Suggestions for a mechanical sewing machine in UK/EU?
September 5, 2013 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to buy a used (or possibly new) reliable, easy to use mechanical (versus computerized) sewing machine available in Britain or the EU for very basic uses, mostly hemming, repairs, and making simple things like pillow covers, curtains, table clothes, etc., and I'd love some recommendations. I'll probably be looking mostly on eBay UK and Amazon UK.

A few months ago I saw an old refurbished Frister and Rossman Cub 7 for sale with all accessories for what seemed to be a good price and was encouraged by some of the mentions I saw about it on the web... but I delayed too long and it was no longer available by the time I decided to go ahead and get it. Does anyone have any opinion on if this is a good model to pursue specifically?

I was initially thinking only of older models, but I also noticed this new Frister and Rossman Panda, that seems more like the old-style sturdier construction, and would love opinions on this one, as well.

However, the real point is that I'm just clueless about sewing machines and a total newb, so would appreciate any advice or recommendations: assume total ignorance. (I prefer an older mechanical model because past Ask Me posts suggest they are much more well-made, and also because my husband can fix anything mechanical. In fact, he'll probably end up doing most of the sewing, too.)
posted by taz to Shopping (5 answers total)
I have a Janome machine that I got from eBay. I can't remember the model off the top of my head (began with a 7) but it was about £189. The advice I read is that £200 (new price)is abiout what you want to spend for an entry-level machine - less than this and they don't tend to be very durable or accurate. The seller I bought from was an actual store that did machines rather than a private seller - there's one on there called Coulsew. Gumtree has used machines now and again as well, as they're heavy to post when it comes to selling.

I went for a mechanical model but if I were to buy again I would look for one where the speed can be set on the machine itself rather than on the pedal - I have a heavy tread so I have had to train my brain not to whack my foot down like I'm in a car.
posted by mippy at 7:53 AM on September 5, 2013

I don't do anything more complicated than the tasks you mention, but I grew up using a mechanical machine and while it was definitely more durable, since it was built like a tank from enameled cast iron with stainless steel fixtures, it seemed incredibly complicated to use - whereas the 21st-century machine I've had access to in the last few years will beep at you or simply not let you do something if you've forgotten to flip a lever or if things are tensioned improperly, with the mechanical machine I'd have the needle snapping in half and flying off or what I was working on would get messed up if I forgot one out of ten steps.

That could just be my impression, though; I was a little kid and we couldn't find the manual for the machine, so it was usually difficult to debug problems. It was also a professional tailor's machine from the 1950s or 1960s, so possibly newer mechanical ones or more hobbyist-oriented ones are easier to use.
posted by XMLicious at 11:03 AM on September 5, 2013

Do you live near a sewing machine repair shop? If so, I highly recommend visiting so that you can talk to a dealer in-person. The computerized vs. mechanical debate among internet sewers is a little overblown, IMHO, but if you go to a shop you can try some machines in person and get a feel for what you like. Also, if you buy in a shop, you usually get a warranty and some quick lessons too.

I haven't seen either of the machines you mentioned, but if you're going for that look you might be interested in a Morse machine, like this one on It's a "workhorse" brand, manufactured in Japan at the Toyota plant, but is often a little cheaper than other vintage machines because it doesn't have the same name recognition.
posted by tinymegalo at 1:36 PM on September 5, 2013

I see lots of sewing machines at car boot sales for not much money. I have not the slightest idea what makes a good one - but perhaps another avenue to investigate? Not as many people ebay heavier things like sewing machines fdue to postage...
posted by prentiz at 3:48 PM on September 5, 2013

I'm not sure why you're ruling out computerized machines... the low-end computerized machines are a great started machine. When I first got started sewing I bought a low-end computerized Brother. I made curtains, pillows, quilts, a couple of dresses... tons of stuff on it. The new machines are super-easy to use. Janome and Brother make decent machines. Don't buy the lowest end machines, they are too cheap... spring for something at the lowest end of the computerized range and you'll be VERY happy with the results.

Older sewing machines are awesome. They make an incredible straight stitch. They have a huge harp space. BUT they are a pain in the tuckus. How mechanically inclined are you? Do you like taking things apart and fixing them? Or lugging a 45lb machine to a repair shop? Parts are sometimes hard to get. Many things go wrong. 50+ year old machines often need to be rewired (or else the wires can fray and frayed wires + metal machine = ouchie). If you want to get an older machine, buy one from a repair shop that has refurbished it. You will pay more, but it's worth it!

Your first sewing machine should be competent but not expensive. After a couple of years of sewing you will know what you want. I have high-end Janome that I use for a lot of my art work but I keep a second, vintage machine, that is set up for JUST straight stitching so I can alternate between freemotion work and straight stitching without having to re-set the entire machine. But that's a pretty specialized setup.
posted by LittleMy at 5:10 AM on September 7, 2013

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