Sewing Machines: 3 of 3

In Part One we dealt with a wide range of topics you should think about when shopping for a machine.

In Part Two we wrote a bit on machines that are either outright terrible or not worth your hard-earned money.

Welcome to Part Three, where we will go into some detail about specific machines and brands that are well worth your time and money.

We hear it all the time: “So… What machine should I buy?”
The thing is, there is no easy answer to the question. It is going to depend on your skill-set, your finances, and the time you spend sewing.

We will say it again and again:  There are no cut and dry answers for this kind of thing.  Everyone under the sun is going to have fascinating and important® opinions about it.


Here is the thing to remember: As long as you stay away from the Bernette series, you really can’t go wrong with any Bernina.

You can go to a dealership or Ebay and you will be ok.  Be careful with older machines that are electronic.  When the boards go bad, they can be difficult or impossible to replace.

We have had great luck with both the 700 and 800 series.  They are like buying a Mercedes, though, so be prepared for the prices to be higher.


Any of the computerized Brother machines would work well for a beginner. It used to be that we would say there needed to be a US$300-500 range that you needed to hit to get a good machine, but these lovelies have blown that away completely.

Now, for between US$100-200 you can get a great little machine that is quiet and runs through just about anything you can throw at it.
Stay away from the base model and you will be fine. If you are looking at one of the higher-end Brother machines, you may want to redirect your attention to one of the mid-range Janome, Viking, or Pfaff machines. You will probably get more for your money.


We have had good luck with older Elna models.  They are easy to repair and have some neat functions.
We are especially fond of the old TSP series and the Supermatic.  The nice thing about a lot of the old machines is that they have a dial inside the bobbin casing that allows you to control the thread tension in the bobbin.  This is a nice touch.

We would suggest staying away from the 1980s electronic LED models.  They are a little cumbersome and the boards are a little tricky to deal with.


If you are looking for a Janome, look at the mid-range machines.  If you are going to spend less than $400, you may as well just buy the CS-6000 Brother machine we mention at the end of this article.


Known for their industrial machines.  If you are in the market for an industrial, check them out.  If you are looking for a home sewing machine, look at the Brother or Janome brands.


These are fine little machines – especially the older ones.  If you are looking at a Kenmore, be sure that you aren’t looking at the base model.  The base models aren’t that great.  If you are looking at a new plastic machine, make sure that it isn’t too loud while you are in the store.


Again: Avoid the Hobby series.  Otherwise, we have had a lot of luck with Pfaff.  Their claim to fame is a little foot that drops down from the center of the presser foot lever that functions as a walking foot.
The best years, in our opinion are the 1200 series models from the mid-late 1970s to the early 1980s.  Be careful is you get one of the “E” (electronic) machines in the series.  They do not make two of the motherboard components and you will have a very expensive paperweight until you can find a scrap piece to fix it.


We do not recommend you buy ANY Singer manufactured after 1985. That goes double for the 7000 series (See Part 2).  Most new Singers are louder than they need to be and jam more than they should.  If you want a singer that just goes and goes (and goes and goes and goes), get an old black metal one in a hard wooden or canvas case.  If you want an investment, buy a pre-1960 Featherweight.  Singer has gone downhill something terrible over the past 30+ years and they are using your brand loyalty to steal your money.


No: Huskystar.  Do not buy this.

Otherwise, most Vikings are really nice machines.  We have had especially good luck with the 700 series (specifically the 730, 750, 750q, 770, and 775)  The series is now called Sapphire.  It is expensive, but the ones we use at the workroom have been worked pretty hard and abused without many problems.

The higher-end designer series is nice if you want machine embroidery, but we will have to cover that a different time.  It is a little out of the scope of this article.


All of this is well and good, but if I don’t know how much I will be sewing and don’t want to spend more than US$200 which machine should I buy?

  • Your best bet would be the Brother CS6000. We have had a number of them come into class and are always surprised by how light, fast, and powerful they are – ESPECIALLY – for the price.


  1. Hi Tchad! I’m seconding Janet’s post from October – can you recommend a good serger? Looking for basic functions: occasional rolled edge, finishing seams and sewing knits. I knew someone who swore their Bernina serger couldn’t perform with black or navy thread and these are the colors I sew with so that myth needs to be debunked. Also, it needs to be super easy to thread. I CANNOT spend hours threading and re-threading. Hopefully this is not impossible.

    1. Author

      How about we put something together in the next week for you guys? Stay tuned and we will try to have it up by Monday!

      1. Awesome! How’s the serger article coming? I need to purchase one by Thanksgiving…would like to have your recommendations in my back pocket 😉
        Thanks, Tchad!

  2. If your price range was between 400-500 and you are looking for a computerized machine that you can grow into- what would you recommend? Thanks!

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