Author Topic: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine  (Read 790 times)

englishteacheralex

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Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« on: May 25, 2019, 08:24:49 PM »
Time for me to learn how to sew. So many hemming and mending projects, so little skill and so few tools.

I'm thinking Craigslist is going to be ideal for this purchase. I seriously have no idea how to sew but I think I could teach myself. It can't be that hard.

A cursory look at Craigslist has abundant sewing machines listed <$50. Any advice on how to choose? Brands to look for or to stay away from?

No clue about this purchase, just thinking it would be a really good thing to have a sewing machine around.

AliEli

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2019, 01:01:48 AM »
I have a brother sewing machine, but if I were to replace it I would get an Elna. I think a good rule of thumb is to avoid the cheaper end of machines. Most brands make machines at different price points, so try to avoid the cheaper lines of any brand. They tend to use more plastic and the tension can be a problem down the track and it can end up eating your fabric.

mspym

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2019, 02:45:47 AM »
Pretty much any model that a school will get for sewing classes is going to see you right. I have a vintage Bernina that is an absolute trooper - 20+ years of being used for sewing classes at a high school and still going strong. My mum has 40+ year Elna that just won't die. I tend to stay away from the more modern machines with chips in them because it jsut adds another layer of potential breakage but they do give you more stitch options.

Dicey

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2019, 03:42:24 AM »
Don't buy yet, borrow. Put the word out in your circle and something will come up. Once you've figured out the basics, then you can think about buying something. Think of it the way you probably learned to drive. You learned on someone else's vehicle, became proficient, then bought your own.

Imma

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2019, 04:01:29 AM »
If at all possible I would get a refurbished machine from a reputable store. Usually they'll give you a short course on how the machine/maintenance works too which I would highly recommend. Machines need regular servicing but not every owner does that. If you buy from a private seller and are new to sewing you might not notice if a machine was not properly maintained. I personally have a simple, electric Bernina from the 80s. These cost about 200 now from a shop (private seller is probably cheaper) and it looks like it might outlive me. It's all metal, no plastic and easily sews 4 layers of denim fabric.

I swear by Bernina but other brands people are enthusiastic about are Husqvarna, Janome, Singer. I would stay away from cheaper new machines in favour of older, used brand name machines, but it sounds like that's your plan.

former player

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2019, 04:43:00 AM »
I would second putting the word out among your connections and something will probably turn up - both I and a friend got good second hand machines that way in recent years, for a total of 20 between the two of us.

For the little projects, I often find that hand sewing is less trouble than getting the machine out.  If you are not confident with this, have a look around your acquaintance for a woman (possibly an older one) whose clothes look well cared for despite not being new and ask what she does for small alterations and repairs - she may very well be happy to help get you started.  If this isn't practical then looking around youtube to find someone whose videos chime with you could be the way to go, or evening classes at a local adult education college.

Cranky

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2019, 08:54:34 AM »
Absolutely ask around first. Plenty of people have their mom's old machine they'd be pleased to pass on.

I had Brother and Janome machines in my classroom. None of them cost very much and I bought them through the Nasco home ec catalog. They worked fine, and we sewed something every year.

There are many very helpful sewing groups on Facebook.

six-car-habit

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2019, 09:10:24 AM »
If at all possible I would get a refurbished machine from a reputable store. Usually they'll give you a short course on how the machine/maintenance works too which I would highly recommend. Machines need regular servicing but not every owner does that. If you buy from a private seller and are new to sewing you might not notice if a machine was not properly maintained. I personally have a simple, electric Bernina from the 80s. These cost about 200 now from a shop (private seller is probably cheaper) and it looks like it might outlive me. It's all metal, no plastic and easily sews 4 layers of denim fabric.

I swear by Bernina but other brands people are enthusiastic about are Husqvarna, Janome, Singer. I would stay away from cheaper new machines in favour of older, used brand name machines, but it sounds like that's your plan.

