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Machine recommendations

annieqst | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

Hi all! I usually am in ‘CooksTalk’ or ‘Over the Fence’ so please pardon my intrusion! I am a very limited sewer. I had a mother who sewed beautifully and I picked up some skills vicariously. I occassionally make a skirt for myself, usually do some mending, am more interested in quilting. I was given an old Sears machine which is adequate, but tough for quilting (just sewing many chunks of fabric together). However the older I get, the worse my vision and threading that darned needle…

Does anyone have any recommendations for beginners machine that would also work for the bulk of quilting? My understanding is new machines self-thread.

Thanks! Annie


  1. MaryinColorado | | #1

    Hi! I have the same problem.  Look for a new needle threader, they are usually $3-$5, about 1 inch long plastic.  I have seen them online at Clotilde's and Nancy's Notions I think.  Maybe Joanne's has them. 

     I have three Husqvarna Viking machines and two of them came with these so the sewing machine dealers in your area might have them in the area where they display the presser feet or notions area.  My newest machine has it built in but it was not a selling point as the little portable ones work great.  Good luck!  Mary

    1. annieqst | | #2

      Thanks, Mary! Do you mean I could get an auto-threader for my old machine? That would be so much more economical (but not as much fun).

      1. MaryinColorado | | #3

        It is not a machine attatchment but works great for threading the needles.

      2. fabricholic | | #4

        Buy a Husqvarna Viking model. They are great. I had a Viking 1+ and it was awesome. I have just bought the Designer SE. It is more complicated. I don't think they make the 1+ anymore, but I am sure they have something similar. Hope you get a new one and you see what you have been missing. Fun, fun, fun!!!Marcy

        1. annieqst | | #5

          Thanks for the recommendation. I'm actually pretty excited about the possibilities and know my mother (somewhere in heaven) is delighted that one of her daughters is interested in sewing.

          1. fabricholic | | #6

            Hi Annieqst,I feel like your mother is delighted. I actually bought my new machine with money my mother left me. She passed away this past Memorial Day. That is one of the hobbies we shared. She liked watching the sewing shows on t.v. even though, she didn't sew much, anymore. That's one more of the wonderful things mother's pass on to their daughters; the love of sewing.Marcy

          2. annieqst | | #7

            Marcy: That's a great little story. I'm sorry to read you lost your mother so recently. It's so hard! My mother died about 10 years ago, but boy! She's still right there in my heart and I think about her frequently—what a character she was!

            I wish I HAD shared sewing with her, however, that wasn't the case. She tried to teach me and I wanted very little to do with it. Actually a girlfriend of mine picked it up and I often wondered if she came over to play with my mother or me! It's amazing how much I picked up by just living around it, though. I remember some of her instructions and comments she'd make while sewing or examing the inside of store-bought clothes—about turning edges, finishing seams, etc.

            When I made my first quilt (very simple), I "spoke" a lot with Mom. "Ok Mom, now guide me along here. I'm not sure what I'm doing..." I felt like she was right there with me.

  2. zuwena | | #8

    I've been looking at machines now for more months than I care to reveal.   Like you I've sewn off and on for the 40 years since I bought my machine, which has held up marvelously.  But, since it had a few bad moments I think it's best to get something more updated.  I've found that the built-in needle threaders on the Babylock and the Pfaff worked wonderfully.  This will be a factor in my final selection.  Others of the new computerized machines also have this feature but I don't recall that they worked as well.  Babylock has a machine it calls the Quilter--it has lots of decorative stitches but does not embroider so you might want to explore that machine.  Pfaff has something similar and so has Bernina.  These are all what I believe are considered mid-range in costs (these days) for computerized machines--around $700-1000.  Each of these companies have less expensive models that are non computerized, in the low hundreds, and really expensive models that do all kinds of fancy embroidery costing up to $7000.  I just remembered there is also a new Husky series by Husqvarna that is computerized and sells for about $500.  It's new this early this year so it does not yet have a track record.  I don't know the repair track record on the others that I mentioned, so that's something you might want to find out about and include in your evaluation.  If I make a decision soon I will share it and my reasons.  All the best.  Zuwena

    1. annieqst | | #9

      Thanks for the suggestions. There's a local sewing machine shop not to far from where I live and thought I'd go there for a look/see, but wanted some sewers' recommendations first. The cost is a factor since I probably won't be using it a lot...on the other hand, with a good machine, I may find it's much more fun to sew!

