Thank you to all my wonderful Pepperberrians for leaving such joyous comments for me on my birthday. It was, indeed, a wonderful day, and the dinner was just as magical and delicious as I had hoped! Here's my dessert, a vegan crème brûlée with caramelised pistachios...

Are you drooling yet? I am!

This, however, was not the only drool-worthy highlight of my day. A package arrived in my letterbox yesterday morning from the gorgeous Nikki over at My Black Cardigan. The crazy gal had downloaded a picture of my marvelous Bichon, Tango...

and made me a softie version of him!

Is that the most ridiculously talented thing you've ever seen?! Thank you so much, lovely Nikki!

Then, at dinner, I was presented with this...

a card that was signed by all of my amazing friends and can now be cashed in for a real, live, brand new sewing machine! What a perfect gift...


Well, let me tell you a little about my current sewing machine, Betsy. Betsy is under this strange impression that she is actually a concrete digger (Sharon tells me it's called a ja-ck-ham-mer), and when I press her pedal, she goes GA-GO-DA-PLONK-DA-GO-BRRRMMM-POOF. Just like a concrete digger, you see?

Betsy also doesn't boast some of the handier things sewing machines can have... like a speed control function (I tell you, my right foot has the most incredible clutch control), an automatic threader (lazy, I know) or the ability to maintain stitch tension (I know I'm fussy, but is it really too much to ask for?).

So, your challenge is this: tell me which sewing machine to get! What's your favourite type/brand/style/feature? What do you dream of in a machine? Is there a certain brand I should look at? What nifty features will I never be able to live without once I have them?

And sew we shall!


Comments (21)

On May 9, 2009 at 11:40 PM , Diva Quilts said...

Glad your birthday celebration was so wonderful. :)

this is the machine that I am drooling over:

In fact, I'm saving my scheckles so I can buy it for myself for MY birthday in September. I already have an embarassment of riches though - I hsve little Kenmore (serviceable, but nothing fancy - although it does maintain its stitch tension), and a more upscale Singer Ingenuity, which has a whoooooolllllle lot of stitches I never use and an autmoatic threader (which I never use).

I WANT the Juki! So I think you should get it. ;)

On May 9, 2009 at 11:46 PM , Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

OMG...Tango the dog magnet is so damned cool!!! What a great gift!

I love my sewing machine but it is just a little cheapo Brothers brand. I am sure with your business that you need something more substancial!

On May 10, 2009 at 3:05 AM , L. Jane E. said...

Ohh I'm am soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo jealous! But also super excited for you. My dream machine is this one.

The viking Sapphire 870. I know it says "quilt" on it but that's only because it has an extend sewing surface, totally cool. And viking is just a super super super awesome brand. I have an aunt who has been a professional seamstress for years and those are her favorite machine. But whatever you end up with I'm excited to see it!

On May 10, 2009 at 5:22 AM , Danielle said...

Sandra- Happy Belated B-Day. Glad you had such a lovely day! I have a PFAFF, and I really love the IDT feature. It keeps your seems perfectly straight, and has lots of stitches, and behaves well most of the time. That being said though, I WANT, NEED, COVET, am DROOLING for a Bernina. The new line with the bigger throat space, etc. The price hurts, though. It hurts. Good luck shopping and have fun test driving them all!!!

On May 10, 2009 at 7:04 AM , The Dotty One said...

Glad you had a lovely birthday despite the flu. You are so lucky - what a fab present! I can't really offer any advice on what to get as at the moment I have about the most basic Janome machine you can get. I'll be reading everyone elses' comments though as I would also like some tips!
Dotty xx
PS. Will let you know how the quilt goes when I finish it!

On May 10, 2009 at 7:16 AM , pwl said...

I'll always be a Bernina gal myself. I have the 831 that my mother bought new in 1974 and use it for piecing. And I have a Bernina 440QE with a stitch regulator. There are those who have said I'm spoiled ;-)

On May 10, 2009 at 7:17 AM , pwl said...

