first-time sewing machine buyer
October 30, 2020 8:06 AM   Subscribe

My ancient yard-sale machine has decided now is the time to fail me. I am a basic sewer, hoping one day to be able to make a skirt and install a zipper, etc. I think a Brother or a Janome. Is there a model you would recommend? Can I just order one online, or is this something I have to see in person? I live in Toronto, downtown, but have a car. Budget around $300.00. Thanks.
posted by uans to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
No, you can buy online. Decent sewing machines, like new cars, tend to work as advertised. I am a fairly advanced but lazy sewer, and I adore my Janome Magnolia, which I've had for about 18 years. You can get lots of different feet (invisible zipper feet are so useful!) and stitches for both practical and decorative sewing, including a stretch stitch for knits.

it's powerful enough to sew through multiple layers of very thick fabric, and I expect it to last at least as long as I do, with the occasional oiling and maybe a tune up or two. Its also very, very user friendly, with threading instructions printed on the body itself, and a little thread hook so you dont have to thread the needle by hand.

The Magnolia 7318 runs around $339 US, but you can likely get a refurbished or used one in great condition for less.
posted by ananci at 8:18 AM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

You can buy online, and ananci is right, new decent sewing machines work very well out of the box. I LOVE the Janome. I had the Janome 3000 which was a workhorse, though it's 25% above your budgetary requirements. Seconding the Magnolia as an excellent purchase idea.
You will be so happy with a new machine.
posted by asavage at 8:30 AM on October 30, 2020

Last year in a similar question Tchad, who I trust absolutely in all things sewing, explained what he uses in his classes.

Short answer-- the Brother CS6000i is inexpensive and reliable, and sellers on Amazon Canada have them for close to your budget ($340 CDN on 30 October 2020), but I'm sure you could find one in greater Toronto, or even somewhere else online for less money.

He offers opinions on other choices, and that whole thread is full of good recommendations. But listen to the guy who teaches sewing for a living. Tchad is awesome.
posted by seasparrow at 8:35 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I forgot to add--I do not want to use Amazon. Is there a Toronto store you recommend?
posted by uans at 8:35 AM on October 30, 2020

I have no complaints about my Janome 2212. It's been perfectly reliable and has worked well for me when teaching friends. The only thing I dislike about it is the soft cover it comes with. The Magnolia and the 3000 will do a few more things and would likely also be good choices.
posted by Akhu at 8:47 AM on October 30, 2020

I also have the Janome Magnolia (7330), and I love it! I bought mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond online and used one of their ubiquitous 20% off coupons to get the price down to just over $300 US. Not sure if there's some kind of Canadian equivalent to BB&B, but just noting that looking for sales and coupons is worth doing.
posted by mskyle at 8:48 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I recently purchased the Brother CS600i as recommended above at the link in seasparrow's comment from the recommendation by Tchad and have been happy with it so far. I bought it brand new with free shipping from a seller on Ebay because they were out of stock at all retailers for a while and prefer that over Amazon as well. I have only had time to use it to make masks for my husband so far to custom fit them since he has to wear them all day now – and it worked great and look forward to doing more challenging sewing projects soon.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 9:00 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was going to send you to The Shopping Channel and suggest you do a price comparison there, but it looks like their Janome stock is really low right now (just one high-end machine). Buying something like this (that you don't intend to return) from that site is fine. (Clothes that may not fit are another story, as you get taken for a ride on the shipping charges.)

The way that place works is that vendors come on at regular or irregular intervals. They bring a bunch of models and products in and they're available until they're sold. I expect Janome to be in some time before the end of the year, probably before Christmas buy maybe afterwards as a kind of Boxing Day treat.

I got my machine through them and I think I got a fair price for a relatively uncommon model. If needed or desired, you can also pay for your purchase in installments at no extra charge.
posted by sardonyx at 9:05 AM on October 30, 2020

I bought my Janome from Sewing World. I don't particularly recommend them, as I found their service to be kind of meh after the fact but if you want a Janome, they're most likely to have it in stock locally.

I will say that for me, the most important feature on my Janome is the variable speed control function so I don't have to rely on foot pressure to keep the speed of my stitches even and I think that's not something that you'll find on a Janome that fits your budget. I believe Brother might have it on some of their less expensive models, though.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:09 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Jacquilynne— please tell me the model. I know I have trouble with just that issue
posted by uans at 9:19 AM on October 30, 2020

I’d recommend the Singer Heavy Duty. They are surprisingly good- strong enough to do precise or fast sewing, and responsive enough that you can go very slowly as well. You can find them on sale sometimes for $150-$200.
posted by velebita at 9:22 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's a Sewist 625E.

Basically, the year I bought it, I went to the Fall Creativ Festival and went to every dealer on the trade show floor (except Pfaff because me and Pfaff have some beef) and said "What's your least expensive sewing machine that has a needle up/down button and a variable speed setting?" And then I tried them all and liked the Janome so bought that one. And then my mother bought one, too.

