Under Pressure?: The Sewing Machine Story

A bit ago Becky at Quilted Twins posed this question on her Facebook page:
So…have you ever felt “judged” for not having an expensive machine (or if you have an expensive machine – for having one)?

This had me yelling YES!!  I got thinking about it more and more that I decided I’d write a whole blog post about as it got stuck on my brain and I thought of little else.  So here goes with my sewing machine history.

When I was in high school for my 17th birthday my mom and day bought me a used Singer with a drop in bobbin.  I was taking lots Home Ec classes that I sewed in.  Mom sewed a lot and it was a natural gift at that time for parents to buy sewing machines for their daughters.  I LOVED that machine.  I loved drop in bobbins.  It was great machine.

From there, I got married and had three of our kids.  We were living in Chester, Iowa and Hubby was working for a farmer.  About then sergers were the rage.  We got a windfall (really not that much-but the young people we were thought it was a windfall) so I bought a serger.  My friend at the time had bought one and she made it seem like a “must have” for me.  I made lots of play dressed for the girls with it sewing a lot of T-shirt material things for them.

We ended up moving to Lawler, Iowa about a year after that and I hardly touched the serger.  Then about three years into being married, I was 24 or so, and my highschool Singer machine died.  Oh my word.  We had no money and I was beside myself.  I felt like I couldn’t live without a sewing machine…and honestly, I really did NEED a sewing machine.  About then I had started making and selling crafts.

At the time stuffed dolls and the “country look” was in.  I ended up buying this White machine.

It wasn’t expensive (under $500) and did what I needed it to do.

After a bit I started wholesaling the crafts and had a seller that I worked with.  I found I needed another machine so that I had a back up and that I could have a project at each machine.  I ended up buying another just like it.

At this time, I was home with my kids.  I never got out and saw other people.  I was a young mom with young kids.  I had no social life to speak of.  There was no one to influence my choices at all.

Then a gal that I did some crafting with opened a quilt shop.  It was an awesome shop.  I went periodically and they sold Berninas.  Before long I started to feel like my quilts would be nicer or better if I had a Bernina.  It wasn’t direct pressure but an underlying pressure.  Then I started to go to a few of their classes and this project could be done with a “blanket stitch”…this was “so much easier with a machine that had needle down”….oh and look at these awesome projects you could make if only you had an embroidery machine.  UGH.  I started to feel like I NEEDED a Bernina….and not just any Bernina but an EMBROIDERY machine.  So..I bought my Bernina 165E.

From there I bought into all the hype..more embroidery cards…more feet for the sewing.  More, more, more.  I regret this.  I don’t use it.  I don’t use it at all.  I don’t need all the feet that do all the things…I’ve never touched them. I bought my machine at COMPLETELY the wrong time.  Mine uses cards…so can’t do the designs I could have.  Also, at the time, I didn’t put two and two together.  To be good at embroidery, you have to embrace technology..you have to be willing to spend more and more money for upgrades and more equipment.  These are things I am simply not good at.  I was in my late 30’s time and hadn’t yet admitted all that to myself.

I found myself spending more money thinking I would suddenly like it or get good at it.  It never happened.  I bought cards for the machine…it was what everyone else was doing at the events I went to.  I wanted to be “in”.  Then I found after I did a design twice, I didn’t want to do it anymore.  Hmmm…cost wise this totally wasn’t working out for me.  Not at all.

Our daughter Kayla ended up working at the quilt shop and then I started hearing a little bit of the behind the scenes at the quilt shop.  They were told what to emphasis when doing demonstrations.  Before long, my brain FINALLY clicked.  They were trying to make sales.  This was all a sales gimmick.  Yes…they were teaching me something but reality, it wasn’t anything that was helping me as I never went home and did anything with what I learned.  UGH.  I’d love to have that money back now.

I did sew on if for several years and then I quit.  I was frustrated with the machine and the foot.  I had spent the money to get a perfect foot with the sidebar only to learn that the sidebar was not accurate at all.  It wasn’t 1/4″!!  How frustrating.  I had sewn with it for years only to find that my seam allowance wasn’t accurate.  The machine didn’t patch jeans worth a hoot.

My Bernina was only used for a long time as a machine to fill the bobbins for my quilting machine.  Since working on cleaning my sewing room, it’s now packed away.  I’ve thought to sell it but I don’t have any other machines to do any fun stitches should I ever come to needing that.  I doubt I will.  So it sits.

Next came my Pfaff Grand Quilter.  I bought this to quilt my quilts.  Again….it was a bad move.  I spent over $3000 for a machine that was a LEMON.

As a quilting machine with the set up above, it caused WAY more tears than successes.

I ended up getting an APQS Millenium.  I’d love to say finally I did something right as far as sewing machine purchases go but…I’m not quite there.

I love my machine.  I’m glad I got my machine.  It works wonderfully.  I don’t regret getting the machine BUT…I don’t LOVE long arming.  I can do it.  I don’t hate it but, part of me wishes I sent my machine quilting out to a long armer and now that I have machine and I’m stuck having to do it.  Again…I don’t hate it and love that I can ride a deadline right up to the deadline….but, if I knew my friend Carla was so close and so good, I don’t know if would have bought one.

