Sewing Machines - Before you Buy, Look Here

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#1 stefaniecat on 12 years ago

*Potentially a sticky?*

What I'm hoping to do here is create one reference for those looking into making their first sewing machine purchase - I happen to be one of those people and would like to be able to find the recommendations all in one easy place... instead of scattered in smaller threads across multiple forum sections.

I'm doing two things here:

1) linking in as many pre-existing threads as possible for reference (let me know if you find ones I missed in searching the forums)

2) asking sewing machine owners that want to add to our knowledge to answer the following questions in the reply:
[INDENT]1) What Machine do you own? Include the maker and model number please!
2) when did you purchase it/how old is it?
3) How much sewing experience do you have? (how long sewing, how advanced your projects are)
4) what do you like most about the machine?
5) what do you not like?
6) Would you recommend your machine to a fellow cosplayer?
I'm looking for factual information on machines that you personally have used (regularly stealing Mom or Grandma's machine for use is perfectly acceptable as 'owning' for the sake of this thread)


November 2002 - [URL=""]Buying a Sewing Machine[/URL]

July 2003 - [URL=""]Buying the Right Sewing Machine[/URL]

Jan 2004 - [URL=""]Sewing Machines[/URL]

March 2005 - [URL=""]Which Sewing Machines are Recomended?[/URL]

December 2005 - [URL=""]Tips for Sewing Machine Newbies[/URL] (scroll down to last post)

June 2006 - [URL=""]Learning How to Sew[/URL]

June 2006 - [URL=""]Machines with Self-Threaders[/URL]

September 2006 - [URL=""]My First Sewing Machine[/URL]

March 2007 - [URL=""]Learning to Sew[/URL]

#2 Devi 1313 on 12 years ago

Ok, I want to put out a tip that my mother learned. We'd always heard to buy Singer because they were the best in the industry, but when my mom took her old one in for a tune up she learned that Singer actually went bankrupt DECADES ago and sold their name, so the machines on the market today are cheap knock-off machines that have the Singer name slapped on. I went to the shop where she bought her new Janome machines and saw a whole room of Singer machines in for repairs. My mom has a new Janome machine that threads itself and is all digital, and has an automatic thing that goes back and forth at the end, and you can set the speed so it can go medium or slow no matter how hard you press the pedal.

#3 Pantsu_chan on 12 years ago

This is a great idea, and I applaud you!

Just to throw in my own $.02, I cannot say enough about the quality of older, all-metal sewing machines. My vintage 1960s Kenmore may not have all the bells and whistles of the new digital machines, but it has a straight and zigzag stitch...which is more along the lines of what a beginning cosplayer needs. I'm sure that I'll acquire a fancier new machine eventually, but there hasn't been anything that I've been unable to do with my machine so far, and I've been sewing with it for around 5 years.

Also, older machines don't have the abundance of plastic parts of some of the newer models out there...the cost of fixing a broken part on a new machine may be higher than the cost of a new machine.

#4 puddle_jumper on 12 years ago

A wonderful albeit expensive machine is the Bernina 1008. Wonderful work horse. Great stitches. Great for a beginner to expert.

#5 Kitsoru on 12 years ago

Hmmm... stickying this would be very helpful, indeed..
I bought in the spring season a White brand sewing machine (haven't got the model off the top of my head but I'll edit with it), that was luckily very cheap because the JoAnn's near me was going out of business (unfortunately). However, me being the genius I am, that illustrations in the booklet are about as useful as if a chimpanzee drew them and I've never threaded a bobbin before, and don't know how! ^^; So I haven't actually /used/ it yet... (If anyone would like to point me in the way of an 'Idiot's Guide To Bobbin Threading', please do!)
But are Whites known as being a particularly good brand? I had my suspicions that there was a reason it was one of the only machines left in the store at the clearence... :/ Hmm..

#6 Pantsu_chan on 12 years ago

[QUOTE=Kitsoru;2016352]But are Whites known as being a particularly good brand? I had my suspicions that there was a reason it was one of the only machines left in the store at the clearence... :/ Hmm..[/QUOTE]

Whites are a very reliable brand, as far as I know. My mother has one from the 1970s (it made all my baby clothes and Halloween costumes!) that is still in fabulous condition (omg it runs like a dream, I always use it when I visit)....she's only had to replace the bobbin winder, other than that no major problems.

