Sewing Machines for Retreats

Now that many of us are traveling to attend in-person workshops and retreats and Sew Days with our Quilt Buddies, an inexpensive and lightweight sewing machine is a must-have!
We definitely do NOT want to transport our expensive sewing machines–there is too much risk of accidentally dropping it when we lug it in and out of the car.  Also, although most retreat sites lock the rooms at night, do we really want to worry about our expensive machine in an unguarded room?
There are many options for finding an inexpensive sewing machine to take with you to workshops and retreats. By inexpensive, I mean paying less than $200 for the machine. So, let’s call this the Travel Machine.
Most of us focus on piecing blocks and tops at a workshop or retreat, not quilting an entire 3 layers.  You need a travel machine that sews a nice straight stitch and maybe a handful of  ‘fancy’ stitches such as zigzag or decorative stitches. You do not need hundreds of stitches because you will not be using them.
You need a machine that is light weight because you will be lifting it in and out of your car.  It needs to be sturdy and easy to change the needles, bobbins and clean out the dust.  After all, who wants to fiddle with a complicated machine at a Retreat when all we want to do is sew, have lots of giggles, ooooh and aaah over what our friends are making and so much more.

Rolling Bag is a Must Have!

I also recommend buying a ROLLING bag  so that you can easily move it from your car to the building.  You can buy a bag that is made for smaller sewing machines OR better yet, buy an inexpensive regular small suitcase.  Inexpensive rolling suitcases are perfect  for packing up  the machine, fabric  and other supplies you may need.

Where to find inexpensive machines? 

Here are some options for finding travel machines.  Above all, shop LOCAL small businesses.  We really need to keep them in business.
(1) BEST OPTION!!!!  Check with a local sewing machine store or a fabric store that sells machines for used machines that they received as trade-ins.  If the shop also does repairs, then they may give you a warranty on the used machine.  Try out the machine at the store so that the salesperson can show you the basics such as threading the machine, how to change the needle, clean the machine, and so forth. You can also buy new models at these shops.
(2) Local Quilt Guilds!  If you are not a member, visit as a guest and announce that you are looking to buy a travel machine.  You might get a really good deal from someone who is downsizing.
(3) Thrift shops & Ebay.  Yes, you can find sewing machines there. There were people who sewed masks and then decided that sewing just wasn’t for them.  There can be some really good deals there.  If you purchase a machine at a thrift shop or Ebay, immediately take it to a repair shop for testing, cleaning. If it doesn’t work, take it back to the thrift store–save those receipts.  And double check the prices–don’t overpays when option #1 above is really the best option.
(4)  If all else fails, buy new at a big box store such as Walmart or Walmart online or JoAnn’s.  Now that they have restocked, inexpensive machines are back in stock.  Check the prices very carefully–sometimes, a ‘fancy’ version of the same machine might be offered.   HOWEVER…. local sewing machine shops and fabric stores can sometimes match prices AND they can give you a quick lesson on how to use your machine.
And, that reminds me, I need to take out my Brother travel machine, dust it off, oil it and test drive it for an upcoming sew day and SAQA retreat!  It’s been sitting in its case for a really, really long time!
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