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Sewing Machine for My Mum

Last week I traveled to sunny San Diego to spend some quality time with my mum.  We had a big trip planned that included taking a hop-on-hop-off trolly, trips to the beach, a visit to Los Angeles, and much more!  However, I came down with a pretty miserable cold!  So as we lounged in front of the TV watching old movies like “Da Vinci Code” we started chatting about sewing machines.  Turns out her last sewing machine was kaput, and the only functional sewing machine in the house was very limited.

Vintage Pfaff 130

My brother owns a vintage Pfaff 130 sewing machine.  What a wonderful treat for me!  I spent some quality time cleaning this 1930’s vintage work-horse of a machine.  I found a manual for this model on the internet and gave it a good read.  (Digitized Pfaff 130 Manual)    It was a little more complicated to thread than a modern sewing machine, but we got it up and running.  We even stitched together some simple light-socks using this machine.  It was skipping the occasional stitch either due to a timing issue, or perhaps it had the wrong sized bobbin, but either way, it is now at the shop in the hands of a professional getting a good tune-up.

Choosing an Affordable Sewing Machine

My mum, however, doesn’t want to have to rely upon this antique to help her with her sewing projects!  I suggested she take what was left of her vacation budget and see if she could find a new machine. We started out going through this series of questions to help her identify the best machine for her current sewing needs.

What is your budget?  I believe that this is the single most important factor in choosing a sewing machine.  There are many companies to choose from, and there are many options within their lines. Much like cars, there are high-end, mid-range, and budget brands, and within each company, there’s a range of models. Once you establish your budget, you will know which brands are available in your range.

What features do you need? Honestly, I only use a fraction of the features that are on my bottom-of-the-line machine. Knowing what features are essential for your process will help you shop.  Consider the weight of the machine. If you have a dedicated sewing space, a heavy machine probably wouldn’t be a problem.  But if you are sharing space and have to put your machine away between rounds of sewing, you will want it to be lighter in weight for easy maneuverability.

Mechanical vs. Electronic? While this might not seem like an obvious question, it is one that I always encourage people to consider.  An all mechanical machine is less likely to have expensive problems with memory cards, screens, and electronics arriving damaged or developing issues. Mechanical machines are less expensive when purchased, and are also easier to maintain and repair.

What tools and accessories are included? Some machines are basic and just come with an assortment of ordinary feet, a few bobbins, and essential tools.  But sometimes, companies will put together bundles to suit different kinds of sewing. If you are a quilter or a dressmaker, look for combined offers that provide you with the special feet and accessories to suit your craft.  Bundles will save you money over purchasing individual items like feet.

Mum’s New Machine

Once we went down those list of questions, it was clear that what my mum wanted was a super-affordable, long-tabled machine with a walking foot to facilitate her quilting projects.  We went online to find the best deal. Because we were using the unspent “leftover” travel money, we had about $140 to spend.  However, we were happy to find this all mechanical machine from Brother that meets all her needs for much less.  At the time of writing, this was a steal at $113 on Amazon.

Three More Tips for Sewing Machine Shopping

While we went for a new machine purchased from Amazon and shipped to directly to my mum’s home, that might not be the right choice for everyone.  Here my top three recommendations for sewing machine shopping.

  1. Look for instructional classes – Sometimes a small sewing machine shop or sewing center will offer classes with the purchase of machines.  While you will pay more for a machine from these locations, if you feel like you will need help getting used to your new equipment, this might be a good choice for you.
  2. Consider a better quality, but used sewing machine – If you want a better brand, but are on a budget, consider buying your machine on the resale market.  You can find refurbished machines at sewing/vacuum repair stores, locally on Craig’s list and other resale sites, and on sales sites like eBay and even Etsy.  However, be prepared to take a new-to-you, but used sewing machine to a shop for a tune-up.
  3. Shop during the biggest sewing machine sales periods – Like all things, there are regular seasons that sewing machines go on sale.  Like most items, Christmas is a great time to invest in a new sewing machine.  But also consider shopping in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day.  If you are shopping on the second-hand market.

The right machine for you is the one that fits your budget and has the features that will allow you to stitch up the projects that you want to make!  What do I use?  I’ve got a 20-year-old Bernina 1008. BOY – did I have sticker-shock when I looked up this model today! Back when we purchased it, it was much less expensive and we got it on sale.  I bought the lowest price model for a top-of-the-line brand.  Considering how many hours of sewing this machine has logged, it was totally worth the investment!

If you are sewing machine shopping, I wish you a lot of luck!  If you have questions about sewing machines, or would like to join our on-going conversation about crafts, costuming, and more, come join us on the Studio Davina Facebook Group.

Happy Sewing!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 7, 2018


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