March 07, 2012

Sewing Machine Advice

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I am at a crossroad with our sewing machine and am drowning in choices when looking at buying a new machine.  For those of you with sewing machine experience .....  HELP!!

This is the sewing machine that we are currently blessed with.
Blessed as in free!  So I don't want to complain.
However ...  it has some serious tension issues.

This is a JC Penney/6401.  I'm not sure how old it is, but it runs like a work horse except for the tension issues, which create a big problem since our daughter is learning to sew.  It seems every time she begins to work on the dress she's making, the machine gives her trouble.  Poor sewing experiences are extremely discouraging to a grown woman, let alone, a young girl learning to sew.  I don't want her view of sewing to be difficult and discouraging so we have decided to purchase a new machine.

Sewing machine prices and capabilities are all over the board and we aren't looking for any big commercial sized machine, or one with 400+ stitches, we are looking for just a good, solid regular machine.  

Do they even make them anymore?

In researching the best sellers and all of the product reviews, I've narrowed it down a bit and would really love some feedback on what you think of these options.

So here is what I've narrowed it down to.  This first one is more than I'd like to spend, but I love the old fashioned looks of it.
This is the SINGER 160 for Singer's 160th Anniversary.  
Features include:
Timeless Style and Modern Innovation. Introducing The SINGER 160™ limited edition sewing machine. Created to commemorate the SINGER® brand’s 160 year anniversary by taking design cues from the past while introducing our simplest and most easy to use machine available.
-24 Built-In Stitches with stitch guide included in the manual
-SwiftSmart Threading System with automatic needle threader 
-OneTouch Stitch Selection - easy to select, easy to personalize 
-Simple Stitch Adjustment keeps seams strong and prevents bunching 
-Quick View Stitch Setting displays optimal stitch size for sewing ease
-Drop & Sew Bobbin System - automatic bobbin thread pick up for quicker threading
-Presser Foot Sensor ensures the presser foot is in the correct position for an easy start
-Extra-Large Sewing Space allows you to easily manage quilts and large projects
-Drop Feed for free motion sewing and creative topstitching
-FREE Accessories Included - important extras to get you started 
-Quick Start Guide Included to help you get set up in 5 minutes
-Machine Intro DVD offers a complete introduction to sewing machines
Standard Accessories: All-Purpose Foot, Zipper Foot, Buttonhole Foot with Underplate, Blind Hem Foot, Satin Stitch Foot, Pack of Needles, Bobbins (Class 15J), Thread Spool Caps, Auxiliary Spool Pin, Spool Pin Felt, Needle Plate Screwdriver, Seam Ripper / Lint Brush, Soft-Sided Dust Cove, Instruction Manual, Power Cord, Foot Control 

The one con to this machine is it's price.  It runs from around $350 to $500 depending on where you buy it from.  It very well may be well worth it, but it's more than we would like to spend.  If I knew that it would last for as many years as my Grandmother's Singer, than I would not hesitate to invest in it.  It just seems that nothing is made like that anymore though.

Here's my next choice:

This is a SINGER Stylist 7258.  

As you can see, it has the badge of honor as Consumers Digest Best Buy and it is more in our price range at $200.
Features include:

-100 Built-In Stitches with stitch guide 
-Top Drop-in Bobbin (Class 15J)
-Automatic Needle Threader - sewing's biggest timesaver! 
-Programmable Needle Up/Down for easier quilting and applique
-Heavy Duty Metal Frame for skip-free sewing 
-6 Fully Automatic 1-step Buttonholes
-10 Presser Feet included
-Automatic Sitch Width and Length
-Quick Start Guide included
-Machine Intro DVD included

Included Accessories: All-Purpose Foot, Zipper Foot, Satin Stitch Foot, Blind Hem Foot, Buttonhole Foot, Overcasting Foot, Darning & Embroidery Foot, Gathering Foot, Rolled Hem Foot, Needles, Bobbins, Auxiliary Spool Pin, Spool Caps, Seam Ripper / Lint Brush, Screwdriver, Darning Plate, Foot Pedal, Power Cord, Instruction Manual

I really like all the great reviews on Amazon about this one too.