The good news is this…When I got done with the first long arm set up, I thought to try to sell the Pfaff and the frame.  Then I thought NO.  I WILL NOT SEND SOMEONE ELSE THROUGH A TEARFUL EXPERIENCE.  So, I took the machine off the frame, threw the frame away and used the machine as a sewing machine.

I LOVE THIS as a piecing machine.  It is the most powerful speedy machine.  It only straight stitches…nothing else.  It has two motors..one for the piecing the other to fill bobbins.  In the past I’ve done all of my piecing on this machine.

Then the vintage machine bug hit me.  I think I read a little too much of Bonnie Hunter’s vintage sewing machine fetish and thought I’d check out what the whole buzz was about vintage machines.  I didn’t feel “pressure” to get one but I wanted to see what the hype was all about.  At first I bought whatever I found, fixed them up and gave them away.  I didn’t LOVE any of them and didn’t know what the hype was but I kept trying to figure it out.

Then Hubby found this at auction for me for $5.

Yep…a Featherweight.  I got a little more serious about vintage machines after that.  I like the machine but don’t regularly piece with it.

Then I got more serious about finding the “right” machines.  This one I found at the thrift store….It’s a Singer 301.  This one sits and I haven’t used it much at all.  I don’t have a spot for it so it can be set up all the time so it doesn’t often get used.
This one came next….This is my favorite machine right now.  It’s a Singer 15-91.  She is my string piecing machine.  For $15, how could I go wrong??  I found out from this experience that I ADORE machines in cabinets.  I adore cabinets.  I adore good working old machines.  ADORE.  I would happily get rid of most every other machine I have, but not this one.

This one has a foot control that’s part of the cabinet so my foot control doesn’t slide all over.  It has good power…and most of all she’s pretty.  I love having a cabinet.  Her cabinet is a Singer #42.

Now…I still look for vintage machine but I’ve stuck to the main brands now.  Singers are my preferred but that’s not hard and fast…Singers I look for most often.

This little one joined the fleet.  This is a Singer 99.  It’s a petite little thing.  She was a garage sale find.  I like this machine a lot too.  It’s set up in the sewing room and have a project at it.

The cabinet is really plain and I’d like to eventually get a really nice cabinet for her with drawers and the works.  She’s too pretty and works to well for a plain jane cabinet.

Other machines have entered my life and stayed….This is a New Home treadle I’ve never really sewn with…I really should fire her up one day or rather fire my feet up!!

This was my birthday present last year…it’s a Franklin treadle.  This one I have used some.  It definitely gave me the treadle bug.  The sad thing for me is that it is in the living room and a bit of a chore to get arranged for me to use regularly with the childcare kiddos around.

So do I feel pressure anymore….did I ever feel pressure from other people who sew?

The pressure I got came from the quilt shop I visited.  I was young at the time and really felt like I wanted to “fit in”.  I thought buying and being a part of all that would make me “fit in”.  It didn’t.

I’m older and know better now.  I know what I want.  I want a machine that I love.  I want a machine that works and has good strong power.  I’m not in the market for fancy stitches.  I’m not in the market for anything new.  I don’t care what anyone else is sewing on and only hope for them that they love their machine-whatever style and type that may be.

I can say this with certainty.  I will not buy a brand new machine ever.  I love the old girls…I have no need for a new hot machine with all the bells and whistles.  Bells and whistles hold no appeal to me.  I like the older girls who are tested and true.

It’s taken me 50 years to know that….There are some really awesome things that come with age and better knowing myself and my preferences is one of those things.

I hope anyone who is reading this has found what they like in a machine as well.  It doesn’t matter what you like…or don’t like.  As long as it sews and you’re happy, SEW ON FRIEND, SEW ON!!

46 thoughts on “Under Pressure?: The Sewing Machine Story”

  1. My “at home” sewing machine is an Emdeko. Found in a 2nd hand store for $50–sews like a charm, and weighs a ton which is why it is the “at home” machine. My “class machine” is an old 830 Bernina (use to be the at home machine until the Emdeko came to live with me). The Bernina also weighs a ton, but still manageable for classes, etc. It actually lives in the car so I no longer have to load and unload :-) Then there is the Featherweight that acts as the back up, and the 301A that also acts as a back up, and a treadle that I need to learn how to “treadle” on, and least but not least is the Singer in the cabinet from 1935?. And yes, I am in the market for a 301 Black Longbed. Am I crazy or what ????

  2. I understand Jo! “Been there, done that with PFAFF, Babylock & Janome Sewing machines & there they sit taking up valuable space in my sewing room!

  3. I love my Juki 98T straight stitch only.
    I have a 33 year old Janome for other stitches
    I have an updated Janome, not as good as the old one.
    I have a featherweight, because I too bought into the vintage thing, but it’s great for guild meetings.
    I have an ancient mid arm frame, that is great for meandering, or tacking quilts that I want to quilt the old fashioned way.
    Thank-you for your really honest post on all the machines you have owned. I feel the pressure here ( australia) to own a Bernina. Yep they might be good, not a Janome fan anymore, except my old Memory Craft Janome runs rings around the newer model I bought.
    As far as quilting goes, you need a good straight stitch. That’s it.
    Regards Jodie

  4. Thank you for such an enjoyable read. I shared your post to a group, Quilting on a Budget. So many new quilters ask about machines and might learn something about your experience. I made an impulse buy of an expensive long arm and have to say that I do not enjoy the whole process. Will continue to plug along or consider selling it.

