Tool Tip. Do quality tools lead to better sewing?

better sewing

As time goes on I seem to accumulate more and more sewing tools.  Nothing wrong with that of course.  I always am quite frugal with my spending though and wondered about whether it is worth spending more to get a ‘better quality' tool that would give me ‘better' sewing results or last longer.  What do you think?

So I thought I would look at some of my budget sewing tools and some of the more expensive alternatives, and consider if it was time to upgrade.  Let's have a look at the differences and I'd love to know from you if you think one is better than the other, where it might be worth investing more money or where the budget option is good enough.

Sewing machines

Ok so this seems like a very obvious place to start, with our home sewing machines.  Mine is a basic Brother that I brought back very carefully in my hand luggage from a weekend shopping trip to the USA.  I got it in Walmart and it cost about $150.  better sewingThe exact model is discontinued but its very similar to this one, the Brother CS6000i which is the number one best-selling sewing machine on Amazon.  When people write and ask what machine would be good for a beginner on a limited budget I always recommend this one.  One of my sewing blogging buddies has it and swears by it.

better sewing

Now I LOVE my machine, but you could say I really don't know any better.  It's the only one I've ever used.  I know that you can spend a LOT of money on a sewing machine but does it make your end results any better?  Will your sewing be better if you have a ‘better' machine?

I recently attended my first ever sewing event, at Sewing Holiday (review of the event here), and all of the machines there were provided by Babylock.   My first chance to try out another machine.  I used the Rachel, which is a lower end beginner machine, similar to my Brother.  In fact, it looked very similar, had all the same features and stitches, worked the same.  It was nice to use, smooth, perhaps a little quieter although that was hard to tell in a busy classroom environment, but I didn't notice that my sewing on this machine was any better than on my machine at home.

better sewing

The price for the Babylock Rachel – list price is $599, although dealers will often discount or give you a special at around $500 I'm told.  So that's 3-4 times what I paid for mine, for a machine that does exactly the same things.  I'm going to be controversial here and say the Brother is my choice because of the great value for money if you are looking for a starter machine.  Mine has lasted me 3 years in a very salty humid environment, still works perfectly, has never been serviced, and I don't see myself outgrowing it any time soon.

That's not to say that there aren't other machines worth investing in.  Some machines are undoubtedly better than others and some will deal better with certain applications than others.  Plan to sew a lot of bags, home decor or thick layers?  Then you'll need a machine that can bust through those layers easily and feed them smoothly, and not all of the lower end machines can do that well.

BRTHR-011985_MicrositeHeader_FRIf you are lucky enough to have a larger budget for your machine, the sky is pretty much the limit on how much you can spend, and which of the premium brands you can pick from.  I know someone who actually owns this Brother Dream Machine – can you believe it!  Built-in lasers and all sorts of other cool things she told me about that I can't even imagine – sounds space age to me.  She tells me that this machine will certainly improve your sewing because the stitching is laser guided, has a digital dual feed for total accuracy (and a lot of other amazing features), but with a price tag of around $12-14,000 dollars, that's not something I'll probably ever be able to afford in this lifetime.

 

Brother USA – if you are reading, I'd love to try one.  Send it over for me to ‘review' 😉  I'll send it back, maybe….

Modern or ‘vintage'? Plastic or metal?

When we talk machines in the sewing chat group, many still swear by their older or vintage machines for reliability and quality.  As the saying goes, they don't make 'em like they used to.   Does heavy still mean quality when it comes to machines?  Is an all-metal body/frame/workings better than the more modern materials?  I once read an article from a sewing machine repairman that argued that many of the more modern plastic components were better these days than the older ones, but as usual, I can't find that again now when I want to link to it.

better sewing

The insides of a Bernina

I can't say and would have to leave that up to you to decide.

If you want to take a good look inside the Brother CS6000i linked to above, here is an excellent discussion on Pattern Review where you can look inside at all of the parts.  You might have to login or register to see it though because I think it's in the forums section.  There are a lot of comments both in support of budget machines and totally against them, so it's an interesting read.

better sewingIn Conclusion

No, you don't need an expensive machine to sew well.  I think I do pretty well, although obviously I'm still learning and have a way to go, but my budget machine enables me to create things beautifully and I'm very satisfied with it for my current level of expertise and the projects that I am likely to make. That's not to say if Brother, Babylock or Bernina or someone else called me up and asked if I would like a free top of the range sewing machine, that I would turn them down (still waiting on that call…) but the less I spend on my machine the more money I have left to spend on fabric!

However, if you have the budget and can afford it, yes, treat yourself to a really nice quality top of the range machine with all the bells and whistles, dealer support, good warranty, sewing lessons included and more.  You won't be sorry and it will probably last you a very long time with very little trouble.

Remember – A skilled workman can create a masterpiece with any tools, but the best machine in the world can't create a beautiful dress if you don't know how to sew well. As one of the sewing members said: “Dior didn't use an expensive machine like mine, but look at what they sewed.”

Feel free to disagree with me in the comments.  I love a healthy honest debate.  Tell me about your machine, and why its worth paying so much more for it.

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Affiliate disclosure 😉  Nope, I'm not a representative of Brother, Babylock or anyone else and don't earn a commission if you buy a Dream Machine!  But if you do, let me know what it's like!

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109 Responses to Tool Tip. Do quality tools lead to better sewing?

