*** Updated 11/15/2017
The short answer: the best one you can afford to buy. Good engineering costs money, plain and simple. If you really want to learn how to sew, you are going to need to invest in a piece of equipment that will make your new hobby enjoyable rather than an exercise in frustration. If you buy a machine for less than $100 don’t complain about it to me. I warned you. Also, buying a sewing machine is like buying a car – it’s personal. I like touch screens and push buttons and hate rollerballs and dial-a-stitch controls, while you might prefer them.
First, let’s talk about some things that make my top
10 7 essential features list for a sewing machine:
- Needle up/down control. This is a button that causes your needle to always stop in the “up” or “down” position when you stop pressing on the foot pedal.
- Needle position control. If there is one thing I really despise in a sewing machine, it is a couple of stitch selections with preset needle positions (left, center, or right) rather than the ability to move the needle to 5, 7 or 9 different needle positions during sewing.
- Automatic buttonhole. One that looks decent, please.
- Stitch length adjustment. Another “feature” that makes me scream is a bunch of pre-set stitch lengths. Let me control my own stitch length, puh-leeze.
- Stitch width adjustment. Read #4. Ditto.
- A motor that is strong enough to stitch through at least 4 layers of heavy denim. I like to make jeans, after all.
- Loads of accessory presser feet.
OK, now we can talk about sewing machine manufacturers. Bernina. I like Berninas. I think Berninas are best. I have owned Berninas for almost 40 years. Couldn’t be happier. So that’s my BEST advice. But if you don’t want to spend upwards of $1000 for a sewing machine, here are a couple of other options that might take you a long ways on your sewing journey.
- Pfaff and Viking are also premium brands, and there are loads if my friends in ASG who happily own these machines.
- Janome. I LOVE Janome, and I think they are the best engineered “lesser cost” machines. Full disclosure, I do own 5 of the now-discontinued Janome DC 2014 model. All of my beginning students sew on these machines, and love their ease-of-use and simplicity. Since I purchased these machines, Janome has discontinued this product line, which is too bad because it was a machine at the just-under-$500 price range that I think was a great value.
- Brother is the brand I most often see kids bring into my sewing studio. I am not in love with Brother machines. At all. They are not nearly heavy-duty enough for my needs, BUT if you are willing to spend at least a few hundred bucks, and preferably $300-$400, you can get something serviceable. ***UPDATE 1/21*** One of my most awesome sewing-student-moms informed me that you MUST ask your Brother dealer whether the model you are looking at has internal METAL moving parts. Thank you, HeathC. 😉 Metal moving parts = better engineering = less likely to fail/cause stitch problems = happier sewing student = happier sewing instructor. One quick test for metal – pick up the machine. Metal machines are heavier. Duh.
- I am least familiar with Babylock sewing machines, but they make a damn fine serger and coverstitch machine.
- Singer. Generally I don’t allow Singers to fraternize with my Berninas.
- Toy machines for kids. My comment on those machines cannot be published.
Where should you purchase a sewing machine?
- For gawd’s sake do not order a machine on the inter-net. Would you order a car you had never driven from an online source?
- Find a great dealer and test drive LOTS of different models. And manufacturers.
- Be sure to also test used machines. People trade up for new features, so it is easy to find good quality, used machines from reputable dealers that have been completely serviced.
- Craig’s list. NOT! Unless you are really familiar with sewing machine functionality (which you aren’t because you are reading this), you don’t know enough to buy a used machine from someone on Craig’s list.
Oh wait. You want to know SPECIFICALLY what machine to buy? And where? If you live in the greater Seattle area…..
- Pick something in the 3xx series or higher from Sewing Machine Service, also known as Bernina of Renton. Notice in the lower right corner they were just awarded Dealer of the Year for the western district a couple of years back. Those are MY guys.
- I have heard mixed results about Quality Sew and Vac dealers, but I think they might be the only option in our area for Brother and Janome. Go in and try out a few different models, and definitely have them sew through 4 layers of heavy denim. Pretty much any motor can sew through quilting cotton. Try to avoid the Project Runway/Hello Kitty/ or any other co-branded machines. You are paying something for that licensing, and it is not reflected in better engineering.
- There is a Viking dealership in Renton, so you could check out Viking and Janome there. No inside info on their customer service tho, sorry.
Good luck, and happy sewing!