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Dec 27, 2011

A Sewing Machine as a Gift -- Yea or Nay?



Readers, I was both excited and troubled by a feature I saw in the most recent (January 2012) issue of Consumer Reports magazine.  Their annual "25 Great Gifts" list included -- are you sitting down? -- a sewing machine!

Actually three sewing machines (presumably you'd choose only one):  The Brother Innov-is 40, Pfaff Select 3.0, and the Bernina Activa 230PE. 



Now, I am unqualified to comment on the quality of these machines, having never seen any of them in person, let alone sewed on one.  I'm thrilled that a sewing machine made the cut as I think it reflects on a renewed interest in home sewing.  But the idea of purchasing a sewing machine as a gift (i.e., for somebody else) worries me.

And don't you love how Consumer Reports lists the BMW sports car (below right), which costs $49,525 as "for someone super special" as opposed to "from someone very rich," as if the cost of a gift reflects how much we value the recipient -- precisely what Madison Avenue tries to guilt us into thinking every year.   In this rotten economy it seems particularly tone-deaf.



I have seen so many threads on the Pattern Review message boards where someone (usually the husband of a sewer) is requesting advice on what sewing machine or serger to purchase for his wife.  And almost invariably the responses come in four-to-one that if they really want their wife to have the machine of her dreams, they should purchase a gift certificate from a reputable sewing machine dealer and let her choose the machine herself.

I am of the same opinion though I'm generally opposed to the idea of purchasing new things (other than socks, knit briefs and undershirts), given that most the Western world, and certainly the United States, is awash in perfectly good second-hand stuff.  And while the Bernina Activa is probably a wonderful machine, spending $1350 for a sewing machine seems like a crime whose victim is the customer.  I'm open to having my mind changed, of course, but come on, that's a lot of money.  Personally, I'd rather have the cash.  (In fact, I recently read on some blog that the way to tell if something is worth (to you) what you're spending on it, is to ask yourself if you had the choice between receiving the money or the item, which would you choose?  Think about it.  Would you rather have someone give you $1000 or get, say, a flat-screen TV?)

Friends, I open the floor to you (not literally; I'd hate to have you drop into a pool of hungry crocodiles).

1) Do you think you can ever buy a sewing machine -- wait, let me restate that: do you think you should ever buy someone else a sewing machine?  Unless, of course, you know exactly what model they want and it can be returned (if need be), and they can find support nearby for the machine should they need it?

2) Have you ever received a sewing machine as a gift? If so, were you happy with the choice made on your behalf or would you have preferred another? (Be honest!)

3) Do you agree that buying a sewing machine for someone else is not equivalent to purchasing them a DVD player or a set of knives (then again, for the serious cook, perhaps knives aren't such a good idea either)?

A sewing machine as a gift (for Christmas or any other time) -- Yea or Nay?

80 comments:

  1. As in i wouldn't mind getting / giving a sewing machine as a gift, as it would be from / to someone who is well known, so you are aware of what they actually need!

    But as a random gift, i don't think it will work out!

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  2. I think that for an absolute beginner who has expressed interest in sewing, it's okay. but by the time someone's seriously thinking of dropping >$1000 on a machine (agreed... lot of money!), they're likely to have picky preferences.

    I think that surprising anyone with a Featherweight in great condition is perfectly okay too!

    And I think that surprising anyone with an interest in serging with a Brother 1040D is okay as well, since it's such an popular serger.

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  3. I actually got my first machine as a gift. It was from my mom the Christmas that my husband and I moved into our first house on Christmas Eve. We had not curtains and not a lot of money. She is also the person who taught me how to sew. I do think you would need to know someone very well to buy them a machine and I think she was right to buy me a low end starter machine. I also have the Branine one model under the one you just can't see buying. Now I bought a floor model when my local store was upgrading so I did not pay that for it though it still was not cheap but I love it and think it was worth every penny. I look at it this way. I only use one sewing machine and one serger. I do still have my old one for when my kids want to sew but I'm not interested in owning lots of machines vintage or otherwise so for me it has been totally worth the money. I also picked it bc that is the type of machine my local store teaches on and I knew I wanted to take heirloom classes from them.

    so that was long but the jist of it is I do think a machine can be a good gift and that an expensive machine can be worth the money.

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  4. The only machine i have ever been given was my mother's vintage class 15 Japanese clone; so that doesn't count does it?!

    I view a sewing machine as a very personal item and have I very specific wants in my sewing machines. For some people like my OH a DVD player/electronic item is a very personal choice and i wouldn't dream of buying one for him; he knows exactlywhat he wants from his entertainment technology.

    No i wouldn't buy someone a sewing machine and nor would i want one bought for me...unless i give them a note with the make and model i wanted and no budget constraints haha But on the other hand when i was a broke and novice sewer i would have been happy with any machine that was gifted me because i didn't know what i wanted in a sewing machine back then. So maybe it would be fine to give a sewing machine to a novice sewer as long as there was a return policy and technical support available??

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  5. I know a bunch people that have received sewing machines as gifts. Most of them have never owned a sewing machine (and one or two have never sewn), so they were happy with anything that could to a straight stitch. The ones that have sewn before have never complained about their machines, so it must have worked out. But in all the situations the gift recipient went from no sewing machine to one sewing machine.