That was a few years ago, though, when variable speed settings were relatively new to the market -- in other brands, I had to go into fairly fancy electronic machines, which I did not necessarily want, in order to get that feature. Now I think it's a little more common.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:36 AM on October 30, 2020

I bought a Brother CS600i as a brand new sewist and used it as my main sewing machine for 5 years. Salespeople make me nervous so I bought it online without trying it out. It has speed control and I found it very approachable for sewing garments from knit and woven fabrics, making buttonholes, installing zippers, and piecing quilt tops. Actually I only bought a heavier machine because I wanted to make jeans and wasn't sure it could handle sewing through 4 layers of denim.
posted by esoterrica at 9:53 AM on October 30, 2020

Another fan of the sweet Janome Magnolia, although I agree with jacquilynne that the variable speed control function is awfully nice to have. Is it possible for you to bump up in price to the 7330? If not, I bet the foot control pedal on the cheaper model is not jumpy, extrapolating from overall Janome quality.
posted by HotToddy at 10:50 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just started sewing a few years ago and bought a Brother CS6000i. I dove in and started using it without any instruction and I'm still learning but I have to say I am really happy with this machine. I've pieced a bunch of quilt tops and made a hundred masks and it's been a champ. It's super intuitive and has variable speeds. I think it's OK to buy online. I found it for $200 US at this site. They do sell to Canada but without free shipping.
posted by 6thsense at 12:03 PM on October 30, 2020

Do you have Costco in Canada? They have a Janome machine avail online for $260 US.

I got my Brother for $140 at a Costco warehouse sometime back and it definitely has a stitch speed control. It's easy to use.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:16 PM on October 30, 2020

I would need to pull it out of the closet to figure out which exact model it is, but I have a Janome that I bought for around $200-$300 USD and it has worked very well for my casual sewing needs.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:20 PM on October 30, 2020

Response by poster: Fingersandtoes we have costco but tight now they are offering only one kind— a Brother serger
posted by uans at 2:19 PM on October 30, 2020

I also have the Brother CS6000i and bought it online from I think JoAnn Fabrics. It looks like it's out of stock most places now except EBay.
posted by assenav at 3:09 PM on October 30, 2020

All I'd add to the above answers is the machines recommended are falling into two categories - the Singer heavy duty and a couple of others are simpler, non computerised, models, and the ones with 60 stitches are computerised.

I have one of both, and I happen to like the non computerised one a lot better - it's more durable, less complex and, for me, mildly less annoying - but I'm not you and neither of those models fit your needs. Still, I can offer general advice.

Ask yourself: what do you need besides a straight stitch? You will want more (zigzag; buttonhole) but how much more (little trails of flowers; letters)? Do you want it to stick through 4 layers of denim? That might give you a clue as to which category to look for.

All that aside: Joann (in the US) is a good place to look at for Singer Heavy duty reference prices. Everywhere else I saw them when I was shopping, including eBay, the price was dramatically higher or it was a fly by night scam site. But that was mid lockdown, so.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 5:37 PM on October 30, 2020

Find a sewing machine repair shop in Toronto. Google returns a lot of results, so there are bound to be a few good ones. They will have refurb'd second hand machines which will be better value for your $300 than a new one. They'll also be able to advise you on maintenance.

You might even be able to part-exchange your old broken machine for a "new" second hand one. Worth asking, anyway.

You can probably do this via website or over email, or by phone.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:20 PM on October 30, 2020

If you don't need to be specific, try So many people have a nice sewing machine in the attic that they'd be delighted to pass on.
posted by theora55 at 8:49 AM on October 31, 2020

I just bought a Janome Magnolia yesterday- and I love it so far. I learned to sew in class in high school on a Janome but it was out of my price range then. I received a Singer ($99, from Wal-mart) and then upgraded to a Brother machine mid-College. It lasted about 10 years with infrequent use- and it taught me what I hated about sewing, and those were my deal breakers going in to look at machines. I knew what features I liked, which ones I didn't, and I went to local sewing (and vacuum repair) place to look.

They had about 10 used machines in great shape, and while I'm loathe to spend any length of time in a shop touching things being able to actually sit in front of the machine helped me pick. I was originally after the Janome 2212 but decided to spent the extra $100 on the Magnolia because it was computerized. I also appreciated that the shop had a trade-in policy that I could use to upgrade within 3 years, if I wanted to.

One thing I'd caution is that a lot of sewing machine ratings (like Wirecutter's) are out of date in terms of pricing. Lots and lots of people are sewing now, and prices have risen with demand. I'd try Sewing World or Nova, since it looks like they have a good selection at decent prices. Another thing to keep in mind is that not all shops have the same machines- Different dealers contract with different brands, so I couldn't look at a Babylock alongside a Janome and had to decide where to go ahead of time.
posted by Torosaurus at 9:40 AM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

It doesn't work this year, but for future readers in Toronto, I can't say enough good things about going to the Creativ Festival to buy sewing machines. There is both a spring and a fall show in normal years and the ability to go and see basically every sewing machine available to the home market in one spot is invaluable. Plus all the dealers are running major sales and some are even willing to bargain more because they know you can just walk 10 feet to the next dealer.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:49 AM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

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