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Let’s Talk: Sewing machine recommendations

Let's Talk Button framed
The topic of today’s “Let’s Talk” series is sewing machines:  What kind of sewing machine would you recommend and/or do you currently use?  This is a question that I get asked a lot!

You can find the previous “Let’s Talk” discussion at Let’s Talk:  Pressing Seams Open vs. to the Side.

Sewing Machine Advice Bordered

As a quilt instructor and shop employee, I meet many people that are ready to purchase a new machine or upgrade their old one.  I am also exposed to many different sewing machines in my classes, and I learn how to set them up for quilt specific techniques such as piecing, free motion quilting and applique.  Because of this, I have learned a bunch about all kinds of sewing machines.

Image Source: SewingSchool.org

My own experience with different brands of sewing machines is also greater than I care to admit.  But for the sake of a healthy discussion, I’m going to confess the number and types of machines I have owned in the past and currently.  I have sewn on a Kenmore, Viking Lily 540, Viking Designer II, Janome Jem, Janome 3160 QDC, Bernina 440QE, Pfaff Expression 2.0, Pfaff Performance 2054 and Juki TL-2010 Q.  Phew!! That’s 9 total machines and 5 different brands.

I currently own four sewing machines; the Bernina and Juki are in my sewing room, the Janome 3160 is on loan to a friend, and the Pfaff 2054 is kept at the shop that I work at.  So, really that’s only two machines that I use regularly.  That’s not bad, right?  Do I need to start going to monthly {blank} anonymous meetings?

Sewing disorder
Let me share my sewing machine experiences with you and then I’d love to hear yours.  The more comments you leave, the more information and knowledge for us all to share.

The first sewing machine I bought was a Kenmore, right off the showroom floor for about $200 (at most).  I had no idea what features to look for, but it was a basic machine and served me well for the maternity clothes, mending, Halloween costumes, dresses and Easter outfits I made.  When I started quilting 10 years later, I decided it was time for an upgrade.  I heard that Husqvarna Viking was a good machine and that you got a lot of “bang for your buck”.  I tested it out, and bought a Viking Lily 540 for about $700.  (I’m a terrible book keeper, so these numbers are very iffy).  This machine was a huge improvement in stitch quality, machine strength, and extra features such as a needle up/down button and a “hand-quilting” stitch.  I was quite happy and I think my quilting precision improved because it was simply easier to stitch a straight seam with this machine.

Viking Lily 540
Eventually, I started teaching quilt classes that were technique based such as free motion quilting and machine applique.  I decided it was time for an upgrade and I wanted a second machine so that I could take one to classes and leave the other one at home.  I invested in a Viking Designer II which had more bells and whistles such as automatic tension, thread cutter, auto presser foot lift and more stitches.  I used this machine for several years and I liked it, but there were a few things that I couldn’t live with.  I hated not having a presser foot lever that could manually raise and lower the foot.  It made it difficult to place the needle exactly where I wanted it to go (especially for applique).  I also didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t make micro adjustments to the blanket stitch settings for length and width.  It had defaults that prevented you from going between .5 and 1.0 (etc.) in length and width.  And so, it was time for this machine to find a new home (I sold it to a co-worker and both are very happy).

I started hearing about Berninas and I noticed that many of the “professional” quilters were using them.  I tested several different models along with some other brands such as Pfaff, Janome and Brother. After several weeks, I ended up with the Bernina 440QE.  I liked the stitch quality, the way it felt when free motion quilting, the fact that you could change the width and length of ANY stitch to ANYTHING you wanted and completely change the look of the stitch.  There are no presets or default conditions for their stitches.  This is a strong machine with great quality stitching.  I paid a little over $2,000 for it and I have never looked back.

bernina 1
I LOVE this machine.  It is my “go to” sewing machine; my workhorse.  It has been consistent and faithful to me for over seven years.  The features I love:  automatic needle threader (I’ve never had to have it adjusted or repaired); the blanket stitches (all 4 of them) are the best I’ve seen on any machine; the walking foot is also the best that I’ve ever used (never a pucker in my quilting); the 1/4″ foot is awesome with 1/4″ on both sides of the center needle position and 1/8″ marks along the foot in front of the needle; needle up/down button; mirror image button; and the knee lift (it’s a great feature for applique work); the ability to adjust the presser foot pressure.

What I don’t like about this machine:  It’s heavy, so it’s not the easiest thing to lug around to classes; and it doesn’t have a large harp space (the space between the presser foot and the motor (body) of the machine, so quilting large projects is something I avoid.

I had been looking for an affordable option to add another machine to my studio that would allow me to quilt larger projects and I found it in the Juki TL-2010 Q.  This machine is another workhorse and it has lived up to my expectations.  I bought this machine online for $800.  It is a mechanical, non-computerized, heavy-duty machine and it weighs a ton.  It isn’t fancy and it can only do a straight stitch, but it does it well!  It has a large harp space and it comes with a large extension table and a knee lift.  These are great features for free motion quilting.  The picture below doesn’t show the harp space very well, but it is much larger than most. It also has a needle threader, a thread cutter and a speed control dial.  I have only used this machine for quilting, not for piecing (so far).  I hear that it pieces very well.  The only thing you can’t do with it is any type of zig zag stitch.  So, that rules out a lot of decorative stitches and applique work.  But, between this Juki and my Bernina, I am set for quilting.


If I had to start from scratch and if I had the money, I would buy a Bernina 750.  This machine seems to have the best of all worlds.  The quality of a Bernina along with a larger harp space and lots of bells and whistles.  Maybe someday, but for now I feel fortunate to have my two workhorses.

Let me also tell you what I have experienced with Janome and Pfaff.  I have a Janome 3160 QDC and it’s a great machine for the money.  It’s lightweight so it’s perfect to take to classes or retreats.  It has a lot of extras such as an automatic needle threader, thread cutter, needle up/down button, and it comes with a nice extension table.  It has a good selection of utility stitches and it’s easy to use.  It has a good straight stitch, but it has a little trouble with powering over bulky seams.  Overall, a good machine.  I have heard their high end machines are nice to sew on as well.

I recently acquired a Pfaff Performance 2054 through Craig’s list.  The price was right ($200) and it was in great condition for a 12-year-old machine.  It creates a beautiful stitch and I like the IDT (integrated dual feed) system. This is one of the last Pfaff models made with their original bobbin system and that was manufactured in Germany (more about sewing machine companies at the end of this post). This machine is my spare that I keep at the quilt shop.

Pfaff performance

And before that Pfaff, I had bought a brand new Pfaff, the Expression 2.0.  I had given my first Viking (Lily 540) to my oldest daughter when she got married and then there was this void in my life.  No, not really. I missed my daughter a lot, but the machine just a little. Actually, I had heard so much about the Pfaff’s IDT and I really wanted to try one out.  I was a little disappointed with this machine and after owning it for a year and a half, I just sold it on eBay.  I think it’s a good sewing machine, but not a good quilting machine.  I had difficulty chain piecing with it even though I bought a straight stitch throat plate that was supposed to help alleviate that problem.  I also wasn’t impressed with the way it quilted through a quilt sandwich.  I had puckers and all kinds of bad with quilting.  A walking foot wasn’t an option with this design, so I got very frustrated with it.  I only used it about a half dozen times.  Not my best impulse buy investment, but you live and learn.

pfaff open

I did some research on sewing machine companies in general and I’d like to share what I found.  This is not a comprehensive list and it isn’t necessarily perfectly accurate. But it is the best I could do without turning it into a thesis-type, research paper.  At least this is a good place to start. If you have better knowledge, then please let me know.