    I think that getting a new machine for someone that already sews and already owns a machine would be risky (unless they told you the model they wanted). But for someone who does not have a sewing machine? Go for it.

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  6. I just got really really spoilt this Christmas. My beloved boyf just bought me a Brother Innovis 1250. I've been a bit speechless ever since.... and a bit worried by the size of the instruction manual! It certainly is a step up from my Janome!
    1. I would never have the nerve to buy anyone else a sewing machine. I don't feel qualified enough to know my own needs let alone any one elses!
    2. I was extremely worried firstly that he spent so much money. I'm guessing its a lot of money.... I don't really want to know how much!!! I have since been fretting that it is over and above the call of duty. But since 12pm today I have been sitting and sewing and smiling and singing and mending and embroidering like a very happy bunny who just got the best ever new machine for Christmas!!
    3. Im not sure whether I think the giving of a machine is right or not. It certainly feels over indulgent. There may be an alterior motive, with hints dropped for embroidered ties for the boys in the band! But right or wrong I'm certainly not complaining!

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  7. I think that buying a machine for a beginner can be a good idea but buying them a cheap one is only going to turn them off sewing in the long run. It would have to be a mid priced machine or a good used machine. And example is the Singer Featherweight. The only other way would be to give them a sewing machine for their collection of antique sewing machines. I do that with a friend; he collects treadle sewing machines (heads and cabinets).

    I would not appreciate being surprised with a sewing machine as I use high end sewing machines that embroiders. Also I have a high end serger. I would appreciate feet for my machine or attachments for my Singer Featherweight but not a machine. Big difference there. Now, if you gifted me with your Singer Sewing Table you found in a pile of garbage, I would be one thrilled lady.

    We talk about buying gifts of good quality for people when it comes to knives, technology, etc. so I think the same rule applies for sewing machines. It should come in the form of a gift certificate to a store that sells several brands so the person can make their own choice.

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  8. That money thing (i.e., "for someone super special") from CR is awful (CR in general has gotten awful -- that's why I canceled my subscription). I think you should only buy a big-ticket item as a gift if you know that's exactly what the person wants (not to mention, only if you can afford it!). And even then, I would get it only if it could be returned or exchanged. This goes for sewing machines and everything else.

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  9. I think a low end or used machine is a fine gift for a novice sewer. I think spending $1000 on something that the recipent has not picked out is crazy. Then again I have been sewing for a long time and have only used or inherited machines. I'm at a loss to know what I would and would not like in a new machine. There are so many features that I'm overwhelmed and sort of glad I'm not faced with deciding.

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  10. I'm happy for you, Oobop!

    Brenda, I'm inclined to agree with you, but if you're buying someone a first machine (i.e., someone who doesn't sew), isn't $400 a rather large investment?

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  11. I have received all the sewing machines I've ever owned as gifts. :)

    The first one was for my college graduation, and it was one of those horrid cheap Brother models made in China where the tension is constantly off. (Mom had had a *good* Brother in the day).

    The second was my Elna 2600, which I loved and learned to sew on for real (minus swearing at the bobbin every five minutes).

    And the third? Well ... I just got a new one for my birthday, but you're right. As an upgrade, my gift was a big stack of sewing machine pamphlets and a blank check (more or less) to the sewing machine shop nearest us. I did spend a pretty penny, but I got an Elna Heirloom, and I'm already plotting the pretties it will make for me. (I have less space for sewing that even you do, so I traded in my old faithful).

    I'm not good at repair, so I'd not buy a sewing machine from the charity shops. Maybe from Craigslist.

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  12. Hm. That sounds like my Elna had a bad bobbin. It didn't. That was the Brother, or why I didn't sew much on it. The Elna was a dream. But I was informed by all hands that I needed an upgrade.

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  13. I started to sew because my sister gave me a sewing machine as a gift, she had it at home collecting dust, I don't remember why she bought it. It's the best gift I have received ever. I thought myself how to sew from all of you sewing bloggers and a few books I have purchased/received as presents. I bought a seger. My plan is to never buy ready to wear clothing.

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  14. my first sewing machine was a birthday gift when I was 14. I was just learning to sew (at school), and having a machine at home was awesome! It was a used Kenmore I believe, set in a fold out table/cabinet.

    After several years without a machine, I registered for a basic Singer on my wedding registry (about $100). We received the machine as a gift, and boy was I happy. I've started sewing again, and now I am looking forward to getting a more advanced machine in the future--now that I know what kind of features I would like.

    I would definitely give a machine to a beginner as a gift, but probably a machine that was under $200. For someone who has been sewing for a while, a gift certificate is a much better idea.

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  15. If you know someone who wants a sewing machine, why not get them one for Christmas? What a fabulous and generous gift. One could also throw in something else non-practical as an added treat.
    So nice to get a gift that one really, really wants and not be disappointed on Christmas morning. We all want Santa to bring us the gifts on our wish list.

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  16. I have that Brother Innovis 40. I drag it back and forth to sewing classes. It is an awesome, well-made machine. I've never had a lick of problems with it. I would absolutely buy this machine for a beginner as a gift. Most of my friends who want to start sewing want to run out to target and buy the $100 model that is going to do nothing but cause headaches and leave them to frustrated to sew. And even when I explain why they really need a better quality machine, they usually aren't willing to pay more or take the time to find a decent vintage machine. So yes, if I had a friend I wanted to nudge into sewing, I would totally buy him or her that machine.

