Here's a blog post I shared on the Sewing & Stitchery Expo (Puyallup) Blog, with a follow up I just added here:
Is this the year when you get to pick out a new sewing machine? Will it be your dream machine or do you have a tight budget to stick to? The Sewing & Stitchery Expo is a super place to shop for machines, whether it is a standard sewing machine, for embroidery, serging, or quilting. In fact, there are so many machines to be seen, it can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t stay organized. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time:
- Check out the list of vendors that will be at Expo ahead of time to get a feel for the different dealers who will be present. View the list at https://sewexpo.com/teachers-vendors/vendors/
- Take a notebook, pen, camera (phone is fine) and large envelope containing paper clips
- Shop alone or with one very good friend who will help you stay focused
- Plan on spending as many days as you possibly can so you can revisit machines you like
- Know your budget, whether or not you will pay cash, credit card or buy on terms
- Make a written list, in your notebook, of features you really want
- Bring along some 10” squares of your favorite fabrics and a spool of your own thread
How to shop:
Of course dealers are going to put the prettiest, shiniest and most expensive machines front and center. Go ahead and admire and try those machines, but be sure to take a look at all of the machines available. Start by writing down the booth name and number. Usually a sales person approaches you immediately and you can share that you are shopping all of the options at the show and won’t be making any decisions immediately. Write down the sales person’s name.
Tell the sales person your list of features and give a price range. If you say, “Under $2000”, they will show you machines that are $1999, so you might say, “In the $1400-1900” range.
Sit down and try out every machine in your price range. Spend a good 15-20 minutes with machines you like. Try all of the features you normally use, using the fabric you brought and learn about some new features, too. Pull the thread out and see if you can easily rethread it. Same with the bobbin. How do you wind bobbins? How easy is it to remove and replace them? Does your favorite thread work in the machine?
As you try each machine, make careful notes of the model, features and price. Write down what you like and dislike about the machine. Take pictures, being sure to include the model name in the photo.
Get up and stretch between machines to clear your head. Note the booth number on any handouts, paperclip all the paper from one booth together and place them in your envelope.
Most dealers will have “show specials” and you can ask if the offers will be available in shop after the show and for how long. Be sure to ask about special pricing on the demo models!
Each evening, after you’ve relaxed awhile, spread out the brochures and consult with your notes and photos. Run the deals by a friend or spouse and see what they think. Make more notes on the ones that you are interested in.
If you are ready to make your purchase during the show, go back to the booth and see the same sales person if possible. Ask about add-ons like classes, thread, bobbins, free delivery and set up, carry cases, etc.
When you find the deal you want, go for it! If you can’t find a good fit, you may still be able to get a great deal soon after the show. In any case, take the time to really learn about your machine, either through classes or the manual or both. Gotta love that new machine smell!
In January, 2019, I was at a quilt show in Phoenix, AZ, and snuck out to sit in the sun for a few moments. I sat down at a picnic table where a man and a woman were pouring over quilting machine brochures. They immediately turned too me and told me they were about to make a decision on which machine to buy. They had narrowed it down to a Handiquilter or a Kathy's Block Rockit. I laughed and told them about my blog post on purchasing a machine at a show and they immediately wanted to know what else they should do. I encouraged them to go back to each machine and play on in for a minimum of 15 minutes, without a sales person looking over their shoulders. I told them to pull the thread all the way off and take out the bobbin. Then they could try re-threading and replacing the bobbin to see if it was easy and comfortable. After sewing for 10 minutes continuously, how did their bodies feel? How did the machine feel?
I was hoping they'd come find me in my booth and tell me how it went, but I did not see them again. I hope they bought the machine of their dreams!