Listen to the Stop Scrolling, Start Sewing Podcast

14. Shopping for a Sewing Machine at a Dealer

To listen to the episode click here.

Hey there. I’m Nicole Gilbert and you’ve joined the stop scrolling and start sewing podcast. Are you new to sewing and want to start quilting, but have no idea where to begin? Each Wednesday Join me as I share the ins and outs of that quilt life. If you don’t have a sewing machine, have no idea how much fabric you need, or you’re just trying to figure out where the heck to stick that bobbin, this is the podcast for you!

On this episode of the stop scrolling start sewing podcast. I’m going deep on buying a sewing machine from a dealer. Plus I’m chatting about my recent shopping expedition, but first a listener shout out.

Pikamann667 writes. I love listening to Nicole’s fresh and exciting perspective on all things sewing. Definitely a great resource for learning how to perfect your technique and craft.

Okay. Thank you so much. Pikamann667. I love that you think I make sewing and quilting exciting. That’s literally the dream, My friend.

If you want a shout out on an upcoming episode, please head over to wherever you listen to podcasts and leave a review. You just might hear me shout you out.

Okay, guys, let’s get sewing.

So first my shopping trip. So I absolutely am not in the market for a sewing machine. I really could laugh when I say that because, okay, here’s the thing. I’m never in the market for anything. And yet I’m an avid shopper.

So we had a babysitter the other day, AKA, my mother, she took our three little ones and Steve and I were wondering what we should do with our day. So I suggested we hit up this sewing machine dealer. So many of you know that I am a military spouse and we move around quite frequently. And we have been at our current duty station for about a year. And I have found my local fabric store that I love to frequent anet is so cute. I’m obsessed, Hudson Valley quilt shop, shout out. Um, but I haven’t found a sewing machine dealer. Now my big MamaJama machine that I use is a Pfaff. And I love it. I know there are a lot of polarized views out there about Pfaff, but I love it.

And it’s amazing. And it has done me well, and it is working just as well today as it was doing a decade ago, when I took her out the box, that being said, Pfaff dealerships are a little harder to come by these days. I mean, I could take it for a tune up at a Viking Husqvarna or a Singer dealer. Um, but it’s finding an actual Pfaff dealer is a little bit more difficult. So I found this dealership that was about an hour away from my house and they don’t sell Pfaff, but I was really intrigued because they advertise themselves as being 6,000 square feet, which might not seem that big for the average retail store, but for a quilt shop and dealer, that’s kind of huge. So pretty excited to head over there and they sell Janome, Brother, Bernina, Elna. Um, do they sell anything else Janome Elena brother Bernina?

I think that’s all that they sold, but that’s four different product lines and yes, you can say, well, the Elnas and the Janome is, are probably dang near identical, but they sold all four. So I was pretty excited to go there. And the shop did not disappoint. The owner was super knowledgeable about all of the machines. Um, the tech that was there could fire off prices and resale values for everything at the drop of a dime. The service was impeccable and long story short. I now have my eye on a new machine. So if anybody’s interested in a Pfaff creative vision, 5.0, hit your girl up. Great deal on it.

But anyway, it got me thinking about the buying process. Now I went into that dealer with absolutely zero intention of buying anything and I didn’t buy in the moment, but I have every intention of purchasing one in the next few weeks from that dealer.

And the actual experience of shopping could not be overstated how important it is. So I wanted to go over it with you guys, because I know many of you are new to sewing and quilting. Uh, some of you have hand-me-down machines. Many of you have entry-level singers and brothers that you have gotten at hobby lobby or Joanne’s or at another big box retailer and buying a sewing machine from a dealer is kind of like leveling up. So I wanted to go over the process with you, what you should be looking for in a dealer, what questions you should be asking when you go in to actually shop at a dealership, um, and to kind of give you a few resources as well. So that’s what we’re going to do here.

So first up, let’s talk about what you should look for in a dealer.

So first I want you to consider the type of dealership.

Now, there are two main avenues of dealerships. There are your fabric quilt shops, and then there are sew & vacs. Now I’m sure this hearkens back to like the forties and fifties Housewives, like their home appliances, you get the vacuum and the sewing machine at the same shop. It seems a little archaic in this day and age, but that’s how it is. Sew & vacs now of the two types of dealers, I think it’s a very individualized thing. So you want to do your research on the different dealers. I, I’m always more comfortable shopping at a fabric and quilt shop dealer versus a sew & vac, um, I’ve gone into many sew & vacs, and it really depends on the day and the time that you show up, how knowledgeable the person who is working is on the machines. What happens is when you sell both sewing machines and vacuums and your foot traffic is only a handful of shoppers a day.