  5. I’ve sewn on a Bernina 153 for years as my primary home machine. It is an absolute joy to use. The features I love most are the kneelift, needle up/down, and the accurate foot control. For retreats and weekly sewing groups I use a featherweight. Both machines get a lot of use.
    I’m the proud owner of my mom’s 301 but it’s been used hard, she was a pedal-to-the-metal sewist. My friend gifted me her mother’s 301 so I have two of them.
    I’m also a longarmer who works on an APQS Millennium. I do enjoy longarming, but not custom work. I freehand doodle but mainly prefer using pantos.
    Recently I acquired a white featherweight from a friend who was reducing her vintage machine collection.
    So I can honestly say I’m a Bernina/Featherweight/Millennium Girl.
    I really enjoy reading your blog!

  6. Timely post as I think I am almost ready to buy my first machine. My first machine was a White. Hand me down from my mom. It died, or so I thought. I brought it out recently and was surprised to hear it tries to run. I loved that machine, so repairs? My mom also gave me an Elnita. It sews. It also jams constantly, is loud, and most annoyingly, unthreads itself. Oh, and the needle always sits slightly back and to the left. I’ve been reading reviews like a crazy woman trying to pick a not overly fancy machine that would work well for free motion. My dream would be to locate my great grandma’s treadle machine and give it back to my mom.

  7. I luckily never felt the pressure to buy new(never had the money). My first machine was my dads late moms White rotary in cabinet with knee bar. I loved this but haven’t had room in my barrow town home to yes. I have my grandmothers 70’s Kennmore and then got a featherweightt for my birthday about 20 or so years ago. I finally bout a ‘used’ ( bought and returned for an upgrade a month later still in plastic)machine Babylock Sofia about 5 years ago. I wanted to embroider a little and quilt. I didnt really use the embroidery until recently( I’m loving ith designs). I had a Friend give me her Viking which quilts like a dream. I also got the vintage machine bug. Bought a few cheap or where given them. Have sold most as I don’t use them. If I had more space I would still use my original machines.

  8. Yep! I sometimes use the fancy stitches and alphabet to do “Grandma messages” on some of my quilts but really not enough to justify the cost a few years back. Oh well, lesson learned. Straight stitch pedal to the metal every chance I have.

  9. Jo, loved your post. I think it is a story a lot of quilters/sewers can relate to.
    About 25 years ago I purchased a top of the line Viking with all the bells and whistles. I would never do that again. The latest “new” machine is a Viking, but very much “scaled down”. I love it, but I also love my Singer 301, 201 (in a cabinet) and my featherweight. I recently purchased a Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen because I want to be able to quilt my own quilts. But when new quilters ask me, II always recommend trying to find an older machine, like the old Singers. You just can’t beat them.
    Thanks for being so open, I think we have all felt that pressure to “fit in”. I quit my guild a few years back and although I miss it, I get so many ufo’s completed without the pressure to start another new project.

  10. Never thought I’d own more than one of ANYTHING! Now I have the Featherweight I learned to sew on, the Pfaff that replaced the Pfaff that replaced the Singer Rocketeer from 1962, my MIL’s Elna, and the Janome Gem that’s my sew-day travel machine. The Babylock straight stitch machine that came on a quilt frame is now my go-to everyday machine. My early quilting friends all had Berninas and I did feel a bit of self-imposed pressure to be like them; but I resisted and have never regretted not having one.

  11. I think I have to fall into the “lucky” category. My first machine was a basic 10stitch Kenmore. Mom gave each of us girls our first machine either as a college grad gift or wedding gift whichever came first. I sewed my own clothing and for a time, tailored my professional wardrobe. At that point I really wanted an automatic buttonhole function. I found a fantastic used Husquevarna in 1992 at a local sewing shop that takes trade-ins. That is still my machine.

    When we bought our place in the mountains, I got tired of hauling this 40# weight back and forth so I went to the Pfaff/Babylock dealer and bought a very basic pfaff machine for just over $300. I told him I just need a straight stitch for piecing. He tried upselling but it didn’t work on me. I have a great machine that’s been running fine now for 13 years.

    I worked for a company for 8y that paid bonuses. I always saved that $. When they sold, I had a sizeable chunk. I went back the Bablock shop as he was great to work with….I tried out the Jewel midarm and loved it. Ordered 1 and for 9y now, I’ve been quilting my own. I love her.

    Yes, I’ve been told many times I need newer, bigger, fancier at all 3 machines. Well yes, I’d have less “turns” if I had a 22″ throat but Miss Jewel works great and she’s paid for and she’s happy here. Needle down-sure it sounds nice and on occasion I wish I had it. But I don’t and I do fine without it.

    I keep wanting to fall in love with vintage machines but I don’t. Sometimes I wish I still had that original Kenmore. I may try to track it down one day for nostagic purposes.

    Keep on keepin’ on Jo. The lessons and wisdom you share helps someone every day…I have no doubt!

    Happy New Year to you! May 2019 Bless you and your family each and every day!

