What Sewing Machine Do YOU Use?

I’ve written before about my Viking Rose that I got from Sandra.  It’s a heckuva great machine, and has done me and Sandra both proud lo these many years.  Time has come, however, when I think my little Rose needs a helping hand to shoulder the burden of all the sewing I do (assuming a hand can shoulder, that is–pardon my mixed metaphors).

I’m pretty sure I’ve narrowed down my choices to a Bernina.  I hear really great things about them, and they have a fantastic reputation, so while I’ve never owned one, I have it on good authority that these are machines to last a lifetime.  But it occurred to me as I was researching used and refurbished machines (because that’s how I roll) that if I switch brands, I have to buy ALL NEW ACCESSORIES.  Can I get an amen about how expensive that can be?  I have all the feet for the Viking–thank you Saaandraaaaa!!–and I’d have to start all over!  Suddenly, I’m having second thoughts, and I’m in need of some advice.

So while I don’t usually poll folks here on the blog, I’m wondering: what kind of sewing machine do YOU use, and would you recommend it to someone else?  Which is to say, to me?  I want to make an informed purchase, and them Berninas ain’t cheap–Mommy likes to get her money’s worth!  Any and all input gratefully accepted and appreciated!

50 Comments on “What Sewing Machine Do YOU Use?

  1. I wrote a review about my machine, Pfelicia Pfaff on my blog… Vikings and Pfaffs can share some accessories, no?

  2. @Starjumper:
    That’s true, I’d forgotten that! Pfaffs have a great reputation, too… I’ve mostly looked at upgrading to a newer Viking, but maybe I should do a lap around the Pfaff pool!

  3. I have the 440 quilter’s edition you have in the pic 😉 I heart my machine. It’s my second bernina, but only because the first one was my “learner’s machine” with virtually no features. The 440 comes with everything you could need for quilting in the way of feet and you get to choose a couple of extras too. Honestly, I can’t think of what you’d need that they don’t give to you.

  4. I inherited a Viking Husqvarna Designer I machine from my aunt. I love it to death. I inherited a lot of the accessories, too. She’d built quite the collection.

    I could never get rid of this machine, entirely, but when I’m ready for another machine, I’ll get another Husqvarna.

  5. I drive a Bernina 200 – have had it for years and love it. I have a very reliable shop where i take it for tune ups and quick fixes. Berninas are highly reliable and sew beautifully. I love that I can keep it oiled myself. I had a Viking which I liked, particularly because it was so light (plastic has it’s benefits) – but my Viking shop was inside of the JoAnn’s – no in house repair or cleaning offered – – – a big draw back in my mind.

  6. i just bought a juki tl-2010q, and i am in love. it’s a workhorse and sews beautifully. it’s simple–straight stitch only–but it’s perfect for quilting. good luck with your search!

  7. I bought a Singer Confidence two years ago at a black Friday sale for $250 and its been amazing! I would have loved a Bernina then but that’s all I could spend. I don’t regret it at all, it’s a pleasure to use, esp. For the price.

    Happy shopping!

  8. I love my Brother Innovus machine. Mine also has an embroidery attachment but was still very reasonably priced so I could experiment with machine embroidery without making a big investment. (I think mine was less than $600)

    When I have sewed in groups, like at your shop or at other gatherings, I love that my machine is quiet, has an automatic threader, automatic threadcutter and backstitch. It’s just easier to sew with a machine with these bells and whistles and it doesn’t act up like other people’s older models do. It sews like a dream with no issues.

    That being said, I don’t expect my machine to last forever. It’s computerized which makes it easy to use, but I know if it breaks that could be a problem. For my mind, these machines will continue to upgrade and evolve. I am cool with replacing my machine with a newer model with more bells and whistles in a few years, over spending thousands on a machine for a lifetime.

    If I were you and had all those attachments, it would be VERY hard to consider a machine where I had to start over. I would certainly look at machines where the equipment you have would still be of use.

  9. If you are planning on buying a Bernina I would HIGHLY recommend looking into a Juki. They are built by the same company (Juki), have the same features, etc. but the Juki machine is much less expensive because they don’t have the brand name of Bernina. If you sew a lot you can get a light industrial machine for much less and it will sew faster and last a lot longer. I can’t recommend it enough. I am at mine for hours a day and it works beautifully.

