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Sewing Machine Advice
August 31, 2012
11:04 pm
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Miss Judy
West Central MO
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Well, my portable sewing machine has bit the dust. I’ve had it for a lot of years and this time the repairs are going to cost so much that a new one is the best way to go.

Can anyone tell me anything about the portable machines on the market now? I want something fairly light weight that doesn’t jump out of adjustment every time it is bumped. I want to get back into quilting and I like to make curtains, potholders and other crafts. I also enjoy taking my machine to my friends house and piecing quilts.

I do still have my old singer (1957 model) in the cabinet and it still works fine but I am holding my breath. 

Does anyone have a portable machine that they dearly love and would recommend?

August 31, 2012
11:29 pm
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mamajhk
South Central Kansas
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Miss Judy I have a trusty Sears/kenmore that is older than one of my kids and is still stitching along.   I fear the day is coming when I have to replace it.  don’t want to say much because they (machines) seem to know when you are being negative about them.  (LOL)  It doesn’t do all the fancy stitches but it gets the job done.   It is a portable but can also be put in a cabinet.

September 1, 2012
10:03 am
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Squeegees Mom
South Texas
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I have an early 1990’s Pfaff machine that is portable, but easily mounted in and out of a cabinet as well. Multi functioned. Does some fancy stitching and quilting. I love it. Down sides are A: tend to be a bit pricey. B: Dealers are sometimes sparse unless you live in or near a big city.

When I bought my machine it came with a class to intoduce you to the various stitching aspects of the machine. I seem to remember it was once a week for a month. Very helpful.

 

Good luck on your shopping and purchase!

September 1, 2012
11:02 am
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mamajoseph
Kenya
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I have a really old New Home machine that runs great and a few years ago, I got my mom’s old Pfaff. It is the machine I learned to sew on growing up, so I am more familiar with it and that’s why I wanted it. That makes it about 35 years old. My MIL has a Brother and I used it for a bit and liked it. I notice that’s what they use a lot on HGTV.

I (sorta) have a farm in Africa.

September 1, 2012
12:01 pm
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brookdale
Eastern Maine
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I have an old 1950’s Singer Featherweight that I use sometimes, the Singers never die it seems. So, sorry, I can’t help you with a new one! But if you check out CraigsList you might find one gently used. And if you buy a new one at someplace like Joanne Fabric they will offer you free lessons on how to use it.

Remember, if it rains on your picnic it's also raining on your garden!

September 1, 2012
2:39 pm
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Miss Judy
West Central MO
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Hubby says the Pfaff industrial machines are good ones (he worked in a sewing factory back in  the day). They have an old “New Home” at our sewing circle at church, and I like it. My problem is buying a new machine one that none of my friends can recommend to me. And if I buy one at a sale or on Craig’s list am I just buying someones problems. I’ll keep looking. and if anyone hears anything good about a certain brand keep me posted.

September 1, 2012
4:34 pm
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Squeegees Mom
South Texas
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In the JoAnn’s Fabric Store near my house I often see sewing demonstrations going on during the weekends. They showcase the machines that JoAnn’s carries. If there is one near you, perhaps you could play with their new machines and see which one appeals best to you. I am not sure if they do demos during the week as I usually hit the store on Saturdays.

September 1, 2012
5:53 pm
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STH
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Yep, I bought my White portable from Joann’s and I’ve been pretty happy with it; the only real complaint I would have is that the tension slips and you have to put it back where it’s supposed to be fairly often.  But I’ve done a lot of sewing on it–had a part time job doing piece work for a while–and it’s held up great.  Like most of the newer machines, it has a hard time with heavy-duty sewing, such as several layers of denim, but I’ve been able to muddle through and make denim bike handlebar bags with it.  I think I paid about $250 for it several years ago.  So it’s not comparable to a Pfaff or other high-end machine, but it works fine for me; does the basic stuff and has several fancy stitches and some special feet for various purposes.  And it’s light!  Before I got it, I was lugging my grandmother’s all-metal machine to sewing classes and I got tired of that pretty quick!

 

Squeegees Mom has a good idea to go to one of the demonstrations.  They probably only demonstrate the high-end machines, but if you like the brand after the demo, you could always go for a more basic model in the line.

September 1, 2012
6:02 pm
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CD
California
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My portable machine is a Brother from the early 90s.  It has a couple fancy stitches, but nothing too fancy.  I used it to sew many an outfit & my first couple of quilts.  It has been “retired” to the closet since I purchased my Janome.  

As odd as it may sound…the Project Runway Brother machine got a lot of good reviews when it came out.  It is supposed to have a fair amount of stitches & hold up well.  I’ve never used it, but if it holds up like my Brother machine has I would say it’s worth a look.