  3. stitchintime | | #10

    I've been peeking "over the fence" myself the last few days out of curiosity but haven't posted anything yet. Welcome to our forum. You are right that a new machine will make a difference in your sewing. It's like using a computer as opposed to a typewriter! 

    Buying a sewing machine these days however is like buying a car. There are lots of different brands and features and many sewers swear by the machines they've been using for years and wouldn't buy from any other company. You have to find what's suitable for you. Make a list of sewing projects you're interested in (sounds like quilting is high on the list) and check out machines that cater to the quilting world but will also allow you to do garments or home dec or whatever else you are also interested in. You can do some preliminary work at home on your computer by checking into the manufacturer's website.

    There are also many discussions on this site about people shopping for new machines for various levels of sewing expertise. Do a search for them.

    The people on this forum are very helpful so if you have more questions, come back.

    1. annieqst | | #11

      Sage advice. Thanks. I'll check the local shop to get an idea of what's available and prices...and a proper working vocabulary. Then what I read here or in web reviews will make more sense and I'll be able to pose more intelligent questions. I appreciate it!

      1. Ralphetta | | #12

        The last time I bought a machine I narrowed things down by research and then, taking 3-4 small pieces of fabric, I went to try them out.  By using identical fabrics on each machine I could see differences very clearly.  I was most  interested in top stitching and buttonholes. I did not buy the machine that looked best on paper..I found another that  I have been thrilled with.


        1. annieqst | | #13

          Oh-h-h! That's another great tip. Thanks!!

  4. nineee | | #14

    Annie, I bought the Janome 6600 after lots of research.  I bought this machine because it has a larger sewing bed that enables you to maneuver a quilt without excessive stuffing.  Iv'e made 4 baby quilt/lap size quilts on it and it performs very well for my needs.  If you plan to quilt the piece on your machine, you definitely need the needle up-down feature and speed control feature.  They make all the difference in the world.  Since price is a factor, you need to be aware that Bernina's extra feet cost a lot of money, over $100 while other models do not charge that much for extra feet you may want to add.  Choose from a dealer who can service your machine and spend as much as you are able.  That was the avice from a sewing machine store owner who said regardless of which brand you choose, buy the most you can afford.  She was right.  Oh, and definitely take samples of material as well as a small "sandwich" (fabric, batting, fabric) and test drive any machine you are considering.

    1. annieqst | | #15

      Thanks Nineee. That's the same advice I give my computer students: buy as much machine as your wallet can afford. I haven't had a chance to go looking yet as I've been ill. Am chomping at the bit to get see what's out there!

      1. SewinMari | | #16

        Does any machine really do buttonholes?  Every machine I ever bought was supposed to do buttonholes, but it is always a MESS when I let the machine work by its own automatic-mess-your-placket-up-mind.

        I'm looking at the Janome 11000 and my dealer says it will really do buttonholes.  Any thoughts!

        1. User avater
          Becky-book | | #17

          I do not have the Janome you mentioned, but my machine does buttonholes pretty well.  I always test the setup on a scrap of fabric just like the garment (fashion fabric, lining, interfacing, etc...), make sure the tension and stitch width are OK. Go Slow! Make sure the garment is not hung up on some part of the table so it can move through the rotation properly, little things make the difference!


          1. Gloriasews | | #20

            Yes - ALWAYS test the buttonhole on a scap of the same fabric/thickness that your real buttonhole will be.  I have a Kenmore machine that does the semi-automatic pushbutton buttonholes and it also has an attachment (works perfectly) for 2 different kinds of buttonholes (this machine was the 20-stitch model for $269 Cdn).  I recently bought an Euro Pro-X computerized (but is self-contained - I couldn't afford the really great machines) at Costco for $299 Cdn.  It has 200 or so stitches, with also a plain alphabet & numbers & automatic buttonholer.  The buttonholer is an attachment in which you place your button (so it sews the right size).  It took some practice & often referring to the instruction book to get it right, but it works really well - the holes are always the right size &, best of all, if you didn't place them in quite the right place, they are easy to rip out.  (I bought the newer machine because of all the decorative stitches, as I like to embellish when I quilt & sew, but the old machine still works perfectly).  The newer machine also has the 4-stage pushbutton semi-automatic buttonholer built in, too.  Has anyone else out there tried the Euro Pro-X?  There doesn't seem to be any information or ads on it anywhere, although I did see an ad for it in a sewing magazine a few years ago.