I'll always be a Bernina gal. I piece with the 831 that my mother bought brand new in 1974. And I bought myself the Aurora 440QE with the stitch regulator. There are those who say I'm spoiled ;-)

On May 10, 2009 at 8:51 AM , lynne said...

Happy Birthday!

What a great present - I like my Janome Memory Craft 4800, but lots of brands have the same functions. It depends on what kind of sewing you plan to do. I would buy a bit more than the basic model (computerised makes your life easier),but wouldn't bother with the embroidery machines.

Must haves:
Needle threader (I don't know how I lived without one)
Needle up/down function
Top loading bobbin (not down under and sideways)
Preset automatic button holes

Check the price of accessories like a walking foot, ruffling foot or other specialty things that you might use, they usually aren't included, and some are a bit pricey.

I also wouldn't worry about pattern stitches (except for a good blanket stitch, mostly I don't use them) and preset monogram alphabets (never use them. I planned to use them for quilt labels, but they are a complete PITA to use).

Good luck with it.

On May 10, 2009 at 9:08 AM , Cravings Frocks said...

Happy birthday! That magnet is the best.

I love my Bernette 66 (by Bernina). The speed is controlled by the foot pedal - I think that's pretty standard unless you get a really exxy machine. It has an auto needle threader but like the PP I never use it! It's very hardy and sews anything from silk georgette to several layers of denim with ease. The buttonhole function is brilliant and it's got 26 stitches - you can go up or down a model number to get one with more or less stitches. The 82E and 92E come in pretty colours!

I bought it at Camberwell Sewing Centre and they gave me a fantastic price!

On May 10, 2009 at 9:15 AM , Flickettysplits said...

I say go for Bernina every time - I've had two and they are the BEST. Simple, easy to use, great variety of stitches, speed control (!), needle threader (! though I've never learnt to use it.. oops) and really great action. I got mine at the Camberwell Sewing Centre - that's really the best place to go. They have everything from junior models through to Pfaffs that you can pay 20 grand for. I mean, not that YOU would pay 20 grand for, and certainly not ME either, but you know, that some hypothetical person with more money than sense, would pay 20 grand for.....

On May 10, 2009 at 9:45 AM , crafterella said...

Happy Birthday, wow what a great present! I am partial to Berninas, I have a basic one with just seven different stitches, but it sews anything I can fit under the presser foot. I have had my current machine for 12 years and besides having it cleaned it has never needed service. The tensions has always been perfect. It doesn't have fancy bells and whistles, but it's the best machine I've ever used. I suggest you go with a quality brand and I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

On May 10, 2009 at 10:10 AM , One Flew Over said...

Happy Birthday! My birthday was a few months ago and my husband bought me the Bernina Activa 230PE. I'm very happy with it but my dream machine would be the Bernina Aurora 440QE.

BTW. loved your idea for Applique Artists swap.

On May 10, 2009 at 2:40 PM , Fiona @ Feebeez said...

Hi Sandra,

A couple of months ago I retired my 40-year-old Elna Supermatic and replaced it with a second-hand Bernina Virtuosa 160. The Bernina is about 3 years old. The dealer gave me a 'new machine' warranty with it. Buying it second hand gave me the advantage of having a pretty up-to-date machine about $1000 less expensive than the equivilant new machine. Definitely worth looking around your local sewing machine dealers to see what they have that is second hand.

My mother and aunt were both home economics teachers and taught sewing for a number of years. To me they recommended Pfaff, Bernina (not Bernette!), and Elna. Probably Bernina was the most highly recommended. I love my new machine and have no regrets!