  12. This was such a good blog and made me think of my sewing/buying sewing machine history. I learned to sew on a treadle and that machine stayed behind at my parents home. I sure wish I could recover. I’ve always owned a singer, but the electrics/ new machines I bought really didn’t work that well. Then a friend gave me a used Viking/Huskvarna. That was a good machine. Followed by my first Bernina. And now a new Bernina, but I knew that embroidery and a quilting machine were not for me. The big difference in my experience was learning about maintenance and different needle sizes. If I had learned that earlier, I probably would still have the Viking/Huskvarna as it was an awesome machine. I did take a long arm class and learned that the technology was not for me. Also, doing the math on a long arm never made sense, when there are such awesome long armers out there. I love my new Bernina, but mainly use it for piecing.

  13. I understand the pressure the sales people use on customers. I bought the Bernina QE440 when it first came out. I wanted the Stitch regulator. I was strongly urged to also buy the embroidery unit but I didn’t, as I knew I’d never use it. When I went to the new owners classes, I was referred to as “the girl without the embroidery unit”. That did not make me feel like buying one! The classes weren’t about learning my new machine, but more sales pressure to buy the extra feet. I did not. That didn’t please the instructor either. That shop went out of business. I love my Bernina and have never regretted buying it. I have quilted many quilts with that stitch regulator before buying my longarm. It’s a good post Jo. You keep it real and honesty is always good!!!

  14. Agree. The older machines are the best. I love to go to quilt shows and see what the pros are doing but I am a basic sewer. I don’t need bells and whistles. Loved your blog today. I think we all get caught up in having the latest and greatest but experience shows we don’t need them.

  15. Great post, Jo! I teach Beginning Machine Quilting, and am frequently amazed at what some of the ladies can accomplish on a basic machine from the 50’s to 70’s. For a low priced machine, they are a much better choice than a low end machine produced now. I just cringe when someone comes in with a brand new singer that they purchased at JoAnn’s. It’s labeled as a quilting machine, but the feed dogs won’t even drop. That being said, I own a few machines, myself. After messing up the old singer from my mom, and wearing out a low end Brother machine from Costco, I purchased a used Janome 6600.. I love that machine. But once you visit a dealer, and see the capabilities of the Embroidery machines, you think you need one of those as well. I purchased a used sewing/embroidery machine too. I have used it quite a bit for embroidery, and it definitely comes in handy as a sewing machine when my teenage daughters go to retreat with me. A couple years ago, I bought a used Gammill Charm. it has a 22 inch throat, and sits in a table, like a domestic machine. I saved for 6 years for that machine, and I’m glad to have it. I still procrastinate on quilting, though, even though I love it. Pushing around a king sized quilt all day is exhausting. Last year, i found another Janome 6600 on FB, and purchased that as well. Now we each have a machine for retreat, but I wish I had just spent the same money on a new, smaller machine, since it won’t be used much. The 6600 are about 24 pounds, and it would be nice to have a good piecing machine that was lightweight for travel… Live and learn, I guess.
    I no longer regularly visit a sewing machine dealer, and I tend to scoff a little at the cost of Berninas. Thanks for the reminder that you don’t need to ‘keep up with the Jones’ and the inside scoop on the demo’s at the sewing machine dealers/quilt shops.

  16. Jo what a wonderful subject to cover. My husband bought me a Viking as a wedding present (it uses cams) and I love that machine. Its fairly heavy but it stays in one spot these days (I use to hoist it around when I needed to tidy up) I still love this machine and it sews like a dream. I also own a Janome Gem for taking to classed and guild meetings. Its lightweight and does a great job and its truly portable. I often wondered if I missed out not owning a new machine with more whistles but I couldn’t bite the cost of those machine. I did take a class at a local quilt shop to be learn how to use there long arm machine and I did rent time on there machine to complete a few of my quilt tops but I learned that I didn’t enjoy the process and I’m happier sending them out to longarmers to be finished up.

  17. I love my Bernina 550, which is my main piecing machine. I also have a Bernina 350 which is more lightweight that I take to retreats and a Janome platinum jet. I have two Singer featherweights and have had a Singer 301 but I honestly do not enjoy sewing on the vintage machines. If people love the old machines, I am happy for them, but I still prefer and enjoy many of the features of the modern machines.

  18. Great post and comments!
    Sometimes it’s a lucky thing to not have money or space! I had certainly wanted a fancy Viking and then a fancy Bernina but am mostly ;) over that now. I inherited a really terrible Kenmore and sewed and then quilted on it for 14 years (!) until my husband bought me a white featherweight in 1992. I love this machine. Seven years ago I bought a vintage 830 Record and I love it too. My dream is to have space to set them both up. Heaven!

  19. Right on, Jo! My older siblings gave me a basic Kenmore in cabinet for a confirmation gift. I used that for ten years or so. Then I had kids and my husband saw me sewing a lot sit he got me a portable Kenmore with stretch stitches-oh the t-shirts we did! Several years later I saw a bit of the “upgrade envy” and I purchased at used Pfaff. I love that old machine! Then I started to do a few retreats and thought I should have a separate machine big waste. Meantime, I worked at a quilt shop that started selling Pfaff and they got the grand quilter. As I had a Nolting long arm, I really disliked the Grnd but had to bite my tongue around customers! I saw the featherweight fever and referred on that edge for awhile but did not succumb. A few years ago my favorite Pfaff was struck by lightning(unplug,unplug,unplug!) And I found the same machine. Finally last year I saw another one just like it on eBay and I got it! Now I have two 1473 Pfaffs and I believe I’m content. Hopefully between the two I can sew out my life ! Happy sewing time,Jo!