Here's one that seems to have mixed reviews and I'm not familiar with the quality of Brother machines.
This is a Brother CS6000i.  
The Overview listed on the Brother International website states:

This light weight computerized sewing machine is heavy on the features that you are looking for! The CS-6000i has 60 built in stitches including, utility, decorative, heirloom, quilting and 7 styles of one step auto-sizing buttonholes. Whether you sew for crafting, garment, home decoration, or quilting; this machine has it all for you at an affordable price! The CS-6000i also includes a plastic fitted wide table to support your larger projects such as quilts.
  • 60 Built-in Stitches
  • Easy Needle Threading
  • Quick-Set™ Bobbin
  • 1-Step Buttonhole with 7 Styles
  • LCD Panel with computerized stitch selection

All if the specifications can be seen HERE.  They were too lengthy to include in this post.  The price range runs around $150.  The reviews on it are about 50/50 depending on which site you look at.  Some people love it and some people absolutely can't stand it.

There is also several Janome brands available.  I don't even know where to begin when looking at those, but the Janome 7330 Magnolia and the HD1000 seems to be well liked.

I guess I'll go ahead and mention the Brenina brand, but first of all, they are way out of my price range.  I've heard from several people, including those that repair sewing machines, that you are basically paying for the Brenina or Pfaff name and that if you need to ever have them adjusted or repaired, be prepared for it to be costly.  You can only return them to the licensed dealers for repairs and adjustments.  Your little local sewing machine repairman is not allowed to touch them or order parts for them.  That fact made the whole thing stink to me, so they are off my list of brands to look at even if I could afford them.

So here's where the rubber meets the road ....  what do you think?

In your experience, what brand do you like best and why?

In your experience, which ones should I stay away from?

What type of sewing machine do you have and do you like it or hate it and why?

And for those of you with a treadle, I'll be asking you questions next!
As soon as I can learn how to tell a good treadle from a junky one, I'll be investing in one of those myself.  Talk about work horses!


  1. I have a brother 35-XR I got at a garage sale (new!) for $25. I love it. It's a simple, no-frills machine that has given me no trouble in the 4-5 years I've had it. When I got it it had a bobbin tension thing, I fixed it and has run like a workhorse. My three daughters use it (3,5 and 7 years old) as they're learning.
    I just got myself an older Viking which has more accessories and whatnot for quilting at an estate sale.

    The way I see it, I prefer to get something used for a fraction of the price, I don't see the newer sewing machines (non-computarized that is) to offer anything particularly appealing if what you want is something simple.

    Look in craigslist for people who bought a machine *thinking* they'd learn and never used it. The price cut might be worth it.
    Of the choices you have, I'd skip the Bernina (not worth the $ for a young seamstress) and would go with my gut.

  2. Thank you Cecilia! I will look to see what I can find on Craigslist. I'm concerned about getting a used one because I have had problems with both of the used ones that have tormented me over the past several years and have spent more money in repairs and adjustments than a new one would've cost.

    I'm glad to hear a good review for a "used" Brother. It shows there is hope!

    I have to admit, the Brenina was what I had in mind for myself ... someday, until I heard all about the adjustment and repair issues.

  3. We have several sewing machines. I purchased a new Elnita almost 20 years ago. I really like it for my electric machine. It can do the basic stitches, button holes, zig zag, and a few other fancy stiches (12 in all).

    My girls were all given machines from people in our church or another one that I had. Two of them are Singers in cabinets from the 1940s and 1950s. The other one is a Dressmaker from the 1970s.

    My two other sewing machines are treadles. One, a White, was given to me. That is the machine I go to now for almost everything. It doesn't do zig zag, but I don't care. The other treadle is slowly being repaired. I have to get a few parts for it. Our last sewing machine is a SewMore, which is basically a Singer copycat model made in Japan in the late 1940s and 50s. My husband used that for some upholstery work.

    I like the older machines as they last. I can sew through more layers on the treadles than with my Elnita. My White treadle is a 1920 model.