  • Baby Lock had its beginnings as a serger which was developed by Japanese engineers.  A St. Louis, Missouri based family-owned company brought it to the United States in the 1960’s.  It’s headquarters are still in Missouri and they now carry a wide range of sewing machines.
  • Bernina began in 1893 with headquarters in Switzerland.  Until recently their only factory was located there.  They now have another factory in Thailand.  Their textiles group includes subsidiaries such as Brewer and Benartex.
  • Brother began in Japan and are known for making machines in the lower price ranges.  They have factories in China and Taiwan.
  • Elna sewing machines have been around since 1940.  They began in Switzerland and in 1996, they were acquired by Tacony Corporation, a USA distributor who also owns Baby Lock and Nancy’s Notions.
  • Janome originated in Japan in the 1920’s.  In 1960, Janome purchased New Home, a sewing machine company that began in Massachusetts in the 1860’s.
  • Juki began manufacturing sewing machines in Tokyo, Japan, in the mid 1940’s.  They make industrial, semi-professional (like mine) and household sewing machines.
  • Pfaff started in 1862 in Germany.  In 2000, Pfaff was acquired by the VSM Group (aka Viking Sewing Machines).  This is when Pfaff machines changed their bobbin system and began to look a lot more like Viking sewing machines.  Later (2006), the VSM Group merged with Singer and became part of SVP Worldwide which now owns Singer, Viking and Pfaff.  Most of their machines are manufactured in Shanghai, China.
  • Singer began in 1851 in the United States and later introduced the first zig zag machine.  It is now part of SVP Worldwide, which also owns the Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking brands, which is in turn owned by Kohlberg & Company, which bought Singer in 2004.
  • Viking (aka Husqvarna Viking) started as a royal arms manufacturer in Sweden.  In 1872, they began manufacturing sewing machines.  In 1997, Viking Sewing Machines (VSM) was born in the USA.  In 2000, they acquired Pfaff Household Sewing Machines.  In 2006, VSM merged with Singer and became part of SVP Worldwide.  VSM still has a head office in Sweden.

Vintage Quilt Block

I know, it’s quite a list and a little confusing!  My best advice is to test out as many different sewing machine brands as you can, and bring your own quilt sandwich with you when you do.  Look for stitch quality and the ability to stitch over bulky seams (maybe bring something to test that with, too).  Don’t feel pressured; take your time and do your research.  There is a little truth to the saying “You get what you pay for”.  Save your money and buy the best that you can afford.  I’m going to follow up with another post about what to look for in a new/used sewing machine and with a summary of the comments from this post.  The online quilting community is a great resource, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about sewing machine recommendations.  Thanks for making this a productive “Let’s Talk” series!


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    1. Thank you! My mother was a costume designer and immaculate sewer who sewed her own clothes. She taught me to sew. My daughter sees beautifully and is looking for a new machine; she’s very creative and was considering being a doll maker. Now she is considering quilting!

  1. I purchased a Topaz 40 from Viking about 3 months ago. It’s already been in the shop twice because the bobbin winder doesn’t always work. Also, I have already had 2 broken bobbin cases replaced. I have never had a broken bobbin case on any machine I have ever owned. Then the thread falls off of the thread guide and the machine sounds like metal on metal. The needle comes down and hits the pressure foot making metal on metal sounds. When I took it into Viking, they insisted there was nothing wrong with my machine. Their comment to me was why does it sew fine here but it doesn’t sew right at your house. I sew every day for hours. I told her, you can’t just sit down for a very small window of time and make it do something wrong. The area manager told the manager at the Viking Center of Joann Fabrics that she should “Invite me to go into Joann Fabrics and sew with the manager.” Such arrogance. It is unbelievable to me they are taking this stance. I would never buy another Viking and I am so sorry I bought this machine. I’m going to call the Viking Customer Service the first thing in the morning but I don’t have much hope since I read all of the complaints on Google. Many of the stories are the same. Viking does not stand behind their product.

  2. Interesting article (I know it’s older but still enjoyed reading it and the comments). I just purchased Elna Excellence 720 Pro and Juki TL-18QVP. The Elna was a spur of the moment purchase (my hubby was with me and talked me into getting it at a shop). I had been eyeing the Juki though for the higher harp space. I haven’t unboxed it yet because I’m feeling so guilty about having two machines. The Elna was a final sale so I couldn’t return that one. I was quilting on a Janome 3160QDC, which worked really well, is lightweight, but I was having trouble with some nesting on certain piecing. I think it needed a straight stitch plate.

  3. Great article. I see a lot of Bernina’s mentioned but I’m looking at purchasing an Elna Excellence 720 Pro. Does anyone have experience with this machine? Thanks!

  4. Having read this I thought it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile! Sewing Machines 2020

  5. You have a great site and lots of very valuable information. Thank you. I bought my wife a used Husqvarna Sapphire 930 sewing machine from a woman who was upgrading to one of their higher priced models. My wife is a relatively new sewer/quilter but I try to buy the best that I can or can’t afford. She is starting to quilt and is getting a lot of satisfaction from it. I signed her up for a sewing class at the Joanne’s Husqvarna dealership.

    What kind of sewing table is shown with your Bernina 440QE machine and what do you recommend. I see a used Horn Quilter’s Dream on Craigslist for about $200.00. One foot/castor was damaged but repaired. Thank you for your suggestions.


  6. Julie, I love every single one of your posts but find myself returning to this one again and again! I’m still in the market for a new machine and while your readers’ posts haven’t provided the “answer” to which brand to buy, they have been most helpful in narrowing down my choice. I’ll admit that I want someone to make my decision for me. From reading many discussions on line I understand that what is right for one person may not be the best choice for someone else and all brands can have lemons. There is nothing I hate more than suffering from buyers’ remorse! I could have made a better choice than my current machine so I’m going to take my time and hopefully do better next time. Again, thank you for your wonderful site.

  7. This isn’t a quilting question, but a Janome 10000 question. I have recently unearthed my machine and have been having problems. Do you know of anyone in the St. Louis area that could give me some advice? Thank you.

    Norma Stephens

    1. I have an old singer that needed a new regulator. The technician advised I purchase a metal one over a plastic one (like the one that failed). Very honest, and I would go back to this shop. Creative Sew & Vac Center, St. Ann, MO 63074 (314) 423-3300.

  8. Brother PR1000e Embroidery Machine
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    We have different kinds of sewing/embroidery machines for sale. If you are interested in any of these embroidery machines, feel free to contact us”””

    e-mail for pricing and information:
    Names: Sean Wu
    Email: [email protected]

    Brother PR1000e Embroidery Machine
    – 1 Head and 10 Needles
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    – Easy embroidery positioning with camera sensor system
    – Extra large 360 x 200mm embroidery area
    – Extra wide Cap frame
    – LED thread guide
    – Link multiple machines via a single PC
    – Built-in Embroidery Patterns: 110 designs
    – Stitch Select Display: Touch Panel
    – Lighting: Bright LED
    – Warranty: 24 Months Warranty

    Please make order online by emailing us.

  9. Help.. quick… I need advice ! I just purchased a Husqvarna Emerald 118 for $400 and am having second thoughts. (my concern is the awkward position of the feed dog lever and the pressure foot control) A friend is selling her Bernina 215 for $500 . The problem is there is a $100 re-stocking fee if I return the Husqvarna.
    The machine I have been using is a Sears/Kenmore 41 years old! I don’t need fancy stiches.
    Will I like the Husqvarna. Do I throw away the $100 to return the machine and spend even more $ for the bernina???

    1. If this is the Bernina Simply Red machine, it’s a good machine but with very few stitches. Before Xmas, Bernina had these on sale for half price, which was 500. I don’t think you can get them for that or near that any longer, so it’s not a bad deal to buy one used for that. I like the machine as it does everything it does well, but it has few bells and whistles. I got it to take on vacation and to retreats because it is small. Even so, it’s solid and heavy at 17 lbs. Mine was made in Switzerland, which is nice. It does not use the usual Bernina feet, though it can. I think it’s good for piecing but I would not try to FMQ any but the smallest project on it. I think it is technically three quarter size.

      There’s probably nothing to annoy you on it, as it is very straightforward and easy to use, and its design is pretty standard. You can get an adapter for it to allow you to use generic snap on presser feet, which avoids having to buy expensive Bernina feet. It is pleasant to sew on, as despite the size the design is open and everything is easy to see with good lighting. Its own light is bright but casts shadows so it needs extra illumination. I find that with all machines I’ve sewn on, though.

      What I don’t like about it: only 11 stitches; not very many needle positions; hard to find a case to carry it that doesn’t waste space (so not hugely portable even though three quarter size).

      But, stitch quality is beautiful and the design is efficient. You could do worse. I like this one more than my much more expensive Bernina model.

  10. I purchased the Brother XR 3774 when I got started. I used it for a while before upgrading to the Janome 6600 a couple of years ago.

