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buying a new machine – input welcomed!!!

happygal_28 | Posted in General Discussion on

I have a 20 year old singer elegance machine that I have been pleased (it’s relatively basic) with but now it is on its last legs. I dont sew nearly as much any more but I know I  will again one day. I am ready to embark on my wedding gown (yay, I’m excited but also  financially challenged) and I know my old faithful cannot rise to its task as much, as it begs and pleads.

I want a new machine. I need the basics…I want a great buttonholer, some embroidery (ok, could sacrifice). Question: do I buy the “disposable ” to get me thru the task or look longer term to my dream machine whose features I may never use (but hope to)? I cant say I will ever get to embriodery but dont we all want to??!!

I saw a Brother CS5000H at Walmart that looked like it would suit me fine (at under $200). Wonderful! But my gut says anything at this low  price it wont function as I expect. I dont mind if the machine will last me a year or 2 (hopefully 5). But seriously, as an experienced sewer, would I be satisfied?

Any input and commentary would be welcome!

Thankyou all!!!


  1. cathykrug | | #1
    Dear Happygal - I am sending you the article I found on Consumer Reports.  Hope this helps!! I found a basic Janome for $300. I haven't heard a lot of good about the newer Singers, but be realistic about what it is you really need in a machine. Personally, I don't need a lot of fancy stitches or embroidery, but that's just me.
    Good Luck!
    January 2008

    Buying advice Sewing machines
    Sewing is easier than ever. Mechanical machines under $200 have many features. Spend more for an electronic model, and you get more convenience and hundreds of stitches

    New electronic sewing machines are almost like robots. They can recommend the proper presser foot, divine the right thread tension and stitch length, size and sew a buttonhole, and automatically cut the thread. Combination embroidery/sewing machines, introduced about nine years ago, combine those features with superior sewing and the ability to produce professional-quality embroidery.


    Singer, Brother, and Kenmore sell about 70 percent of all units. Brands such as Bernina and Husqvarna Viking are gaining as the market shifts to more expensive, feature-laden machines.

    Mechanical models. These require you to manipulate most controls by hand, generally cost less than electronic or sewing/embroidery models, and handle the basics--repairs, hems, simple clothing, and crafts projects. They're what most people who buy sewing machines choose. Price range: less than $500.

    Electronic machines. These shift many tedious sewing jobs from your hands to computer chips. The typical unit offers touchpad controls, a light-emitting diode (LED) screen, a wealth of presser feet for challenges such as pleats and topstitching, and numerous decorative stitches. Price range: $300 to $1,200.

    Sewing/embroidery units. These combine the talents of a stand-alone embroidery machine with a sewing machine. The machine holds a hoop under its needle and moves the hoop in four directions as the needle sews. You push a start button, watch, and periodically change thread colors. Embroidery machines require a link to a home computer to access all their capabilities. Price range: $1,000 to more than $6,000.


    Among the most convenient features is an automatic buttonholer that sews in one step instead of making you continually manipulate selector dials or the fabric itself.

    Setting up the machine is made easier by several innovations. A needle threader, for instance, reduces eyestrain and frustration. A top-load bobbin, available on both mechanical and electronic models, lets you drop the bobbin directly into the machine without fiddling; most top-load bobbins have a see-through window. A bobbin thread lift function on some electronic models brings the bobbin thread to the sewing surface so you don't have to insert your fingers under the presser foot. Some electronic machines have an "adviser" program on their LED screens; it can recommend the stitch and presser foot to use, and it gives other handy advice.

    A number of features help you avoid mistakes. A feed-dog adjustment lets you drop the toothy mechanism (which moves the fabric along) below the sewing surface so you can do freehand work or keep from damaging sheer fabrics. On some electronic models, automatic tension adjustment for the upper thread helps avoid loopy stitches and annoying "birds' nests" that can jam the machine or bend the needle. An adjustable presser foot allows you to regulate how tightly the machine holds fabric while sewing; it prevents puckering in fine fabrics and ensures that knits don't stretch out of shape.

