Do you need an expensive sewing machine? Or will a more affordable model work just as well?
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This question came up recently when I was talking to a friend who expressed an interest in purchasing a sewing machine. He (yes, a he!) asked, “Do you really need one of those fancy ones?”
I thought about it for a minute, and then responded: “Probably not.”
And it’s true.
Don’t get me wrong – I totally drool over the super expensive, amazing sewing machines at events like QuiltCon, but I know I’ll survive if I don’t have one.
There are so many entry-level models that will serve your needs just fine if you’re just starting out. As a beginner, I’d recommend a sewing machine under $400. Between a mechanical and computerized version, I’d personally choose the computerized one with features like needle up/down, a lock stitch, thread cutter, etc. Those options aren’t make it or break it, but they are really nice to have. The Brother SE400 even comes with an embroidery unit.
Use that one for at least a year and keep track of your sewing projects – quilts, purses, pillow cases, clothing, embroidery. What kinds of items are you gravitating toward the most?
If it’s mostly smaller, simple items (ie: pillow cases, fabric baskets, tote bags) the entry-level machine will likely serve your needs. If you make a quilt once a year and have a difficult time quilting in such a small throat space, consider having the top professionally longarmed. It might cost $200+, but is that one quilt a year worth a major upgrade?
Make mostly quilts? Then you may want to consider investing in a sewing machine with a larger throat space. I really am happy with my Janome 7700 and its 11 inch throat space, but in hindsight it might have been too much machine for me. Shortly after purchasing mine to the tune of $2,500, Janome unveiled a new Skyline series. The Skyline S3 likely would have covered my needs and I could have saved about $1,000. The one issue the Janome 7700 has is tackling bulky items.
So that brings me to the purchase of my Sailrite Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 PREMIUM Walking Foot Sewing Machine, which touts sewing tougher materials like canvas and leather. This is embarrassing, but after spending a couple of hours trying to figure it out – I have not touched it since.
Because I occasionally sew bags and purses, which involves quite a few layers – I may have been better off going with the Juki DDL-8700 Industrial Straight Stitch Sewing Machine. I’ve heard great things about this machine in various sewing Facebook groups, and the price is in the same window as the Sailrite.
Over the past year or so, I have been gravitating more in the direction of garments. In my opinion, making clothing is the most difficult form of sewing for me. Not sure what it is, but it’s definitely been an uphill battle!
Buying a serger has certainly made the whole process a lot less painful. I took a workshop on using a serger at a sewing event, and the classroom models were the $6,000 Baby Lock Ovation. While fun to use, I was not about to drop that much on a serger – even at the show special price (which may have been about $3,500?). I ended up getting a Brother 1034D Serger, and it has not given me any trouble in the 2 years I’ve had it. At $200, it was quite a bargain!
Down the road, I would like to add a cover stitch machine to my stable for hemming knits. Hemming knits is THE WORST! Right now I just have to choose patterns that have doubled over waist bands, sleeves, and collars to avoid hemming.
If you are the type of sewist that mostly makes clothing, you really just need a fairly basic domestic sewing machine, serger, and cover stitch machine. This entire setup would run about $1,000 if you purchase all the machines new. ($200 serger, $400 cover stitch machine, $400 sewing machine) Don’t work with knits? Then you wouldn’t even need the cover stitch machine.
Sure, I’ve been tempted by the amazing sewing machines that can make appliqué look like a piece of cake, but then I have to slap myself back to reality. I’m also not a consumer who finances household purchases, so I always pay for my sewing machines up front without messing with interest and monthly payments.
While at QuiltCon, I had the pleasure of meeting Philipp Ueltschi – the rising fifth generation owner of Bernina sewing machines, the brand many view as having a cult status. He told me about a new line of entry-level machines called EverSewn – targeting a different customer base than the high-end models.
“My role is to bring EverSewn to the next-gen consumers and bring new, young people into the sewing world,” he had explained.
