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I recently had a friend decide that she’d like to take up sewing. The first question she had for me is, “What machine should I buy?” While I think that’s a difficult question to answer (I equate buying a sewing machine to buying a car – while I may like one particular model, it may not work for you), we were able to ‘narrow down the field’ a bit by determining what she might like to do with her sewing machine and how much she might want to spend.

There are 3 styles of machines: mechanical, computerized and electronic.

The best way to describe mechanical sewing machines is to say they have ‘all the basics’. Knobs and dials are used to change the settings on the machine which make for a bit less precise stitch than it’s electronic and computerized counterparts. ‘Higher end’ mechanical machine may have several decorative or utility stitches. Mechanical sewing machines will be the most affordable.

Computerized machines will be the most expensive style. These machines not only do a variety of utility and decorative stitches, but have the capability of creating embroidery designs. Some machines will only accept cards with designs loaded on them, while others can be linked directly to your computer.

Electronic sewing machines are a ‘hybrid’ between mechanical and computerized other styles. These machines offer a larger variety of utility and decorative stitches, several styles of buttonholes, and very possibly an alphabet, but will not allow you to do embroidery. Electronic machines will typically have an LCD screen that allows you to make adjustment to your stitches – giving more precision in your sewing.

Which type of sewing machine do you use?

35 Comments

  • Missing

    May 3, 2011, 07.13 AMby cmek

    slm ben daha yeni üye oldum ben dikiş hastasıyım ama dikiş makinam yok türkiyede çok pahalı dikiş makinaları ve benimde eşim alamıyo elimde bişeyler yapmaya çalışıyorum ama herşeyi yapmayı istiyorum ama dikiş makinam olmadığı için ne kursa gidebiliyorum ne evde yapabiliyorum bi çok şeyi

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    Apr 25, 2011, 11.36 AMby shelley .

    Brother XL-3510

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    Apr 23, 2011, 03.31 PMby missandree

    I have a computerized Kenmore 19050 (basically a Janome DC1050) that I bought a few weeks ago, to replace my old mechanical Brother. So far, I am loving the new machine: it offers decorative stitches, auto-lock, speed control and all kinds of wonders my old machine didn’t have!

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    Apr 22, 2011, 07.19 PMby redcharlotte

    I have a Sailrite LSZ-1 and LOVE it! I live on my boat and I can sew canvas and sailcloth as well as do regular home-sewing applications. Going to purchase the Monster Balance wheel soon so I can hand sew with it (no power needed) for when we start sailing and are off the grid.

  • Missing

    Apr 21, 2011, 02.47 PMby ravenjasmine81

    Mechanical for me as well—a Singer 338 I bought for $35. I’ve never had any problems with it, and like another poster, I like being able to do basically all the maintenance on my machine myself. Aldo, I lucked out and scored all the fashion cams later on ebay, so I can do pretty much all the stitches an electronic machine can do on my old workhorse. It’s solid, dependable, and easily maintained by me—what more could a DIY’er want?

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    Apr 21, 2011, 04.16 AMby milnay3

    Electronic, bought new last year as a Mother’s day gift (funnily enough, from my MIL). I love it.

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    Apr 20, 2011, 05.34 PMby threadsquare

    When I purchased my first machine a few years ago (to replace my grandmother’s hand-me-down mechanical), I opted for the exact Singer electronic machine pictured. It was between that and a mechanical model. What sold me was the one-step buttonhole feature, and I thought it was quieter. I absolutely love that buttonhole feature. That’s about it. I hate the noise it makes while running, which may not be more quiet or louder than the mechanical I test drove, just different (in much the same way I hate certain exhaust systems). The LED light is useless. There isn’t really precise control over stitch width/length, and those are re-set every time you turn it off/on or move between stitches, regardless of where the slider is set. The needle always stops in an up position. It’s lightness & plasticity makes it feel cheap. Time to tune up my hand-me-down, and get the vintage Riccar I just bought up & running :)

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    Apr 20, 2011, 05.04 PMby mirela

    Computerized. I do appreciate a good vintage machine that sews straight and goes through leather easily…

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    Apr 20, 2011, 05.04 PMby mirela

    Computerized. I do appreciate a good vintage machine that sews straight and goes through leather easily…

  • Missing

    Apr 20, 2011, 02.18 PMby annabelleyoyo

    Wow! I am totally blown away by the overabundance of “pro-mechanical” posts! It makes me wonder if I am missing something…

    I began sewing in the seventies (when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth!) on a mechanical Singer which only did straight and zigzag stitches. It was bought new for me as a Christmas gift from my parents when I was 13. I used it all through highschool, and bought myself a mechanical Kenmore with lots of utility stitches as my own graduation present.