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  17. I agree with everyone else that said buying a machine for someone just starting out is OK but for an experienced sewer I wouldn't buy a machine unless the person said specifically what they wanted. My niece learned to sew in a home ec class last yr & has really taken to it so my sister bought her her own basic singer to learn on. For that type of situation, I would say it's OK to buy the machine.

    As far as having the money or an expensive sewing machine (or anything else), it would depend on the item. My father was always thrilled that I loved to sew like his mother. When my parents passed a away a few yrs ago, I took money I received from them & bought myself a top of the line Brother that does a zillion different stitches & embroiders. It was expensive, but I love it & would rather have the machine than the money.

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  18. Two of my machines were gifts. I bought my workhorse Viking Huskystar 219 myself and love it, but then I asked for a Brother serger for Christmas and got a Kenmore because Sears was out of the Brother model. I had to get it tuned up before it worked, but it has given me good service even though it's not my original choice.

    This year, I asked for (and received) a coverstitch machine from the Hubs, but at this point he has learned his lesson and bought me the exact model I pointed out to him!

    A basic machine is fine for someone who has never sewn, but otherwise people will have preferences. Although I don't think I'd turn up my nose at a $1000 model....

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  19. If it is for a beginner or for someone who otherwise would have no sewing machine at all, I think a machine as a gift sounds good.

    For those of us who are not mechanical experts, I think having a good dealer is important, too.

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  20. Some experienced sewists may love the idea of a new machine but don't want to do the research. I spent hours trying to decide whether or not to upgrade my machine and nearly ended up not buying one because I got so overwhelmed. If someone had wanted to buy me a machine in the £500 range (which is what I was looking at) I would have been thrilled to have the decision taken out of my hands (and my pocket) and would no doubt have been very happy with the machine they picked.

    I recently looked into upgrading my serger so that I could give mine to my mum (I have the Brother 1034D). After hours online attempting research, I gave up and just bought her a 1034D and she was thrilled with it.

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  21. My very first sewing machine, at the age of 16, was a present from my father - a Singer treadle. How I loved that machine, and how little sleep my parents must have got as I treadled merrily into the wee small hours of many a morning. Five years later, on the eve of my wedding, my soon-to-be MIL said her brother wished to know if I would like the latest Singer as a wedding present. Gently, trying not to appear ungrateful, I declined as I had recently upgraded. However uncle-in-law didn't get or didn't want to get the message (he worked for Singer in Clydebank!!) and a brand spanking new machine materialised! Unfortunately this was 1975 and Singer was not what it used to be. I however did use it a lot, as money was tight for many years. I still have that machine, but it never leaves its cupboard as I have since acquired several others of my own choosing.
    I would say that a gift of a machine to someone who is interested in sewing but has no machine is a lovely present. However, giving a sewing machine to anyone with experience can be a minefield, if the appropriate homework has not been done!
    Sheila in Brussels, proud owner of a veritable stable of sewing technology!

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  22. Every machine I've ever owned was a gift. The only ones that were new were my first machine (now passed on to my brother) and my serger. The rest were previously enjoyed machines passed on to me by people who knew how much I loved to sew, and I've loved each of them in their own ways. As far as giving a machine as a gift though, I would be nervous about giving a machine unless I really knew specifics about skill level, desire, space concerns, etc. Then again, gift-giving always makes me nervous...

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  23. An inexpensive beginner machine is a fine gift, then if the recipient actually takes to sewing and does so a few years down the road they will know what they want to advance up to. Many people get machines and never really use them not having the interest so it's not worth it buying a really expensive machine for those just starting out. Nan

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  24. My first machine was a gift from my parents, who did much research and knew I was ready for my own (after learning on mom's). That Kenmore is still in good condition today (more than 20 years later), and will be my daughter's when she is ready for it. I also received a wonderful Husqvarna (with embroidery attachment) as my first Mother's day gift (from DH). Again, it's my main machine, and works beautifully. No complaints here...

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  25. I think it could be ok to give a sewing machine as a gift, but it is probably most appropriate for someone who has expressed an interest but doesn't actually have a sewing machine yet. Although not at the prices listed in this article. I think buying a machine for someone who has been sewing a while probably won't go over well, as they will likely not end up with the machine they were hoping for. Even more important that they pick it out if you are spending the kind of cash they are throwing about in this article...

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  26. Suppose you live in a rural area and there are no sewing stores within 50 miles. And those stores that are more than 50 milers away only sell one or two brands and only have a few floor models. In this situation you cannot reasonably "test drive" and select from several options. You can then rely on reviews and suggestions and order online. This isn't too terribly different from buying one as a gift.

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  27. I agree with the other commenters, it can be a nice gift. Beginners showing interest, absolutely. That was me when my mom traded in the hand-me-down machine to get me a new machine as a gift. I knew how to sew, enjoyed it, but as a post-grad student, I wasn't going to buy myself a machine. It's still serving me well now, 12 years later.
    At this point, a serger would probably be the route I'd go in requesting a gift. My husband would not just up and buy me a serger, I'm not sure he knows what one is. If I asked, I'd have to do the research and I know he would happily support my hobby. If I dropped more subtle hints, he *might* recruit my mom for help, but I doubt it. A gift certificate is the better route for someone who will likely have some pretty specific parameters in mind.

