Help! I Need a New Sewing Machine!

Kenmore sewing machine - csews.com

This Kenmore has been my trusty sewing machine since 2009. It’s nothing fancy (no electronic programmable anything) but it’s done a nice job on the things I’ve made. When I got it, I was just getting back into sewing after years of not sewing. This machine cost less than $200 on sale. I’ve been meaning to get a higher quality machine for a while. And now that the timing is off on this one (more on that below), it’s finally time to get a new sewing machine. But what should I get?

I know that the biggest complaints some people have about today’s machines are that most of the parts are plastic and new machines aren’t as good as older models, which have mostly metal parts. So I’m wondering if there is such a thing as a quality new machine that’s built to last.

What am I looking for in a machine? Well, I’m an intermediate sewer and I want something that can handle different fabric weights, make nice buttonholes, and sew an invisible zipper. I don’t need any electronic embroidery functions. If I’m going to embroider, I prefer doing it by hand. And I don’t need something that can do a million different stitches and tell me that I’m threading the machine incorrectly. I’m really just interested in sewing to make clothes and crafty things. I don’t think I want to quilt either. I’m willing to spend up to $1,000.

Consumer Reports did a nice sewing machine buying guide last fall. If you click on page 4, you’ll find a nice summary of the top brands, which I’ll quote here:

Brother International is one of the leading manufacturers, with a market share of 29 percent of home sewing machines. The company offers basic to top-of-the line combination sewing and embroidery machines. Models are high tech with multiple functions and advanced technology, yet easy to use. Models are available through www.brother.com and a network of independent dealers and mass merchants.

Husqvarna Viking is one of the leading manufacturers of high-tech electronic and computerized sewing machines. The sewing machines are developed and manufactured in Sweden. The company recently launched Designer Diamond, which is the newest addition to their high-end full service computerized line of sewing and embroidery machines. The Designer Diamond and others are available at Husqvarna Viking full-service dealers.

Janome America is one of the top manufacturers of more-advanced and innovative sewing machines. Janome offers electronic and computerized models from entry level to the high end. Its most advanced computerized sewing and embroidery machine to date is the Memory Craft 11000, which has patented stepping-motor technology and computer software.

Kenmore (Sears) is a leading supplier of sewing machines. Kenmore offers a variety of mid- to low-end multifunction models that are available exclusively at Sears and Kmart.

Singer is the leading brand of sewing machines, with more than 43 percent of sales. Singer offers a variety of models with style and features for beginners to proficient sewers. Models are available at specialty stores, mass merchants including Target, Walmart, Kmart, and other national retailers.

However, you can’t access actual reviews of machines unless you subscribe to the magazine. I really not interested in subscribing to Consumer Reports.

Pattern Review has sewing machine reviews as well as a page that lets you search the reviews by selecting the features you want in a machine. Then you can see all the reviews within your price range. Nice feature but it doesn’t sort the search results by year so you don’t know how old the reviews are unless you click on each one individually. Grrrr. Some reviews are several years old so it’s likely those models are no longer being sold. Not very helpful.

Some folks really like Janome so I popped over to the Janome website and saw plenty of higher end machines as well as the “no-frills”  Memory Craft 6300 for quilting and sewing, which as 63 stitches. I found a Janome Memory Craft 6300P on Overstock.com on sale for $1,199 and free shipping. I have no idea what’s the difference between the 6300 and the 6300P – maybe it’s just age, the “P” is older and no longer being made? Overstock also has the Janome Sewist 500, 40 percent off at $299. I would say that this model is tempting because of the price and because it doesn’t have a thousand stitches. It has 25. I doubt I’d even use half of them anyway. How many stitches do you really need?

What attracts me to Janome is the invisible zipper foot. It just looks so much easier to install an invisible zipper with that foot. I ordered online a so-called invisible zipper foot for my Kenmore but now I realize that it was the wrong type of foot. So I just gave up on getting a proper foot and used a regular zipper foot, which is a tricky bit of sewing. (BTW – I found a video on Janome’s site on installing a concealed zipper.)

