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Need Sewing Machine for Wife
sewing machine selection for someone who nothings nothing about sewing
Chicken Chaser
Chicken Chaser
Member since 12/26/12
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Date: 12/26/12 2:49 PM

Hi, I am looking to buy my wife a sewing machine for her birthday. I know absolutely nothing about sewing, other than my mother had an old singer that she onced tried in vain to force me into sewing a pair of shorts on. My wife is mostly a begginer, meaning that she can sew somewhat as long as she has a detailed and forgiving pattern. I don't know what to look for in a sewing machine, and I wouldn't know if a salesman is selling me pure crap or a machine so amazing that it could end hunger and bring world peace with just two stitches. I have browsed through some of the discussion threads in this forum, but I don't know what all those bells and whistles are that they are so excited about. I can afford to spend in the range of $200 to $300. I could go a little higher if I needed to because I'd rather spend the money to get a good quality machine that will last and grow with her.

Any suggestions? Is it usually better to buy machines in a store or online? What accessories do I need to buy to go along with it?

kathieh9
kathieh9
Advanced Beginner
PA USA
Member since 10/22/08
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Date: 12/26/12 3:00 PM

Always buy from a dealer if you can, because even if you buy a used machine from them you , if they are nice your wife will get a "how to" lesson and a warranty, plus it's convenient to have it serviced. You should be able to buy a low end baby lock for around $ 300.00, my first machine was the "grace". And if your lucky it may come with some extra feet. I simply love my 1/4 " foot and my rufflerer , and walking foot , although that may be pushing it for your $300.00 budget. Definitely go with a dealer for a beginner the support and instruction will only encourage her new found hobby and build skills that will save you $$ in the long run!!

------
Sewing is my therapy, as long as my spine will let me
Bernina 430,

ahrizel
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ahrizel
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PA
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Date: 12/26/12 4:02 PM

I'm going to go against the popular grain here and recommend a Singer. I have a Singer Signature I got from HSN-home shopping network-that I really like. Tons of features, more then you're going to get for the same price on a higher end brand. The msrp on it is 599-way too much by the way. But I got it for 380 when they had a special on 5 flex pays. You'd be buying online-no dealer support. But the machine is very easy to use and comes with tons of feet-around 20. While the Singer brand doesn't have the reputation it did once, some of the newer ones seem better regarded. It's a computerized machine with a lot of features here is a link to the machine on hsn. I'd seriously consider it when they have a sale, you get 30 return policy. I've had mine 5 months and I really like, been putting it through the ringer sewing with it. I don't know what your wife sews and what features she would like in a machine, but it does a lot for the price. Just one more machine to consider.
Mary

Ambimom
Ambimom
Intermediate
Member since 5/25/08
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In reply to Chicken Chaser <<
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Date: 12/26/12 4:33 PM

Chicken, the truth is that sewing machines are like automobiles -- what feels right to one will feel wrong to another. There are some excellent machines out there nowadays in your price range. The rule of thumb is to stick with a reliable brand: Brother, Viking, Janome, Pfaff, et. al.

There are mechanical, electronic and computerized models. Mechanicals are typically less expensive and more basic. At the lower end of mechanicals, thick fabrics can be a nightmare of skipped stitches, and thread nests that can discourage a beginner from going forward. Electronic models are more expensive but are easier to handle and tend to be more forgiving with difficult fabrics. At the high end are computerized models.

The fact is that 80--90 percent of sewing requires at most 10 stitches: straight, stretch, blindhem, zigzag, darning, and a few decorative stitches. Alphabets are nice but not necessary so don't be dazzled by lot of decorative stitches that will never be used, especially by a beginner. You should also make sure to have a regular foot, buttonhole foot, zipper foot, and blind hem foot at the very minimum. Even feed foot would be nice but probably not necessary for a beginner.

Embroidery machines are really not a good idea for a beginner either, even if it has a regular sewing machine component. They require a lot of special threads and have many components that go haywire. Unless you are familiar with sewing, this can also discourage your wife. This type of machine can be a future gift after she's sewed a few projects.

Where you purchase your machine is up to you. Online retailers have excellent prices -- often hundreds of dollars less than brick and mortar dealers. I'd avoid the big box stores but HSN or Amazon are okay because you can return the machine no questions asked after 30 days of trying. Sewing lessons given by dealers depend on the dealer. Some are very experienced, others know nothing.

Sewing lessons are a good investment. Perhaps there is an agriculture extension course or local college or adult education or even a local seamstress to whom your wife can turn. You have to learn how to sew but you also have to learn how to care for your machine.

Above all, sewing is a skill. It requires practice, practice, practice. You didn't learn to drive on a highway at 60 mph after a couple of hours behind the wheel. Neither can you make a ballgown just because you bought a sewing machine.

Scrnme007
Scrnme007  Friend of PR
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USA
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Date: 12/27/12 0:30 AM

Maybe if patternreview members knew where you lived, there might be someone in your area that could point you to reputable dealers where you live. They might be able to give you better suggestions too if they know what brands are being sold by your local dealers. There also may be an asg (American sew guild) group, a quilters group or the saga (smocking arts guild of America )group that meets near you ... and may be able to direct you as well.

