Sunday, November 27, 2011

Adventures in sewing machine shopping

Sorry, no pictures yet.  This is just the story of my adventures.  I admit I'm a finicky shopper.  And besides having a degree in Textiles and Clothing (so I know what I need and what I don't on the machine and why and how I want it to work), I used to sell sewing machines.  Those are a really bad combination for a salesman.

If I actually told you about how I was treated by the Bernina dealer last Wednesday, you'd understand when I say I'd sew with my nose before I dealt with that place again!  And, unfortunately, the machine is only as good as the dealer support.  I called Bernina USA (if anyone needs the phone number, just ask) and they were VERY nice but can't really do anything themselves to fix the problem.  She directed me to another dealer who, when I called to see if they could fix it, promptly told me 'Berninas are temperamental' and told me about his Brother machines.   

Before I left to shop, I spent several hours online reading reviews of all the brands so I felt I had some additional information I'd need.  Granted, I've never seen a 'C' review.  It's either an A or an F but I thought that was better than nothing.

I went to the Pfaff dealer and, while I was there, I heard the salesman talking to a man and his wife who brought an embroidery machine in and asked about getting it fixed.  His reply - "Well, perhaps you should just get a new one" and he sat them down at the most expensive machine on the floor.  I left and went to look at the Brothers after hearing that.  I want need to know I can get service if I need it.

At the Brother dealer, the machines seemed good enough but I just can't get the words 'Brother' and 'junk' out of my head.  The machines really did seem to do a nice stitch but it's an old prejudice, even if it's not correct, and I know I'd never get it out of my mind and wouldn't have been happy.  At both Pfaff and Brother, I asked to sew on the Janome that's somewhere around $2500 retail (but on Amazon it's $1499) and neither would let me near it.  Perhaps their inflated price was the issue.  And it also made me unhappy with their customer service.  So not good!  At the Brother dealer, I mentioned that the model I wanted to see had gotten really good reviews.  He promptly told me that was on the small, less expensive machines we'd use for a class.  Well, no it wasn't but he wouldn't say if he even had the machine I asked about.

Did you know Singer bought out Pfaff and Viking?  I hadn't.  And now both  are made in either Taiwan or China.  I don't remember which.  I called the dealer to verify and was told that's correct.  Apparently all the machines are made there.

Then I went to the Elna dealer.  (He didn't carry Janome so no issue with that.)  I asked which machine brand needed repairs the most and he didn't really want to say.  When I told him I'm currently using a 40-year-old Kenmore, he said some of those were really good machines.  My thought was - this is a good start!  He never trash talked another brand and if I asked a question and he didn't know the answer, he said so.  I'd much prefer that to making up something.  They never tried to steer me to a more expensive machine than what I said I want.  The only problem is the model I want isn't in stock. 

I took all my little fabric pieces with me and stitched at each dealer.  Then I compared the results side by side.  There truly wasn't a difference that I could see.  They all did a nice stitch and a good buttonhole.  It all came down to the bells and whistles I wanted and the salesmen.  The Pfaff has the built in walking foot which I liked but the stitch selector on my first choice uses a stylus on a tiny screen and wasn't something I'd want to use and I sew a lot.  I don't sew quilt tops only.  I make a lot of garments, too - some cotton, some silk, and I use upholstery fabric for other projects.  The stitch selector and the salesman made me decide against that one.  My old prejudices said no to the Brother and the machine I'd choose from their line was $1000 more than the Elna.

And I really like the Elna.  The salesman offered me a very good price and then the shop owner lowered it! 

So, the result is I don't get it for about a week but I can wait.  The Bernina's been broken for over a month.   When I get it and have it unpacked, I'll take a picture of my new baby.  I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas!


  1. My goodness what a mine-field!!! I do most of my sewing on my vintage Singers (sensational sewers), my Janome 4800 is a wonderful workhorse for straight stitch quilting and the Bernina 440 with BSR I only use for free motion quilting, otherwise I don't use it at all, an expensive little gadget LOL!!! It's hard to get a good all-rounder, I look forward to seeing your new baby!!!

  2. Very interesting stories about sewing machine shopping! they really need to get a clue about customer service...
    Glad you found the perfect machine, but sad you can't use it right away! fun to look forward to though!

  3. OMG...what a hard time you had to get what YOU wanted, and felt comfortable buying.
    Don't they know after sales service is everything..Have fun with your new machine.
    Julia ♥

  4. I would say you are right on the Brother. When the motherboard went on mine I got told they are for domestic use and have a life of 8 years.I got a Bernina. The shop is 15mins from home. As many lessoms as I wanted, anytime. Services done promptly. The people you have to deal with are the biggest asset if they're good.I agree totally with you. Enjoy your new machine when it arrives.

  5. Congratulations on the new machine. I agree, the support is as important as the machine.
    I'm sure you'll have many happy sewing days ahead! ENJOY

  6. I hope you will be happy with your Elna . I have two and have no complaint whatsoever.I love them both .Have had them for over 20 years .Good horses !


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