    I’ve “tested” the Bernina 440QE, but the Janome 6600 is “the one” for me. I absolutely adore it for quilting and every other type of sewing that I do.

    For beginners with a tight budget, I’d recommend the XR 3770, if you can afford it, the Janome 6600 is a worthwhile investment.

    I’ve recently written about my recommendations for the best machines for beginner quilters, I’d love to hear your thoughts about my picks:


    Anyways, thank you for the post! 🙂

    — Leanna

  11. Hello! I am more than interested in purchasing the Juki 2000/2010. I have tried them out in the sewing shop that sells them. The only thing that is holding me back is the thread cutter on the foot control. Do you find that you accidentally cut the thread in the middle of stitching often? My sewing machine man said he could disconnect that part.. I asked another online sewing company if another Juki foot petal without that feature was interchangeable. Answer was no. I’m thinking of searching for another straight stitch machine but really don’t want to. Unless you could recommend one. I currently own a Janome MC6500. Before that I had a Baby Lock. Didn’t like that. I am not a great sewer, I just putter and piece. I like the way stitches look on a more expensive machine. Thank you very much. Holly, Auburn, Maine

    1. you can turn off the thread cutting on the presser foot with a quick preference adjustment. I use it most of the time, but when quilting turn it off.

    2. I have the Juki TL-2010Q and adore it. Best thing I ever did for freemotion quilting. You can buy a pedal switch stopper for $10.99 at Allbrands. Works great. If I remove it the thread cutting feature is still there if I ever need it.

  12. Arlene, I like to backstitch to lock stitches, the Bernina 770 QE does not like that maneuver using the automatic cutter. The machine kept birdnesting….Bernina tried everything….they even gave me another machine to use….same thing. Bernina will not admit that the machine has a flaw. My machine has been sent to Aurora and is back but I haven’t had a chance to try it (back surgery)….in the mean time I sucked it up and bought a Babylock Crescendo…..it is happy to backstitch and is a joy….never birdsnesting….I found Bernina to provide very bad client support. You need to do what you need to do…..good luck whatever you decide to do! So many great machines…you just need really good support.

  13. Am getting back to quilting after several years and wonder if you have any input about the HandiQuilter Stitch 710? Thank you in advance for your help!

  14. I just sold my Juki 2110 because I could not figure out the tension disc and the threading on the machine. I bought it off of ebay from a dealer. I called the dealer and all he did was scream at me over the phone. I sold my Bernina 440qe this year (it had the embroidery unit which did not work and Bernina was not a lot of help via long distance phone call…local dealer said would not help me). I thought okay, I would buy a machine locally. So, I bought a Juki DX7 from a local dealer and then had to ship my machine to Florida due to a recall so I was machine-less for over 3 weeks. When my machine came back, the tension was still not corrected because whenever I tried to applique, the bobbin thread kept on popping up. So, I took my machine to a local dealer and paid to have him fix the tension and the bent needle threader It does applique better, but not great like my Bernina used it. I want to get a machine that more harp space than 7-8″, can applique without bobbin thread constantly showing and can sew an accurate 1/4″ seam, and has an autothreader that can deal with monofilament thread without constantly having to re-thread. I had a Janome 8200, and sold it. The dual feed was awkward and trying to select stitches time consuming. The manual was so cumbersome and not a all user-friendly, I’ve read review after review about machines with issues. I guess at this point I am afraid to go out and buy any sewing machine that it out there.

    1. I love my Babylock Crescendo. Totally dislike Bernina 770 that I am stuck with…. Love my tiny little Brother Project Runway for crafts!

      1. Hi Stef
        Just thinking about getting a Bernina 770. What do you dislike about it? I have a Pfaff 1475CD. I bought it when it first came out in the 1980’s. I thought I was buying a machine for the rest of my life, but now, even the fix it shops can’t make the tension dial behave! Lots of loops on the bottom side of my fabric and I have rethreaded my machine and it still doesn’t help. I am very brand loyal, so I was thinking Bernina. Sure would appreciate your thoughts! Feel free to call too…360-856-9134

        1. I’m sure your pfaff could be repaired especially if you live in America There isn’t much to the tension dial it should be and easy fix. my mom brought one in the 80’s and i’ve inherited it. they are great machines especially for tailoring and sewing silk.

        2. I just got the Bernina 770 QE and absolutely love it!! Great local dealer support and supplies. I love my Bernina sewing chair, too. Very comfortable.

        3. I love my old Pfaff 1475 over my new Bernina 350. There are more reviews on the higher levels Bernina on line, everyone hates them. They rattle and sew horribly. The new Pfaffs may not be that great so hold on to your old machine. Do more research, talk to people who own machines in guilds and ASH.

        4. I love the IDT system on the Pfaff . I have a walking foot for my Viking but find it a bother to attach. The idt works just as well as the walking foot if not better!

      2. Why do u dislike the 770? I “test drive” it and a Janome 9400 (9200?) today and tomorrow going to another dealership to see the baby locks. Would love to hear from you!

        1. The machine does not like to backstitch and use the automatic cutter something I do while machine piecing and quilting…..result: uneven stitches and chronic nesting……big issues for an expensive machine….you can do way better with a less expensive machine…..love my baby lock!!!! Learned a valuable lesson about how a company with a once fine reputation can lose it trying to computerize their machines. Good luck with your selection.

          1. Wow! Good to know!! I am going to test out that Crescendo this week. Have you had it a while? Anything you wish you could change? I also see the Aria online – looks good too.

  15. Does anyone own or have experience with the new Bernina Q20 o r Q24. I am considering this machine on a frame for quilting. I would appreciate any information you could offer regarding stitch quality and consistency, ease of moving the head on the rails, actual quilting space, etc. Many thanks in advance.

  16. I relish, cause I discovered just what I used to be taking a look for. You’ve ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye kedgedcadbcd

  17. My first machine bought in 1984 was the most Basic of the Swedish made Husquvarna. My husband bought in for my 21st Birthday. For my 40th Birthday in 2003 I got a Bernina Virtuosa 150 QE which has been my faithful workhorse for the past 13 years. It gets an annual service and rarely a day goes by that it is not in use. I does everything I ask of it. In 2007 I purchased a Grace Quilting frame and a Husquvarna Viking Mega Quilter with a larger harp space. This worked a treat but is currently in storage since we moved home. My Bernina is the best investment I ever made and I would highly recommend a Bernina if the budget stretches that far. I have friends who swear by their Janomes but they all seem to have more down time than I do. I usually advise people to go for the best Swedish made machine they can afford and that for patchwork and quilting the basics are all you need. I have rarely used the fancy stiches on my QE.

    1. I think the early Berninas were better….my 770QE has been in the shop for 1:2 the year I owned it. It is currently in Aurora, Il….a $7,000.00 mistake. Because I am under the gun, I had to go out and buy a machine: I bought a Babylock Crescendo on sale…..I love it! Not one moments worth of trouble so far! I also have a cheap little PRW Brother….I use it for all small projects….it is a workhorse! I recommend it highly….just can’t do larger projects:medium to large quilts.

  18. I find for the ££££ you don’t get a lot for your money with bernina at all. In fact it’s a rip off hence the reason many people have to have two machines because Bernina can’t do it all and neither can juki.

    I have found Janome to be one of the best brands. Their machines are strong and they offer so many features. All my janome machines have been so reliable. You can get good quality machines between £500 and £1000 which are so reliable but and so offer so many advanced functions.

    If there were no Janome I would opt for Elna or Babylock.

    1. I’m not crazy about Berninas. I have one and don’t really use it. Stitch quality is nice, but feet are prohibitively expensive and to my mind it is not any better than my other machines.

      I have a midrange Janome, two Pfaffs from before the drop-in bobbins, a 3/4 size Singer, and my go-to machine, a Brother QC 1000. I adore both Pfaffs for stitch quality and the IDT, but they are too heavy to be portable and too small to do large quilting on. The little Singer has really great stitch quality and is very portable. And the Brother does everything well. It is a dream to sew on and handles large quilts with ease. I really like the Janome too for quilting, but it’s a monster big machine.