 My spouse bought a used Bernina from a 2nd hand consigment store [all sorts of stuff, not just sewing related] . I would guess late 80's - early 90's production. The lady had provided the owners manual and her phone #.  Spouse slept on it for a few days , than went back and bought it. Don't think it was refurbished.  I believe she paid $165 or $175. So far it has done whatever she has attempted with no complaints.

englishteacheralex

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2019, 12:06:13 PM »
Don't buy yet, borrow. Put the word out in your circle and something will come up. Once you've figured out the basics, then you can think about buying something. Think of it the way you probably learned to drive. You learned on someone else's vehicle, became proficient, then bought your own.

Spot on, Dicey! This is exactly what I'll do. There's a retired teacher I know who is a sewing phenom. I bet she'd teach me some stuff and let me bring my two projects to her house for a little tutorial. And maybe if that goes well and if I put the word out, somebody'd just let me have their old, unused one on the cheap or for free. Way better idea than just buying something from a stranger off Craigslist.

AliEli

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2019, 09:50:25 PM »
Have you got a sewing group locally? It's a good way to find other sewers and make crafty friends ☺️

Imma

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2019, 06:28:14 AM »
If at all possible I would get a refurbished machine from a reputable store. Usually they'll give you a short course on how the machine/maintenance works too which I would highly recommend. Machines need regular servicing but not every owner does that. If you buy from a private seller and are new to sewing you might not notice if a machine was not properly maintained. I personally have a simple, electric Bernina from the 80s. These cost about 200 now from a shop (private seller is probably cheaper) and it looks like it might outlive me. It's all metal, no plastic and easily sews 4 layers of denim fabric.

I swear by Bernina but other brands people are enthusiastic about are Husqvarna, Janome, Singer. I would stay away from cheaper new machines in favour of older, used brand name machines, but it sounds like that's your plan.

 My spouse bought a used Bernina from a 2nd hand consigment store [all sorts of stuff, not just sewing related] . I would guess late 80's - early 90's production. The lady had provided the owners manual and her phone #.  Spouse slept on it for a few days , than went back and bought it. Don't think it was refurbished.  I believe she paid $165 or $175. So far it has done whatever she has attempted with no complaints.

If the previous owner even left her phone number, she cared about the machine and probably did the necessary maintenance, do it doesn't need refurbishment. If your wife oils and cleans the machine as often as stated in the manual she'll probably get decades of use out of it!  Machines that don't get all the maintenance do wear out. A Bernina for that price is a great deal, even if it's 30 years old.

jpdx

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2019, 09:13:23 PM »
Post in your local Buy Nothing group to see if you can borrow a sewing machine. That's what we just did to hem curtains.

Annie101

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2019, 10:28:47 PM »
I wasn't sure which type of sewing machine  to buy either. I decided to look for one that was exactly the same as the one my mom had growing up. The older ones seem more durable because they're metal instead of plastic.  It's a Kenmore ultra stitch 12 and I found it on craigslist for $50 or $60.  I'm happy with it.

Redstone5

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2019, 03:37:37 PM »
My research found that Husqvarna sewing machine that are the second tier up from their basic model are the best made and least likely to need repair as their parts are still made in Europe and haven't been farmed out to third-party producers yet.

So if you can afford to invest in one or get a secondhand, they are my recommendation. I have a Husky 118 that I've used pretty heavily for the last 10 years (even to sew denim jeans) and it's never needed a repair once.

Also, according to my sewing teacher, stick with the basic machine models, try not to get drawn in by all the expensive features. The fancy stitches are not necessary and you pay way more for something you don't really use. Couture sewing still only uses two stitches, straight and zigzag. Sergers etc aren't actually necessary, even for knits.

geekette

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Re: Tips for Buying a Used Sewing Machine
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2019, 04:03:20 PM »
There are some great vintage sewing machine groups (Facebook, Ravelry, probably reddit and patternreview), and the older machines are quite reliable and far less fussy than the newer electronic ones.  I have a 25 year old Kenmore (made by Janome) which has never needed service, an 80 year old straight stitch Singer, which will outlive me, and a $200 Brother serger (but I sew a lot of knit garments, because that's what I wear).

Perhaps you can sew knits without sergers, but I wouldn't want to.  I have so far resisted the call of a coverstitch machine.