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Sewing Machine Recommendations?

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  • Sewing Machine Recommendations?

    I'm trying to find useful, non-obnoxious things to put on a wedding registry, and it occurred to me that a sewing machine would be useful. Having my own would keep me from bringing all my projects with me every time I visit my parents - which is great for bonding time with my mother, not so great for efficiency!

    If I'm going to register for one, I'd like it to be a nicer, heavy-duty type that will hold up to some use on horse clothing. I'm not necessarily talking industrial grade, but something that could get through turnout fabric to stitch up a hole, maybe re-attach strapping, etc., and not burn out the motor after one blanket. I've also had some fun making custom coolers & quarter sheets for my horse and for friends and I'd like to do more of that.

    Does anyone have a suggestion? One that they've used that works well?
    life + horses
    Bel Joeor Metier

  • #2
    I haven't found an actual heavy-duty machine that wasn't an industrial machine. I've spent quite a bit of time looking.

    For horse blankets etc. I would find a cheap machine or an old machine or a cheap, old machine. However, keep in mind with older machines that HEAVY is not the same as HEAVY DUTY. 90% of the heavy duty machines are eBay are not. They have a metal case and are heavy.

    I have a 20 yr old, Wal-Mart Brother machine that handles horse blankets well. It gets a tune-up about every 18 months. For the cost of a tune-up, I could easily replace it with the same grade machine.

    My new machine is advertised as capable of what your looking for. In reality it's not. Supposedly the Singer Heavy Duty can do that stuff. I didn't see enough reviews supporting that fact to convince me to part with the $$.

    I saw a great article about 'industrial strength' sewing machines on eBay. There's another article, but I just can't find it.

    ETA - Surprisingly, my workhorse has a plastic case & plastic gears.
    Last edited by red mares; Nov. 5, 2014, 02:51 PM.
    Visit my Spoonflower shop


    • #3
      I used to have a very old Viking heavy duty but it finally got to the point where a tune-up was no longer possible. I've seen them cheap on eBay. They have a low gear and can power through several layers of heavy fabric. I used it to make an awning for my boat, and it came out great. Didn't use it much on horse stuff, but I miss it and it's been gone for 10 years.
      Tussman's law: Nothing is as inevitable as a mistake whose time has come.

      "Providence sometimes takes care of idiots." Agnes Morley Cleaveland, No Life for a Lady, 1977.


      • #4
        I don't think you can put it on your gift registry, sewing machines are just too specialized to the person using it. As mentioned, do some looking and find an older machine, which won't cost nearly as much, but be much sturdier to work on heavy fabrics, layers of fabrics. You might even consider getting one in a cabinet, that only does straight stitches, because they are stronger inside with metal gears instead of plastic, can manage that kind of work. I sewed a pair of leather chaps on my mothers old Singer, elderly but STRONG in getting needle and thread thru a couple layers of leather. They were some NICE chaps!

        I have a couple elderly machines, one of which is a Viking with the slow gear mentioned above. It is good, but not as good as that old Singer was. My brother has the Singer, keeps his Carhartts sewed and repaired for work, and that is HEAVY sewing. My Viking has cogs in the back to allow you more stitch choices.

        You probably want to have anything you buy get serviced, which will fix an amazing amount of "issues" in a sewing machine. Gets out old hard grease, dirt, all the adjustments are set correctly for good sewing. Worth the cost to have done.

        Check Craigslist, I got a nice Phaff Serger on there, $100. Sews like a dream for MUCH less than buying new. I use it all the time. Of course regular sewing machines are also on there, usually priced pretty low.


        • #5
          I have a Janome and I freaking LOVE it!!! I've made (human) clothes, saddle pads, a farrier apron (going through 4+ layers of heavy cotton duck and nylon webbing!), and a few other things.

          Stay away from newer Singers. The quality is just not there.
          Against My Better Judgement: A blog about my new FLF OTTB
          Do not buy a Volkswagen. I did and I regret it.
          VW sucks.


          • #6
            Janome HD 1000 or 3000. sews many layers and have done chap repair, blanket repair and other odd tasks. also whips right thru regular fabric for the kids cosplay gear some of which was leather for vambraces and quivers. Most important part : Not Complicated to use, even teen kids can run it
            "The Desire to Win is worthless without the Desire to Prepare"

            It's a "KILT". If I wore something underneath, it would be a "SKIRT".


            • #7
              I have an ancient Bernette or Baby Lock(they were the same machines in some cases) that I use on horse stuff. It goes backwards and forwards and sideways which is about all you need. I got it for $100, used.

