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What sewing machine?

moira | Posted in Creative Machine on

I’m a dressmaker whose 20 year old Bernina machine has given up the ghost after sewing hundreds of garments. The part needed is obsolete, so I’m having to look at a new machine. There are so many on the market, and I’m wondering what serious sewers are buying these days. Also, what not to buy.


  1. BernaWeaves | | #1

    I have two VERY old Singers (treadle and early electric) and I wanted something new because I thought I would enjoy sewing if I had a modern machine.  (Frankly, I'm terrified of these two machines, but they're heirlooms and pretty.)

    I took a sewing class and my teacher recommended Janome.

    I'd never heard of this brand, but apparently they make most of the modern machines these days.

    I love it.  It has a built in needle threader (worth the entire price of the machine), a clear face plate for a drop in bobbin (so you can tell you have thread on the bobbin), very easy threading, presser feet that snap on an off easily (no screws), and lots of neat presser feet that don't cost very much.  It also only weighs 12 lbs and has a handle on the top that makes it very easy to carry.  It came with lots of nice attachments and a place to store them. 

    I'm very pleased with this machine, and it only cost about $400.00.  It's computerized model and has about 30 built in stitches, including 4 one-step buttonholes, and it even mimics a serger using only one needle.

    They make so many models, less and more expensive than mine, that I recommend that you seek out a Janome dealer and take a look at the features.


    Edited 6/20/2007 4:51 pm ET by BernaWeaves

    1. tmorris1 | | #15

      Ah, a fellow Janome lover, I almost started to think that I was the only one lol!!

      1. User avater
        VKStitcher | | #16

        You're not alone!  I'm another member of the Janome Fan Club.  I have a Memory Craft 4800 and a 300e and love them!

        I learned to sew on Mom's Singer 401A, so when I purchased my own, I thought Singers were the best.  Not!  My first was a mechanical Singer (an OK basic machine), then I upgraded to a newer computerized Singer around 2001.  That one was quirky and the dealer was hard to work with when I wanted to buy accessories for it (a walking foot and a 1/4-inch foot--nothing unusual).  A couple of years later, after researching several brands, I decided on a new Janome.  It sews like a dream, and has lots of nice features (and the walking foot & 1/4" foot came with it!)

        1. tmorris1 | | #17

          VK;Yay!!! We should start a club. I get a lot of flack for loving Janome as much as I do because of their previous track record, but how can you not love such a solid, well planned machine.Happy sewing,

          1. Ralphetta | | #18

            I haven't paid much attention in the past, but don't I remember hearing of a connection between Janome and New Home?  I may be confused.

          2. tmorris1 | | #19

            Yes, the two names are often synonymous now, but the New Home machines are the "low end" machines that Janome manufactures. I know that they still make the Kenmore line. I know that at least until recently they even manufactured machines like the HuskyStar, and the lower end Bernina and Pfaff machines. This is why they have so many features in common with all of the machines out there. They have adapted many of the really good features of the Pfaff, Bernina, and Viking into their own models. *I did a little bit of research ;)*

          3. BernaWeaves | | #20

            New Home is a very old American brand that Janome bought years and years ago.

            Janome makes most of the other brands that are out there, so I figured I'd just go to the source.

            Plus, I sought out a Janome dealer that will give me good local service and free lessons for life.

            My Janome is so different from my old Singers.  All the features that used to drive me up the wall on the Singer are incredibly easy to use on the Janome.

            Singer actually hasn't been in the sewing machine business since the 1970's.  They are in the defense business now.  Anything with the Singer name on it now is made by someone else, not the original Singer company.



          4. tmorris1 | | #21

            Good info Berna, thank you.

          5. feismom | | #39

            Janome gave me major grief and nearly ruined a couple of projects, the first time while still in warranty.  Husqvarna Viking never ceases to amaze me.  Many of the brand names now are not different companies.  Find a reputable dealer, look for classes, trunk shows and other special events, our city runs 'people's choice awards every year' - look for that kind of recommendation.  I thought I could do anything with a sewing machine (okay, the Singer long bobbin wouldn't zig zag but you get the idea) but I've learned tons from my Husqvarna dealer.  The new machines do so much more than my 70's vintage Singer so I think the dealer support thing is really important now.