  1. Diane says:

    In my humble world good sewing comes from the individual sewing. To be efficient, neat & precise you must be comfortable. Use the machine you are most comfortable with.
    I learned to sew on Mom’s pink Atlas and I still have it. My first machine was a simple 30 year old Electrolux, she is still my favorite. Today I also have a Singer which is not my favorite but a good machine. If I could change the presets on the Singer I would like it better.
    Use what you like, what works with your quirks, and strive to sew better. Don’t be satisfied with less than your best.

  2. Vlierbloesem says:

    My great-grandmother upgraded from hand stitching to a manual straight stitch only Singer sewing machine. From that to a throddle Singer. Those were real improvements. Those machines were expensive at the time.

    I started on her manual straight stitch Singer. It still worked wonderfull. I later used my mothers electric zig-zag, that was a drag. I hated it, but I managed to make all my clothes with it anyway.

    My first own machine was a – now vintage – high end machine of a low end brand. It was so much better, never had any problem with it, and I still love it.

    Later I bought a high end serger, that is old fashioned now, but still sews wonderfull. I love it and would not do without it.

    Recently I bought a new electronic machine at a bottom price. It has beautiful full automatic buttonholes and the many embroidery stitches that people say they never use. That machine is definately the low price range, but I love it.

    I use all my machines and would not want to do without any of them. I carefully selected the low end as well as the high end machines. Good quality tools are important, but good quality does not equal high price.

  3. Eugenia ("Genie") Stepanek says:

    I have been sewing 50+ years, mostly on singer machines because i grew up on them. I tried a Brother but the one i bought wound up being a lemon and broke in the first week, so i had to take it back. I was given a large discount on a Viking and I liked that machine a lot, but when i lived in Europe I bought Pfaff, which is my machine I love (Bought it before the Euro so got it for half price essentially!) I have sewn on Janomes, Brothers, Viking, Singer, Juki, and a few other brands. What I tell my sewing students is to go to the local sewing center that sells a wide range of machines, Take ear plugs so you don’t have to listen to the salesperson try to sell you the most expensive ones, Try ALL the machines, and find the one that you feel is the most user friendly for you. If you find the one you can relate to, you’ll be more apt to learn to use it and all its features and you’ll be happier.
    I liken it to driving a car: All cars will get you where you want to go, some do it with more finesse and a lot of extra fun features that the lower end models don’t have or carry. Buy the best one you can afford, that works for you

  4. Janet Hammond says:

    Hi, I am the proud owner of a Brother Dream Machine – I raided my piggy bank and, yes, it cost more than my car – but I love, love, LOVE it, although I’m scared of it in equal measure. I continue to be astounded by what it can do and I seem to learn something different every time I switch her on!

    • Suzanne says:

      I felt the same way when I bought my Brother Dream Weaver. But a month or so later, after using it almost daily, I wondered why I had ever been “afraid” of it. It’s actually VERY easy to learn and simple to use. Enjoy yours, you have a gem.

  5. Suzanne says:

    This is a fascinating topic. I’ve been sewing for 60 years and don’t believe any machine can truly make one a better sewer. BUT, a better machine can make certain functions easier to do, thus encouraging the user to try more, perhaps learn more and become more proficient. That’s my theory anyway, for what it’s worth.

    I have sewn on quite a few machines in my lifetime; my mother’s 1949 or 50 White brand rotary (a big black tank) that did only straight stitch, various Singer models when in high school including the Slant Needle and Touch & Sew, a Kenmore 158-14000 zigzag Mom gave me and I sewed on for years (it rarely gave me a bit of trouble), a 1980’s Euro Pro computerized machine that I made my daughter’s wedding gown with, a Brother CS3000 mid-level computerized machine that has some nice bells & whistles, a Euro Pro serger, and my newest machine, a Brother Dreamweaver VQ3000 which has an 11.25″ throat space for quilting and a HUGE assortment of features/functions including one of those wonderful specialized walking feet which is great for quilting and other applications where you need to prevent slippage. I wanted a Baby Lock Crescendo when I got the Dreamweaver but it was WAY beyond my price range. Then I found the Dreamweaver on sale from a dealer as it had been a demo model, so I grabbed it. I’ve since learned that many Brother and Baby Lock machines are made by the same company (often in the same factory) and when I last visited my machine tech, he had a Crescendo out and let me examine it. It’s EXACTLY the same machine as the Dreamweaver! And the Dreamweaver costs less even when not on sale! Go figure.
    I LOVE the Dreamweaver. It makes certain types of sewing MUCH easier. The stitches are perfect, the tension system is excellent, the buttonholer is genius, and sewing on buttons is a snap. With a double needle setup, it sews knits beautifully, the result is similar to what a cover-stitch model would do and provides the necessary “stretchiness”. (is that a word?) I do a lot of quilting as well and the huge throat space is a blessing, especially when doing free-motion stitching. Does it do absolutely everything well? Nope. It’s not so great for multiple layers of heavy upholstery but it will sew very easily through 4 layers of denim and it does what I bought it for. Someone else mentioned that the best way to buy a machine is to base your purchase on your needs/applications. That’s what I did and I’m exceptionally happy with my choice (and the discounted price!)
    With the exception of the Singers of course, I still have all the models I mentioned above – even my mother’s White Rotary, which still works! The Kenmore Zig-Zag is not my original, but a duplicate I bought last year. I loved that old Kenmore and this one has been completely restored. It works so well that I have it set up as my back-up. It’s great for piecing or mending or small projects if I have a quilt under the needle of the Brother & don’t want to remove it. My 1980’s Euro Pro is pretty much retired, the serger comes down off the shelf now and then if I want to sew a lot of knits and the Brother CS3000 is my travel machine when I go to my weekly quilter’s group.
    Some of your followers have commented about the quality (or lack thereof) of vintage machines. It’s my belief that my little green Kenmore will be around and still sewing well long after I’m gone. The mid-century and earlier machines built in the U.S. and Japan were engineered to last for generations. You will not find plastic inside them anywhere. Even though my Dreamweaver is a magnificent sewing machine, it will eventually be recycling fodder, whereas the Kenmore will “keep on ticking” (to coin a phrase – not!) If maintained, my great-granddaughter will be able to use it and she’s not 3 years old yet.
    I’m not the only one who recognizes value of these old mechanical machines. Restored Singer Featherweights are prized and command high prices. Vintage models of Kenmore, Janome, Brother, Singer, Bernina, Elna, Necchi, Riccar, and Viking are often snapped up when offered for sale because they sew beautifully, are dependable and easy to maintain.
    Visit http://www.StagecoachRoadSewing.com and see their inventory of restorations. Their machines have price tags WAY above the original price and they sell like proverbial hotcakes once they’re listed for sale because buyers know the quality and functionality.

