I've only been sewing for a few years now. I guess I started sewing about 3 almost 4 years ago, and after sewing mostly by hand for more than a year I decided to get a sewing machine. I couldn't and didn't want to spend a lot of money, mostly because at the time I wasn't sure that sewing was going to turn into this huge hobby for me. I wanted something easy to use, because my previous experience with sewing machine was fraught with curse words and frustration. I read some review online, looked at a few different brands and decided that the $200 machine at my local Walmart was the way to go, at least at the time.
My mom had an old Singer, one of those huge heavy all metal deals, and it was a great sewing machine for longer than I have been alive, but not long before she passed away she had a few problems with it and the ancient Singer was banished to the storage shed in our backyard. Unfortunately now it is rusted inside and several of the parts need replaced, I am sure it is repairable but I am not in a position right now to have that done.
Regardless, I was at Walmart one day after I had done all my research and decided to bite the bullet. The machine was in stock and I bought it. The main reason I decided on that one was the included quilting feet. A walking foot for straight line quilting and a free motion foot, and also the ability to drop the feed dogs to allow for free motion quilting. Plus it was in my price range.
I was worried that it would be as good as the much pricier machines that all of the blog authors used but there was no way I could shell out a thousand bucks for a sewing machine. I would have had to save for a year before I could afford a Janome or Bernina.
Now that we have a little history on why I decided on this machine let me tell you what I think of it. I have had this machine for about a year and a half now and I LOVE it. It is the perfect machine for someone who is wanting to learn to sew. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it has been. I have gotten my money back on this three fold, at least. I have made so many quilts on it I can't even count. And from start to finish, I piece and quilt my own quilts on it. The only thing I don't like about it is the harp space. I wish it had more room to allow me to quilt larger quilts a little easier. It is still doable with some practice, it's just awkward. That is the only con. Let me touch a little more on the pros.
1) As I said earlier, the quilting feet and the ability to lower my feed dogs is a big deal. I wanted to be able to free motion quilt and I can with this machine.
2) Error messages- when you do something wrong, and as a new sewer or quilter you will (you will forget to lower your presser foot, or you will forget to move your bobbin winder back after winding bobbins) it gives you an error code that tells you what you did in case it takes you more than a split second to realize it on your own.
3) Decorative stitches and alphabet- this wasn't a deal breaker for me, but it does come in handy. I have used the decorative stitches and even the alphabet stitches before. Now, don't take this to mean it does embroidery, it most certainly doesn't. The letters are one font, one size but they are handing for making labels, or sewing a name on a tote bag or something along those lines.
4) It's TOUGH. For a $200 machine it is beyond what I could have imagined. If you sew a lot, or read a lot of sewing blogs, you have probably heard the tale of the Weekender bag, and broken needles. Lot's of people had trouble getting their Weekender bag together, saying their machines had trouble sewing through the several layers of batting, canvas, piping and patchwork. Mine was a champ. Not a single broken needle, and although it did struggle at times, it was not nearly as frustrating as I had read on other blogs. I also made my sister a Kitchen Aid mixer cover for Christmas, using the same method and the only problems I had was topstitching along the bottom edge where there were 3 layers.
If you are just starting sewing and are looking for a good machine but don't want to invest a lot of money then this is the perfect machine for you. I am looking to upgrade to another Brother machine with larger harp space to allow me to quilt a little more freely, but I plan on keeping my machine to sew clothing and for the decorative stitches.
So what machine do you use?