#7 Eidolon Bird on 12 years ago

If anyone is questioning whether or not to buy a certain brand or model, I *highly* recommend searching the [URL=""]sewing machine reviews[/URL] at You have to sign up to read reviews older than six months, but they don't ask for any personal information and I haven't seen any spam in my inbox since I signed up almost a year ago.

The Personal Experiences:

Currently, I'm using a Kenmore 16231. I hesitate to post any sort of glowing review as I've only tackled a few smaller projects with it and haven't forced it to chew through multiple layers of denim or vinyl yet. But so far? I have found it to be an extremely reliable machine that offers a fair number of features for the price I paid. I've had no problem sewing through multiple layers of standard cosplay fabrics: cottons, Casa satin, organza and the like. Stitches have been straight and even on all the fabrics I've sewn and I've never had a problem with the tension or bobbin. I rather like having the needle threader and thread cutter (didn't have those on the ancient Singer I used to use!) and am getting used to the speed setting, but haven't had much use for the start/stop button (much prefer the good old fashion foot peddle). The only thing I dislike so far about the machine is having to hold the handle down to back-stitch.

I have also used the Husqvarna/Viking Lena and, while it was a fairly basic machine, I found it to be quite trustworthy and very easy to use. Given a couple days, I even got over the fact that their measurements are all metric. =P The downside to buying a Husqvarna is that they tend to be more expensive than other brands offering similar features.

On the other end of the review spectrum, I avoid new Singer machines at all costs. While they may have once been THE brand to buy (and I've enjoyed working with very old machines), I have had nothing but grief and frustration with the newer models. The Featherweight in particular has been the bane of my existence - from the moment it came out of the box, I had issues with the thread tangling, jamming and snapping that no amount of adjusting tension, switching bobbins or cleaning the machine could ever fix. Even took the thing to be professionally serviced and it was still throwing fits. A slightly older Singer (sorry, have no clue what model it was - something from the early 90s) I was using before that suffered many of the same problems. After adjusting everything that could possibly be adjusted, I gave up and bought the Kenmore I have now.

The Hearsay:

I also avoid White and Brother after hearing similar stories of bobbin and tension woe from other people. (I do have one seamstress friend who LOVES her White, but she's the only person I know who has had good experiences with the brand.) Someone once told me (don't know how true it is) that Brother bids out their contracts so one year they might have a great batch of machines, but the next year they might be made by a different manufacturer and all turn out to be crap.

As for Bernina, the people that have them seem to love them, but I can't justify spending that much money when I only sew a few things each year. If you are an award-winning costumer who plans on really churning out the costumes year after year, go for it. But the average cosplayer who just wants to dress up like Sakura or Orihime or whomever is the fandom favorite of the moment? Would probably be better off looking for something a little bit less expensive.

As for me, I'm entirely self-taught and have been sewing off and on (more off than on) in my free time for over ten years. Most of my projects have been fairly simple - a couple skirts and dresses, random costume and clothing odds and ends, and one notoriously difficult coat. I've done some pattern adjustments and a bit of drafting, but nothing TOO serious. I suppose I'm an advanced-beginner, maaaaaaaybe an intermediate sewer.

#8 FallingAngel on 12 years ago

Let's see, I have a Brother LS-2125 that I bought for about $90. I got it about 2.5 years ago (I think....3.5 at the most).

I've been sewing since I was 3 (sitting on Grandma's knee). I've done all sorts of projects from quits to full costumes to regular clothes. I've followed patterns, altered them and made stuff from scratch.

I *LOVE* my machine, if what was said before about Brother contracting out is true I may have just gotten a good machine year. I've never had a problem with it that wasn't user error and easily fixed. Easy to thread with diagrams right on the top of the machine (I've never even *opened* the instruction manual but I had lots of previous experience with other machines so I already knew how it was more or less supposed to go). Easy to load and wind the bobbin too. So far the most it's made through was two layers of canvas with a third layer of cotton and a piece of plastic boning (that was an accident, don't watch Jack Sparrow and attempt to sew at the same time^^) had no problem with it. I must admit I'm not big on mateince (yeah I know....) but still no problems, never even broke a needle...never changed it either.