    I am a retiree and a sewing/quilting addict. If I had the money, and a place to display them, I’d buy lots of these vintage machines just because I think they’re beautiful and I enjoy looking at them.

  6. Karen says:

    I own a top line Paff Creative Icon and yes there is a difference. I sew wedding dresses so I go from sewing many layers of heavy fabrics to very thin and slippery. This machine goes back and forth with no problems. Buy what will do what you need and you can afford.

  7. Susan Mazzanti says:

    I have a Singer I bought in 1957 and a Brother CE 1008. Both are considered low end machines. I demonstrated machines for Sears when computerised machines were just coming out so I’ve sewn with a lot of machines. The old Singer still does a much nicer top stitch and does not refuse to him jeans. I’ve tried a few very low end machines that were not worth what they cost but most machines sew well enough. I clean and oil the Singer so it’s been in the shop once because it sat up for a long time. It still runs and sews like it always did. The Brother will probably not do that but it sews most things very well.

  8. Tanya says:

    Interesting article. My Mom has a Singer sewing machine that she purchased for ~$600 in 1984. It has 24 different stitches and adjustments for both stitch width and length. I suspect it was a mid-range machine at the time. I have a Brother LS-2125 that was purchased for $125 in 2010. It’s a beginner’s machine with 10 fixed stitches (no adjustment for stitch width or length). I’ve used both machines for a variety of projects and have noticed a some interesting things. The Singer is twice as heavy and much noisier than the Brother. For most common household uses (hemming, mending etc of canvas duck and lighter fabrics) they perform the same. With more difficult tasks like sewing through layers of Cordura, and sewing slippery silnylon (I was sewing backpacking gear), the Singer performs much better. Sometimes my Brother struggled to penetrate Cordura and it definitely struggled to maintain even stitches and hold a steady tension with the Silnylon. I wasted a lot time ripping stitches and resewing my Silnylon tent because my Brother would sew perfectly fine for a few feet and then the bottom thread would loose tension. The top thread always maintained the correct tension so unless I checked the underside every few inches, I didn’t know when the problem occurred. My Mom suggested I borrow her Singer to finish these projects. The Singer always sewed with straight even stitches, even with these more challenging fabrics.
    My experiences suggests, that for most applications, the differences in machines may not impact the overall sewing experience or quality of the finished product. With technical fabrics and thicker layers the differences are striking. I am hoping to inherit my Mom’s Singer both for it’s abilities to handle technical fabrics with ease and it’s decorative stitches.

  9. Sew Private says:

    Loved your review about inexpensive machines. I have 6 and 3 are Brother machines (1 expensive, 1 mid-price and 1 the CS6000i). Brother always gives you more bang for your buck. When I recommend a sewing machine to my friends/students I always tell them to get the best machine they can buy so that later on they aren’t sorry that they should have spent a few dollars more for what they should have gotten! The things that I tell them to look for are: that it’s computerized, has a needle threader, a speed control, an up-down needle button, automatic one-step buttonhole and a hard cover case. These are the most important things to make your sewing easier. You’re only as good as the tools you use. If you have the right sewing machine it makes sewing pleasant and easier to obtain a professional looking garment/project.

  10. Pam Straub says:

    I went from a $100 machine to a $1500 machine. No more jamming of the bobbin, shredding of the thread, and more power to run the machine through heavy fabrics without having to stop and turn the hand wheel to get through the tough spots. While my $100 machine made the most beautiful satin stitch ever, I still love the smooth stitching of a more expensive model. Clunky sewing and snarls made me not want to sew. While you might be paying for extras you might never use, you are also paying for ease of use. That’s worth it in my book.

  11. Colleen says:

    For years, I sewed on an entry level Kenmore. It was ok, but the stitching line had a little wobble, the buttonholes were not nice, and it was noisy. I decided to upgrade when I was making a shirt out of a tightly woven twill, and it didn’t have the jam to sew through. I bought a Bernina, and Wow! What a difference! The stitches were perfectly straight, the machine was quiet, the buttonholes were professional, and it easily sewed through 4 laters of the twill. I can buy feet to do different things (eg topstitch) that make my sewn items look professional.

    I say that if you are serious about sewing, and can afford it, buy a high end machine. My husband encouraged me to buy the Bernina, as he buys high quality tools for his shop, and knows the difference.

