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What Sewing Machine to Get?

Anna Baker
2 months ago

I know some one on here sews. I'm looking at buying a sewing machine for mostly light weight work. I'm not sure what small sewing machines are good. I used to use a heavy duty sewing machine at work, but I sure as hell don't have the money for one.
Any suggestions?

Comments (14)

  • Julie Praus
    2 months ago

    I would buy a used, older machine that was well cared for. A Singer, White, Viking or Kenmore. I like the ones that are 20-40 years old, mostly metal with 3-5 stitch options. I have a 45 year old Kenmore that I have loved since I got it. I have sewn my wedding gown, baby clothes, curtains and mended jeans on it. I have an electronic Phaff for quilting, but my Kenmore is the workhorse. Watch estate sales or internet market places to find one.

  • c t
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Hmmmm. You might want to give this more thought. An industrial juki with motor and table will come to about $1000. A bernina 1008 will cost about the same.

    I love my Bernina, (cost me a lot more than $1000 when I purchased it, it was a fancy one). If I had it to do over again, I might buy an industrial- faster, less to go wrong, specialty feet are inexpensive. I've never used the decorative stitches on any sewing machine. Occasionally the zig-zag, but most people who sew a lot have a serger now to finish edges. I have an industrial machine too, because every now and then I alter jeans or make potholders from old jeans. You may never do that.

    You don't say what you're going to be sewing. if you're doing it to make money, I'd go with the industrial. If not, I'd budget for both a sewing machine and a serger.

    The definitive forum for discussing sewing machines is here:

    ETA: Will you make things that need buttonholes? If so, an industrial probably won't work for you.

    I have an industrial machine only because my late husband was driving around on a Saturday (obviously before he became 'late') and saw one on the lawn at a yard sale four towns away. I think it cost about $40, and I suspect it's older than me (I'm on Medicare). The seller said his mother had been employed making draperies for years. It was a steal.

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  • bkay2000
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    This is more than you probably want to know. However, I was a sewing machine collector and learned a lot about vintage sewing machines.

    If I wanted to save money and get a reliable machine, I would do as Julie Praus suggests. The new machines in the $100 to $200. range are pure junk. They are not repairable. The brands she suggests are good machines.

    I would stick with Singer, unless the other brands have all the accessories (feet, attachments, button holer, etc. Those can be expensive on Viking and hard to find on White and Kenmore.

    Kenmore had some great machines, but some are left homing, which are difficult to do piecing (making quilt squares), if quilting is in your future. Sears did not make their own machines, so they used many different manufacturers. As far as I know, all were good manufacturers. White was the principal supplier for Sears. For instance, they had a couple of models made by Gritzner. They are beautifully engineered machines, but you can't get parts for them. White had Gritzner make them for Sears before White had a machine with zig-zag capability.

    On Singer, stay with the 401 or 501 (the 301 is great, but straight stitch only). They have built in decorative stitches. They have all metal gears. The 403 and 503 make decorative stitches with a cam. Both are great machines, fairly common and usually in the $100 to $200. range. They will be cheaper at an estate or garage sale. I bought a 503 at an estate sale for $50.00. It included the sewing cabinet and all the accessories.

    Most of Singer machine made since 1970 or so are not reliable. Some of the 600 series are great. However that's about when Singer started using plastic gears. The really early 600's had bobbin winding problems. If it has a button to wind the bobbin on the bed of the machines, don't buy it. Other than the 600, 601 or 603, stay away from Touch and Sews. They are in the 50 year old range and the plastic gears will shatter soon. (I once bought a lot of sewing machines and all T&S had shattered gears.) I have a T&S (bought new in 1975) that still works, but it's been lightly used and stored in my closet (never in heat or cold). The gears will go at any time. I keep it because it has a stretch stitch. If you find a 626 with metal gears, it's a keeper. Most 626's had plastic gears.

    There were some great Japanese machines made in the 50's, 60's and 70's. I just don't know enough about them to give advice.

