From beginner to mid-range sewing machine
I had outgrown my older beginner sewing machine and wanted to level up to the next stage. This is a review of the mid-range machines. I will explain where I started and where I ended up and why (spoiler alert, its the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960).
I have been using a Husqvarna Huskystar E10 which I’ve had for about 20 years. It is very much an entry-level mechanical sewing machine. To be honest, I never really sewed much on it until recently. I’m looking for a machine with a wider range of functions and stitches and the ability to work with buttons and zippers with a bit more ease. Also, maybe a little quieter, smoother….I would also like to be able to fit the larger, loftier fleece fabrics under the presser foot.
As a general “techie” rule, I like to purchase a “stretch” product – that is with just a little more functionality or power than I currently understand or can use – to enable skills to grow into it without being overwhelmed, inspired not shutdown.
Where to Start?
I tend towards doing research online (price and feature comparisons) and then purchasing locally if available. My go-to site for larger purchases, Consumer Reports was no help as they no longer review sewing machines. Although there are some videos to be found on YouTube™ for beginner sewing machine reviews, there are far fewer moving into the intermediate range.
First off, I find the sewing machine market isn’t really embracing the digital world. There is this weird, retro “hiding of the price” thing going on with many sewing machines manufacturers. Just annoying. I believe the idea is to encourage buying locally but for me if you can’t be up front about your pricing to enable a fair comparison in the market place, I’m not even looking.
Narrowing the Sewing Machine Options
Besides, I really just wanted more information on what features are available. Then I could determine what I wanted and what was a reasonable price range for it. There are many brands to select from: Janome, Bernina, Husqvarna Viking, Juki. I tried just looking at the main brand websites for detailed information, but gave that up. They list the functions on most sites, but not in a graduated, next level up kind of way. What do you get for spending more at each price point? (and what is with some of the bizarre, ugly colours splashed across the front of the sewing machines or with cartoon flowers painted on the sides? If I want my sewing machine decorated, I’ll put stickers on it.)
Over the last few weeks and months, I took particular notice of what machines and functionality others were using during various YouTube™ videos. Also, I took a few online courses, so I tried to notice their machine and what functions they used. Even if there is no explicit reference to the sewing machine being used, I could get a glimpse of the brand name on the sewing machine or a function being used that looks worthwhile and helpful. Also, loved the sound of the various machines.
So, due in part to my soaking up information from instructional videos and in part to my desire to know the price points, I ended up narrowing my focus to just two brands the Brother and Singer. I almost included Janome since they seem to be good / popular machines, but their website looks like it is from the 1990’s and each product page is a downloadable file. Also, the range of machines available on Amazon for pricing comparisons is limited.
My Features Wish list
I was finally able to estimate my needs and wants roughly. In order for this upgrade to be worthwhile for me, I was looking at a computerized (love me some computerization!) machine that offered:
- Button Holes: one-stop with foot and some variations.
- Good Stitch Range – with computerization: Wanted a fairly decent range of stitches – bonus if some alphabet included if I ever felt the need to play with words.
- Bobbin system: Like the drop-in bobbin with clear lid although I feel that I’ve truly mastered the old bobbin system after the hours I’ve spent unraveling them from the gears.
Nice to have:
- stop/start/speed control: this just seems cool.
- Thread cutting: how clean and efficient that would be.
- Various Presser feet: love playing with these guys.
- Threader: Just optional though since they reportedly don’t work well and my serger tweezers do work great for this.
- Clean lines, wide working area.
- No flowery decals.
I want a reputable manufacturer with the best possible combination of these features for the best price.
Purchasing the Singer Quantum Stylist
I know many sewists (blogs, Facebook groups, etc.) suggest going to a local sewing machine store, but I’m not sure that is always the way to go either. The implication is that I can trust a sales person because they are – what – a person? I get that establishing a real world relationship with a local shop can have advantages. Some may include classes and probably service and maintenance down the road. I guess the flip side is trusting that a local store:
- really understands my needs rather than landing a sale;
- is honestly offering me the best deal;
- has all the brands and not just the ones in which they specialize;
- won’t try to up-sell or package sell;
- is actually more convenient.
I seriously considered the Janome 4120 QDC, for quite a while, and even added it to my private wish list on Amazon. I would go there and just drool over it. Such a great looking sewing machine with so many features. But, I couldn’t jump because the price was just a tad too expensive and I really have no interest whatsoever in quilting. Oh I know, never say never! For me it is in the “possibly, maybe someday probably not” category.
Anyway, I browsed again through the Singer line-up and I came upon the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist 600-Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine with Extension Table, Bonus Accessories and Hard Cover. Wow, it has it all and even included an extended table, hard cover and many extra, additional presser feet. No garish colour or design on the side. Rather elegant looking I thought. Reviews everywhere were great. So I promptly ordered, and it was shipped and delivered from Amazon!
My Singer Quantum Stylist 9960
I really love this machine. The look and feel is great – and it has a solid, substantial feel to it. The sound is not too loud – certainly quieter than my old one – but it is a more pleasant sound too. Smoother.
It does have a threader (which works very well btw!). The thread cutter, slow stitching, back up, needle up/down, speed control, drop in bobbin, size, in fact all the features I was looking for and I just love it. I have practiced with a few button holes and stitches that are all perfect and lots of variations. What a difference from my old machine!
Now I’m going to make a P4P Wiggle dress for my daughter-in-law. …darn! I just got slammed with my first cold in a few years! Its a doozy though and I really don’t even feel like sewing. Bad timing. Wait for me to get better.
I notice that some people imbue personality into their sewing tools and even name their sewing machines, dressmaking models, etc. Do you name yours?