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Experienced but needs new machine advice

ShirleyKnott | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I finally have a sewing nook and after a 30-year lapse, I’m returning to sewing.  THEN I was a skilled seamstress; NOW I will be doing simple sewing – mostly straight stitching and hemming.   I want to replace my 1960s Singer Stylist and I want to keep the price below $350.  The machine must have a needle threader and a blind hemmer.  I know that the new machines are portable but, due to physical disability, I’d like something that will fit in my old sewing table.  Are there conversion kits?  The choices of machines are dizzying!  Which brand and model might you recommend for my minor league sewing?  Thanks for your input.


  1. Kiley | | #1

    It seems many sewers favor a certain brand of machine. Janome is a favorite and has the features you mentioned and in that price range. They make also some Sears Kenmore and the Huskystar line that is sold by Viking. The Huskystar 224 is the top model in that line, has the auto threader, speed control several nice stitches and I believe it is the only Huskystar to have electonic ability to have full power at all speeds. It is smooth running and quiet. Sears sells some Janomes with the Janome name and also Janome with the Kenmore name. Sears also sells Simplicity, Singer and I believe White and Brother embroidery. A Janome dealer has some great machines at low prices and you can also buy some new ones on line from dealers or if you want to look on eBay. Pfaff has some mid price machines in the Select models. They feature the IDT the dual feed which is wonderful. Try stitching on one and you will see what I mean. There are a few Select models that do not have the dual feed. Viking has the Lena that I believe is on sale at $399. It is a basic mechanical. You didn't mention what type of buttonholes you prefer. Some machines have the regular 4 step some even 5 step and maybe more. Some have the one step automatic. Brother users seem to praise their machines and features also. PatternReivew on line gives ratings of machines by owners. I realize it is a personal thing buying a machine. You prefer quaility and of course the price enters into the matter in what features are available. There is a difference between models and it is wise to test drive if possible or check the ratings. There are several places on line to check machine ratings. I have found from watching the boards that many new machines with many features seem to have some bugs and they have had to be returned. If this happens take it back and get one that works for you. I have told you of my favorites in my looking for a midline machine. I hope you find one that you love. :) Ky

  2. MegVT | | #2


    Welcome Home (to sewing)!  You've run smack into sticker shock with the price of machines, though.  Phew.  Why don't you consider looking at used machines, as well?  Specifically speaking, I have a 23-year-old Pfaff 1222E, which I occasionally see on Ebay.  This is a great machine, includes the dual feed feature, and I'm told that seamstresses like because of its workhorse-like longevity.  (I've been in the market for another 1222E, for my sister-in-law.) 

    Here's a toast to you and your new sewing nook!


  3. kayl | | #3

    There's a cheap and easy needle threader you might want to consider,

    in lieu of the built in ones... it's called a "perfect sew threader",

    and looks like a little white stick with an almost invisible wire hook

    sticking out of it at one end -- here's one source: http://www.homesew.com/needles.html -- though the diagram shows

    the hole on the other end being used as a machine needle inserter,

    which it also is. <g>

    To use it as a needle threader, lay the "little white stick" along your left index finger, with the hook part sticking out away from the pad of your finger. Put your finger behind the needle, and insert the hook through the needle's eye (it's really quite easy, the scarf helps), lay the thread across the hook of the threader, and withdraw the threader. Done. With a little practice, I found I could do this


    If this works for you, you've widened your possible selection of

    machines quite a bit, including some grand old classic machines

    with beautiful stitching.

    Sticker shock on new machines is pretty amazing. Is there something

    about your present machine you really don't care for? (I don't know

    the model you've got).

    Another thing I'd suggest before you go shopping... pick up a copy

    of Carol Ahles' book, Fine Machine Sewing, (libraries often have it)

    and read the initial chapters on getting the most out of your machine

    and on blind hemming. You might discover that your old machine

    can be tuned up well enough that you might think about a serger

    instead of a new sewing machine at this point.

    There's also a checklist of basic machine features that Threads did

    in 2002 that would probably still be useful:


    (and one on sergers, too: http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00162.asp )

    1. carolfresia | | #4

      Kay, thanks for the explanation of the needle-threader. I'd seen the photo and the name of it, and wondered. Since I was able to thread the needle with the naked eye (naked except for the +5.5 contact lenses, that is!) until about a year ago, it was a moot point that the name the photo didn't quite match up. Now that I can't see worth a darn, these little tools become not just handy, but essential. Am I right to think that it would be a mistake to let this little item, with its delicate wire hook, get into the hands of a curious 4-year-old?


      1. kayl | | #5

        No 4 year old here, so I don't have applicable data... they will survive 50 yr old computer engineers playing with sergers, though. <g>

        Seriously, the wire is very fine and can be mashed to the breaking point. I have a couple of them, and I've wrapped some sticky-back velcro around the middle so they can be corralled on the side of the sewing machine for quick use and so they don't get smushed in the notions drawer. My first one lasted almost 4 years before the little wire went "crink" -- I'd made the serger salesman give me his as

        a condition of buying the serger, as they were out of the perfect

        sew threaders right then, and at that time relatively difficult to find. <g>

        As my visual accomodation goes, (the eyes focus only at certain focal lengths easily now), I'm finding the threaders more and more useful.

        Kay, destined to have six pairs of glasses on chains around her neck

        1. carolfresia | | #6

          What a good idea about keeping it attached to the machine. Of course that will make it all the more enticing to aforementioned 4-year-old, so maybe I'll find a hidden spot on the back of the machine (or under the table??). I wonder what happened to your serger saleman, though. I mean, I'm sure he thought it was an incredible deal to sell a machine by giving away his threader, but if he was unable to thread the remaining machines, could he sell them?

          Carol, who buys reading glasses in 3-packs at Costco every couple of months. And never wears them!

          1. kayl | | #7

            Well, he said he had another couple at home... I took him at his word. <g> The optometrists tell me there's a table of age vs. minus lens

            strengths that they have to memorize because it works so well... and

            most of the change is between 40 and 50. So I have hopes of stability... 'twould be nice!

          2. SewNancy | | #8

            Gee, I'm 54 I hope the worst of the change is behind me!  It is bad enough as it is!  I am going to look for that needle thread, as I can't always get the serger needle threaded easily.


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