  12. Judy says:

    Good quality tools are important, only if you learn how to use them. If you don’t learn how to use your machine, and all the tools provided, it is not going to give you pleasure. It is not the tool…it is the person using the tool that brings success.

    • Vlierbloesem says:

      To be honoust, while some machines make many things easier, other machines can make the sewing experience miserable. Problems are usualy due to a defect or worn down parts in te machine.

      When you can service your own machine, clean and (for the older ones) oil regularly, you will not have a problem. Most machines will perform OK with a handy sewist. You have to be willing to read the manual and learn a bit.

      I will never again spend a lot on a new sewing machine, as long as the wellknown brands are unwilling to provide service after only a few years. They do not want the owner to use even expensive machines for long. After 20 years Brother does not want to deliver spareparts in Europe. Brother even forbids US sellers to deliver parts to Europe. About other brands I have heard the same.

      Even a dream machine will become a nightmare due to that attitude.

  13. Lois says:

    Well, I’ve been sewing for 70 years, started out on my mother’s Singer treadle machine, which was later fitted with an electric motor. Wow! Amazing technology!

    I’ve owned several machines over the years and finally gritted my teeth and bought a computerized Pfaff about 7 years ago. I test drove every available sewing machine in my area before making my decision. Since I’m a fibre artist, I could be sewing with whisper thin silk one day or several layers of denim and canvas the next. So I needed a very versatile machine.

    Having taught fibre arts for years, it comes down to the skill and needs of the student. A basic machine is just fine for a beginner, when they acquire more skill, they may want to upgrade a bit. I have seen far too many students whose husbands have enthusiastically bought them a top of the line machine, only to have them stop sewing completely because they were overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles and gadgets that they had no idea how to use. Nor did they need such a bewildering array. Buying a Rolls Royce is not going to make you a better driver.

    Keep it simple, most people will only need the basic stitches. I have never used the hundred or so embroidery stitches on my machine, and most basic sewists never do need them. My favourite workhorse is my 50 year old mechanical Bernina which will sew beautifully through anything that I can get under the pressure foot. And since it is not computerized, if anything goes wrong, all I need is a screwdriver or a couple of drops of oil.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thank you for your comment backed by experience both as an artist and a teacher. I hope many read your comment. Would love to see your work do you have a website, Instagram or FB where I can see your art. I love fiber art. I wonder if you would let me feature your work in SSE? Kind Regards,

      • Lois says:

        Thank you for the kind words! Being an ancient relic, I don’t do social media. That gives me more time for stitching. Lol

        If there is a way we can communicate privately, I would love to show you a few samples of my work.

        Regards

    • Suzanne says:

      I’m with you! The newest computerized machines are fabulous and have their uses. But so do the vintage models. Like you, I have a very modern machine and a 50 year-old workhorse, a Kenmore 158, which sews extremely well and is powerful too. I love them both.

  14. Viv Christianson says:

    I started my independent adult sewing life (1971) with an Elna Lotus for dressmaking. This I could then do without sewing a stitch by hand. After 20 years I swopped it for a newer Elna (dressmaker) which I still use. I also have a Pfaff 2056 (now 13 years old) which I bought for patchworking. I’ve just bought a second hand Elna 7100 (wide throat, semi-industrial, mechanical machine) for piecing and quilting. I also have a simple Elna overlocker. My philosophy has been – buy the machine that does what you want it to do, buy the best machine you can afford, and treat it with respect and care (i.e.get it serviced regularly).

  15. Peggy says:

    I just recently bought a Brother machine just for the fancy stitches and etc., basically play with. I have much older machines that are my go to machines; one of which is a 35 year old Elna that I spent LOTS on back then. I really like them. The Brother is louder, but sews well. My complain is it wants to strain or complain at 4 layers of cotton material. Nothing too heavy. It worries me that it won’t be up for a long haul. How can I sell a machine to my customers at a fabric store if I’m not totally comfortable?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      A dilemma, you are caught between having to make money to pay for overhead and selling a good product. I think discloser is your best policy if I was a buyer and you are open with your information I would respect you and continue buying from you because of your honesty. I leave in a country (temporarily) with a low trust society and most research extensively before buying any piece of equipment because I can not trust what people tell me, it is exhausting and often rather buy online.

  16. My mother gave me her all metal Elna from the 1960’s. Very heavy machine. I didn’t used to sew a lot until recently so used it for making easier things like cloth napkins or cafe curtains with buttonholes. It developed a tension issue and has been serviced several times. It will run ok for 1 – 2 seams, then it has to go back to the shop for the same tension problem I’ve been having with it for two decades. It’s now ornamental only.

    About 7 years ago I learned the joys of hand sewing. Love the control it gives on items! However, my arthritis decided it wasn’t such a joy. So, I did a lot of research and settled on the Brother s6000i.

    LOVE this machine! It can do anything I need it to do and I can still revert to hand sewing what it can’t (like leather tabs).

    Buttonholes are a breeze! Completely unlike the Elna. Different stitches are just a button push away (the Elna used discs to give you different stitches) It came with multiple feet I didn’t even know existed let alone knew how to use. It powered through upholstery fabric when I redid my rocking chair. Straight stitches and I’ve even done quilt work in it (I do wish it had a larger harp area and more built in lights in that area to let my old eyes see my work better…)

    Regardless…I feel quality sewing tools can definitely enable better sewing. I worn out machine, that keeps giving you thread nests, will severely hamper your mood, your production, and your motivation. And iron that keeps leaking water that stains your fabric will do the same thing. Needles past their prime…scissors that aren’t sharp…etc., yes, they will all hamper you.

