In praise of modern sewing machines

I have seen heaps of praise for older sewing machines. I used to drive an old car, so I can sympathize. When it was running well it was great--good gas mileage, reliable, and really cheap. So if I had an older, workhorse sewing machine, I just know I'd love it too.

I would like to heap praise on my new-ish, low end Kenmore sewing machine.

But when I was a kid, my Nana had one of those 70s models, a Kenmore. It was lost in the selling or her house. But I can tell you, it never ran well. In fact, I was never allowed to touch it, since the timing seemed to go screwy if you looked at it funny. Maybe all it needed was the right tune up, but I don't quite believe it. Sewing machines, like cars, can just be lemons, after all. The right older car is a marvel, but plenty of them suck, too.

When I wanted a sewing machine, I read the message boards and reviews. An older, metal machine from the 70s, seemed to be the consensus. So I looked at secondhand shops and on Craigslist and whatnot. I can tell you this--people selling some old machine in the basement still want a minimum of $100. No cabinet, no manual, just an old machine that has been sitting unused in a damp basement or hot attic or cold garage. Then I thought of my Nana's machine. Which is more likely: that the machine ran like a top before it fell into disuse, or that it fell into disuse because it was crappy?

So I think of it this way--absolutely, a car that is over a decade old and runs like a top is a great purchase. So too an older, well-maintained sewing machine. Both are great finds. But like a car, sometimes you want to buy a sewing machine this weekend, or even this month. You can, in fact, just walk into a sewing or department store and buy a nice machine. Unlike cars, new sewing machines for light-duty, hobbyist sewers like me are comparable in price to used machines.

A few years ago, I paid about $100 for a Kenmore 385. It's fantastic. It sews though most fabrics and isn't fussy. I'd buy it again and again (although thankfully I haven't needed to!).

Don't be intimidated by the advice that you have to have an older model, like I was. I spent way too much time looking for a machine, that I wish I had spent sewing. If you want a new-to-you sewing machine, especially your first machine, take a second look at the new machines. They are not all junk. I just love mine. If it's a dud, just return it. No hand-wringing necessary. Look at the reviews--I'm very fond of my Kenmore, which was well reviewed. I'm glad I gave up the quest for an old machine. I'd rather get up early on the weekends to work on my projects than cruise yard sales and second-hand shops.

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