          6. tmorris1 | | #40

            Feismom;Is this information for me? I have several machines and am happy with all of them, have a great dealer, and extensively research all of the machines that I buy. I am glad that you love Husq, and hope that you get many years of sewing enjoyment from it.T.

          7. feismom | | #41

            No, for the original poster.

          8. tmorris1 | | #42

            Feismom;Ok, you had me a little confused for a moment there. You may select the person whom you are posting to from the list of persons in the arrow box above your text when you respond to a post. This way, the original poster will be informed that you have added your valuable opinion to his/her question.Sew on!!T.

          9. feismom | | #43


          10. tmorris1 | | #44

            No apology needed at all hon. In fact, I like to get messages here. Just wanted to help get the info to the people it was intended for. Please keep posting.

          11. Crazy K | | #22

            Even though my newest and newly loved machines are Designer SEs I do have two Janome machines........great sewing machines.  My biggest reason for change was to have a dealership that would teach me how to use the machine and do embroidery.  If not for that, I probably would have gotten a Janome high end machine.  The 11000 looks awesome......however, my petty cash fund is miserably low........no more machines for me at least in this lifetime!

            I sewed tons of things with my Janomes and never had a lick of trouble.  Great little machines.  That's what I got the granddaughter that is into sewing.......both the machine and a serger.  Elaborate birthday and Christmas gifts last year!!  But hey.......she's doing sewing and loving it.  We MUST keep the tradition alive.

            Crazy K

          12. tmorris1 | | #23

            Wow!!! Can I be your grand daughter next Christmas?? Lol. It is wonderful that you have shared your enthusiasm of sewing with your grand daughter. I am sure she will benefit greatly from your years of knowledge.

          13. Crazy K | | #25

            Yes, she could benefit from my years of experience except that she lives in Texas and me in Minnesota!  Not an easy afternoon drive for a visit!!  We have been there and she here but not often and not for very long..............not long enough to really get into the sewing thing.  When here there are too many other relatives to see so it was just a quick lesson on her new Christmas gift, the serger.  Good that she's a fast learner as we didn't have much time.  From Texas they're talking Alaska again.  She's an Army 'brat' and her daddy is a career man due to retire soon.   So far, Jess is doing great on her own and with a couple of girlfriends.  They are sewing for the drama club at school and making some of their own clothes.  They're learn as I did.........by trial and error!!  I do send her mags (Sew Sylish) and I will be soon forwarding some books and CD's that I bought. 


          14. tmorris1 | | #29

            Aww, it is sad that you get so little time with your grandchildren, perhaps their travels will bring them closer to you in the future. It is obvious to me, however, that your love and support spans the distance between you all and brings you closer in spirit.T.

        2. Minnie63 | | #27

          I love my Janome also, but what is the 300 you talked about?

          1. User avater
            VKStitcher | | #30

            Hi Minnie,

            The Janome 300e is an embroidery-only machine.  The newer version is 350e; here is a link to it on the Janome website: http://www.janome.com/index.cfm/Machines/Embroidery/MC350E  It is pretty much the same machine, but does have a few more bells & whistles than my 300e.

            I had my Janome 4800 for a couple of years and really liked it, so when I decided to get an embroidery machine, I got the 300e.  It's nice to have separate machines--you can sew on one while the other embroiders.  In researching several brands, I liked the Janome features, and the dealer included the Customizer software and the Clothsetter (it helps align the fabric in the hoop) in the package price.

            Which Janome machine do you have?  I see on your profile that you're a new member.  Welcome aboard!

