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The 5 things to remember when buying a sewing machine

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{image: photo of Modern Domestic by photographer Leela Cyd}

We get a lot of questions about how to go about buying a sewing machine. Today, we’re lucky to have a real sewing machine expert here to show us the ropes. Meredith works and teaches at Modern Domestic, a fabulous shop here in Portland AND has a professional theater costuming background. Take it away, Meredith! -Sarai

I’ve sewn on just about every brand machine. And not in a braggy way (who would brag about sewing for 5 years on a 3/4 size baby blue Kenmore?), but in a down and dirty kinda way.

My background is in theater and I’ve worked in professional (and amateur) costume shops across the country as well as designing and executing my own work in NYC. And no, it’s not nearly as glamorous as you might think. But I learned a lot along the way and crammed a lifetime of sewing into 15 years.

Like some of you, I didn’t learn from my family at a young age, though I certainly had family members who could have taught me A LOT. I was young and stubborn and didn’t learn until college. But when I did, it completely changed my life and I’ve pretty much sewn every day since. For myself, for others, for costumes, quilting, home dec, crafts and bags. Now I’m teaching and working at Modern Domestic, thoroughly enjoying the a-ha moments my students have and providing the education and resource I missed out on and learned the hard knocks way.

I can’t list all the machines I’ve worked, but a few stick out. My college roommate Evelyn’s Babylock. I knew nothing and was still really learning but we liked the machine. I think we named her Nancy. The George Street Playhouse’s industrial Juki. I hemmed chiffon on that thing. Chiffon! One feels very powerful mastering an industrial enough to do delicate work, believe me.

But the summer of 1999 I worked on my first BERNINA. It was the first commercial machine I saw that would sew through anything. That thing was worked to the max every day and kept rolling. I would sit down in front of these same machines in other shops, in grad school, and during summer stock. Each one reliable and hard-working. So when I finally bought my first real machine (after said baby blue Kenmore, which did more than its fair share and I can’t seem to get rid of), I bought my beloved BERNINA 1008. And while I may someday invest in a higher end BERNINA, I will always keep my 1008.

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{image: photo of Modern Domestic by photographer Leela Cyd}

Top 5 Things to Consider when Purchasing a Sewing Machine

  • Get the best machine you can for what you can spend. This doesn’t mean the one with the most bells and whistles but one made with quality parts. One that isn’t going to break on you in a matter of months and not be worth repairing. Consider this an investment, like a good camera or bike.

    As I’ve been teaching, I’ve heard countless times the story of a new sewist who isn’t sure how much they’ll sew, so they purchase an inexpensive machine to get them started. It has so many problems that every time they sit down to work it’s such a chore, they rarely sew. You might be better off borrowing one from a friend or relative, renting time at a sewing studio, or putting a quality one on layaway to avoid a needless purchase that can ultimately be a waste of money and make your learning experience unenjoyable.
  • Buy from a dealership, not a big chain store. The man in the blue vest can’t help you thread your new machine—he may not even know they sell sewing machines. When you buy from a dealership you are also gaining a resource–getting assistance, experience, advice, and usually a machine owner class where they can guide you through all the features of the machine and learn how best to clean and maintain your machine.

    They also likely service machines and you will have a warranty guarantee with them. Ask if they offer trade-ins and trade-ups. This may take the pressure off the initial purchase if you know you can get started on one and move up the line if you want. They may also have used machines that have been serviced and can take guess-work out of older machines. Our technician said something to me recently that resonated—just because something is older doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. They made lemons 30 years ago too.
  • Sit down and sew on the machine. How smoothly does it run? Does it make a lot of noise? How much control do the feed dogs seem to have? Is the fabric weaving all over the place? How easy is the buttonhole? What about tension? How’s the stitch quality? How do you choose stitches & alter them? What stitch options are there—a zigzag, a blind hem, stretch stitches? Can you change the needle position? I put ease of use so high that for me it would be worth spending an extra $100-$200 for certain features like a one-step or automatic buttonhole.
  • Take swatches and samples of fabric you work with (or hope to work with) and test out the machine. A little bit of time spent with a machine and your swatches can go a long way in determining whether the machine is right for you. Ask what presser feet the machine comes with and what else is available. There may be other, better options for the work you will be doing.
  • Get a machine you can grow into, but not so big that you feel intimidated to use it or feel bogged down by unnecessary features. There are definitely some features that make sewing easier. A few for me would be needle up/down, a knee bar or freehand system, adjustable presser foot pressure, and an automatic buttonhole. (I know, I talk a lot about buttonholes. Do you know how many painful, ugly buttonholes I’ve sewn? Countless. Years of atrocious buttonholes. As a garment or home dec sewer, a beautiful and easy buttonhole is imperative.) Consider what you plan on using the machine for and what you hope to possibly do. If it doesn’t now, can it accommodate these goals later?


{image: photo of a Bernina at Modern Domestic by photographer Leela Cyd}

Gather as much information as you can and choose the right machine for you. Don’t feel rushed or pressured. Oh, and Evelyn also eventually replaced her Babylock with a BERNINA 1008 too.

