My love of sewing machines goes way back to when I was a little girl. It was the mid-1960’s, and I was using my Grandma Steele’s 1940’s Montgomery Ward machine (which I later received after her passing in 1993). It was this machine that fueled my passion for sewing – and it helped me appreciate how the right machine can really make a world of difference in your creations!

I remember my mother winning a Pfaff machine when our local Safeway was having a grand opening. I sewed on this basic machine for a very long time. Other than this machine, however, my mother always seemed to have bad luck with her machines – and I learned from her that if it gives you any trouble, take it back right away!

My very first sewing machine was actually a gift from my father. He gave me $500 for a new machine, and I spent $499.95. As a joke, I gave him the nickel back! That machine (a Kenmore Sears) lasted me for years, and it was this durability that gave me my love for their brand.

When I began JoLene’s Sewing School in June 2009, I needed four new sewing machines for my students to use. I wanted something that didn’t cost too much, but that could stand up to the heavy use of dozens of kids learning to sew. I researched a variety of sewing machines, and found a vast selection to choose from (all at a wide range of prices).

This is when I followed my tried-and-true rule of thumb… “If in doubt, go with the middle-priced one! ” This motto has held true for me time and time again – and it didn’t fail me this time, either!


I went with a set of moderately priced Kenmore machines made by Janome. Because they were red, white, and black, I chose these colors for my logo, website, and later my sewing room decor!

Those first sewing machines were a great purchase and held up under years of wear and tear. However, in 2012, I moved to Happy Valley and kept my location in Woodstock, so I needed another set of sewing machines. I went back to Sears to buy the same ones, but they had stopped making sewing machines. Then they shutdown altogether. So instead, I went to SaveMore Sew & Vac in Portland, and bought their basic Janome My Style 100. It was a really good machine as well, made with metal on the inside (which ensures the machine lasts longer and can be repaired more easily).

For sewing schools, it is recommended to get new machines every four years, so that they stay in good working order. (A home sewer has many more years of use ahead of them!) So soon after that purchase, I began to research options to replace my first machines, and consider whether I wanted computerized vs. electronic ones. I knew there were certain pros and cons of each machine. For instance, computerized machines are generally easier to use (especially for kids and brand new sewers). You can control the speed to slow down the machine if a sewer gets ahead of themselves. They’re also lots of fun to use, allowing you to utilize fancy stitching to “dress up” your favorite items. Not to mention, computerized machines utilize a display screen – making them much more user-friendly than the “old school” knobs on the electronic machines!



In the end, I went with the computerized machines, and I’m so glad – they are so fun and fancy! These machines come with 60 different types of stitches, adjustable speed control, automatic needle up/down function and automatic buttonholer. I love showing students all that they can do with them once they learn the basics.

Over the years, many people have asked for my advice on sewing machines. Sometimes, I help students find their own sewing machines after they have been through my classes. I always ask them: what are they going to use it for?

My favorite store in Portland now is Save Sew & Vac. Although there are plenty of machines for every budget and every kind of use, I recommend something with plenty of stitches but can grow with you. It doesn’t have to be as expensive as mine – and it doesn’t have to be fancy or computerized in order to be good!

I never thought when I sat down at my first sewing machine all those years ago where it would lead me today. It’s easy to forget what a long ways sewing machines have come over the years, and how much they have transformed our lives! Whether you love learning about sewing machines, or you sit down at the sewing table without giving them a second thought, they are there humming along in the background, giving us all the ability to create beautiful things. I’m grateful to sew alongside you and look forward to many more years of using these machines together!

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