Although, I must admit that my grandma's machine was awesome too, I *think* she had a Kenmore (trying to go back and picture the machine from my youth, it's her birthday today so I when I call her I'll ask and edit). Whatever it was it was awesome (she also took *very* good care of it) I'm going to assume it was mostly metal parts as it was heavy as hell and older than I was. She used this thing from before I was born till she bought her Bernina when I was about 10.

I also agree that the older machines tend to be very reliable and since they're older they're often cheaper than new. But b careful, if it does break or need matience it might be harder (this sort of happened to my mother, she had a Japanese machine that wasn't considerably old but it used an odd size bobbin that were very difficult to find).

After that machine my grandma splurged on a Bernina, and ohhh.....that was a *SWEET* many extras and niffty things at a $4000 price tag (and she bought her's used). The only two things that I wish my Brother had that her Bernina had was the knee lift for the presser foot and the thread cutter (those two really do speed up sewing). Bernina does make quality basic machine (I used one in 6th grade home ec), I'm not sure how easy they are to find or how much they cost but Bernina is a very good brand if you can find one.

There really isn't that much that Ive got a problem with in regards to my machine, although that's just personal preference (the machine's as basic as you get).

I would recommend my Brother or my Grandma's machine to anyone, they were both basic (my grandma's was a little more advanced). Buying a Machine is a good choice, it can mean the difference between happy sewing and visions of suicide, I'm glad there's something like this to help people along.

#9 Pocketfightr on 12 years ago

I have a White machine. (I can't remember the model #, I'll get it later.) My parents bought it for me for Christmas 2005... so I can't really say how well it faces the test of time. It seems to be pretty good but I haven't put any crazy materials through it yet.

I will definitely second the manual being horrible when it comes to pictures. I had no clue how to thread the bobbin, as my parents uber old Singer fed down below, not on top like this one... fortunately I had a friend who I knew had a machine that fed the bobbin on top. (Plus since my folk bought the machine at JoAnns, I was able to take their new machine owner class for free... which was the only way I could learn how to use the buttonhole fuction, as the manual was again confusing and worthless.)

#10 KurzesHaar on 12 years ago

1) I own a Singer Quantum 7350
2) I bought it around October 2005
3) I started handsewing in 2004 and had a little bit of experience with a machine before I bought mine. I taught myself to sew using the tutorial book that came with my Singer.
4) Pros: It has lots of different stitch options and sews pretty much everything. I use it with PVC, peltex, name it.
5) Cons: Overall I like my machine, it can get a bit moody sometimes, but that's probably my fault =b
6) Would you recommend your machine to a fellow cosplayer: I would recommend it to other people. It hasn't broken or had any serious problems and I think it's a good machine that hopefully will last a long time and get a lot of wear

#11 SpaurhSpoor on 12 years ago

I think it great that you guys putting this information, it will help alot us who need help buying a sewing machine.

#12 DragonMistress on 12 years ago

This is a great idea!

My 2 cents of machines...

I currently own a Singer Quantum 5430. It's about 5 years old and has gone through quite a few meters of fabric. I got this sucker for my birthday and it hasn't let me down since. Supposedly Singer has long gone backrupt and sold their name to cheap imitators but I don't know that for sure... just gossip I heard. Anyways... as with most of the Quantums it's got a whole bunch of stitching options... more than I normally use (I usually stick to straight stitch, zigzag, and blink hem... oh and occasionally the double needle settings). It's pretty sturdy and in the whole 5 years I haven't done maintenance on it once (I know I'm horrible -_-;) and it hasn't given out on me. I've made everything from costumes, to shoes, to bed spreads with it so it's definitely done it's fair share of projects. I love the fact that it's sturdy and has a good sewing speed when pushed to max. The only time that the machine has ever given me trouble was last year when I was doing a lot of fast stitching for a whole day straight. It kinda slowed down to a pretty slow speed by the late evening and nothing I did could make it go any faster. I think it had some sort of safety mechanism for over heating or something. Anyway I let it chill over night and it was back up and running in full in the morning. It takes a variety of fabrics and manages pretty well with puncturing through a stack of thick fabrics (make sure you get good sharp needles though or you'll break more of them than you can count). It's supposedly takes denim and suede and leather too but I've never tried. It's marketed as a heavy duty machine so it can handle a broad range of things. I really don't have any cons to report about it. And I would definitely suggest it to a fellow cosplayer.