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  28. I'm in agreement with those who suggested a sewing machine as a gift for a beginner. However, I think it would work out best if the selection were made by someone who knows something about sewing.

    I personally selected all of my machines even though they counted as "Christmas gifts" because my husband knows enough to not even consider picking something like that out himself.

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  29. I've gotten two sewing machines as gifts-- a Featherweight and a 15-91. The Featherweight belonged to my friend's mother and he wanted to give it to someone who would use it. The 15-91, which came with a Singer Spinet Cabinet, was a birthday gift from my best friend who found the set at a yard sale in Coarsegold, CA for about $15. I have to say I hope I keep getting gifts like these!

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  30. You get the best gifts, lw!

    I think a hand-me-down vintage machine is the best option for someone curious about sewing. I would have loved that myself. Obviously, it takes time to find one if you don't have one yourself, however.

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  31. My first sewing machine that was my own was a Christmas gift from my husband the first year we were married. He got me a Kenmore. (my grandmother didn't give me her 201-2 until many years later.) My husband bought it new from Sears in 1980. I still have it - and used it exclusively for over 20 years - now it is a back-up, but I still have it.

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  32. My first sewing machine was a Christmas gift from my husband soon after we were married, living in a new construction house with no curtains! I didn't know how to sew and had visited a few local dealerships, really liked one of the Viking machines but was shocked and scared away from learning to sew by the price tags. My husband remembered the model name of the one I liked, and surprised me with it as a Christmas gift. Yay, right? Well... Only problem was, we lived in Charlotte, NC at the time, and my husband bought my machine from a dealer in Chicago, IL while we were visiting my parents for Christmas. When I got back to Charlotte with my new machine that I didn't even know how to thread, the Charlotte dealer assumed we'd gone elsewhere for a lower price, and he did not want to help me AT ALL with my machine. I had to pay hourly for lessons once they finally agreed to show me how to use the machine, and every time I wanted to buy feet or other accessories he made a big deal about telling me "If you'd bought your machine from me, I could sell it at the discounted price, but you'll have to pay full retail." A few years later I passed that machine on to my mother (who had been using the same Brother machine she got as a college graduation present in the '60s) and bought a Bernina from eBay.

    SO -- I think that, if you're gifting someone with a machine, the dealer support is key and check about whether the recipient can exchange for a different model. And of course, you need to know that the person WANTS a new machine, and know which brand they prefer, because you can't exchange your new Viking at the Janome store, etc.

    I will say, when I was first learning to sew a straight line, I did enjoy the embroidery features of that first machine (Viking Rose) because I felt like I could "make" something while I was learning. All those thread color changes were good practice for threading the machine. I don't do much with the embroidery anymore, but it's nice for quilt labels and occasional monogrammed gift items.

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  33. I think it depends on the recipient. If the person to receive the machine is experienced, I totally believe they should be involved in the machine selection. If the recipient is new to sewing, I believe the advise of an experienced sewer is acceptable if the surprise is important, but only if the experienced sewer isn't an employee of the machine dealership! Come to think of it, even if a new sewer is helping choose the machine, the voice of experience should still be sought out.

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  34. I have just bought my sister her 1st sewing machine as a christmas gift. it's basic; but it's early days, and she is thrilled-she cannot afford one herself. i had a sewing machine as a gift when i was 12-i no longer have that; but still sew on the machine my parents bought me when i left home (my mums a seamstress)

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  35. It depends. If it's a new sewer who needs a basic machine, and service if they jam it full of thread, or lesson, then fine. Otherwise, not unless the sewer has been leaving you large hints, and has picked out the particular machine they want. If you must, how about a card with a 'entitles bearer to one free sewing machine, value not to exceed $xxx'?

    To me, a machine, like a knife or sewing shears, has to fit me. Some do, some don't.

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  36. *cough*
    *got a sewing machine for Xmas*
    *spent Christmas Day sewing up a table cloth and napkins with mitred corners*

    But - I was heavily involved in the decision-making process. Janome DC3050 :)

    Generally, I'd consider buying a machine as a present a bad idea, even if there is evidence of a desire to sew - unless the model and make had been specifically requested. The exception would be if I had kids, and they were using my machine too much.

    If there's not been any desire to sew expressed, then buying a sewing machine is a no-no. It's getting a bit too close to buying domestic appliances as presents. It is definitely not the same as a leisure appliance.

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  37. I would not give a sewing machine as a gift unless it was a first machine for a beginning sewist.
    My parents gave me my first machine at age 14 and since I'd never sewn before I had no expectations. It was a great machine! 10 years later, my then-husband bought me a new machine as a surprise, and although it was functional, I would not have chosen any of the fancy (and unnecessary) features for myself.
    I totally agree that it's best to gently steer gift-givers' good intentions toward a nice hefty gift card rather than a machine that's less than perfect for the recipient.

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  38. I was very tempted to purchase my friend a sewing machine. He is a fashion student without his own machine. Tragic right? After a bit of talk we decided that I would not buy him a sewing machine.

