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Where do I start to look for a machine?

madonetwo | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I am interested in increasing my sewing skills. My current machine is a portable Sears mobile ~1968. I also have my grandmother’s electric Singer from ~1935. My dilemma is that I don’t sew much because of the quirky machines but am not sure I would sew more if I bought an expensive one. As I approach retirement, I think I would like to sew my own clothing, drapery and comforters for myself. Where can I start in looking at types of machines? I am willing to put money into one that has needed features and low maintenance. Thank you.


  1. Pattiann42 | | #1

    Welcome to Gatherings. 

    I always start by making a wish list that includes the type of sewing I will be doing and budget.  For example, if you like to make large quilts (apposed to small wall hangings) your list might include large harp.

    Visit dealers and tell them what you are looking for and test their machines.

    If you find a machine that you really love, but are not that happy with the dealer, revisit just in case someone was not having a good day.

    Buy the machine you like best from the dealer you like best.

    Everyone has their favorite brand but I have a favorite dealer instead.

    Best wishes and good luck in your search.


  2. damascusannie | | #2

    I second spicegirl's advice. Make a list of the features you want, the uses to which you will put the machine and how much you are willing to spend. You may actually find that you don't need a very sophisticated machine at all. I have a professional quilting business and I do all my sewing on vintage and antique machines. I have no need for fancy stitches, I just need machines that are built to last and are reliable. I have a vintage zig-zagger from the 1960s that works very well--it's my youngest machine. For machine quilting, I use a straight stitch machine from the 50s and all my other machines date to the 1920s or earlier. And none of them are electric!

  3. Sancin | | #3

    I can appreciate your problem, madonetwo. If you haven't sewed for awhile, or even never, it is sort of like buying your first computer. Advisers ask you what you want to do with it, but you may not be even sure what a machine will do! I recently gave a machine to an acquaintance as it didn't meet my needs. A week later I found one or two specialty feet for that machine among the ones I currently use on another machine. One was a mending foot. She was surprised that she could do such a thing on a sewing machine. So as well as the advice to decide what you want to do with a machine I would suggest you make the rounds of different sewing displays or sewing 'expos' just to see what is out there and what newer sewing machines are capable of doing. Even the cheapest and most basic machines are very different from the 1960 and 70 machines. And don't be drawn to all the bells and whistles that while nice, you may not use. I thought I would love an embroidery machine when I retired until I realized not just the initial cost, but the cost of designs and thread! I then had to ask myself what do I want to do with my time as well as my money. I have learned to free motion embroider and am having a ball!

  4. Teaf5 | | #4

    For the last 35 years, I've sewn just about everything with a Sears 1972 zigzag machine, so I'd say, if you can find a good repair shop, that 1968 will allow you to do just about anything, too.  Just have it tuned up and invest in a wide range of specialty needles and good thread.

    If you really want to buy a new machine, consider whether you want a computerized one (not me, but others love them) or not.  The computer functions add to the learning curve but are not necessary for anything other than machine embroidery from electronic patterns.

    If you can't have your '68 repaired, consider buying a used one that's not quite as old; my sister finds perfectly good ones for $15 to $25 in thrift stores all the time nowadays!

    But if you want to reward yourself for retirement, shop around, gather information, and make sure that you get several chances to actually use a machine before you buy one from a dealer you feel you can trust.  Let us know what you decide!

    1. kaitydid | | #5

      i have a singer 1970's zig zag machine. i agree that you don't need MUCH more than the basics,  but i do think just a little bit more is nice. thanks for your input on the computerized machines, i was actually looking into one. one machine that i would like to have though, is a brother CS6000i. it isn't too pricey, and it has a lot of cool features.

      1. Teaf5 | | #6

        If you decide to treat yourself, tell us what you like about it. 

        Every time I'm just about to give in and buy a new machine, someone gives away one that's a decade younger than my current one, and I find someone who is happy to have mine.

        I like to think of it as a sort of "leasing program" for sewing machines that keeps them out of landfills, and I enjoy thinking about all the different people who will use each machine and all the people who will enjoy their efforts.

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