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Some quick tips for buying a sewing machine

Should I choose a Mechanical or electronic sewing machine?

You'll have to set most of the controls by hand on mechanical models, and they have fewer stitches. But they are cheaper and fine for your basic sewing needs. Most electronic sewing machines have touchpad controls and will help you choose the best stitch, settings, presser foot, and more, based on the material. Even though they are more complex, most electronic models are fairly easy to use. Some have programmable memory, so you can save stitch and letter settings.

Embroidery machines combine sewing and embroidery functions. The machine holds a hoop under its needle and moves the hoop in four directions as the needle sews. You push a start button, watch, and change thread colors. You'll need a computer for access to all its capabilities. Some machines are more intuitive to use than others, but there's still a learning curve.

Try it before you buy it

Independent dealers will usually let you try the machine in the store. So take a project with you or at least a few fabrics. If you can't try it first, make sure you can return it if you aren't satisfied.

Extended warranties

Most dealers will try to sell you an extended warranty on their products. 9 times out of 10 the manufacturer warranty is going to be sufficient. Just make sure that you test out your new machine pretty thouroughly during the initial warranty period, just in case there happens to be a problem with it.

 
Sewing Machine - Brother, Janome, Bernina, Pfaff, Elna, and more.
Brother Sewing Machines
Mechanical sewing machines like the Brother XL-2600i use knobs and levers to change and adjust stitches. Some experts say that these types of machines aren't as precise or reliable as more expensive electronic sewing machines. But in hundreds of user reviews at Joann.com, Walmart.com and Amazon.com, the Brother XL-2600i is shown to be an excellent choice if you mainly want a simple sewing machine for mending, home decorating and basic sewing projects.

A big plus over other machines in this price range is its one-step buttonhole, which means a lot less button-pushing and more uniform buttonholes compared to machines with a four-step buttonhole function. Owners say this machine sews well through most fabric types, however it is not recommended for heavy fabrics. The parts and labor warranty is for one year.


A little more expensive, computerized machines add an even larger variety of practical and decorative stitches. Among less expensive computerized machines, we found rave reviews for the Brother PC-420 PRW Project Runway… Limited Edition. With 294 decorative, stretch and utility stitches, plus 10 styles of one-step buttonholes and three alphabets for monograms, reviewers say the Brother has just about every stitch you could want. In addition, you can create and save your own decorative stitch patterns.

Other pluses: a knee lifter that lets you keep both hands on your work and presser-foot leveling that helps keep even pressure over thick seams. This feature works so well that owners say the machine does a great job with jeans hems -- typically a challenge for any sewing machine. Stitch width is adjustable to 7 mm wide -- helpful if you like to create decorative borders on ruffles, placemats or other projects. Some of the complaints we found were that the biggest monogram size isn't that big, and the needle defaults to the left position when you turn on the machine.


The CS6000i is a nice machine that won't break the bank. It comes with 60 built-in stitches, portable and light weight. Good value for the money. Auto bobbin threading, drop in bobbin and auto needle threader are simple to use.

Bernina Sewing Machines

Reviews of the Swiss-made Activa reinforce Bernina's reputation for quality, easy-to-use sewing machines that produce consistent stitches. This is however, a more expensive sewing machine. In reviews, experts prefer electronic… machines to mechanical sewing machines; changing stitches or adjusting stitch length and width can be done with the push of a button (rather than turning a less precise knob or lever).

The Bernina Activa has an electronic display that shows settings. Included in the machine's memory is an automatic buttonhole setting and an embroidery alphabet for adding monograms. Those who purchase Bernina machines, claim it is worth the price for its outstanding reliability and durability.

Janome Sewing Machine

Here is a review from a Janome buyer:
I am a first time sewer and I wanted a solid machine below $400. I wanted something I could grow into, but something that wouldn't overwhelm me. I had gone online to research machines. I was actually considering the Brother CS6000I before I had even heard of the Janome 7330. At the time there were 97 reviews on Amazon for the Brother CS6000I and I read every one.

I was concerned b/c the low rated Brother reviews and even many of the 4 and 5 star reviews complained about the machine's tension and a finicky bobbin. The last thing I wanted to deal with was a touchy machine. If you read the reviews, without looking at the stars, most of them talk about the machine's quirks. I started to wonder if the Brother was trying to be too far reaching for it's price point. I was also wondering why so many were willing to overlook this touchiness that they all mentioned.


I went to website and did an online "ask a consultant" thing. I asked the person about the Brother CS6000I and the person directed me to the Janome. I had never heard of Janome before, but the consultant said that the Janome was far more sturdy than the Brother and that it was very easy to use. Still unsure, I decided to go to a store to see the machines in person.

After seeing the Janome and the Brother in action, I came home with the Janome 7330. After seeing the two machines work, I did feel that the Janome was better made and more sturdy. I felt more confident in the Janome's ability to grow with me through the years and felt it was more of the work horse that I was looking for. Twenty minutes after opening the box I was sewing. I'd never touched a machine before and I was sewing! It was as easy to use as they had told me. No weird finicky tricks to learn; just a solid machine.

The 7330 is computerized. It has a good number of stitches, including 5 different overcast stitches, three different one-step button holes, a darning stitch, and good number of decorative stitches. It has a free arm that has been great for doing the small arm and leg holes on the children's clothing I've been making. It has a foot pedal, although you can also use it sans the pedal. It has an up/down button that "remembers" if you last made the needle stay down when you stopped stitching. It also has a reverse button and an automatic needle threader. It's very easy to wind the bobbin and you just pop open the little lid and drop it in the hole. Super easy!

The instruction manual is very easy to follow and it comes with an all purpose presser foot, a satin foot (great for sewing on buttons!), a button foot, and a zipper foot. It also comes with a seam ripper, some bobbins, a brush for cleaning, a screw driver, and some plastic rings that hold the spool of thread in place.

When I told my friends that I had purchased a Janome, all of them said it was a very good brand. I found out that is a Japanese company and Janome means "eye of the snake" as it was one of the pioneers of using a round bobbin instead of a long shuttle back in the 1920's. Janome was the first to make a computerized sewing machine in the 1970's. I'm including this information b/c if you've never heard of this brand before, it's not a fly by night. It's been around for awhile and it has a very good reputation with those who know it. I also found that Janome sponsors a DIY website, threadbanger.com, which has some really neat ways to be green by reusing, recycling, and reconstructing things.

In conclusion, go to a retailer and see for yourself. It's a solid machine!!

Pfaff Sewing Machines
Pfaff sewing machines are popular among quilters for their built-in walking foot (Pfaff calls this feature IDT), which feeds layers of fabric evenly through the machine. A color touch screen allows you to easily change and adjust your stitches. The Pfaff sewing machine has 241 computerized stitches and four different alphabets for monograms, plus a very wide maximum stitch width of 9 mm. This sewing machine features adjustable foot pressure, an excellent feature for quilters or others who work with different fabric thicknesses.
 

Singer Sewing Machines
Singer Corporation was founded in 1851 and is an American brand of sewing machines. Singer makes a large variety of easy to use sewing machines for your home. Sewing machines like: Singer 1409 Promise, Singer 2259 Tradition, Singer 3221 Simple, Singer 3232 Simple, Singer 4423 Heavy-duty and Singer 6180 Brilliance. Singer also makes quality industrial sewing machines, which are larger and designed for industry. Singer has a long history behind, don't be afraid to give a Singer sewing machine a try. Singer sewing machines also come with a DVD that teaches you how to use and maintain the machine, it's a nice added feature.