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  39. Well, everyone's saying what I'm thinking. I would buy one for a newbie sewster, whose experience and interests I was well aware of. I would never DREAM of buying one for an expert, nor would I want someone buying one for (expert) me! ;-) That'd be like arranging a marriage, forgodssakes! As IF!
    Linda

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  40. Sadly, I have never received a new car with a big red bow on the roof as a Christmas gift. I do think that if I ever received a gift car, I would have to hope that my sweetie knew me very very well (I want a car I can park in the city and that won't be a target for break-ins).

    Would I ever buy a sewing machine for someone as a gift? Yes, I would buy one for someone* who has continued to ask to borrow mine.

    Rose in SV <--practical, maybe cynical, not romantic

    *"someone" does not equal "friend"

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  41. I did. It was used. Five years ago my sister gave me her 'old' Husky and I have loved it! Without that gift, I would never have known the joy of quilting (her ulterior motive).

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  42. My grandmother gave me my sewing machine, as a high school graduation gift. I love it--a mechanical Pfaff--and it's a lovely reminder of her. In this case, the giver knew me well and picked a choice machine. I knew how to sew and didn't need instruction, but there was a nearby Pfaff dealer to help.

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  43. I agree with those posters that for a new sewer, giving the gift of a decent sewing machine is a wonderful thing. My parents bought their great granddaughter a nice sewing machine when she was about 11 years old because she wanted to learn to sew, and my mother had taught her how. She is now 16 and I don't think she uses it often, but I do know that she has finished several quilts that she has given as gifts, and I trust she will cherish and use the machine in the future.

    A few years ago, my parents gave me a wonderful Featherweight my dad bought at a swap meet and had fully restored by a Singer expert. It is something I desperately wanted when I was a 4-H sewer in the mid 1960's. I need to take it out of its box and put it to use, but I do have 3 other sewing machines and a wonderful serger. Peter - you make me realize it's time to get out the Featherweight and put it to good use!

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  44. Interestingly, I sew on a Singer 15-91 in the Number 42 cabinet (darker color) pictured in the vintage ad, which was bought as a gift for my great-grandmother by my great-grandfather. Now, my great-grandmother didn't really care for sewing and didn't do any beyond what she had to, but in those days it was still "appropriate" for a husband to give his wife a household appliance that she didn't want. 60 years later, it's worked out well for me.

    All that being said, I would love if someone bought me a sewing machine IF it were a good machine with particular features that I want. I love my old machine and get along just fine with her, but would also love a newer machine that is lightweight for portability, has and up/down needle position selector for free-motion quilting, or maybe is that fancy Janome that is a combo sewing machine/serger. So, a very large gift certificate would indeed be welcome.

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  45. My husband got me a sewing machine as a birthday present last year and it's great.
    I'd been whining that I'd love to sew if only the one I had worked, and he rose to the challenge. It's not the model I'd go for now that I know a bit more about what I'm doing, but was great to start out on, and for good reason. He got me an affordable model so that it wouldn't be a big deal if I ... didn't actually sew anything. The year he got me a mandolin (the cooking accessory; not the musical instrument) was not a good one for him, but I really like making things, so the sewing machine was a thoughtful present. If he'd thrown in a few of his shirts that needed hemming or something obviously it'd have been a different story ;)

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  46. I would totally buy a second hand machine. And I have received one from my MIL as a gift. Is it the one I would have chosen, not necessarily, but is it good, yes. I haven't really got into it yet, though I know it will work in the phenomenal way that vintage mechanical machines do, when I'm ready. Note: She gave it to me cuz it was sitting in her basement gathering dust since 1960. And my husband made the choice that I would like it and salvaged it for me. Do I think it's a good idea to buy someone a second hand machine? As good an idea as buying a new one. As long as you know the person well, and you know it will be well-received, then go for it.

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  47. I agree with the general consensus: Yes for true beginner; no for an experienced sewist.

    My husband talked me into a Bernina Artista several years ago. I never would have spent the money on myself, but he researched it and then drove me there to check it out. I was smitten and remain so. Worth every penny.

    And yes, a lot of pennies were involved. But I owned its predecessor (a not-so-great Singer that I bought with money from my first job) for 25 years, and I expect to keep this one for many many years to come. AND it's the only sewing machine I own.

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  48. I'm guessing that for someone who has said, "I'd love to take up sewing someday..." a sewing machine (ANY sewing machine) would be a great gift. I already have a sewing machine and a serger, and I would not look a gift horse in the mouth should someone feel so inclined!

    And really, even if you buy the wrong machine for an experienced sewist — that's what return policies are for.

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  49. I agree with many of the above posters that a sewing machine is a good gift for a beginner (say, my future-child, cousin, niece, nephew, or beloved-friend's-child). I certainly would NOT buy a Kenmore or one of those other cheapo $100 pieces of crap from Sears or Walmart, however. I'd rather shop around and find a nice vintage machine that can do a zigzag stitch. Can you imagine the epic piece of equipment I could get for a hundred bucks???

    That being said, my hunny's grandma just received a machine for Christmas! Her little old Singer is just too time-worn to handle a quilt unless it gets a complete tune-up. I didn't see the new machine, but she sure sounds happy! Knowing her daughter, it is NOT a Walmart special, but likely a Brother or Janome.