Well, that’s about all the searching I’m going to do today. If you have any suggestions on what machines I should consider and where I should go to buy one (Joann’s? Overstock.com? Walmart? Costco? local dealer?), please let me know. If you are using a machine you really like, let me know the brand and model.

Oh, and finally, back to my Kenmore machine – well, I bought a service agreement when I got the machine in 2009. It expired in 2012 and I didn’t renew it (bad me!). Over the past year, I’ve been a careless sewer – yes, sewing over pins and breaking a needle or two. I could tell over the summer that things were getting slightly off when my buttonholes got really crappy. Then when I was sewing some double-faced fleece over the holidays I was sort of forcing it through the feed dog. So I switched to a walking foot, thinking that would help – uh, too late – timing was off. On the next stitch the needle hit the metal thing that the bobbin case sits in. And yes, I did check that the needle was all the way in and the bobbin case was properly seated.

I know fixing timing can be expensive so I called Sears to see if I could renew my protection agreement after it expired. I was told that I could get another two years for about $89. This means I can get it repaired and not have to pay anything more – the catch is that I have to wait 30 days before I can bring it in for service. Thirty days! (sigh)

So that’s why I’m looking for a new machine. And then my Kenmore will be my backup machine – because we all need backup, right?
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Author:Chuleenan

Chuleenan Svetvilas is a writer who sews and collects hats and shoes. She is a fabric addict and loves classic films and vintage clothes.

16 Responses to “Help! I Need a New Sewing Machine!”

  1. February 15, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    Probably a done deal now but I have to chime in on convos like these. I have two machine for now (1925 Singer Handcrank and a early 1900’s Sears Minnesota treadle) and as I read what YOU want for a machine I would highly suggest an electric Singer 99 OR the Singer 66.

    Can’t wait to read on and see what you settled upon.

    Cheers,

    Lyric

    • February 16, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

      Hi, Lyric – I did get a new machine, which I’ll write about in an upcoming post. Thanks for your suggestions. Older machines do seem better than new ones with all the fancy electronics.

  2. January 12, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    I have an old metal Singer, probably about 20 years old, and i have had no problems getting it repaired and getting parts on attachments here in downtown LA. The last time I needed to replace a belt it was only 40$ and took a week. I have heard good things about Berninas, but don’t know that much. If I were in the market again I might be inclined to get an industrial Juki, although I am not sure that they all do button holes. Also you could call the gals at SewLA, they are using pretty nice machines there, and I am sure that they have done the research.

    • January 12, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

      Good suggestion about calling Sew LA, Angela! The old metal Singers are great. My mom had a Singer Golden Touch (I think that’s what it was called). She taught me and my sisters to sew on that machine. I’m going to gather a bunch a fabric scraps to use as test fabric when I visit some local dealers.

  3. January 11, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    When I turned 16 my mom bought me a used Bernina 1008 (classroom machine) and I’ve been more than satisfied ever since. Bernina is a reputable brand with great presser feet, and the 1008 is solid metal built to last. I recommend this to all serious home sewists that don’t need or want bells and whistles.

    In the past couple months I’ve sewn 3 invisible zips w/ the regular zip foot– it’s that good. Buttonhole is easy to use. Call it an investment, and watch for one used!

    • January 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

      Thanks, Amanda – nice to hear that you’re still happy with your machine. Maybe a local dealer will have used models of higher end machines.

  4. January 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    I think everyone has an opinion about buying a sewing machine and which brand is the “best”. I have often been asked this question by parents interested in buying machines for their high school students and this what I have said:

    Having a dealer is a very important part of the purchase. You are getting support for the purchase in terms of free classes and probably an additional warranty beyond what is offered by the manufacturer. A dealer may have gently used machines, floor models or trade-ins available that are actually more machine for the $$ and carry a warranty from the shop. I have had a couple of experiences where the dealer was able to get parts for my machines which would not have been possible otherwise.

