Beginner's sewing machine - Singer or Brother?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by ctmom05, Oct 26, 2008.

  1. ctmom05

    ctmom05 Member

    I am a beginning sewer(-1 on a scale of 1-10). I've been looking at purchasing a lower end sewing machine and keep seeing the same couple of models, Brother and Singer, advertised over and over again.

    Any opinions on which works better or lasts longer?
  2. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I'm an experienced sewer and I'd recommend spending a little more and getting a new or used Bernette (whichI've seen on sale new ranging from $199-599 recently) or a better quality older Singer which will give you the basics but be a far better machine for you.

    Bernettes are made for the Bernina company and will sew much better and be less frustrating for you than the low end new Singers. I tried out one of those low end machines last summer while helping a girl with her fair project and I wound up moving her over to my machine in a hurry.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2008
  3. muttmeister

    muttmeister Well-Known Member

    A long time ago Singers were good machines. But I bought a new one when I was young - about 1973 or thereabouts 0(not the cheapest one they made) and it was TERRIBLE. That has been a number of years ago so I don't know how they are now but at that time, after I bought mine, I heard only horror stories, so I'd be a little leery of the Singer. I ended up with an Alco (made by the old Necchi company) and it has done well but I'm not sure if they make them any more either. The best machine I've even sewed on in my mother's old Necchi - she bought it about 1951 and it still works better than any of the new ones. I'd ask around to talk to some people who own the kinds you are considering and see what they have to say about them. I found out first hand that you can't depend on the name to tell you anything.
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I learned to sew on a very old Singer, I was faithful to the brand and bought a second-hand one for A$40 which never worked properly. The tension was never right, even if I tried to adjust it myself. It had to be wound so ridiculously tight that the threads broke if I had it balanced - from what I could understand, the upper tension was just stuffed, totally. I kept taking it back to the shop, they kept returning it with the tension on the bobbin tightened up to match (not the way to fix it).

    Then about 6 months before husband & I married, I saw a trade-in sale on a NEW state-of-the-art Husqvarna. Discount price plus generous trade-in. They gave me A$100 off for my old dysfunctional Singer, plus another hundred off for the special. I bought the new machine for A$300 instead of A$500. Then I used it to make my wedding dress - so I figured it had paid for itself.
    30 years later, that's the machine I still use. easy child 2/difficult child 2 is the only one of my kids to regularly use it and she now wants her own sewing machine so she can go back to her own designing as well as modifying/mending her own clothes. She said she wants my machine; she's not getting it.

    SO we ARE in the market for a good sewing machine for her, but it has to be at least as good. Shouldn't be difficult. The modern electronic machines should all do cartwheels over my old beast, but they also have more to go wrong.

    So my recommendation - get something new (or fairly new with good rep) and try to get it with some level of warranty because if you're a novice, you're likely to make mistakes and want to blame the machine. And you may be right. If you buy a new machine, you should be able to get some good after-sales service to get you going. Modern machines should be easy to use. Frankly, I haven't looked at any except in passing, to marvel at the wonderful things you can now do.

    We look at modern marvels and covet them, but when it comes down to it, most sewers just do straight stitching and a bit of zig-zag (buttonhole stitch). I also use a fair bit of three-step zig-zag because it's fabulous for patching clothes and mending a tear as invisibly as possible. Anyone with active, small kids - get a sewing machine with three-step zig-zag and keep worn-out shirts and jeans so you can cannibalise them for patches. Match the weight of patch fabric to the weight of the fabric being patched - for example, never patch a delicate silk shirt with denim (or vice-versa). Too uneven and it will just tear out. "You can't patch old fabric," my mother used to say. It's not just sewing advice, it was intended as advice for life. But I've found that if you use old, thin fabric then you CAN patch old, thin fabric.

    Sewing machine brands to look at - Janome should be on your list. Bernina also. Singer - haven't checked them out lately, but 1973 was a while ago, they surely would have lifted their game.

