I know a lot about vintage sewing machines.
I've sewn on them exclusively since I started sewing. My first sewing machine was a vintage 80's Kenmore (later resold) and, since that time, I've sewn on vintage mechanical Pfaffs, Necchi's, Singers, Elnas, Berninas, Vikings, and more.
Many of these machines I found on eBay for under $100 (shipping included). Others came from my local flea market or from Craigslist. I've learned how to sew with them, how to maintain them, and they've served me exceptionally well.
I know next to nothing about new sewing machines.
This weekend I decided to set myself a challenge:
Can I find a new sewing machine for approximately $100 or less that's well-engineered, reliable, not 100% plastic, with good stitch quality, and pleasing to sew on?
I did a fair amount of online research, including user reviews, instructional YouTube videos, and manufacturer's descriptions. There are a surprisingly large number of models to choose from at this price point.
One thing I learned is that new sewing machines often sell at tremendous discount, at least online. It's common to see a machine selling for 50% off or more. One wonders: did anyone pay list price for the machine?
Another surprise is that online dealers sometimes sell the same machine at different prices. Visit their website and you'll see one price. Check out their eBay store and you may see another price. Search eBay by model and you can find the same dealer selling identical machines at different prices. I just don't get it.
Anyway, I made my decision and I expect to receive my machine -- purchased from a reputable sewing machine dealer -- in a week or so. It's the first brand new sewing machine (not serger) I have ever purchased. The manufacturer is a sewing machine company you've all heard of, that sells a wide range of models, some costing less than mine and climbing up into the many thousands of dollars. If the machine I purchased turns out to be a disappointment, I will
either return it or sell it. If I like it, I'll add it to my stable.
Reading Amazon reviews and various online forums (fora?) reminded me that a large percentage of sewers will never consider purchasing a vintage machine; to the uninitiated, they're too much of a crap shoot. There are obvious benefits to a new machine: they're more portable; they work right out of the box; they reflect the latest technology (always nice -- nobody buys an old model cell phone, right?) They come with a (limited) warranty or return policy, so the buyer isn't risking too much. A manual and, often, even an instructional DVD is included, making learning how to use the machine much easier.
Researching vintage sewing machines also takes time. It's much easier to walk into a Target or scroll through Amazon and find a machine that can handle the basics. Most sewers need only a decent straight stitch (and occasionally a zigzag or utility stitch) and the ability to sew through multiple layers of heavy fabric from time to time. Embroidery stitches at the press of a computerized button are rarely necessary (or ever even used -- but that's another blog post).
In closing, I ask you: Have you ever bought a new sewing machine costing approximately $100 or less?
If so, what was the machine and how did it sew?
If you paid more (or less), what prompted your choice: economic necessity, need for a particular feature, shopping for a child, etc.?
Readers, I'm excited about my purchase and eager to share my experience with you.
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns, in addition to sewing for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!