I get a LOT of people asking me to recommend a sewing machine and I never really feel like I can answer that.
Before I recommended a fusible adhesive – I tested a bunch of different brands.
Before I recommended fabric paints or markers for eyes, I tested a bunch of different brands.
I just haven’t sewn on enough different sewing machines to recommend one. Plus – a machine that’s perfect for me might not be perfect for you. It all depends on what you like to sew!
What I CAN do is tell you what I sew on and why it’s perfect for me. 🙂
My current machine is a Bernina 710.
Before that I had a Pfaff Lifestyle (no longer made) that I really liked, but I went shopping for a new brand when we moved to the mountains and I was suddenly 3 hours from the nearest place that would service Pfaffs. So – number one – make sure whatever brand you buy is one you can easily get serviced. You should take your machine in once a year for a deep clean and you don’t want to have to drive for hours. 🙂
So – back to my Bernina.
I LOVE HER!
Here’s why. . .
I mostly sew quilts – and mostly applique – so these features knock my socks off:
- I can set my machine to stop with the needle down and it automatically raises the presser foot halfway so I can pivot my work. This is my favorite feature!
- My machine ties knots for me at the beginning and end of my stitching. And at the end of my stitching it also pulls the threads to the back and clips them. Magic!
- I can adjust the amount of pressure on my presser foot – which is handy when I’m quilting really wavy lines without basting the layers first. This is also nice when I’m sewing softies and sometimes need to sew through 6 layers of cuddle fleece. 🙂
- I love the built-in walking foot. I basically keep it engaged all the time.
- It has a supersized bobbin which is great for quilting. Not as much running out of bobbin thread in the middle of a long line of stitching! (The next level up has an alarm that lets you know when you’re about to run out of thread – but I wasn’t willing to pay extra for that.)
It’s got a lot of general features that I really love too – not specific to quilting:
- It’s quiet (for a sewing machine) and doesn’t shake the table too much.
- It’s easy to change the needle and the feet.
- It has a nice big slide-on table (not shown in the photo).
- I don’t sew much clothing, but the free arm is great for sewing softie heads. (Most people use it for hemming pants and sleeves.)
- It’s got a good strong light.
- The controls are easy to use. (Though – honestly – it has a LOT of features that I never use.)
- It handles any fabric I throw at it with no problems.
It does NOT have the built-in Bernina Stitch Regulator. I’ve tried it and think it’s pretty awesome, but I don’t do free motion quilting so I didn’t want to spring for that expense. I might try free motion in the future, though, so I made sure to get a model I could add that to at a later date.
My advice if you’re shopping for a machine is to test sew – al LOT. Do not be afraid to take up the people’s time at the sewing machine store! It’s a big investment and you should make sure you’re getting something that will work for you.
Bring in swatches of any specialty fabrics you like to sew with and make sure the machine you’re considering can handle them. I’ve heard several reports of Brother machines simply not feeding cuddle fleece through. We think maybe their feed dogs are less grippy than other brands? I LOVE using cuddle fleece for quilt backs so that would be a deal breaker for me – but it might not matter at all to you.
My last bit of advice is to ask other sewists. Nobody can recommend one machine above all others, but we can all tell you what we like and don’t like about what we use. The Shiny Happy People group is a great resource and I’ve seen many helpful discussions of different machines there. Hop in and ask about a machine you’re considering!