    My boyfriend saw a serger at a sewing shop in the city and asked me if I want one. I said HECK NO, not brand new! His response? "Oh thank goodness..."

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  50. In the unlikely event I were to ever buy a newbie a machine it would be second hand and I would involve them in the purchase.

    I, like you, try to only buy pre-loved items except for the obvious (undies etc). My sewing machine shop (where I get my machine serviced and buy notions etc) have been working on me for 10 years to buy a new machine but I will not part with my 1960 Husquarvna Viking - it's a game we play every time I go in there :) Although I did get my new-ish serger there but it was second hand.

    To me, a sewing machine has a 'personality' and as a sewist I can't even imagine comparing a one to DVD player or blender haha.

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  51. In general, I think the only person willing to spend what a good, reliable sewing machine costs today, loves the recipient. I also think most don't come up with that gift without having heard hints from the would be recipient. That being said, careful listening and casual questioning usually guides the gifter to the right choice. I have both received (husband, 2) and given (daughter, 1) sewing machines as gifts. Everytime it was an excellent gift and very well received. Good ears and a big heart usually guides a smart decision.

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  52. My husband - at the time boyfriend - bought me my first and only sewing machine. It's a basic machine, not the best but a good choice for my needs at the time. Now that I am sewing more, I sometimes wish I had a better machine, but at the time he bought it for me, I didn't even know what I wanted and he probably did a better job choosing than I would have.

    Generally speaking, sewing-machine-as-gift, like so many things, is highly dependent on the intended recipient.

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  53. I'm on the side of the more experienced sewer and savvy sewing machine consumer buying for a beginner--but apart from that, it would annoy me to no end if someone tried to buy me a machine. I'm also a fan of excellent vintage machines as opposed to less expensive new machines. My daughter will eventually get a Kenmore 158-3/4 machine as a gift from me. Better to learn on a good vintage machine, then struggle with the annoying quirks of a cheaper 'new' option. I have a high end machine that cost, like, a mortgage payment that is both wonderful and finicky beyond belief! My recently acquired vintage Kenmore, on the other hand, sews like a dream--for about 1/50th of the price....lesson learned.

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  54. My dad bought me and sister our own machines for our 18th birthdays. It was a great present - I had sewn before but was still deep in beginner territory. Now I'm looking for an overlocker -- and definately want to choose that myself.

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  55. I say Nay. I have taught lots of folks who got "macines" for gifts and they don't see the next project. But those who really want to learn should take the cash and buy what's recommended. Go out and test drive them all!!

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  56. I bought my daughter (who is 24) a machine for Christmas... a Babylock Anna which is a "starter" machine, and so far she seems quite excited to learn how to sew (she is sitting right next to me right now). Of course, I'll be teaching her how to sew by long distance :D. We've already got some patterns lined up, and she's checking out lots of blogs.

    BTW, I made sure she could return it if she thought it was a bad idea.

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  57. My hubby did it right a few years ago when I wanted a serger. He took me to the store and told me to pick out the one I wanted. The sales clerks (female) sighed with envy.

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  58. I bought a beginner sewing machine for my niece when she was younger and expressed an interest in my sewing machines. By the time I gave it to her for her birthday a few months later, she was over it. I felt bad that I bought her a gift that she didn't like.

    I agree with the comments about a gift certificate instead of purchasing a machine for someone, unless you're sure what they would like and what they want to accomplish with the sewing machine.

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  59. My sisters and I chipped in to buy the youngest (there are 5 of us) a sewing machine a few years ago. I think this was one of the few times a gift like that makes sense because 1- we know her very well (duh); 2- she had been saying that she wanted to learn to sew for some time (so wanted a sewing machine); and 3 - as a beginner, what she wanted was a good but basic machine (she had no special features in mind or preferences about brand and model).

    But I think buying anything for someone who is accomplished at a hobby is tricky. Most of us develop preferences over time. But for a beginner, I think if they express an interest, then you have some wiggle room. Although, a sewing machine is a hell of a thing to give someone who has no interest in sewing. Rather presumptuous if you don't know the person well.

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  60. Well, I guess I am that one out of five who says it's OK. My mom gave me a great Kenmore when I was around 20, and I was thrilled with it. At the time, I had no interest in shopping for a machine and I trusted her judgement (and it was a fantastic machine I should have kept).
    I have also given entry-level Janome sewing machines to both of my nieces and the thank me every time I see them.
    And while I am on a contrarian kick, money is just a medium of exchange. I treated myself to a Bernina 2 years ago and it cost more than the model you mentioned. But I have the type of job that pays well and everything is relative and I wanted it. I do love that machine. But, of course, I could love many other machines, as well. I am fairly ensconced in a world of working to live and living to work (in a good way, though, IMO).
    Happy New Year!!

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  61. Actually, i just bought one for my galfriend for the Xmas.:)

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  62. I'd say it's a great gift depending on the right giver, receiver, and machine. My mom's given me two machines this year, one a Singer Featherweight, one a Pfaff 360, which is my mom's machine. Both were awesome---perfect. My husband's odds of getting me the right machine? Slim, I suspect.

    A friend's husband just bought her a brand new Singer. She's over the moon. I'm a bit apprehensive that it won't live up to expectations...

