Help, Sewing Machine

Updated on April 17, 2011
K.K. asks from San Diego, CA
17 answers

Hi ladies, when buying a sewing machine what shall i look for? I'm new to this, i don't know how to but i am willing to learn. I want to purchase one, play with it a little on my own..and eventually take a class. But there are so many out there i don't know what's a good brand, what to look for. Is there such machine for "beginners" or starters. Help. thank you.

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answers from Seattle on

If you are just starting, and don't know whether sewing is for you, I would say go inexpensive. I had an old Singer (maybe 30 years old) for years that could only sew straight and zigzag - no frills. That was fine for hemming pants, small mending jobs and the occasional simple project. When I was going to replace it, the new models just looked so cheap and flimsy that I took a leap of faith and got a Brother.
I am not a seamstress, I use it for small projects - I usually get fabric remnants and make toys or simple clothes for my daughter and hem my pants. I stayed in the $100 range for the machine (got a great deal on Amazon) and could not be happier. It has a lot more frills: attachments, stitch patterns etc.-I have had it for 2 years, use it a lot more than my old machine and have had no issues whatsoever with it.
It probably wont sew through 5 layers of denim... but I probably would never have a need for that anyways.

Bottom line: it depends on what you want it for. If you are planning to get into making more advanced garments or quilting, spend a bit more, if you're like me and just do the occasional little sundress or hem, a less expensive machine will be fine.
BTW mine is a Brother XL 2600 i, I paid $80 for it when it was on sale at Amazon.

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answers from Kansas City on

I got a Brother as a present when I graduated college and it has worked really well for me. It does everything I need it to, and in 6 years has never broken down, and before Halloween and Ren Fest time, it gets plenty of use.

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answers from El Paso on

Singer all the way!!! they last forever (my mom has had hers for at least 30 years) with minimal maintenance (pretty much just a little oiling here and there that you do on your own!)

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answers from San Francisco on

PLEASE go to a reputable sewing center, if there are more than one in your area go! Gather info first. In our area the one closest to me will oversell and are kind of snobby. There's one 40 minutes away that is AWESOME! (Rays Sewing Center in San Jose for anyone interested) Unfortunately what happens here is people get so turned off at the first place they just go to Walmart and get the cheapest machine. It is REALLY hard for someone learning to sew on this machine! It gets out of timing very easily and there is NO controling the speed at all in my experience. You can find a lot of good info and reviews on machines at Also, I didn't mention the Brand at Walmart because the same company does make good machines.

So! You do want a basic machine, but DON'T get the bottom of the line cheapo, you'll regret it. Kind of my pet peve right now as I have a few students trying to learn on this cheap machine.

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answers from Reno on

The first thing you need to decide is what do you want to use your sewing machine for. I know that sounds strange but you need to ask yourself if you really need ALL the functions a machine offers. Buy only what you need.

For example, I've been sewing since elementary school, first on my mom's and grandma's machines, then I bought my own in high school. I tend towards simpler projects, such as clothes for myself, basic household projects and some quilting. I didn't need a machine that had 100+ types of special stitches. I needed to button holes, zippers and seams. Consequently, I got a very simple Singer machine.

Nearly 30 years later, I still use that machine for all my simple household and clothing projects. It still works, never needed servicing, etc. I made my own graduate from high school dress with it, my own wedding dress and curtains for my third house. If I have granddaughters some day, I'll likely teach them how to sew with it.

And I've never missed the 100+ stitches on the "fancy" machines!

I hope this helps. :)

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answers from Appleton on

I have a Vicking ($500 machine) it will sew through 7 layers of denim.
Singer is not the same company as years ago. In the early 1970's Singer went BK and a Taiwanese company bought the Logo and name and started making sewing machines but they are not the same. The old Singers are GREAT machines BUT I have one that's about 40 yrs old and have had to replace all of the gears twice. I could have gotten a new machine for what that cost me.
Your best bet is to get an expensive machine and take sewing lessons.

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answers from Dallas on

GO to a good sewing center. You get what you pay for!!!

Don't go cheap or you'll be replacing parts or the machine.

My 16 yr old has a Babylock, the middle one, around $390. It is the model used in our school system and if it can survive students, it can survive daughter.

She loves it and it is simple to use.

Singer used to be the "go to" brand but be careful. They are not the same machines anymore. Our dealer won't sell Singer anymore due to the quality.

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answers from Seattle on

A great starter machine is a Singer. They are easy to learn and work with. If you go online, to Craigslist, or Ebay you could find one pretty cheap and in great condition. I got mine that way, and I made 2 quilts on it too, and I have sewed clothes etc. Then I decided I wanted to do more, more quilting, and sewing more advanced things, I upgraded to a Viking and I love it. It does everything I could want and more, I dont see myself needing to buy a machine again. I got a really good deal on it too. You can go to your local Sew n' Vac store and ask them what their opinion is too.

Happy sewing!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

A basic sewing machine should sew straight seams and also have a zig zag stitch on it too. That way you can do everything a beginner needs to do. It needs to be very basic and easy to thread. Usually there is a picture inside the light area that shows how to thread it.

If you buy it from a sewing center they often offer free classes to learn how to use the machine too.

Good luck buying a machine and starting this awesome adventure.

When buying patterns always look at the ones that say "very easy" on them. they are usually made for beginners and offer tips and explain things more in depth.