    I’ve upgraded a few times since then, and now own a computerized Pfaff and 2 different computerized Babylocks, one of which is the Ellisimo, the top of the line version. I absolutely love the computerized machines. They make life so easy, and sewing so much more fun. I have never looked back to the days that I sewed on my first machine, however, I must say, that I think it was good to learn on it, as it necessitated my learning to do things “the hard way” because the machine didn’t have the capability, such as manual buttonholes.

    I do have a real respect for the older “good” mechanical machines, though. I just never was fortunate enough to own one.

    No matter which machine we love, thank goodness for them! Sewing enriches our lives.

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    Apr 20, 2011, 02.08 PMby bmapso

    I currently have a Kenmore mechanical and it works quite nicely. I purchased a Brother for $200 for my daughter which is computerized and after sewing on both, I like my Kenmore better. My Kenmore is metal, heavy and sturdy. The Brother is very light and make out of plastic. The other day, I got some thread tangled in the bobbin and I felt like the whole thing was going to break apart. I’ll keep my Kenmore for now! If I have to upgrade, I will save the money to either get an industrial one or a higher end name brand.

  • Missing

    Apr 20, 2011, 12.35 PMby meegz

    I recently had to retire my Singer 222k from regular use, as it’s timing is absolutely shot. When deciding on a new machine I chose to stick with mechanical, because it gives all the features I’ll ever use (including super-easy button holes, loads of utility stitches and a few decorative satin stitches), without the worry of a computer breakdown. Anytime you computerize something the diagnostics and repair becomes more complex and more expensive. I have enough trouble with my actual computer that I don’t want to add a computer to my sewing machine. Mechanical gets the job done, and both purchase price and repair price should be lower.

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    Apr 20, 2011, 10.40 AMby angelical

    My Pfaff Performance is most electronic, but I can design new decorative stitches on it, making it half-way computerized in my eyes. I feel that a mechanical sewing machine would not be enough for me, as I like the easy settings combined with the IDT-system and the extra possibilities, such as automatic buttonhole sensor and 10 different overlock stiches. My overlocker is definitely mechanical, having a hell lot of buttons and knobs to do the adjustments with.

  • Missing

    Apr 20, 2011, 04.22 AMby joyce weng

    I have a mechanical machine-brother XL5500, which i bought recently. Althought it cost me nearly half month salary, i like it so much, and it worth the money. Every evening after super, i sew sth. with the machine, since i am a novice, i still can not handle the machine skillfully. Anyway, i will report its functions and condition when i use it for an adquet time.

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    Apr 20, 2011, 01.33 AMby MissSewsItAll

    I sew on both! I use a mechanical machine when I’m doing a lot of straight stitching or piecing, it is a vintage machine and has a wonderful straight stitch. I love the feel of using an old machine! I also use a modern computerized machine when I want to do precise work – like making buttonholes or sewing with decorative stitches. I love the precision and features of the modern machine. I don’t think I could live without either one!

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    Apr 19, 2011, 11.39 PMby sarsaparilla

    I also have a mechanical machine – Singer 306k I believe. It’s very old, but still sews brilliantly! My mum has a Bernina Record, and it is by far the best machine I’ve ever used. I love that maintenance for most mechanical machines is simple and very cheap – I’ve heard horror stories about price tags attached to fixing computerised/electronic machines. One day I would love to get a machine with an automatic buttonholer ;)

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    Apr 19, 2011, 10.58 PMby suebee2

    I use a mechanical, a Singer 648 from 1970. I find the stitches very precise. I can fix most problems myself. I know my machine so well, we have hours of fun together.

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    Apr 19, 2011, 10.09 PMby fuzzyg

    Mechanical, definitely! My mechanical Janome has never let me down on anything, from coats to swimsuits. And I need to go home to more electronics problems like I need another hole in the head..

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    Apr 19, 2011, 08.08 PMby eccentric57

    After sewing for over 40 years, I am often asked about machines for beginers. I always say get a NEW BRAND NAME MECHANICAL. Buy a simple basic model and keep the price tag under 150.00. The new sewer may use it to hem pants or sew aprons to start. If they wish to move forward from these basic tasks, by all means, invest and get better when they feel ready. I think it is best to start with the a new machine, because older ones stored in closets for a hundred years usually have a lot of problems! A new one can be serviced and taken care of from the get-go…and will have a better resale value as well.

