I know this type of discussion usually starts a war, but just looking at
possible options. I had to take my Janome 5124 in for adjustment today.
I was sewing a backpack and going through thick fabric layers.
The machine has not been adjusted in 5 years, so it might not have been
the fabric throwing it off. It has served me well with my shirts
though. But its supposed to be able to handle heavy duty work too.
I'm looking for an inexpensive (
Huskys are not exactly the best built machines. And mediocre sewing
machine salespeople will always try to show you more machine than you
A used Singer 401 is one model that meets every last one of your
requirements, unless you need a free arm. Look at the bottom picture
(no affiliations with this site, but the guy has a good reputation)
You might be able to find one in a thrift store for $20 or so, too.
Most people don't want them because they think newer is better.
I bought my Janome out in Walnut Creek, but can't remember the name of
the store. I seem to remember you live in that direction. I live in
Newark now, but I'm wondering if I shouldn't take my machine in to them
to take a look at, instead of going through this service at JoAnn's.
The name was something like "The Sewing Machine Place" or something
orignal like that.
It hasn't been adjusted since I got it, about 4-5 years ago.
Oh, yes, The Sewing Machine Shop in Walnut Creek (it's about 6 or 7
miles from where I live), where I bought a wonderful 80s New Home with
30 stitches just a few short years back!
Well, I know they are reputable, and they definitely are
older-machine-friendly. Whether the store that holds the contract for
the Joann's nearest you is a good store or not is beyond my knowledge.
Some are and some aren't.
I got a 130 at a second hand shop for $40 just last month.
IMHO the thrift and second hand shops are the first place to look for
the tough old machines.
I am a firm believer in all (or mostly anyway) metal, all mechanical
machines. Also IMHO if you are sewing heavy or tough fabrics you won't
do much better than such a machine. If you don't want anything
fancier than maybe a zig zag, and you need rugged you may want to look
into an old machine.
You may have to do some serious cleaning and oiling of a vintage
machine, you may also have to do minor parts replacement (belts and
such), but in the long run they usually provide a very good value.
I heard back from Jim in Chico. He doesn't have any machines that will
do zigzag right now.
Is there some trick with straight stitches that will emulate bar tacks,
like maybe multiple parallel lines close together. Do these old 401s
stitch in reverse?
Well, you can hand-guide a bar tack: stitch in one hole, raise the
presser foot just enough to slide the other hole under the needle,
lower the needle by turning the handwheel so that you can make a
last-minute tweak to hit the hole exactly.
Or if the reverse stitch is on a lever that also controls the stitch
length, you can adjust the stops so that the forward and reverse
stitches are exactly the same length and bar tack by flipping the
lever up and down.
But I make all my bar tacks by hand -- except when making
machine-worked buttonholes. Hand tacks look neater, hold better, and
mess up the fabric less -- and most of the time it's easier to make a
few stitches by hand than to position the garment in the machine.
Oh, there's another exception: when I'm sewing on a patch pocket with
zig-zag, I'll make a few zero-length stitches to begin and end the
stitching. But if I sew a pocket on with straight stitch, and if for
some reason I don't want to make a little loop to begin and end -- for
me, at least, the loop always works out badly when I'm sewing knits --
I'll make a hand bar tack to finish the ends.
I had a great time. Very relaxing, *and* I got some sewing done (an
alteration for a customer - yes, I know! I don't do alterations! But
this was an emergency); a customer skirt and top cut, and the major
seams sewn on the fabric and linings, and some quilty things! :)
As for sewing machines: tough doesn't come cheap, but it does come
inexpensive and pre-loved. You want new, try the Bernina 1008 at about
£400 (I've usually seen it at £450 ish, but also as low as £379), or go
for a slightly used commercial (NOT for a new sewist, though!). If you
want domestic but tough, the 1008 or a well cared for pre loved older
I'm thinking along those lines. 401 or 500, but money is an issue. I
got my Janome back Friday, will see how it does me. I'm running it a
bit slower through the thick stuff now.
Boy, you think clothing patterns don't fill in all the details in the
pattern instructions, try backpacks. After I get the first one done,
perhaps I'll know a whole bunch more.
Hopefully I'll do better than the pair of pants I tried to sew once.
Got all the way done except for the waistband, realized I cut something
out upside down on the band, and then just lost all momentum. Still in
a bag around here somewhere.
Besides, I can find pants to fit me. Shirts I can't.