Sewing Machine Advice

Updated on July 26, 2010
R.A. asks from Dallas, TX
15 answers

Hey Moms,

I am new to the sewing world and really need a great machine.
I don't want to break the bank but I also don't want a cheap one. I want one that I can bedding, blankets, curtains, etc.
I know some machines have great features such as embroidary. I would love to get some ideas to what to look for, and what you would recommend. I really appreciate it.


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answers from Chicago on

You can't go wrong with a Singer... some basic models sell in places like Target and Walmart and will do a nice job for simple things until you are ready to upgrade.

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answers from Dallas on

I think it is worth it to purchase a lower end model from a store that sells only machines and supplies - not a craft/fabric store. The salespeople can lead you in the right direction. I wouldn't spend more than $400 on a beginner machine and you could probably find one for less. They can also help you once you've bought the machine if you have questions. They often offer classes for free with the purchase from them.

Buy one that makes sense for what you need it for now. Once you have improved your skills then you can upgrade to something with more capabilities. Most sewing centers will take an older machine in as a trade in towards a new one. Also, look for one that can do buttonholes fairly easily - you may find this helpful with the curtains and for making duvet covers.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Exciting! I'm teaching myself to sew right now, so I can relate! I got a Brother XR-7700 a couple of months ago, and it's sturdy, easy to figure out, and you can do machine quilting with it! I got it at for $149.99, and that included about 10 feet (inc. the quilting feet), many accessories, some needles of various kinds, a hard cover, and a quilting arm. It also included a DVD, and the manual is easy to figure out. I've already made two zipper pouches and I love it. Good luck and have fun! :)

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answers from Dallas on

We bought a Babylock for my 15 yr old. We got it from Plano Sewing Center and they have sewing classes as well.

Daughter expressed interest in sewing and we did not want to go cheap. We bought a mid level Babylock ($375ish). It is the model that is in the Plano schools and known to hold up pretty well. I figured if the schools can use them and keep them maintained then we should be able to as well.

Good luck

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answers from Dallas on

This is such a timely question. I want a better sewing machine than the one I have. I have a basic Brother. Which is fine, but I can't get the tension thing either and it's NOT a drop in bobbin (according to my quilting friends - the drop in bobbin is a MUST HAVE!).

My neighbor who quilts has a really nice one, but she sews constantly and I'm still very casual.

I like the idea of looking for refurbished machines.



answers from Washington DC on

I have a Janome and I absolutely LOVE it! It has so many great functions. Any good sewing machine shop will offer you lessons and demonstrations if you purchase a machine from them so that's the place to start. I actually went to a repair shop and asked them which brand they recommended. I feel that I got really good advice that way.

Janome is a highly rated sewing machine brand. The one I have cost about $200 but I felt it was worth it because it has a function that mimicks a serger so I would never need to consider getting one of those too. It also has a computerized stitch selection (including width and length as well as decorative stitches), a function that finishes the seam for you instead of having to go back and forth, an electronic up and down needle function so you don't have to use the fly wheel, a thread cutter of course, a speed selector so you don't have to control speed with the pressure you put on the foot pedal, it comes with all of the attachments like button foot etc. and I have never seen an easier bobbin set. My old machine was so dang complicated when trying to set the bobbin in the case. I truly love my Janome.

Whatever you do, don't get a Shark. It's called that for a reason and that's because the needle is driven by a plastic piece with teeth that resembles a sharks teeth. It pops off easily and requires complete disassembly by a repair shop to fix. I have one that I keep only for the kids to practice on. If they mess it up, I'm throwing it out. It's not worth it to pay $80 to fix a $80 machine. Don't waste your money on a Shark.



answers from Tulsa on

I think for a beginner that a simple machine would be sufficient. I think one that has basic stitches and is not computerized would be easy to learn and understand. I sew and enter items in the county fair and sew very well. My machine has a button system that allows me to choose the different stitches and widths and lengths. I can do some very basic edging, like scollop's on the edge of a collar or lapel. I hardly ever use those fancier stitches. I use the basic straight stitch, occasionally use the zig zag(I have a serger for finishing a seam), it also has a stretch stitch but I have come to realize I don't sew knits any more, you can't hardly find them under $10 a yard.

If you have never sewn before and are just learning a new craft/skill then I recommend you look around for a basic sewing class or ask around for a friend who sews to help you if you hit a snag so it will be less stressful. My sister, who sews clothes and sells them online on and I were talking yesterday about how patterns had changed. They don't really give very detailed instructions anymore.

I hope you find a good machine and really enjoy sewing. It can be very rewarding and fulfilling.

In the Dallas area you should have several sewing machine places like Bernina, Singer, etc...I am adding some links that I overviewed and think some parts of them may have good information for you.
Under the left column you'll see "What to Look For".

Here is a site that has some different brands that gives you lots of history and information that might be interesting to you.