September 1, 2012
8:30 pm
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kathy
San Augustine, Texas
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Finally, something I know something about instead of always asking questions. I have a Bernina. I grew up on Pfaffs as my mom had a professional drapery workroom. The Pfaff serviceman even used to come and service the machines. My favorite was the hemmer. I used to LOVE to turn in projects at school. I loved the look on the teacher’s faces. But I wander afar. Back to machines. The metal that was once Pfaff and the precision of the machine were unmatched, but as someone mentioned earlier, service becomes a problem. My nearest dealer is more than 100 miles away. Last repair was over 6 months. I can’t be that long without a machine. So, I started looking into Bernina. Very pricey to me, but I’d ask different friends, quilters and sewers. They loved their Berninas. So I bit the bullet, bought the least expensive free arm, and loved it. Not considered a portable, but I took it many places. Even shipped it to friend’s vacation home where we sewed most of one summer. Shipped it back, no problems. It’s never needed servicing. I clean and oil it myself. Tension is steady after all these years. I currently have 3 other Bernina machines I bought from a friend’s mom. Even though they’re older, 15 or more years, they work great. A serger, one of the first electronics, and an embroidery machine (that most consider a dinosaur), all in excellent working order. I went to Bernina because I could get them serviced, there are three authorized dealers within 50 miles. But my suggestion might be different than you would think. I suggest you go make friends with the repairmen at the most reputable and long lived dealer near you. People trade in machines all the time, for no other reason than they want a new one. He might could put you on to a good machine (no worrying about someone else’s problem machine) whatever the brand. A used machine would be pennies on the dollar to a new one. A friend also wanted a quilting machine (at a very good price), placed an ad in the local newspaper, and was bombarded with replies. She got a great machine. Just remember, it’s harder to get parts than it’s ever been, so do think about the age. But mostly, my suggestion is if you possible can, by from your local dealer. But if you buy new, you can not go wrong with a Bernina. Good luck to you. (If it helps, I started sewing when I was 7, I’m 60, and I’ve never gone a week without using my machines. Quilting, draperies, clothes, crafts.)   

September 2, 2012
11:59 am
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JaneGrey
Hatchling
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September 2, 2012
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It really depends on your affordability range and the features you’re looking for.

Growing up, I had two singer sewing machines from the 70’s that weigh a ton. They still work, today. I also have a Manual White from the late 1800’s that also still works with all it’s accessories, but my knee can’t take operating that thing for hours, so it’s more of a decorative piece.

Although I had machines that were always reliable- I wanted something more modern. I ended up getting a Euro-Pro that was all fancy and digital, but unfortunately the quality wasn’t the greatest even though it had the most features. Many of the components were plastic and quickly broke on me, but I was still able to use it for basic light weight fabrics for about 8 years- but all the ‘bells and whistles’ were pretty much useless to me after a year. I still had to use one of my Singer machines for heavier fabrics.

 

When shopping for a sewing machine, there were a few authorized sellers in my area, and all their advice was the same. Do not buy products made in China, (dispute the name, Euro-Pro was made in China) Find brands made in Europe, USA or Japan. If you’ve already owned a machine, buy one with features you are going to use. Do not be tempted by excessive bells and whistles you may never use. I ended up buying another Singer, since mine from the 70’s is still going strong. I bought the Singer anniversary edition being tempted by the pretty black & gold case on it. Also find an authorized dealer & repair center that sells more than 1 brand. That way, you know their opinion is not one sided because they could sell you just about any brand, but can tell you the pros and cons of each one, and also let you know what comes in most often for repairs. Close by I have Singer, Kenmore, Janome and Husgarvinana (sp?) If I wanted to consider other brands, authorized repair centers were 2+ hours away.

September 2, 2012
9:35 pm
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Pete
WV
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Pretty much agree with what everyone else has said here.  My priorities are quite basic and begin how it will be used and the availability of repairs.

I am in the Bernina camp here, but have a very reliable service center nearby and had an already established relationship with them.  They knew my needs and were able to advise me accurately on which one I needed instead of simply suggesting the top of the line, which they knew I would not like at all.

My best quilting buddy had a Pfaff and would not have traded it for anything.  But, she did not have easy service for it here.

Our nearby JoAnnes has a terrific sales staff.  (OK – I may be biased since one of them is a dear friend!)  They sell some outstanding machines in a wide variety of both function and price.  My Pfaff buddy ended up buying one of their Janomes and loves it.

So, my best advice is to see what is available close by and hang around with the sales staff long enough to get an idea if they seem like you could learn something from them.  All of them spend a great deal of time learning about their products and should be able to match you with the appropriate piece of hardware.

On the other hand, if you don’t need something that will hold up to a lot of sewing for years, Sam’s used to have a pretty good looking basic Brother.  I haven’t looked recently.  At the time I looked at it, it would certainly have met my needs and was almost inexpensive enough that when it broke you could just get another one!

Instead, I went with the Bernina.  The last time I took it in for routine service (years ago) it cost $75 for the check-up with nothing wrong with it!  Since I am meticulous about cleaning it at home, the owner of the shop used to accuse me of never using it between visits.  (He knew better.)  But he taught me the importance of doing the home maintenance, and that principle applies to any machine you own.

My Benina replaced a Singer from the 60’s.  Had I paid better attention to it’s cleaning and oiling, I would probably still be using it instead of having worn it completely out in only 30 years.

Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!

September 2, 2012
10:25 pm
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Miss Judy
West Central MO
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Thanks so much for the advice. I’ve been doing some research on the brands you have listed. I know all of the names but very little about them. I have taken my singer out of its cabinet and toted it around but it is very heavy and it’s not really made for that. I’ll keep looking and please Keep posting about the machine you use. Thanks again.

September 4, 2012
4:50 pm
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CCRider
Austin TX
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It seems I’ve owned a little of everything from one time to another. Kenmore, Singer, BabyLock, Elna – if I didn’t own it I used someone else’s Pfaff, Bernina, Brothers, White or whatever. I think it comes down to these basics when considering your purchase: what you can afford, availability for service, personal preference. My faves are Elna and Baby Lock. If you go to different dealers in your area they’ll be more than glad to let you “test drive” them so you can get a feel for the machine. Learn all you can from the dealers – then be a wise shopper and check-out Craig’s List as many have already suggested. Good luck on your treasure hunt!

September 5, 2012
1:55 am
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Flatlander
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My first machine was a Lewenstein (are they in US and Canada? I don’teven know) perfect machine..simple bet strong.

Sewed everything on it..clothes, coats, snowsuits etc.

After 20some years i wanted something else..bought a cheap one…and turned out an expensive one, because it was at the repairman more than at my house.

He explained that my machine was a good machine..as long as you needed a machine for now and then..to sew a ripped seam, hem a pair of pants etc.

For everyday use the plastic gear inside the machine, wear out.

After 2 years of misery, my husband bought me a Janome, the quilter special, over the years I changed from sewing to quilting.

That machine is just great…it does everything I need.

Recently I bought a embroidery machine..a good but small one, because I don’t need it often..just now and then to embroider a towel for a gift or a name on shirts from my husbands business.

So to make a short story short…buy one for your needs, but don’t buy to cheap, the real cheap ones have plastic instead of metal in them and wear out real fast.

I thing every brand is OK, and if you want to buy a used one…go to a dealer, they often sell used machines and they are checked and have warranty.

September 5, 2012
11:55 am
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BuckeyeGirl
N.E. Ohio
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I think that’s awesome advice Astrid (flatlander).  I’m currently using my Mother’s decades old Necchi, which is extremely well made and very portable and a very good machine, but I do remember that years ago she did need to get something fixed on it and boy was it a pain to find someone to work on it.  Of course, it was years ago and neither she nor I (knock on wood) have had any problem in the years since!  I wonder if I could find someone now?  …wait, no I don’t want to wonder about that!  It’s just too scary.

I think I’ve learned a lot from this topic, so thanks for starting it Miss Judy, even though I’m sure you wish you didn’t need to!

Located in N.E. Ohio

September 6, 2012
2:34 am
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bonita
north east IL
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<hand waving in weeds> I had my mom’s Necchi, too. It made to 50 years—without service—just with regular care! Here in the big city I would have to search for repair, too. First I’d find a typewriter repair person…network from there! Betcha there’s some ol’ guy around in a store with worn wooden floors and bins and bins (all unmarked) of misc parts.

Next I’d check with one of those charities who collect discarded sewing machines to bring to women in 3rd world countries so that they can start their own businesses. Perhaps they have someone who can service some of the older machines they’re bound to take in.

Save the Earth. It's the only planet with chocolate.

September 6, 2012
8:08 am
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Miss Judy
West Central MO
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My old portable was a Necchi…the last time I had it repaired the “older gentleman repairman” told me that he had a problem getting parts and that some of the parts on my machine were just about worn bare ( He’s worn out too, he no longer does repair work).I did a LOT of machine zigzag embroidery and that was big time repetition movement. I think of it as needing a joint replacement. Well…it bit the dust and the cost to fix is very high sooooo…I am going to try and find something new or gently used. I still have my singer but I am wanting a portable that I can take to quilting and craft sessions. I hadn’t thought to check at Salvation Army…that may be my next stop.

I also have my aunts old, old singer…I think it was a late 30’s model…it needs a new motor (sigh)…the best machine I ever sewed on.

September 7, 2012
11:27 pm
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holstein woman
Yankton, (St. Helens)Oregon
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Miss Judy, I have to tell you that I can sympathize with you completely. I had a dressmaking business for 35 years and wore out a PFAff and a Brother serger. The PFAFF I am still using for leather, but the serger died a horrible death. I have had to buy 2 machines and both of them are in the basement not collecting anything but dust. They are both Janome’s, because when I sold machines for a short time I had to occasion to use one and was sold on it. I like both of them and would buy again. They are NOT as spendy as some others. Happy Sewing!

September 8, 2012
9:32 am
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Miss Judy
West Central MO
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Well, I am off today to do some more searching for a portable machine. I may have to end up getting one on line from Joannes…free shipping. It will probably be a Janome,or a Singer could even be a  Brother. We shall see. Or I may wait a few weeks and keep checking Craigs list and the newspaper ads.  Sounds like today may be more window shopping doesn’t it?.yes

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