      So, all in all, the Bernina is the machine I like least, and it was more expensive than all of them except for the Janome. This Bernina is temperamental about thread, being level on the table, and needle sharpness. I keep it because eventually I’d like to add the BSR and an embroidery module to it, but then again, I don’t know that I’ll ever really be able to justify spending that much money for the ad-on modules. Many of the quilters in my area adore their Berninas, so maybe I’ve gotten one that’s a little off, but I’ve sewn on others and didn’t like them much either. In all fairness, I have to say the new Pfaff machines don’t sew well at all. Stitch quality is awful on them.

      1. I bought a Bernina 770 QE May of 2015 to piece and quilt. I reverse sew to lock in stitches. Using the automatic cutter, in just a few months the machine was doing massive nesting. It has been in and out of the shop more often than not. I feel duped. The machine has been sent to Aurora, Illinois…. I am so disappointed with Bernina….if I only could get my money back! I am beyond frustrated. My little PRW Brother has been the fill in but the throat is too small for decent sized quilts.

      2. II purchased a Pfaff ambition and it is awful for quilting. Waste of money.Puckers all the time however careful you are. I have an old Pfaff made in Germany and I am going to return to this as the results are far better.

    2. I LOVE my Berninas. I started with Singer, had a White for a short time, and then bought a Bernina and loved it. Bought another Bernina and have never thought to buy anything else. I LOVE them both.

  19. I have been sewing on a Singer 401A since 1960. It has been my workhorse for 56 years. I have it serviced once a year and have NEVER had to take it in for repairs. It made clothes for 9 kids and now 9 grandkids. But, I recently have taken up quilting and it doesn’t like going over 4 layers of fabric. And then if I add the batting and backing I don’t get nice even stitches…it likes to skip stitches and sew unevenly. So I am in the market for a new machine. I would like it to sew through many layers of fabric/ prefer to not have computerized/ I would like the blanket stitch for appliqué/ auto threader would be nice/ thread cutter would be nice/ auto needle down would be nice. Anyone have suggestions for me?

    1. Hi, you need took at a.Babylock QE r a Bernina QE machine I have ne of each and love them both. My Bernina s 17 rs I’d and the mute roared s now being repaired hopefully. My Babylock Espire is 14 yrs old. But yur best bet is to go t a reputable sewing machine store an try out a couple of brands of quilting sewing machines and see which one feels comfortable to you. Bring a quilt sandwich block to try n the machines. That s he I did it.

      1. Oops. My Bernina is 17 yrs. old and the Motherboard is now being repaired. My Babylock is about 14 yrs. old. You cannot get away from computerized machines as that is the way many of them come. Bring a quit sandwich with you and try sewing n different quant sew get machines t see which feels the most comfortable and does the job. Sorry for the previous errors as I am on a mini iPad and it sometimes types errors.

    2. Well, I went out shopping last Friday and you guys are correct. I went to one sewing machine shop and the sales lady looked at me like I had grown a third eye or something when I said I didn’t want a computerized machine. She said “sweetie, they done make them without computers anymore”…first of all, don’t call me sweetie! I didn’t buy anything yet. I took my sandwich along and I also brought a quilt square that I was working on. Before I got to the store I called my sewing machine guy that tunes up my machine every year. He said ” your 401A was the best machine ever made to date…he said if you just want to do some stitches that my machine won’t do, go to Costco and buy an inexpensive Brother.” He is going to be in my neck of the woods in April and he is going to show me how my 401A will sew like butter through many layers. So no machine yet. But, my oh my did I get my eyes opened when I saw the prices at the sewing machine store!

      1. HI, I agree with you, the prices are outrageous. I am still waiting for them to fix my Bernina Virtuosa 150QE machine. The S Board needs to be replaced and they (Switzerland) sent it back to our store supposedly fixed and it’s still not working and now they had to send it back to Switzerland again and hopefully this time they will get it right and fix my machine. It is tough when you are living on a fixed income and you look at the prices of these sewing/quilting machines.

    3. I am new to sewing and quilting and have the same problem with my Pfaff 1199 not liking thicker seams. I am probably going to buy a Janome DC4030P. I am also considering the noncomputerized Janome HD3000, but it does not have a blanket stitch. Both machines are heavy duty.

      1. Hi,
        I’m a quilter and I use a Bernina 150QE and also a Baby Lock Espire. I use the walking foot for in the ditch quilting and the quilting/darning foot for free motion quilting. You need a machine whereby you can put the feeddogs down and has needle up and needle down. The machine you used the Singer is not for quilting. Go online and look up sewing machine recommendations for quilters. Also when you go to look for a machine, make a couple of 12 inch quilt sandwiches (top fabric, batting and backing fabric) and try it out on the machines that you are interested in. You have to feel comfortable with the machine and be able to manipulate and use it easily. Hope this helps.

    4. I learned to sew on a treadle machine. My first purchase was my Bernina 1000 and for over 35 years it has sewn jean beadspreads, satin dresses and everything in between. It has been in the shop once for servicing and needs one again, but in those years it has never let me down.

  20. I just discovered your site and subscribed after I read for awhile. You are a talented sewist and quilter! I look forward to receiving your blog activity and the new things I will learn. Thank you for all your hard work and Happy New Year to you too!

  21. I love the Bernina 1230 (appx 1991) that I purchased used a few years ago for $400. It sews beautifully, I never have any trouble with it, goes through lots of layers, jeans,etc and just as easily sews prom dress fabric. I bought it for free motion quilting, and it does that beautifully too, though the harp space is only 9 inches, so bigger quilts are a struggle. Someday I would like to upgrade to a 440Q or similar, but no rush.

    Also have a Juki TL98 for machine quilting – excellent workhorse! Only wish would be for a bigger bobbin.

    learned to sew on a Singer Featherweight, and it is still music to my ears to hear it sewing today!

  22. Enjoyed your info (thought the 730QE was for quilting and embroidery) and the comments were informative as well as nostalgic.
    I too began on a treadle, but w/o thread or a needle was 7, goal was to keep wheel I one direction. 5yrs. later used skill in a class permitted me to have machine to self. No one else wanted it. Next I purchased a Singer zig zag and used for 45 yrs. till it froze up in the shop. In 1985 purchased a Kenmore great Machine but all my singer ft. don’t fit. Now have 4 newer singers and 1 Bro. (computer and electronic) ea. have own issues. I am interested in an embroidery machine was thinking about a Bro.,but after all you guys info believe I’ll buy American–Baby Lock & found out my Bro.ft. will fit. Thank you all.

    1. Sorry but the Babylock is made in Taiwan (look on the back) with a plant in the US where you would send it for repairs. I just looked at a Jane yesterday and went with the Juki 2010 instead. Sewed with both the Jane and the Juki (they were side by side and comparable to each other) (The Juki is made in China.) I’ve read nothing but positive reviews about the Juki and they have a great reputation over the years, so that is the main reason for my choice. Although they don’t have as great of a warranty, I still chose it. When I compared the sewing, I just felt like I could tell a difference in the smoothness. I want to buy American too and I was so disappointed!

      1. Sorry, I forgot to add that it is a straight stitch only machine. I have another machine which does other stitches. I do quilting and I’m not into embroidery. Also I didn’t want a computerized machine and have to worry with a mother board going out. I know the Juki is a work horse and will last me for many years.

  23. Thanks for turning me onto the Pfaff 2054/2056 machines. I’ve sewn on some Pfaff’s with IDT and loved them but just wasn’t happy with the stitch, especially with thick materials on others and had no idea why. Thanks to your info on when the bobbin mechanism changed, I was able to narrow down exactly what I could buy that I would like for a backup machine that I could also use for all my machine bindings. I also picked up a 2054 at a great price and it is perfect for machine binding, especially with the flange binding that I usually use, IDT and a stitch in the ditch foot!

  24. My first great machine (after the Singer) was a Bernina 930. The second was a 153 and the latest has been the bernina 440 QE. It is great. I still own the 950 (a work horse)

  25. I am shopping for a new Machine,I currently use a Brother CS6000i, which is a great machine, but I have recently moved into the etsy/craft fair market and I need something more powerful, faster, a real workhorse, heavy duty machine. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just straight stitch and zigzag, auto needle threader, but the main thing is fast and powerful, my current machine jams every few inches when I try to run anything thick through it (multiple batting layers, jean, leather, upholstery) Any suggestions? my price range would be up to $500, although that is a stretch. Thanks!

