It's not that the discounts we've seen so far on sewing machines haven't been good -- it's that the machines themselves have been pretty iffy. Read on for our definitive guide to picking a winner among the dozen sewing machines we've seen on sale in Black Friday ads.
We're a little nutty about sewing at ConsumerSearch (okay, maybe it's just the editor in chief, who owns five sewing machines), but we're also all about getting a good value. A cheap-o sewing machine that gives you wonky stitches doesn't make much of a gift. And that's the trouble with the reviews we've seen for some basic sewing machines: the bobbin thread gets tangled, the tension is funky and uneven, or the whole machine stops working entirely.
So among the Black Friday sewing machine deals at Target, Walmart, Sears and JoAnn, which one is the best bet? And do any of them outclass the Brother XL-2600i (*Est. $90), the best basic sewing machine in our sewing machine report?
Here's a rundown of who's got what -- and where we think you should go on Black Friday.
JoAnn definitely has the most sewing machines in its leaked Black Friday ad, a total of five machines (all from Singer) plus a couple of sergers. The cheapest offer is the Singer Prelude for $80, but this basic machine gets a lousy 2-star rating on JoAnn.com (albeit from only three reviews), and ekes out just a 3-star rating in 30 reviews at Amazon.com. The major complaint? It jams.
JoAnn will also offer the Singer Simple for $100. While it doesn't have any reviews at JoAnn.com, 120 owners at Walmart can't give it more than a 3.5-star rating. Bobbin jams are again the culprit in the negative reviews. Plus, Walmart is selling it right now for $90 -- less than the sale price at JoAnn.
Next up, the $180 Singer 8763 -- aka the "Curvy". This one gets much better feedback, with a 4-star average in 12 reviews at Joann.com, plus another dozen very good writeups at Amazon.com. The trouble is, at the same price, this machine competes head-on with another of our Best Reviewed sewing machines: the Brother CS6000i. Both are electronic sewing machines, which means they have more stitches, plus an all-important one-step buttonhole feature that saves you from the cumbersome four-step buttonhole procedure required on the cheaper machines above. Still, the Brother has the edge, with twice as many stitch options and seven types of buttonholes compared to two for the Singer Curvy.
JoAnn also will feature the Singer Talent for $190, a newer electronic machine that has very few reviews (two short reviews at Joann.com) and the Singer Futura for $700, a machine that does have strong reviews, but is wayyyy beyond a basic sewing machine (it's an embroidery machine that can stitch monograms and custom images).
There are two sewing machines at Target: the Singer Tradition, on sale for $70 (regularly $90) and the Singer Promise for $60 (regularly $90). The Tradition is very similar to the Prelude that's available at JoAnn for $80, but the Tradition has four more stitch types. Otherwise it's similar, with the same iffy reviews (middling ratings at Amazon.com and at Target.com). We can't see that either of these machines is better than the top-rated Brother XL-2600i in our report, which goes for $90.
There's just one machine on offer at Sears in its Black Friday ad: the Kenmore 18221 for $150. We compare this machine to the Brother CS6000i in an earlier post. We still think the Brother comes out on top.
UPDATE: Nov. 21. Thanks to a sharp eyed reader, we've revised this post since it was posted yesterday. We had initially identified the sewing machine in the Walmart Black Friday ad as the Brother 50-stitch Project Runway Limited Edition on sale for $50. The actual machine is the Brother 20-Stitch Project Runway Limited Edition, a brand new machine. $50 is a great price, but this mechanical machine isn't much different than the Singer Simple, Prelude and Promise machines. Like those machines, the Brother has a 4-step buttonhole feature, which means making buttonholes is a bigger pain than it is with the Brother XL2600i (currently $90).
The Brother 20-stitch machine is brand new, so we couldn't find any reviews for it. But it looks to us like a re-branded version of the Brother LS-2020 from last year. We found about 25 reviews for that older machine at Overstock.com, and Buzzillions.com, where it gets very good reviews overall. Walmart says the Project Runway version will come with an instructional video -- a really helpful addition for beginners. So is the $50 price good enough? We think it probably is -- as long as you won't be making many buttonholes. If that's the case, the Brother XL2600i, at $90, is still the better pick.
Bottom line: Walmart's $50 sewing machine is the best deal we've seen yet on a simple beginner machine. It doesn't have a one-step buttonhole feature, but we did find solid reviews for it, and it costs less than the machines being offered at JoAnn Fabrics. If you can spend more, the Brother XL2600i is still a better machine, but at $50, the Walmart Project Runway sewing machine would make a nice gift for yourself or someone else.