I’ve Been Machine Shopping!

Yes, it’s true—I’ve got myself a new sewing machine! That’s worthy of a two-post day on the blog, am I right? : )
The old machine

Buying a new machine was not something I had expected to do any time soon. But on Wednesday, my almost 5-year-old Baby Lock Decorator’s Choice went lame on me, for the second time in less than six months. It simply would not feed the fabric. The feed dogs were up, but you wouldn’t know it to sew on it. I could get it to (kind of) work, but only by using the walking foot and really cramming the fabric through manually.

This was the same problem I experienced earlier this year, and at the time the repair guy got it up and working again, but at a cost of $110 and a week of down time. And now here I was again, with the exact same issue. Anyone else ever have a problem like this, and know how it might be fixed permanently? I’ve got a potential buyer lined up for my old machine (my mom is interested in buying it as a back-up), but only if she thinks it can be fixed for real this time. So if anyone has insight into this issue, I would love to hear about it. (I should note that, just like last time, there was a gradual process of decline in how the feed dogs were working—I guess it just suddenly reached critical mass on Wednesday.)

At any rate, while my Decorator’s Choice has mostly been a great machine (the current version of my machine is the Baby Lock Elizabeth), I bought it when I had only been sewing about 6 months. At the time, I didn’t know what type of projects I would mostly end up sewing, or just how obsessed (ahem) I might become with it. LOL. So in the years that have passed since I bought it, it became obvious that while it is a good machine, it might not be the perfect machine for me. I inevitably started a wish list in my head of features that I wanted, and paid close attention to machine reviews when I came across them.

And when my machine crapped out again on Wednesday, I decided it was time to take action. So, tomorrow I’ll be posting a full run-down of all the machines I considered, what I ended up buying, and why. If you think you may be in the market for a higher-end machine soon and want to know more about my process, stay tuned.


But I have one piece of advice to leave you with before tomorrow’s machine round-up: If you’re a newish sewer/quilter who’s thinking about buying a machine, but you can put off your purchase for even a little while, I recommend doing so. When I bought my Decorator’s Choice almost five years ago, I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by the buying process and sticker-shocked by the prices. $500, $750 for a sewing machine?? When I wasn’t sure what I wanted, or whether this hobby would “stick” for me? It was a tough process, and I should have realized it meant it wasn’t good timing for me to buy at that time.

If I could have held out a little longer with the hand-me-down Kenmore that I started out on, I would have known that much more about sewing and machine features when I did go to buy one, what I really needed, and what I didn’t. I don’t know for sure that I would have ended up with anything different, but at least I would have felt more confident in my choice. This time around, my buying experience was totally different—I felt well-informed, completely in control, and comfortable investing in a better machine, because I know I’ll use it. LOL. At any rate, check back tomorrow for all the machines I considered and how I weighed them against each other.

17 replies
  1. cherylj
    cherylj says:

    I am looking forward to your post regarding purchasing a new machine. I have only been quilting for about 6 months on my mother's old Singer (I am guessing about 20 years old). Because it is an old one it is actually pretty sturdy and works well but I know that with the amount I am using it my luck with the machine will run out one day. Congrats on your machine.

  2. Impera_Magna
    Impera_Magna says:

    Sorry to hear your feed dogs have given up the ghost again… sewing machine down time is just awful, even worse than computer issues.

    Very good advice to folks new to sewing/quilting: make do with an older machine until you know you're going to stick with the new hobby. If you want to upgrade down the road, you'll know more what you're looking for… and what you're willing to pay for the new machine.

    I'm looking forward to tomorrow's post, even tho I'm not in the market for a new machine. My 18.5 yr old Bernina 1230 got new gears last January and is humming along beautifully.


  3. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    that is a great tip. i can not wait to read up on what you got and the ones that were in the running. i am shop[ping around for a new machine. Mostly in my head at the moment, just trying to work out what i want from a new machine. so i can not wait….

  4. Cherie
    Cherie says:

    That is an odd one. Maybe lint is clogged up underneath them? I wish I hadn't bought my 2nd machine. It's broken twice and the shop won't take it back, not even for store credit! So now it sits in the box and I'm not sure if I can sell it either. I have a great machine now, maybe in a few years I'll upgrade =D

    Also I've added some new fabrics into my swap shop, as well as a new one via Flickr. If you're interested feel free to check them out =D

  5. cindi
    cindi says:

    I too am a babylock owner. my first machine lasted 15 years. Then it did the same thing you are describing. The repair shop told me it was fixed and I brought it home and it worked briefly then happened again. I took it back and this time they discovered it was a broken gear tooth. I now own a Babylock Serenade and I am in love. It is the best machine I have ever sewn on and the first machine I ever owned was a Bernina. But, like you say, the sticker shock is viscious. But the Serenade is truly worth the money.

