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can you recommend a good sewing machine?

nashdance | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

hi – at this late date in life i’m finally learning how to sew – taking classes using bernina machines which (so far) i love. i’ve done a lot of designing and esthetic study, but am just now learning how to sew a straight seam.

i want to buy a good machine of my own. naturally i’m pre-disposed to berninas now, but i don’t want to limit myself to those. i’m interested in vintage garment repair, building my own designs, for street wear and costumes. i have no interest in quilting or embroidery.

does anyone have recommendations for a good machine that can do everything, is easy to use, will yield professional results, be cheap and either last forever or have good resale value.

should i start with a used machine? and if so, how do i evaluate the condition of the machine (i don’t want to do any extraneous problem solving — i’ve got plenty on my plate already.

btw, i am in nyc.

thanks so much for your help.

best to all.



  1. sarahkayla | | #1

    Ther are sadly few sewing machine stores in the city. Crown is on B'way and 108th in Manhattan. They sell both new and used machines. I bought my wonderful Pfaff from them. They will let you try out machines.

    There are sewing machine stores in the 30's and 20's.. the southern end of the fashion district.. I don't know too much about those stores.. but you can go in and to to the people who run them.

    There is also the sewing store run by elissa meyerech (SP?) across form carnegir hall.   She just came out with a book called ... sew fast sew easy. She seems to be wrell known for her classes which seem to be good. I went in hoping to buy a machine but wouldn't let me touch a machine.. she is a bit of a loon. (she kept screaming at me that her time was worth $100 an hour and people keep trying to steal business from her, so she wouldn't help me. then she expected me to plop down $600 for a serger.. without letting me touch it.. hmmm she has some problems with her sales techniques)

    sarah in nyc

    1. nashdance | | #3

      sarah - thanks for your reply and advice. i really appreciate your input about this. i'm excited and more than a bit intimidated by all of this. i'm glad to meet new friends who can help me in my little quest. matthew

  2. ChrisHaynes | | #2

    "should i start with a used machine? and if so, how do i evaluate the condition of the machine (i don't want to do any extraneous problem solving -- i've got plenty on my plate already. "

    Yes.  Go to a good sewing machine dealer with a decent warrentee plan.  A good store would have trade-ins that have been gone over by their people.   Sometimes you don't buy the sewing machine by brand, but on how well the merchant treats you.

    To evaluate a sewing machine read this:


    1. nashdance | | #4

      chris - thanks for the lead on the chart. very very helpful. best., matthew

      1. GhillieC | | #5

        I was brought up to believe that Berninas were the best sewing machines in the world, and that the second best was a second hand Bernina, except that you cannot buy them secondhand because nobody ever wants to sell them. When I look round sewing or craft shows I notice a lot of people doing demos are using beat up old Berninas.

        Look out for one of the slightly older Berninas with the 'CB hook' mechanism. You may eventually get tired of this and want something fancier but I doubt it will let you down. I would judge how well it had been looked after by the state of its paintwork and how much wear there was on the pedal - just like buying a car.

        Having said that Pfaffs are good too, especially their patented differential feed mechanism, but Pfaff is a brand that has been bought and sold several times and I am a little uneasy about getting spares.

        Good hunting!



        1. ChrisHaynes | | #7

          "Having said that Pfaffs are good too, especially their patented differential feed mechanism, but Pfaff is a brand that has been bought and sold several times and I am a little uneasy about getting spares"

          I have a 12 year old Pfaff that gets regular maintenance.  There seems to be no problem getting parts.  The shop that I have a maintenance agreement with just replaced some bushings on the motor, and earlier replaced the bobbin holder (which was a victim of upholstery thread combined with Sunbrella bias that comes imprenated with an adhesive).  All this was covered by the maintenance agreement.

          This is one reason why you should find a shop you like along with the machine. 

        2. Crafty_Manx | | #8

          "Having said that Pfaffs are good too, especially their patented differential feed mechanism, but Pfaff is a brand that has been bought and sold several times and I am a little uneasy about getting spares."

          I swear by my 15ish-year-old Pfaff 1471; the machine is a workhourse and I'd highly recommend it if you can find one used and in good condition.  I am still able to get spare parts for this machine...they were even able to replace the handle when it broke!  The only "problem" was that they have strayed away from the brown and cream color scheme of my machine...the new handle is white and looks a little awkward.

          My mother has a Pfaff sewing/embroidery machine, my Grandma has a Pfaff sewing machine and a Pfaff serger, and my sister just got a low-end Pfaff.  All are "new" machines and just as durable and reliable as my older one...even after the dog knocked the serger off the table it sewed fine; only one little plastic piece cracked and was easily replaced (not that I'd try my luck again, but still...).

          I think that the quality/helpfulness of your dealer is a big factor in how much you enjoy your machine.  I've got a wonderful dealer in central New Jersey and I will actually drive over an hour to get to his shop when I'm living at school, because I know and trust him that much.  And I've never had a problem with a machine that he couldn't fix.

          Make sure, whatever machine you buy, to get it from a certified dealer...that way, you are more likely to find help when you need it.  And a dealer who knows his machines can also help you to figure out what is right for you.


          1. Evie | | #9

            Crafty,  I have had my Baby Lock Esante sewer-embroiderer

            for about 7 years and love it.  I use it mostly to sew clothing

            but have done embroideries with it.  My serger is also a

            Baby Lock and I am very pleased with it.  I have had it for

            about 7 years also.  Look into these because they have been

            around for some time and maybe you can get a good buy

            on one.  Good luck.

  3. Dove | | #6

    Most of my experience has been with Singers (old ones) but the last time I bought (1996) was a Janome and have been very pleased with the machine.  My sergers have been Baby Lock so I can't offer any opinions on other brands.

    I can't offer any suggestions on dealers from here (Houston) but some of the other above sound like good advice.

    Congratulations on your learning to sew at last.  It can be a fun hobby for us "experienced" folks. 


  4. BillieHood | | #10

    Hi nashdande my two cent is that Pfaff is the better machine because of the dual fabric feed (diffirientail) sp . Pfaff is the only manf of domestic sewing machines in the world offering a machine with built-in dual fabric feed. The material is not only fed from below,but simulatenously from above. Thus there is no shifting  especially since you are new to sewing it certainly make life easier.  I have sewn on ever machine there is to sew on and I am a Pfaff sewer, I have two.  The 1475 doesn't make good

    buttonholes, but you have to practice a lot like everthing else.  Pfaff can be expense

    but there are cheaper model such as tipmatic-tiptronic 1006 through 1171.

     This is the first time I have answered anything on this chat. I hope this helps.


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