I have used Bernina, Singer, New Home, Janome, Juki, and a lot of others, they all sew the same but have a multitude of accessory/options differences. You just need to go to a basic sewing class and try some different machines out and decide what one fits your hands, your sewing needs, and your budget.



answers from State College on

I have a baby lock and really like it. It does do embroidery, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. I have used it for some pretty thick fabrics and for quilts and it does great. I do use a different needle as recommended for the thicker fabrics. For bobbins it really works best with the ones made for the machine, I tried some others and they did not always wind as well. Mine has a couple of issues, but I think that is related to moving it from ones house to another and cross country a couple of times and I haven't taken it in to be fixed. The only real problem is the automatic threaded broke, which isn't a big deal to me and sometimes it takes it a second or two to really get the bobbin going when I am making a new one. Part of the winder got a little messed up in one move, so I think these are more hard use time problems. It has a great display that is easy to use and follow with instructions for different things. It can also do several specialty stitches that I have used and liked. My mom also loves her babylock that is one step up from mine. I would love to have one with a free arm so I could fit the center of my king size quilt on it to sew it all together. I did do all the piecing and will do the finishing edge on the machine.

I learned to sew on her old singer, it wasn't fancy at all, but it was a great machine and could do just about anything. I think that one is about 40 years old now and still going strong with a couple of tune ups here and there.

If you have a sewing or quilt store near you they will usually have several different brands you can try out and see how they work. Also as others have mentions vacuum repair shops usually have sewing machines also.



answers from Dallas on

I have a Bernina and love it! Great button hole feature because, I agree that is worth it. Some newer models have a computer port for embroidery and I do think that can be a nice feature, but not necissary. Bernina's are often available at dealers due to their trade in program and I have seen them on ebay. They can be a little pricy new, but they run forever and with little maintenance.

Since you are new, I love that when I bought my machine, sewing classes and an instructional video (yes, video. I've had it a while) came with it to get me on track and comfortable with the machine and the basics of sewing.



answers from Dallas on

Welcome to the world of sewing. I learned to sew at a young age on my grandmother's 1950-something Singer. It was a very basic, but very sturdy and reliable machine. I have tried many different kinds since then, some with more bells and whistles. I find that I still prefer a basic machine. But my sister-in-law, who also sews a lot, really likes her very fancy computerized machine. The point being that everyone has individual preferences and needs in a machine. Go to quilt shops, repair shops or any sewing shop and try the machines. You get an idea of what you are comfortable with. They might also have a used machine to sell you. You can also find used and new machines at very good prices on craigslist or ebay.



answers from Amarillo on

For what you would like to do, get a Brother 400 or 420 model number for around $500. I say this because I recently priced this model over another for a co-worker's daughter. There are several online stores that will ship it for free, send me a note and I can suggest a few others that won't break the bank but will do all the things you want. These models have the drop in bobbin and also the dog feet that drop down for free motion embroidery or quilting as well as built in buttonholes and it will elongate and mirror image stitches. Good luck to you and enjoy your machine. The other S. PS I would buy this machine if I were in the market for a new home machine and no I am not a Brother representative.



answers from Dallas on

Just wanted to thank R. for asking this question, because all of the answers were good for me, too! Now, if I could just figure out the tension! Ugh. Thanks again!


answers from Provo on

For your first machine I'd go to a vacuum repair shop and get one for $50. This way you'll really find out if sewing is something you want to do, but not be out a lot of money. I found mine, It's and old Kenmore (I never knew they made sewing machines!) at a thrift shop and paid $7 for it and it's been just as good as the brand new ones for $150 plus. I actually think it's better. I've used a lot of brand new ones, and they often times aren't as dependable because the computer that's in the goes hay wire. But for a new machine I like Bernina, well I'm not sure the model since when I used it, it was new and that was 6 years ago.



answers from Colorado Springs on

Go to a quiliting or specialty sewing shop and see if they have any refurbished used machines. They usually have lots of machines that people have traded in for a newer/fancier model. I got my daughter a FANTASTIC Pfaff sewing/embroidery machine that was about 15 years old, but in excellent shape for about $250. This is a $1500 machine! It's just older than the newer models. I recommend that you don't buy a singer. I've had nothing but trouble with Singers, and I have heard that tale told 1000 over. Also, you can find entry level Vikings at affordable prices in quilt shops. Go into the shops and just practice on their machines. Write everything down in a notebook: pros/cons of machines, what you like/don't like about different features, prices, models, etc. It's easy to be enticed by all the bells and whistles, but always keep in mind what you actually need. I have 100s of fancy stitches on my machine that I never use. I just use a few basic ones. Have fun!



answers from Dallas on

I have a degree in fashion design so I have used a lot of different machines. I have had simple ones and top of the line ones. My favorite one is a simple 150$ machine I bought at Walmart. I have had it for 15 years and have never had to have it repaired. It seems like the fancier machines are always in the repair shop. I have had all of the fancy stitches but other than to play I never used them. I use mine hard so I replace them often and own several. Good luck with your choice.

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