    Shop around. Go visit a craft fair or twenty (enjoy!) and talk to other sewers. Get in with a sewing group (either online or in person). Find some classes and see what they recommend. Begin sewing now - you don't need a sewing machine to begin to learn how to sew. Do you have a sewing basket yet? I believe every household should have one, to suit their sewing use. Basics - a tape measure, GOOD sewing scissors (for cutting fabric, even if you're only cutting patches), pincushion with pins (get the pretty glass-headed ones, you can see them if you drop them), embroidery scissors (get cheap ones), a range of threads (again, get the cheap sets with tiny reels), a packet of needles of varying sizes. Elastic, varying widths but the most common one for waistbands in kids' clothing would be about half inch wide. If you have a basket of a bag to keep it all in, then as you buy things you need (such as a roll of elastic to fix a waistband) then you put the supplies in the basket so you know where it is. Oh, and two small but strong safety pins to help you pull the elastic through. You pin one end of the elastic to the fabric then thread a strong pin along the grain of the other end of the elastic to form a firm 'head'. You then use this head to push it through the tube of fabric that forms the waistband. You feel for it from the outside and use your fingers on it through the fabric. You have to pin the other end because it's really annoying to get the head all the way through to the other side and pull it up, to find the other end disappearing into the tube - you have to do it all again! Once you've done this you can either hand-sew the two ends together or use the sewing machine to sew the elastic. Don't sew it to the waistband or you'll have to unpick it to get it out when the elastic finally 'dies'. Or you can be lazy and use a safety pin or knot to hod it, but I don't recommend it. A knot can be an obvious lump and the safety pin can rust in place or come undone with unpleasant results. Besides, you need those safety pins for the next mending job.

    Do you have a project in mind? Or a few things you want to make? Are you wanting to do quilting? Decorative stitching? Stretch knit? Or just a sense of independence from expensive but poor quality garments?

    I grew up at a time when a label inside your clothing was not something to show off; having a garment without a label was the sign that someone loved you enough to make it just for you.

    There are many garments you can easily make, start simple. Always be prepared to unpick (that's another thing you need - a good unpicker!) if it's not quite right - it's faster to unpick and do it again, than to try to put up with it. There's no point having a garment you're not proud of. Also take the time to overlock fabric likely to fray - do it as you go because the act of sewing can aggravate fraying. You don't need an overlocker - buttonhole will do the job although most modern sewing machines have different overlocking stitches. Overlocking is a job you can give to a kid - my mother had me working on my own clothes for school when I was in primary school - from about 7 years old. I began by making lavender bags and worked up to sewing seams. she had me drawing up gathering stitches fairly early as well, although I didn't pin gathering until I was making my own designs much older. She did have me doing armholes and sleeves fairly young - I hated those but now I'm glad she drilled me well. These days stretch fabric makes them much easier. A lot of rules I was taught are regularly broken in shop-bought fabrics. Notably, the direction of buttonholes - when buttoholes are sewn horizontally, they are much more inclined to pull open and if your button is slightly small you can find yourself with a shirt undone! But vertical buttonholes are quicker to manufacture. Hand-made horizontal buttonholes hold better and are the sign of a carefully-made quality garment. Look at a man's suit jacket - the best ones still have horizontal buttonholes.

    I'll get off my soapbox now.

    I don't sew anywhere near as much as I feel I should because I love op-shops so much. But having the confidence to play with op-shop clothing using a sewing machine - fun! Seeing my daughter do the same thing, even with shop-bought fashion such as a coat with a bubble-skirt hem - wonderful. Hearing her friends ask her where she bought that fabulous coat with the flared hem - priceless! Because it's a one-off.

  5. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    ctmom, how much are you wanting to spend?

    I sent my daughter to sewing class a few summers ago at a sewing store--5 sessions and it was wonderful. They went through the sewing machine, sewing basics, and made several quick projects.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2008
  6. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    13 years ago I paid $89 for a brother sewing machine from Penny's. I just replaced it a few months ago with a commercial grade singer.

    My sister in law has a low-end singer, and she had problems with it the second time she sewed with it. Fluke or not, I don't know, but I've heard they aren't what they used to be.

    Have you checked the consumer reports website?
  7. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    I used to have an ancient Singer that I inherited from my grandmother. Worked a right treat from when she first bought it in 1964 until the last time I used it (about 2002).

    I also had a little Bernina portable (Don't remember the model), but it was a real workhorse and the machine I used when I ran a dressmaking business for about 3 years. It held up to all the abuse I could give it.

    I agree with the advice to get the best you can afford, with a good warranty. Lots of machines have incredible bells and whistles, but what you're looking for is one with good basics and reliability. I like the Berninas and Husqvarnas, if I had to buy a new machine today.

