Good point. My new dealer has a repair man who is terrific. You will get a feel in the shop right away from the other customers. Ask them what the service etc is like. They will tell you. I like the tip about a dealer that carries more than one brand.
Remember you want a happy shop keeper who does not push you to buy a machine that you don't really need.
Another thing to think about is how close is the repair shop and how many repair shops are out there. I know this sounds weird but if you buy a brand that is off the wall because the price is good. No matter how well you can sew with it, ultimately you will have to take it in for a tune up. Who are you going to take it to and do they service what you have? I recently ran into this with my Brother of all machines. What a pain in the back side finding a dealer/repair shop for that. I had to go 86 mile away.
Kara, it's also a good idea to look at dealers who sell more than one brand of machine. They will have some terrific used machines. Take a look at those too, you may be able to afford much more of a machine than you imagined. A good used machine can be a fantastic machine.
When I first took a class on free motion quilting it reminded me of my child's preschool teacher telling us about young children writing their names. It was as difficult for them as an adult writing her name by holding the pencil in her mouth. Practice, practice, practice.
My new plan then is to go try out some of the machines we looked at. I did some straight stitching with the floor models, but I'll go back and see if they'll let me try out the free motion foot.
So much great info! I knew this was the place to ask!
I had been visiting a Janome 6600 for several years and never bought it because of the cost. When I was at the Quilt Expo this fall, I went to visit the machine and found out they were selling the classroom machines at a significant savings. The things I wanted were the larger area to the right of the needle, dual feed, speed control, needle up/down. It is also a computerized machine with lots of fancy stitch options. It is a dream to work with and I'm so glad I bought it. I guess my point is, try machines out and shop around. Janome does offer lots of bang for your buck. Gloria
Before I bought my machine I made a shopping list of all the features I personally wanted. One of the most important to me was a slow-fast speed button. The picture symbols are a tortoise and a hare. It means that I can set it on half speed, put the pedal to the floor but it wont race away like my old basic machine did. As advised by others, test drive other machines. Dont let the dealer push you into a purchase. You can always go home, think about it and come back to them. Also, I think it is easy to buy an 'all singing, all dancing machine' and then end up not using half the features on there. Some of these machines cost ALOT of money, so take your time to make your decision. I hope that helps. Pam
Kara, if possible, take practice quilt sandwiches with you to test drive different machines. This will give you a feel for if it is the machine or you. And how the machines behave. I vote for Janome, but I own 4 so am very prejudiced.
You should also look at the Janome machines. My sister just got one & loves it. They are very reliable & offer big bang for your buck. I have moved to Bernina but I would offer this advice-test drive as many as you can. Let the dealer have you sit at the machine & do your thing. Prioritize what functions that you really need. Do your homework before going to the shops. I spent hours on-line checking out machines & features before I even went to the dealers. Classes, dealer support & service is huge for me" are these big items for you? You don't get these in a department store or a big box store.
Nice analogy PDQ. I was in the same boat for a long time - I started out sewing first on my mother's old Montgomery Ward brand sewing machine (no idea of age). When it broke I bought what I could then afford - a Kenmore basic sewing machine. I can still use that machine for peicing and utility work, but when I started to try and venture into free-motion quilting... I think tap dancing in quicksand is a pretty good estimate, lol. That said I went and bought a much better Kenmore machine for around $600 and have been very happy with that. Free motion is not a problem, it is much quieter than the old one too. Does it have all the fancy bells and whistles of say a Bernina - no, but it does have the double blanket stitch
Point is a newer machine is probably needed at this point, but there may not be any need for the family to go into major debt for one of the really high end ones. You said they are looking at a Singer - they are not bad machines at all. If you are worried about cost though, those Sears Kenmore machines are pretty good too. I was told by someone that they are actually made by Singer, just sold under the Kenmore name for Sears. Mine is a computerized model with around 100 different programable stitches plus a full alphabet and numbers. So far I have never needed anything not already on there. I purchased a walking foot and a free motion foot and have never looked back. Good luck with your free-motion, don't give up because even an old machine can do well with lots of practice.
The desire / need to free motion quilt was what drove me to upgrade from my 1979 Singer, and I have never regretted it. My daughter now uses my old Singer for utility sewing.
In 2000, I bought a top of the line Pfaff (but no embroidery) and have never looked back. I love my machine. It does free motion with no problem. That IDT (integrated dual feed) which keeps the fabric feeding evenly without the need for a walking foot and which can be used for everyday piecing and sewing, too, is WONDERFUL. The needle threader is now a must. (Aging eyes.)
There are now machines out with even more options that I would like but am unwilling at this point to pay all the extra money for: knee lift, thread cutters, and, of course stitch regulators. I will probably eventually "invest" when my kids are all out of college and married off. (Can you tell we had a wedding in our family this year? OUCH!) But for now, my Pfaff suits me fine.
I have a 30+ year old Kenmore sewing machine that my mom gave me when she upgraded her machine. It's the only machine I've ever sewn on, so I really know absolutely nothing about other machines.
Now may family is considering chipping in together to get me a new machine for Christmas. The main one under consideration is a Singer Confidence Quilter 7469Q.
The reason all this came up at all is that I recently took a free-motion quilting class, and had a much harder time than I'd expected. I'd have thought I just need a lot more practice, but my instructor kept saying to me things like, "You're doing well considering that machine you're working with." I was so focused on the class though, I didn't think until too late to ask what was wrong with my machine (except that it is old.)
I guess I just wonder how a newer machine will make free-motion quilting any easier. Especially since we can't afford an expensive one anyway. I still need to learn to move my hands and keep the peddle speed steady, which is a matter of practice, right?
The machine I have probably needs a trip in for some servicing, but is in decent shape. I hate to have my family spend money on something that won't be much of an improvement, and I just don't know enough about newer machines to know if it would be or not.
So that long story is my way of asking you nice, knowledgeable folks your opinion about a new machine.