People often ask me for advice on buying a sewing machine. Because, of course, someone who sews probably knows something about the machines they use, right? Well, sadly no. It’s kind of like asking for car advice — lots of people drive, not as many people know what goes on under the hood. Or computer advice — here we all are, surfing the internet, but what do we really know about processor speed, graphics cards, & peripheral capabilities? Be honest, most of us only care if we can plug it in & play. Ditto me & sewing machines. For that matter, I’ve had a whole lot more computers in my life than sewing machines. At least a half-dozen Macintoshes vs. one White sewing machine since 1994.
Yep, I’m still on the first sewing machine I’ve ever owned. As a kid & teenager, I used my mom’s machine, & for a while in college, I borrowed an old machine someone pawned off on her. They were all pretty basic late-’60s / mid-’70s models, nothing fancy, just straight & zig-zag stitches. They got the job done. I made doll clothes & crafty projects, historical costumes of questionable accuracy, & punky New Wave clothes for myself. And in grad school, when I had an apartment with a little bit of space, I finally bought a sewing machine, an incredibly basic White model 1927, which I used to crank out gothy clothes, endless apartment curtains & a couple couch slipcovers, & then every historical costume I’d ever made up until the last 9 months.
But this machine has never been reliable. It gets cranky. It jams up. The tension goes off. It became a royal pain in the ass. I got it cleaned & serviced every year or two, & the technician at a highly respected local shop always said the machine looked great & worked for him. But I would get it home & the damn thing jamed up again. It was just like when you have a computer problem at work, you call IT, they come to your desk, & the problem magically clears up. Frustrating.
Well, last year, I borrowed my mom’s fabulous new computerized Babylock Sofia sewing machine. She used to sew tons when she was young (she was raised on a farm & sewed all her own clothes for a long time). Nowadays, she hardly ever sews, but she had bought herself a new machine as a treat. She loaned it to me so I could use the embroidery feature for Leonard’s 18th-century waistcoat. And then I just kept the machine around & made more stuff, because, wow, how amazing it was to use a modern machine that worked so smoothly & easily! It was like going from zero to 60. It was like I’d been chopping tomatoes with dull knives for years & suddenly had a sharp blade. This machine not only did the job, it did it beautifully & elegantly! I didn’t want to give it back to her, but alas, a few weeks ago, she took it home.
I tried to sew again on my old machine, but the thing immediately jammed up, & I wanted to scream & cry. I did, in fact. So I decided to pull the trigger & buy a new machine. Unlike how some people might shop around, read reviews, & comparison shop, I kept it simple. I know I enjoyed using Mom’s Babylock & one of my best friends (who is a skilled seamstress) liked her Babylock, so that was good enough for me. I briefly looked online at the current models, & I figured I’d be fine with the latest version of the Sofia, or, if I felt like splurging, I could go up to the Ellure Plus for more embroidery options (because I could make good use of that over the long term).
And thus, I did it. I went to Eddie’s Quilting Bee — a great local shop — & looked at both models & after some hemming & hawing, I splurged on the Ellure Plus. It’s got all the bells & whistles I could want, in addition to being a reliable workhorse of a sewing machine. I used my last machine for 18 years, so this baby better last that long! It cost as much as my most recent Macintosh & giganto monitor. But now I have no excuses for not sewing. GAME ON!
Andy’s Sewing Machine Shoppers Guide — Excellent overview of what to look for & how to look for a machine, including basics like what sewing machines actually do. Great for beginners & experts alike. Also has tips on buying a serger, if you’re into that kind of thing.
TrystanCraft CafePress Store — Ok, tangentially related, but if you sew, check out my new collection of T-shirts, flasks, pint glasses, & shot glasses emblazoned with silly sewing & costume related sayings. Don’t worry, I won’t make more than a buck off anything, it’s more for my amusement than anything else 🙂