  20. Sewing machines are wonderful. I learned on a New Home my mother bought during WWII and had to wait until after the war for delivery. I owned a Singer Stretch & Sew until my husband gave me a Bernina 830, recommended by my tailoring instructor. I loved it; it would do one stitch at a time. Years later he gave me a Bernina 1530. It is still my favorite machine. Needle down, knee lift for the presser foot, pattern reverse, one stitch at a time, easy buttonholes and a great basting stitch are the things i really like. It also has a walking foot and is great for free motion quilting or embroidery. It feels substantial too. I have a Featherweight and a 301A. My large hands do not like the featherweight; they keep hitting the bobbin winder. The 301A is a sister machine, but they recessed the bobbin winder and gave it a slightly larger wheel, both wins for me. It’s great for straight stitching, but i had much better luck putting blocks together with the Bernina which handled intersections with multiple layers with ease – no small stitches and pushed ahead seams. I also have my growing-up neighbor’s Single treadle and think of that family when i use it. When my hands hurt too much pinning a quilt together, I bought a used Nolting Fun Quilter with a 10′ frame. I love it. It is simple, has a stitch regulator, is easy to maintain and has good service.
    There are many good machines and the industry has changed over the years. A good dealer is important too. Buy what you will use. Try the machine first if you can, on fabric you use, not starched to a board fabric. Today a lot of the hype is about Featherweights. If possible, put your machine in a cabinet. Sewing at the right height, with a platform around your work to support it is infinitely easier on your body. For years I had my machine in a desk with a cutout for the machine and a spacer in the center drawer. This is a good topic, Jo.

  21. Judith Fairchild

    Oh we’re the bells ringing in my head as I read your post. I learned to see on a Singer cabinet at the Singer shop when I was 10. Mom had bought a good used portable Singer, so the lessons we’re free. I got to use Mom’s Singer till I left home. When I married my husband bought me a White. Which I used till it was stolen. Then several years later I got a Home from Sears. I still have it ( about 37 years). I can quilt up to King size when I need to. I recently bought a feather weight no frills Bernette. It is good for plain sewing, but hard to oil. So yes your stories rang and still ring. I’m glad I have never had the extra cash to buy fancy. Thank for your post.

  22. Great post, Jo! I think a lot of times, the shops that sell sewing machines try to make it sound like their machines (no matter the brand) are “the answer to all your quilting needs” rather than finding out how you, the customer, want to use the machine. I have an old Singer Featherweight, made in 1948, and bought new by my mom. I love that machine! The fact that it doesn’t weigh a lot makes it very portable. About 8 months ago, I was looking to replace a Pfaff machine that had some issues that couldn’t be repaired, and I visited my local Babylock dealer. I had dealt with them before and they were great. I told them what I was looking for, and what I didn’t want, and they said the Presto II would check all the boxes on my wish list. They were right! I love this machine! There was no high sales pressure, and they “listened” to what I wanted. The other machine I have is a Franklin treadle machine. It belonged to my husband’s great aunt …it needs some work before it will operate, and I keep saying I will try to get it going….hopefully, I will have time to work on it in the near future.
    Thanks again for your blog post… I think it was very timely!

  23. I grew up sewing on my mom’s old New Home machine. When I left home, I got a Montgomery Ward (late 1970s), and for years made clothes for my kids and me (a few crafts a few quilts). She was fussy and needed professional adjusting quite a bit. When she finally died, I was without a machine. I bought an inexpensive Brother which I still have (I now use it for zigzag and buttonholes). I bought a new Juki 2010Q about five years ago. She is the best machine I have EVER used. Since she is mechanical, straight stitch only, with good upkeep she should last forever. I love the vintage machines, but my Juki (named Vivian after my grandmother) is wonderful! I never spent time around other quilters, so I didn’t feel pressure to buy–I just bought what I needed, and Vivian fit the bill. :)

  24. Thanks Jo for the post. I have been using vintage machines for years, Singers (Featherweights, 301As, 99s, 66s). I had a hand-me-down New Home computerized machine from my mom but it finally died. I did miss having a machine that had some decorative stitches and a “free-arm” as I do sew a few garments etc. So I had been stalking Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace etc for a used computerized machine for the the last 2 years. I finally found one that met my criteria at a reasonable price, (A Bernina Aurora 430). It is in really good condition and I paid a fraction of the cost. I have NEVER owned a new machine and I suppose I never will. But I am very happy with my “herd”. I like that you are not afraid to discuss these types of subjects. You’re the best!!

  25. This post struck a chord I think. My first was a Singer like the ones I learned on in home economics classes. Then I learned how to quilt but never could afford a longarm and in this stage of life know it’s never happening because quilting is winding down. I had a Pfaff I liked but then I found Janome 6500 and I have had a business for over 11 years after retiring from teaching school that paid for many new things in my home….one was hardwood floors and several other things in my house. I loved that machine so and I knew new versions would cost way more so I bought a second Janome 6500 in case #1 passes away some day. It pieces like a dream and I can machine quilt every quilt I make and all the other machines are put away and gathering dust. I did run into two Featherweights..love them but they are to be for my two granddaughters once they realize what they are being offered. They are NOT THERE yet.