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    Apr 19, 2011, 04.47 PMby laha5822

    I have a mechanical sewing machine… my mom bought it in the 80s, it’s be Kennmore and for a while it wasn’t working so well. I brought it to a guy who fixed it up and recommended a tune-up every other year to keep it working well, since it’s a very well-made machine. (FYI, in case you’ve got an old clunker, don’t throw it out just yet! A lot of new machines are not as well made, especially if they’re cheap!) I’ll admit, if I were trying to do something fancy I might wish for a machine with more functionality, but for home sewing my machine is perfect! My only other machine is a serger that I haven’t quite gotten the hang of yet, but these two machines are enough for me, I think!

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    Apr 19, 2011, 03.31 PMby Paula Lucas

    Electronic – absolutely, positively. My electronic pfaff has been out of commission for over a year, and I have been making do with a NEW mechanical machine. I feel like I am trying to sew with a tank. It sews, but that is all I can say about it. I finally found the part for my pfaff, and it is on its way – I can’t wait!!!

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    Apr 19, 2011, 03.22 PMby Crystal Fashionsbycj Jordan

    I have junki industrial machine, and i love and I have another machine that inhad for three years and never use i think its electronic..Its a Singer Inspiration

    1 Reply
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    Apr 19, 2011, 01.56 PMby kirstyinmilan

    My teacher has been a seamstress for 30 years and swears by mechanical machines. Bernina is her favourite brand and she claims they are fantastic workhorses. I bought a Bernina 1008 mechanical on her advice and just love it. While she also uses industrial machines and computerized/electronic machines in her commercial space, she appreciates the control you have when operating a mechanical, eg with buttonholes. Mechanical machines sew them in phases, where computerized machines sew them in one fell swoop. If you want to go over them one more time (say, on a winter coat) to make them stronger, you can’t do that easily. The other thing to take into account is when you’re sewing many hours a day, your computerized/electronic machine needs to take a break. Mechanical motors go on and on into the wee hours. I don’t know, they just seem sturdier… :)

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    Apr 19, 2011, 01.36 PMby knitteri

    I almost bought a mechanical machine last year, but it didn’t have an automatic buttonhole maker. I know from experience that I’m not good at making buttonholes without an attachment or a gadget that creates good-looking ones. So I bought a computer machine. I also drive a car with a stick shift, and I really thought long and hard about that mechanical machine. So far I love my computer machine though.

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    Apr 19, 2011, 11.29 AMby wzrdreams

    I like having a mechanical machine. I have been able to keep it maintained all by myself for the last 6 years. I doubt I’d be able to do that with a computerized machine. I think I will someday get a newer machine, but the thought of having to constantly shell out money to have it serviced, and not have it while it’s in the shop, is something I don’t look forward to.

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    Apr 19, 2011, 11.06 AMby joost52

    I have a mechanical machine myself, but it’s cramping my style ;) It’s rather old and I’d love to replace it with something better. However, I already bought both a serger and a coverlock machine this year, so I should really restrain myself before replacing me standard machine before this sewing thing drives me bankrupt. I haven’t decided what my next machine will be, so any pointers are appreciated :)

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    Apr 19, 2011, 10.39 AMby psychorat

    That I started sewing was very surprising, mostly for myself. The first machine I bought was a 60 euro mechanic one. It had all the basics and I loved this machine. It was great to learn on it because you just couldn´t destroy it and very easy to handle. This year I bought a new computerized one, now that I now what is important for me and what not. When I started I expected to get bored after half a year (that was 3 years ago) so having a cheap machine at the beginning was the best choice for me.

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    Apr 19, 2011, 09.14 AMby Sabrina Wharton-Brown

    I currently use a mechanical (electronic control) sewing machine but I am getting a computerised one for my 21st birthday. I needed one that does a scallop stitch for my course and I wanted different buttonholes which you don’t get on a mechanical sewing machine. I may still keep the mechanical sewing machine for heavier jobs though, but we’ll see how strong my new Brother XR6600 is.

    UPDATE: I have my Brother computerised sewing machine now and have posted about it on my blog. (Under “Happy Sewing Birthday” in April 2011). It has a lot more options than my mechanical sewing machine, e.g. I can move the needle to 13 different positions, and there are 5 1-step buttonholes with a foot that measures the button for me!

    I am however, saving up for a Bernina 580e. It gives me something to look toward.

    I do like mechanical machines. Somehow my Mum’s Singer 533 feels very “homemaker” (in a good way) and inspiring, but it doesn’t work as it should because one of the parts inside has broken.

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