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answers from Amarillo on

Go to your local sewing store and check out several of the machines they have. Use the machines to get a "feel" for how they work. If there are more stores go to them and do the same thing. Go home and make a decision on how the machines compared to what you want to do with it and how the store treated you. Did they answer your questions and show you how to do things or just ignore your questions? If they ignored you, move to the next store. Try to find a store that has lessons or contact the local quilt guild in your town or fabric store they will know someone who could help you.

My suggestion would be to get a machine in the $300 range (these tend to be built better than the beginner models) and allow you to expand your creativity without having to trade up. Some machine brands to look at are Brother, Viking, Janome (Sears), and Bernina. Singer is not the same as in the early 80s even though I have Singers that are all older models that work.

Once you get your machine just practice on paper and get really comfortable with what the machine will do and enjoy yourself. Also remember when you do get discouraged with a project, get up, walk away, take a drink of soda/tea/coffee, calm down and then come back to it. Just remember that Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is a good seamstress.

The other S.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I'd go for an old, heavy Bernina. Simple and sturdy.



answers from Phoenix on

Not sure about in California but find a Bernina dealer. Here in AZ we have a shop called Bernina Connection which is fabulous. When you buy a machine you receive free basic sewing instruction classes and then eventually you can pay for more advanced classes. You can also look up private sewing lessons on craigslist, thumbtack, or do a google search. I offer this in phoenix and I go to people's houses to teach in the convenience of their own home, give personalized instruction and work on projects meaningful to just you. Word of caution on group classes (which can be social and fun too!)... everyone learns at a different rate so sometimes you sit in frustration if you work quickly and have to wait for everyone else. And on the flip side if it takes you awhile to catch on, you can get frustrated because you may feel lost if teacher is moving fast. Try to find private if that is within your budget. My very first machine was a Singer from Sears. Worked great and was a good learning machine. However, much harder and more expensive to get it serviced. If you use your machine a lot, it needs to be serviced yearly. The Bernina dealer here has a service tech on site who is very specialized in servicing their machines. Much more reasonably priced, fast, and good work to service that way. Have fun learning to sew!!!!!



answers from Los Angeles on

I haven't read the other responses, but I would suggest actually taking the class first. They might provide the machines, and there will be a teacher to help you learn to use it, and from what I've found, recommend a great machine for you. Sewing machines really aren't that expensive, but I'd hate for you to go buy one, plus all the little odds & end you need when sewing, only to find out you don't really enjoy it.

With that said, I had a Singer machine for years and of course that's the brand everyone knows, but it's not necessarily the best. I understand Viking to be a quality machine. Good luck, hope you have fun!



answers from Los Angeles on

I just got an amazing Brother machine from costco online at the beginning of the year. It comes with a whole lot of extras and a very complete detiled manuel. I have not gottten in to all of the amazing things it does. Oh and I am a first time sewer. I just started this year and have made my 2 girls 5 dresses each already. I just saw the same machine in their ad for less than I paid for =0(. It is $149 and free shipping. If you are not a member you can order online but I think there is a small feel (maybe 10%). But not too bad. I love mine!



answers from San Luis Obispo on

I've been sewing for 37 yrs. If you are just getting started, a basic machine will do. While I could use a fancier machine, I'm perfectly happy with my $150 Brother machine I got at Costco 17 years ago! I never envisioned it lasting so long nor that I wouldn't feel the 'need' to upgrade (Desire? Yes. Need? No!). I've sewn very tricky items including challenging costumes for nearly the entire casts of "Little Mermaid" and "Wizard of Oz". More than anything, I would encourage you to take a good sewing class or classes. Practice your sewing, then take additional classes or find someone to teach you a new sewing 'trick'. I hope sewing becomes something you love to do as well as being an artistic adventure.



answers from Los Angeles on

I've sewn since I was about 7 and been a quilter since I was about 11. I'm now 30. Sewing runs deep in my blood. That said, I don't like a fancy machine. I want a good machine that is simple to use. I hardly sew anymore, so I always have to remember how to thread the darn thing! I want something that is very reliable and won't break down.

Honestly, I would recommend for you the same machine I use. I use a little Janome Jem Gold. It's a small machine. It's very portable. This is good because I don't have a "sewing room". I sew on my dining room table and I need something that's easy to get out and put away. The little Jem fits that bill to a T. It is also very simple to use. Sure it won't do all the stuff that a fully computerized several thousand dollar machine will do, but I don't need that, and if you're learning, trust me, neither do you. And you probably won't for years and years to come.

It does everything I need it to do. It sews a very even stitch with straight lines, and it has a selection of other stitches you need for garmet sewing like different zig-zags and a few decorative stitches. It even has a buttonhole stitch. It also comes with a nice, but not overwhelming selection of attachments. It is not terribly expensive, but it is wonderfully reliable. Having had mine for almost 8 years, I've never had to take it for service. It still runs perfectly like the day I bought it.

This is a machine that will be excellent for you to learn on, but you won't outgrow it. My mom, who owns several very nice and very expensive Berninas, still uses her little Jem all the time. She loves the Berninas too, but for a quick, simple task, the Jem is perfect. It's also perfect to take to quilt bee. It's just a great little reliable machine. It's also right around $200 so the price is great.

I would also very highly reccomend getting one new. That way you won't have to fool with service and whatnot in an older machine. They get personalities as they age, and you don't want that starting out! ;)



answers from San Diego on

I'm a beginning sewer as well - have bobbin problems in both beginning Brother machines. They are a great deal when it comes to number of stitches to the cost of the machine, but the bobbin keeps having issues and repairing it is half the cost of the machine! I would go with a used Bernina (recommended by my sewing teacher) if you can find one and afford one.

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