When I first started sewing, my mom gave me her ancient (okay, 1970s, which is about the same age as I am and I totally feel justified in calling ancient) sewing machine and bought herself a new, fabulous machine. Although it’s pretty old, it’s solid, and is a total workhorse. It has served me quite well over the years.
But the time had come that I was ready to step up to a new machine. I knew just what I wanted in a machine and how much I had to spend, and I researched online until I narrowed it down to a few models that I wanted to see in person, and possibly try out. It was between a Kenmore model and a Brother model. The Kenmore was obviously at Sears and the Brother was at Hancock Fabrics.
That Friday night, I went first to Sears. I found the model I wanted and looked at it, and kept an eye out for an associate. I watched associate after associate walked right past me to talk to other people. I got the attention of one associate who told me he’d be right back, and he never came back. Tired of this treatment, I went to Hancock Fabrics, where I knew I might be ignored, but only because they’re totally understaffed.
When I got to Hancock Fabrics, I went to look at the machine, and found it was entirely unsuitable. It was way too light (light machines tend to “walk” across the table, unless you have a sewing cabinet which I do not) and it was awfully small, to boot. So I went on home, determined to come back the next day to Sears with my hair straightened and dressed to the nines, so THEN they’d pay attention to me.
While I was at home that night, I did even more research. This time, I went to forums and message boards and read buying advice from people, rather than the reviews I had been reading. I noticed a common thread. Most people were saying to go to a sewing machine dealership rather than a store like Sears or even Hancock’s or JoAnn’s. Very interesting. So I googled for a Janome dealership in my area (another brand I was looking at) and lo and behold, there was one fairly close to me.
This experience was absolutely fabulous. I walked into the store and told them I was an intermediate sewer, had X amount of dollars to spend, and wanted certain features. She led me to a few machines in my price range, then showed me one that was slightly out of my price range, but was one I had drooled over online. Online, it was way out of my price range, but in the shop, it was just slightly out of my price range. I talked to her about the price and they dropped it down so it was in my price range. She showed me several nifty features of it like the one step buttonholer, let me play with it, and I was sold.
For the tl;dr crowd, let’s sum up:
Decide first what your price range is. It’s easy when looking at sewing machines to keep looking at machines that are 200 or 300 bucks more than your price range, then decide that the features available on those machines are the ones you really need.
Then start your research. Look at various websites, then google the model number and brand and see what people are saying about the machines. Some good websites to look at are at Sewingpatternreview.com and Craftster.org.
The first place you should look at in person should be a sewing machine dealership. Not Sears or Hancock Fabrics. In addition to the excellent customer service I received there, I also got a free class on how to use my machine, and a one year in-house warranty. The warranty was especially cool- if my machine breaks or starts acting weird, I can take it somewhere local and most likely not be away from my machine for a terribly long time.
No matter where you go, make sure you see the machine you’re buying in person first. It’s okay to buy online, but if I had bought the Brother machine I was looking at online, I would have been disappointed.
Don’t rule out Craigslist and thrift stores to buy a machine. Older machines make good first machines, especially if you can buy them cheap. Make sure you either get one that comes with a manual, or google your model number to download or buy a new manual. A manual is essential to sewing success, especially if you’re new to sewing.
That said, though, I will say this. A good machine can be the difference in whether you love or hate sewing. My old machine was a good machine, but it was kind of a pain. With my new machine, I LOVE sewing and live for the minutes I can spend sewing every day now. I remember using the machines in school- they were AWFUL and I absolutely despised sewing. It took spending some time with my mom and her machine to convince me I didn’t despise sewing. It wasn’t sewing I hated, it was sewing on crappy machines.
Oh, and the sewing machine I ended up buying, in case you’re wondering, is a Brother Innov-is 40 Project Runway Limited Edition. I’ve been sewing on it for nearly a week now and I LOVE it. Love, love, love.
Tell me about your sewing machines, Home Eccers!