    Always try out the machine before buying it. The first vintage machine that I bought (Touch and Sew) had worn out feed dogs (not an expensive fix). However, when I went to look at it, it was set up, plugged in, light on and had a piece of fabric under the feed dogs with stitching. I assumed it was sewn on that machine. Either it was not sewn on that machine or they had pulled it through the feed dogs. (I always assume machines at Estate sales work.) Take thread with you, in case.


  • c t
    2 months ago

    Have to second the comment about Singer after the Seventies. My mom taught Home Economics. Around that time, not only were the Singers getting more unreliable, it was hard to get any technician to come to school and repair them> (Speculating - maybe morale was low?)

  • caroline94535
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Any sewing machine, built before the mid-1970s will be 100 times better than any new machine on the marker today.

    Ask your local quilt shop - not a box fabric store - if they have customers that are vintage sewing machine enthusenthusiasts; (they do). Contact them.

    Ask a sewing machine repair shop person to locate one for you.

    I wish I had known. I just re-homed 7 vintage machines - among them Singers 128, 301 and 401, a Pfaff 130-6, a Kenmore…

    All from 1946-1960s

    ”Singer“ sold its name long ago. They have not made sewing machines in decades. They make aircraft training simulators now - At least thet did when I was in the U.S. Air Force.

    Any new machine marked ”Singer,” is just wearing a purchased a logo; it’s not a high-quality, precision machine that earned the name in the past.

    An ”Iron Lady” from before 1970 will still be sewing - with proper maintenance - 100 years from now.

  • Lars
    last month

    I have a Viking Husqvarna that I bought circa 1992 that I like a lot. It was $750 back then, but you can get it used for much less. The main consideration is whether to buy a computerized or non-computerized machine. The computerized machines are difficult and expensive to repair, but any machine that is not computerized (regardless of age) can be more easily repaired or serviced. There is no advantage to being "pre-mid 1970s" but there is an advantage to being non-computerized. Bernina and Viking machines from the 1980s and 1990s that are not computerized are excellent choices.

  • bkay2000
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I know very little about computerized machines, as I'm an avid mechanical machine person. On a vintage machine forum, we get repeated questions about how to get a mother board repaired. You can't - and they have usually quit making the board by the time yours fails. So you have an expensive door stop.

    The Japanese made machines are usually excellent machines. As in America, they don't make many (if any) in Japan anymore, though. There are new mechanical machines being made (Eversewn, I think). I understand their least expensive machine is in the $400. range and it's a straight stitch (only) machine.

    Of course, what you intend to do with your machine is what counts. If you want to do machine embroidery, you will most likely want a computerized machine. If you are going to make quilts, you don't need that. You need a big throat on your machine. I'm not sure what you would need for garment making, as I haven't made any garments in a long, long time.


    edited to add: The pre-1970's date is when they (particularly Singer) started to make machines with "plastic" gears. The gears fail with time, use and the storage environment. They are pretty expensive to have replaced, if you can find someone who will do it.

  • claudia valentine
    last month

    I would echo the advise to steer clear of any Singer after mid century. The Touch and Sew was notorious for being a really bad machine.

    On the other hand, I have my moms old Singer from the 50s and that is a well made machine.

    Some of the Kenmores were pretty good and solid, but only the older ones.

    I favor the older mechanical models and would not give a nickel for one of these new super expensive computer run machines. Those things cost more that they could ever be worth to anyone. Ridiculous!

    It is a bit like buying a new expensive TV only to realize that there are still only the same options to watch what you could already watch on the old one. It wont make your sewing any better. Sewing is a skill set that goes way beyond the machine.

    And, there is no skill involved in being able to program a machine to do some fancy embriodery stitches that also require miles and miles of thread. So what? That is a novelty that wears thin very quickly after the first baby blanket or table runner or tree skirt.

    Look for an older mechanical one. I drive a mechanical Bernina from the 70s and have the mid century Singer as an option.