    Among the especially helpful features are speed control, which lets you determine sewing speed with a button instead of with the foot pedal. It can be useful when teaching a child to sew. A stop/start switch, auxiliary to the power switch, lets you bypass the foot pedal to control sewing and can be a boon to people.


    Performance differences. Most electronic machines sew very well and offer a great variety of features, stitches, and presser feet. In Consumer Reports tests, most excelled in ease of use. Sewing/embroidery machines had the best sewing ability. Their plethora of convenience features make them, as a group, extremely easy to use. It's possible to find very good performance from some mechanical models. Most of them are easy to use, but they offer fewer convenience features and stitches than do the other types of machine.

    Recommendations. Before buying a sewing machine, assess your skills and needs. Consider, too, how you might use the machine later, when your skills improve. Typically, people keep a sewing machine at least 10 years.

    If you know you'll never embroider, buy an electronic or mechanical model with as many features as you can afford. A mechanical model will do for basic hemming, clothing repairs, and one or two yearly projects. If your current projects or your ambitions include more numerous and complicated projects, you'll probably be more satisfied in the long run with an electronic model.

    If there's a chance you might want to try embroidery, such a machine may be a wise investment. You'll also benefit from superior sewing capabilities.

    You'd do well to wait for sales. Sears and Wal-Mart have larger selections of lower-priced models than other retailers. Specialty and fabric stores tend to sell more expensive brands but may offer training classes and an in-house repair shop--both a plus. Some independent dealers will accept a trade-in of your old model. Internet-based dealers offer good prices, but the warranties may be invalid if the dealer isn't manufacturer-authorized, and service may be very difficult to arrange.

    When shopping, try out the machine with an experienced salesperson; ideally, take lessons after you buy. If you buy a used or reconditioned machine, ask the retailer for a warranty; manufacturers' warranties are usually not transferable.

    1. pattymary | | #19

      Thank you for the info.  I really want to compare the Janome 660 and the Husqvarna Viking "Sapphire" and would like to know if there is any where that does these comparisons.

      1. Betakin | | #20

        Pattymary, it has been awhile since you asked your question but if you are still interested..the Janome 660 is the Jem Gold. The little Janome Jems are very small models designed to tote and take to classes etc. The 660 is a very basic mechanical machine. One of my married daughters has a Jem Silver which is an anniversary model of the Jem Gold.

        The Viking Sapphire models are very large machines with a huge bed size which is very nice for doing large projects. They are also packed full of extraordinary computerized features and much more expensive in price.

        PatternReivew on line is a good place to check when comparing machines because there are reviews of all brands of machines and sergers and many discussion threads about machines and sewing in general.

  2. MaryinColorado | | #2

    I recently researched and assisted my MIL in buying a new machine, she chose the Brother NX450, purchased from a dealer who provides local authorized service and free classes and a good warranty.  She has been thrilled with it and has owned it several months now.  She sews clothing, home dec, and quilts with it.  It was around $400.00  I am very impressed with it.

    I love my Husqvarna Viking Designer I, Rose, and Huskylock 936 serger/coverstitch machines.  They have been very reliable, solid without vibration, and do excellent stitches, plus plus plus. 

    Local service and support are great to have.  I'd hate to have to ship my machines to another state (let alone pay for the shipping).  Often problems can be handled on the phone with a reliable dealer, or you can go there and show them and possibly discover it is lint or operator error or a simple adjustment that can be taken care of quickly. 

    hope this helps, enjoy the search and take your time and testdrive machines.

    1. sewslow67 | | #3

      Say Mary; is your Huskylock 936 easy to thread?  I have a Pfaff serger/overlock (had it for a number of years, now ...not exactly sure how long, but it was top of the line when I got it) and it is miserable to thread.  A couple of years ago, I got the Babylock Imagine, which is air threaded, and it is a dream machine ...but ...it doesn't do the overlock stitch, which I miss. 

      1. MaryinColorado | | #10

        You mean the Imagine doesn't do the coverstitch or chain stitch?  I thought it was a regular overlock machine that also does rolled hems.  It's ahrd to remember after all this time.  I tried out the jet air threading machines because of my arthritis many years ago.  They are so easy to thread and have lots of great features.  Just not right for me because I use alot of large specialty threads and yarns that wouldn't go through those loopers.  I was also told that trying to do it using a thread cradle technique could ruin the warranty. 

