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sewing machine blues

I feel sad and stupid. A little over a year ago, I spent $100 and bought a proper sewing machine. It was a Singer, so I thought it would be a good investment and would last me for a decade or two.

Within days, it went wrong. The needle jammed down inside the machine and wouldn’t come up again. When I took it to the repair centre (luckily it was under warranty) the repairman said that the timing was off and Singer didn’t bother to tune them properly in the factory before selling them! He fixed it up, and it worked perfectly after that.

Fast forward to today… I finally have a chance to start on a new sewing project, and sit down at the machine. Clunk. I know that noise. It’s the timing again. The needle either jams in the down position, or goes through the fabric and then hits something and gets stopped before it gets to the bottom.

Of course, the warranty has now expired, and the repair centre tell me it’s going to cost about $40 to fix. But they also warned me that the machine is not a very good one and that whenever I try to sew anything heavy (jeans etc) it’s liable to happen again..!

So now what do I do? Spend the $40 and hope it lasts a while longer before it breaks again? Or give up on it and have to spend even more money for yet another new machine? I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet and go for a new one, but I’m going to do a lot of research this time before handing any money over.

And my project? Looks like I’ll have to put that on hold until I can find a sewing machine that works 🙁


  1. I had totally opposite experienve. My machine still works fine, even after 7 years. Feel sorry for you man. Maybe you got a faulty model or something.

    • June said

      It’s fine, thanks. My Husqvarna Viking that I bought to replace that one is still going strong after 13+ years – it’s a real workhorse!

  2. alycia said

    Hi everyone,
    I want to purchase a sewing machine for my daughter (she is a basic sewer but also makes puppets). I was looking at the computerized Brother sewing and quilting machine, thinking it will handle thicker fabrics. Does anyone have any experience with it?

  3. Jolandie said

    I’m really shocked, i have a very old Singer and it’s still working. Looks like it’s not the same quality that you buy these days. Maybe try looking at Bernina, it’s expensive but worth the money. Good luck with the search!!


    • June said

      Apparently old Singers are far more reliable than their modern counterparts! I bought a Husqvarna Viking in the end and I’ve been very happy with it.

      • Jolandie said

        Hi June

        Glad to hear you found a new sewing machine that works!!


  4. Gregory Ellis said

    My mother had a Singer sewing machine and still it is working now!…The machine was over 70 years now. Promise! We are still using it.

  5. cecile said

    I purchased a Singer Athena 2000 back in 1976. Love the machine, and have spent countless hours using it. Finally back in 2007 a gear broke, but other than having a tune-up, this is the only thing that gone wrong with it. I now have it in the repair shop and it will cost me a few bucks to repair, but it is worth fixing and I know will give me more years of service.

    The fellow said I could replace it with a new one for $300, but after reading all the comments posted, know I have done the right thing. Stick with what works. I often wondered about the new machines, in that is how many are made overseas. Thanks for all of this info ladies.

    • christine winkler said

      I have a 1904 treadle machine that I use all the time and have for years,I bought a $100 singer for the zigzag stitch and

  6. I’m honestly surprised that this happened within a couple of days, let alone years! I’m terribly sorry! My personal opinion would be to return the machine and upgrade for just a few more dollars! This worked great for me and i love my Singer machine. Hope everything works out for you! 🙂 Good Luck!

  7. jessica said

    I have a Singer whose gears were out of wack a couple of years ago.
    I had the repair man tell me to stop sewing over pins, using the wrong settings for heavy fabrics and to stop turning the wheel the wrong way (away from me rather than towards).
    After following his advice, my Singer is in perfect condition after seven years for how often I use it and all the traveling it does on public transit /greyhound buses.
    It was a model that cost my mother around $300 in the late nineties.
    Overall, modern Singers are a good starter machine since I was only in grade eight when I received mine. It isn’t the best quality but definitely does the trick for someone who starting to make garments for themselves/friends. I would advise buying a modern Singer as a first machine and then looking into other machines (older/bigger $$$) when you know what types of material you will be working with like bridal or heavy denims.

  8. Singer Sewing said

    If you are going to go with a Singer, stick to a higher priced model or with an older machine. In recent years though (as in the last year) Singer has begun stepping up their quality. you also have to keep in mind that the people with bad experiences will share them. The people with good experiences never get online to “vent.”

  9. Cera said

    I just ran into your blog. NEVER buy a new Singer machine, as they are not made by Singer, in fact Singer does not even exist! It’s a name anyone can buy and slap onto a product, knowing that it will sell because of the name.