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  63. A simple but sturdy machine, for someone who just wants one for odd jobs (hemming curtains, etc) - yes. An expensive machine for someone who sews a lot - no, they need to pick it out themselves.

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  64. I wouldn't like to receive a sewing machine. I'm super picky, so I want to choose such a big item myself, and, above all, *try it* before buying.

    My one and only SM is a Pfaff Select and this is a great sturdy, no-fuss little machine for this beginner. Very good price/quality ratio. But I know that other sewing friends found it too ... mechanical, shall we say. They love their Brother machines, while I can't stand them.

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  65. I say no, but I must say that the 'woman in red' certainly acts 'happy' very convincingly.

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  66. I received a sewing machine as a gift a couple of years ago, from my mother in law, and it was one of the best things ever. I had been sewing clothes by hand (crazy, I know), so she decided to go out and look for a vintage Singer on craigslist. She found a wonderful all-metal Singer Fashionmate from the 60s for $20, had it cleaned and tested by a professional, then shipped it to me. I love it to pieces, I really appreciate the time she put into looking for this, and it's exactly what I needed!

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  67. I received a sewing machine as a wedding gift from my aunt/godmother. It was a bit of a WTF gift. At the time I had no interest in sewing. However, when I finally moved into my first house, I opened it up and made some simple curtains, then some tote bags for gifts, and then a truly atrocious A-line skirt. Since then I've made a lots of clothes, including a retro-inspired swimsuit using modern 4-way stretch lycra, a tailored wool suit and a silky cocktail dress. All with the same basic machine from my Aunt Lynette!

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  68. I got my serger as a gift but I had told my husband exactly what to get. But he likes it when I'm specific aout gifts as he hates to shop for anything.

    I gave my new daughter in law a sewing machine for her birthday--a nice mid price range Singer. I did this because she hand stitched all the little bags for the rose petals for her wedding. It made me feel bad that she had done all that hand work when it would have taken 30 minutes on a machine. With that kind of determination she could teach herself how to sew. Not to mention two small children she can practice making stuff for, including Barbie clothes, etc.

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  69. My mother gave me a Singer as a college graduation gift, a well intentioned gift; she couldn't know that it was a b@@@ to work with. AFter many trips to the shop (even the Singer people couldn't make it work), I was thrilled to find a used old Bernina 741 in a used shop, and never looked back. But Mom couldn't have known that Singers had become lemons since she bought her own Featherweight many years before, and I don't blame her for it.

    The CR people have identified three excellent machines. I sewed on all three while shopping for a upgrade a few years ago--my trusty old Bernina busted a gear, and the $300 repair bill sent me reconsidering. I liked all three and would have been happy with them, but as an advanced sewer with a generous husband, and proven sewing track record, I am thrilled with my Bernina 440 (without the embroidery unit). Since we could afford it, I saw no harm in investing in excellent engineering, excellent design, sturdy material choices, and company support. That is what you are paying for when you buy a good machine.

    I love my vintage Elna Supermatic too, and would welcome my mom's old Featherweight if my sister would ever give it up. But all you vintage fans/frugal sewers may be overlooking the fact that the retail buyer has paid the premium that kept the manufacturers in business. Our great old machines would not be existing if the manufacturers hadn't made a profit from them earlier in their lives. I am happy to be the later user, but I don't deceive myself in thinking I should never be the first user, either. We want to minimize expense to ourselves, but there is also a hidden expense if we overlook the value of the good engineering and design and materials that someone has to be paid for. We can support good design by honoring the value of our efforts and reminding the skinflints that $400 or $800 for a machine that produces thousands of dollars in value over time, quicker with fewer headaches and trips to the shop, is a good deal. Over the 35 years my Bernina 741 served me, I saved our household many, many times its purchase price. My newer Bernina will do the same, already has. So let's not cut off our noses to spite our faces, or a better sewing analogy, let's not confuse the price with the value.

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  70. OMG! That last illustration is the exact machine in the exact cabinet that I bought, used, in 1969 for $100!

    I would never buy a machine, un-requested, for anyone. I bought one for my sister because she casually mentioned she'd like to be able to alter and mend the clothes she finds at thrift stores. It's a simple, basic Janome that was $120 (delivered!). But she's never used it. When I visit her, I use it to do the alterations and repairs! She absolutely refuses to learn to use it!!!!! Never again!

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  71. I prefer the gift to the money, it means much more for me. For tricky purchase like a sm, I made my DH a list of "sm I'd like to get, one day, if he has the funds and is scratching his head at what to buy" "no pressure!"
    So a few month ago, I gave him said list with a few sm models I was interested in, with their price. Last month, during a business trip, he got me a B530 that is a pure joy. I originally wanted a 1008 to make up for a vintage 830 that was taken from my nose, but I'm overjoyed he chose the B530 instead. I rather be clear about a range of products I'd like to receive (he's a male and needs more than hints) and let him have the final decision as to what to buy and when. We have one rule though that helps a lot, it's "no gift at Christmas/birthday/anniversary". It relieves the pressure to top last year present, or to buy anything when money is tight, or to buy anything during peak season.