    I also second looking on Craigslist.


  4. I had a brother, my friend has a brother and both have terrible bobbin and tension problems. I wouldn't buy one. My friends have the basic singers and they are noisy and vibrate a lot compared to my Janome. Otherwise they like them. I have had two Janomes and have loved them my friend also has a Janome and loves it. She has a very basic one for beginning sewists, her's is hello kitty, I have an older one from Sears, Harmony and a brand new one that is computerized but basic and just quilted a king size quilt on it, even though it wasn't easy due to the size! As far as treadles go, I just got one and the best information is at, they also have a yahoo group where you can ask questions. Another good website is I have found that with sewing machines, everyone will say that the one they use is the best - LOL

    1. Hi Missy ~ Thank you for the treadle sites! I keep hearing issues with Brothers and good things about Janomes. I'm going to have to take a real look at those. I hadn't before because I hadn't ever heard of them before and thought they might be some cheap version of something else. My Mom and my Grandmothers all had SIngers, so I grew up in a Singer family you might say, lol. Thank you for taking the time to give me some advice!!

  5. I use a singer hd 110. Priced around $350 to $500 dependent upon where you purchase. I love it! Excellent for piecing, quilting, and heavy fabrics such as denim or soft leather.

  6. I have a Singer treadle, a 1915 Singer converted to electric, a 1951 Singer slant shaft, a Kenmore 10 stitch which is my everyday sewer (late 70's or early 80's found at Salvation Army for 12.99!!!) a Janome 9000 which can no longer do hooped embroidery and a Janome 9500.
    ALL of the machines were bought used and only the Janome's came from a sewing machine shop (they were trade in's)
    Sears Kenmores are very solid machines. Both my mother and mother in law still have there's from the 70's and both machine still sew great!
    I would say to try Craigslist, see if you have a sewing machine store that has trade ins for sale and put the word out to family and friends and see if you can find a used machine.

    1. Hi Melissa ~ You are the second person to tell me that you like the Kenmores. They don't get very good reviews online. Our local sewing machine repairman recommends Kenmores. He doesn't fix them as much, but I thought it might be because not to many people have one. He repairs lots of Singers and a ton of Brothers. I'll look around for a Kenmore.....

  7. When my old singer gave out, I ended up buying a Janome from JC Penney because it has metal gears. A lot of machines these days have a lot of plastic gears in them. I don't have to worry about setting the tension, it has a very easy to use buttonholer, you can use twin needles and it does have enough extra stitches to make me happy. I also love the fact that I don't have to use a zig zag stitch if I need a stitch that stretches. I can use any stitch I like! And I didn't pay and arm and a leg. I have been using it a lot since I got it in 2003 and have never had a problem.

    1. Hi Michelle ~ so you do like your Janome? I really like my JC Penney sewing machine even though it gives me trouble here and there. It sounds so solid, more like a commercial machine. I think it'll also run with twin needles, but I haven't tried it yet. It has two places for thread spools. It seems the Janomes are priced a bit higher, but it sounds like you feel it's worth it. Good to know. Thank you!

    2. I have a Janome Jem and love it. It is very basic but a workhorse. I would suggest that you purchase from a Sewing Machine shop or quilt store. Buying at the big box stores may have good prices but if you have problems, you have to ship it to get it repaired. Local stores will have a repair person on staff for cleaning, tension issues, etc.

      I would start out basic and learn the machine and how to sew. Find out if you or your daughter even like to sew. Then work up from there. You will have an idea of the functions you want and ones you may be be able to do without. That's my suggestion.