  10. I have a Bernina 180e and a Pfaff 7550. The Bernina is a wonderful machine — beautiful stitches. Having said that, I would not buy one again because I am extremely unhappy with my local dealer. To be honest, they are really mean and I don’t like going there. This upsets me because over the years I have spent a lot of money with them. SO consider who your dealer is before you buy. My Pfaff is my workhorse machine. I love it for piecing and straight line quilting. I also rake it to workshops. If I were in the market for another machine (which I foresee in the distant future) I would buy what I consider to be a semi-industrial Machine: a Juki 98Q or a Brother 1500. I want something that is fast for quilting, piecing and garment sewing. Good luck on your search and Happy Birthday to Whipstitch!

  11. I really love my 1970’s Kenmore zig zag 1803. Solid machine, accessories, & a craig’s list DEAL.

  12. I also own the Bernina 440 QE, and it is a reliable machine. Last year I started using the Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR) for my free motion quilting. The BSR is fantastic it allows you to disconnect the sewing machines foot pedal, and it has this “eye'” that counts threads so that the machine only sews when you move the fabric. If you are interested in this you should get your sewing machine shop to demo it for you. Once you get the hang of the BSR it is quite liberating because you only have to concentrate on what your hands are doing, and not how much pressure you are putting on your foot pedal.

  13. I have a Brother, and I like it a lot, but I have to tell you that my mom has a Bernina. She paid $1500 for it in, like, 1984 or something. That thing is still going strong. It is amazing. So smooth. I still love using it.

  14. Berninas are wonderful! My mom and I both use them. You can buy a 30 year old machine that will work wonders, and you can buy a brand spankin’ new machine that costs more than your car, and you will love it dearly. The best news is that when you get ready to upgrade, whether it be next year or 20 years from now, you will likely be able to sell it for something similar to the original price. Berninas are amazing!

  15. I have that very Bernina 440 that you have pictured and I love it! It’s my second Bernina, and I also love the dealer which very well could be where you’re looking as well, since I’m in Atlanta. As a disclaimer, I must say the only other brand I’ve sewn on is a 1950s era Singer.

  16. So, I’m way out of my league. I sew on a Kenmore machine ($230) and it’s done me well. But, I do need a 2nd machine cause my daughter uses it a lot and I don’t want to pay to take care of it. So, I’m looking at Janome myself.

  17. I learned to sew on a Bernina in Home Ec twenty-nine years ago. Our school was a tiny country school, but Mrs. Nelson had Bernina’s. She loved them and they were wonderful machines.

    After slugging through decorating a nursery with a Singer with a drop in bobbin which drove me crazy, my husband decided I had to have a new machine for my birthday. I got a Bernina 1080. That was 16 years ago. I still love this machine even though it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles currently available. The stitches are great and I have a wonderful assortment of presser feet which I still expand occasionally. Three years ago I got a Bernina serger for my birthday. Love it too.

    Another nice thing about buying a Bernina is that they offer free classes so you can learn everything about your new machine.

    :) Ann

  18. I love my Bernina Virtuosa 155. My husband bought it for me about 7years ago even while I hemmed and hawed that I was very content with my Elna Carina. I’m so glad he convinced me because even though I loved my Carina, my Bernina does so much more. It makes machine quilting a joy! Oh how I love using all those feet!

    Joyce

    • Hay Joyce,
      I see you have the Bernina Virtuosa 155.

      I was wondering, do you by chance know how to re- program your stitches in? Some how mine got gone, not sure how but they did. If you could help me with this dilemma I would be so grateful. BK

      • Hi Bekki,

        Goodness, I have no idea! I didn’t even know you could lose stitches or re-program them on the machine. So sorry! I think you’ll need to take it into your dealer.

        Blessings,
        Joyce

  19. I absolutely love my old Bernina. It’s an 830 Record– about 30 years old. My grandmother gave it to me when she bought a new machine about 10 years ago. It’s heavy but so dependable.
    If I were to get a new machine, which won’t happen in the foreseeable future, I would get a Bernina with the stitch regulator. That attachment is way awesome! :)

  20. I bought my Bernina in Atlanta in 1988. Paid a fortune for it then, but I think that it still can outsew a lot of machines that I see carted to and from retreats and classes. Downfall – it weighs a ton! Good Points – Beautiful stitches and I have been offered what I paid for it more than once. It is still running great and I am a daily sewer.