------
SewWannabe-SewReady

jzygail
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jzygail  Friend of PR
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MD USA
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In reply to Ambimom <<
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Date: 12/27/12 4:23 AM

There should be some way for PR to feature your answer. It's great information. Maybe they can sticky the thread?

iSewQuiltArt
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iSewQuiltArt
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Date: 12/27/12 4:34 AM

I'd suggest you take your wife in to a dealership where you have full support and warranty. There could likely still be Christmas pricing on sewing machines to save money and allow you to buy a better quality than your budget at full RRP might allow.
Try some out, let her play with the fabrics she is learning to sew. Shop for the dealership staff who are helpful in the same way as you shop for the machine. As she is new to sewing see if the store offers a good range of classes she could enroll in to learn new techniques and create projects whilst she learns.
There is no use finding a machine cheaply on line and then having no one to take it to if things go wrong or you get unlukcy and have a lemon. The prices are often cheaper as they are older models that are superceeded or improved on or because warranty cards have been removed from the box...meaning the machine cannot be registered with the company.
Dealerships can offer help, support, servicing, friendship and knowledge that online suppliers of boxed machines do not offer. Its worth paying a bit extra for these services.

Once you get an idea of which sort of machines feel good, don't forget to check the sewing machine section here at PR and read some reviews from users to see if anything has been flagged up as a real problem or issue, or if most users are happy enough with their choice.
If you can stretch your budget from $400-600 you will be able to find a machine that is really much higher quality and presents fewer problems with things like stitch quality or being less likely to get knotted and tangled up with use especially by a beginner than the new low end of the market machines today. There are sometimes $600 and $800 machines on sale in the $300-400 price range, so do look at all the options.
And be sure to ask what the best price for cash is as sometime the prices displayed are figured out for financed deals that cost the dealership more to administer, and they will sometimes drop the price if you pay in full, up front.

Some dealerships may also have lightly used preloved, serviced machines ready to go. Don't discount them, if they are older Berninas (Swiss made), Husqvarnas (Swedish made) , Pfaff (German made) , Elna (Swiss made)- there are some excellent workhorses with high quality builds intended to last for decades, and you can often end up for the budget you have finding mid to TOL preloved machines that have been around a while, which are a huge pleasure to own and sew with. Dealerships should offer some sort of warranty on labour at the very least on used machines.

Check when you test sew how neatly the buttonholes form, using some stabiliser behind the fabric and a good quality thread and new needle. Sew buttonholes on a few machines on the same fabric with a nice new needle, and compare them side by side. Its a good check of the performance of any machine. Check the straight stitch and zig zag quality, and sew on both fine and thick fabrics. You'll soon see differences between models, then its a matter of which sews nicest that feels right to your wife, that has the features she feels she wants. They are very personal choices and what one reviewer here slams another may like, and what they love, another may hate.
The right dealership will be understanding and assist you in finding just the right machine that is the best fit for her needs now and into the future. Let us know how it works out.

------
Quilting up a storm
Bernina Girl, in possession of a small herd...

SandiMacD
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SandiMacD  Friend of PR
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Date: 12/27/12 6:56 AM

I think for your budget I vote with online. Singer is making a comeback. Or a Janome from the Sew & Vac stores. Don't be discouraged by sticker shock at other dealers. It is easy to get sold up on free financing. Sewing should be fun and any solid machine with a straight and zig-zag stitch is a good start. I have the Babylock BL9 on sale for $99 this month (Janome makes the same model).
Give her a gift membership to PR and the American Sewing Guild (if active in your area) and she will learn so much about sewing and have a good support network.
In time she will be ready for a machine with more features and know just what she is looking for.

------
sewing brings joy and meaning to my life...

ElizabethDee
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ElizabethDee
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NY USA
Member since 12/27/06
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Date: 12/27/12 8:43 AM

Can I throw out a different idea? Would you consider getting a vintage machine? For the same money that will get you a budget model online, you can get a great machine from, say, the glory days of Singer (I am thinking of a 401, which has a large variety of stitches, fantastic stitch quality, superb accessories and are made to last). They can look beautiful, too. If you are interested in hearing more, I'll be happy to go into this idea in more depth.

I for one have had only bad experiences with the current Singers, on my own and also helping friends with theirs. I'm glad to hear others here have been happy, and I would love to know if they believe they can grow with the machine, or if they are thinking they will need to trade up.

Marie367
Marie367  Friend of PR
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OH USA
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In reply to Chicken Chaser <<
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Date: 12/27/12 9:55 AM

I would vote for a Brother, Babylock ,Janome or Elna. I have owned a Brother and a Janome. Check out the Brother and Janome threads on here. However, your wife might not like what I like. Singers seem to vary alot in quality so check reviews before purchase. I bought a Brother serger from Amazon and it was a great choice for me. Dealers can give a beginner lots of help but you do pay extra for that. Dealers do have machines in your price range even though the dealers in my area only want to sell the more expensive ones. Some dealers sell used machines with support for those so that might mean getting a little better machine for the same money. Machines vary alot and the quality does increase with price. However, you should be able to find a quality machine in your price range.
As to modern machines, there are two kinds-mechanical and computertized. They both do zigzag and straight stitch (which is needed). The features change with the price tag. Both are good choices for a beginner. Mechanicals tend to be more straight forward and computerized are feature rich. Good luck in your search.

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