    1. Five years ago I spent about 500 for my used Viking. (El Cajon Sew and Vac) I chose the Lily model, it was the last year produced in Switzerland, I believe. I love it, before I had a Brother and it would jam and made me want to throw it across the room, it’s a dream to use a better machine and be able to sit down and sew; if you only have a few minutes, your sewing time needs to be spent sewing, not trouble-shooting thread stuff. Good Luck to you! 🙂

  26. I had a sewing class in high school & used a store bought pattern to make a beautiful skirt. My Mom helped me out a lot, because it was my first experience with patterns. We used Mom’s old Singer sewing machine, back in the early 80s. Now that was a very long time ago so I need a new one. However I need something easy to use and under $200. This article was extremely helpful and I appreciate the writer’s point of view.

    1. I have a Brother CS-6000i, I really like it and it is very versatile and easy to use and is priced at about $145 on amazon. The only thing is it doesnt do thick material well, the motor just isn’t powerful enough for multiple layers of jean, upholstery or batting. but does great with cottons and the like.

  27. I want to buy ny grandaughter a sewing machine for Xmas. She is 9 yrs old and taken some sewing classes at a local fabric store that uses Pfaff machines. She most recently was using the Pfaff Smarter 260 C (computerized). I cannot afford $500 for this new machine and wonder what Singer machine may be comparable? I have no knowledge of sewing so this is all foreign to me…..suggestions?

    1. Hi!
      How exciting for you and your granddaughter! I found this link for you


      I think what you should essentially be looking for is a solid machine with basic functions. It’s awesome that she got to use a computerized Pfaff, that’s a great machine. But there is something to be said for a good old mechanical when you are newer to sewing.

      Whatever you end up getting I’m sure she will love it!

      1. I just saw you mentioned singer. I own a singer 4452, It costs less than 200$ and has been a great machine for me. I use it for garments and quilts mostly. But be careful with Singer, most of the forums say that Singer’s quality has really gone down hill, brake downs after a year or two, and you are better off going with a different brand.

    2. I recently bought my 8 year old grandaughter a Brother XL- 2600 on line at Amazon. It was about $69. I cannot believe how well it sews and how easy it is to operate. She is loving it! I am a longtime sewer and quilter and have been so impressed with the quality of this machine.

  28. Hi , great info alltogether, does anybody got to know the Brother vx 860 versus the Brother vx 760??
    I have 4 year old Juki which I love but want a sturdy reasonable manual spare machine. Saw both machines in a shop for sale but the Lady doesn’t know much about . Both are serviced .

    1. Dear Manager:

      We are a factory that specialize in the manufacture and export of the spare parts for industrial sewing machine including Juki,Brother ,Typical,Singer,Yamato,Pegasus,, Union Special, SIRUBA,Eastman Cutting machine etc.for example:Presser foot,Needle,Bobbin case,Bobbin,rotary hook,Needle plate,Looper,Knife,Feed dog etc.

      We send you a catalogue with the price for your reference,please find the attachment.If you are interested in any of these parts,Please let us know.

      You also tell us the product you are looking for ,we can offer you a favourable price.

      We look forward to receive your enquiry soon.

      Best regards


      Honida Electronics (Shenzhen)Company Limited
      #896,FengPeiCheng, HuLu town,
      DongYang City ,ZheJiang Province, China 322111

      Telephone:+86 0579 86151937

      Mobile phone:0086 15871516460
      Company Website:http//:www.ritaif.com

  29. Well, if I talk about brand wise, Juki is the top brand for producing full featured industrial sewing machines…

  30. Late jumping in here.

    One of my favorite machines and the only one I take out to sew with is my Singer FeatherWeight. I have owned her for about 15 years.

    However I just bought a Singer 301 A and absolutely adore this machine. So my computerized machines are sitting idle!


  31. I started out with a Singer in the late 60’s, I gave it to a friend of mine when I was moving out of state. I was sorry after I got settled in our new home. I now own a Brother Innovi’s 2500D, I have sewn many quits, made purses and also machine embroidery. It’s a great machine, but because of spine problems, I am now looking for a light weight machine, preferably a Brother or Babylock, that way I wont have to buy more feet & needles, as they use the same. I am presently looking at the Brother CS6000i machine at Walmart. It has been hard to find a used one at a price that I could afford.

  32. My daughter died in October. Among the items we are trying to dispose of is a Bernina Model #801 she bought in 1981. The machine is like new and was rarely used. Also has separate table. Can you advise how we might best approach selling this item? What would be a reasonable price? Thank you.

  33. I am looking to purchase a new sewing machine/embroidery and I cant seem to make up my mind… I’m torn between the Janome and Fpaff. Any advice, recommendations and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  34. I like many of you have several machines . I started out sewing on a old Kenmore that I learned to hate ! My next machine was a Singer touch and sew. I sewed on that for 20 years at least made everything from baby clothes to jeans, suits, wedding gowns and quilts but I wore it out! My next machine was a singer one of the anniversary models one of my daughters still has it. Along came retirement and my family bought me a white cant remember the model ( I still have it but im not home so I cant look) That machine is a workhorse. The only problem I ever had was with the bobbin winder. Finally I have my Cadillac a Janome 6600 I love that machine I did break my free motion foot and replaced it with a metal one and I am still having trouble getting used to it. I sew every day love the built in walking foot it has sewed over everything I have made.I paid a little over 1700 for it 3 years ago I think. I also have two brothers I bought at Wall Mart to travel with. My family surprised me at Christmas with a Brother embroidery machine . The machine is still in the plastic because I haven’t been home . I have enjoyed reading all the comments and found your information really helpful.

  35. I like many of you have several machines . I started out sewing on a old Kenmore that I learned to hate ! My next machine was a Singer touch and sew. I sewed on that for 20 years at least made everything from baby clothes to jeans, suits, wedding gowns and quilts but I wore it out! My next machine was a singer one of the anniversary models one of my daughters still has it. Along came retirement and my family bought me a white cant remember the model ( I still have it but im not home so I cant look) That machine is a workhorse. The only problem I ever had was with the bobbin winder. Finally I have my Cadillac a Janome 6600 I love that machine I did break my free motion foot and replaced it with a metal one and I am still having trouble getting used to it. I sew every day love the built in walking foot it has sewed over everything I have made.I paid a little over 1700 for it 3 years ago I think. I also have two brothers I bought at Wall Mart to travel with. My family surprised me at Christmas with a Brother embroidery machine . The machine is still in the plastic because I haven’t been home but I am going to be using it in february

  36. I have a Brother Innovi’s 2500D which does Machine Emb. & quilting. Its a great machine. I am presently looking for another machine that is lightweight for just sewing/quilting. My emb. machine is getting too heavy for me to take to the quilt group. It has to be lightweight, inexpensive. I realized that I need to have auto thread cutter that cuts the bobbin thread & your top thread, reverse, & drop in bobbins. I hate to waste thread. these seem to be impt. items to have on the machine. I have been looking at the Brother, that way I can use the same bobbins, and feet. I would love to have a Babylock because they also use the same feet & bobbins. I have been looking on Craiglist and at Walmart. I look forward to hear more on machines. If you have any suggestions for me, I would certainly love to hear from you & your followers

  37. Format the textboxes (by right-clicking on the outline of each box) and choosing
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  38. PS
    I omitted to admit that having sold my 180 I replaced it with the Bernina 730! It’s a beautiful machine, but I keep it for finer fabrics and embroidery, in other words “for best” and to use an embroidery designer programme on.
    I loved reading everyone’s comments. It was fun and very useful.

