with what is said here about buying from a dealer, unless you know an accomplished jack of all trades repair man to help you understand the machines. I fortunately do. You have identified what you want to sew for now, which is a huge step for many people. You probably don't want to run around too much for what you are planning to sew. Looking for a used machine at a dealer may be the way to go. They tend to be quite reasonable, as so they should, because one doesn't get a lot of credit when trading up and, like cars, new models come out every year. And our Paroper is right about the feet being usable on other machines. Especially, when you find a foot or 2 you love and then can't get them for a new machine when you buy again. Her advice about taking fabric you will be sewing is also good. Notice how firm the fabric sewing demonstrators use - impressive. When I think about it, buying a machine today is not unlike bying a car - new or used. :yawn:

I am really surprised at some neighbours and friends who have never sewn and are now into highly computerized and costly machines that supposedly do everything. One neighbour doesn't even know how to measure anything because she really doesn't know how to sew. She turns out beautiful embroidery and quilted items that she always takes a class for. I don't really consider that sewing as I know it. But it seems to work for her and she certainly impresses others.

This is a good place for advice, but also try Pattern Review. They have many but not all machines reviewed by people who are using them.

Lots of thoughts - you could search other discussions on this form by using the search button. Do let us know what you decide and how you like your choice. Good luck and Welcome!
*~*~*~* Nancy*~*~*~* " I try to take one day at a time - but sometimes several days attack me at once."
User: Sancin
Member since: 02-13-2005
Total posts: 895
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