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Plastic vs. Metal: A Sewing Machine Shopper’s Conundrum

Consider the merits of both types of sewing machines.
The popular (and now discontinued) Brother Project Runway Limited Edition computerized sewing machine, which I saw for sale recently at my local flea market, weighs 10 1/2 pounds—less than older, mostly metal machines.

Since I purchased my first sewing machine, a vintage, nearly all-metal Kenmore from the early 1980s, I’ve been a vocal proponent of metal sewing machines. Built like tanks and usually able to sew through eight layers of denim, these old machines seemed to me like a better value than their contemporary plastic counterparts.

About four years ago, however, I decided to open my mind a bit. I knew from my blog readers, as well as from the many online reviews I read about new machines on sites like PatternReview.com and Amazon, that a great many sewers at all levels of experience love plastic machines. Limiting myself to a budget of roughly $125, I decided to pick one up for myself. I am glad I did.

Plastic has its virtues, as do machines that are brand new. I am happy to report that, while my preference is still for the old and heavy, I am much less dogmatic about what type of sewing machine is best. I am better able to appreciate the virtues of new versus vintage and plastic versus metal.

Metal Sewing Machines

First, let’s consider the virtues of the all-metal machine. If you’ve never sewed on one, you may not be familiar with the pleasures they can provide. To clarify, since the 1950s, few machines were entirely metal. Exterior knobs and buttons, along with some interior gears and cams, were often manufactured out of a lightweight, albeit highly durable, plastic.

Nearly all-metal Bernina 930 Record
The nearly all-metal Bernina 930 Record dates from the early 1980s and boasts a 1.0 amp motor.


Since I have had to travel with a sewing machine only once, I consider the weight (usually 20 pounds to 35 pounds) of a full-size metal machines to be a virtue. The heavier the machine, the less likely it…

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  1. user-7256256 | | #1

    Thank you for the article, could not have come at a better time for me. I'm am buying a new machine, possibly today, (gulp) after sewing 23 years on a Bernina 1260 that I bought new from a dealer. It is my prized posession. I have loved this machine so much, I've not ventured to even see what is out there. Like having a flip phone and relizing iPhones exist. It's a little over whelming so I appreciate your review. Thank you

  2. User avater
    passionfashion | | #2

    I had a Viking/metal for 30 years. Great machine. I now have a Juki HZL 300, (400 & 600) This if by far the BEST machine I have ever owned. After 6 friends/colleagues "drove" my machine they all purchased one. The HZL 300 is so affordable and there is little difference between the models. 16 button holes, thread cutter, box feed, needle up/down, a needle threader that works, more stitches than I will ever use. It also comes with a CD to walk you through every function. I have had it for several years now. You don't even have to pull the bobbin thread to the surface! It comes with a hard case which stores the manual and foot control. THE BEST MACHINE AT A GREAT PRICE. HAPPY SEWING!

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