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reliable, simple, affordable, jam-free sewing machine?
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Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
reliable, simple, jam-free sewing machine? on 05/17/2011 15:20:25 MDT Print View

Please recommend a reliable, simple, affordable, jam-free sewing machine good for simple gear and gear-clothing sewing tasks.

I used to have a decent Kenmore Sewing machine and I came home one day and discovered my wife (now my ex-wife) had given it away. The replacement sewing machine I got jams all the time. A piece of junk.

All I want a sewing machine for is the following types of tasks:

1. sewing velcro onto gaiters to convert ordinary gaiters into "dirty girl" type gaiters (strapless).

2. shortening and hemming (no cuff) pants.

3. repairing tears in pants or gaiters

4. repairing tears in tent wall and or tent floor.

5. the ability to work with nylon and silnylon fabric.

Any recommendations?


Edited by marti124 on 05/17/2011 15:21:03 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: reliable, simple, jam-free sewing machine? on 05/17/2011 15:56:09 MDT Print View

Given it away? Oh Dear.

My recommendation would be to look for a very simple basic machine with metal gears and NO electronics. An old second-hand Singer would be excellent, but some other brands would doubtless also serve. Straight stitch is obvious: a multi-stitch zigzag would be very nice. The single-stitch jigzag does not work well on the very light fabrics, causing a lot of sideways pucker.


Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: reliable, simple, jam-free sewing machine? on 05/17/2011 16:04:33 MDT Print View

Roger, what search terms would you use on Ebay to find such second-hand sewing machines? "Singer" is too broad as it would catch a lot of models with electronics. I'm a little surprised that any of the models with electronics are not reliable and jam-free and simple. Thanks.

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Re: reliable, simple, jam-free sewing machine? on 05/17/2011 16:19:44 MDT Print View

My wife has a Bernette 50 (cheaper Bernina, made in Asia not Sweden). Simple, seems to work fine. Can find used >$100. I have a 60s vintage Japanese machine (Necchi-National) that works great for heavier work, and cost me $15 from Goodwill.

I'd hit your local thrift stores.

Edited by DavidDrake on 05/19/2011 10:52:18 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: reliable, simple, jam-free sewing machine? on 05/17/2011 16:22:55 MDT Print View

Roleigh, I've had good results from an inexpensive Brother machine that I purchased about 18 months ago. If it has problems, it is always a sign to me that I have thread tension set wrong, cheap thread, or a super thin fabric that I haven't figured out yet. Some velcro has adhesive on the back, and that can gum up your needle if you aren't careful.

The problem with purchasing a used machine is that it might have been given up because it had problems, and without servicing, it might continue to have problems. In other words, you don't know whose headaches you are inheriting.


Eddie Rivera
(eddieruko) - F
Craiglist on 05/17/2011 16:27:23 MDT Print View

I did a quick search in Craigslist for "singer sewing machine" and found dozens of posts... most of which were sub $100 for the "all metal workhorses". Most of these people selling older machines had them as antiques at one point, so it's always good to make sure the motor isn't burned out.

I managed to find a JCPenney brand machine from 1970s, all metal innards for $35. It's sewn 1000D Cordura for gaiters, to sil-nylon and reflective, iron-on tape without a hitch. The model# escapes me now, but I've learned it's more about your patience and experience than any one particular machine or brand.

Also - I preferred CL to search as opposed to ebay because you can check it out for yourself with no commitment to buy if it's no good.

Edited by eddieruko on 05/17/2011 16:29:10 MDT.

Al Nichols
(everready) - F

Locale: Sh!^^% Ohio
You could dig around on this site... on 05/17/2011 19:12:49 MDT Print View

I could have sworn I've read a FAQ about sewing machines here but I can't seem to find it. Sorry but you'll have to do the digging and I'm not even 100% sure it's there...........still, there is some good info here.


You were correct.

Edited by everready on 05/18/2011 07:59:54 MDT.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: You could dig around on this site... on 05/17/2011 19:22:12 MDT Print View

Al, in your first sentence the word "here" is that about SpecialtyOutDoors or BackPackingLight? I presume the here in the last sentence is about SpecialtyOutDoors.


