Saturday, April 04, 2009

"Hi, I'm new, what machine should I buy?"

A fact of life on sewing forums is that at least once a week a newbie will stop in and ask That Question. Faced with three classes of machines (sewing, serger, coverstitch), a dozen families (Janome, Singer, Bernina, etc) and a million individual species their eyes glaze over and they cry out, "Which one??"

Inevitably in a single post. Their first one. Some even give a wish list, hoping desperately for someone to say "here, here is your machine."

It doesn't work, though. First off, the constraints are often a bit too high. You want a fantastic, reliable, user-friendly machine that can handle leather and all for less than $100? So would I, kid. So would I. But even when the asker is within reasonable bounds it's just not an answerable question. So many variables are in place, from what dealers are near-by, how good each dealer is, what machines do they have, and how has that changed since the sewing experts you're asking has last gone in all affect the advice. And even if askee has every machine available to them at a Mall of America's worth of fantastic dealerships then, even with all that open to them, there's still no easy answer.

Just like with cars, each person has a machine personality and a machine need. That's why there's minivans, SUVs, neons, corvettes, and miatas - because we're not a nation that would all be happy with just a civic. Some are, of course, but others (*cough* me) love our more excentric vehicles. In the same way not every beginning sew-er will be happy with this model Kenmore or that model Bernette. I finally passed on my own Bernette 55 because it annoyed me - so much plastic, so many little things I didn't like about it. My friend, it's new owner, absolutely adores every bit that frustrated me. Go figure. At the same time she thinks my metal beasts, the twin Rocketeers (I've decided to keep them both, btw, they're very happy sisters), are rather ugly and overpowered. And heavy. Ok, I agree on that last point. But they're perfect for me, everything I want in a machine. And so far from what another stitcher would. So please understand if, when you ask what machine you should get, I can't give you a straight answer. There simply isn't one ... there's simply no other way to find Your One then to dive on in and test drive as many as you can to find out your own machine personality and then finding the one that fits. Knowing that if this isn't The One then no worries, another will show up. Because that's the second truth of sewing machines - once you have two a third will show up, then a fourth. Like cats. :)

So what machines do you have and how do they fit your personality? What 'type' are you? I'm an in-control, solid metal, slightly steampunk girl and my babies follow that. :) What are you?


Becky said...

Very well-thought out post. To answer your question, I guess my machine "personality" is that I'm kind of a down-to-earth hippie chick who's also kind of a geek (I do like computers and sci-fi and that sort of stuff). My machine is a secondhand Bernina (passed down from my mom when she got a replacement Bernina more suited to her quilting needs) with a bit of computerization (nothing too much because it was from when the machines were just starting to have that), and it's sturdy and serves me very well. Except for the occasional buttonhole.

Linda said...

I love high tech gadgets but normally wait until they have been on the market and others have discovered the bugs.

I have a top end sewing machine as I like to sew, embroider and sew a variety of fabrics. I have not traded in my high tech machine, Designer SE, for the new Viking Diamond. I just don't need larger embroidery space/hoops. Nor can I afford to spend that much money now. Otherwise the Diamond features are pretty much the same.

I have a serger and a stand alone embroidery machine and looking to acquire a coverstitch. I have been sewing for so long that all of these machines get my attention.

I always advise people to buy the most machines they can afford. And that they know they will use all of the features.

Sherril said...

Ugh! Isn't that the most annoying question ever. Some people need to learn how to use the search feature. I'm falling out of love with my Bernina 170. It's not supported by Bernina any longer, which was not what I was told would happen when I bought it. I thought it would grow with me forever. To make matters worse, it needs to go into the shop for expensive repairs. I think one of the circuit boards are going. To replace it with the current TOL is going to be mega expensive, one I cannot currently justify.

Alicia said...

How frustrating, Sherril! It's bad enough to have a machine slowly giving up the ghost on you but how much worse to not have any support from the manufacturer! Especially when you expect it to be a life-long machine.

It's fun hearing about all y'all's personalities and how that plays out with what machines you pick. So many out there and so many different things we like to use them for!

This all sorta clicked for me when a very good friend, hearing that I was having machine troubles, let me borrow her Viking Diamond for a month. Seriously. I was start struck at first but then, sewing with it, really found I didn't enjoy it at all. Not the machine's fault, I just didn't like having to fiddle through all the different stitches and it thinking for me. I like basic. My friend, on the other hand, adores her Diamond and can't believe I can "get by" with just my 8 cams of decorative stitches. Which I rarely, rarely use. :) Hey, life would be boring if we were all Diamonds!

Anonymous said...

I've got a Honda Jazz (not quite a Civic!) with a soft toy bagpuss and at home 4 Janome machines. The price is good and they don't break. I am happy. Not quite sure what sort of personality that gives me.
I want them to all have matching covers though which I have not done yet :-)