You only need one or two people working at any given time. And now those one or two people are not all going to be knowledgeable on every single machine in that store. So you’re going to walk in there and there’s going to be people whose whole job is vacuums. They’re certified on the vacuums. So they might be able to tell you, yeah, we sell brother. We sell Bernina. But beyond that, they’re going to be like, this is our top end. This is our low end. This is this, you know, they’re going to break it down on price point and you need more than that. You deserve more than that, especially at the price point that some of these machines are. So keep that in mind. It’s why I like going to a fabric or quilt shop dealer more than I like going to a sew & vac.

A fabric and quilt shop dealer they have used the machines. They use them on the daily. They know exactly what’s going on with every machine. It is a game changer. So that’s number one. Next up.

I want you to look at what brands do they carry. So a sewing machine dealer is exactly like a car dealer. You know, when you go to a Kia dealership, you know, they’re selling you Kias. There might be a used car lot in the back. That’s got a bunch of jumble, but your brand new models are going to be Kias. Same thing with a sewing machine dealer. Now sewing machines like anything else. There are often entry-level brand mid tier brand and high end brand. I’m thinking like Singer, Husqvarna, Pfaff. Now all three of those were the same company. A lot of times you will see all three of them at a dealership, less and less Pfaff dealerships out there.

It makes me sad, but it is what it is. Um, so sometimes you’ll see multiple brands, but they usually are together. Same as like Janome and Elena. You will see them in the same place. A lot of those machines are the same machine, just kind of branded or cased differently. So, um, check out what type of dealership they are. Now for a time and efficiency standpoint. I want you to try to find a slightly larger dealership that at least has two different brands. That way you, when you walk in with your list of features, you need to have, you’re at least able to check two or three different models and brands that fit your requirements. That way you’re not going all over town again, like when you go car shopping. Um, so think of it that way. Um, but on the same note, I don’t want you going to, there are some like super big mama jama dealers out there.

I’m thinking of like the in-person, um, big, big shop that shall remain nameless. That Homebase is in California, but they have that huge website. Um, they sell everything. And again, when you sell everything, not every employee is going to be knowledgeable and certified in every single model. So it will really depend on when you show up how much tailored service you get. So I would suggest finding a shop that has between two and four manufacturers. That’s great. It’s going to maximize your time while still getting the knowledgeable sales person knowhow. So keep that in mind.

Also make sure they carry the full product range. Now sewing machine manufacturers require the dealer to be certified on all of the features and on each individual model before they’re allowed to sell it. So that means if you don’t get certified on a specific model, when it comes out, you don’t get to sell it.

So even though you are a Bernina dealer, if you are not certified to and know the ins and outs of the 770 E, guess what you don’t get to sell the 770. So keep that in mind when you’re looking, just because they are a dealer of the brand that you’re looking for, it does not mean they will have the model that you’re looking for on the floor, or be able to sell it to you. Also, it’s a really good indicator of the health of the business as a whole. Why would you not get certified on the newest, latest and greatest machines? The only real reason is if you don’t plan on selling any, which means you don’t plan on being in business very long and keep that in mind for some of the things that I’m going to kind of bring up a little later in this episode.

And again, I know I’m going over a lot of stuff, so you can always catch up That will give you all of this stuff that I’m talking about, but let’s see next,

Oh, next I want you to see if they have an onsite service technician. Now, this might be a little bit more difficult for those of you who live in a more remote area. Um, because obviously there can’t be everyone everywhere, but an onsite service technician can be a game changer, especially if you are a heavy sewer like myself. So with an onsite service technician, it means if something happens to my machine or I need a tuneup, I can drop my machine off in the morning and nine times out of 10, get it back. Same day, if not 48 to 72 hours, which like, come on, I can do two days of cleaning my house instead of sewing, let’s be real. But when you don’t have an onsite service technician, they often send it out somewhere else. These are large heavy machines in order for them to make it not astronomical, they are going to send it out and it might take awhile. Now, if it’s a local ish place, the guy probably comes and picks it up and puts it in the back of his van. Not a big deal. If they are sending it out, like sending it out out and they have to mail that thing, it’s going to take a minute to get there and back. So add a week just for travel and then how long it takes to service, who knows how long you can have your machine out there. If you’re in that situation, hopefully it’s like a pickup situation where the guy picks him up, fixes it brings it back, but you never know.

And you want to ask, you want to make sure also when they’ve got onsite service technicians, it also is highly likely that they have used models. And I will talk about that a little later in this episode, but use models are awesome. So keep that in mind as well.