  39. Now this could be long, as a self-confessed sewing machine junkie! (just as well my hubby won’t be reading this)
    My first machine was a high spec Singer which my mother passed on to me when I got married. Must admit I never quite managed to get the tension right, or to be frank, I never liked the machine. So I saved up and bought a gorgeous yellow Bernina 900 in 1981. Fantastic machine, still works well and my granddaughter loves it ( ‘”even though it doesn’t have a screen”). In 1998 I decided machine embroidery was the bees knees and invested in aBernina 180. Another fantastic machine but after much use I had tension problems with ordinary sewing. I think the bobbin holder got worn out from embroidery. I started quilting in 2003 and struggled with getting the 1/4″ foot to work well. This was due to the 9mm feed dogs. I was tipped off by a Bernina rep to forget about the special foot and just move the needle instead to give me the 1/4″ seam.
    Then the 440 QE came along! It is as all you owners out there say, a workhorse, can’t fault it, beautiful machine to use, except for the rather small harp space.
    I was seduced at a craft fair by none other than the Bernina 700 series. I bought the 710 which at that time was sold without the BSR foot, but I already had one from the 440. Big disappointment! Lots of space for big quilts yes, big bobbin and automatic thread cutter BUT no manual presser foot….big mistake Bernina! Very fiddly to position the needle accurately for starting piecing or in the ditch quilting. I must add that I have the luxury of having this machine at my holiday home in Scotland and it doesn’t get used as often as it should so perhaps I just need to become better aquatinted with it to fall in love with it, but I’m not convinced I ever will. I also thought it would be the answer to my dreams to use on a Grace Frame, but alas I find it difficult to get my head round that system too….I prefer to move the fabric, not the machine! Because I found the 710 less easy to piece with too (wide feed dogs here again) I bought the little Bernina 215. A super little machine, lightweight to take to classes, great for piecing, and of course with all those Berninas I have plenty of interchangeable feet! In case you think I have collector mania I must add that I did actually sell the Bernina 180!!
    So with the huge 710 sitting in Scotland I was still left pushing wads of quilt through the tight harp of the 440…in Norway..something had to be done. I hate to admit it but I have turned my back on the beloved Berninas and bought a Janome 8200QPC. It has a huge harp space, sews beautifully, and is very easy to use for SLOW free motion quilting. I’ve been teaching myself/practicing various feather designs which is just not easy at high speed. I’m delighted with it, my only quibble being that after the easy foot changing system on Bernina it’s no fun having to dig out the screw driver every time! There is a vast selection of feet which are included, they have thought of everything for the quilter, it has a great 1/4″” foot which covers up most of the wide feed dogs and even a straight stitch plate is included. This said , the quality of the feet is nothing compared to Bernina.
    I have waffled on a bit (or maybe a lot) but one becomes quite passionate about life with a Bernina, but I don’t know how they will compete with the other brands which have introduced larger harp space. A Bernina is a Bernina but it’s also very expensive and in my view they have not excelled in the design of the 700 series. I reckon I’ll be selling mine, but will hold onto my 440 for many years!

  40. Loved you article and the other comments. Most of my competitive sewing was done on an old wonderful treadle. Then in the 40’s I thought I had to have an electric machine. Bought Sears best Kenmore and loved it. Wish I still had it but when you are young you have to trade in to get newer! Later I bought 2 Viking 6460 one for me and one for daughter who had finished college. We loved them and are still big Viking users. She uses the Diamond premier and I use the Ruby deluxe and the 960Q .I am also a viking service tech.

  41. Thank you for such a GREAT blog – your projects, ideas, and your article about the sewing machines are always interesting reading.
    As for me, I learned on my Nana’s treadle by New Home. It was her wedding gift in 1906. I still have it in my home. From there, I used my Mom’s Singer Rocketeer.
    My husband surprised me with a PFAFF 1475 about twenty years ago. We never bonded…still have it but don’t use it a lot. My favorite machines are Janome (the combined New Home and Japan Sewing Company). I had a 5000 embroidery machine, upgraded to the 9000. When the 9000 could not be fixed, traded on the 9900. Love it!! Also have the 7700 with the large harp. It is a work horse and has a wonderful stitch. I had a Featherweight for classes. A friend begged me to sell it to her so I bought a 760. It is easy to transport in a Tutto case and uses the same feet as the 7700.
    The best machine is one that is loved…I love all my machines, past and present.

  42. I purchased a Pfaff expressions 4.0 a few months ago and I must say it is the best machine I have owned,I have been sewing for 53 years and have owned a variety of machines,eg,singer,Husqvarna,and Brother.I find the 1/4 inch foot excellent,and I love the IDT,it was one reason I purchased this machine,beside the large throat area for quilting,I do not have any trouble chain piecing,and just love it’s many features.

    1. I was looking at the Pfaff sewing machines on the internet and was wondering if you still loved the Pfaff sewing machine, and have you had any problems with it

  43. My first machine was a Singer Futura, which I originally thought was a good machine. Then I got a Featherweight, and found out the Futura was a terrible machine. I use the Featherweight as my travel machine. Still, I persevered and tried and tried to keep using that Futura piece of garbage. I next bought a Singer 201 and that sews like a dream! I use it for all heavy sewing and paper piecing. My Futura got to the point that it had no tension control, so I took it in for service. $50 later, it came back with the same tension problem and a new feed dog issue that it wouldn’t feed fabric straight. So, the Futura is now gone, and in replaced it with the Janome 3160. I would second your review exactly. I use it for knits, any specialty stitches I need, and light piecing.

  44. Hello Julie,
    Here are my criteria for sewing machines…
    If it plugs in, don’t bother.
    If it has the merest hint of rust, ignore it.
    If it doesn’t take a standard needle, leave it where it is.
    Only pay more than £35 if a machine is totally excellent.
    Stop buying machines when you run out of space.
    Result – a modest collection of hand machines and treadles that I can maintain myself. I am totally free of sewing machine repair men and can sew and quilt to my heart’s delight. My newest machine was manufactured in 1949 and will outlive me.
    Love from England, Muv

  45. Thank you for a very informative and interesting article. I have a very basic Janome which sounds like a jackhammer according to my other half. It is a great starter machine but you need to work slowly to achieve really accurate results. I want to save up and invest in a more professional model soon. It looks like it will be a Bernina …

  46. Thanks for the great info/history. I have a 440QE as well and a Kenmore was my first brand new machine. In the early sixties I got a machine that was refurbished and “electric”. Who woulda thought. I wonder how many will admit to learning on a treadle machine.

  47. I have a WWII era Singer Featherweight that my mom bought and that I learned to sew on. This is just a beautiful machine that is good for taking to classes. I had a Kenmore at one point that I wouldn’t recommend for anything. My go-to machine is my Bernina Virtuoso 150 QE that I bought in 2001. It is a dream of a machine and always dependable. It does beautiful piecing and has all the features I need for quilt making. It does excellent straight-line and FMQ, but I finally became totally frustrated with trying to wrestle a large quilt around under the small harp. Last year I invested in a Baby Lock Tiara 16″ sit down quilting machine. It is the same machine as the Sweet Sixteen and I am told is made for Baby Lock by by Handi Quilter. I am totally in love with the Tiara for FMQ! So I have thinned the herd and now have the Featherweight, the Bernina, and the Tiara, and I’m a happy girl!

    1. I love my Bernina Virtuosa 150QE and now the motherboard went and they have to send the motherboard back to Switzerland to be repaired. The new machines are a lot of money and this one has been so reliable for 17 yrs. that I cannot part with it. I just cannot get a new machine for the price of fixing it. I will be without it for over 2 months but thank heavens I have a manual Baby Lock Machine and a Baby Lock Espire for my quilting in the meantime…all old machines but still in great form. I hope I’m doing the right thing by getting it repaired.

  48. I was very interested in reading all about your machines and history. I scanned a few of the replies but will look forward to your recap. I often wonder about buying a quality machine and looked at the top of the line at the Bernina booth at PQIF last October and was very impressed until I was shocked when I found out it cost $10,000! At which time, I found myself not even wanting to see any of the more moderate priced ones. In my experience, electronic machines are much more preferable to mechanical and higher price has not necessarily been more satisfactory.
    1. Babylock entry level (about $200) ran well but I’d heard a friend talk about her walking foot on her Pfaff and went to New York fabrics and bought one.
    2. Pfaff about 25 years ago for $1000 (a lot back then) and loved it but it eventually needed work and despite taking it in 3 times and spending quite a bit, it still has tension problems. Rather than keep spending…
    3. Janome from Sears for $400 about 8 years ago and it was good for about 4 or 5 years and I still use it for free motion quilting, but the plastic part that regulates the feed dogs broke and rather than taking it in….
    5. Brother CS6000i and it was pretty cheap at $159 from Amazon and came with a lot of accessories. It has been so good that recently when it seemed I was having a problem with the fabric feeding, I went ahead and bought another one. Then when I took the new one out of the box I was reading the manual and saw the cleaning instructions and took the old one and got my husbands air compressor out and blew out all the fuzz and then got some tiny tweezers and picked out some more compacted lint from the feed dogs and it sews well again so packed up the new one for a spare.
    6. Sunshine 16 midarm on a frame quilting machine. I’ve quilted quite a few quilts on it but had a lot of grief trouble shooting my problems. It was very inexpensive (relatively) at $3000 for the machine and frame. The manufacturer is in Tennessee and is helpful by email but that only goes so far. I’ve recently been in contact with a support group and have got some good tips, so am still hopeful that I won’t eventually throw it out the window.

