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Help Choosing a Sewing Machine

Ellen_Mauer | Posted in The Archives on

Help! I am a beginner and my husband wants to buy me my first sewing machine for Christmas. I have narrowed it down between a Bernina and a Husqvarna. Please give me your opinion about which you would choose. I am planning to use it for basic sewing. Also what is the advantage of having a computerized machine over a manual one? thank you for your help!


  1. lin_hendrix | | #1

    Hi Ellen,

    Both the brands you've mentioned have excellent reputations and are good, sturdy machines. Typically stores will demo their machine's capabilities on a stiff piece of cotton fabric; this does not show up difficulties in tension or fabric "creep."

    My killer demo test for sewing machines is thus: Buy about 1/4 yard each of real silk charmeuse, heavy jeans denim, poly chiffon, cheap cotton jersey knit, and a medium weight wool plaid or stripe. Color doesn't matter so you can get these off the sale table. Cut your fabrics into managable pieces, about 5" x width of your 1/4 yard. Take a bunch of these to your dealer(s).

    Sew a doubled scrap of the chiffon, charmeuse, knit, wool, then denim WITHOUT changing any settings or tension. You should abut each scrap so that it feeds continuously into the machine. Do this with a straight stitch then again with a zig-zag stitch. Then have them sew a buttonhole on each type of fabric; it's ok if they use a stabilizer for a buttonhole, just remember you'll have to do the same.

    Examine both front and back of each sewn scrap. The stitches should be formed nearly identically front and back and should be even. No skipping, or pulling and virtually no difference between the different fabrics. Look at the buttonholes. Are the long bars uniform? Is there any pulling or misalignment? Look at the plaid/striped swatch; is the pattern on the top piece aligned to the bottom piece or do the stripes tend to grow out of alignment? Keep the scraps so that you can take them home and compare with the next machine.

    This will tell you a lot about how well the machine will sew for you over time. Any dealer should tackle your request gleefully and with confidence; this does not take a lot of their time. If you get a lot of excuses about the machine's performance or if they keep saying you'll need to buy this and that special accessory then you should re-think that particular model. Straight, zig-zag, and buttonhole are the stitches you need most for nearly any general sewing task.

    Even if you think you'll *never* sew charmeuse or denim you want your machine to be up to the challenge. There is a trade-off in performance versus price.

    keep us posted as to your choice!


    1. Vida | | #2

      *Either the Bernina or the Husky are great machines. I'm biased towards Bernina myself. I have a 930 & really love it, but Husky owners will tell you the same. You just have to go out & test them out yourself. As far as the getting a new Bernina...I don't know if I'd do that. I've heard the newer ones are now made in Thailand vs. Switzerland...so I'd stick w/an older one so you'll get th Swiss quality. There are still lots of 830s & 930s around that are working as well as the day they were first purchased new. I'd go for a manual machine. My reasoning is that if one of the stiches happens to not work you can still use the machines & the other stiches. With a computerized machine...if one stitch doesn't work, then you won't be able to use the machine at all.Good luck!Vida

      1. silkscape_ | | #3

        *Ellen,I just assisted my mom to buy her first sewing machine. I recommended, and she bought, a babylock 6200. This machine is basically mechnical (electronic foot control) and about $500. It is a gem of a machine with a one-step buttonhole, needle threader, top-loading bobbin, and nice variety of decorative stitches. The needle has infinite positions, too. To get all these features in a "basic" machine is practically impossible. The machine sews and sounds beautiful, very smooth and sturdy. Good luck!

        1. Cherie | | #4

          *I used to work for a sewing machine manufacturer...The best advice I can give you based on my experience is:1) Purchase the best machine that you can afford i. e choose a price range that you and your husband are comfortable with.2) Determine what kind of service you will receive from the retailer. Try and get actual lessons on how to use the stitches on your machine-the retailer should spend more than half-an-hour with you. If you purchase a computerized machine, they should give you more time for lessons.3) There is nothing wrong with the new machines.-especially if its a Bernina or Husqvarna. They are extremely reliable and are usually easier to repair (there is less that can go wrong in a computerized machine).4) Decide on what kind of sewing you want to do. For example, if you like the idea of doing embroidery and other fancy work, then a computer machine may be the choice for you. The same can be said if you want to be able to have a wide choice of options. If you think you are only going to sew very simple items, and not at all interested in decorative work,and never will be, then a "lesser" machine may suit.5) If you have real doubts, then sit down at the machine yourself and sew on it. This way you will find out how easy or hard the machine is to use, and you will get a "feel" for it. Start with threading the machine yourself, to adjusting settings, and then sewing on a variety of fabrics. Good Luck

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