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Sewing Machine Recommendations

For obvious reasons, we get asked for advice on buying sewing machines – a lot!

I’ve been recommending Kenmores for years as I’m still using the one I received for my 16th birthday – 25 years ago! It actually has a 25 year warranty on it, so I’m expecting it to go any day now. :)

Actually, it’s never even been repaired and considering what I’ve done to it, through design school and decades of upholstering, it’s pretty remarkable.

I always tell students that strength is the most important quality in a sewing machine. That’s why I’m so attracted to the old, metal parts machines. They run forever and can sew through many layers without hesitation. I know they’re not fun to carry around, but when a machine is as light as a loaf of bread, I see trouble coming.

So many times students will be sewing in class on their big box, $99 machine and things seem to be going fine. Then they add one more layer of fabric and  . . . that’s all she wrote.

I’m also not a fan of computerized machines. I have yet to see any real benefit to outweigh the highly multiplied possibility that something goes wrong. When you get into the higher priced Berninas and Pfaffs, that’s cool, but that’s not really our market. Most of our students have just started sewing and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg. Personally, I find it really hard to recommend a $1000 machine to someone who has just learned to sew a pillow cover. Call me cheap. Call me old school. You’d be right.

What I recommend most highly for the budget-conscious, new sewer is a non-computerized / mechanical machine by Janome. They are the company that makes Kenmore, and since Kenmores are getting harder to find (except on eBay), Janome is a great option with the same trusted heft.  Here is a page of well priced beauties from Amazon.

And, by all means, chime in! If you love computerized machines or have a favorite brand for other reasons – I’d love to hear opinions from other sewers on why they love the machines they love.

This guy is calling my name.


Comment from Grandma G
Time September 13, 2012 at 10:56 am

Hurray for Kenmores! Mine is 42 years old and still going strong. No repairs here, either. I’ll never replace it!

Comment from Jane
Time September 13, 2012 at 11:25 am

I totally agree. I get asked all the time for sewing machine recommendations and I ALWAYS recommend an old heavy metal machine. Most people’s projects do not require computerized machines that have 57 different embroidery stitches.
Less is more … heavy is better. : )

Comment from Jodi Z
Time September 13, 2012 at 11:50 am

I love my 1960’s Elna. It is from an estate sale and is the exact model that my mom has always used. I LOVE it. It can do anything and when I had it serviced before I used it the repair shop said it should have years of use left!

Comment from Penny G
Time September 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Great timing on this post since I just took my first class. I ordered a Janome and it arrives tomorrow! Love your shop and your class schedule!!

Comment from Shannon
Time September 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I inherited my Bernina 830 from my grandmother. It’s 38 years old and still going strong. I have had one major repair, I had to get the motor overhauled. But that’s the only major repair its needed in 38 years, a good track record!
I agree, I like the older metal machines, I can sew through anything on mine.

Comment from Susan
Time September 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Dear Old School,
Sage advice! I have a ten yr old Janome and love it. It’s perfect for my occasional beginner project. I hope it lasts as long as yours has!

Comment from Marsha
Time September 23, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I just purchased a Janome 108 at a garage sale. It says limited edition on the front. It does not have all the attachments or book so I have no idea what I am missing. I will need to try to adjust it since it sews the straight stitches great but the zig zag is off. I hope I got a nice little machine.

Comment from Fernanda
Time September 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Hello Rachel, I recently took the Sewing 101 course at your shop and LOVED it! Now I’m looking for a sewing machine and came across this one: what do you think? Worth trying? Thanks!

Comment from Fernanda
Time September 30, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Well, I ended up buying this one: just because it comes with a 25 yr. warranty (the other one had a 5 yr one). Hope it works well :) Thanks!

Comment from Rachel
Time September 30, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Hi Fernanda, Do you know if this is refurbished? I don’t trust any machines from overstock, because I think usually they are refurbished and I’ve seen a bunch of them go up in smoke. If you already purchased it, I would just be sure to keep all of the paperwork.

Comment from Debby
Time January 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm

My favorite machine is my mother’s old, I mean old, 60 year old treddle machine. It still sews the best stitches ever. It was a trip learning to use the pedal when I first tired as a little girl. Will never let this machine go. Of course I have an electric machine but since inheriting the old Singer, you can guess what is used the most.

Comment from Charlotte
Time April 11, 2013 at 11:52 am

I have a Janome 9000 and it is a workhorse! But, found an old (1950’s) machine in a storage building auction win. After cleaning it up and some TLC……I like to say…like butter! I named “him” Jeffery because I found a little school photo in the tool box of a young boy named Jeffery. I can really tell the difference in a sturdy, steel machine. It just has a wonderful feel!

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