Up to this point, my personal sewing machine has been inherited from my maternal grandmother. It was ordered from the Eaton's catalog in 1964 or thereabouts and was a stylish dark/light taupe contraption weighing about 35 or 40 pounds. It had been used to teach sewing lessons and to create and mend the family's clothes. This was particularly important to my grandmother as she apparently loved her fashion back in the day and was known to wear platforms and cat eye frames with her saris at work as an elementary school teacher in India. However, most of the time she wears the traditional Punjabi salwar kameez* and buying them ready to wear was not an option financially as a new immigrant, nor were there places to purchase these outfits in 1960's Toronto.
Fast forward to the late 2000's. As my grandmother's eyesight worsened and as she started purchasing more of her clothes at department stores, it was used less frequently and exclusively for straight stitching over the last 20 years. Consequently, almost every other function on the machine from dropping the feed dogs, to a basic zig-zag stitch had seized.
I have been sewing on a variety of friends' and my mother's machines for all my previous projects and have been putting off actually doing anything on my own simply because my machine was so painful to use. I can't tell you how many times I plugged the unlabeled plugs in and nearly had a heart attack as the machine roared to life and started sprinting without stop because I had connected to the pedal outlet and not the machine outlet. Bobbin thread breaks? Haul 30 pounds of steel up and hold it with one hand while inserting the bobbin with the other. Changing feet wasn't an option because the needle and the feed dogs had come out of alignment, making zippers a no go.
I finally gave in and went sewing machine shopping. I pass this store every day to and from work and had only stopped by once before for 10 minutes. After buying a machine and stopping by frequently to get different needles, threads and bits advice for the last month or so, I can 100% say the owner Joe is an absolute sweetheart and his off hours staff is lovely too. My budget was around $400-500 for a preferably mechanical basic but long lasting (20-30 year) machine. I tested the Babylock Grace which was very nice but out of my price range. I also looked at the Husqvarna 116 which is essentially the same as the 118 without speed control, self threader and with one or two less stitches. I chose the 118 primarily because of the speed control as I really love sewing with heavy fabrics and it seemed like it would save me heartache in the future. Luckily Joe had a second hand version that was nearly new.
Having finished one basic gathered skirt, the only issue I had was that it really liked to pull the bottom layer through the dogs much faster than the top. This happens on all machines, but after hemming about 3m the difference was ridiculous. I didn't take the foot pressure down to 0 (I left it at 1), which may have solved that problem, so we will see how that works in the future. I also find it easier to just thread the needle the regular way vs. using the auto threader, though perhaps I'm not using that feature quite right.
*Pronounced to my ear more like "salvar kameeje" where the -var is emphasized and sounds like car, and the -je is pronounced like French words ending in -ge. Salwar refers to the pants, and kameez (like chemise) refers to the tunic or top.