          2. Minnie63 | | #31

            I have the Janome Quilters Choice, 4800 series. I love it! It sews such a nice stitch but there are a few things I would change. Like being able to do words and designs continually without having to reprogram everything. I had a ceramic kiln that I traded for a Brother embroidery machine and it worked well. Then I saw a Disney, by Brother, sewing and embroidery machine for $300. I got it but wonder if I made a mistake. It has the cassette threading system, it works but I worry about the future. It is also choosy about what thread it takes. I still love my Janome and use it most.M

  2. moira | | #2

    Thanks Berna. I'll add that to my research. There is something special about those old Singers! I'm borrowing a Viking Husquavarna from a friend in the meantime and this has the clear bobbin window which is a plus feature.

    1. MaryinColorado | | #4

      I love my Vikings!  I have the Rose, Designer1, and Huskylock 936.  They are sturdy, no vibrations, so many features. 

      I suggest you go to the websites for the major brands and see what all they have.  Test drive as much as possible.  Compare machines, warranty, free classes, support. 

      Check out http://www.patternreview.com they have alot of machine reviews by owners.

      Good luck in your search and take your time deciding!  Mary

    2. megowen | | #34

      I bought my Viking after reading this article, and picking which machine had the most features of what I was looking for and in my price ranged. I have been totally satisfied. I also "test drove" it several times at the dealers, and visited it a couple of times. I have had not one moment of regret.


  3. Pattiann42 | | #3

    Most responses from members will be about the brand they use.  Same for me, because that is the only hands-on experience I have.   I would recommend Bernina, Baby Lock and Brother in that order.

    Hopefully, there may be response from someone who has sales experience and is familiar with several brands.  Many machines are made by the same company and have the same general features. 

    I have found that the best thing to do, is make a list of things you would like in a new machine.  Include price if it is a factor..

    Use this list when you visit dealers.  Ask them which machines will do what you want and ask to test drive the machine.

    Once you have made a decision, choose the dealer that gave you the best service.

    Dealers should give "new owner lessons" on the use of the machine. 

    The new beauties have some features that have not changed over the years, and some of the new features are so great you will wonder how you managed all these years without them!

    Good luck and happy shopping!

    Edited 6/20/2007 9:43 pm ET by spicegirl1

  4. pc3 | | #5

    I have 3 Brother embroidery machines and I love them. Brother and Baby lock machines are made by the same company, and are basicly the same machine. I teach classes in both a brother store and a Bernina store, and I like the Brother better. But I think its all what your use to.


    1. moira | | #7

      Whoa! Thanks for all your replies! I suppose a lot of it comes down to personal preference, and I have to admit I'm leaning towards Bernina again as I loved my machine. But there's clearly not a cut-and-dried answer and I appreciate hearing what you look for, and find, in different brands.

      1. Vick | | #9

        There's one consideration I haven't't seen mentioned. Really get to know your local sewing store. Which one seems to offer what you feel you might need. Things like classes to learn interesting things about your sewing machine. Also service is something to consider. A new sewing machine is something your going to want to learn more about. You want a local store to have informed staff for answering both the small and the large questions.  Plus, hopefully the repair guy has been on the staff for a good long time.

        Best Wishes, Toria

  5. Loice | | #6

    I didn't have to replace my 18 year old Bernina, but I chose to because there were some features I knew newer machines had that I wanted (wider zigzag being one - I use it for elastic as I make my daughter a lof of her underwear).  I've been lucky to work in a shop that sells many different machines & had a chance to sew with them.  There are some low end Brother's that I like, but I am truely addicted to the Viking Designer machines.  Having sewen at home with Bernina's for 30 years I really want the EUropean quality & standards that I don't see in Oriental made machines.  (I'm also picky about my needles, my litchen knives & the kind of cars that I drive)   For the features I want it seems I always have to go top of the line & Bernina didn't do it for me anymore.  Because I knew what I was after I shopped second hand on ebay & got a great deal on a Husqvarna VIking designer (non embroidery).  They seem so much simpler than Bernina for stitch set up & I was lucky to get more accesories than I will ever use.

