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I am just starting out, although I took a class years ago, I was not very good – especially in adjusting tension and all those little things. I am getting a sewing machine now that I am retired – what would be the best? I'm thinking of a Brother XR 7700

What features do you want? Are you on a budget? Most machines will sew just fine with the upper tension set on 4 and left there. IMHO, it's easier to teach you what a balanced stitch
looks like than try to fight through the screens of some programs to adjust something that the computer is doing "wrong".

My personal experience with Brother machines has not been good, but ymmv. I'd strongly urge you to consider trying out a number of machines at local sewing machine dealers if at all possible, and finding the machine(s) that will work for you.

My minimal criteria (I do a lot of garment making, some quilting, no machine embroidery other than freemotion): Very good straight stitch, at least a pretty good zigzag, non-jamming bobbin case, buttonhole that doesn't drive you nuts, adjustable presser foot presser, at least a fair range of presser feet made for the machine. For my own use, I also want stretch and regular blindhem, a couple of stitches I can use for fagoting, a couple of hemstitches, and some stitches that are good for faking blanket stitches for applique. My primary machine is a 10 year old Viking electronic, middle of the line.

Because I sew so many garments, I also have a serger and a coverstitch machine — personally, I'd sooner have a good serger and a so-so sewing machine than a fancy sewing machine, but again, that's personal preference.

Some help:
http://www.cet.com/~pennys/faq/smfaq.htm
http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/tvt046.asp
http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00130.asp
I also urge you to read the first and last chapters of Carol Ahles' book Fine Machine Sewing (available from most libraries).

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