The first stop was my local fabric shop. They exclusively sell Bernina sewing machines. After seeing pretty much the full Bernina line, I decided that the Activa 230 is the machine to beat in this competition, with the 220 as a good option if I decide not to spend quite so much. The 230 is computerized, sews beautifully (I've drooled over one in class), has several button hole styles, tons of stitches including many decorative ones, plus alphabet stitches, really good lighting... and a host of great features. But really, it is the "sews beautifully" part that is most important, and the Activa can handle lots of different fabrics well. Really, this machine and my current Brother are only related in the same way that a BMW and a Trabant can both be called cars.
I am going to do some online research to see if owners are generally happy with the 230, but right now this seems to be the best bang for the bucks (and it really isn't cheap, although my sewing shop has frequent sales).
Next, I am going to check out the comparable machines offered by Viking and Janome. Keep you posted...
Wow...that's a nice local fabric store and especially if they sell Bernina's. ;-) My mother originally looked at getting the Activa 230. I chipped in some money so she could get the Activa 240...she was eyeing all those extra buttonhole features and I think she got an extension table and the leg arm lift (whatever you call it) with the machine. Don't forget to test the auto one step buttonhole gadget on the SM from each of the sewing mfg.
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