Thanks, Meredith! Do you have any tips to add to this for buying a machine? Did you consider these factors when buying, and how do you feel about your machine now?

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On , Anna said: | finallywakingup.wordpress.com

my tip would be to look for a machine in the price bracket above what you want to spend/can afford. Once you find exactly what you want wait for a sale, that way you get more for your money! I love my Janome, it’s quite a basic model but more than I would have been able to afford full price. Also, I tried the machine I eventually bought out in a shop and then ended up buying it from that same stores website for a lot less than it would have cost in store, worth checking online deals!

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

That’s are both really good tips for saving money, if you’re looking at a machine that could be purchased online. My previous sewing machine was bought at a huge discount on Amazon (a basic but sturdy mechanical model).

On , beth said:

I agree!! With computers and sewing equipment, it’s an investment… always buy a little more machine than you need today. Once you see the capabilities, you will expand your sewing horizons, and it’s nice if the machine can go with you!

On , Jill Flory said: | sewafineseam.blogspot.com

I have to agree with the above comment – I LOVE my Janome. It has sewn MILES for me, from simple skirts to brides dresses. And I will definitely agree – buy from a dealer. The dealers within driving distance of where you are will sometimes limit your brands but if at all possible find something that works for you from a dealer.
Side note: We are seamstresses not sewers!!! The sewer takes our ‘grey water’ and ‘other stuff’ away for us. I liked the term sewist:) I call myself a seamstress. I like the term, it’s rather old-fashioned and sounds so much better than ‘sewer’ i think!!

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

Ha! I usually say “sewist” since it’s gender neutral, but I love the word “seamstress” too.

On , Sandy Davis said: | sewnsan.blogspot.com

I agree with your comment about not being”sewers!” I have been on a mission to change people’s perspective about us who love to sew, to start calling us “sewists.” I think it sounds okay for both males and females who love to sew.

On , Jennifer B said: | jenniferbranch.com

I finally invested in a Bernina Aurora 430 after years of Singers and cheap Brothers. When I went through a $200 Brother every year or so, my husband insisted it was time! I absolutely love my Bernina! It makes sewing so easy in comparison to what it used to be.
The only thing I hate is my dealership. They’re snooty and rude. If I hadn’t been dying to see just what a Bernina could do compared to a Viking I would never have made it through the demo. Once I saw the demo of sewing through layers of denim or chiffon, I bought it in spite of the dealer. What a wonderful machine!
I love Mettler thread but I mostly buy it online so I don’t have to go in. They also think anyone not doing clothes vs quilting isn’t worth bothering with. I do go in to treat myself to new feet, but they manage to zap the fun out of buying a birthday present! My husband won’t go in to buy something for me anymore. I’d go to another store but the nearest one is 2 hours away. I haven’t even been for all the free classes, let alone the ones that sound pretty interesting.
I’m so disappointed there isn’t a really good Bernina store in the area. I’d love to go to classes, get information on feet and tips and meet other sewers!

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

Yay, that’s my machine too! I love love love my Bernina. It’s really too bad about your local dealer. We’re really lucky to have Modern Domestic here in PDX, the women there are awesome!

On , Lupine Swanson said: | moderndomesticpdx.com

Thanks Sari! We are totally enjoying outfitting the pdx sewing world with BERNINA machines and getting to know the amazing sewing community in this town.

On , Nana said:

Hi Jennifer, I was reading your post and wanted you to know that I completely understand your pain. I bought my first Bernina 16 yrs ago from a dealer that was “outside” my area for the very same reasons that you described. The dealership that I purchased from was 3 hours from my home, where there was a dealership just a few minutes away. Many years later I moved to another state and actually started working for the Bernina dealer in my town. I always remembered how that first shop always made me feel like I was such a nuisance asking questions and needing help. I always tried to make my customers feel like they were appreciated. Thankfully not all Bernina dealers are like the one in your area.

Over the years since that first machine I have purchased 3 others. One for my DIL who adores it. Although I no longer work for the Bernina shop I highly recommend the BerninaUSA.com website for questions and information.

Maybe your shop will get better over time. I hope so because you have purchased a very nice machine. Best of luck to you! Sincerely, A fellow Bernina lover.

On , Patti Vajda said:

Bernina does Webinar classes, since you don’t feel comfortable with the dealer. Their website is awesome! Lots of projects and ideas, only problem I have is that I have a top of the line Babylock Ellisimo Embroidery machine,and most the free designs are in the Bernina format only, on the Bernina site. I had a Bernina 1031 which was my “workhorse” machine for 20 years, Bernina owners are very loyal, I actually sold the machine to a lady I met in a quilting class (I got close to what I had paid for the machine new). That’s what I call a good investment. Word is that Bernina will be manufacturing their machines in China soon, not in Switzerland, like the old days. My old Bernina was metal not plastic, and it would literally sew anything. I know that some new machines are not worth the plastic they’re made of.