  21. I have a Janome Memory Craft 3500 which has been a solid performer for me, with a few more features than I actually need. I love the idea of an auto-threader and thread-cutter, but have no plans to replace my girl anytime soon.

  22. I have a Pfaff sewing machine, bought new 20 years ago and it’s still going strong.

  23. hahaha “Pfaff pool”… well, good luck! if you do end up going with a non-Viking and non-Pfaff, I know a little Pfaff machine who’s mommy would buy all of your Pfaff-compatible accessories off of you 😀

  24. You know I’m all about that Bernina 440 QE, and the one you are looking at already has all of the ‘spensive accessories included, Lucy. Bernina stuff IS pricey, but it’s indestructible! I LOVE LOVE LOVE my 450!!!

    Can’t wait to get my hands on the BSR — it’s ordered and will change my quilting life!

    Also, if you want to avoid Deborah G’s situation with a mean dealer, and you are looking for a friendly shop for service and how-to-use-your-Bernina classes, Atlanta Sewing Center in Kennesaw is staffed with really friendly women who are more than happy to give directions over the phone, help you select what you need, let you test drive machines, special order, let you hang out for hours, etc., etc.

  25. I bought a Bernina 440 QE last year (my previous was a 720 Singer from the 60s) so it really changed my sewing.
    It’s a sturdy machine, like many said with several bells & whistles.
    However, my biggest disappointment was that you cannot connect it to your pc unless you buy the embroidery module (extra $$$). Since I don’t embroider much it doesn’t justify the extra cost. So I believe that I could have easily settled for a cheaper computerised version instead.
    As others said, Juki is the same quality but cheaper (in the US) so you might want to look into that.
    If you need any more info, fee free to email me.

  26. I’ve adored the Husqvarna that I purchased with ~$500 of my hard-earned waitressing money while I was in college. It has performed wonderfully for me over the years with just a few basic maintenance checks.

    That being said, I’m not sure I’d buy a new Husqvarna today. My local dealer tells me that all of the Husqvarna machines are being made in China, rather than Sweden. I suppose it’s just an example of changing times, but part of me is skeptical about whether the new machines adhere to the same standard of quality.

    Bernina machines certainly have a great and lasting reputation, though it looks like some of them are now being made in Thailand.

    Whatever machine you decide to buy, I hope it brings you many enjoyable hours of sewing!

  27. I use a 16 year old Janome New Home that I inherited from my mom when she upgraded to a much more expensive Janome a few years ago. She loves the new machine, except when it’s time to take it to quilt camps (it’s heavy) so she bought a lighter Janome with a lot of the same features and uses that one a ton as well!

  28. I have a Bernina – LOVE IT!! My mom taught me on her Berninas, I owned a few other cheap brands in college/pre-kids, but I had to get one of my own to last!

    and I was actually at Atl Sewing in Kennesaw today and because they just released their 3 Series all the Artistes are on sale… :)

  29. Deborah, get the Bernina, they are worth every penny. My father in law bought me mine 21 years ago, I have put countless miles (and abuse) on it, and it has never let me down. I love it so much, I don’t even want another one, and it is 21 years old!

  30. I sew with a Bernina and I love it! My husband bought me my first Bernina (1230) over 20 years ago after I had worn out 2 machines in 7 years (I sew a lot!). Like all Berninas it seemed expensive at the time, but I love this machine – I am sure it has sewed for many many miles and it has never let me down once. I make bags, quilts, curtains and clothing ( but mainly quilts and it quilts like a dream). I was lucky and had a good selection of feet with the machine and over the years I have occasionally bought other specialist feet. The only drawback is the weight – it is heavy for taking to workshops so I saved up and bought a Bernina 350 last year. This is a fantastic machine – it does more than by 1230 and is much lighter. I have sewn with other machines but have never come across anything which matches a Bernina for power and reliability. Obviously some people do have problems, but usually they are user relater rather than machine related. I find that regular cleaning and oiling keep my machines happy and humming away. My 1230 hasn’t been serviced for years (other than my home tlc) and still sews perfectly. I could sell my 1230 tomorrow for the same or more than I paid for it – has to be a good investment!

  31. I have a little Rose also! She’s a great girl that doesn’t get near as much use as I wish. If you decide to go with Bernina, please give me a shout; I have just begun quilting and would love to help your new machine fund by adopting some of your Rose’s feet!