  26. I have been sewing for close to 60 years and quilting for 25. I had a “Monkey” Wards to start, then stepped up to Janome. I had several of those and was never happy with the feed system they bragged about. I’d be sewing along and it would always have trouble with cross seams. After reading Bonnie Hunter’s blog for several years, I thought I’d try a vintage machine, a Montgomery Wards, no less. Ultimately, I switched to vintage Singers and I now have a Featherweight, 201-A, 301A, 401A, 501A and 404 that all work and I sew on them regularly. I also have 2 Class 66s, an Elna Supermatic, a Kenmore, an old Bernina, and a couple Japanese clones. I’ve sold two Janomes to people who love them. Don’t miss them a bit. I LOVE my 401A! It has the best feed system I’ve come across. I don’t miss the bells and whistles on the newer computerized machines. I like being able to maintain my machines by myself. It’s been a great experience, going vintage and potentially saving these wonderful old machines from a landfill!

  27. Hi Jo!
    Great post! Can very well relate to your experiences with the variety of sewing machines over the years. I too, have become a lover of old machines. I have a thing for Featherweights, and just got the table to go with one of them. I’ll refurbish that in the spring.
    I won’t admit to how many machines I own, but the one I treasure the most I share with my sister. Its my moms old Morse – its what we learned to sew on as kids. So, its been through mom, my sister and I, my daughter during her college years, and now its back at my house. I sew daily on a Janome 4800, which is my workhorse machine. Not a whimper out of her in 16 years. I always thought I wanted embroidery, but never could commit to it as I have a longarm as well. Thread for both machines would break the bank! I hope younger folks wanting to sew read your blog post today. Good lessons to share.

  28. My first machine purchased after getting married was a Kenmore and I loved it for many years. I wanted more functions so my husband bought me a Bernina 1080. I loved that machine too but once I started quilting on it I had issues so I treated myself to a Bernina 404 which had the BSR quilting foot. Thinking I would love embroidery I also got the module with it and have to say I have never used it other than the class I took when I first got it. That was over 12 years ago. I now have a Handiquliter longarm and don’t use it as much as I need to as I still feel like a novice on it even after 9 years of owning it. In the last couple of years I also got the vintage bug that started with following Bonnie Hunter. I have numerous vintage machines but don’t use them regularly. I do most of my piecing on my Bernina 404. I still love my Bernina and keep telling myself I need to use the embroidery module. Maybe I will do that but am in the middle of reworking my sewing room so that will have to wait.

  29. My “at home” machine is an old Pfaff 7550. It must be at least 20 yrs. old by now. I bought it used and I love sewing on it. I hope it lives forever! My “to go” machine is a cheap Brother. It’s light weight, sews nice, has a variety of stitches and when it goes clunk, clunk, clunk because the plastic gears have stripped it was cheap enough that I won’t feel bad about setting it out with the trash and getting a similar one.

  30. Great post. I own a Bernina 730E. I do use the embroidery some and I do love my machine. This does not however stop the sales pressure when I go in the shop. Finally I told them to give it up. I love my baby, I understand my baby and I am NOT giving her up. Period. So far it seems to have worked. LOL

  31. Good post, it brought back memories, some good, some bad. I was given my first sewing machine for my 14th birthday, it was Singer that used cams. Years later, I was taking a class at a Pfaff dealer and the owner told me that it was a crappy machine and that she would give me a discount on a new Pfaff. Later I learned that she didn’t really give me a discount and I actually just gave her my old machine. That turned me off that dealer and somewhat the machine. Many years later, I bought my first used 301A, then a featherweight. I love those machines and those are the ones I use today. Thanks for invoking memories and all that you share.

  32. I bought my Singer 15-91 new the fall of 1955 and it is still going strong after sewing for all 7 of us, and now use it to make quilts w/o batting, pillowcase dresses, and shorts for the mission teams from church to take to Haiti. New Pfaff doesn’t stitch through the elastic on the dresses. Old Singer does, and I’ve even used it to mend a combine canvas. Yes, I know that dates me, but I’m still sewing and love that I can help others.

    I’m finding your blog list now. Sometimes my computer is real slow, as we have wireless, and speed varies.

  33. Katherine Gourley

    Hi Jo–wonderful sewing machine story. My first machine was a Singer Stylist from my Granny when I graduated from grammar school in 1964. It went away to school with me and I sewed almost every item of clothing that I owned. In 1970 it was time to make my wedding dress and I had saved and saved to buy a Singer Golden Touch and Sew. It was hyped as the sewing machine of the future and I was certain it would make my wedding dress the best. I traded in the Stylist and ended up with the machine from HEQQ! It was in the shop more than in my home. Shortly after I was married, I started to make a wedding gown, 4 bridesmaid dresses and the mother of the bride’s dress only to have the Touch and Sew seize up for good.. I had to get the wedding dresses done and we had NO money, but we had a Sears account to purchase “on time”, so I bought a Kenmore with cams for decorative stitches. I still have it, but do not use it. It worked beautifully for many years.
    Around 1997, I bought my first Janome — a 3500 for about $400 and it was a dream and still is a dream. About 8 years ago, I purchased the Janome QCP 7700 for $2900 and it works well, but uses a toggle wheel to change stitches and with the tremor that I have it is more of a problem than one would think, so a couple of years ago I bought a Janome 9400 for $3000. I am not into embroidery, so I never longed for an embroidery machine. I will be 69 years old and when I use my 9400, I say to myself where were you all 61 years of my sewing life. My vision has never been great and I have a tremor that will get progressively worse with age. This machine is the ultimate accommodation for both issues and brings me so much joy when I sew on it. I love the stitch quality on all of my Janomes and I am happy to own them. I do have a Featherweight, but do not use it. That was a pressure purchase because so many quilters swore it was the best machine ever.

