People ask me all the time for sewing machine recommendations.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight; I am a dedicated Bernina girl. I realize not everyone is, and I understand that. But I believe they are the best machine on the market, and I have been sewing on one Bernina or another for almost 40 years. (I still own the machine my parents bought for my college graduation present 38 years ago!) They are also far from the cheapest brand you can buy. I don’t much care. I don’t like sewing with cheap machines; I don’t like sewing with cheap fabric, and I don’t like using cheap tools. Picky, I know, but that’s how I feel. You asked, right?
Sewing machines are complicated pieces of equipment. If you expect good engineering, you are going to have to pay for it. Good engineering prevents tension problems, thread jams, bobbin-winding snafus, and much more. What kind of car do you drive? Uh huh. I thought so. You like the road performance of German engineering, right? Same principle applies to buying a sewing machine.
I also think it makes better economic sense to purchase a better quality machine – one that holds its resale value. I regularly see Bernina 830 Record sewing machines (manufactured between 1971 – 1981) selling for $500-$700, depending on condition and accessories. In 1975 the retail price was about $750. Take that, Brother.
Let’s talk about your time. It’s probably limited, like most people’s these days. If you want to spend the free time you have available for sewing fiddling with a cheap bobbin mechanism trying to get a decent stitch out of a $100 Singer, be my guest. I would rather actually sew.
And then there is the pleasure factor. I would wager that if you spend all your sewing time fighting a machine, you are not likely to think highly of the art and the unbounded enjoyment sewing can provide. Me? I can barely tolerate putting gas in a car! Shouldn’t you should just be able to buy the damn thing and have it run forever?
OK, now that you have read all my biases about Bernina and snarky comments about cheaply manufactured plastic machines, what sewing machine should you actually buy?
- Find a good dealer. If you are asking me for recommendations you probably aren’t knowledgeable enough to buy a machine on eBay. Do yourself a favor and get a dealer you can trust. You already know my opinion on that too.
- Buy the best machine you can afford. That doesn’t mean the one with the most decorative stitches; it means the one with the best engineering.
- Try to think about what you sew today, and then take a look into the crystal ball of your sewing journey and project a few years down the road. When I bought my latest Bernina this spring I bypassed the embroidery software option. If I have not embraced machine embroidery in 48+ years of sewing, it’s probably not gonna happen.
- Consider buying a used machine (from a reputable dealer). Well-built sewing machines do not really wear out, but people do “trade up” for machines with more features. This can be a really good way to get a great machine at a discounted price.
- It’s hard for me to say much about brands other than Berninas, but a Singer would definitely be a very poor purchase choice IMHO. Every one that has come thru my studio has been
a complete dogsub-optimal. In general, Brother machines are decent if you plan on sewing medium weight cottons, linens and knits. Some (all?) of them are a little balky when sewing heavy denim or home dec fabrics. I have not sewn on any Janome machines, but I do have a few ASG friends who like them as a light-weight, portable machine for simple sewing tasks.
- Just find a reputable dealer and test-drive as many machines as you can. The things that are important to me may not matter to you at all.
Happy sewing machine shopping!