Friday, September 11, 2020

You Get What You Pay For in Sewing Machines

 One of my neighbors came to me for advice on making face masks.  She's a beginning sewer that is trying to do the right thing for herself and her friends under the COVID-19 pandemic.  I think her sewing machine might actually belong to her mother.  But for sure it is a cheap sewing machine, costing around $100.  She's had one problem after another, and most of the problems are due to the machine.  It can't hold the tension, and gets all out of whack about every other day.  

I'm so glad that I was able to help her get the machine operating again.  I thought that it might be full of lint, but she has been diligent about keeping it clean.  The first time  I worked on it, it was set for a slight zig-zag stitch and the top tension was too loose.  I gave her some better thread and a new needle and gave it back to her once the stitch looked right again.

Recently, she called me over because it was in the ditch again.  I went over with my sewing machine screw driver because she was having tension problems again.   Her bobbin case tension was so loose, the screw was practically ready to fall out.   Believe it or not, it was a tiny Phillips-head screw, and the cheap machine didn't come with a tool to tighten the screw.   So I came back home to get some eyeglass screw drivers.   Since I have a mechanical engineering degree, I love to tinker with mechanical things.  But it also drives me crazy that somebody designed the bobbin case this way.  It doesn't mater that it is a cheap machine.  Some poor beginning sewer will think it's all her problem and maybe will stop sewing forever.  

Bytes: Origins: Phillips Head screw

OK, I'm off my soapbox.

The lesson is that you get what you pay for.  Cheap machines are so inferior that they make it hard to sew.  I have been a dyed in the wool Bernina Sewing Machine fan for years.  As soon as I had some money I was ready to upgrade from my Mother's Singer Sewing Machine from the 1950's, I bought my first Bernina.  I think I'm on my 4th one now.  And not because they broke down.  I've been upgrading as the machines have more capability and larger throat spaces.  My current machine is a 570 Quilter's Edition, and I also have my 440 Quilter's Edition to take on retreats. And they both came with a screw driver that fits the bobbin case.  My oldest back-up machine is a Singer featherweight, which is a little gem.  Even that one came with a sewing machine screw driver.  

I hope you use a sewing machine that is reliable, and if you're like me, you own a Bernina (or two).


  1. Do you have any recommendations on the best places to purchase a new machine?

    1. Yes I do. Modern Domestic in Portland is the best dealer for Bernina sewing machines. They have great training classes, service department and classroom!

  2. Estate sales are a great place to find "cheap" sewing machines. They are usually older machines, heavy, but extremely well-built and reliable.

  3. I totally agree, a cheap machine will only be discouraging. I'm a Bernina girl myself (1260, 440, and 350). These machines are work horses!