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Need advice on buying a sewing machine

terri | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I am looking into buying a sewing machine.  I have never had one before and the choices are very confusing.  I will use it to do pillows, duvet, drapes, some clothes, and just general stuff around the house.  I want to get a good one that I won’t outgrow in 6 months but don’t need anything top of the line or expensive.  I just want a good machine that can do different stuff, is durable and that will last me.  Any suggestions on good models?  I heard NOT to go to Sears, and that the brother is made from plastic and not to do that.  I have looked at a Viking Emma for $449 but feel I can get just as great of a machine for not so high of a price (I know they are marking them up huge).  So I need advice on brands, models, price ranges and any other suggestions anyone can offer.  Thanks so much.


  1. JulieP25 | | #1

    Threads did an article on basic machines a while ago. You can read some of it on this web site.  My first machine was an old Husqvarna C150. Which I still have and works beautifully.  You may want to look for older top of the line models, sometimes they can be found at a good price and have lots of features for you to learn. Good luck and have fun. Jules

  2. nmog | | #2

    Everyone has their favourite brand of machine, but the ones that work well in a junior high sewing room have been the Kenmore models from Sears.  I was surprised when I heard that, but my friend has said that they stand up to 5 hours of sewing per day by students who may or may not be experienced.  You may want to look for a model (any brand) that has a zipper foot included, although they aren't that expensive if you purchase one later.  Make sure that the company has a good service record, and see if they take a long time getting your machine back to you.  Some companies leave you on your own to find a repair shop, and that can be half of the hassle.  Good luck in your search!


  3. EagleCO | | #3

    See if you can find a dealer ( Bernina, Viking etc.....) near where you live.  Go to all of them and test them out.  Get a feel for the customer service at each of them.  I know my Bernina dealer always has used machines for sale.  Also classes on everything you can think of.  I'm afraid if you buy a machine that breaks down often or just isn't sewer friendly you won't enjoy sewing.  I believe in the saying "You get what you pay for" especially with sewing machines   Ask around in these forums if anyone has a good used machine for sale.  The other forum you may want to look at it http://www.marthapullen.com down on the right side is a chat column. 

    Good Luck



  4. Elisabeth | | #4

    I have had a Viking for 18 years and have never had any problems with it.  It has gotten lots of use and it has all been a pleasure.  Last year I went machine shopping with a friend and we tried out several big brands and realized that Viking offered the best basic machine at the best price.  She is a beginner sewer and she loves her new Viking.

    In the mid seventies I got a Sears Kenmore that I used like crazy.  My mom has it now for occasional use and it still runs fine.  Perhaps someone else knows if Kenmore has kept up the good standard.  

  5. isaysew | | #5

    Hi Terri,

    Kenmore sewing machines are very good quality, Janome makes them and they are priced very well and often on sale.  However, you won't get much help from the salespeople at Sears on how to operate the machine or about sewing problems that you may encounter.  Likewise with Costco or other big box stores.

    I have a top of the line Kenmore purchased in the 80's , used heavily on a daily basis that is still a great machine.  It has had only 2 service calls in this time.  However, I am looking at Janome machines now.

    I would suggest for a first time buyer a machine from a reputable dealer who can help you, often they have used machines that aren't as pricey.  They should also offer lessons on the machine and be available for you when questions arise.  It wouldn't hurt to take you own fabric samples with you when you test the machines, the stuff they use for sample stitches bears no resemblance to anything you would want to wear or use in your house!

    1. Ramblebee | | #9

      Hi, I too had a top of the line Kenmore back in the 70's and it still works - has been a great machine for my daughter to use.  In the early 80's I bought one of the first computer machines that New Home made (now Janome) and loved it.  Used it every day for 20 years and only had two service calls - once when I just thought it needed it and once when it just wasn't working right.  At the second service call, the repairman called me and asked how much I used the machine.  Then he told me it was only the second New Home that he had ever worked on that he could truely say was totally worn out, and he has been working on them for a very long time.  I then bought another computerized machine - Janome Memory Craft 4800 and have been using it every day for two years.  My serger is also a old New Home 778 - not a pretty or fancy machine, but a workhorse that has never given me any trouble.  However, a sewing machine has to 'fit' the sewer.  The only way to purchase one is to take fabric with you to the store and take the machine for an intense test sew. 

  6. Bernie1 | | #6

    Actually, the price on the Emma is reasonable. All the Vikings have very nice features and the other posters are exactly right - you need to make sure you buy from a dealer who will also give you classes, warranties and good service.

    1. SEWSERIOU1 | | #7

      You don't HAVE to buy from a dealer.  It is a personal choice and a matter of what is available in one's local area.  There is not a dealer in my area that is convenient for me to visit as I work fulltime and have to drive at least 45 minutes to get to one! 

      Buying from Sears is fine if you understand you are on your own with the machine or you will need to take classes elsewhere.  Buying from a dealer is not a gaurantee that you will get a good product or good service!  There are plenty of lousy dealers out there, I have one in my town!  And another thing, price DOES NOT necessarily equal quality!

      1. Bernie1 | | #8

        you are so right. Fortunately, I have an excellent dealer who's not too far that I can't go in and throw a tantrum if they don't give me good service. I would say, though, that anyone looking to buy a machine should do a lot of research, talk to folks on forums like these and get as many and varied opinions as possible. You can also call a dealer and have them send you literature. Also, some fabric stores carry machines or have teachers who can give good advice. A machine is an investment and should be treated with the same care you'd give to anything you intend to love that much. Take care.

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