         So even though the 936 is more difficult to learn to thread, it is "just right" for me.  Once I understood it, it threaded quickly and easily for me.  Did the Pfaff people explain the threading thoroughly?  It really clicked for me when I saw how the lower looper thread had to go over the top of the upper looper thread in the last threading step, or the machine jams.  That was a lightbulb moment for me. 

        Maybe you can just leave the Pfaff set up for Coverstitching and instead of completely rethreading it each time, just tie the new thread onto the old at the top, open the tensions, and pull them through the loopers.  The knots won't go through the needle's eyes so you have to snip there and rethread the needles only. 

        Using "Glamour" thread in the loopers and stitching with the wrong side of the fabric up on a three thread coverstitch looks so cool as embellishment. 

  3. Lovessewing | | #4


    Please, please do not buy any sewing machine from Walmart - they stink and you would waste your hard-earned money.  You can find relatively inexpensive machines at Sears - the Sears Kenmore is a middle-of-the road machine with buttonholes and nice embroidery stitches (not as nice as the really fancy machines - but who has that much money anyway?).  My dear husband bought me a Singer 9940 three years ago and I've never had a day's problem with it (except for a few "stupid user" type of errors).  However, I only sew linen, cotton, silk, wool, and rayon/polyester fabrics - I've never tried to sew multiple layers of denim.

    Good luck with sewing your wedding dress - it sounds like a dream project!

    Happy sewing,

    Julie (sewing madly away in Houston)

    1. happygal_28 | | #5

      Thanks for your input! I am skeptical to begin with and that's why I threw the question out there. Can you be a little more specific about what "stinks"? LOL

      I wont even say a word about the source store as I had a very unpleasant experience there today BUT would love more detail about the Brother. And I will definitely check out a kenmore.

      1. Lovessewing | | #7


        The machines are so poorly made that they break down after a short time of usage; plus the tension and bobbin cases/areas are usually the first areas to go bad.  Just imagine trying to take a non-functional machine back to Walmart and getting help from them - they are not in business to assist customers with sewing machine problems.

        Personally, I have stopped shopping there because they got rid of their fabric departments at all Houston-area stores.  (Forgive the soapbox complaint but I just had to say how I feel.)

        For really great, informative sewing machine reviews, please go to patternreview.com and look up all sorts of sewing machine reviews.  It's a great site - I tend to spend far too much time on there.  :)

        Happy Sewing!

        Julie (still madly sewing away in Houston)

        1. happygal_28 | | #8

          I cant thank you enough for your opinions. It was exactly what I expected but it is nice to have my thoughts confirmed. I really dont have the money to buy a dream machine but I know the frustration of a cheap machine and especially while making the project of a lifetime, I do not want to be frustrated and upset all the time. Julie, you made a great point about layers of denim. I go mental trying to hem jeans with my old machine - skipped stitches etc -family knows to run away and hide when Mommy is sewing these days LOL! You helped me look beyond my immediate project - THANKS!  I will try to factor a new machine into a strained budget, or maybe do as much as I can on old faithful and head over to my local sewing shop and rent some time and learn some new skills in the process.

          In any case, I continue to refine the design of my wedding gown and will start to sew when it is clear in my head.

        2. happygal_28 | | #9

          WOW- I just visited the website you recommended and cant thank you enough for saving me headache and heartbreak! From one sewing diva to another-THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I am so happy I chanced upon this forum (forum newbie here).

          ...5 reviews were worth a thousand words!!!

          happy sewing!!

          happygal :)

  4. Ralphetta | | #6

    The point that is made repeatedly by the members of this site is that you are better off buying from a dealer. That's because you have an actual person to go to if you have problems/repairs of any kind. Good dealers want to keep you interested in sewing, so offer lots of support.

    A past dealer I had, offered free rental of instructional videos, the people were knowledgeable and very helpful in many ways. I know that it usually means a little more money, but in the end, it seems that most people feel it is worth it.