              I also have a Bernina 880 which is a dream and will NEVER see a horse blanket.
              The 880 was a floor model and replaces my old 1630 which I donated


              • #8
                I have a Baby Lock that I use for repairs. It's a pretty tough little machine. I've had it for many years now and most of it's work has been horse blankets and insulated coveralls.


                • #9
                  My old Singer has a cast aluminum case and not a single bit of plastic anywhere on it. It will (and has) sew blankets, pads, leather, anything.

                  I would find an old heavy duty machine before I'd buy anything new for this purpose. As goodhors says above, a machine that does simple straight stitch.


                  • #10
                    My first singer lasted for years. The replacement bobbin thread always jammed, and had other quirks that made it miserable to use, and I only use it for quick mending jobs (after the infamous finger stabbing incident many years ago). When the replacement one died, I looked at online reviews, and found that bobbin jamming, and the other problems I had were common. So I bought a cheap, Wal-mart, Brother machine, and I love it.
                    You can't fix stupid-Ron White


                    • #11
                      I asked my wife about this. She's a long term, experienced quilter and sewer. She's also a Brother customer but advised that you go to a real, honest to God, sewing store and see that is available. The machines sold at Big Box stores may have the logo of a quality maker but are often sold at much lower prices because they are of much lower quality. She saw that about a year ago, personally, when a friend bought their daughter a Brother machine at Walmart. It was just not up to the quality of the same machine sold at the local Brother retailer. It's my understanding that this is not an uncommon practice in the industrial world.

                      Go and put your hands on the machines that you're interested in and then make the call. Good luck in your search.

                      Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raa, Uma Paixo


                      • #12
                        My local high school was auctioning off surplus items as part of building an addition to the middle school.

                        I got a Baby Lock. It is great for horse blankets.
                        Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Guilherme View Post
                          I asked my wife about this. She's a long term, experienced quilter and sewer. She's also a Brother customer but advised that you go to a real, honest to God, sewing store and see that is available.
                          Definitely. I had called a local dealer for the brand I wanted to buy to get an idea of what they had and what prices they had. We talked about what I wanted it for and what my budget was. When I went in the next day, they had one machine that they thought would be my best bet and let me try it out, as well as another machine that was less expensive. The less expensive machine wasn't going to work. The better machine was about $40 over my budget, and they simply knocked that off the price and sold it to me for what I had planned to spend.
                          Against My Better Judgement: A blog about my new FLF OTTB
                          Do not buy a Volkswagen. I did and I regret it.
                          VW sucks.


                          • #14
                            My mom has an old Elna (one of the last handmade ones) that I severely abused as a kid. It was amazing and would sew through just about anything I could fit under the foot, including multiple layers of leather and naugahyde. I don't think it has been serviced and still works really really well.

                            I have an older Sears Kenmore that is pretty good but it needs to be serviced a lot more often than it currently is.

                            My aunt has a thing for sewing machines and "collects" them for lack of a better term and she has always told me that the best ones are the older ones. She said that although the new ones have a lot of bells and whistles, they just aren't the same quality.

                            If you feel you need a never machine, maybe stop by a sewing machine repair place and talk to someone there. They may have a lot more insight into what newer machines will work for what you want.
                            "Be the change you want to see in the world."
                            ~Mahatma Gandhi


                            • #15
                              I have a Sears Kenmore that is about 20 years old. It's not a great quality machine, but it suits my purposes. I've mended a few horse blankets with it with no problem.

                              My mom had a Bernina, and that thing was so solid. What workmanship!
                              I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. --Nathaniel Hawthorne


                              • Original Poster

                                Thank you everyone for your advice! Right now I'm using an old Singer but it would definitely not hold up to anything more substantial than the fleece I'm working with right now, mayyyyybe some saddle pads.

                                There is a good sewing machine store nearby that I think I'll just go to with some of this information in hand. It sounds like I should also think about whether I should just get a good basic sewing machine for the sorts of things I'll do most often, and continue to send blankets out for repair for really tough things like straps.
                                life + horses
                                Bel Joeor Metier


                                • #17
                                  If you have some sample fabric of what you might like to sew, you could bring it in to the sewing machine shop and they may have recommendations for you and let you try it on the machines. When I was shopping I wanted a machine that could handle layers so I brought in 4 layers of heavy denim and tried sewing through double seams etc. Obviously when trying to do that kind of sewing on a domestic sewing machine rather than an industrial it's not perfect, but with a decent machine and the right technique you might be surprised at what you can accomplish.

                                  That said I'm also going to plug Janomes, my mom had one that handled everything we threw at it, including saddle pads and other projects involving heavy canvas type fabrics and multiple layers of webbing.


                                  • #18


                                    • #19
                                      post #19 reported....this is the second time this zombie thread has returned from the past

                                      Thread is six years old