I have a repair guy that won’t even work on the cheap little $200 machines. You are often better off buying an older machine that is in good working order, than a new plastic piece of junk. My two favorite brands are Babylock and Bernina. I tried a Viking 950 and got rid of it after two months, it just didn’t feel right, you usually stick with whatever you learn on. I paid just over a thousand dollars in 1991 for my Bernina 1031, it served me well. It is like I used it for 20 years for free.

On , Paula said:

This is not entirely true – BERNINA has had a factory in Singapore for years and some parts and lower end machines are made there. It is fully owned and operated by Bernina. The specs are exactly the same in each plant but your upper line machine still are made in Switzerland.

On , Sharon said:

I have 2 Berninas and I love them both! If you go to Bernina’s website they have a lot of info and how tos there. They have projects you can download and webinars you can sign up to watch. It is a wealth of information. Check it out!!

On , Ali Marletto said:

COMPLAIN
Contact Bernina and tell them your issues with the Dealer.
Lodge a complaint.
How that dealer ever sells a machine is beyond me if they are that rude!

On , Becky said: | beckyoh.com

After inventing many new words while sewing with an old (plastic) singer my husband took pity and said to go look for a new one. Ten years and two Berninas later I haven’t have one problem.
Agreed on all counts with the list above. Bring fabric you normally sew on and buy from a dealer. My favorite shop is super friendly- Sorry Jennifer B. has such a sour staff at her place. I have learned loads from the extra classes and helpful people even though I was an experienced sewer to start.

On , Emily said: | afewthingsemilymade.blogspot.com

LOVE my bernina 1008 too! I inherited it from my grandma. :) Love your testing out fabric swatches tip.

Meredith shares some Love and Knowledge | Modern Domestic | Portland, OR

[...] morning over at Colette Patterns, Meredith offers great tips on buying a sewing machine. She is certainly one to know, as she has sewn on many, sees loads come into the shop, and teaches [...]

On , Nicki said: | thesnakeships.com

One-step buttonhole is the best. I *just* bought a machine in May that has it, and it’s like the clouds parted, and the sewing Goddesses smiled down upon me. Opt for the one-step buttonhole. ;)

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

So true. Buttonholes can be a real litmus test for your machine, I think. I never realized how many machines do a poor job of them, but I’ve heard many many complaints from other sewists over the years. It’s definitely a pain point.

On , Shaerie said: | sew-la.com

My first ‘real’ machine was also a Bernina 1008, I adore it and still use it after 15 years. I tell my students to always test the buttonhole on a machine they are thinking of purchasing! We carry Janome in the shop (which I think are the best deal at that price point), but we are good friends with our local Bernina dealership & often send people along if they have the budget for them.

On , Erica said:

I have a Bernina 1090 which I love, but I never sew with it anymore. I bought an old singer straight stitch only machine, and it is the best machine I have ever had! I love how nicely it sews, and I love the quality of the stitches. Now I only use my Bernina if I need to use a stretch stitch which I almost never do since I have a serger. Really nice vintage machines can be bought a fraction of the cost of the new machines too. Just another option to consider. Oh, they are also super easy to use, maintain, and fix.

On , Valerie said: | flightsofthevalkyrie.blogspot.com

I just bought my first sewing machine in April of last year. I saw the title of this post & said “Oh great, here is the advice I was looking for over a year ago & I’m gonna find out I did it all wrong.” But I’m so glad to report: I did it all right! I love my 1986 Pfaff 1471. I haven’t had a single problem with it & I got a fair price for it. The staff @ my dealership is wonderful, I took a new owners course there a few weeks after I bought the machine & they were so helpful. In fact, I think I may need to go in for a refresher course as I have been piecing quilts on it, but I’m starting to get into clothes making techniques again. Thanks for the post Meredith!

On , Barbara said:

Do you still have your Bernina 1090 and is it for sale?

On , Courtney Ostaff said:

I have a couple pieces of advice:

If you sew clothes, you don’t need a machine with 1,001 embroidery stitches. Buy a machine that suits your needs.

Buy quality. Pfaff, Janome, Viking, and Bernina are all good brands, Yes, they’re expensive, but they’re good. Where else are you going to find a machine that will sew through six layers of denim without a hiccup, and then go right to hemming chiffon? ;)

If you can’t afford a new,good machine, you might check at your local dealer for a used, rehabbed machine that someone has traded in.

I sew clothes, and I’m not good with machines, so I wanted a machine that adjusted tension on the fly, and did automatic buttonholes.

I bought one in December (it was my Christmas present from my generous husband), so I got it at a discount because it was the end of the fiscal year for the dealer.

patternreview.com has reviews of actual sewing machines, which is nice. Lots of lovely ladies chat there about the nitty-gritty details of sewing, which is also helpful.

Make friends with your local dealer, and consider taking some sewing classes from them. They know nifty tricks you can do with your machine.

Maintain your machine. Just like a car, it will almost certainly need annual maintenance and tuneups.