    As I have mentioned before, for example, once the employees of a Singer store I worked in heard the model number, they knew it had been bought at a discount store and would be very reluctant to offer any assistance, usually none at all. I understand that some people are too far from dealers to make this practical. Hopefully, you have this option.

  5. Teaf5 | | #11

    I, too, swear by Kenmores; even the new ones are solid, well-built machines with incredible technical backup and support. (I've only now needed to replace a 35-year-old one, but I've been given a couple of newer ones that I love equally well!) I have never heard anything good about a machine or appliance from other big box stores; most will slap the manufacturer's name on any old thing, just to get customers to pay for the reputation.

    Another option is to buy a used machine; so many people are getting rid of solid, wonderful machines that it's pretty easy to find a great one for less than $50 on Craigslist or in a local thrift store or garage sale.  As an experienced sewer, you could probably make a good choice on a used one if you were allowed to plug it in and try it out.

    A third option is to borrow a machine.  Among my sisters, neighbors, and aunts, there are probably at least ten machines that I could borrow because everyone is too busy to sew, and they feel guilty about not using theirs!

    Let us know what you decide!

    1. happygal_28 | | #12

      Hi Everybody!

      I bought the new machine!!! I opted for the Huskystar E20- basic compared to my old machine but 20 years newer and it has way better features than my old Singer. I LOVE that it is still mechanical (not computerized) and I got 8 hours of free lessons with it too. I had my 1st 2 hour lesson today - talk about a refresher of my skills - it was the BEST! I am SOOOOO glad I didnt go with the "box store" machine. Already the sales, service and info I have been given have been worth way more than the price of the machine, which was a value already and works 100x better than I could have dreamed.

      Sooooo....I bought my bridal gown material this afternoon. Buy 1 get one free! And 2 spools of invisible thread thrown in! It's a 2nd wedding and I am going with ivory mattisse satin. Exciting times...

      1. Lilith1951 | | #13

        I'm so excited for you!  It is so much fun to get a new machine and I'm very glad you listened to the advice.  I was going to throw my 2 cents it, but it would have just been a repeat of everyone else.  I was having stress just thinking about you struggling to do your wonderful wedding dress on a piece of you-know-what and having headaches right in the midst of it due to machine problems. 

        We'd all love to hear how the wedding dress goes.  Please keep us updated!

      2. MaryinColorado | | #14

        Hooray!  So glad that you found what you were hoping for!  Enjoy the process of making your wedding gown, I hope you will share photos and insights along the way.  Mary

        1. happygal_28 | | #17

          Wow - it's been so long since I posted! My wedding dress is really starting to progress! My muslin is looking like something real now and certainly helping me finesse all the details I wanted to change from the dress I was copying. I have changed a zipper back to a corset back, have changed a floor length gown into one with a lovely train and and currently working on a chiffon overlay!  The best news is that I got an entire bolt of chiffon, the exact colour I needed for $5 - YES- FIVE dollars! Twas in the clearance section of a small mom and pop fabric store here in my little town which I went to when our chain store didnt have enough on the bolt and couldnt tell me when they would get more because "the head office does all the ordering".

          I am having lots of fun on my new machine - gotta love a simple mechanical machine! I have had 3 of 4 "owner's lessons" geared to the ones who buy the computerized machines, but a fantastic basic sewing refresher course and definitely reaffirming my choice when I see the other ladies struggling to learn to work the details of their high tech machines while I sew away happily. Of course, I'd love some of their gadgets but really I just want to SEW! LOL

          Next step - hand beading and reading the related forums here!



          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #18

            Thanks for the update, you really do sound happy. Cathy

      3. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #15

        Happygal, I am go excited for you! Happy sewing. It is a beautiful material for a beautiful bride. Remember we are here to help you along if you need it. Cathy

      4. rodezzy | | #16

        Wow, what a happy lady you are!!  I'm happy for you too.  I'm drooling over the way you say the machine performs.  Good going.  Good deal on the wedding materials too.  Happy sewing.  Looking forward to seeing what you turn out.  Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

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