Saturday, December 27, 2008

Want to buy a sewing machine? Here some advice.

Meg Okies at Opal here in Portland sent me an e-mail.  She says, "I have a friend in the market for a sewing machine.  Given your experience with local dealers, I thought you might be able to offer a recommendation. . ."

I think Meg asked me because I have 14 machines.  Yes!  I'm not ashamed to admit it.  No!  I don't want a 12-step program.  All I want is another machine.  I've tried them all -- home sewing and industrials.

Since many of you have holiday cash and may be in the market for a machine, here's what I told Meg:
- For basic sewing on a budget, look at the Janome DC 3018.  All the main stitches including 3 nice-looking buttonholes with an easy-to-use foot.  And you can get one for about $300.
- If you eventually want to go into heirloom sewing, check out the Vikings.  Nobody has more interesting stitches and sewing feet.
- If you eventually want to go the embroidery route, check out the Babylocks.  They also have the same buttonhole foot at the Janome.
- If you want to sew apparel, check out the Pfaffs.  Don't bother with the entry level machines; pay a little more for the ones with the built-in walking foot (IDT).  Warning:  the buttonholes suck.
- Berninas also have an excellent automatic buttonholer on their upper level machines.  But I've found them to be pricey to buy, add accessories or get repaired.
All these machines are fine for quilting.
- Don't waste your time on Singer, White, Brother or EuroPro.  There's a good reason whey these brands are so cheap.  You'll spend more time fighting and fixing your machine than you will in sewing.

Where should you go to buy a machine?  Montavilla Sewing.  They have locations in Gresham and Beaverton.  Their main store is at SE 84th and Stark.  Many of you know I have taught classes at Montavilla.  But I didn't buy my first machine there.  After I shopped around, I found Gary Campbell at Montavilla.  Thanks to him, I buy most of my machines now at Montavilla.

Yes, Gary is a salesman but he's also straight-talking, knows the machines and will give you a deal.  Jason, Linda, Bill and Brett (the guy who owns Montavilla) are great too.

Montavilla gives free sewing machine lessons with purchase and has classes (including my new Fashion Design class).  They have great service too.

Go to Common Thread off I-5 south for a Bernina.

Should you buy a machine from a website?  Of course!  Just make sure it has the operators manual and all the attachments, including a foot pedal and power cord.  But know that there will likely be no warranty.  The transfer kills it.  But you can buy a service agreement from Montavilla.  Craig's List is your best bet.  Take your project or at least your favorite fabric and test the machine before buying.  A pair of jeans that need hemming make an excellent test!

Should you buy a machine from a big box or department store or HSN/QVC or "Singer School Machine" ads?  I'd say "no."  You're buying it from people who know nothing about it, can't service it and won't help you if you have a problem.  The warranty usually is useless.  Everyone I know who has gone this route has regretted it and immediately traded their machine for one of the ones I mentioned above.

Where should you buy an industrial machine?  I'll save that for another post.

What have been you experiences with sewing machine or buying/servicing a machine?  Let me know.  I'd love to hear it!

Until then, happy sewing!
Sharon K. Blair


T.S. Whimsy said...

Where was this advice when I was looking to buy another sewing machine? This is a great article! Ali

janeanemarie said...

i'm ready for the post about the industrial machines!!! I went back to school just to put in an invisible zipper... it's just so beautiful on an industrial! any advice about rooster rock?

Stephenie said...

thanks for the great advice! I was just on my way to get a "singer school" machine. Thanks to you I'll save my money and gas!


Thank you so much for your great advice. I have just started sewing and don’t have enough knowledge of machines. Do you think hand held sewing machine would be good to start?