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February 2009
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The Best Sewing Machines As Rated By Consumer Reports

Sewing machinesThe March issue of Consumer Reports says that while no sewing machine does it all, they have identified seven standout sewing machines.  

Consumer Reports says that “sewing machines” is one of the most frequently searched terms on its website as the hobby grows in response to such primetime television shows as “Trading Spaces” and “Project Runway”.  Given this demand, Consumer Reports recently tested 18 sewing machines from all the top manufacturers and they found seven “standout models”.

Surprisingly, the leading sewing machines in terms of sales, did not have the best performance in the lab tests.  For example, Singer leads in sales but didn’t in testing.  The magazine cites the brand as being relatively inexpensive and easy to use, but only fair to average in performance.  This is a drop from previous tests.

Bernina, Brother and machines from almost every other manufacturer peformed better according to the magazine.  One of the top performers was the Brother Innov-is 40 (about $400).  Brother also makes the official sewing machines for “Project Runway”.

The magazine also found that warranties for sewing machines vary quite a bit from manufacturer to manufactuer.  The tested models had warranties ranging from 3 months to one year for parts and labor, with mechanical defects being covered for between 10 to 25 years.  Interestingly, five of the 18 models that were tested needed parts, repairs or reprogramming during the testing.

While all the machines tested by Consumer Reports were fine for basic sewing and repairs, readers can use their ratings to determine the best machine for them based on the types of projects and fabrics they plan to use.

Some online visitors compared shopping for a sewing machine to purchasing a used car – repairs can be a hassle and choices are limited.  Additionally, comparison shopping in the offline world is difficult since most dealers set their own prices and won’t quote prices over the phone.  On the other hand, offline dealers were commended for offering service, lessons, and the availability of parts and accessories.

The magazine’s choice for “best buy” for budget shoppers is the Kenmore 15358.  At only $120 it handled both denim and sheer fabrics well.  The “best buy” choice for an electronic sewing machine is the previously mentioned Brother Innov-is 40 Project Runway Limited Edition, as it reportedly combines a reasonable price with fine sewing performance.  Consumer Reports recommends the Bernina Activa 230PE ($1,350) or the less expensive Janome Memory Craft 6600P (around $900) for quilters.

The article recommends visiting local dealers to “test drive” machines you might be interested in, then save by searching for upcoming sales, online coupons.  Ask for a trade-in allowance and don’t be shy about negotiating for extras like free accessories or lessons.  Also, be sure to ask up front about any repair policies.

Check out the full report along with expanded buying advice in Consumer Reports March 2009 issue

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