Um, and you also want to see that they have knowledgeable longterm employees. Now, I know I kind of mentioned this a little bit when you go, like, when I talked about the bigger dealers or the, sew & vac dealers where not everybody is knowledgeable on every machine, and so it can kind of dampen your shopping experience. Um, and also it can actually hinder your shopping experience. Like you don’t know what you don’t know, they should know. And if they don’t know, well, then you’re going to be in the dark and you might miss out on an awesome machine.

So we want to make sure that the employees are knowledgeable. I will say this. We are chatty people, us Sewers. And I have yet to go into a good quilt shop and not get awesome chatty service from the employees, from walking you through all the basics, being super helpful and pleasant, telling you which machine they have at home right now, telling you which machine they wish they had at home right now, telling you which, which machine they wish they had never bought. They will tell you all of those things. And that’s the kind of information that is gold. They will also sometimes like the, the dealer I went to the other day had a longarmer in the store and she came and sat with me and was like, this is the machine I have. This is the machine I use for classes. This is the machine I wish I had. Um, this is what I learned on. Like, I know this lady’s quilt life story, and I’m happy I do, because I know which brand she loves, which one she stays away from, which ones were better for certain technologies and which one’s better for other technologies.

This is important information, especially for someone like me, where I was in a dealer that was for high end machines selling Berninas. And, um, they had Janome, which are typically mid tier, but some of the Janome that were selling were, were what I would consider high end. Um, and I really got familiar because my high end machine is a Pfaff and they might have all the same features, but they work very differently. So it was really good to get the insider’s perspective. Um, so keep that in mind. Alright. So I have rambled on quite a bit about the dealers, and I’m going to talk a little bit more about dealers, but now I’m going to focus more on what you should be asking while you shop.

So first I want you to stick to your feature list. Now, if you don’t have a feature list, head on over to, and pick up that free download of the sewing machine buyer’s guide, it will walk you through how to choose a sewing machine and what you should look for and, and whatnot for what your needs are. Once you’ve gone through that buyer’s guide, you should have an idea of what you want in a machine and once you know what you want in a machine stick to it. So, um, I want you to know like what you need in a machine right now, what would be nice in the future, Especially if you’re looking at a higher price point, um, I’ll tell you right now, the machines that I’ve been looking at the most inexpensive machine I saw was $5,000.

It better do what I want now. And also what I want in a couple of years, because I’m not just switching out my machines regularly and neither should you be. I mean, the machine I have now, when it was new, it was $10,000. These are big ticket numbers. You need to know what you want. Um, so keep that in mind. Now, I want you to stick to your feature list.

Now, next, when you’re actually doing the shopping and you go into the dealer, I want you to ask about classes. Now, any dealer that is worth its weight will offer you lessons on the machine you purchase. Like hard-stop, they don’t offer classes. You don’t buy the machine. Like obviously you can make your own decisions, but I’m saying that’s where I’m coming from. If they’re not offering classes, I’m not buying a machine period, too many dealers offer classes to compromise and buy it where they don’t offer classes.

Unless you’re getting like a Janome memory craft for 200 bucks, in which case I’d be like, Hmm, worth it, you know, and skip the classes. But unless you’re getting like a crazy deal like that, get the classes.

Now, um, you can do classes in two ways. You can do one on one classes or you can do group classes. I personally think that you should go, um, with, I mean, I go back and forth, honestly, let me, let me, I think both are great. Um, one-on-one classes are excellent for answering your specific questions, which, I mean, anytime, I mean, one-on-one is always great. One-on-one always seems great. But I like group classes, especially like in my situation where I’m going to probably be switching from a Pfaff to, um, a Janome. Um, I want a group class because it’s one of those things where like, you don’t know what you don’t know.

You know what I mean? I am really good on a Pfaff. So one-on-one classes wouldn’t bother me so much. Like I’ve, I’ve done the ins and outs of it, but this machine works totally different. It operates totally different. Um, it uses different methodology and different logic. And so I need to understand that logic. Um, and so being in a group class, somebody else might ask a question that I didn’t even know I should have asked. You know, so I really liked that in a, in a group class setting, um, and also in a group class setting where an instructor knows that somebody has previously only used a box store machine. Someone has previously used a Pfaff and someone is like a Janome queen. They’re going to answer the questions in a different fashion than if they’re just answering the questions to somebody in one Avenue or lane.