    Good luck - it's never easy choosing between so many good choices

  6. Crazy K | | #8

    Hi......I think I must 'jump in' here....  I started sewing with a 1950's version Pfaff.  It was a wonderful machine but it didn't have the stretch stitches.  It did have cams that I never did figure out!! ha ha (that was operator error!)  I put sewing on the back burner for a few years and then decided that a new machine was in order if I was going to sew all these cute little knit things when grandkids came along.  I got a Janome 3000.  It was grand and I sewed for many hours with it for several years.  Then I got a 'bug'....the bug to do machine embroidery.  I bought a Janome 9000........great sewing machine but I didn't get the software (was told I didn't need it!) and refused to pay for the memory cards.......very expensive and collections that just didn't turn my crank!  Anyway..........I stopped in (bad move!!) at our local Husqvarna dealership and inquired about a 'good, easy to operate embroidery machine'.  I came home with a Designer I.....took the classes and was hooked.  Then when the one year rolled around, I traded up for the Designer SE...........and then bought a second one!!  I do love the Designer SEs..........the lights are like runway lights and it has more power than the D-1.  I love them.  I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the things those machines can do...............now, if they would  only cook and do laundry........

    O.K............there you have my nickel's worth!!

    Crazy K

  7. tmorris1 | | #10


    I have a Janome, and work as a costumer and tailor. I really like all of the little thing that it has to offer, like all of your seam allowances both vertically and horizontally, so there is no guess work in corner turning. There is a lot to choose from out there now, but I am quite happy with the basic and powerful machine I have. I am not really a bells and whistles girl, but it felt to me, that there was a lot of thought put into what the machine will be doing, and making those tasks as easy as possible.


    1. Ralphetta | | #11

      what model do you have? 

      1. tmorris1 | | #12

        I have the Decor excel 5018. It is designed for home decor work, so is quite rugged, but still has the one step buttonhole and a couple of decorative stitches. It really is not fancy, but has everything you need to sew, and 3 years ago I bought it new for $600.00 Canadian, so it is reasonably priced. Janome produces machines for a couple of different companies now (I believe Pfaff is one of them, but don't quote me on that, I have memory issues,) and their quality has skyrocketed in the last 10 years. They really are worth taking a look at.Have fun test driving everything out there, and hope you find the perfect one!!T.

  8. meg | | #13

    I have a Pfaff 1222E, vintage 1981, which I bought new. My local 'mechanic' tells me that this model is prized by seamstresses for its' fine stitch. I've made all sorts of garments and non-garments on this fantastic machine. It even fell off the sewing table; the only thing that broke is the switch to turn it on. Since that time I've simply plugged it in to a power strip, which, handily, powers everything on or off. Sometimes the 1222E is available on ebay.

    1. Stillsewing | | #14

      I also have a Pfaff circa 1995. The model is 7550, not relevant as it is now obsolete. However there is no problem getting spare parts for it. I find it a great machine and it has done anything I might want of it -- general dressmaking - hemming lace - household stuff- cushions, curtains, tent repair, you name it. It knocks spots off the previous Singers, plural, and the one (awful) Brother that I shared with my Mother. I find that the German precision is just what one needs, after all when one get down to sewing you need a reliable machine, not one that acts up and lets you down just when you are in a hurry to finish something off.

  9. ctirish | | #24

    Moira, I would recommend you go to patternreview.com they have reviews done my people who have used the different machines. Also, if you go to their knowledge base area, they have articles referenced from all sorts of places (colleges,experts. magazines(incl threads) on how to choose a machine in this wonderful world of technology. Have fun...

    1. moira | | #26

      I have been amazed at how many of you have posted responses to my sewing machine query! And I'm thrilled to have found this forum and to know that there are so many other people who share my passion for sewing! I think my friends admire what I do - but not many do it themselves, so this is a real treat.And this week I took delivery of a new Bernina! Have hardly had time to do much so far, but the adrenalin is rising just at the thought of what I can create with this machine.Thank you all for replying.

      1. tmorris1 | | #28

        Moira;Congrats on your new machine!!!! You will have to keep in touch with us, and let us all know what you are making. We love pictures!!!T.

      2. roxyllyn | | #37

        Hello Moira, just signed in new bee and want to know if you are enjoying your new embroidery machine?


