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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. sarah battyll says:

    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)

  3. 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.

  4. Rehbeckchen says:

    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.

What do you think?