So you can really get a really good thorough, um, breakdown. Also with classes. Um, see how long and how many are offered. Um, at the machine I went to, it was one year of unlimited classes. If I wanted to be there every day for a class, I could do it. That’s awesome. Like that is, I would say is the standard one year now I, when I got my Pfaff, I also got one year, but it was weekly. So I got 52 classes, which is still awesome. I honestly don’t think I took advantage of all of my classes. Um, but at certain price points you totally should. So don’t be me take advantage of all your classes. Okay.

Next I want you to ask about the bundles bundles are really cool, but I want you to do this certain ways. First. I want you to go to the dealer website, the not the dealer, the manufacturer’s website, and see exactly what comes with the machine.

Then I want you to go to a forum like super dorky old school forum and see what bundles and packages others have gotten with their machine of that model, because all dealers are allowed to offer different packages. Now manufacturers usually have a like baseline, like, Hey, this is, has to come with the machine, but then dealers can put together different packages, different ad-ons I’ve seen some dealers like, Hey, when you buy this machine, you get this machine to take with you to classes, that’s baller. Caveat. Those are usually really, really high end machines, like five figure machines, just so you know. Um, but I’ve also seen them include an Accu quilt, or they include a gift certificate to a quilt shop, or, I mean, the list goes on and on what they can include with these machines. And then some standard machines that they know are awesome machines that are going to sell themselves, come with only what the manufacturer give them.

Cause what’s the point they don’t need to sell this machine. The machine sells itself. So there’s a lot, a big range of what comes with the machine, do your research and then go to the dealer and see what they offer. And if what they’re offering is not acceptable compared to what you saw others, get with their machine, find out where they got their machine and see if it’s feasible for you. Now, sometimes that’s not feasible because you know, I wouldn’t sacrifice the classes to get an accu quilt. If the person who got the Accu quilt with their machine was in Myers, Fort Myers, and you live in Tacoma, Washington, like you’re going to get that machine mailed to you. Yeah. You’ll get the accu quilt. But now you can’t take classes unless you’re gonna fly out there every day. So kind of keep in mind how important some of that stuff is for you.

Okay. And then last but not least, I want you to check out their used models. Now, remember I said like a car dealership, they sell a specific brand and then maybe they’ve got a used car lot in the back. That’s got a mismatch of all different brands, same thing with the sewing machine. So at the dealer I went to on, uh, last week, I actually, they had Bernina’s Janome’s Elna’s and brothers, but their second hands include, they had a couple of Pfaffs. They had some Pfaff machines, so they have some, some mix ups. So a mixture of, of items. What’s really great. When you’ve got an onsite technician, the machines are properly tuned up. They’re in excellent working order. Usually they include classes, not the same level of attentiveness that your new machine classes will be. Usually it’s only a handful or maybe even just one or two.

Um, but it is classes versus just buying one off of eBay. Um, and also you get a killer deal because somebody else ate the depreciation on that machine. So you can get a $5,000 machine for a thousand bucks or less. Like these are things that you really should think about. And these high end quality machines are workhorses that lasts a lifetime. As long as you treat them well. There’s a reason why there are people out there who are still rocking singer feather weights because they’re baller machines that hold up well. And if you take good care of them, they will take good care of you. So do not stick your nose in the air at a used machine. If the machine that I want is a brand new machine, that’s only been on the market for about eight months. So the chances of me finding this machine used are slim to none, especially given the reviews that it’s received.

Um, however, if I did see one that was used, I would snap it up in a second. So do not think that, Oh, I need to only buy brand new, a used machine from a good dealer with a good warranty is worth its weight in gold. So keep that in mind.

Whew. Holy cow. So again, like I said, I know I just dropped a ton of information on you. You can check out all of this listed over on the show notes, that while you’re there pick up a copy of the shopping for a sewing machine buyer’s guide, it will help you decide what features you need in your specific machine. I am always interested in hearing about your thoughts and opinions on this. So please head over to the modern culture circle Facebook page, or drop me an email I cannot wait to hear from you.

So guys, you’ve just finished another episode of the stop scrolling start sewing podcast. Thank you for hanging out with me and make sure you never miss an episode by hitting subscribe wherever you listen to

Podcasts. Now, stop scrolling and start sewing.

Quilt Love

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and...

Noelani T.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and Nicole’s expertise was invaluable for this large project. Nicole is very patient and explained the different steps and their purposes clearly. She improved my original idea to better accomplish my overall goal. I highly recommend Nicole as an instructor and would personally have another session in a heartbeat!

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked...

Michelle L.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked me through everything step by step. And it was amazing. She taught me the ins and outs of my machine and how to add each basic concept together. It was invaluable, because now I can figure things out and get creative without fearing the dreaded unravel!
The Modern Quilters Circle