    If you buy a quality product, that lasts longer, you don’t have that “fear” that it won’t work – you know it will be there for you when you need it. However, that being said, some “lesser quality” items will be just fine unless you are a professional sewist (I actually don’t like that word “sewer” because, if seen out of context, you don’t know if you are talking about sewer pipes or being a sewer of fabric. lol)

  17. Denise S says:

    I sew on a budget so I am looking for the best value returned on my sewing machine. I choose Brother. Nothing fancy, but it is reliable and well priced. Also you can add a laser to any sewing machine for approx $20

    • Vlierbloesem says:

      Interesting! Telle me more about the laser?

      • Vlierbloesem says:

        I just ordered a laserlight that can be fitted to any sewing machine. I am not yet sure how handy the use of the guiding light will be, but it costs only €15.- and can be used with any of my machines.

        Thanks for the tip, Denise.

  18. Joanne Everett says:

    I enjoyed your article and totally agree about the cost of the sewing machine, I have had many sewing machines over the years and right now I think I have exactly the right combo. I have had a Brother Nouvelle 1500s for 5 or 6 years, it simply is a straight stitch machine but sews through many layers or types of fabrics with ease. My favorite feature is the knee lift so when I was wanting to replace my second machine that is what I was looking for, but I decided to go with a Singer Quantum, no knee lift. Well that machine could do all sorts of fancy stitches, which I wouldn’t use and I never really settled down to it for a few reasons so within 4 months I am looking for another machine and luckily found a used Brother Innov-is NX450q complete with knee lift and a few extras, love this machine. It is easy to thread, stitch quality is consistent but the knee lift what a dream especially for quilting. I have a Juki serger which is a great little machine but surprisingly no thread cutter, not a big deal but would have been nice. Also in the line up is Janome Cover-pro which I rarely use and when I do it seems to be a challenge so I think it will be up for sale soon, hmm guess I can buy more fabric then. My conclusion is expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better so look for a machine that gives you the features you want, knee lift is my #1 feature and a great needle threader, Brother seems to deliver for me anyway.

  19. sarah battyll says:

    Hiya,
    I upgraded from a second hand old pale green bernina that I had from school and totally loved but it was very basic. In my early twenties I upgraded to a Janome computerised!! Lots of stitches, wonderful button hole foot (just attach the button, the machine does the rest) etc and then in my late thirties my generous husband brought me the latest Janome computerised, more money etc but still I liked the few new goodies you got. Has these upgrades made a huge difference ? Basically very little difference, my skill has increased through years of making Stuff! not by quality of machine. Yes it’s nice to have a quite machine with a very responsive foot pedal etc and some of the fancy stitches you may use.
    Now… in my late 40’s ive recently purchase a topstitch & coverstitch machine – wow how different world opened up. In my early twenties I received a Janome MyLock which totally transformed the finishing and speed of my sewing. The new topstitch/coverstitch machine is now adding to this. And last weekend I brought a second hand Brother Innovis 750e Embroidery machine that is utterly wonderful. Internal patterns are bit dull so i’m using the design program PE Design 10 which you can buy from ebay for £5.99 instead of £999 from Brother! works like a treat and now i’m spending every waking minute embroidering everything in sight.
    In conclusion: basic cheap (working) machine is fine, get a basic overlocker – a definite and everything else is just ornamental (but huge fun :D)

  20. Lillian Kay Freschly says:

    If applications one plans to see are thick, multi layers, when shopping for a sewing machine, either measure the height of the space between the plate and fully raised foot if your current machine is sufficient to sew such thickness, or take a sample along with you such as jean hem edge at thickest spit, or mock up of a quilt with binding layer at a corner to try fitting between the plate and bottom of the raised foot. Last time I machine shopped I found many even expensive ones that did not raise high enough for such thick layers to fit into the open space.

  21. Rehbeckchen says:

    Hello,
    Thanks for your article and thoughts.
    I sew on a Singer Symphonie 2250 (€90 at Aldi) and a Singer Patchwork 7285q (€169 at Globus, another discounter). At my sewing class I get to use a Pfaff (a muuuch older version than the select 3.2) – and I must say there are differences…
    The patchwork is a diva and if it weren’t for the decorative and stretch stitches, I would have given her away already… The much older Symphony has the most perfect straight stitch (she doesn’t have much else hahaha) and is really reliable, but when it comes to zigzagging the edges oldstyle, without a server, nothing beats the Pfaff – even though it is “abused” daily by high school students that we share the machines with.
    I wouldn’t and couldn’t spend 10000$ on a machine, but there are definitely differences, I think.

  22. Vlierbloesem says:

    I learned to sew on my great-grandmom’s old Singer machine. Expensive at the time, at 100 Dutch silver florins. It is still working fine.

    My mom later bought a cheap electric machine. It was a drag.

    My own first sewing machine was an all metal fantasy brand, made by Brother. At 500 silver Dutch silver florins it was the most expensive and best I could afford. Maintenance is a breeze. It is so easy to take of the outer parts, for cleaning and oiling. That was about 5 years ago and is is still working, though I have used some repairparts from I recently bought secondhand twin that has cost me 20 Euro. There is no way to obtain parts for this machine otherwise. Now and before no sewingmachine shop wanted to service this machine, since it is a fantasy brand. But I can do it all myself.

