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Intermediate standard sewer. Which sewing machine to buy?

(23 Posts)
AskAlice Tue 28-Feb-23 19:01:03

So the background is (sorry if this is a bit long-winded but I want to give you all the info!): I started sewing again during lockdown with an old Jones sewing that was bought in 1982 when I had my first daughter. My mum was a professionally-trained court dressmaker who had taught me the essentials, although I never really took advantage of her knowledge.

Fast forward to just before lockdown, when I had retired. I dug out the old machine and made some clothes for DGD and DGS, which went quite well and I enjoyed the experience, so I bought myself a new computerised Singer machine. After a few months, the bobbin timing went and in sheer frustration I bought another simpler Singer just to tide me over until I could get the computerised machine fixed (lockdown made it hard to get it fixed) I finally had the computerised machine sorted out early last year, and have used it daily ever since with the simpler machine sitting in a cupboard as a spare.

Now the computerised machine has started playing up again! Very frustrating, and I have decided that Singer machines aren't what they used to be and am looking to treat myself to a more reliable model. But what do I buy?! My budget is £400 - £550. I've been doing some online research and have thought that maybe either Brother or Janome. I don't want fancy fonts, embroidery or quilting machines and I don't need eight different types of buttonhole, but would like some decorative stiches, automatic buttonholes and if possible an automatic thread cutter. I'm sewing for a new DGD and find that lots of short seams mean lots of thread cutting which adds to the time taken.

Please can anyone advise me which machine would be suitable, and if they think Brother and Janome would be a good brand to buy?

Many thanks in advance.

AskAlice Tue 28-Feb-23 19:08:36

Sorry, meant in the first para "I started sewing again before I retired" - keyboard jumping all over the place at the moment!

Overthemoongran Tue 28-Feb-23 19:26:18

I bought the Janome 5030 Sewing Machine, during lockdown, it cost £369.00 from John Lewis. It replaced my previous machine that had been a 21st birthday present many, many years ago, so I feel I’ve gone from medieval times to space age! It has plenty of decorative stitches, but not so many that I will never use some of them. It does 3 different buttonholes automatically and has an automatic needle threader- not auto thread cutter, although there is a cutter built into the machine, just above the needle, so it is very easy to cut the thread without scissors. I absolutely love this machine, it is so easy to use, half the weight of my previous machine and so much quieter. Good luck with your search.

NotSpaghetti Tue 28-Feb-23 19:34:21

I have used a Janome and loved it.

NotSpaghetti Tue 28-Feb-23 19:36:59

Oh, and my daughter was recommended a Janome when she was a fashion student (can't remember the model, sorry).

vegansrock Tue 28-Feb-23 21:42:32

Janome are a good brand, but for your budget you could get a second hand mechanical Bernina which would last years. I’d go to a good sewing machine dealer which does repairs and servicing and try out a few models.

Nannarose Tue 28-Feb-23 22:14:11

No Singer are not what they used to be!
Broadly I think that at your budget, you might be better with a good solid second-hand machine.
I find that the newer models can be very temperamental.
I suggest 2 things:
If you can get to a 'show' (such as at the NEC in March) go and try machines - the big names will be there.
Otherwise / as well if possible look for the largest sewing machine shop you can find within travelling distance. Ring to ask the best time to go in, and tell them your budget. They will give you a lot of machines to try and talk you through them.
And yes, I am very impressed with Janome!

Nannarose Tue 28-Feb-23 22:15:19

PS: a shop may do you a trade-in

AskAlice Tue 28-Feb-23 22:23:50

Thank you all for your quick replies. Janome seems like a respected brand. Nannarose yes, it would be good to try some different models out. NEC is not too far away...I live in East Hertfordshire so maybe 90 minutes or so. Will try to persuade OH to have an awayday there. I'm sure he will find something interesting to do while I spend my time in sewing heaven! Otherwise, our more local sewing dealer has models there to try out including Brother and Janome and they are very well recommended. They also do reconditioned models, so may take my Singer as a trade-in - I will ask. Thank you.

AskAlice Tue 28-Feb-23 22:26:27

Vegansrock - I will get in touch with our nearest sewing specialist and see what they have and what they recommend. They do reconditioned models and have great reviews on our local Facebook page. Thank you.

Susie42 Wed 01-Mar-23 18:16:21

It’s difficult to recommend any particular brand as what suits one person might be hated by another. I would suggest visiting a dealer who carries a wide range makes and try as many as you can. If this is not possible I would recommend on-line suppliers Sewing Machines Direct or Sewing Machine World, both companies have a good reputation and are extremely helpful and carry a very wide range of machines. I’m not keen on Janome as I used one in a class and was not impressed with the performance.

Chardy Wed 01-Mar-23 19:05:54

Before you choose, I'd make a list of what you want it for in the future. Will you use all the bells and whistles that make it expensive?
I've owned both Janome and Brother machines, and got on well with them.