    Thanks for all of your inspiration. I pray for you as I would for a friend.

  34. Sewing machines in the sewist life. A very important one is the one you learn on. In my case and growing up in Switzerland that was a Bernina Record. Great machine. We had that machine in school, my mom had the same and my mother-in-law too…
    The first machine I bought was a Pfaff, I was 24 and I’ve sewn my wedding dress on it. It is a good clothes sewing machine and I gave it to my daughter. I should have bought a Bernina because once I started quilting, I didn’t like who the Pfaff sewing machine behaved when crossing thicker areas, even with the dual-feed system. But I had taken the machine with me as my carry-on luggage when we went to Berkeley for two years.
    Ten years later I bought a Bernina this is my main machine.
    I also have a old vintage straight stitch only Bernina 121 from the 1940’s. Great machine, sews really fast. Love the color, green, and it came in its own case with the original attachments, instruction booklet, needles and oil bottle. My godmother found it for my grandmother at a flea market, but she didn’t really sew, so I later got it. This is my class machine.
    And just about a month ago I saw that someone wanted to sell an 1970 Japanese clone machine in its cabinet. It now is down stairs in the more formal living areas, but when closed you wouldn’t really guess, that it is a sewing machine.
    My kids think I have too many sewing machines – I love each one.

  35. Carolyn Sullivan

    GREAT post! I too went through the Wrong time to buy embroidery machine! I don’t use it at ALL! I do use it for sewing and piecing bc I think it is one of my best. But lately I am noticing that my bobbin side of the stitching is not as tight as it should be! Maybe it’s time to move on to one of my Feather weights (yes one of as in I have a few) and or to my REDEYE…. I too will not buy a NEW MACHINE again. I had the Pfaff Grand quilter too set up for quilting and it was a beast to work w. I also didn’t know what I was doing. Up graded it to a Nolting (made in Hiawatha IW)

  36. I have had so many machines over the last 40 years I don’t know if I remember them all. I started sewing on my mothers Singer when I was 5. She used that machine till I was grown. When I married I bought a machine from Spiegel. Then for a birthday my husband got me a Singer Touch and Sew. Then. I got a Husqvarna Viking Quilt Designer. Still have it but got a Bernina 1080 too..then a Bernina 350…still have the 350. Then I got 3 Featherweights..they are cute and work great. I also have a Pfaff ..whatever the bottom of the line is. Great machine and only 13 lbs….I had a Bernina 770 but my significant other got the store to take it back. They exchanged for a BERNINA 550 that I knew how to use. Oh, and I got a cheap Janome Jem years ago. I also have 2 vintage Singers a 15-91 and a little smaller one that I believe is a 28. Most of the Bernina were pressure purchases except the 1080! I loved that machine but was convinced I needed the Husqvarna. It has been a wild ride with a lot of wasted money. I am putting a lot for sale and hoping to recoup some of the money. Don’t be like I was.

  37. My machine, according to what the guy at the repair shop told me five or six years back, is outdated. I don’t need or want a more current machine and when I finally admit that this one is past it’s prime, I’m pulling out Grandma’s 1970s Viking or Great Grandma’s Dressmaker. Why would I sink more money into something that’s only going to last (maybe) ten or twenty years?

    I drive a twelve year old mini van that has seen MUCH better days. I really don’t care what anyone thinks of my sewing machine.

  38. Susan the Farm Quilter

    Interesting post today!! Funny, I have a Bernina Artiste 770 with all the embroidery attachments with the fabulous flip-up table that I bought from a quilting friend for $500 (it came with crates of stabilizer, thread, patterns) that I only use to create labels for my quilts and I love it for that. I wish Bernina had someone other than an engineer write their user’s manual because it is definitely NOT user friendly! I got lucky and bought a Janome Quilter’s Edition from someone who won it in a shop hop (it was first prize, not the grand prize she wanted) so I got a great deal on it. I love them both and they do what I want them to do. I also love my Innova longarm and I do love the process of longarm quilting. Those are all the machines I have and I’m happy with them. I am looking for a treadle machine to fit my treadle cabinet, but they are very expensive out west and rather difficult to find in decent shape (I’m not willing to be Bonnie and take everything apart to fix it!!). Great advice to all of us not to be sucked into buying “stuff” in a class…just not worth it (but sometimes it is like a hot auction and you just get sucked along with the current!!!).

  39. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this read. Thank you! I currently own 14 sewing machines: a 30-yr old Bernina 1030 (leader of the A team) a Juki TL2010Q on which I learned to free-motion quilt, a HandiQuilter sweet 16 sit down longarm, 3 treadles, my grandmothers Kenmore 158.13571…well, you get the drift. I STARTED with a Montgomery Ward Signature which was the worst machine I’ve ever sewn on. Made me feel it was just me and I’d never learn. Took a leap of faith and traded it in on my beloved Bernina. I’ve never been sorry. I even added to it this Christmas by asking for an Ever Sewn Sparrow 25–produced by Bernina–for a few embroidery stitches. My machines have been a joy and I use one of them every day and have passed on some machines to my grown children when they show interest.

