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:
I also urge you to read the first and last chapters of Carol Ahles' book Fine Machine Sewing (available from most libraries).

Filed under Embroidery Library by on . 2 Comments#


I'm new to sewing, and I don't know what sort of things I should watch for when buying a machine. I also don't know what kind of price I should expect to pay if I want something that's good enough to last me a long time, but doesn't have gadgets I don't need.

I hope to use it to work with cotton and linen primarily if that helps.



If you're on a budget, I'd suggest a good used machine — the cheapest new machines are often unrepairable, and are so persnickity about adjustments that they can be incredibly frustrating. I'd really sooner see you with a machine with some scuffs and nicks and only a few stitches that won't frustrate you. When you outgrow the machine, you can always trade it in or keep it as a backup machine.

Things I want for a beginner to have in a machine:
— very good straightstitch
— good zigzag — 4 mm is plenty wide enough for most purposes.
— a method of making buttonholes that isn't frustrating (automatic buttonholers are easier than 1 steps are easier than 4 steps, are easier than buttonhole attachments like the old Greist attachments — however, the Greists made very nice (though limited sizes) of buttonholes)
— adjustable presser foot pressure

Nice to have, but can be lived without:
— three step zigzag (great for elastic application)
— blindhem and stretch blindhem stitches (saves hours!)
— a few decorative stitches (just for fun)

If you've got the budget, I'd suggest considering an electronic machine — they don't stall at slow sewing speeds the way many mechanicals will, and they sew very nicely.

I'd also send you to a real sewing machine shop… several, if possible. Tell them your budget, that you're a beginner, and ease of use and quality is more important than all the bells and whistles. Ask to see machines in your price range, and also ask to try a couple of good quality machines outside your price range so you can see differences in quality of stitching and ease of use. (Elna, Viking, Pfaff, Bernina…) — not the embroidery machines, ask to try one they might sell to a picky person who has a separate embroidery machine.

There are quite a number of pre-loved machines around, many of which are sitting on shelves in repair shops, taken in on trade, overhauled, and ready for a new person. There can be some excellent values there.

Always ask (new or used) who will service the machine, what the turnaround time usually is, availability of parts, can it be done locally, or will warranty service require it to be shipped off elsewhere.

Suggested reading:
John Giordano: Sewing Machine Book
Carol Ahles: Fine Machine Sewing (especially the first and last few chapters on care and feeding and selection of sewing machines — also skim the chapters on hemming.
Gale Grigg Hazen: Owner's Guide to Sewing Machines, Sergers, and Knitting Machines

Your local library is likely to have both books on the shelf.

Filed under Embroidery Library by on . 2 Comments#


I’m a student and i work primarily on a tabletop juki machine. They are very fast and i can get allot done in very little time. But I’m going to be moving soon and i will need a machine that can complete all different types of garments at a relatively fast pace.
Can I complete the same in of work at the same pace with a home sewing machine?

Thanks for the help.

Yes, and no. There are a few models of home machines that are designed for pros and do work at a faster speed than others. Janome produces a professional model, the MC6600P machine that sews 1200 stitches a minute straight stitch. The el-cheapo machine at wal mart or Target…not so fast. Or as reliable. if you are used to the speed and the stitch quality offered by a fast machine then the majority of the home machines will be far too slow and you'll be waiting for the machine to catch up to you.

Since you do so much sewing the professional model is a much better investment. It looks like a home machine on the outside, but inside it has the speed and stitch quality that a professional advanced sewer needs. It will complete a wide variety of garments quickly and efficiently. It has lots of utility stitches and a good variety of decorative stitches too. It doesn't do pre-programmed hooped embroidery -which is a good thing! You can do free motion embroidery easily. It is a table top home machine with the motor and head in one unit.

If you wish to buy an industrial machine that does a variety of stitches then the Bernina 950 is a good machine. It is a true industrial meaning the table, motor and head are separate. It offers 14 stitches and a semi automatic buttonhole.

Here are the two machines:
http://www.berninausa.com/product_detail-n2-i223-sUS.html and in it's price for purchase with table, motor, and head: http://www.allbrands.com/products/abp00796-0070.html
The Janome worthy of your talents: http://www.janome.com/index.cfm/Machines/Sewing-Quilting/MC6600P

I have several industrials and I find many home machines far too slow. I run home machines at a "pedal to the metal" speed and I find the Janome is the closest to industrial speed. Most domestic home machines, even the expensive brands, don't have the same level of speed that a pro is accustomed to. Hope that helped a bit.