    A newer ‘computerized’ machine was gifted to me. It is the expensive Brother Pacesetter PC8500. Only about 20 years old, but a tiny litle part is worn out and Brother Europe says the machine is to old for servicing. They do not deliver parts anymore.

    I will not buy an expensive new machine, for it is not an investment.Just throwing money out the window. The wellknown brands think it is O.K. to let the customers pay a lot and refuse service after a couple of years.

    For automatic buttonhole and many automatic stitches, I recently bought a Singer 6180. Definately a low end machine, but with the modern features that I missed in the old machine. I know plastic does not last as long as metal. It is not designed for easy repairs. Difficult to get inside and the plastic will not survive taking apart often. But it will do for now.

    This Singer was bought at Lidl for only €100.- and it came with a flow. The factory setting was wrong: the needle was set to low. But with adjusting a screw that was repaired. Now it works well. This machine is made in Vietnam. Spareparts can be ordered in China for cheap. I expect that service will not last long, so I have ordered some parts in advance.

    I know there are nicer machines, but in the absence of good service, for how long will they function well?

    I think it is not wise to buy expensive machines from an industrie that does not maintain service.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I think you are so right, service seems to be the problem everywhere you look.

      • Vlierbloesem says:

        To correct a stupid typo in my text:

        The all-metal fantasy brand machine was not bought 5 years ago, but 50 years. So, it is a vintage machine. Actually, it is the Vendomatic B785 that is the same as Brother Pacesetter XL.

      • Nancy Stockman says:

        I’m l
        ate to the dance but just found this. As a kid I sewed on my Mom’s White–great machine. My Dad bought me a Kenmore for HS graduation in 1968…a nightmare to use b/c the tension was never right! I think even name brand machines can fail the test. I’m currently totally disgusted with my Bernina 350 PE b/c there is no presser foot pressure adjustment and the factory settings are too tight…so fabric feeds unevenly. I’m trading it in on an Eversewn….almost half the price but all the bells and whistles I can no longer life without. So…time will tell. A good friend just bought a Singer from Walmart and has had nothing but headaches with it

        • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

          WOW, it is a shame you are hating your Bernina 350 I have the same and I love mine. Before I get a Singer I would get a Janome.

  23. Barbara Funk says:

    I learned to sew on my mom’s old singer. It would zig zag and straight stitch and that’s it. when I got to Jr high, they had machines that went so fast! LOL. After being without a machine for 20 years, I bought a cheapo Brother from Walmart, a more frustrating experience I can’t remember It couldn’t hold tension, stitch length was uneven, what a piece of junk. I hardly sewed, hated it. When My mother-in-law passed, I inherited several machines, mostly to old and complicated to bother with, and her wonderful school model Singer (she taught Home-ec!) I love to sew, now, this machine is such a pleasure. My skills have improved enough, I’m considering a new machine with more bells and whistles, but I know I’ll keep this old girl set up for basics, can’t go wrong with her.

    • Nicci says:

      Hi just reading the comments of so many fellow sewers is great . Thought this art was in decline but reading this is truly inspiring . Like so many of you I learnt to love sewing on my grandmothers treadle singer machine ( she sewed I treadles) I picked up so much from her , she used to be a seamstress and designer back in the 1920’s so old techniques were passed on , I love to sew and have taught both of my sons aswell , proudly they can make and repair all sorts of items and make things from scratch ,(even without a patten so grants memory lives on . Anyway last year I went shopping for threads and found a great bargain sewing machine for £85 thought maybe it would be a second machine to my older Toyota model but I have now completed several large projects like massive curtains and ballgown son this amazing little machine (love it to pieces) it’s a black plastic casing from great British sewing bee and does basic stitches . They say a good workman never blames there tools so I’m in agreement that it s not what you have its how you use it 😄👍

  24. Roch says:

    Passing this on from a seamstress who literally puts miles or kilometers on her machine: she uses a good basic machine. When it wears out, she just replaces it with another $100+ machine. She will buy several when they are on sale. Not worth the hassle doing otherwise.

  25. Jo Ann Anthony says:

    At this time i am 64 years old so I have had some experiences with machines. I started out with push pedaling my grandmother’s old singer i did the pushing and she did the sewing. Once she realized how keen i was on sewing. She taught me on the other old singer with a knee bar. my feet would have never reached the pedals. And i must say, I sewed my fingers then and i have never broken that habit. Then as time went on, we moved to portables. The first one, I don’t know what it was, was wonderful, but i kinda missed the table singer with the push bar. The top of this one (it was bought in the early 60’s) had light blue “textured cover”. It really screamed 60’s. The sewing machines in school where singer’s and another brand, White maybe. I can’t remember.

    When I started buying my own machines, i bought a singer, and i was really disappointed and gave it away, then I got a kenmore, and another and another. My oldest still has my last one.

    Then I went big and got a MC Janome. I forget the number. After a few years the step motor went on it and I gave it to my second daughter. She still hasn’t fixed it. We have to have a talk about that. And I bought a MC5700. I had also realized by that time that janome made kenmore and Elna. The Kenmore and Elna didn’t quite match to the memory craft 5700 so I stayed with Janome. But today i want to try and order a brother CS6000i to take camping with me and my horse. All in all mistakes are usually driver error, but don’t get me wrong, there are crappy machines out there. But before getting rid of it…service it and keep it cleaned and oiled especially the mechanical ones. Oh. I have a mechanical school Janome too.

    gee, certainly talked to much.