    So I’m still contemplating buying a higher priced quality domestic machine one of these days and am glad to get some great information to help me prepare. Thanks for discussing this excellent topic!

  49. I own a Babylock Elegante and am very happy with it. I also own two small Brother machines to take with me.
    But my best purchase was a HandiQuilter Sweet Sixteen sit-down long arm. I absolutely LOVE working with this machine. The support available on line, and from dealers/handiQuilter themselves is unbelievable!

  50. Loved the feedback about machines! I grew up sewing from the age of 6 on – on a Phaff with Cams for different stitches. My mom died in 2010 and we gave it to a neighbor – it is still running! Great machine and a real workhorse. I had a singer touch and sew for many years and lo9vead it. Made my husb and suits and lots of formals for my daughters in college. then, in 1991 I bought a new touch and sew. it was good too. but I stopped sewing for several years. Started quilting in 2010 after mom died and the Singer just didn’t cut it so a bad sales lady sold me a singer Curvey – NOT RECOMENDED FOR QUILTING OR PIECING AND I WOULD’N RECOMEND IT FOR ANYTHING! , so, SHE convinced me what I really needed for q uilting was a machine designead for quilting! Dah!!!!! She sold me a Singer quilting. IT was not too bad but didn’t preform like I saw other quilters machines doing. I went over to the Phaff dealer and got smart – traded for an Expression 2.0 and loved it! wanted the 4.0 but couldn’t afforad it but then we worked a deal when the 4.2 came out and i upgraded to it last summer! It is a machine designed for QUILTING! imagine that! and I love it. I did get a straight stitch throat plate for pieacing and that made a lot of difference in the quality of my chain-piecing. I am very satisfiead with it. I also have a featherweight 221 which does wonderful straight stitching for piecing and it can zig-zag if you have the attachment to do so! In the meantime, I picked up a Bernette 64 at the local bernina dealer and use it to hall to class and guild and on cruzes. It does real good for a little machine and my granddaughter has already put her name on it as she wants to star sewing on THAT machine this summer! Got a Bernina serger as well and love it too. Some day will have a 750 or an 880 Bernina but not right now. The reason – quality, and service! Having delt with many dealers and companies, my one thing is that if thea dealer I am buying from can’t teach me how to use the machine without costing me an additional fortune! – and can’t service the machine when it doesn’t work then that dealer is NOT one that I want to do business with. To me, this is more important than the machine and What I am seeing today is that Bernina is the BEST at BOTH Teaching and service. For example, with my serger from Bernina, I got a manuel, then I purchased a Technal manuel and downloaded free a reference manuel called Mastering your Serger that walked me thru, step aby step EVERYTHING about serging, threading it, settings, adjustments and ll the different techniques and stitches!. THey have similar guides for their machines!. THis company truely wants the people who b uy their machines to know and understand how to sew on them and use them! And the dealer is the same way! I also bought a second hand Ruby made by Viking because I wanted to learn to embroidery on machine. I love it. but if I want to learn anthing, ( even If I had bought it at the viking dealer) I have to pay to take a class – buy more software designs, feet, etc, and h all the machine and accessories to and from class!. Bernina is /has a much better deal but then my aunt always said “You get what you pay for!” thanks for listening.

    1. I am trying to teach myself to FMQ on the Pfaff QE 4.0. I am using the sensormatic free motion foot and setting with the feed dogs down. Should the IDT be connected or disconnected? I’m thinking disconnected but I am winging it! I’ll take any advice you can offer. I’ve read that it is good to increase the thread tension to 5.6. There is also another foot available for purchase called the spring free motion. I don’t know if this is a good move or to just stay with the sensormatic.

      1. Julie, I had a Phaff 2.0 and upgraded to the 4.2 expression. Love it! the IDT system is designed to regulate your stitching – therefore in most instances you may not need to use a walking foot for quilting – therefore, yess, you want it engaged. Try it both ways and see what is most useful for you. Let me know how it goes as I do more piecing than quilting and am starting to do more quilting this season. I like to use “fancy ” design stitches along the piecing seam lines , using varigated thread to compliment my quilt’s colors. I also like to use stitch in the ditch. I think they give more impressive finished look than just free-motion quilting. I also prefer not to quilt any closer than necessary as I want nice fluffy quilts to snuggle up in – not hard cardboard stiff quilts.

      2. Just another thought, Julie. Call your Phaff dealer and ask to bring the machine in with a couple Sandwich swatches all ready A( about 15 inches square should do) and ask if she can sit down with yhou and show you exactly the best way to free motion quilt . Use a thread that is sharply different from the colors of your swatches so you can see the quilting easily and then go home and practice – a lot. Let me know how it goes.

  51. Great information, Julie! I have a Bernina 550QE and LOVE it! It’s always nice to get other quilters’ perspective on things like this!

    Thanks so much for sharing at Needle and Thread Thursday!

    🙂 Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

  52. I noticed you did not mention Necchi machines. My mother has a vintage Italian made one with the cams. I have a Singer Stylist 6544 made in England. Both of these machines are heavy because of being made with sturdy materials, and I really like my Singer. I bought, within the last 2 years, a Brother and a Baby Lock, nothing fancy, just wanted to try them…..and I have different issues with both…..but they are light to carry to guild….as long as they work, I will tolerate the issues. I do not do a lot of fancy stitching in quilting. I am old school when it comes to quilting and do not make them for show. The guild I belong to does a lot of charity work…..so basic sewing is all you need.

  53. HI
    I have always had Bernina’s. My first being a 160 which I traded in for a 180 with embroidery. I recently gifted that machine to someone who needed a machine, but couldn’t afford one.

    I still have a 440 and 780, which I love.

    In between getting the 780 I bought a Pfaff QE4. I wanted the IDT, auto thread cutter and the auto hover foot lift (I don’t like using the knee lift on the Berninas). And I didn’t care for the 8 series of Bernina.

    I also don’t quilt on my domestic machines as I am a longarmer, so that wasn’t important to me. I have yet to use my BSR on either my 440 or 780.

    HOWEVER, I discovered that on a Pfaff you couldn’t adjust the stitch length/width as much as you can on Berninas. I like to machine applique, so this was important to me and I didn’t realize this before I bought the Pfaff. SO, I vowed that as soon as Bernina came out with a new series machine that had the above functions, I would trade in the Pfaff. I got one of the first 780’s at PIQF. The first machine quickly malfunctioned. The dealer said to bring it back and he’d just give me a new machine. The second machine has been a dream. I am lucky in that I haven’t had any issues with it.

    I also have my grandmothers Singer 301, which has a perfect straight stitch and have a couple of featherweights, which also have a perfect straight stitch.

    Happy Quilting!
    Lani in Livermore

  54. Very interesting! In seven years I have “finished” a Brother BC2500 (no more in fabrication). Patchwork and quilting is not for this household machines (this is just in my case:). I bought an industrial machine, Jack, chinese, and I sew almost everything with it. A good mechanic improve it, adaptation a free motion foot for Pfaff, and unscrewing the dog feed part, I can quilt to this very robust and simple machine.

