Sewing Machine Recommendatio Needed
August 16, 2011 9:20 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a good sewing machine brand/model to start sewing with.

I am an intermediate sewer but out of practice for awhile
Budget is max 300 dollars
Mostly home decor, curtains, a bit heavy fabric sewing, some quilting
I prefer Singer/Janome
Not into computerized per se unless you all know of a model that is really good at that price
I was told that you shoudl check the inside of the machine to ensure it is not just a plastic box but has metal case within (consumer reports)

Also any online videos with reviews on machines would be great.

All suggestions/input welcome and thank you!
posted by pakora1 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
PatternReview is a good resource for this and related questions ... 4000+ sewing machine reviews, search wizard with registration, etc. When my wife picked up sewing again, it's what kick-started the hobby for her.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:30 PM on August 16, 2011

My immediate thought, without recommending a particular brand or model, is that you should check out the sewing machine repair shops in your area (often nowadays they are combined with vacuum repair, for your complete domestic pleasure). Find out who, locally, services what machines. You don't want a machine that you can't get repaired easily.

Once you narrow that down, find out if they've got any refurbs, because for sure if you want a Janome (which I have, and love), you're not getting it brand-new for $300 unless you buy the tiny Hello Kitty children's machine (which I kind of want as a travel machine, it gets great reviews).

You can end up buying your machine from a big box or eBay or online, but make sure it's something you can get serviced locally, or it'll be a problem down the line.
posted by padraigin at 9:32 PM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Give real thought to buying an older used machine from or through a good sewing machine repair shop. Better construction, fewer useless stitches, less to break. I have an all-metal bernina minimatic from the 60s that i bought for 80 dollars; the thing is a crazy workhorse and will never need replacing.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:42 PM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

My mother picks up older models for very cheap at garage sales (anywhere from $10-100) Often they only need a bit of servicing but otherwise are very good machines. Older models are often simpler and don't have electronics panels which, in many machines is the first thing to break and can be expensive to fix.

I have a 1970's singer Genie which is older than I am and works like a dream.
posted by HMSSM at 9:43 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

(note: my mom picks up so many, not because they break or are bad or anything, but because she is a bargain hunter and often gives machines to friends, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, etc) or resells them to repair shops.
posted by HMSSM at 9:46 PM on August 16, 2011

That should be just enough to get an old Pfaff on craigslist. I've had my Pfaff for about 12 years now, and it's handled everything I've thrown at it. it's not a complex machine, does a few zigzag stitches and has all the routine adjusters of other machines, but I've sewn leather, ballistic nylon, sheer, spandex, everything I could on it and it's bounced back for more.
Pfaff is known for bulletproof machines and mine supports this reputation entirely.
posted by asavage at 9:46 PM on August 16, 2011

(i should say, the reason i suggest going to a shop to buy a used machine is to be sure it works, that you can get it repaired nearby and by someone who can teach you about it, and you can ask questions like if parts are still attainable).
posted by peachfuzz at 9:49 PM on August 16, 2011

I'm a rebel, 'cause I'm going to tell you something that makes the sewing purists weep: When I wanted to teach myself to sew I just went to Target and got the Brother model that was on sale for about $120. Four years later I've sewn lots of curtains, a quilt, some purses, stuffed animals, costumes and a lot of children's clothes, and it's never given me a moment of trouble.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:58 PM on August 16, 2011

I'm kinda like BlahLaLa - when I was in high school back in the late 80's, I got a Kenmore 11607 from Sears for Christmas. It couldn't have cost more than $100 back then.

I haven't used it on a daily basis, and probably didn't touch it for several years at one point - but it has only started to give me trouble in the last week or so, and if I actually bothered to look at it and troubleshoot it, I could fix it (instead, I took the lazy way out and borrowed my mother's machine - which is the exact same make and model as mine, bought at the exact same time). It's gotten me through all sorts of sewing projects with no trouble whatsoever.
posted by Lucinda at 10:31 PM on August 16, 2011

Go with peachfuzz's advice. Get a reference at your local fabric shop.

You might also want to read this list of things to consider. You'll definitely love the blog.
posted by dogrose at 11:17 PM on August 16, 2011

Yeah ... Old Pfaff. I just bought a 130 (which is a little on the pricey side) but the 230, 330, and 360 are all bullet proof and rather cheap ... and all metal innards for your sewing security.
posted by jannw at 1:10 AM on August 17, 2011

You might find Sew Mama Sew's sewing machine review meme helpful--there are reviews of a ton of machines.

I have a Janome Sewist 521 and love it. I think that model has been discontinued, but a used one or one in the same line would be worth checking out.
posted by min at 6:28 AM on August 17, 2011

Yeah, buy a used machine - stalk craigslist, garage sales, and so forth. Whatever you plan to buy, bring some fabric scraps with you and sew for 15-20 minutes with it to see how it does.

If you want to sew heavy material with neat stitches, and do some quilting, I would recommend a vintage straight stitch machine - Pfaff, Viking, older Singers that are mostly metal are really good. I sewed on my grandmother's 1970s vintage Viking for a while & it had very nice stitch quality compared to my > $1000 computerized Viking.

You might also want to look at sergers. They won't help you much for quilting but if you plan to do garment sewing you might get more bang for your buck with a serger.
posted by lyra4 at 7:28 AM on August 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all. I bought the Brother CE5500 PRW which is working great. It was really easy to set up so I am happy.
posted by pakora1 at 6:18 PM on August 28, 2011

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