    I am by no means an expert, but I used to collect vintage machines. Sewing machine manufacture works like most other industries, a tender is put out, and companies bid on it. So for instance, Sears Kenmore machines just have the Kenmore name on it, it’s not made by Sears, sometimes they are made by Janome and at other times by someone else, like perhaps Husqvarna. All the machines are made in China (even if they say otherwise). Some modern machines are very well made, are mostly metal, but they cost more.

    If you are going to purchase another machine, I would look for old Singers, Kenmores, White and other companies like that, from the 50’s and 60’s are the best years. Look on Kijiji, or Ebay etc. People are always selling old machines for not much money, with a bit of tune-up and TLC, they will sew beautifully for years to come. I good, sound machine should be mostly metal (especially inside), and should have nice solid feel to it.

    I have a modern Janome computer machine, and it;s very, very well made, it’s a heavy all metal machine, but I also have my trusty, gorgeous Singer 301A, straight stitch machine, which was made in the 50’s and sewing beautfully! It’s one of best machines Singer ever made (when they meant something in the world).

  10. Dianna said

    I had a problem like this several years ago, the needle kept doing things that I had never seen before. I kept purchasing more needles, then one day I goofed and bought one that was shorter than what the machine came with. Now the machine works fine. You may want to try a shorter needle. Not the one they recommend.

  11. Christiane said


    I am sorry about what had happen, I live in the downtown Toronto,
    I want to buy a simple sewing machine to fix hems and other stuffs, once in while i like to do sewing specialy in the winter.

    It is very hard to find a good one.. at Sears they are too heavy, Zellers same things as well as wall mart…

    A few years ago, I bought a sewing for $300 and I was robbed, it broke down after a year, and the store the purchased it closed down…

    Thank you!

  12. Neda said

    I have 2 really old Singers and they will never stop but I wouldn’t touch a new one with a 10 foot pole/ I have a new Baby lock which I love and also my second Bernina in 25 years and love it too. The Babylock has an Embroidery module that is wonderful to play with. Both brands have good lower priced models but not for $100. I would always recommend going to a sewing machine dealer that you feel comfortable with. Check out the trade-in machines. People are always taking in good machines just to get an upgraded machine. If you want a starting machine, Sears has a small blue machine that is same as the Janome Gem for under $100. I’ve made curtains on the one I gave my daughter-in-law. Neda

  13. carolyn said

    I had much the same experience with a $500 Kenmore….I’d had the “beastly yellowed” model for 20 years and decided it was time for bigger and better. I got halfway through one seam on dress-weight fabric when it jammed and stopped. I looked inside and discovered that the gears are made of plastic, not metal….the dealer said it was a timing issue. I was so disgusted that I decided not to have it repaired, I had them take it back (with much wailing and gnashing of teeth on their part). I was fortunate enough to find another Kenmore like my old one on ebay and snatched it up before the seller could change her mind!

    I’ve found older Singers and Kenmores at yard sales for 2-7 dollars, once an old Pfaff for 8 dollars. It needed a 40 dollar belt, but it’s a workhorse and well worth the bit of effort we put into it.

  14. I had bought a refurbished brother machine off of ebay and I was also shocked at the cost of repair as compared to what I paid for the machine so I tried to fix it myself since I knew exactly what was wrong with it. Turns out you can’t open up their machines without special tools and so I gave up on that machine.

    Now I’m using my mother’s machine she bought nearly 30 years ago from sears. She “just wanted a new one” even though the old beast works great. She went with another Kenmore machine because the beastly yellowed old Kenmore just won’t die. But she enjoys that it’s lighter and smaller so she can tote it around more easily.

    My recommendation: A Beastly Kenmore.

    plus, I looked on the sears website. I can still reorder parts, bobbins, and the manual for the old beast. 30 years old and I can still get parts. That’s my kind of machine.

  15. LauraJ said

    Always have a back up plan…You can scout yardsales and such for a second hand machine for cheap. Have it tuned up when you can afford it. I have 3 machines, 2 oldies but goodies and one 10 year plus, all work well and I couldn’t live without them!

  16. val said

    for blue jeans and other thick materials, use a gadget called a ‘JEAN-A-MA-JIG’….it works wonders. I also go really slowly. It might help.

