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What sewing machine should I buy?

lkhalder | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

Hi!  I just signed up on this discussion board, and I’ve never used one before, so I’m excited to try this out.  I learned to sew when I was in grade school and junior high on a very old Singer machine.  Now, I’m nearly 30, and I’d like to pick it up again to make some projects for my friends that are having babies.

I would like to buy my own machine, and I’m having trouble deciding which one to get.  I looked at the Janome Sewist 521 and the Brother Pacesetter 3100.  I believe these are mechanical machines (?) because they do not have an LCD screen and instead you must turn knobs to set which stitch you want etc.  They do have automatic tension settings so you can sew through different types of fabric and not have to mess with tension.  They also have top drop bobbins which reduce the occurence of tangles and knots etc.  They seem REALLY easy to use, especially compared to my mom’s Singer.

They seem identical except the Brother comes with an automatic needle threader.  So, which one should I get?  I am very wary of salespeople because I can’t be sure they’re telling me the truth.  The ladies selling the Janome were REALLY excited about these machines and choose to sew on them when they are in the shope.  However, in looking at various Consumer Reports, the Brother machines did better than the Janome, but the reports I can find are over 1.5 years old.

I want something easy to use that will last.  Any thoughts on which machine may be better?  Oh yeah, they’re the same price.  Does one have better machinery than the other (such as metal parts, etc)?  What do you guys think?


  1. user-167104 | | #1

    Someone with more experience with machines will come along and probably be more helpful. I will tell you though, that I have had a Janome for years (not the model you're looking at although I am familiar with it). If I was the one selling machines I would be more enthusiastic about Janome than Brother. I have a friend that has a Brother, not the one you're looking at, and I do NOT like that machine. It is a cheaper one than the one you're looking at so I wouldn't really judge Brother by that machine, but I do know that I trust Janome more. And I definately believe in buying from a dealer than dept store. I have one of the best dealers in the country and they know I'm a Janome fan.

    Let us know how you fair with the sewing machine shopping and what you decide.

    1. Bernie1 | | #2

      If you check the archives, you'll see this has been discussed many, many times. Bernina owners will tell you to buy a Bernina while Viking owners will swear by those. The best one for you is the one you're most comfortable with and the one you will be happy to use. There are some differences among machines and discussions on Japan vs. Korea vs. the European-made brands. It's almost impossible to track where a part is made versus where it's assembled. Here are some guidelines to finding the right machine for you:

      buy from a dealer. If you by a poc from Wal Mart the tension will give you fits and you won't use it. Also, with a dealer you'll get a warranty and classes, both Very important. Don't skimp on price and wind up with junk. Go for quality, even if you have to posptone the purchase.

      try out as many brands as you can. What one person loves about a machine you may hate. I once used a Bernina (1500 series) that did beautiful stitches but I couldn't stand that ball and the green screen. On the other hand, I love my Viking D1 but know people who don't care for the automatic settings.  FYI I also own a Bernina 165E and the Pfaff 1540 mechanical.

      consider the type of sewing you want to do - are you going to be a quilter, do embroidery? If so, look for machines that have those options included. It's cheaper to buy the embroidery and quilting options with the machine rather than add it later.

      Any brand can produce a lemon. So make sure your dealer will stand behind the warranty.

      Buy up. Get more machine than you think you'll need. Believe me, you'll grow into it. I never thought I would do machine embroidery but guess what? I have about a dozen design discs and am always looking for places to use them. Good luck.

  2. ctirish | | #3

    Hi, I had a Singer for years and a couple of years ago I purchased a Baby Lock Ellure for my new machine(I bought it for  $999.00 three years ago and it is still the same price).  I love it, it does sewing and embroidery. 

    I would first make a list of the things you think are important in a sewing machine.  I will try to explain some of the options out there now. There are machines for sewing, quilting, embroidery, needle punch and sergers. I would go for a basic sewing machine, if you want one that also embroiders that would be great for presents for friends having babies. They are not difficult to use and there are plenty of free designs on the Internet at reputable sites. The salespeople will tell that isn't true, but I use them all the time.

    The next question is how many stitches do you need? Most come with a variety of both utility and decorative stitches.  What is the basting stitch like - is it a large stitch (4in. a part or 2in. a part). Does it have a blind hem stitch.? If you do not want to get a machine that does embroidery then go for one with a lot of decorative stitches. You can do great things with decorative stitches.

    Other things to think about are options, some of these are:

    needle up and down - this is a button that lets you move the needle up and down without turning the wheel. Helpful when you are trying to sew in a tight spot and you need both hands to mange the fabric

    trim thread - this button cuts the thread when you stop sewing instead of you having to stop and then find scissors to cut the threads

    backstitch - this button does an automatic backstitch when you start sewing - usually one or two stitches and then it goes forward again.

    auto needle threading - this one let you thread the needle easily - I have only seen one machine that is true autotheading and that is on a very high end machine

    Buttonholes, - some have 1 automatic some have 3 automatic and 1 two step buttonhole any of these are probably easier than years ago - although 30 yrs ago I had a great automatic one on my Singer Futura

    how fast the machine will stitch - at this point you don't need one that flies - but look at a couple that have a button that will keep you from racing if you accidently keep your foot down for some reason.

    Bobbin - there are pretty much two types on goes in from the top and one goes in from the side. - this is personal preference - sometimes it is easier to have it from the side so you don't have to move fabric or an embroidery hoop. See how they rewind the bobbins and if you can run it while you are sewing or do you have to stop and rewind the bobbin.

    Is there a way to adjust the pressure of the foot on the machine - many do an auto adjust for the bulk of the material but sometimes it is nice to  be able to add pressure to the foot for some things ( I wish I had this one)

    Can the machine convert to a free arm machine. If it can it makes cuffs and children's clothes so much easier. How big is the circumference of the free arm? 

    I don't know how soon you need the machine - or where you live but is there a place you can take lessons and they will provide a machine if you need one. Then you can ask for a different  maker each week and decide which one you like for sewing. 

    Sorry for going on and on, I hope this helps.  If you have any questions, ask there are many people who are willing to help.





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