  8. Hi Sharon,
    I'm no seamstress, but the Singer Anniv. machine sure is pretty, but if you are planning on getting a treddle anyways, this machine seems pretty spendy for only 24 stitches and most of it's features look pretty standard for any Singer. And I would never get a Brother -- they are notoriously noisy/klunky. Of course, getting metal parts is superior to the plastic, but hard to come by. I bought a Singer Confidence 7469 a couple of years ago and it is holding up well so far with our two girls (15 & 17) learning how to sew. They made me some really nice Christmas gifts with it using fun stitches and have quickly exceeded me in sewing skills (with the Christian Light Home Ec booklets). One mistake I made though was that I bought it through an online place that sells reconditioned machines to save a few $$, well, I didn't try it out right away but just plugged it in to make sure the motor & lights came on and then set it in a corner in the box for 6 months or so...and when I finally did get brave and try it out, I found out the automatic needle threader was broken and it was past it's warranty (sigh), so if you would buy a reconditioned or used machine...don't do what I did...make sure to try everything out right away. I need to get busy & teach myself how to sew more than quilts & curtains -- for some reason sewing machines intimidate me. I wish you the best. Let us know what you decide.

    1. Hi Jane ~ I have to agree with you about the Anniversary machine being pretty, and even though I'm only really needing basic stitches, I think 24 stitches isn't quite enough for the price. Besides, I hate paying for pretty. What you have said about a Brother seems to be the majority of what I'm hearing about them.

      I'll keep in mind what you said about making sure it works right away. Sewing machines around here don't sit very long without being used. Thank you for your advice!

  9. I love my Kenmore for everyday uses. It's been the perfect machine for my girls to use. When I was looking for a new machine the best advice was to look for a model in my price range with the fewest plastic parts. Plastic has a tendency to warp with heat and cold.

    1. Kristen, that sounds like great advice! I'm having a hard time finding Kenmore's anywhere without ordering them online :(

  10. I would recommend a Kenmore, if you want something that's reliable and decently priced. I grew up sewing on them...then about 3 1/2 years ago, bought a Brother PC420 for $500. I've enjoyed it up until last month...$80 and two service people later, it's not fixed. I won't buy a Brother again. Not sure how much more it's going to cost me, but I'm just hoping they get it fixed.

    I've been looking online and I am not sure what to do about a machine...spend more, spend less....I need something that will work for it's a hard decision. I don't want to spend more on a piece of junk though. =( Good luck in your searches too!

  11. I have the Brothers machine u have posted. I am happy with it, I use it for piecing quilts and other basic sewing needs. It was so easy to use, and inexpensive, I bought one for my 21 yr old daughter too. Neither of us our advanced seamstress....we have not had any trouble with the machines.

  12. Just came across your blog and your dilemma on sewing machines. I have a very expensive Bernina (which was a gift) and hate the tension on it. I have an older Bernina Record 830 that I love. I also have Janomes that I can't say enough good about. Never had problems with them. Hope this helps.

  13. I have several machines as I do sew alot of sewing and also quilt. I have a Viking for the stitches for my quilting..I just bought it and I am still getting use to it. I also have a janome and I don't think you can beat these machines which JoAnn Fabrics carry several of the styles. I also have a Singer that is also a good machine. They have one called a Curvey that is not expensive and is a great machine. Hope this helps as to many people giving their advice may get a little hard for you to decide. If you can find a Janome machine to just sit down and try it might be a choice for you. Good Luck in the choices...vera

  14. Brother, Janome and Singer are the best

  15. I currently have a Viking Huskvarna Designer II that I bought used 18 months ago. LOVE IT! I used to own an Elna for about 15 years and it was a good machine but needed to be updated. It is my opinion that in years gone by Singers were good but more currently they are junk - Just my humble opinion though :-)

  16. I just broke down last month and bought a Janome dc2012 and I am in love. It has 50 built-in stitches, auto-threader and all kinds of bells and whistles. And the thing that I noticed and that hubby and my quilting instructor comments on is how QUIET it is. Hubby claims to not be able to hear it when he's in the next room watching TV. Definitely not something you could say abou my litle $50 jobbie from Walmart. And it's a lightweight, so easy to move around if you need to (like for quilting class!) Comes with a ton of different feet and attachments.

    JoAnn's had the new Singer anniversay machine on display this weekend for $449. It's absolutely gorgeous but the thing I noticed is that it is HUGE. I think it does embroidery also?

    BTW, I just saw an expensive Bernina sell at an auction for just $300 so you might check around for used and save some money.


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