        I am currently looking fo a machine and am confused on what to buy.  I have a great sewing machine but want to be creative with what I am making.


        Thanks for any info. you share.

        1. moira | | #38

          Hi Roxyllyn.The new machine is a real treat - though I still feel very disappointed that my old one is beyond repair. It looks just the same as when it was working and I can't bring myself to dispose of it. It'll be a while before the new one feels like a real friend!But yes, I'm gradually getting to know this new one - not the very top of the range model, as I'm not one for using pre-programmed embroidery. I like to think I'll create my own, once I've time to explore that area. For now the machine is working at garment construction rather than anything decorative, but it's doing the job well so far. I didn't have any embroidery stitches before so I'm looking forward to having some fun with this.I'll be interested to know what you go for in the end. I feel at home with Bernina - though I have to admit the new one has some plasticy bits where the old one was solid metal. You can tell I'm still mourning the loss a bit!!

  10. Bloss1996 | | #32

    Although I am new to this list, just joined today, I must chime in here and join all the Janome lovers.  I just purchased my second, my first being a New Home 5500 about 12-15 years ago.  I truly thought that it would be my last machine.  It turned out to be a workhorse that I have used and abused and it just keeps on "ticking".  I don't think a lot of people purchased this machine as it was sort of a stop gap between machines but it has been a wonderful machine.  I went out to replace my 1960's era Singer (at a Singer store) and they also carried New Home and voila they talked me into the New Home.   New Home machines were made (from my understanding in Orange, MA for many years ... I think the Janome name came about when they were sold to whomever makes them now) and have been around for years.  I not only purchased the 5500 but got a serger which was just becoming rather popular.

    I probably would never have bought another machine but thought I would like to try my hand at embroidering.  I am more than happy with 11,000 although I am still taking lessons and will be taking my first embroidery lesson later this week. 

    I totally agree with whomever said to check the dealers in your location.  I could have gotten my machine for less money but it was worth it to me to have a dealer within a reasonable distance for support. 

    They carry a number of different brands but the woman that sold me my Janome has the same (amongst many others) and finds it to be the best.

    Whatever you decide on ........... good luck!




    1. Ralphetta | | #35

      I too have a New Home 5500 and I absolutely love it.  Years ago, when I went shopping for a new machine, I fully expected to get a Bernina.  After testing and comparing buttonholes, top-stitchings, etc., the New Home won hands down.  I might add that at that time I had taken a job selling Singer machines for a few months specifically so that I could learn about and buy a computerized machine and a serger.  What I learned was... the Singers at that time were horrible.  They were so bad that at times we only had one demo running properly and all the others were in the repair shop!  Not even with a discount did I want one of those lemons.  I did get a Singer serger that I've been happy with.  It has a free arm and I love it for working on sleeve cuffs and tiny items.  I'm sure that I will have a hard time using a regular one and will no doubt get garments folded under and sliced off when I don't have the protection of the free arm.

      1. Bloss1996 | | #36

        As much as I love my New Home 5500 I think I will like the Janome 11,000 which I have recently purhased.  I have had three lessons on regular sewing on it and just had my first embroidery lesson on Thursday and can see where I will have a lot of fun with it.  I just hope it turns out to be the workhorse that the 5500 was although I still have 5500 and it will be going to live with us in FL during the winters.

        At the same time I bought the 5500 I bought a New Home 3-thread serger which owes me nothing as well.  I purchased a used Elna from a friend in October and took the 3-thread to FL where it will now have a new home.  I hope to be able to use the Elna to it's capabilities which I know I did not do with the New Home but I have a great deal more time to play now.

        On both the serger and the 11,000 each time I do something I try to expand my horizons by using something new.

  11. Stitchwitch | | #33

    I have recently bought the Viking Sapphire and I can STRONGLY recommend it!!! I also have a Bernina but I find the Viking is more fun to sew with. You get so may extra features which exclusively, in the past, only belonged to the more expensive Designer machines. The size of the machine and the sturdiness is just great! The price is also very good. I'm from South Africa but I think in the USA it retails for app. $1200.



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