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

better sewing

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.  The 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.

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If 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 about 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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Nancy

I’ve read that seam rippers can be sharpened & someone using a vintage singer in their upholstery business on you tube. Just saying

Amy Saunders

I don’t think anyone can deny all the things you clarified about how a simple sewing machine is not a problem at all as long as it serves its functions perfectly. My neighbor is a part-time tailor who’s now dealing with multiple orders which must be completed by the end of this month. I’ll recommend this article to her so she can get her job done more efficiently.

Susan L.
Susan L.

By the way, Brother is the manufacturer of Babylock machines! Brother has been around a long time and manufacturers office equipment and industrial machines. I have the Brother PC420. It’s great and does everything I need. I also have a Brother embroidery machine. Thanks for the great article.

Mayra Cecilia
Admin
Noble Member
Reply to  Susan L.

You have great machines indeed!

K
K

Hello:

I enjoyed reading your article and all of the comments from fellow sewers.

I have one tip that I don’t think has been suggested yet: ask your local sewing machine repair and tune up persons for advice. They see such a wide variety of sewing machines and sewing machines from different eras, too. They know which machines are good and not so good & in every price range.

I’ve sewn on beginner sewing machines, mechanical sewing machines and electronic sewing machines. I taught myself to sew when my children were babies & I learned on a very basic machine that was a close out floor model machine, so it was a good deal, even though I did buy it from a sewing machine store.

I just wanted to point out that when sewing machines first became something that people could afford to have in their homes, if they so chose, the manufacturers were expecting that most people would make payments to pay for the sewing machine. So, the idea of needing to make payments to afford a good sewing machine isn’t a new idea, at all.

Those first mass market sewing machines were meant to last your lifetime & could well be something passed down for many generations. That’s amazing for any tool & so few tools of any kind can be expected to last an entire lifetime, and even beyond to the next generations. So, sewing machines are very unique in that regard.

I prefer not to buy cheap, new sewing machines. I don’t buy new, top of the line sewing machines, either. I am lucky enough to be part of a family with lots of people who sew in it, so hand me down sewing machines and advice on different machines is easy to get.

What is that middle ground, in which you save lots of money but still end up with a top of the line sewing machine?

From the comments, many use this method; buy vintage sewing machines! Too many people seem not to know what treasures they have right within their own families. If you want a sewing machine for a deal that is so hardworking that you can, with no qualms, expect the machine to last your lifetime, easily & could well be something another family member might be lucky enough to inherit from you & pass onto their own children, go vintage.

Vintage means many things to many people. To some, it’s having a treadle or hand crank sewing machine, to some it’s having a sewing machine produced in those generations in the post WW2 decades, from the 40s through to about the 70s. But, they can be found all over the place. In the US you can look to local thrift stores, ads in the newspaper, online shopping web sites and even can be found on large trash day, in some neighborhoods. In families that no longer sew, they sometimes just give sewing machines away, or even put them out as trash, not realizing how much money some of these older sewing machines sell for!

My other advice also involves speaking to sewing machine repair & tune up persons. Ask them what kind of threads and needles are best used in sewing machines & which are to be avoided. They see which needles break & end up in pieces down inside the works in sewing machines, which threads are super linty and will clog your machine, which are strong & will help your project last a long time w no broken thread. Those who tune up and repair sewing machines really are a fount of knowledge and expertise & most are happy to give advice, as they know they’ll be the ones cleaning, tuning up & fixing your sewing machine over the years & it is in their best interest to recommend the best threads, needles & machines to you, so they can have happy customers for years to come.

I was lucky enough to inherit an old, White brand sewing machine, from the 1970s from my mother-in-law, and then I was also lucky enough to buy a Bernina sewing machine, also from the 1970s, from a friend of mine who felt she was getting too old to sew. My sewing machine repair person is always tickled to see me bringing my sewing machines in for their annual tune up, cus his favorite machines to tune up are the vintage, all metal parts machines.

Just my 2 cents.
🙂

Mayra Cecilia
Admin
Noble Member
Reply to  K

If I could put a price on your knowledge and experience it would not be 2 cents far from it, thank you for taking the time to y comment: it is an honour to have your invaluable wisdom for free.

Samantha
Samantha

I have a Brother ST (strong and tough). I wouldn’t have anything else! I had a low end Brother for 15 years before the needle hammer broke, and borrowed a few to test out. In my experience, when sewing fast and on thick fabric the lightweight machines tend to rattle across the table whereas the steel or heavy framed ones can handle the impact. As a mom and multi-tasker I am often turning my machine off mid project for safety and the computer controls annoy the snot out of me with long startup times, returning to default settings, and changing my needle positions. I like manual adjustments because they stay put when I’m switching it off and on. Another thing I worry about is repair costs and maintenance; I only oil and wipe my machine, and was too scared of having to take it to a computer doctor to get a bug fixed on those modern screen ones. Living in a rural area means I’d have to ship out of state to get my machine to the closest service center.
I always say to get the machine that matches your sewing style, budget, and ability. I like to power through 40’ of hems on top speed, my mother likes to gingerly piece together quilts, she has a fancy laser model and I have an indestructible steel tank. We are both happy!

Diana Scanlan

I have been sewing for over 50 years. I also work in a sewing and vacuum business and have seen so many of the cheaper machines come in for service! All machines have plastic cases now, but the better models have a metal frame inside the case. All the mechanics are connected to it, and that helps stop vibration and prolongs parts.
It is also important to purchase your sewing machine from a dealer and not a “big box” store or online. Most dealers will offer “owner” lessons so you can get to know your machine; all machines do not function the same way. The price may be a little higher, but it is worth it to establish a relationship with your dealer.
My first sewing machine was a Kenmore (from Sears) and, although it only did straight stitch, zig zag, and a stretch stitch, I made all my clothes for work for 20 years. After that, I had a Husqvarna Viking and used it for 28 years and now I have a Pfaff sewing/embroidery machine I absolutely love!

Mayra Cecilia
Admin
Noble Member
Reply to  Diana Scanlan

All the ones you have are great machines! Congratulations!

Kevin
Kevin

There is a huge difference between a $200 machine and a $500 machine, and I think the fact that your cheap brother is extremely similar to the babylock says more about babylock than it does about expensive sewing machines in comparison to more affordable ones.