Some suggestions:
- write down the functions that you use on your current machine that you couldn't live without. Mine was changing the needle position from left to right.
- write down the functions that you need to work better (eg button holes), and the functions that you don't have but want.
- know the stitches you want it to do

I'd recommend:
- getting something where you have a number of needle positions
- automatic buttonhole
- consider which presser feet come as standard. They can be pretty pricey to buy. The dealer may toss a couple of extra ones in if you ask. Know what you want before you go to the store!
- needle up/down. I love this function. I've used it a lot with the quilting that I am doing.
- does the machine come with a 'table'
- ensure it handles thick fabric. Consider taking up the hem on a pair of jeans. You need to sew through the turned up hem, PLUS the seam ... around 5 or 6 fabric layers. Get some denim and see if your machine handles it.
- will you want to sew leather at some stage? Can the machine do that?
- test drive the machine using fabric that you have taken with you. That way you can test various machines on the same fabric and compare them easily.

Before you go home with your new machine, make sure you unthread it, remove the bobbin, rethread and sew. With mine I *thought* I knew how to put the bobbin in correctly, but then had weeks of poor sewing and it turns out I wasn't installing the bobbin correctly.

Hope that helps!!

Hope that helps!!

On May 10, 2009 at 3:09 PM , m.e (Cathie) said...

You got the best gifts! glad to hear you're all better now x

On May 10, 2009 at 7:38 PM , Calidore said...

Ohh weren't you spoilt. Personally for me I prefer a Janome but that's only cause mine is 13 years old and still going strong. Every now and then I look and (occasionally) buy a new machine thinking it will be better (I pass them onto DD2 to play with)but they never are. Next time I need a machine I will go for a basic machine with the usual range of stitches but not bother with all the fancy embroidery stitches as I just don't use them. My Jamone has heaps but I have rarely used them at all. A machine for me has to be heavy though and by that I mean weight wise. It stops the machine moving around and copes with the fastest speed it can go at (generally foot pedal flat to the floor) without vibrating all over the bench. A movable needle ie the needle position, is a must as is a good buttonhole stitch and that's it. Simple really...vbg. Good luck with your search.

On May 10, 2009 at 7:59 PM , Finki (jay) said...

Hey Sandra,
what gorgeous friends you have. I had the same gift given to me in Nov, after much hinting!
I chose the Brother BC-2500. Got it on sale at Lincraft. you can see it here It's the low end of the computerised ones. All the wiz bang stitches, even though I still only use straight and zigzag. needle threader, speed control, and perfect tension (:
Most important it had a purple panel on the front. That was the decision maker for me (: Have fun shopping.

On May 11, 2009 at 9:27 AM , Miss Gina Designs said...

Sounds like a fun birthday! My sewing machine is a simple little Singer...only 30 different stitches, but it gets the job done. I have a home embroidery machine - Babylock Ellegante, a serger and an embellishing machine. Wouldn't it be nice to have a machine to combine everything?! Ha! Good luck in your search for a new machine!

On May 11, 2009 at 11:19 AM , Tania said...

How can that be a VEGAN dessert - it has to be decadently EVIL in every way!! Will be watching closely for the results of the sewing machine poll. Suspect I have a Betsy-in-waiting at my house...

On May 11, 2009 at 4:37 PM , Anonymous said...

oh Sandra I am sooooo sorry I missed your birthday and I do hope you are feeling much better!! I won't give you advice on a machine, but I traded my old clanker for a Pfaff Hobby 1042 about 2 years ago, it's quite a basic machine but I love it! Congratulations on your Etsy shop!! that's great news and I am going to pop over there right now for a sticky beak!!!

On May 12, 2009 at 12:12 AM , A Spoonful Of Sugar said...

What a great gift Sandra ! You are going to have such fun choosing a new machine. I have a Pfaff Tiptronic that I have had for about 8 years. Looks like you have already been given great advice on features to look for. Can't wait to see what you get :)

On May 12, 2009 at 11:18 AM , Flickettysplits said...

Hi again, just wanted to say I've tagged you for a blog award, details over at mine. Love reading your posts!