  8. Stella Johnson

    Stella Johnson Active Member

    My mom and I both have Berninas which are expensive but you can pick them up used in sewing shops for a couple hundred. Mine is used and I think I paid $250 for it. Mom bought hers new in the 70's and paid about 2k for it but it is well worth it. It never breaks down and sews so much better. If you try a cheap singer and then the Bernina you will see the difference.

  9. ctmom05

    ctmom05 Member

    I appreciate the feedback that folks gave me about choosing a sewing machine, thank you all! The opinions of other users is often the best guide to choosing a product.

    Well, I lucked out on this one. I had inherited a sewing machine from my Mom. She bought it to replace a 1940's Singer and then couldn't adjust to it and packed it away. It's a White brand machine, and knowing my mom it is likely to be a better than average unit that she got on sale.

    It was in my garage hiding. We looked several times without success, and it surfaced the other day.

    I am all set to begin my project :)
  10. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    It you're just needing some basic stitches, you'll probably be better off with that than a new, low end machine. If it's been sitting for a long while it will probably need to be oiled. Failing to do so can totally lock up an older, mechanical machine. Since the machine isn't costing you anything i would be worth taking it in to a service center to have it oiled and checked.
  11. snowflakeleona

    snowflakeleona New Member

    I just wanted to tell you the scoop on brother Viking and huskavarne. All of them were very good equipment but today they all have been bought by singer and quality and customer service is not there for any of the 4 sewing machines. I very sorry to see it in singer because they invented the sewing machine. I also own a singer quantum xl embroidery machine and I found out for myself what they said about it was true. The best sewing machine first is a janome then a baby lock.
  12. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I found a wonderful Singer "Touch and Go - 600" in a cabinet on Craigslist for $100. It was exactly like one I remember the lady next door from my childhood had. I remember my mom, who sewed all of our clothes being very envious of it. It came with all of the bells and whistles and all it needed was a little oil and grease in the gears and it was good to go. If you are a -1, you may decide that you actually do not like it, so I'd be leery of spending a lot on something that you will get tired of because you'll never get your money back.

    For me an important issue is that the machine can be controlled by a knee lever or a foot lever. The foot lever causes slouching and gets tiring very quickly. A cabinet is nice because you can fold it up and put it away very quickly without dragging the heavy sewing machine around. (The photo I'm posting is something from online - mine has a much nicer cabinet and you can modernize with new hardware.)

    But truly, the most important part of sewing is your scissors. Start with cottons that are somewhat substantial. Do something simple like a square block quilt. If you try to get too crafty to start with, you'll be in over your head.
  13. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Not sure what the deal is. I had to do a captcha to post, and my photo won't go into the other post. But I'll try to post it separately.
  14. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    I'm not much higher on the sewing scale than you are.........although I've made doll clothes ect, still very beginner level.

    I started with mother in law's old Singer. Years later I thought I'd get a new machine.......I bought a Brother..........Nice I suppose, I dunno. No one could ever figure out how to thread it properly. I tried. husband tried. My girls tried. Nichole's husband who has much more experience with sewing machines than I tried..........and we all failed miserably. Nichole sold it. I hope the person that bought it could figure it out.

    Meanwhile, I still have mother in law's trusty old Singer. Many of the newer models have become too complicated. I like simple. I'm not designing clothing or anything. lol
  15. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    I don't know if ctmom is still looking for a sewing machine 5 years after her post, I hope she chose a good one.
  16. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Ha ha ha! Got us! Oops ;)

    That or it's a very large paperweight!
  17. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful


    Yup. Got us.
  18. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Wish I could remember the model, but I just got easy child a basic Singer for Christmas. I didn't want to spend much because I wasn't too sure about here interest. She has an Etsy and pop up vintage clothing business and has been wanting one for about a year. Hope I didn't' make a mistake with the Singer!

  19. Star*

    Star* call 911

    I sold my Janome machine and serger, and I have a Singer. DF has a phase 3 Singer for sewing leather that I know nothing about - but he swears by Singer. I enjoy my Singer. I've never tried a Brother - but I do know that most sewing machine shops around here will let you go in and try them out by yourself and show you a few things before you buy. I would recommend finding a good, reputable shop locally and going there with a basket of scraps and seeing which machine keeps you in stitches. The other day I found a little hand held machine in the thrift store and got it for .50 and both DF and I are too blind to thread it - lol. But it's a little dandy.