On , Hana – Marmota said: | marmota-b.blogspot.com

Yet another vote for Berninas! I have heard so many good things about them – but here in the Czech Republic the servicing would be more difficult, so I don’t have one (although, who knows, maybe one day I’ll go there).
I have an old Lucznik sewing machine that has been acting up recently, and now I have a new Singer – it’s similar to the Lucznik I’m used to and even takes the Lucznik bobbins as far as I could find out. Mom says Luczniks were Sowiet bloc’s knockoffs of Singers. :-)

So I’d say it helps when the sewing machine is intuitive for you. This ties to Meredith’s advice to try the machine before buying it. I tried a similar Singer before we bought the one I have (mine’s a new model), so I knew I’d know my way around it.

On , Lindsay said: | cloth-cat.blogspot.com

Great advice – only wish I’d had it when I bought my machine years back. I have to say I am very happy with the way my Janome performs, but I probably spent more than I needed on it, buying something with a load of embroidery stitches I’ve never used rather than focusing on the bits I actually do use (luckily it has those too). I was very much working in the dark when I bought it having very little sewing experience myself and it was before the days of these great sewing blogs you can find nowadays to help you.

One area I’d be interested to hear more about is overlockers. I’m just starting to graduate from doing small scale crafty, home dec type projects to making my own clothes. I know overlockers are supposed to be really useful for garment making, but I’m not sure exactly what the difference between using them and a normal sewing machine, what things I should look for if I’m buying an overlocker and at what point is it worth the expense of adding an overlocker to my sewing arsenal rather than soldiering on with just a sewing machine.

I think I like the term ‘seamstress’ best, it conjours up images of skilled ladies working in the Paris couture houses. What would you call a male sewer though? A seamster?

On , Jill Flory said: | sewafineseam.blogspot.com

A male who sews is a tailor! Or you could call him a haberdasher if he is outfitting men. But I like the term seamster rather well too:):) anything but ‘sewer’ LOL!

On , Laura said: | chiralcraft.wordpress.com

I have to disagree with point #2, to a certain extent. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying a cheap machine from somewhere like Walmart, but I think you can do just fine buying a machine from a reputable place online, or from somewhere like Sears. I bought my Kenmore from Sears and have been delighted by it. The current stock of Kenmores are made by Janome and are a great value – you can get a lot more features on them than you can for the Janome-branded machines which are a lot pricier.

There’s also the option of buying a well-maintained older/vintage machine; you may not get all the bells and whistles but you can get really good quality for a great price. The key is to do your research; hang out somewhere like the Sewing Machine boards at patternreview.com or get to know some expert sewists and/or sewing machine repairpeople.

I think it also depends on your personality – I am much more apt to want to do my own research and figure out how to use the machine myself. I have heard way too many stories about how certain dealers are unhelpful after sales or how they are unfair and opaque with their pricing to consider buying from a dealer without knowing them and their business practices very well.

On , Lady ID said: | peppermintandpaisley.com

My sewing machine is a Singer that could be found in Walmart for about $200. I have had it since 2003 with pretty regular use (and almost no servicing). I keep thinking it’ll die soon but nope. It is showing some signs of age and I am looking for a Bernina to upgrade but the Singer will become the backup.

I was blessed to get a good one:)

On , Julie said:

Thanks for this post! The timing is great because I’ve spent hours over the past few nights doing research on buying a new machine. I have about an 8 year old Singer that has actually been a pretty good machine. The clincher for me though was recently when I was making this awesome sundress with buttons down the front, and the buttonholes sucked big time. 4-step buttonhole crappy nightmare. The dress still looks good, but it did make me think about how I’d love a sweet sewing, fully automatic Bernina!!!

On , Kate said:

Great post, but I second the ‘pay for what you really need’ rather than the best I could afford in terms of options the machine offers.

When I replaced my ‘inherited’ machine a year ago, it took me a couple of weeks to settle on a specific machine. I carefully considered what is important to me and what stiches I really need. I saved lots of money by getting a model with less stiches and no embroidery but still metal parts and several automatic buttonholes etc. And I’m really glad that it’s small enough to put it in our tiny closet.

On , Margie said:

I recently bought the Bernina 1008 and I’m in love.

On , Jessie said: | zobeandme.blogspot.com

So I just bought two machines. The first from Joann’s Fabric stores. It was a singer heavy duty top model. It fit the budget of under $200 bucks. It was so horriable. Loud is the first thing that comes to mind. Not many options. Could not sew threw 5 layers of cotton at once on day 3. 10 day’s later I returned it. I googled, and read every blog possiable. I came upon the name Brother. Did my research and found the cs6000i perfect for me. I saw a video on amazon and I was sold! So being miss perfect I kept on doing more research. I found the TV show Project Run way used a lower model Brother. I called the company and found that my model was one of there hot sellers. Talked with friends and found a couple who worked with them a decade or so ago and liked the company. So once I decided to stop being a craZy research lady I ordered my machine. I love it! Oh and yes, it can sew threw anything! Customer service is right there to help you out as well!
Conclusion? If you have a very small budget, do your research and consider this machine. SUPER HAPPY!