  6. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I just went through the same process. My singer I had for four years and it up and died. At the time it only cost $200.00 and my mom said the same thing you might like this hobby or hate it, so lets start off small. Glad that I did. But once my machine died it took a lot of convincing to my husband to up grade to a newer machine. He did not want to pay the cost of the machines I was looking into. I was highly interested in Janome Memory Craft 6600 and then realized that I probably would not be happy with it in the end. I really wanted the Janome Horizon 7700. It was way more than what my hubby wanted to spend ($3300.00). In the end I went with the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 875Q. It fits me perfectly! Expensive a bit, yes. But for the same type of machine as the Janome Horizon and $1200.00 cheaper I was happy with the compromise. I got everything I wanted in a machine and my husband still a little shaky about the price was thrilled that it was all over.

    Oh, don't feel bad for him, he just dropped some big cash on a motorcycle and all the things that go with it. He was giving me heck over the sewing machine because it took away from the motorcycle. Not to mention he bought himself a uber computer the year before too. Fair is fair honey!

    Sorry for the long comment I was going also write up the same experience about machine shopping too and I never got around to it. I needed one more question answered before I could do so. I did get my answer too. I asked my gild members what is the difference between machine companies? The answer: It is all in what you want the machine for. Each company is known for one thing or another but it all comes down to what you want out of a machine to do and what you are comfortable sitting behind for hours on end.

  7. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    I just bought an Elizabeth about 6 weeks ago! My first "expensive" machine (relatively expensive that is haha) and I'm excited to hear about your shopping experiences. Mine was more of an impulse one day when I wanted to throw my Singer Confidence Quilter out the window!

  8. Ramona
    Ramona says:

    Good luck! Just went through the same process for the same reason. I've had a Viking/Husquevarna 990 for almost 30 years and absolutely loved it. Feed dogs quit and it took me three servicemen to get it fixed. Now it's stopped again and I'm told it's a bad bet to keep putting money in it. But it stayed down so long the first time and because I didn't have faith in getting it fixed, I decided to shop for a replacement. I ended up with a Bernina 820. Crazy investment, but I love FMQ with all that space. I've seen some quilters online using a Juki and would have loved to take a look at one, but have none nearby. Oh well. As long as I'm able to sew, I'm good.

  9. Dora, the Quilter
    Dora, the Quilter says:

    It always makes me sad to hear of expensive machines breaking and having to be replaced. I looked at a lot of machines before deciding I wasn't going to spend more on a sewing machine than I did on my first car–or my most recent one, for that matter.
    I have two machines that get the vast majority of my work–a Singer 15-88 from 1936 and a Necchi BU from the late 1940's. I took their motors off and treadle them. They don't need expensive service–and both of them are all metal, and I expect them to still be running in another 100 years. (And when I need to take a machine somewhere to sew, I have a 1952 Featherweight by Singer or a Singer 99 from the late 1930's that I converted to hand crank.)
    In any case, I hope you get many hours of pleasure from the use of your new machine (and none of the issues that occurred with the old one).

  10. Tsoniki Crazy Bull
    Tsoniki Crazy Bull says:

    Going to read the new post now! I went from a $100 Singer to a little more expensive (but not much, maybe $150) machine (probably Singer but I don't remember) to a Brother. I looked at a Brother and figured it was the best price for me, and admit the sticker shock is what turns me off from buying another! My machine has lasted 4+ years so far!

  11. Jodi Cantrelo
    Jodi Cantrelo says:

    I purchased a baby lock decorators choice machine a few years ago. Sad to say it is the worst machine I have ever owned. I’ve had it in to the shop several times and they tell me nothing is wrong. I have all but given up trying to sew garments, too frustrating!! I will be sewing along just fine and all of a sudden the needle goes down into the bobbin case, breaking the needle and pulling some fabric into the bobbin case. It’s practically impossible to get the mess untangled. I just read on another blog that it is a problem in the machines software. Has anyone else had this problem?


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