  26. Michelle C Faustermann says:

    I have a cheap brother also and it is well over 10 years old. I love it. There’s nothing I can’t do with it. I make bags, clothes, stuffed animals, you name it.

  27. MJ says:

    Buy the best machine (metal parts) you can afford and it pays off. My experience shows to buy the best machine with metal insides is the way to go. 30 years ago and just out of school and on a low budget, I bought a Singer for me and one for my mom as a gift to replace her worn out old Singer. Total garbage, would not hold tension at all pretty quickly. Learned the hard way – plastic insides!! I bought a little better Singer as a gift for my mom and it was garbage also. Total waste of money! Learned my lesson and about 27 years ago, I saved up to buy a computerized Bernina – heavy as can be a perfect machine all of these years. Almost no maintenance and cleaning and it runs like new. The last time I got it serviced, the guy told me I could sell it anytime for big money. So it has cost me very little per year and per project.

    When I give advice or gifts now for machines, the best deal is the Baby Lock BL9. Excellent beginner machine or extra machine at a low price. I have bought and recommended many.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I too have a Bernina, an over locker that is a trusting as a labrador! But, I most say nothing equals experience when it comes to machinery. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

      • MJ says:

        Like Deby says in this post, she does well with her machine, and I am so happy for her! But no amount of sewing experience (or money) can overcome a machine that does not work well or cannot hold tension and adjustment. And it is just no fun! The repair costs can exceed the cost of a new machine, and beginners are likely to quit.

    • cheryl says:

      I agree I also 30 years ago bought a brenina computorised sewing machine and to this day I have had four different machines in my life time and the brenina is by far the best ever and it still runs perfect with no defects and matnence once every five to ten years. My new dream machine is 3years old and needs to go in for a fix on the threader wow what a sad thing it was tripple the price and I use this machine daily as i have with my brenina this one will not last 30+ years but someone will get my Brenina when I die I am sure it will still run for them all metal and the computer still works like a charm. I love to sew everything from Quilts to clothing, home furnishings bags just about anything and I also Embroider whic is why I bought the Brother sorry now should have bought the Brenina, oh well live and learn.

  28. Alex says:

    I think there is definitely a difference in quality between cheap and expensive machines. I have a metal 1974 Elna which I bought second hand 20 years ago for (then) about US$175. I have had mine serviced maybe two or three times and it is still going and doing well for “normal” use (clothing, lights bags and totes including denim and supple leather). My daughter had a cheap plastic one which did not even last three years with light use! But there are limitations to my machine. It has only four different feet and no automatic button hole maker (I avoid button holes like the plague), and it has no adjustable foot pressure. I like the really expensive modern machines that do embroidery 🙂 If I bought another one I would probably still prefer a “better” machine second hand than a new machine for the same price, but I would make sure it came from a reputable dealer with some sort of warranty and back-up support. I agree that to cope with heavy leather and furnishings you probably need to spend six to ten times what you would spend on a mid-level machine, or buy a dedicated second hand industrial machine.

  29. Jane says:

    Budget or higher quality – it all depends on what you want to sew and what you really can afford.

    The thing is:
    Budget machines don’t have a motor as strong as the higher quality machines and most of the time the feed is just “not the same”. (I try to keep the terms here simple…)

    If you sew “basic” things, mend a few garements, maybe home decoration or even a bag or purse (when you do not mind using the handwheel as soon as you have to tackle more than 6 layers of normal “quilt weight” fabric) – a machine for 150 to 200$ will do the job.

    But: once it comes to high precision work, like intricate piecing where 1/64″ matters, or, lets say, sewing leather purses and bags, sewing the most delicate fabrics like thin silk and so on, a budget machine will not really be able to give you any satisfying result at all.
    In fact: Try sewing 4 layers of leather with a budget machine and most likely they will even break – without the option of having it fixed because fixing would cost more than the machine is still worth.

    Now, where does “budget” end and where does “pricey” start?
    Well, if you say that your budget ist 500$, then I usually tell my students to either look for a used but serviced machine that once cost around 900$ or just keep saving and choose another 150$ machine for the time being. You can’t really get high quality for 500$. It is still the “budget” segment in sewing machines. (Janome has a few machines for a bit less than 800$ that do a pretty good job on thin leather and silk though…)

    If you are really shooting for high quality, you need to save up to 1500$ to 2000$ to get you something that will last you for 15 to 20 years (when you get the machine serviced regularly and take good care of it).

    I am a Bernina girl these days, since Pfaff just isn’t what it used to be any longer.
    My trusty Bernina aurora 440 has gone many ways with me – though the most delicate fabrics like thin silk, loads of jeans that I have sewn for my twins up to mending my leather pants that I used to wear riding my motorcycle.
    Surprisingly, you were showing the “mostly metal” interior of exactly this machine in your post. There is no way for the little mechanics to shift and move within that solid metal frame. The machine sits on the table like a rock and just does its job.

    In my classes, I have had loads of students having trouble with their “discount” machines, especially when it comes to “heavy duty” seams when we are sewing bags. The nice ones among them, who blame themselves first before blaming the fabric, the thread or even the machine, usually get the chance to give the same seam a shot on my machine – which usually teaches them the lesson that their machine just isn’t made for making bags.
    “You wouldn’t ask a skinny 7 year old kid to lift 200 lbs in the gym, right?” – “Yeah!” – “So don’t ask your sewing machine without a proper feed and without a strong motor to do hard work like that!”
    It happened quite often that the same ladies came back with a new, pricey machine for their next class with me 🙂 So there must be something about it.