William Cummings
(rcummings1) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: You could dig around on this site... on 05/17/2011 20:26:18 MDT Print View

Search Craigslist where you are for an older Singer. I like the old black Singer 15-91's and 201-2's but they are straight stitch only. If you want a model capable of doing a zigzag stitch, look for a Singer 401 or 500 from the late 50's early 60's. They are all metal inside and out and sew great. Probably need to be cleaned and lubed but there are lots of sites to help with that. The older model #158-xxx Kenmores, as you know, are great machines also. You should be able to pick any one those up for under $50. New sewing machines define the phrase "They don't make them like they used to". Most of the new cheap machines are plastic junk right out of the box. Ask a couple of friends, there are always old machines hiding in basements and garages.

Edited by rcummings1 on 05/17/2011 20:28:11 MDT.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: reliable, simple, jam-free sewing machine? on 05/18/2011 07:31:44 MDT Print View


Check out the link to the thread below to see what some of us are using.

Party On,


Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: reliable, simple, jam-free sewing machine? on 05/18/2011 21:26:43 MDT Print View

Singer 500A or 401A (or 403A).

I'm using an industrial singer now, but 90% of the gear I've made has been using my 500A, or my 301A's.

The 401A is very very similar to the 500A, although generally they can be had for less money.

If you don't feel you need the features of the 401/500, then 301A is a great machine (I've got 3), that can't be beat for no-frills trouble free straight stitching. Which honestly, is all you probably need. I make gear for a living and rarely need zig-zag.

Very few new non-industrial machines are all-metal, and the few that are, are very pricey (often more than a new industrial straight stitcher).

Edited by jdempsey on 05/18/2011 21:29:10 MDT.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
I'd buy a new, inexpensive machine on 05/19/2011 09:54:46 MDT Print View

As am matter of fact, that's exactly what I did about a year ago. It works great.

For what you plan on using it for, you don't need a "bomber" sewing machine. The trouble with buying an older used machine that might be bomber is it might come with associated problems.

If you go to Amazon and search for sewing machines you can sort for popularity and reviews. You'll see 4-5 star machines with numerous reviews in the $100 range. I would guess that if you rounded up 100 random people who had bought used machines that the satisfaction rate would be considerably lower, on average.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Pfaff 130 on 05/19/2011 13:34:53 MDT Print View

Best I know of

I have sewn my own climbing runners, harnesses, gaiters, my first batch of commercial
tents, etc. You can even get them with a hand crank for use on sailing boats when
electricity isn't available. I got a cabinet with mine which helps a lot when using
slippery or sticky material. Get a roller foot too.

Edited by oware on 05/19/2011 13:40:10 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
RE: bomber sewing machines. on 05/19/2011 13:44:45 MDT Print View

I have bought 4 machines from thrift stores. All have worked flawlessly. Never paid more than $40 for one either. 1 Singer, 2 Necchis and 1 New Home. Also was given a Kenmore that was reported to not work. After cleaning out the big wad of lint and having it threaded properly it worked fine too. I still have the Necchis and the New Home. 2 flatbeds and 1 freearm.

Edited by kthompson on 05/19/2011 13:45:26 MDT.

Kat ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Older and newer , and Swiss does not mean from Sweden ; ) on 05/19/2011 15:01:01 MDT Print View

I have an older Bernina ( by the way, "Swiss" means from Switzerland not Sweden!!) and it's a solid strong machine. Last year I got a new Janome Sewist 500, yes a plastic machine. As much as I like the idea of the reliable solid metal machine, I end up using the Janome most of the time. I hardly ever have to mess with tension, I can see the bobbin without having to take it out, I can run it over two layers and then six layers without having to change a thing .

Edited by Kat_P on 05/19/2011 15:07:17 MDT.

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Older and newer , and Swiss does not mean from Sweden ; ) on 05/19/2011 15:15:57 MDT Print View

Don't know why I always forget Bernina is a Swiss brand, not Swedish. Suppose I associate it with other quality European makes like Husqvarna Viking, etc.

This summer I'll be getting an older all-metal *Swiss* made Bernina that belonged to my grandmother. Should be good.

Kat ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
legit on 05/19/2011 15:19:33 MDT Print View

David, fair enough, that's an understandable mistake.
It is one of my pet peeves , I guess. Since I have lived here I have come across people confusing the two countries , literally hundreds of times, so I took it out on you ; )

Kevin Ridge

Locale: Southeast MI
New sewing machine on 05/19/2011 16:55:32 MDT Print View

If you don't want to go the used route, I would recommend the Janome Sewist 500. I have the Baby Lock version on it and have had no issues. Really nice sewing on the various outdoor fabrics.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
reliable, simple, affordable, jam-free sewing machine on 05/19/2011 17:04:51 MDT Print View

Go to the local sewing machine repair shop, and find a 1950s Pfaff.