#13 Desse on 12 years ago

After working for Viking for 9 months, there are three major things about I'd consider important about buying a machine. I ended up buying a Platinum 750Q after it had been discontinued for about 50% off. It's an awesomely sweet machine and I highly recommend the Viking Platinum line.

1) You get what you pay for. There is a direct correlation between quality and price. I'd recommend getting the best machine you can afford to get.

2) You should never pay full retail price for a sewing machine. Discontinued or floor models are great if you can get them. At Viking, we worked mainly on commission. Even if there wasn't a sale currently on, if a customer pushed and prodded for a better price, we could usually get permission from the manager to give them a sale price just so that they wouldn't walk away without buying a machine. At the very least, we could throw in a few extra feet or other accessories. One woman who was buying a high end machine (a couple thousand dollar purchase) ended up getting a 10% discount as well as $300 box of embroidery feet and hoops.

2b) If you can't afford a machine, I'd recommend getting a job at the sewing machine store! Not only do you get to drool over your machine of choice every single day while working towards buying it, you can also get an awesome (-40% at Viking) employee discount.

3) Make sure that your machine comes with a warranty longer than 3 months and that it includes labor. Even the nicest and awesomest machines can have issues at the beginning of their lifecycle. One machine I took out of the box to set up as a floor model had been damaged in shipping and had to be sent back for repair immediately. Repairing your machine is expensive and the technicial is (hopefully) a highly trained professional. Standard repair costs at my store was $80 (labor) + parts.

#14 Kitsoru on 12 years ago

[QUOTE=Pocketfightr;2016806]I have a White machine. (I can't remember the model #, I'll get it later.) My parents bought it for me for Christmas 2005... so I can't really say how well it faces the test of time. It seems to be pretty good but I haven't put any crazy materials through it yet.

I will definitely second the manual being horrible when it comes to pictures. I had no clue how to thread the bobbin, as my parents uber old Singer fed down below, not on top like this one... fortunately I had a friend who I knew had a machine that fed the bobbin on top. (Plus since my folk bought the machine at JoAnns, I was able to take their new machine owner class for free... which was the only way I could learn how to use the buttonhole fuction, as the manual was again confusing and worthless.)[/QUOTE]

Exactly- I swear, I could probably draw better guides if I knew HOW to thread/use the damn thing! I'm not sure if my cousin, who I've been meaning to ask for help but consistantly forgetting to, has a top or bottom feeding machine either, so if she doesn't know what to do I'm really screwed D< I bought mine at JoAnn's too, but, of course that was because they were going out of business so I can't exactly take a class on it 9.9; ah well.
Oh, and the model I have is the W450.

#15 CC64 on 12 years ago

I got a Pfaff Smart 100 for Christmas, and so far have used it for a variety of fabric. I love it.

It takes a little bit of fidgiting going from the heavy upholstry fabric to a light gauze, but it does it (and anyways...what machine doesn't require adjustments?). (My biggest problem was that after I got it home from my parents' house, I lost the manual, so I generally go by trial-and-error, or jump back and forth between sewing machine and computer, since Pfaff has the owner's manual online. Took me a few tries to figure out that hey, I need to thread the bobbin [i]this[/i] way!)

Other than that, I've used a couple of Kenmores and Singers from the 1970's. Oldies but they work like a charm.

HOWEVER...if you're looking for a good machine that will last you for years, you do need to look for a machine that has metal gears. Many of the sewing machines out there today have plastic gears, and they just don't last, or stand up to those heavy sewing projects.

So I've made a few varieties of Schierke dresses, and cloaks for Guts and Serpico (all from Berserk), and I'm working on a pair of jeans. Future projects may include a panda-Genma suit and kimonos.