help! what sewing machine should i buy? a guest post by not martha

Photo by Christine Landis

I have an old, old, old sewing machine and would like to get something that I’d use more without worrying about needles breaking, etc., just for some of the random house/craft projects and with the idea that someday I may make some clothes for the kids. (Just what they want — I know how much I hated my homemade clothes as a kid, but alas.) Any advice? –Sharon M.

We decided to turn this question over to domestic goddess Megan of Not Martha for her expert opinion!
First, I’m going to give you the answer you don’t want, which is to suggest you consider taking your old machine into a repair shop to see how much it would be to get a tune up. Older machines are often sought after for the very reason that they are easier to repair and keep running, and are often more sturdily built. Ask a local quilting shop to see if they have a company they trust; often small businesses stick together.

That said, the lure of a shiny new sewing machine is understandable. People have favorite brands — Kenmore, Pfaff, Bernina, Singer, Janome, Viking and Brother are mentioned a lot. Your quilting shop can also point you toward local dealers; these are often the shops that sell and service vacuum cleaners as well. There you can take a test drive on the machines and get a feel for how easy it is to control the speed as well as what features you might like. You don’t need too many fancy stitches; zig-zag and buttonholes will be used most often. I tend to avoid sewing machines that have computer screens because I suspect it’ll just be one more thing that could go wrong. I talk about this a bit more here: Your First Sewing Machine.

Click the link for more sewing machine buying advice!

If you doubt you’ll be working with anything heavy, like denim, I think a brand name machine from a store like Target will be fine for your purposes. The disadvantage here is that you cannot try out the machines in advance, so be sure to put the machine through all the trials before it’s too late to return it.

Knowing what other people are using is always helpful. Craftzine asked a bunch of crafters to show off their machines, so you can now see the machines behind The Small Object, Betz White, West Coast Crafty, Schmancy, Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories and the Craftzine staff. Craftzine also asked the girls behind Stitch Lounge for recommendations for beginner machines and mid-range machines. And Craft Stylish has an article on how to buy a sewing machine. Good luck! –Megan R.

Thanks, Megan, for helping us out! Want more of Megan’s take on cooking, crafting, knitting, sewing, gardening, and just about everything else? Visit her at her site Not Martha.

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I agree. Keep it if you can!

Unless you’re willing to spend big bucks on an absolutely top of the top of the line machine, sewing machines are a great example of ‘they don’t make things like they used to’

My mother has an old machine and a new machine. The old one whirs smoothly on metal parts, the new one clatters along with plastic.

I am hoping to get lucky and inherit the old one, not the new one.


My mom is a semi-professional sewer and she’s got a few machines, including her 30+ year-old Kenmore that she still loves and adores.

If you really don’t want to get the old one fixed up, she set me (and many, many other intermediate sewers – did I mention she also teaches sewing classes?) up with this one:

It’s been perfect for home projects, repairs and even a couple of quilts.

There’s a great site with used sewing machine reviews if you choose to go used:, and she also has a site with reviews of newer machines: Hope that helps!

Stay away from the cheap Singers sold at Target – not worth the $ or the headache!

In my opinion you should look around, try some machines, see who offers the best post sales service, fall in love with a brand, and then buy the very best you can afford.
I had a bernina from 1954 that belonged to my husband’s grandmother. It was great but I needed an upgrade, I went for another bernina and got the most expensive one I could afford. It will last forever like the other one and I am not thinking “I should’ve gotten the nicer model, just for 100 bucks more….”. I got the best I could and now I make the best of it.

What a helpful post. I have a Pfaff that I love (a wedding gift from my mother in law) that has a lot of bells and whistles and my grandmother’s mid-sixties Singer. The Pfaff is great, but it’s picky on thread (must be GERMAN!), the case is plastic, it’s easy to hit the stitch selection button with your wrist, etc, etc. The Singer fires up every time, sews a dead-reliable straight or zigzag stitch, and doubles as an awesome doorstop. I love them both, but I will never part with that Singer. It never fails! Never gets too much fuzz in the bobbin case! Bobbin tension always perfect!

Just don’t tell my mother in law ; )

M Bryant

My mother in law actually used to be a big sales person for Bernina. And when she got me a sewing machine for a gift….she sought out an older machine. It works beautifully. My own mom has gone through several cheaper plasticy sewing machines since I was born…and now I am working with a machine that is nearly as old as I am. All it needed was a tune up and probably once a year with regular use, I’ll take it in for a cleaning and it should last me to give to my own kids.


A few years ago, I bought a 30 year old used Viking sewing machine for $125 from a Sewing Center. It came with the feet, case & a manual. It will sew through multiple layers of denim with an attractive, even stitch and has never given me one moment’s trouble. It’s been used for a lot of “pedal to the metal” sewing like drapes & slipcovers. I think an older used Viking, Pfaff, Elna, or Bernina machine is the way to go. Parts & accessories are still easy to obtain on Ebay. Anytime I’ve used a newer plastic type machine, I’ve been anxious to get back to my Viking.
Happy Sewing!


I use a 15-year old Viking (990 S maybe?) that I love. I bought it because the older Singer I had didn’t have enough power to sew denim. My Viking was one of the first “computerized” machines from Viking. I was a little leary of that at first, but I’ve never had any issues with it. I use the machine for both garments and home dec stuff like heavy curtains. The only problems I’ve had with the machine over the years have been with the bobbin and buttonhole function, and really they were due mainly to me not having it cleaned and tuned up regularly.

Be careful of “buying the best you can afford”. That only goes so far. For example, the current top-of-the line Viking goes for something like $4000. But unless you do *a lot* of quilting and/or machine embroidery, you will never get your money’s worth out of it. I have looked at the newer Viking machines targeted more to just sewing, and have been tempted, but I’m still with the ‘ol girl :).

Mary Heckman

I have been seplaceing for a review on a Singer Model sold on This is the Professional Electronical 2010 Sewing Machine. The machine is very pricey, but it includes over 22 different attachments (feet). I like the look and the description is very nice. However, the star rating is 3.7 out of 5. I am not sure I should risk this purchase. Though sometimes I feel that people tend to rate a machine if they have a bad experience. Those that love the machine, usually don’t bother to go back and rate how wonderful they found the machine. Anyway that is just my thought. Back to what I am asking….does anyone own the machine made exclusively for HSN from Singer that is model 2010. I want honest feed back so I can make a decision of my purchase. Does anyone have anything good to say about Singer or does everyone own a Jamone?

shelterrific » Blog Archive » five things we learned last week

[…] 1) Sewing machine advice stays relevant. Kathy Johnson says: “I want to start quilting. My machine, a Penny’s is 30 years old and does not drop the feed dogs to stipple quilt. So, I need a new machine. Some say it has to be a Bernina. I learned on a Pfaff and the repair man says that is what to buy. So, what do you quilters think? Thanks, I am anxious to get started on a couple projects before I start teaching again Jan. 4th.” Any advice for Kathy? Click for the original “What sewing machine should I buy?” post and also check out our follow-up with advice from Megan of Not Martha. […]

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My wife has been sewing quilts for the kids for Christmas, so I started looking into sewing machines on sale. I found four good machines that are on sale for a great price during the holidays. You can see my recommendations on my web page: