Advice on Buying a New Sewing Machine (Fact or Fiction)

Working at The Sewing Machine Shop everyday, I keep my ear to the ground. I hear a lot of things, and lately I have noticed a handful of different ideas about sewing machines floating in the ether. Different people professing that same ideas. Some of these ideas are factual, some are fiction. Today I want to address a few that I hear most often.


“To get a decent sewing machine these days, you have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars.”
It is not the case that all sewing machines cost thousands of dollars. We have brand new machines starting at $229, and a bunch of options all under $1,000. These are well-made, reliable machines, all designed with a metal foundation that is built to last.

“I am never going to use all those stitches.”

These days, all modern sewing machines are programmed with somewhere between 50 and 500 different stitches. Whenever demonstrating these machines, I will often hear people express concern about the overwhelming number of
stitches available and how they will never use them all. This is probably true. When are you really going to used stitch #374? What about stitch #219? Probably never.
That said, I think one would be ill-advised to count out a machine because it comes with too many stitches. It would also be a mistake to choose a new machine just because it comes with 600 stitches instead of 500 stitches. When looking for a new sewing machine, I firmly believe that you should target a machine equipped with features that you will use every single time you sit down to sew.
To name a few examples:
  • throat space – will it fit your quilt?
  • lighting – can you really see the thread on that jacket?
  • dual feed
  • hover feature – how do you pivot when piecing?
  • automatic needle threader
  • automatic thread trimmer
  • ability to adjust for thickness – will it sew your jeans?
  • quality internal components
  • powerful motor

“Computerized machines break down more often than mechanical machines. They are also more difficult to fix than mechanical machines.”
This misconception exists due to feelings of uncertainty toward electronics and computers. People correctly see that a computerized machine is dependent on a computer chip, so if the chip fails then the machine is rendered useless. But how often do our machines fail?
Dan Schoenberg, our owner and head technician, has been in the sewing machine business for over 30 years. There is nothing that bothers him more than having a machine he just sold come back to his bench in need of repair, especially for computer chip or electronic issues. When he notices that a certain brand of machine keeps coming back to his repair bench for computer issues time and time again, he stops selling the brand altogether (Pfaff, Viking, and Singer). On the other hand, when he finds a brand that consistently manufactures dependable computerized machines, he will carry that brand for decades.
The magic of the computer chip is that one computer chip is able to do the job of many mechanical parts. For example, say I have 20 different stitches on my machine. If the machine is mechanical, then there are 20 differently shaped cams within the machine that correspond with the 20 stitches. In addition, there is an entire stitch-selection assembly that is composed of different mechanical parts. Meanwhile, in a computerized machine with 20 stitches, all 20 stitches are programmed into a single computer chip. In turn, the stitch selection assembly design is far more simple. At the end of the day, you are depending on ONE computer chip vs. MANY mechanical parts. As long as you have a machine from a brand that has a history of reliable electronics (Janome, Bernina, Baby Lock, Brother, Juki), then you have nothing to worry about on that front.

These are just a few of the things we keep hearing quite often at The Sewing Machine Shop. We love the sewing community and want to help keep you well-informed and supported in any way we can. Whether you need the right equipment, want advice on how to tackle an upcoming project, or simply have questions about some of the new technology in sewing, please feel free to reach out to us.

Call us at (925)937-7575 for more information.
Our hours are 9AM-5PM Tuesday-Saturday
And don’t forget to tell your friends!
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