On , Fran said:

I bought a second hand Singer 500A in 1965, and I’m still using it. This machine is all metal–no plastic gears or parts. I have all the attachments that came with the machine, and they all work perfectly, because they are mechanical, not computerized. I make exquisite buttonholes, for example, with the mechanical buttonholer that attaches to the presser bar. Sometimes they did make things better in the old days….I would never part with this machine.

On , Laura said:

This post is so relevant for me right now. Three weeks ago I bought a Babylock Symphony from a local dealer after much deliberation between that and the Bernina 430. I simply could not make up my mind so the (excellent) dealer suggested that I take the Babylock home and try it out with the promise that I could bring it back and trade for the Bernina within two months. Guess what? I am bringing it back tomorrow to do the exchange. The Symphony is a lovely machine, but something (just something) does not sit right with me about it. It don’t find that I need or even want a touch screen or about 95% of the other fancy features it has. The Bernina just struck me as a lovely, sturdy machine that I could really love. I sure hope the dealer is as nice tomorrow when I bring it back!

On , Ali Marletto said:

Your Dealer knows his machines (and is a generous person)

On , romney said:

I upgraded from a crappy Brother to a Singer Featherweight. Unfortunately that means if I want more than a straight stich I have to use my Mum’s machine! On the bright side it is an absolute joy to use. I’d still love a Bernina 1008 though. Thats the sort of machine I learnt to sew on at school.

Great post. I’d love to have a similar guide for sergers. I’ve never really understood whether I have to have one or not.

On , Peggy said: | grammaslinencloset.com

I started on a Singer Featherweight, and then used a 1970s era Viking until I was told there were no parts “out there” to fix it. I now have a Viking Freesia.
I get frustrated because I can’t seem to find that “sweet spot” between a high quality machine and one that is loaded with features for people who embroider or quilt (which I don’t do) that I don’t need.
One dealer told me that once Vikings began to be made in the US, they were crap. That I should buy a Janome.
Another dealer told me that Vikings were the best out there.
I’ve looked at Pfaff …
Who’s found a high quality machine that is for those of us who make clothing and accessories, without paying for lots of bells and whistles designed for quilters and etc?

On , Marcie said:

This is something else to consider in our consumer-driven culture: a sewing machine is a durable good. E.g. I really would like my daughter to have it some day! Well, any machine with a printed circuit board in it will be obsolete at some point. This was the driving factor for me purchasing my workhorse Bernina Record. I beg and borrow if I need a fancy feature that my machine doesn’t have.

On , Lynette said: | craftdiscovery.blogspot.com

I absolutely positively LOVE my Bernina 1008. It is perfect for a beginner with lots of growing room. I just used a stitch I didn’t know I had a week ago…and I’ve have the machine for a year and a half! :) I also second on buying from a dealer. Classes are priceless. But yes, I agree that an automatic button hole would be nice, but I will never get a new machine. The 1008 is sturdy and sews beautifully- plus when I need to pick apart seams, they come apart effortlessly. :)

On , Meetzorp said: | meetzorp.com

In 1996, I bought a 1958 Singer Model 401 from a junk shop for $20. 15 years later, the old Singer is still humming along for me. That machine is absolutely the best $20 I have ever spent on anything. It was top of the range in 1958, straight stitch, zig-zag, plus additional cams for fancy stitching. You can do blind hem with one of them, which is pretty sweet.

It’s a gear driven machine, so it handles chiffon and denim with equal aplomb. So long as you use a needle appropriate to the fabric, it will do whatever is required. I even made a pleather trench coat on it in my misguided youth!

I keep it cleaned, oiled, and lubed, because I know I will never find another sewing machine that kicks this much ass.

On , Caroline said:

My first sewing machine was an 18th birthday present from my mum. She didn’t consult me, she just bought it, a Singer, with discs that you put into the top to make fancy stitches, and set in a table. It was okay, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I was into making soft toys back then, but of course it wouldn’t take fur fabric, and I never did get the hang of using the discs. I used it a bit over the years (I’m 50 now) but it finally died a few years back, smoke coming out of the motor!

So I bought myself a machine I wanted, another Singer, Heavy Duty. It’s got a couple of extra stitches, does buttonholes, is industrial grey and it’s great. It doesn’t have a table so I can put it where I want, and it feels like it will last for my lifetime. Moral of this story, don’t let someone else buy your machine for you!

On , Sandy said:

Looking at Janome 6300 or Bernina 330. Which to best buy.??

On , Ali Marletto said:

Something to remember when buying your next Sewing Machine.
Contrary to Patti Vajda’s complaint about her local Bernina dealer’s attitude towards her when she drove 3 hours away from that Dealer to buy her machine and then expected her local Dealer to support her.
My parents owned a Bernina dealership and when we had given thorough demonstrations and provided every (and I mean every) type of fabric imaginable for customers to actually sew on the Bernina, it was insulting for these same customers to return to their business and expect FREE support and lessons for a machine they had not purchased from my parents’ dealership.
My parents followed Bernina ethos which is you do not sell in another dealer’s area because the Dealer has to support the buyer.
MORAL
Negotiate with your local dealer if you can’t afford the price . That Dealer is your support system.