        2. stitchintime | | #19

          I have a Janome 4900 and it does beautiful buttonholes. It even has a feature to do the buttonhole twice automatically if you want. I adjusted for the stitch density I wanted, and practiced dropping the needle a few times on a marked sample so I would know where to place the needle to get the buttonholes starting and ending where I wanted.  

          I imagine the 11000 will perform as well. Have the dealer make some samples for you on different fabrics.

        3. user-218123 | | #21

          A few years ago, I bought a Janome 3000 to replace my Sears 1700 series ,that I had used for about 30 years. (I have a small bridal wear busines). At first the button holes (automated) were very nice, not as good as the ones the Sears mades, but still  nice.  Then after a while, the machine stopped making a complete button hole, I got a bunch of "J" shapes. I was told by the repair man that it was a programming problem and also my machine had just gone off warranty!  I went out and bought an old Sears machine, another 1700 series  for $40, and now use it for buttonholes and everything else. It seems that mechanical machines, not computerized, are more reliable for buttonholes.

          1. ixs | | #22

            I am a long-time garment sewer.  I still have all the machines I have ever purchased, the first two being mechanical and very reliable; however, my latest computerized, embroidery, and former top of the line machine, has had some expensive repairs, but I knew that when I bought it, but I still am glad I bought it, as it sews wonderfully. 

            The main reason I bought it was for the all-in-one direction buttonholes.  It even has a feature that lets one place a button up to a screen to dial in a button size, then THE MACHINE SEWS IT!!! 

            BUT, to sew, all one really needs is a straight-stitch machine, the rest is "gravy."  I was in an Amish household last week, and some women have newer machines that are converted to treadles, but this household still was using a very old treadle machine, as any machine that sews a straight stitch only usually makes a very good straight stitch, because that is all it does.

          2. SewinMari | | #23

            Oh Amen to the simple machine.  I really have the fever off and on for an embroidery machine and just can't decide what to get or how much I'd really use it.  After I go see how much the combination machines are, I think embroidery only.  When this fever gets high, I am ready buy TOL, but this week, thanks to the Lord, I am sane again.  Well, all that to say that if my Pfaff croaks on me, I think I'm just going to get a zig zag machine.  Know what's funny?  I am typing on this computer, which is sitting on an old treadle machine.  Funny!  It works too.

          3. SewinMari | | #24

            I wish you would tell us more about the Amish "newer" machines converted to treadle -- how fascinating.  (not that I'd want to use one....)

          4. ixs | | #25

            My granddaughters have had and have Amish babysitters right now as they are their neighbors and good neighbors.  They dressed up our 20 month old granddaughter as an Amish child and took her to an Amish wedding, but since they don't believe in graven images, there is no picture (too bad), and I wouldn't take a camera on their place, as that would be very rude because it's against their religion.  We also hope and think our grandgirl might be learning a little German, too.  She comes home sometimes with an Amish hairdo and looks very much like an Amish child.  All the Amish children seem to look so beautiful.....in my opinion.

            I really can't tell you very much, except they don't need fancy machines, because their dress isn't fancy.  From what I can see, their machines are placed in the window for the light, I assume. 

            I don't remember what kind of machines are converted--they look like maybe they're a basic machine from the 50s and up or so, but I think you can buy them in Amish-type stores; I think I saw them in the past in Yoder's store in Shipshewana, IN, but since the Amish population is growing, I wouldn't be surprised if there is still a market for them.  But I was surprised the one family was using a treadle machine, but there were two young girls in the family, so there was probably need for more than one machine. 


          5. User avater
            Becky-book | | #26

            My guess is that they have just done the reverse of the old treadle update that takes a treadle machine and puts an electric motor on it.  I think some of the Amish do not 'believe' in electricity so they would just take off the motor and put the treadle belt around the hub where the motor used to be.  So the 'newer' machine would need to have an exposed motor and not an internal one.

            I think a simple life style is a good thing but I also believe that God has given us all things to richly enjoy (and everything we need for life and godliness 2 Peter 1:3).  And electricity is one of His good gifts to us!


          6. victoria0001 | | #27

            Just got a Janome Memory Craft 9700 which has a lengthened open arm, can do quilting, embroidery or anything..........even heavy duty.  Delighted with it and can't imagine needing or wanting any other sewing machine for awhile.  Been sewing for 55 years!!!  This one is particularly user friendly and has a touch screen (use only with your finger) and so easy.

      2. user-217847 | | #18

        have only had Janome machines, up dating to the latest quilting machine this christmas support staff here in newcastle australia absolutely marvelous.

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