AskAlice Wed 01-Mar-23 19:31:33

After a day of researching online, making a wishlist of what I would like as essentials/luxuries and speaking on the phone and online with various outlets including our most local one, I have finally made my choice. Thanks you Susie42 for recommending Sewing Machines Direct. They were very helpful and pointed me in the right direction without trying to push the more expensive machines.

I have chosen a Janome 5060QDL - I'm keen to expand my skills now and it seemed to have all I wanted, plus the automatic thread cutter was the clincher! All the reviews I read were excellent. And just by chance I spoke to a neighbour this morning who has always had Janome machines and rates them very highly.

I'm just a bit sad that I've deserted Singer - I was taught by my mum who had a Singer industrial machine with a motor like a Rolls Royce engine mounted underneath. When she used it upstairs, the whole house vibrated!! When she died in 2012 she'd had it for 62 years and it was still going strong with a little help from my Dad who serviced it regularly (he was an aero engineer in the war and could strip down any motor/engine in a trice and put any problems right!)

It's being delivered tomorrow - I'm so excited!

Susie42 Sat 04-Mar-23 16:09:15

Ask Alice, please let us know how you’re getting on with your new machine. I had a quick look at it and it sounds great, if I were to change my machine I think I would go for the same model.

ParlorGames Sat 04-Mar-23 16:12:46

Janome! Best machine I've ever used.

AskAlice Sat 04-Mar-23 16:25:39

Hi Susia42. It really is impressive, smooth and quiet in operation and so many features to explore. Some of them are a bit over my head at the moment but I'll give them a try as my dressmaking skills progress.

Two comments: a few of the functions are duplicated from what I can see and have read in the manual. For instance, there is a lock stitch button on the machine itself, but there is also a straight stitch pattern which does an automatic lock stitch at the start and then you press the reverse button to do a lock stitch at the end. Seems to me you would just use the plain straight stitch pattern and press the lock stitch at the start and finish, but maybe I'm missing something.

The hard cover is great (I've used a cloth cover that I made until now) but if you want to use it you have to unplug the machine and the foot pedal from the machine at the side. I don't like doing that as I've found it loosens the connection over time with previous machines. If they could make a cut-out to go over them it would be better.

There's also not quite as much room between the sewing plate of the machine and the overhead as there was on my Singer. Not been a problem so far though.

But these are just minor things. So far (and I've used it for several hours over a couple of days) I think it's a great machine! Once I remember to use the automatic thread cutter it will be even better grin

If you do get one I hope you enjoy using it as much as I am.

Susie42 Sat 04-Mar-23 16:36:31

@AskAlice I’m pleased to hear you’re enjoying your new machine a finding out what it can do. I can’t justify buying a new machine as my Bernina is running perfectly, if I do buy another machine I would upgrade my cover stitch machine.

Drina01 Sat 04-Mar-23 17:14:39

Really interested in this thread as I am now retired and would dearly like to return to sewing. Always made own curtains etc and in the 70s used to be a competition between myself and sister in law who could run up the best jacket for a sat night out ! My question is about the shuttle. I can’t seem to manage newer machines with the vertical type shuttle. I end up laying the machine on its back to fiddle with it. Used to have an old Singer that had the shuttle in the usual place. Do any of the machines mentioned have a normal top loading drop in shuttle ? Thanks.

swampy1961 Sat 04-Mar-23 17:30:52

Totally off topic here - but when I read Intermediate Standard Sewer - I thought we were on a D-I-Y thread about to talk about public sewers and the like!!

Ignore me!! I might just go away!! wink

AskAlice Sat 04-Mar-23 17:48:26

swampy1961 grin

AskAlice Sat 04-Mar-23 17:54:53

Drina01 most of the newer domestic use machines have drop-in top loading shuttle/bobbins. I think some of the Heavy Duty Singers have front loading, but to be honest most lighter weight machines can cope with almost any material. I've sewn heavy denim and even suede on my last machine and it coped perfectly well.

The only machine I have with a front-loading vertical bobbin is my 1982 Jones metal machine which is up in the loft as it seized up when I resurrected it just before lockdown. I also took up sewing again just after I retired in 2019, although I must admit I hadn't done tons of sewing before that, just a few pairs of curtains and some sun-dresses when my DDs were little in the early 80s.

Hope you do manage to get back to your sewing! It's been a life-saver for me during lockdown and the dark winter months.

Caramme Thu 30-Mar-23 13:59:38

I have a Janome sewing machine and serger and am very happy with both. Definitely an improvement on Brother and Singer, though both were good in the past.

Susie42 Fri 31-Mar-23 19:54:24

I’m not keen on Janome, however, I think that could be due to a bad experience of using one at a class but I think the machine had been poorly maintained or mis-used. I have a Bernina and would recommend every time but they are now very expensive. Steer clear of Singers as they are very hit and miss these days. AskAlice has just bought a Janome and has written about it earlier in this thread.