On , Lyn McCoy said:

I make quilts and sell them for extra money. I don’t make clothes, so I don’t need a lot of fancy stitches. What I do need is a sewing machine that can handle being used 8-10 hours a day for 3-4 days a week. I piece my quilt tops on my sewing machine and then hand-quilt them. I have MS so I need one with the foot-free start option for the days that my legs don’t work very well. I have a $300.oo budget limit. Does anyone have any sewing machine suggestions for me?

On , Katie said:

I’m 12 and i really wanna learn how to sew.
how much does a decent one cost
helpp

On , Farzana said:

Hi, I actually wanted a Kenmore Mini Ultra (Im new to sewing), and just wonder if it can handle jersey knit (stretchy) fabrics and if it needs maintenence. i live in a remote area and need a 3/4 size machine.

Thank you for any tips on it :)

On , D Mills said:

I am looking for a machine I can use to sew metallic fabric. Please help!

On , Chris said:

Thanks for this article. I am now considering buying a new Bernina to replace my very old (and very tired) Singer. I’m trying to figure out which series Bernina I want, but haven’t found a place where I can compare one series with the others. The Bernina website doesn’t seem to let me compare machines across series classes, only within one class. But thanks for reminding me of some of the things to keep in mind while I’m looking.

On , Linda said:

I too am currently looking for a new machine and it will be a Bernina. Lots of research happening here!

My husband found a great site for machine comparisons for the product they sell…
http://www.eddiesquiltingbee.com/sewing-machines.html

To clarify what has been said earlier about Bernina. Straight from my dealers mouth who has been to both factories. They have a sister factory in Thailand, not Singapore. Bernina made a decision many years ago that if they wanted to stay in the industry they needed to be cost effective. The factory in Thailand is an exact replica of the Swiss factory and the guy that runs it is Swiss and been there around 15 years. Their standards are just as high and exacting as in Switzerland apparently.

I am getting my head around the fact that a non Swiss Bernina is just as good. Parts come from both S and T factories and assembled in Thailand. I am pretty sure he said it is now only the top of the range 820 and 830 that come out of the Swiss factory.

Back to deciding what on earth I am going to buy! A superseded Artista 730, 580 or the new 750. It’s a lot of money and will be the last machine I ever buy.

I think new machines should be bought from dealers where possible for these reasons…..
Warranty – these days with technology as it is in the newer machines you would be crazy not to have warranty and back up. Repairs can be expensive.
Keeps the dealer network afloat and specialists who know their stuff (if you have as knowledgeable dealer as I have)
Without our support they will disappear and then what would there be…..? Hate to think!

I worry about what’s ahead for businesses if we all shop online and the larger varity stores. I know we all want a good deal but…… And I love a bargain.

In saying all that I have only had three machines, a Husqvana 2000, a 930 Bernina and a Bernina Artista 185E. All bought secondhand. The only reason I am going to buy now is that my 185 makes a humming sound which I can’t live with. Bernina think it’s quite ok and I am a fruit cake.

The buying of a new machine is driving me crazy! So much research! I don’t want buyers remorse, not when spending so much. I also know that I need the back up with warranty which stops me from buying some great deals secondhand which goes against the grain somewhat.

Good luck one and all.

On , BOOO.P.BERNINA said:

I am very sorry you are not located near Kansas CIty. I would purchase a new machine from you. I have a Bernina 730. It has had problems from the start. Another dealer had board replaced after in original shop many many times and had just picked up and still didn’t work. Within months keeps going off or blank in middle of sewing or embroidery. Owner refused service under warranty and yelling at me. I kept one of phone recordings from him!!!I am so very sad I have many feet and accessories that I wanted to use. If I change brands I will never recover what I spent. I have pretty much lost hope for my Bernina after six years of being treated terrible.I love to sew and it is my own special world. I usually the happy person who helps others in need. Yet, when I have begged for my sewing machine to be fixed, was verbally abused by him in front of his staff. Benina USA won’t get involved even when it was under warranty. To bad Bernina Kansas City doesn’t understand word of mouth goes a long way. SAD BECAUSE I AM NOT SEWING.

On , Joyce said: | flickr.com

Very good advice! I had a lemon of a Singer for years before I got my first Pfaff. It is still in use and if someone needed a machine now I would advise them to buy a good, used Bernina, Pfaff or older metal Singer before buying a cheap new machine–if they could not afford a new, nice quality machine. I agree about buying as good as you can afford. However, I am happy that with both my Pfaffs I did not buy the expensive embroidery machine. I just got the top of line regular machine with IDT and some decorative stitches. I have never regretted my choices. And as much as I love my Pfaffs, the company has been sold and from what I have heard from friends they are made quality like they were until about 6 years ago. I am an old seamtress :-) and love that you are passing along great advice. Most of your posts and tips are things my Mom taught me and when I read that others did not know the info–I am very happy you’re passing along the tips!