    If it is in a box for cheap at Walmart, steer clear of it. And, dont believe, for one minute that one in the box at Joanns that has the photo of a gun metal gray looking machine that is touted as "heavy duty". What a crock that is! It is nothing but pure plastic junk. Singer is all junk now.

  • PRN
    29 days ago

    I have one of those cheap plastic sewing machines that everyone is telling you to avoid but I have had no problems with my basic Brother non-computerized machine. I am not sure what ”light weight work” means to you, but I have made a wing chair slipcover, multiple pillow covers, curtains, and have repaired many articles of clothing of various weight fabric with this machine. My only complaint is that it is very lightweight and tends to move around on the tabletop while I am using it. I have a piece of that rubbery drawer liner/rug pad material underneath it and that does keep it in place.

  • claudia valentine
    29 days ago

    PRn, good that you were able to do what you wanted to do with your inexpensive machine.

    I, for one am happy to have had a good and solid machine all of these years. I have sewn for over 50 years and used to sew just about all of my clothes and many a liitle dress or shirt for the kids and robes and shirts for hubs and all manner of household everything.

    I am so glad to have had these solid machines to use all these years.

    Having a good tool is a joy. A good sewing machine can be a life long relationship.

    So many of these high priced machines are big on features that you are likely to never use. You only hope that under all of those features is a solid machine, but dont count on it.

    The idea of a mother board going out on a sewing machine is a problem that I wont pay good money for. No thanks.

  • carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b
    27 days ago

    Another vintage Singer fan - I have 4.

    I've had good luck buying old, metal geared Singers from local thrift stores & garage sales here, and I was able to find a replacement power cord and pedal control for my most recent one on ebay. The machine cost me around $15 (only needed oiling) and the cords were around $25, IIRC.

    I agree about the later Singer models - those nylon gears wear down and the teeth break off.

    And you can get old sewing machine manuals online for just about every machine. I've both bought and downloaded free manuals online.

    If you've used industrial machines, dealing with an older home sewing machine shouldn't be too much of a challenge, I think.

  • claudia valentine
    25 days ago

    I had an industrial Juki that I bought brand new in the 90s and I had a small home dec business. That thing was so god awful heavy to move that, when it came time for it to go, the real problem was finding someone who wanted it and could lug it home.

    I ended up selling it for peanuts to a lady who worked at Joanns. It was so problematic to deal with because of it's weight. I was just glad to have it gone from my room since i was not using it anymore. It was nice for simple heavy work, but not so much for my own home sewing. It sounded like a diesel truck running in my room. The motor was always on if the switch was on., even if the gears were not engaged.

    I never did take to doing my own personal sewing on it. My old Bernina and the old 50s slant needle Singer were for that. Eventually I did splurge for a Babylock serger, I cant say that I really love the serger. I use it mostly as a seam finish. It is so much work to change so much out with each different step of sewing a garment. It is easier with my sewing machine.

    I, also, advise the poster to look for an older mechanical machine.

    I use only a few basic stitches on my machines, which is what my machines have. So many of those features on newer machines are things that can be added to it, but most are pretty useless or not needed and dont get used.

    Sewing is a skill set, not a fancy machine. It is always good to have a good tool. But more useless functions does not make for better quality and wont make anyone better at it. Having a good, solid machine will help with the success, though . A good tool is a joy.

  • Debbie Downer

    Wish I had found this forum a few months ago when I took my old nonfunctioning Singer in for repair - I had not used it in at least 20 yrs if not more. I was given a quote, quite reasonable, but the guy emphasized that there were no guarantees, and once it seizes up like mine had, it would always be prone to do so again... so I just got rid of it. I thought it was from the 1960s but maybe it was 1970s with plastic parts as yall described above (it had a plastic case).

    So! All your comments have clarified that I realllly want a good old one as yall have advised - love simplicity, and the esthetics as well! I saw this lovely turquoise metal Morse in antique store the other day but dont want to buy based on looks alone! Can I assume that if I find an older pre-1970s model and if it is running OK that it would be a good buy? What if its running but not so good, messed up stitches or whatever. Can I assume these are repairable and parts can be found?