  32. I have a Bernina 430 and the MDA 1150 serger and LOVE them! I had a Bernina Activa 145 before that, so I have owned a Bernina for 8 years and counting. My mother bought a Bernina (her dream machine) when I still lived at home more than 20 years ago which was my first encounter with the brand. She still has that machine (even though she has upgraded…she won’t part with the old one!) They are quality machines and I can’t even begin to imagine sewing on anything else. I HIGHLY recommend getting a Bernina, even if you have to get all new accessories. It is so worth it!

  33. I bought a Bernina Activa 230 about 3 years ago. My mother-in-law has a 30 yr old Bernina that I love and she raves about the machine.
    In the 230, there are some features that drive me crazy. The auto threader which looked so easy, well, my husband the engineer threads the machine. I did buy a magnifying lens and that is a great help.

    Do try several machine brands before spending that money and consider a used shop model when they go on sale. At quilt shows there are special promotions by the Bernina stores. Financing is available, too. Find a dealer that everyone raves about.

    Feet are expensive.

  34. Check out http://www.creativefeet.com. I just bought their universal feet that will fit any brand machine with the included adapters. Berninas do need an additional adapter that is purchased seperately. So far, I’m very impressed with these feet that cost much less than purchasing the entire set of your individual manufacturer’s feet. The added bonus is that when I’m ready to upgrade, my feet will fit whatever brand I choose.

  35. I have Bernina 440 QE since Oct 2008…I use it for for dressmaking, bag making with piping and other trimmings, patchwork piecing and free motion quilting, darning and altering most boy’s pants. My friend used it mostly for home furnishing. I love the fact that it’s a heavy duty machine suitable for domestic usage. I learnt how to use it’s so easy to operate button hole maker, how to use a wing needle and twin needle to make eyelets and pretty pulled work ( I was a cross stitcher on linen ), pintucks… I also make sure that I have it serviced once a year and I run it almost daily. Never had any issues such as bobbin tensions and such. I only recommends that what ever machine we buy that it’s back up with excellent service and product knowledge. Gradually I build up the foot collections based on my need. Mine was made in Switzerland…nowadays made and assembled in Thailand

  36. I have a Bernina 135 QE. Had it for about 10 years now, and I love it! I grew up with a Bernina, but my started machine was a singer because I couln’t afford a Bernina in college. My husband surprised me with my Bernina for my birthday one year, because he knew that was what I wanted. It is heavy, so I usually tote my singer around because it is so much lighter for me.

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  38. my first *good* sewing machine is (it’s an *is* because i still have it and use it … ) a husqvarna 6570 — it’s burgundy color and it’s awesome, still … i have needle up/needle down; a pull-out speed reduction (granddaughter can sew without trouble); a very narrow arm so pants legs and armholes and sleeve openings fit right on it; and it’s never failed me … i’ve only had it in the shop to be tuned since i purchased it in …. drum roll here: 1981 (just before we adopted our son!) … it has cams and does some embroidery, but not like *embroidery machines,* mostly fancy stitches … i do love it ….

    my other wonderful machine in my new-to-me bernina 1230 that i purchased on a sewing list (sewitsforsale yahoo.com group) for waaay less than on ebay … it also has fancy embroidery stitches; that awesome blanket stitch which i love, and an alphabet, which i just might use, block letters …. i wanted one and looked long and hard for it, did lots of research and really decided i didn’t want a new bernina, but this old, heavy, heavy-duty 1230 .. it has a motherboard and a computer system but way less sophisticated than their newer models … quilts wonderfully, sews perfect stitches and i love it ….

    i also own a bernnina 830 record, their venerable work-horse; it’s in the repair shop now because when you don’t use your machine for a couple of years, oh, ok, maybe 4 years, it gets gummed up … i think i might love it, too, but have hardly used it … an i know i can sell it for lots more than i paid for it, but, then, if i sell it, i just might need it and it will be gone …..

    thanks for the opportunity to talk machines … darlene

  39. I have the Bernina 440QE for a year now and absolutely love it! It took me a little while to get used to it as I had been sewing on an Elna SU since 1976. I still have my Elna, it is a workhorse. My Bernina I use for both sewing and embroidery. The embroidery it does is really beautiful. The sewing stitches are lovely also, as the first project I did on it was window treatments for my dining room sliders. Every stitch is even and precise. Hubby asked if I wanted to upgrade, but I said no,no,no. I think you will be very happy with this machine.