    Make a list of the features you want in a machine, bring some of your fabric samples and go “test drive” a few. My suggestion of bringing your own fabrics is that the sample cloth at the dealer’s is very stiff and not intended as a garment.

    Brand name machines sold in “Big Box” stores are often a separate line made to be sold in these stores rather than authorized dealers, so even though they carry the “name” they would not be found in an authorized dealer’s shop.

    Last year I attended a workshop where the machines that were used that day (TOL) Babylock were offered at a discount, so there are deals out there. Good luck and it’s always good news when you bring a new “baby” home!

    • January 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

      Ellen, thanks so much for your suggestions! You make an excellent point about going through a dealer. Service, parts and support are definitely a major consideration! Now I just need to carve out some time to visit some local dealers!

  5. January 11, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    I LOVE my Janome– it’s a workhorse, and it does absolutely everything that I need it to without any problems. It’s the Magnolia 7318, a really basic mechanical machine, and I’ve sewed with it for 2ish years. Also, I love the invisible zipper foot– I get perfect results the first time every time, and the Janome feet aren’t very expensive.

    I’ve actually sewn with the Sewist 500 (they have them at the sewing studio I took a few lessons in) a few times, and I really liked it. I still had a really basic Brother loaner at the time, and was really impressed by the Sewist 500 at the time. It was much more powerful and much quieter than the Brother I was using. I probably would have bought it for myself if I had selected my own machine (it was a gift).

    • January 11, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

      Thanks for your feedback, Ginger! Workhorse is great. Also, good to hear that you had nice results on the invisible zipper foot! Definitely a plus. I’ll have to see if there’s a store in my area that carries a range of machines I can test out. If you test drive a car, you should test drive a sewing machine, right? Maybe I’ll bring some fabric samples to test on the different machines.

  6. January 11, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    I’ve seen people recommend the Bernina 1008 as a classic mechanical machine. I think Canada College uses them, so they should be sturdy for classes and such. I’ve definitely seen them in other classroom settings.

    I went Janome (DC2011 ~$500) but I actually use decorative stitches a fair bit. And I rely on the speed regulator, which the 1008 doesn’t have.

    • January 11, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

      Thanks, Daiyami! Speed regulator, eh? That’s something I hadn’t considered as a feature – mainly because my machine doesn’t have it. I can see that would be pretty useful.

  7. January 11, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    So sorry to hear your machine went kaput. I have a Necchi 6110. It’s a home industrial and it’s a workhorse! It takes everything from chiffon to four or five layers of denim with ease. The promo photo showed it sewing through two pieces of welting leather. It’s not computerized and doesn’t have a bunch of stitches but it works wonderfully! I love it. (I don’t remember how much I paid but it was much less than $1000)
    I believe I bought it from this ebay seller and he was fabulous! The machine came with all it’s feet included. http://stores.ebay.com/LOTATHINGS?_trksid=p2047675.l2563
    Hope you find something soon.

    • January 11, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

      Yeah, I’m sorry too. And I was just starting to make the Newcastle Cardigan for my hubbie. :/ Home industrial machine sounds intriguing, especially one that can sew all sorts of fabric. Pretty cool that you got it on eBay and it had all its feet. I hope I find something soon, too! Thanks for your input!

  8. January 11, 2014 at 7:30 am #

    When my 14 year old machine died about a year ago, I decided on a Baby Lock “Molly” because it isn’t computerized and Baby Lock is serious about maintaining their machines – so they continue making parts for them (unlike a lot of more disposable brands these days). I paid about $350 for mine (which amusingly is the same price I paid for my previous brand-new Singer 15 years ago).

    You can read more about the whys of my machine choice in this old blog post. I haven’t regretted my choice of machine at all! It does everything I need.

    Hope this helps! And feel free to tweet me any questions you might have. =)

    • January 11, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

      Thanks so much for your feedback Brooke! I’m all for non-computerized machines – less to go wrong. ;) You make a good point about maintenance and parts. It would suck to get a machine that you can’t repair because the parts are no longer being made. That’s definitley something to consider. Thanks for the link, too! I’ll check it out.

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