Stitch Functions

2

In the price range of $300 or less, what is the best sewing machine to buy? Brand name and model specific please. It would be used to create designed stitches, and would like to make button holes but not a must have.

"create designed stitches" is not a phrase I really understand…. are you trying to say that it needs to do embroidery? Or are you saying you need programmable stitch functions? Or are you telling me it will be used for a variety of garments? If you can clarify for me, I'd be happy to try further. Otherwise, here's my advice for first sewing machines:

http://www.cet.com/~pennys/faq/smfaq.htm

What I want for beginners in sewing:

– a machine that doesn't scare you
– a machine that isn't balky (cheap new machines are often very
balky or need adjustments often and are rarely repairable —
just too frustrating to learn on!)
– very good straight stitch
– good zigzag (4-5 mm is fine, more than that is gravy)
– a method of making buttonholes that makes sense to you
– adjustable presser foot pressure (which helps some fabric
handling issues)
– accessory presser feet that don't cost an arm and a leg
(machines that use a "short shank foot" typically handle
generic presser feet pretty well. Some brands of machines use
proprietary or very expensive presser feet)

If the budget stretches far enough:

– blindhem and stretch blindhem stitches
– triple zigzag (nice for elastic applications)
– a couple of decorative stitches (you won't use them nearly as
much as you think)
– electronic machine because of the needle position control and
because the stepper motors give you full "punching force" at
slow sewing speeds — mechanical machines often will stall at
slow speeds.

Please go to the best sewing machine dealers around and ask them
to show you some machines in your price range, *especially* used
machines you can afford. You'll get a far better machine buying
used than new, and a good dealer is worth their weight in sewing
machine needles when you get a machine problem — often they can
talk you through the problem over the phone. While you're trying
things out, try a couple of machines (sewing only, not combo
sewing-embroidery) over your price limit, just so you can see
what the difference in stitch quality and ease of use might be.
You may find you want to go for the used Cadillac. Or you might
want the new basic Chevy. Might as well try both out.

Suggested reading: John Giordano's The Sewing Machine Book
(especially for used machines), Carol Ahles' Fine Machine Sewing
(especially the first and last few chapters) and Gale Grigg
Hazen's Owner's Guide to Sewing Machines, Sergers and Knitting
Machines. All of these are likely to be available at your public
library.

Used brands I'd particularly look for: Elna, Bernina,
Viking/Husqvarna, Pfaff, Singer (pre 1970), Juki, Toyota

New "bargain brand" I'd probably pick: Janome (who also does
Kenmore).

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3

Do you use all the attachments or just the basic ones,?
Do you use your machine a lot or just in rare occasions ?
Is it really worth spending a lot of money on a machine when at the end you only use it so rarely?
What is your opinion ?

I sew virtually all of my family's clothes on a Juki 5 thread serger and a 12+ year old midline Viking electronic sewing machine with 30 stitches. I rarely use the decorative stitches (just not our style), but do use the utility stitches. I don't use any attachments (if you're talking about stuff like a Griest buttonholer) because the machine has a good keyhole and straight buttonhole included that can be made any size. I do use a lot of specialty presser feet, including joining, blindhem, edge stitching, narrow hemmers, zipper feet and cording feet. I do not do machine embroidery except for a bit of freehand work — I don't like the flat look of machine embroidery.

If you're interested in exploring what a machine can do with (mostly) utility stitches, there are three books you should consider from your library:

Carol Ahles: Fine Machine Sewing

Nancy Bednar: Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques.

Singer Instructions for Art Embroidery and Lacework (an amazing book that's been reprinted several times, showing decorative techniques done with a straight stitch only treadle sewing machine. Remarkable stuff.)

If you're considering buying a new machine, buy one with the basic stitches and a few decorative stitches — don't buy a machine by number of stitches per dollar spent… you'll probably regret it. And please distinguish between stitches and "stitch functions".

If I were to lose both of my main machines tomorrow, I'd probably replace the serger with another good 5 thread machine, perhaps a tier up in the Juki line from what I've got, and I'd probably buy a straight stitch only industrial needlefeed machine, and stick a Greist buttonholer on a garage sale straightstitcher for buttonholes.

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