Sewing Machine Shopping

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My first sewing machine that my bf lovingly bought me was a Brother XL2610. He bought it for me because it had good reviews on Amazon and it was cheap and we had no idea if I would actually like sewing, so it seemed like a good purchase. The Brother has caused me so much frustration in trying to learn to sew; it seemed that no matter how much I played with the tension, changed thread, changed needles, rethreaded, the tension was never correct. When I was home for Christmas I wanted to sew up a quick knit infinity scarf for my sister (so sewing a straight line, no big deal), however, doing this on my machine was a massive undertaking (my machine eats knits like nobodies business), but when I did this simple task on my mothers more expensive Brother, it was so easy. That is when I knew it was time to upgrade my machine.

Once the decision was made to buy a new machine, I really had no idea where to start. Initially I was thinking of spending $200 – $300 and maybe just upgrading to a better Brother. I started doing research on-line and reading consumer reports on sewing machine buying, and I signed up for PatternReview.com which has a searchable sewing machine review database.

The next thing I did was make a list of items that I wanted: I wanted a good foot pedal, I wanted adjustable presser foot pressure, automatic buttonholer, an automatic threader, speed control, and ideally a start stop button.  Then I decided on a budget of what I was willing to spend.

Then I decided to see if I could try out the machines, as the feel of the machine was very important to me. My first stop was Jo-Ann’s fabrics; they had Singers, and Vikings and not too much else. I tried out the Viking Opal 650 and it was a million times nicer than my machine, but much more than I wanted to spend. Advice I kept reading was to buy from a dealer instead of on-line because the extra money is worth the service you get. So, my next free weekend I went to two sewing machine dealers. At the first dealer I was so lost, I told the woman that I was a beginner sewer and I was looking to upgrade my machine, nothing fancy, just something for simple garment construction and small crafts. She steered me towards the Pfaff Passport 2.0 and again, it felt better than my machine, but I think everything would. I putzed around the store and tried various machines (Babylock, Viking, Pfaff) that were plugged in, but really had no idea what I was doing. We left that dealer and drove down the street to a Janome dealer. I told the guy what I was looking for and he showed me the Magnolia 7330 and I specifically requested to try the Hello Kitty 18750. Again, both machines felt better than my Brother, but I was no closer to a decision.

I went home and did more research on specific models and asked for opinions on Pattern Review and I narrowed down my list of machines that I wanted to try to:

Pfaff ambition 1.0;
Babylock Elizabeth and Tempo;
Janome DC2012 and 4030;
Viking Opal 650; and
something in the Juki F series.

My next free weekend we went to another sewing machine dealer who had Pfaff, some Janome and some Babylock. They didn’t have the Babylocks I was looking for, but I did try similar ones, I tried the Pfaff Ambition 1.0, which I liked, and the woman said they could give me the Ambition 1.5 for the same price as the 1.5 which seemed like a good deal to me. I also tried a Janome Memory Craft, which was really heavy duty, which I liked. I was pretty sold on getting the Ambition 1.5, but I still wanted to try a Juki before making a decision so we drove to another dealer. This dealer had lots of models on the showroom floor. They had Berninas, Vikings, Brothers, Juki, etc. I told them I wanted to try the F600 and they said they had the F400 (same model as F600 only minus a table and some extras), so I tried that and really liked it. I also tried the Viking again, but quickly ruled it out. So it came down to the Pfaff and the Juki and I couldn’t make up my mind, so I went back to the first dealer and they unboxed the Ambition 1.5 for me and I played around with it and I liked the fact that it had the IDT, I liked that it felt solid, it sewed well, it had a good number of stitches, and it had all the features I wanted; I didn’t like the placement of the thread cutter. The Juki I liked because it sewed well, it felt even more solid than the Pfaff, it had the auto cutter, I liked the pedal with the needle up/down feature, it had all the features I was looking for, but it didn’t have the IDT that the Pfaff had, however, it sewed knits fine when I was testing it. Ultimately I decided on the Juki F-400, which was about 3 times what I originally thought I would spend. When I got home I realized they had given me the F-600, a quick phone call and an extra $50, solved that problem. So far I am loving my new Juki.

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