On , Fiona said:

I am very amateur sewer and I need a sewing machine todo basic things, stitches, button holes… I was told by a friend that Bernina is the best bc they put real metal parts and not plastic. I remember my moms sewing machine which the sewing parts were all metal, but when I looked at some new machines most were plastic! What brand do you recommend?

On , Brenda said:

I have had a Pfaff Creative 1471 for 30 years! I have loved it, but alas, they do not make all of the parts to repair it and it is not performing well right now. I am considering replacing it with a Bernina or Pfaff. I have appreciated the comments from the bloggers. Tough decision!

On , Sue said:

Hi Brenda – snap! I’ve had a Pfaff Creative 1471 since 1988 and I’ve loved sewing with it – very reliable – but I’ve stored it for a long time with the foot in the up postition and as a result the foot doesn’t spring down anymore :/ So it’s gone in for (hopefully) a small repair, but like you, I’m thinking of buying a new machine. I’m tempted by a Bernina…..

On , Jean said:

My 9 year old granddaughter has had two sewing lessons and now has a real interest in learning more. She has asked for a sewing machine for a Christmas present and as I know very little about sewing machines I wonder could someone please suggest one to choose for her. I don’t know if she will continue with sewing so I want to not spend too much money and yet want to get one that works well so she doesn’t become frustrated. Help, please. Thank you.

What is the Best Sewing Machine for Beginners? | Thread Work Artisan

[…] these machines are great choices for a beginner. I encourage everyone interested in starting to sew take the time and do the research. It will make you much happier and make the hobby more […]

On , Cynthia Ott said:

I know this is an older thread, but I bought a Bernina two years ago last month. A Bernina 580 with the embroidery unit. I do love the embroidery functions, but I just had my LED lights go out on it out of the blue. I thought that was kind of not great for only two years of usage, so I’m still feeling a little hesitant about how I feel about the machine. I did have it serviced while it was in the shop, so I will see how smoothly it runs now that it’s back. but I can’ t say that I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience with Bernina. I’m glad to hear a lot of people like the quality.

How often has anyone with a Bernina had issues, such as having to have minor or major repairs on their machine?

I also expected the LED lights to be under warranty, and I’m assuming the part was, the shop I took it to only charged me 40 dollars for replacing it, but when I tried to ask them about it being under warranty from Bernina they said it only had a warranty for a year and I couldn’t budge them on it. So maybe they were talking about a labor warranty. I”m on Oahu in Hawaii so I only have two options for dealers and they are both U.S. Sewing and Vacuum. Hoping my next experience there will be better.

Thanks for any feedback

On , Stephen said:

I am interested to know where the name “Brother” originated. My wife and I were discussing it today, and she didn’t know. Browsing the website didin’t reveal the name’s origin. Thank you.

On , Classic said:

Many people raised some unanswered very relevant questions. Pls if u could answer.

Any suggestion on industrial sewing machine?

I would like to start a sewing business soon, where me and others would make cloths for sale. Any suggestion on machines i might really need, not want?

On , brenda said:

I was sewing along as usual and my light blew out. Once replaced the machine would not turn on. There is power going into the machine but checking the circuit board on the Bernina Record 930 electronic there was no power when you put the selector on for sewing. Has anyone had this problem with this machine? I am at a loss, not sure if it is done with sewing or if it needs a new circuit board. A helpful hints would be appreciated

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On , Derek Choo said:

I am looking at a 2nd hand Bernina sewing machine in Singapore. I mainly want to use it for sewing leather products, do you think Bernina is able to do the job? My leather products are bags, pouches and small items.

Thanks!
Derek Choo

Sewing Machine Review – Janome DC 2101 | pop bobbin

[…] There are lots of great guides to buying a sewing machine, but personally I think Colleterie has hit the nail on the head with not one but two great guides. They have some interesting tips you may not have heard before too! (One of them has been written about buying a BERNINA machine but it can be transferred to any brand) You can read them here and here. […]

On , Sunny said:

My Huskystar 224 is about 9 years old, but it is a workhorse! I’ve never had to get it serviced, and it’s been used (stupidly) to sew over steel boning and everything from chiffon and lawn to 3 layers of thick fleece at once (lots of broken needles ensued, but the machine was just fine). It’s relatively quirk-free, and I absolutely love it! If only it hadn’t completely disappeared off the market… Viking’s reputation seems to have plummeted since, though, which is a pity, so I went with a cheap but efficient $200 Singer for my recent serger purchase. It’s doing beautifully so far! If I ever do replace my main machine, however, I’m definitely going to go for a Janome or (hopefully) a Bernina.

On , Dan Webster said:

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DO NOT PURCHASE A VIKING OR PFAFF MACHINE UNTIL YOU READ THESE FACTS!!
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1. ARE VIKING AND PFAFF STILL PART OF HUSQVARNA?
NO – Husqvarna, the inventor and creative talented brain trust behind these legendary sewing machines sold the Pfaff an Viking division to a holding company called Kohlberg about four years ago. Husqvarna is gone.
2. WILL HUSQVARNA SUPPORT MY SEWING MACHINES?
NO – You will ONLY get support from Kohlberg’s satellite company called SVP Worldwide which knows NOTHING about the sewing machines or market needs. Kohlberg bought them with the hopes to strip it down and sell it off but it’s been a dismal failure so far. In my opinion, holding companies are not in the business to support their customers. They actually could care less about you. They are in the business to “strip and sell” or use it as a way to hide revenue away from the IRS to avoid paying taxes.
3. ARE THE SEWING MACHINES STILL PRODUCED IN SWEDEN WITH SWEDISH WORKMANSHIP?
NO – This is the biggie. As soon as the holding company made the purchase from Husqvarna, they immediately shut down and ceased all Swedish operations which included manufacturing, engineering, quality and product development. There is a sales office and some limited engineering but mostly for the European market NOT the U.S. The many many years of fine Swedish craftsmanship that you remember from previous machines no longer exist. Nada. Gone.

4. THEN WHERE IN EUROPE ARE THEY MANUFACTURING VIKING AND PFAFF?
NOWHERE IN EUROPE – Here’s the embarrassing truth. Management saw a greedy opportunity to take these high quality brand name sewing machines AND SOURCE THEM CHEAPLY TO CHINA AND VIETNAM. The intent was to sell a cheap machine but slap it with a brand name like Viking or Pfaff to make you THINK you’re buying a quality machine. Could not be more from the truth. This is why you’re having quality issues.

5. DID THEY SETUP UP NEW MANUFACTURING FACILITIES IN CHINA AND VIETNAM?
NO – For Singer yes, they have Singer manufacturing in Shanghai but for Viking and Pfaff, NO – They are SUBCONTRACTED to existing China and Vietnam manufacturers who were only producing cheap machines for their Asian market. The intent was to make cheap machines with a quality brand name and charge you a high margin to make you THINK you’re buying quality. This is why you are having quality issues and why the machines lack the “feel” and “finesse” from the previous Swedish machines. Asian manufacturers have no idea about the Swedish sewing machine history or their craftsmanship and could really care less. Your Viking and Pfaff machines are nothing more than cheap commodities now.
6. WHAT U.S. STATE IS THE HEADQUARTERS FOR SVP WORLDWIDE?
NONE! – Ready for this – They are headquartered in BERMUDA. That’s right BERMUDA. Red flags pop up yet? They should. Bermuda has no manufacturing and the address is probably some vacant office with a great view of the Bermuda shoreline so the fat cats from this sham company can smoke big cigars and drink margaritas by the ocean front. Again, this is owned by a HOLDING COMPANY NOT A TRUE SEWING MACHINE MANUFACTURER. In my opinion, they have no intent to truly understand your sewing world. They purchased these divisions to play shenanigan games so they can avoid paying taxes NOT support sewing. They were hoping to be out of the sewing business by now but that plan went up in smoke.

7. WHAT EFFECT DOES IT HAVE IF THESE MACHINES ARE SUBCONTRACTED AND ON SERVICE PARTS?
HUGE EFFECT! – Most manufacturers design their own product and provide prints and specs to have outside manufacturing suppliers MAKE their components for them. They will have a combination of buying service parts overseas as well as setup domestic suppliers as anchors on the SAME CRITICAL PARTS in cases of small demand, demand spikes and quality issues. This means your machine will not be down long because a local manufacturer could provide the same critical part in a pinch so you’re not waiting for parts to arrive overseas which could take up to 90 days. SVP has NO domestic suppliers. They can’t because they DO NOT OWN THEIR UNITS. They have no prints or specs. If there’s any spikes, quality issues, bad inventory counts or parts left out of the sewing machine box, YOU’RE SCREWED. It all comes from overseas which is why they can’t stay supplied with critical service parts. Once they cut a purchase order to the Asian manufacturer, who knows how long it will take. Do they have stock? Does the Asian manufacturer need to go to his Asian supplier and if so, how long will it take? Does that Asian supplier have stock and if not how long will it take them to get the material? Where are they located? Yada yada yada. See how long it stretches out the lead time and it’s a guessing game when they will arrive. Imagine when it’s a quality issue. You waited 90 days for your critical service part to arrive and when it does arrive, IT’S DEFECTIVE. Welcome to the nightmare. You now have another 90 days for good parts and who knows if those are good. They are no longer designed in house. You’re best strategy is “hope and pray”.

I could provide more but I will stop here. My best advice is to do research BEFORE you make an expensive purchase and KNOW who is making your machine. I’m not a fan of holding companies because I feel they don’t have your true good intentions in mind. Their business model is severely flawed and their strategy to me is to market cheap units at a high price. The CEO and senior management at SVP Worldwide are a joke. They’re all ego, arrogance and phony charisma with no substance. Get’s old doesn’t it? You’ll see through it soon.

GOOD LUCK!

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