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: https://www.sewingreport.com/resources/
DISCLAIMER: This video and description contains affiliate links for several different programs. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
I want a LARGE HARP (closer to 15 inches ) machine that has some of the special features you mention for quilting (needle up/down, a lock stitch, thread cutter, etc.) … …. but I do not want it to cost a arm and a leg …. as I am 70 years old and do not have a lot of quilting years left. THINKING of a mid arm with a table as lately I have been really into FMQing.
DO YOU HAVE ANY RECOMMENDATIONS on machines with larger harps?
Jennifer Moore says
Nonnie, in a few classes I’ve used the HandiQuilter Sweet 16 sit-down machine (http://amzn.to/2jdMpq2). My experiences have been mixed – it’s a decent machine but I don’t love it or hate it. If you’re looking for a deal on one of these, you might be able to get a steal at a sewing expo/convention. HandiQuilter (and other sewing machine makers) will bring in new models just for the sponsored classrooms – then they sell the machines during the event at fantastic prices. The machines have only been used by a few classes, and selling them also means the dealers don’t have to lug them around a 2nd time. Not sure if you’re attending QuiltCon in Savannah, but that would be one place to do that. Original Sewing & Quilting Expo is another one – http://www.sewingexpo.com/. Best of luck finding your dream machine!
I wish someone would post photos of the actual stitches these Eversewn make so we can see whether the stitch quality is decent or not..
Sally Nemetz says
I had an Elna SU since 1975 or 76 that I absolutely loved. After 500,000 miles of sewing the bobbin unit failed and I was unable to get it repaired. Unfortunately I got rid of the machine. For the past yr I’ve been using my mom’s Singer Featherweight 221 from the 1950’s. I have an White serger. It must be one of the first to come out to the home market because it only uses 3 thread spools but combined with the Featherweight my machine coverage was almost adequate. After watching your video about whether an expensive machine was needed or not I purchased an Eversewen Sparrow 30 on Amazon. It took over 2 months for the machine to arrive. I guess the plant has been overloaded with orders. I’ve only had the Sparrow less than 24 hrs. and I’m freaking out. It’s a shock after my Elna. It may be the transition to a computerized machine. I’m not sure. I haven’t had enough time to figure it out yet. The stitch is beautiful. It comes with a lovely user’s manuel. (I would do some editing/clarification on it but I am picky.) I was actually apprehensive about the PINK machine but it’s OK. It’s more of a blush color. All the photos and videos show it as PINK but it’s not, in my opinion. I’m going to give the Sparrow a couple more days but I’m leaning at returning the machine. I guess I am a heavy sewer! I started at age 8 (I’m 65 now) and through the years have made everthing from lingerie to swim suits to mountain parkas and sleeping bags! My usage pushes the Featherweight to it’s limit.. I needed be able to make button holes and for the price to pick up a button hole attachment for the FW I just decided to go ahead and try the Sparrow. It’s 2am and I’m online rereading the reviews and rewatching the videos……I’m just not sure if this machine is what I’m looking for. Maybe I’m one who needs to break out the cash and buy a more expensive machine. (My Elna was over $600 in 75.)
Jennifer Moore says
Sally, I can understand where you’re coming from. That’s a huge adjustment going from a 1975 machine to a model made in 2017. I would probably be freaking out, too.
In my opinion, many sewists can make a budget-friendly sewing machine work. That may not be you, as it does sound like you sew a ton. I’ve personally found that most regular domestic machines really struggle with bulk and thick layers – no matter the price. Maybe give it a few more days and see how you like it? Also – I might try and reach out to EverSewn or the seller of the machine (was it a quilt shop?) and express your concerns about the time it took to get to you. (Lots of businesses can sell on Amazon under a store front) That’s interesting if the manufacturer had trouble keeping up with demand. Best of luck to you!
Chandra mcguire says
THANK YOU!!! I’m so tired of reading time and again that you have to dump huge money into a machine to get something worthwhile. I sew mainly garments and every once in a while do a quilt or a bag. I have one entry level machine that was given to me new in 2005 as a wedding gift and while I’ve spent $200 on basic maintenance (in depth cleaning, oiling, etc) over the years, it’s been an awesome machine. I also have picked up great machines second hand and am running a 1970’s serger. I do minorly disagree that a coverstich is a must have. Don’t get me wrong, it’s on my very-much-desired list, but I’ve gotten along without one just running the serger and Singer. If I ever see one cheap, I’ll sell my stash for a chance at one, but you can turn out great garments, even in knits, without one if you take a bit of time.
Thank you for this article. I’m sharing this every time I see people tell me I need a $600+ machine if I’m going to produce anything decent.
Fran Bott says
How is the EverSewn at handling bulky or thick seams? I sew handbags and was curious if you thought it could handle them.
Jennifer Moore says
Most domestics are going to give you a tough time with bulky/thick seams. If you sew a LOT with that situation, I would look into a more industrial machine.
I am looking for a dual voltage sewing machine for travel. I need to be able to adjust the pressure on the foot and drop the feed dogs for free motion quilting. Do the EverSewn machines have these three features?
Kim Rodriguez says
Hi, I’m 58 years old and new to sewing. Two online retailers, each with storefronts (they are authorized dealers for the brands they carry) are pointing me toward the Janome Magnolia (computerized version, 7330). Feature for feature, I find the Eversewn Sparrow 30 to be a better value. Then I realized the difference in the length of their warranties. Janome offers (in years) 25/5/1, while Eversewn warranty is a 10/1/1. What would you advise? Thank you.
Jennifer Moore says
You’d probably be fine with either one of those, depends on your budget and which one you prefer. While yes, some brands do offer a longer warranty I’ve noticed they are very specific in what they cover and after a year or so – you have to pay for aspects of repairs / maintenance. Personally, I like both brands.
Mary Lange says
I’ve owned the Ever Sewn sparrow 30 for almost a year and I love it! I have made 10 quilts and a few other things with it.