My adult daughter has taken up quilting, much to my surprise, since none of the women on my side of the family have been able to sew a straight line since my grandmother. Sewing makes me so anxious it literally drives me to drink – whereas knitting is so relaxing I don’t have to drink My daughter is using the sewing machine I’ve always used when I had to – my mother’s 1957 “portable” Singer (it weights 40 pounds!) – and I would like to help her upgrade to something more current. What would you sewers recommend as a good, first, 21st century sewing machine for someone just getting into sewing?
Grandma’s '57 is one of the best machines, it’s great for piecing. I have a newish HusqVarna and a Pffaf that I use if I want fancy stitches or button holes, but the machines I use the most is my 1951 Singer Featherweight for piecing quilt tops. The old machines are nice - you can do most maintenance and repairs your self and they are metal nothing plastic to break. The Pffaf that I have is light weight and has a lot of built-in stitches, I used that to take to classes. The Featherweight is my baby tho and light weight.
I have a husqvarna too. It has a lot of bells and whistles which don’t get used very often. It is great for all kinds of sewing. It is well made and reliable. I found it on Craig’s list and the person selling it was an avid quilter. She upgraded to a Pfaff and had a special table to accommodate quilts. She quilted on the Husky for years and loved it.
I love my Pfaff. Twenty years ago I got the least expensive of the models made in Germany (Varimatic 6085), and it’s still going strong. I like that it has no computerized parts and it’s simple for me to maintain myself. Fast forward to 2017, the Wirecutter team at the NYT recommend the Janome Mod 19 for beginners and the Janome DC5100 as an intermediate, computerized machine that’s a step up.
I agree that the old Singer is really good. I have an old Singer and it does everything I need. Metal, heavy-they don’t make 'em like that anymore. The really fancy new ones are SO expensive! I don’t need all those bells and whistles and digital what-all to quilt, just straight and zig zag . But it’s really nice of you to want to encourage her with a new machine. Maybe just…more fabric! instead .
I have eight machines, counting one Serger. They range in date from the early 1920’s to 2015. I use them all, they all do different things. The most important thing, and I cannot stress this enough, is solid product support. I’m blessed to have a wizard of a machine tech nearby. I suggest you, or your daughter, or both of you even, give several different machines test runs at a reputable dealer’s. Personally I’m a Bernina fan, but Pfaff, Janome, Juki, and Husqvarna all have good things going on. My Juki is straight stitch only and I LOVE her. I have a top of the line Bernina that does everything imaginable and I also LOVE her. So, what kind of sewing will your daughter be doing? Answering that may help narrow down the choices. Have fun!
Thank you all for your suggestions – they’ve been very helpful. Now that we have some names in mind, we’re going to look for a good sewing machine dealer after the holidays so my daughter can try out different machines. It looks like the nearest dealer (with a good selection) is about an hour away – but it will be worth the trip! Gotta kick the tires, so to speak, and drive a couple of machines around the block. Thank you again!
I learned to sew w-a-y before I learned how to knit. I’ve used everything from my grandmother’s treadle Singer (& still use it for heavy jobs, nothing like it) to 2017’s laptop-controlled Pfaffs & Berninas. I love my 30+ year old Bernina. It’s solidly built, easy to maintain & consistently performs well, day-after-day, project after project. It’s more reliable than some people & nearly as reliable as my favorite Addi Turbo’s. If she’s an occasional sewer, look into the three-quarter size Berninas. They’re super-portable. I’d choose solid function over lots of fancy stitiches. Consider a used Bernina or Pfaff, if that reliable tech recommends one (you might save some money.) Find a reliable tech for the brand you buy and learn how to give it a little TLC every 6 months.
I have a basic Husqvarna that I bought 20 years ago. It always worked great for me. I recently began learning machine quilting, and wanted a machine that would allow me to do that - had much space to maneuver a quilt under the needle. I purchased a Brother machine and love it!
I would recommend going to a reputable shop and test driving machines. I hear Bernina’s are also great, but they are a big investment of $$.
On topic, I sew occasionally and have done a bit of quilting. I have Janome and like it very much. It’s an Excel Decor Pro, which I think was a midrange workhorse sort of machine.
Off topic: It makes the thirteen-year-old in me giggle to read the references to the thing I hope never backs up in my basement!
I have a Husqvarna Lily and I love it!