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  72. YES! Totally and completely yes! Of course, I have asked for blenders, food processors, pressure canners & circular saws for gifts. Hubby has gotten used to it, and at first would worry that I would be disappointed at whatever tool he got me, thinking that what I really wanted was perfume, shoes, or some other frivolous thing. (Which I do want, but my tastes are so eclectic and change so often that I get them for myself.) He's finally gotten used to the idea after ten years, and now feels comfortable getting me tools of various kinds, and will also get me (to him) fun stuff.

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  73. Late in responding here, but as a teacher, I can tell you I've seen more mistakes and good money spent in totally the wrong direction with the best of thoughts....here's the deal...if the hubby really wants to do something special, he can write in on a note and the two of them can go in after Christmas and pick out what she wants. My guess is that the sewists in the family is much more familiar with what he/she wants than the giver, and not taking anything away from the giver, it's just that this way the givee is more likely to get something that she will use, and isn't that the purpose.

    As far as used machines...I'm totally with ya on this....there are utterly fabulousness in machines out there that are second hand. As a matter of fact most reputable stores run machines for local schools, colleges and universities and they have only been used for a year (which usually leaves at least another 24 on the machine left to go), and the price is wonderfully low! These are the real bargains and are only a year old, so the features are relatively up-to-date as well.

    This is NOT being a cheapskate...as a matter of fact this is really not only what I recommend for my new students, but I practically insist on it. Till you figure out you want to do something really special, then there's no reason to go out and get a $$$$ machine.

    I did a holiday "want list" for those wanting to know what would be great for a beginner, and I do believe in good equipment, which means that it has to be from not only a good company but from a good dealer (I really recommend buy the dealer) that way you know you have help after the sale, and buy used - now the iron is a different matter, used irons can be sorta tough especially if they have very much gunk on the sole of the iron!

    So that's my 2¢ worth!

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  74. My father bought me a sewing machine as a surprise when I was still in school because my mother's old Janome was playing up too much (probably just needed a service but I was young and it went to a good home) and it was one of the best presents I have ever recieved. It is still going strong 20years later and it does everything I want it to do. It is only now that I'm starting to notice what it can and can't do compared to other machines but I will stick with it as long as it wants to run.

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  75. That's my sewing machine! The "high-end" one, though I managed to only spend $650 on mine (floor model, dealer stopping the sale of Berninas, sheer luck). It is a dream, though I doubt I'd drop $1350 on it, much as I love it!
    That said, having received a machine that was not.what.I.wanted in the slightest as a gift, I think that, unless someone has not sewn at all and has simply expressed interest in trying and you're talking the $100 Singer/Brother/Janome/whatever, you're better off with a gift certificate.

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  76. I'd say that a simple machine is a great gift for someone who doesn't yet sew, but who has expressed an interest or who is creative in other ways. My grandfather gave me a sewing machine as a gift when I was in middle school, and it served me well to start sewing- in fact I kept that same sewing machine until about 6 months ago (about 17 years!), when I upgraded to a model with a button-holer.

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  77. 1. Yes, I think it is possible. But only under special conditions.

    That would be a machine for a beginner, who I know would like to learn to sew and who has no prior own experience with any machine.

    The second case would be buying a machine for someone who already sews but on a crappy machine so just any machine would be better. And I have been sewing together with that person and know her well enough to know if she prefers a plain mechanic machine or is more the "gadgety" type. (In the first case my choice would be amongst Juki, Janome and Elna, the second case probably Brother. In all cases a solid, not to fancy machine would set me in the 270 EUR - 400 EUR range. If I had the money. I am sewing on a Bernina and love her and have the strong believe that you can't do anything wrong with a Bernina.... if you have enough money to invest in an aurora or up. For the "lower" ones I am less convinced if they are the best value for money you can get.)

    (And that includes the facts that I have had my hands on different brands over my sewing life so I have a certain idea what it's behind the different brands AND that I know my machine dealer very well and know I can trust him and I can trust his knowledge. And he knows me pretty well, so he could probably even choose a machine for me if someone wanted to buy one as a gift.)

    2. Yes, the machine I am using now was a gift. But indeed, it was money to buy a sewing machine (as a wedding gift) and I was very happy about that gift. I also was happy to choose the machine myself.

    3. No, it is not that different. Because... if you are seriously into something, you will have a specific idea what you want it to be like. Be it knifes, a DVD player or whatever. So you would always want to choose yourself. While if you have no idea about the subject you will even be happy if someone makes the choice for you who knows better.

    If I had the choice between a flat screen TV and money I'd take the money. To buy fabric, because I don't care for TV. And I got this year a new fountain pen from DH for Christmas. I was very happy with a voucher and went today to choose one. Because that again is an item you have to try out yourself. :-)

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  78. I see what you mean. Hand-me-down machines are an awesome gift, though! I got handed down my great-grandma's machine and I was ecstatic! Expensive, new machines, though? I think I might rather take the gift voucher and pick it out myself...

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  79. Someone I know has many years in at her place of employment and this past year she actually picked a sewing machine from the gift catalog her company provided to people of her tenure.

    I was pretty amazed that a sewing machine would be an option and expressed some concern about the quality of the machine that would be offered in such a situation.

    But, she doesn't really sew and wanted something for hemming and it filled the bill. So, I guess there are people who would be happy with a sewing machine as a gift.

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