  40. I know this is a months-old thread, but seemed the closest fit to my question: Which sewing machine would you recommend for a beginner (who has ambitions of doing lots of things, like making dresses, costumes and slipcovers) with a limited budget (definitely under $100; preferably closer to $50). Would you recommend manual vs. electric, and why? Which features should be a priority? I’m reading books on this and asking other sewers, but feedback is mixed. I’m excited to get started but hesitant to buy without really understanding what I’m getting (and what I will want once I start working on bigger projects). Apologies if this is discussed in a different post — I searched but only found discussions of more advanced machines. Thank you!

  41. katie … there is really no *good* machine for $50 – $100 … buying from walmart is a joke; their machines are not dependable …. the other *big box stores* are pretty much the same …. if i were you, i would look on craigslist.com or go to a reputable dealer and look at their used machines and be prepared to pay at least $300 … the quality of the machine will determine how much you sew on it and …. HOW MUCH YOU ENJOY sewing on it … if you don’t enjoy the machine, you will not sew … the tension is not right, the stitch is poor, etc … if you were to purchase a used machine from a dealer, it’s already been thoroughly been checked out and serviced …… buying on craigslist.com is dicey and unsure, unless you *know* exactly what brand of machine you are looking for ….

    hope this helps ….. darlene

  42. Darlene, thanks for your comment, that does help a lot. Especially re: the features and it determining how much you enjoy sewing, and how much you therefore sew. This helps me justify a bigger investment even though I’m a beginner. I’m going to go to a few local dealers to test out their refurbished ones, and stretch my budget if I can. Thank you!

  43. i was thinking i should have mentioned another place to purchase a very nice used machine:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SewItsForSale/
    it’s a yahoo.com group you join for free dedicated to selling / purchasing all kinds of sewing *things,* including fabric, thread, patterns, notions, etc., and sewing machines … i purchased an older bernina 1230, a fabulous machine, for about $700 including shipping … this is the kind of older bernina that people just don’t give up … it’s in excellent shape and came with a boat-load of feet … you might look on there for a machine, not necessarily a bernina of that price, but …. a good used machine … in fact, you could put an ad in the group with the subject line reading: ISO: used sewing machine … then in the body of the email, tell what you are looking for and, if you want, give an amount you are willing to spend ….

    just a thought …. darlene

    • Katie–

      I agree with Darlene that you ought to get a machine that is of good quality and that you’ll enjoy sewing on, so that you’ll have fewer frustrations and more success from the beginning! There is a surprising amount of variety to choose from at lower price points–a lot of my students are very happy and have great results with some of the newer Singers on the market, which come with tons of options for under $250. I think buying used is a great idea, too–or even borrowing until you have a better idea of what you like! I’ve had a number of students who used a borrowed machine to start, learned what they like and don’t like, and *then* went shopping. Everyone knows someone with an unused machine in their attic that you can use for the price of a tune-up.

      Hope that helps, and best of luck!

  44. Darlene and Deborah, thank you, that helps a lot. I signed up with the Yahoo group Darlene suggested. Re: Deborah’s comment, I will take a look at the new Singers, and am planning to go check out some refurbished ones at local dealers. And great idea re: borrowing, will put the word out. Thank you both!

  45. I am looking to replace my 1972 Bernina 830…It has been a decent machine, but I am tired of putting money into it! 2 motors, 2 walking feet, 1 foot pedal, etc. It is time to retire and it is getting difficult to find parts for it. I am trying to decide between the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0 and the Pfaff Ambition 1.5–the price difference is significant, but I want something I can sew on for at least 15 years, so $1000 verses $2000 is not much over time. Thoughts and opinions?

  46. Hi, I suggest you consider another Bernina. A good friend of mine bought a Pfaff (sorry, not sure which model) to take the load off her Bernina 1230 but she’s had a lot of problems with it and so has gone back to using the 1230 for quilting and things like turning up jeans etc. I suspect that if you are used to the power and flexibility of a Bernina it is difficult to cope with the problems which come with other machines.

    I have had a Bernina 350 for a little over a year (also to replace my 1230) and I love it. It does everything the 1230 did and is a sturdy workhorse. Irecently made an ipod cover with it and it sewed through 18 layers with no problem!

    Hope this helps a bit. Annie