  55. Great post, lots of information. After my sewing machine died, I had very little money so I bought a Brother cs151? at Walmart. I’ve been sewing on it for about two years, and had very few problems until my husband dropped it, inside the sewing machine case, down half a flight of stairs. Now I have some problems with nesting when going over bulky seams. For an inexpensive machine, it pieces well and has a nice stitch until the accidental dropping. The insides are mostly metal, and I’ve been happy with it. Your opinion, do you think the nesting might be a tension issue with the bobbin? I hate to screw around with the bobbin tension if that’s not the problem. Thanks for your input. Oh, my husband uses an old White that I bought at an estate sale, and that’s what I do my FMQ on. I can’t drop the feed dogs, but I’m used to that. It does a pretty decent job, just requires a bit of strong arming because of the feed dogs. Wish it had a stitch regulator though, that would be a nice perk.

  56. I was very interested in hearing about your sewing machines and the
    features you like and dislike amongst the various brands.
    I own a Pfaff 2124 and like it very much. It has the IDT, which is so
    much easier than having to attach a walking foot when machine quilting. Also, it sews very well over bulky seams. I like that it has a narrow free arm, whereas some machines don’t. It does not have
    a pressure regulator. I am wondering how important this feature is.
    When looking for a new machine, I think it is important to notice the
    machine’s various presser feet and how they are designed.

  57. I also started with a Kenmore. I now have the Bernina 440 Quilter edition and love it plus 2 featherweights

  58. I’m not sure if when I add my choices whether it will add to the discussion for current buyers but maybe will help those buying used machines. I purchased a second Pfaff (my first was a 927, purchased for $650 CDN in 1985) as I thought it would improve my FMQ. The Pfaff 2046 is great for everything I have asked of it excepting the small harp size making larger quilts a challenge. I sometimes worry that computer internal parts might be an expensive repair but so far, no issues with that. The 927 is also a workhorse, all mechanical parts with a variety of stitches and it will use a walking foot. Going back even further (I’m a retro girl), my class machine is a Singer featherweight from 1952. It’s a wonderfully accurate piecing machine.

  59. I really enjoyed about all the machines. As you went on it was my machines also. kenmore, then viking and now my Bernina 440QE. This us where i am now and I do wish I had a bigger harp.

  60. I upgraded a year ago from a 1980’s slant shank Singer to a 710 Bernina. I love my Bernina, it has spoiled me for any other sewing machine 🙂

  61. Thank you so much for your article on sewing machines. I’m thinking of getting another machine and this information you shared is soooooo helpful.

  62. Thank you sooo much for such an in-depth article! I own a Pfaff Creative 7530, which is about 14 years old and has the old bobbin system. I also have and early 90’s Kenmore and a 60″s Singer and a 90’s Brother Serger. I really love my Pfaff. I heart it!!!! The only thing that bugs me about it, is when I am FMQing a large quilt, if I pull too hard on the fabric under the needle, it knocks the timing off and I have to send it to the shop! GRRRR!! I have recently tried FMQing chrysanthemums, ala ‘Stitched in Color’, and my machine isn’t liking it so much. It might be me though, I haven’t done a large quilt in about 8-9 years.

  63. You wrote such an interesting, informative article! For me, learn something every day! I own a 440QE as well, and bought a Brother 1500 about 10 years ago…the machine is so much like the Juki straight stitcher they could be twins. The 1500 has a fine straight stitch and I love using it. I love my 440 for just about everything, one of the best Bernina machines ever. I bought a small, inexpensive Brother for classes and travel (less than $200) and it really is a great little machine. I collected a Singer 201, 301 and 221 Featherweight years ago. The 201 is an anchor in a wood cabinet, but it will sew through anything. I made canvas covers for several different items, and that baby sewed like a dream…they don’t make em like that anymore!

  64. I have a Bernina 801 from 1982, a Husqvarna/Viking Orchidea from 1995 and a Bernina 730 from 2006. They each have their own strong points. I love to piece and FMQ on the Bernina 801, I embroider on the Bernina 730 and do buttonholes on that too – occasionally FMQ, whereas the Husq/Viking Orchidea is the best ever for dressmaking (it will do nice buttonholes but the 730 has a wider stitch so is better for thicker fabrics). Any bag making is done on the old 801 because it wil sew through anything if you put your foot down; it won’t throw hissy fits.
    If I ever need a new machine (and I will because once another board goes in either the Orchidea or the 730 that is it) I will go for a machine brand that has the best dealer and tech in my area. If the 801 for some reason gives up its ghost I will get an second hand industrial straight stitch machine. All brands produce excellent machines (and lemons) so today I honestly do think that a good tech and a dealer who knows the machines they sell is the most important thing when it comes to choosing a machine

  65. I only own two machines and they are the same two you listed as using the most: The aurora 440 QE Bernina and the Juki. I highly favor the Juki for piecing because it is so fast. I can get so much done on it. I did mark my own 1/4″ line because the 1/4″ foot that comes with it was slightly off. I have found that you absolutely MUST use high quality thread when using the Juki or it struggles with tension. It is also important to use the same thread in the bobbin.

    The Bernina is the best machine I have ever owned. It does everything I want it to do except embroidery. I have not had a bit of trouble with it (until lately) in 15 years. I did not think it was possible to wear out a Bernina, but I think I have or it just needs re-timed. I seriously doubt there are many people out there who have more hours on their machine than I do. I have used it for several hours daily for 15 years. I do machine quilt on my Bernina as well, but I have recently switched to the Juki making sure that I use quality thread.

    1. I also love the Bernina 430/4400, as well as the Juki TL-2010Q (although I sold mine), but I just had to point out that the Bernina 430/440 machines haven’t been around for 15 years, I believe they came out in 2005 or 2006.

      1. You are correct about the Bernina. I was away from home when I replied to the post. Now that I am home I realize that mine is a Virtuosa 150 Bernina Quilter’s Edition.

  66. I think that my Singer 301s are the absolute best for piecing. I think the stitches are gorgeous and I can do miniatures very accurately. They like a drink of oil,sew absolutely any thread, have NO timing issues.I have several Janomes including a 6600 which has Accufeed, a built in walking foot. The harp is quite large. It works wonderfully for quilting, has needle up/ down, thread cutter, ability to move needle in .1 increments,image reverse,….. People love this machine, I don’t. I use it for quilting using Accufeed and use decorative stitches occasionally. That’s it. I hate to piece on this machine. I also have an older Viking 6420 or something similAr. I paid $1000 for this in the 70s. It still works and can power through anything but it winds bobbins poorly and weighs a ton. The feet cost a small fortune each. So to summarize it all, I think that you need several machines, as they each do one thing well.

  67. I am always interested in this subject. I bought a Pfaff Quilt Expression 2048 in 2008 (I think!) off the floor at Houston Quilt Festival and then a friend of my husband’s kindly brought it down here to Venezuela for me. One of the reasons for my choice was that there was a Pfaff shop and service here, the other was that I went to Bernina first with my $1000 budget and they were very sniffy about that so I didn’t hang around. I love my machine, the IDT does wonderful quilting in straight or slightly curving lines, it goes over bumps brilliantly. I must say I sorted out a lot of my troubles after I started using Superior threads which come with tension recommendations. BUT I cannot make it FMQ nicely, not even rubbish starter quality. In 2010 I took a class in Houston for beginners and we used a Janome and I brought my efforts home on the class sandwich for reference. I have tried everything but I think it is the fixed FMQ position of the foot which is the trouble. Have just enrolled on Craftsy for Quilting With A Walking Foot!
    My research which has been extensive through reading on the Internet coincides with your opinion of the Juki, lots of quilty professionals who blog seem to have them (in their photos) then the Bernina but the price is so much higher than everything else. In my dreams I think I will end up with the Janome 7500 with the 11″ harp space.

  68. I own a Bernina 430 Aurora and I am with you, that this is the best machine for your money. I have had my share of machines as well and love how easy the change out of feet are on the Bernina, as well as the great blanket stitch on it. I also own a George (gift from my dh) made by American Profession Quilting Systems, I use it for all my free motion quilting. Babylock has a nice sit down free motion machine called (Tiara) I think that is also reasonable price.

  69. My machine is a Viking Designer I. She’s a good machine except now that I’m quilting again I wish she had a much larger harp space. I’m investigating machines because we moved here to Mexico 4 1/2 years ago and I’m sure she’s going to need work sooner than later and I haven’t been able to find a tech to work on her down here. Anyone have advice on what countries machines are sold and serviced in?

  70. Such perfect timing! I am ready to upgrade, but really not sure what kind of machine to buy. Thanks for this post!

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