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Sewing machine advice?

NanaC | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

Hi everyone… I’m a visitor from Cooks Talk.  I know you probably get this question twice a week, but I’ve done a search and found nothing that answers my specific need.  I hope you will be able to help me.

I’m no longer a frequent sewer, but…  My 45+ year old Singer zigzag “portable,” made of metal and weighing a ton, was given me by my grandmother 43 years ago, used and reconditioned.  It has served me well all these years, sewing everything from baby clothes to prom dresses to model ship sails.  It’s finally reached the point where I can’t repair it any longer… it’s been skipping stitches for quite a while now and cleaning, oiling, greasing, tension adjustment, etc. no longer fix it.  Today it’s decided to only catch every 4th or 5th stitch.  It’s just plain worn out, and they don’t make parts any longer.  Thus my question…

What brand/model would you recommend for an infrequent but skilled and versatile sewer… a high-ish quality one that’s easy to repair, mid range in price, and will just do the basics?  I don’t quilt, although I’ve always wanted to learn.  I don’t machine embroider or serge.  I don’t sew heavy woolens or thick denim french seams.  I just want to sew a seam in mostly lightweight fabrics, but a hemstitch and fleece capability would be plusses.

Of course, my machine finally went needle up just as I have a pile of cut out doll clothes ready to sew for my DGDs… Murphy strikes again… so I need some info fast.

Thanks so much for any help you can give!


“Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we might as well dance!”

Edited 11/30/2007 5:01 pm ET by NanaC

Edited 11/30/2007 5:02 pm ET by NanaC


  1. suesew | | #1

    We answer this question about once a week. My answer is to go to a local sewing machine store and buy from a reputable dealer. Many of the names of machines you already know are all owned by one or two companies now. There are lots of great machines out there. I happen to own 2 Vikings and use 2 more at my university costume studio. They come in all prices and abilities. But other people love their's just as well. A dealer who will stand behind what you buy and be there for future cleanings and repairs is really valuable. In other words, I would not buy off the shelf at Walmart and Kmart. They are cheaper versions and it will be too obvious too soon.

    1. NanaC | | #3

      Thanks, Suesew.  I agree about buying locally from a dealer. 

      In Eastern MA, US, most dealers seem to carry only one or two brands.  I have a Viking dealer 10 miles away, a Bernina dealer about the same in the opposite direction, and a Janome dealer about 20 miles in a third direction.  I'm sure there are other brands out there that are quality as well, but I don't know what they are.  I've been out of the sewing machine market for so many years! I was hoping for some brand direction and a little info to go into the store with. 

      As I said, I'm experienced and skilled at sewing, just totally ignorant of the new machines!  Most machines seem to be aimed a either beginners or those who sew multi hours a day.  I'm neither.  I can't justify spending a ton of money on something I use maybe once a month.  But I want a good quality machine that will do all the basics without frills.  Is there a particular brand that is best for someone like me?

      1. suesew | | #5

        All three of the brands you mentioned will give you good choices. It is tempting to go with as little as you can, but I would encourage you to buy the best you can afford,. If you don't have it (extra stitches and possibilities and feet you might think you'd never need) you can never try it and expand your capabilities. Happy hunting. There should be some great Christmas specials out there right now.

        1. NanaC | | #8

          Good point, Suesew. 

          I asked everyone I knew that sewed, and got that many different answers... they all love whatever machine they have, including a friend (a fabric artist) who still relies on her 40 yr old, well maintained Pfaff 1222!  LOL  I did my online research too. 

          Today headed for a local dealer about 20 miles away (Marie's Sewing Center in Woburn, MA, US) who had several trade-ins for sale.  The shop was recommended by 3 of my friends, so I felt comfortable driving down there. 

          I set myself a preliminary budget of $300, then looked at all the used models, some fancy some basic; some newer, some ancient; some looked nearly new, some like they had been run under a truck.  I was tempted by two:  A Pfaff with more stitches than I would ever use and a more basic Viking, both $199, but neither had a foot pedal.  That would have added at least enough to take me to my $ limit.  There was also a nice, not so old Janome, but it looked like a cat had chewed through the cord, so I couldn't test it.

          Then the extremely helpful saleswoman, an experienced sewer whom I had told of my $ limit, suggested I sit down and try some of the new models, many of which were on sale at 40% off.  I tried a basic Janome with some embroidery stitches, for about $250... nice machine.  Then it was on to the very basic Pfaff 1132.  I went no further.  I liked the solid feel, the intuitive design, the quiet operation.  I had found my machine.  No embroidery stitches, but i won't miss them. 

          It was $279 plus 5% MA tax, which came in just under my budget.  I haven't taken it out of the box yet, but after dinner, I expect to disappear upstairs and not come out until morning.  Happy Holidays to Me!  LOL

          And, this store has a policy that made me very comfortable settling for such a basic model... At any time within one year of purchase, I can trade it in on a better one and get my full purchase price back on the trade-in.  I doubt if I'll need to do that, but it's nice to know I can if I want to.