    If, however someone is completely new to sewing and has never had a sewing machine, I usually recommend that they go asking around family and friends if someone has an old sewing machine that is no longer in use.
    Most of the time, there will be an old lady with a good old “boat anchor” from the 60s or 70s that is still a great machine – which you mostly get for nothing… clean it, oil it. search for the user manual online and have ablast with a sewing machine that will tackle most beginner sewing up to intermediate sewing, and no fuzz with purses or thick fabrics.
    Not to mention that it gives time to save money for a fancy sewing machine (although: once you are in love with a good vintage machine, you will probably stick to it… they are easy to maintain and easy to repair IF something is broken… mostly it will just be a belt or some rubber rings that did not survive half a century…)

    All in all I agree with your post: 150$ or 500$ – it makes no difference.

    Differences start at 1500$ for new machines.

    A trusty Singer “boat anchor” from the 70s is worth more than any new plastic sewing machine that you can buy for up to 750$ these days.

    • Carol Raabe says:

      Jane, your experience matches mine. when i was a kid (i’m 70 now) our budget was so tight we sewed with Kenmore and Montgomery Ward machines. At one point, Mom and i would switch machines depending on the weight of our fabric. Using those basic machines taught me a lot about sewing things that are now done automatically. A lot of those old macines are still around and would, imho, make better first machines than a basic new machine. After a few projects to get the feel of sewing, buying a more modern machine will feel less daunting. But research carefully. My favorite research technique is to read tons of reviews on the internet, skipping 5star reviews altogether, reading lots of 2’s and threes to what kinds of problems users have, and 4’s to see if users like the machine in spite of complaints in 2’s and 3’s and why. Also, if you can get an experienced sewer to try out a used machine with you, that would help.

  30. kathy Banfield says:

    I was just considering a new Brother sewing machine! For the last 25 years, I’ve been sewing with Pfaff machines, and I’m thoroughly disgusted. I recently paid over $200 to have my Hobby 1040 repaired, and now the feed dogs don’t work! UGH! My favorite machine of all time was my Viking 990. When I purchsed it, it was considered the top of the line, but price was no issue to me since I lived with my parents and had a great job as an RN.I wish I had kept that machine, but the motherboard was shot and I wanted a similar machine that had embroidery features.I couldn’t afford another Viking, but the Pfaff wasn’t cheap, either! On a brighter note, I’ve had no issues with my Pfaff Coverlock serger.I love that machine!

  31. Helen Tulip says:

    I was told that the motherboard in computerized machines do not last much more than 10 years, and replacing them is quite expensive. My 70 year old Featherweight is still going strong. Mind you, they were expensive machines in their day, but I would grudge the money unless I was convinced of the value, Helen

  32. Nikki R. says:

    The price one pays for a machine is not as important as the reliability of the manufacturer — the overall quality of the full line of the machines. I spent 20 years using an inexpensive Kenmore just fine, until the clutch gave out. That said, I now own a Janome Horizon MC 7700 — a rather more expensive machine than my old Kenmore, but much better suited to quilting — both the piecing and free motion quilting — than a lower end machine. I could have spent more for the same features from a different company, but Janome had the right price point with the reliability reputation I desired.

    Note that the model of Brother you use is indeed very popular, but other Brother models are not. Brother has a very uneven reliability reputation — some are great, some are disappointing. Sites like PatternReview provide good critical guidance in choosing a machine to suit one’s particular needs and budget.

    Just my opinion, of course.

  33. Heather says:

    I learned on old singers – one grandma had a 500 series Golden Touch & Sew and the other had a 403A. My first machine was a 70s Singer. I upgraded from that to a mechanical Viking & have since moved on to a new Viking Sapphire. I miss the no-nonsense workhorse nature of the mechanical Viking. It just needed TLC (generous lubrication) of the stitch selector – a known issue with that particular model. I love my sapphire, but I refuse to mend dirty horse blankets with it (a task that my mechanical Viking did willingly with the promise of a cleaning).

    I’ve since purchased machines similar to my grandmas’ machines for the nostalgia, but I intend to use them to teach my daughter on. I appreciate the fact that I have been able to service them myself while the Viking sapphire may be self-lubricating, but it isn’t owner-serviceable.

    Outside of special stitches and button holes, the differences between the modern and vintage machines is like the difference between driving a car with an automatic transmission and a stick shift – if your skills are lacking the more expensive machine isn’t going to help.

  34. Leni says:

    Hey Deby, I have got a Brother machine, too (the anniversary model) and I love sewing with it! It is my first machine I got from my mum when I started being interested in sewing 3 years ago and so far the only problems I had were due to my lacking skills=) The machine is about 220 ounds on amazon uk and I think it’s a great beginner’s machine! Cheers from Germany, LENI

  35. Eileen says:

    I’m having trouble here in the UK aactually getting my brother sewing machine serviced. There is a shop in the city but they hgave a 5 – 6 week turn around and will charge £90. My local machine repair man won’t touch Brother and doesn’t know of anyone that can service it for me. Now, I know that Deby is in the Caymans but do any of her fans living in the UK know of any Brother servicing agents that they can recommend? I’m aware that I will have to pay shipping costs etc but it’s got to be a better deal tha
    n the one I can get in York.

What do you think?