  40. I have a treadle that needs cleaned and brought back to life. The worls cheapest Brother serger used a few times a year on various projects. An old Babylock embroidery machine, bought used, that I use often. A Janome 8900 that I bought new and love. It has all the bells and whistles and they are super handy. I make stitched quilt labels with the Janome. I started on my mothers Kenmore. It was a fight to keep it working. I had no idea about cleaning machines and my mother refused to take it to a shop.

    I still feel pressure at times from other quilters to get a long arm machine. Honestly I do not want or need one. However I’ve had other quilters imply I’m not a real quilter because I mainly piece. My king sized tops are long armed at a local shop. I will quilt smaller quilts on my machine. The monster kings though exhaust me! So maybe I’m not ‘real’ – I am happy :)

  41. I don’t feel judged about the sewing machine I have. It’s one I’ve had for many years, has never worked right and no matter how many times I get it repaired, it just isn’t spot on. My sewing machine repairman is co-owner of a quilt shop and has never pressured me into a new one – but he has told me the one I have has problems. But when I see someone sewing at the speed of light, where there fabric goes through without having to tug on it, where their bobbin thread doesn’t mess up, boy do I want to take that one home! LOL! So, maybe I’m pressuring myself!

  42. I taught myself to sew garments on the old Slant Singer (with cams) that my mother got used when she got married. When I moved out of my parents’ home I took my bed and that Singer and I still love it. It is a solid machine that can sew through anything. When I see what machines and accessory feet can do now, I don’t want a new machine, I just want THAT foot for my old machine. I bought a used Bernina about 25 years ago, but I rarely use it because I have yet to clear a space to set it on a table :-(

  43. I started on a Circa 1973 Kenmore that had been my Grandmother’s. Then I also had my Mom’s late 1970’s Kenmore. Now I use a Brother Innovis 80. I mostly do quilts, crafts and mending. I machine quilt on this thing. It works for me. I used to daydream about a serger or maybe an embroidery machine, but I doubt I’d use it. I have had a cleark at a shop tell me “we need to get you a ‘real’ machine.” No thank you. This one works great for me at this time.

  44. Jo Anne Kani-Miller

    Hi there. I know from whence you speak! I too have been in that position: people always ask me what machine I use (Featherweight) because I am a machine repairer! I have been professionally trained by the Bernina company to repair, clean and maintain their machines (sewing computers). I worked in a shop that sold them and I was expected to sell them as well. I was not a good machine salesperson because I didn’t buy into the whole hype. Yes, they are wonders to behold and I know people who absolutely love them. They can almost make your morning coffee, they do so much. But I mostly piece on my machine and I go to sit n sew, and I need to carry my machine places so the Featherweight really fits the bill for me! I keep telling people who ask me that I’m taking steps backwards in technology when aquiring “new” machines because my most recent additions have been 2 treadles and a hand crank! I love the old machines! They are works of practical art! I am amazed at all sewing machines and sergers! You really have to be so imaginative to think up how to build those things. I know, I’ve seen them “naked”, stripped down to their bare selves! And I like a machine that is solid. So the old gals are for me.

  45. My first machine was a White that I inherited and I used it for many, many years. It died mid project when I was living in a small town with few options to purchase a replacement. I spent minimal dollars on a Singer from Joann’s and cursed it every time I used it. My mom was a serious, and at times professional seamstress, and when she died I asked for her Singer 15-91 that she bought the year before I was born. I also used some of my inheritance to buy a Janome QPC7700 and I lugged that baby back and forth to my first quilting class. It is probably way more machine that I needed but I have made a lot of different things on it over the last 9 years and it is up to every task. After 2 years I was finally able to get the vintage Singer shipped from Florida to Virginia; I had it shipped directly to the repair shop as it needed cleaning and rewiring. I can’t believe my mom never got shocked from the bare wires! It sewed great when I got it home and I decided to put in a new needle and couldn’t get it to sew again. I finally read the manual and realized that the needle went in flat side to the side and threaded right to left instead of front to back. Now it sews like a dream is and by far my favorite piecing machine. I have many memories of coming home from school and finding my mom at that machine working on something. I now have a much greater appreciation for all of the Barbie clothes she sewed for my dolls – I can’t even imagine sewing something that small. I wish I had saved some of those. My daughter begs me to get an embroidery machine but I have no interest in it; I’m sure she just wants me to embroider monograms on every thing she owns! I decided about 12 years ago that I wanted a serger, I don’t do a lot of garment sewing but I thought it would be nice to have. I asked for a combined birthday, Mother’s day gift and my husband went out and bought a top of the line Huskvarna serger. I didn’t do any research or try out any machines and was happy to have it, until I had to change from serging to cover stitch. It took at least an hour to get everything set up and adjusted and many tears of frustration. I literally burned up the mother board sewing full speed ahead to do rolled hems on tablecloths for a wedding. I found a floor model Babylock serger for a good price and never looked back, finished my project and occasionally make some clothing for my granddaughter. I use it for all of my home decor sewing. I also have a smaller Janome that is more portable and a Brother that I bought for my granddaughter. When my daughter moved out I took over her large bedroom in the basement so I have finally have room to do everything in one space; I told her she can never move back in! My husband gives me grief about all of the sewing machines I own, I should make him read this blog so he can see that I am not an anomaly in the sewing world.

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