I learned to sew on my mother's 1960's Singer which she bought when she first moved to the US and married Dad. It is a wonderful machine (and one of these days I'll check to see what model it is - green, heavy, and runs like a tank). When I moved out on my own, I tried to take the machine with me as she doesn't use it that often anymore - she made our clothes when we were young. Mom said NO! She did give me a Singer later for my birthday - but neither of us realized how much quality had changed over 30+ years. Her old Singer runs so much better than this new(er) one. It never occurred to us to consider other brands - after all - Singer was THE machine wasn't it... I never bonded with the machine, though I did make a few dog beds and curtains, and sewed on some Girl Scout badges/patches for my troop.
So, when I started this project, I also started to research machines. Let me digress a moment to say how much I love Google - and the plethora of information that can be found. Working from the rave reviews on my Scrapbook message board, I started reading about various machines. I realized early on, that I did want a high end machine (Bernina, Viking, Pfaff, etc.) and also that there was no way my budget would allow for a new one at this time. I also thought long and hard about what I need the machine to do - and came to the conclusion that at this point, I need a straight stitch and a zigzag. I don't need a lot of fancy embroidery stitches considering I haven't once used them on the other machine, and I definitely don't need a computer. This helped me narrow my search considerably.
My next stop was Craigslist. After searching under several word combinations, I was able to narrow to actual sewing machines rather than getting used cars (why?? how??) in the list as well. There were several in our area and several still well out of my price range. I expanded to several other cities in NC to get a larger pool of possibilities. Then I started searching for reviews on various machines as I was going into this rather blindly.
Using Google, I stumbled upon PatternReview.com - which has an amazing, if not overwhelming database of sewing machine reviews. I quickly realized that I was going to have to narrow to specific models of specific machines if I didn't want to spend the next 6 months reading reviews. I started out with the Bernina 153QE because that was available locally within my price range. A solid machine, but ultimately, I was a bit concerned about the computerized portion - as my laptop runs on Windows 7.0 and there was some question in my mind as to the compatibility with the programming. An ad on Charlotte Craigslist featured a Bernina 801 Sport, and the more I read about it, the more interested I became. Now Charlotte is a good 2.5 hours away and the price was higher than I wanted to pay, so I put it to one side.
On a whim, I looked at e-Bay and found an intriguing auction - actually a Buy It Now - so even better. On faith, I spent the most I have on e-Bay at one time and settled down to wait for it to arrive. As I've told my husband, the accessories and extra feet that arrived with it made it an incredibly GOOD deal. Similar machines for sale did not have the walking foot which I knew would be important. Since it arrived, I've also added the #13 foot, a thread holder for cones and am waiting for an additional seam guide to arrive so that I've got one for the #13 and one for the walking foot.
I tested the machine out by using it to construct the rag quilt and was very pleased with the way it runs. Then took "Welcome to your Machine" at Thimble Pleasures last Saturday. During the class, I learned to disassemble and clean parts of the machine and was quite amazed by how much lint I had not managed to brush out before. After the class, I left it to be serviced since it had not been used in at least 7 years. I was told that the machine was quite clean and she oiled it and adjusted the tension slightly. If I want, I can replace the speed control capacitor at a later time, but for now that isn't bothering me. This was a great relief as when the machine arrived it had clearly been bounced around by FedEx. The door to the bobbin case had opened and the bobbin and case freed themselves and danced around wrapping thread around all of the cords and the machine... I was a bit concerned about the possible results to the tension. Thankfully the machine is forgiving and works wonderfully.
So, my next step here is to determine the perfect placement of the seam guide.