  17. Johanna said

    Hello from a fellow Ontarian!! I chugged away on a Kenmore for about 20 years before I replaced it- it was a good machine, but it was time for an upgrade. I bought a Janome and I love it!! I think Janome and Kenmore are made by the same company. Anyway, my Janome cost $500, and that was a low-end Janome. It is mechanical rather than digital, which is all I need. It is a quilter’s model- I am primarily a quiltmaker, but it’s great for everything. If you in the Toronto/Etobicoke area, I got mine at Cloverdale Sewing Centre.

    Did I mention how much I love it?

  18. Mini said

    I have a $300 Singer that I’ve not had any problems with, but I wouldn’t dare sew heavy fabrics on it. My girlfriend used to do custom bridal gowns and bought a Husqvarna. I’ve seen her do all weights of fabric and the seaming looks very professional even over multiple layers. She loves her machine.

  19. Sarah said


    I don’t personally have a Viking, but we had two in my college costume shop and they ran like a dream under heavy heavy use and abuse. Husqvarna is from what I know, a really good brand.


  20. karen said

    They always say “its the timing”! arggggh…I thought i was a horrilbe seamstress for years until I finally figured out that it was the sewing machine, not me. i finally broke down and bought a floor model Viking for $500. IT IS AMAZING! It will sew through anything like butter. I love it. Singer? I’ll never buy another again. I’ve had the Viking for 5 years and it is still running like a dream.

  21. June said

    Thank you, everyone! I’m thinking of getting a Husqvarna Viking Emerald 116 – has anyone had any experience with them? I’ve only found good things said about them so far, although I’ll be doing a lot more research before I make my decision!

  22. Mindy said

    I have a Brothers that I bought from Wal Mart and I have just loved it. I knew to start out on something simple.

    I would suggest you go to

    Write a letter there. I have had WONDERFUL results with posting letters there. When I had a complaint with Allstate, no one would ever return my phone calls. Then I posted my letter on planetfeedback and someone from Allstate called me within 4 hours of my posting it. I got results.

  23. Erin said

    Oh that totaly sucks. I bought a Singer for about $100 too. I have had it for about 4 years and no problems. It’s mostly made out of sturdy metal. I just bought an overlock/serger now that’s scarry.

  24. Dawn said

    don’t think about buying another Singer! Singers are not made like the really old Singers! I have my grandma’s old Singer and it still works like a charm!
    You can’t find any good machines for under $300.00 now a days! $300 is cheap! I have 3 machines that are all broken with different things wrong and can’t any of them fixed right!
    I have an older Ellna that is about 20 years old and works like a dream. Just don’t buy a new Ellna! I have a newer Ellna and it’s junk!
    Viking is suppose to be on the rise again for having good machines. Phaff is a good machine. Janome is suppose to be good.
    My best advice is to check out all the machines and test drive them.
    Good luck with the sewing machine shopping!

  25. Rina said

    What a bummer! It’s true, everything is made so shoddy these days. If you’re looking for a place to do some research,‘s sewing section has a board where they discuss sewing machines.

  26. June said

    Thank you, ladies! At least I know I’m not alone in this now (but I wish I’d found out before it was too late to return it).

    I was careful to use the right kind of needle (and yes, it was brand new) – I’ve broken too many needles in the past to forget that part! I’ve taken up jeans etc before with no problems, so I really thought my Singer was tough enough and could cope with a few layers of fabric 🙁

  27. Jessica said

    PS: Everything is made like crap nowadays it seems. Our mother’s sewing machines will last forever, and we’ll have to buy them like we buy computers, every 2-5 years. 🙁

  28. Jessica said

    omg – the same thing just happened to my singer. Mine was a $300 machine tho, and had a year warranty so it’s being fixed for free. Unfortunately they’ve had it over a week now 🙁 I miss it.

    Were you using a new needle, and one made for denim? If your needle was too old or not the right kind for the fabric, that might have contributed.

  29. Cocoa said

    Oh June, I’m so sorry…I had a similar experience with my first sewing machine 2 1/2 years ago! I, too, bought a $100 Singer machine…a very basic model, but my mom always had one so I though it’d be a good deal. After using it just a couple of hours, it started to jam up. So, I just returned it to the store…I didn’t bother to take it to a repair shop. Instead, I spent just a bit more money and bought the next model up. It has worked like a dream for me…I hope it continues! And I hope you get your machine problem worked out. I’ve heard alot of people talking about Brother machines. I’ve never used one though…

  30. Horrible!!!! I hate things that break like that; it makes you feel really disappointed in the brand. I have a Seiko watch and as soon as the warranty was over it started gaining time like crazy. I hope you get something soon!

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