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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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