          Thanks so much for your help.

          Edited 12/3/2007 5:48 pm ET by NanaC

          1. MaryinColorado | | #11

            Merry Christmas to you!  So glad that you found the perfect fit!  Enjoy your new machine and the many joys of creating with it!  Mary

          2. suesew | | #12

            You did exactly the right thing. Congratulations and many happy years of sewing. Sue

          3. NanaC | | #13

            Thanks so much everyone.  You were all a big help.  I do love this little workhorse... It's a joy to sew with, and I think we'll get along just fine together.  ;o)

            It's got quite a bit of versatility, is quiet when running, and seems like a sturdy little beast.  I'd recommend it to anyone who has no need of embroidery stitches.  It has a freearm mode; dial to choose 1 buttonhole, 8 regular, and 8 stretch stitches; stitch length and width adjustments; two needle capability; see through plate over the bobbin; reverse stitching lever (no continuous); foot pressure and thread tension adjustment dials; and feed dog retraction.  It comes with a pack of needles, several different feet, 4 bobbins, a few tools, etc.

            I'm happy!

            Edited 12/4/2007 12:31 pm ET by NanaC

          4. User avater
            VKStitcher | | #14


            Congratulations on your new machine!  It sounds like it's perfect for you.  Happy sewing!

  2. Ralphetta | | #2

    If you go to patternreveiw.com you can find good information.  It will help you narrow the field and prepare you for actual shopping.

    1. NanaC | | #4

      Thanks, Ralphetta.  I'll check that out.

      1. Betakin | | #7

        I own several machines all different brands and I could recommend them all. I use them all and love the different features that each brand has. If you get the chance to try out different models you might then find the new features that appeal to you the most and the one that suits your needs and comfort level.

        There is a lot of mixing of the sewing machine brands now. Singer's holding company now owns Pfaff/Viking. Janome is one of the largest machine manufacturer's in the world. They also took over the New Home brand some years ago. They make machines with the Janome name for Janome dealers plus they make machines for other companies. The Sears Kenmore brand of machines and sergers is made by Janome and usually have more features for the price than if you bought a Janome machine from a dealer. Janome used to make the older HuskyStar models made in Taiwan for Viking. Now the newer Huskystars are made in China and I think by several companies and Janome has taken over as the head of Elna USA but has made Elna machines for several years. Janome also makes the Pfaff Grand Quilter and Viking Mega Quilter. They have made some of the Bernina lower model machines and some of their embroidery only machines. I think they have made machines for other companies to including Necchi.

        I think brousing the different brands on line plus dealers websites might give an idea of different models, brands and prices. Checking the on line reviews of machine owners on PatternReview, Epinions and Quilter's Review might also give some ideas to help you decide. I do hope you get to test drive some different models and find one you love. I hope you get back with us on which machine you decided on. Happy Holidays to all.

        1. NanaC | | #9

          Wow, Betakin, I heard there had been a lot of mergers, but this is ridiculous.  It's almost as though it's down to only a couple of decent mfgs now.  You never know when you buy something today whom you will be dealing with tomorrow!

          Thanks for your input.  I'll let you know how I like my new baby. 

  3. lself | | #6

    No help here with your problem, but I just had to reply.  I'm still using the Singer Slant-O-Matic that Daddy gave me for Christmas 47 years ago.    It's only been in the shop, and that for cleaning and timing, about 4 times in all those years until this past winter when I had to replace the tension adjuster.   I found a man on the web that had one from another machine.    She still sews a perfect stitch and a better buttonhole  with that old clunky attachment than any new machine I've tried.  I don't know what I'll do when mine finally gives up.  Maybe mount her on the wall by my husband's deer!


    1. NanaC | | #10

      I hear you, Iself!  That poor old Singer of mine is like a member of the family, and I just hate to say goodbye.  But she will live on for a few more years in one way.  DH wants to take the motor and foot pedal and make a ropewalk out of it for his shipmodel shop.

      So... anyone need some miscellaneous parts?  Instr book, 2 stitch plates, needles, feet, , bobbins, etc.?  Yours for the postage.  LOL

    2. martagon | | #15

      Oh, I have to agree with you about the slan-o-matic.  My brother bought one for me in 1967, and I loved it.  The tensioner on it went early, but a local guy managed to keep it running.   Recently I bought aPfaff,   but I sure miss the slant-o-matic.  When I'm cursing at the Pfaff, I long to just bring the singer up out of the basement and try it one  more time    Why does no one make a long shaft on the machines any more  -- at least when I was looking, I couldn't find one.

      1. geegee | | #16

        I sewed on a Singer slant o matic 401 for years. Eventually I found a machine that was so much like it. It is the Baby Lock sewing machines. I at first purchased a lower priced model, and loved it so much I purchased a computerized model, I really think I liked the first one the best. But they thread like the Singers and handle like the singers and have metal parts not plastic.


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