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Sewing machines Buying Guides

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Consumer Reports has no relationship with advertisers on PriceGrabber

Getting started

Maybe you're one of the millions of viewers who became hooked on the Bravo TV series "Project Runway." Or maybe you haven't cut into a piece of fabric since junior high school but would like to get back into making your own clothes. If so, you might be surprised by how feature-laden the current generation of sewing machines has become. This sewing machine guide will help you choose.

If you remember an old Singer machine in your house, you might be surprised by the new machines on the market. Our current testing features sewing machines that can recommend the proper presser foot, determine the right thread tension and stitch length, size and sew a buttonhole, and automatically cut the thread.

The best sewing machine for you depends on your skill level and budget. Before buying a sewing machine, assess your needs and skills. Consider, too, how you might use the machine when your skills improve (independent shops might offer you a free tutorial; many also have low-priced classes). Typically, people keep a sewing machine for at least 10 years.

Singer, Brother, and Kenmore are the top-selling sewing machines, but brands such as Bernina and Husqvarna Viking are gaining in popularity. (Singer, Husqvarna, and Pfaff are currently owned by the same company.) Choose your retailer wisely. Different retail channels offer different advantages. Stores such as Sears often have sales, but if the machine needs repairs, it might have to be sent to a central repair shop where the wait can be weeks. Retailers like Walmart, Kmart, and Target do not do repairs. An independent shop might not have the lowest prices but it usually offers more personalized service; repairs can often be done in the store, sometimes even on the spot. Note that some models are only sold at authorized dealers (usually independent stores), that offer instructional classes and repairs.

Look for sales (stores typically discount sewing machines around Christmas and Mother's Day) and try before you buy. Test out several machines on a variety of fabrics and settings to make sure that they stitch evenly and are easy to use.

When you sew, be sure to use the right needle. A dull one, or the wrong kind, can bend and damage the fabric and/or machine. Change your needles after every project or when switching fabric types. And at least every two years (more if you sew a lot), take your sewing machine in for a tune-up.

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Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

Getting started

1. Getting started

2. Types

3. Watch the Video

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