I immediately liked the aesthetic of the sewing machines I was looking at, and LOVED that Bernina was looking to the future. The company realizes that someone just starting out learning to sew isn’t likely to head out and pick up a $3,500 Bernina. At least, not at first…
When I talk to the vast wave of younger people who don’t know much about sewing, they are only aware of the brands Singer and Brother. I believe this heavily has to do with the fact that they are the two manufacturers that sell at big box stores and on Amazon – the place millennials do their online shopping. When a 25-year-old is interested in sewing, they are not going to buy a sewing machine the same way their mother or grandmother did. Thanks to the internet, they can do research and order one without ever leaving the house.
That is something that frustrates me about the sewing machine buying process. It is still very similar to purchasing a car, which is something I flat-out hate doing. Prices of higher-end sewing machines are still somewhat mysterious, not advertised, and varies between sellers. I bought my Janome 7700 from a dealer 45 minutes from where I live, which I regret. The thought of driving back there at least twice a year to get it serviced and pick it up (it came with three years of free maintenance) is just so unappealing. In 2017, time is a consumer’s biggest asset and this just seems like such an inefficient way to buy something.
Much like how Uber is completely disrupting the taxi cab industry, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the sewing and quilting industry. Especially with sewing machines.
EverSewn is doing something right. There are currently three models varying in price from $150-$330, and they are permitted to be sold online – which I think is key. In fact, I reached back out to the company and expressed interest in helping to get the word out. I was sent a loaner EverSewn Sparrow 25, the $330 model to test out, review, and create videos with.
It’s been a few months with the EverSewn in the house, and it’s become my main sewing machine. Performance wise, there is not a significant difference between it and the Janome 7700 – certainly not a $2,000 difference. The stitching is beautiful, which is what Bernina is known for. I did purchase the Quilting Foot Accessory Kit to try out some of the quilting functions, and it has not disappointed. I have sewn on a Bernina at a classroom event, and I found that machine and the EverSewn to be comparable. The EverSewn frame is metal, and the machine itself feels solidly constructed.
With a lot of experience sewing with the EverSewn Sparrow 25, I would highly recommend this machine for any sewist or seamstress looking for a domestic sewing machine. It has enough convenience functions to make sewing easier, great stitches (including an alphabet for monogramming), and it offers a tremendous value for your money. Over the next couple months, I plan to film video tutorials on how to use this particular model. If you do choose this one, I want to help you learn your way around it if you’re new to the game.
To answer the original question though, my answer is that most sewists likely do NOT need an expensive sewing machine. The best strategy is to gauge what your needs are, and purchase the equipment that best serves them on your budget.
Hope this information and my perspective helps you if you are considering buying or upgrading a sewing machine. Sewing is such an amazing part of my life, and I am so grateful I discovered this activity. Feel free to comment below with any thoughts, but please be respectful and constructive. This is a conversation, and not a debate or argument.
GREAT BEGINNER SEWING MACHINES!
EverSewn – Sparrow 25 -197 Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine
EverSewn – Sparrow 20 – 80 Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine
EverSewn – Sparrow 15 – 32 Stitch Mechanical Sewing Machine
EverSewn Ultimate Sewing Starter Kit
Thank you to EverSewn for providing Sewing Report the Sparrow 25 used in this video!
Brother 1034D Serger – http://amzn.to/1FNpsxo
Brother 2340CV Cover Stitch – http://amzn.to/2iLoOdc
Janome MemoryCraft 7700 Sewing Machine – http://amzn.to/2jjApkk
Janome Skyline S3 Computerized Sewing Machine w/ Semi-Hard Cover + Instructional DVD – http://amzn.to/2jAxlQ6
Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing and 4×4 Embroidery Machine With 67 Built-in Stitches, 70 Built-in Designs, 5 Lettering Fonts – http://amzn.to/2j8avmI
Sailrite Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 PREMIUM Walking Foot Sewing Machine
Juki DDL-8700 Industrial Straight Stitch Sewing Machine, Servo Motor
Comprehensive sewing resource guide: http://www.sewingreport.com/resources/
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