Pros: Very affordable, easy to use once you get past initial confusion
Cons: Awful instruction manual, bobbin loading is a nuisance
I am going to begin with a disclaimer: I know next to nothing about sewing. I took two years of home economics classes in junior high, roughly 15 years ago, and I haven't touched a machine since then. And I wasn't particularly skilled in my early attempts. So I am writing this review as a total beginner.
I'd always wanted a sewing machine to satisfy my various crafting whims, but I never bought one because I couldn't justify spending $100+ for something I'd seldom use.
Then I was wandering around Target one night and happened through the sewing machine aisle on my way out. I saw those lovely orange clearance stickers on a couple machines and figured I should at least look. They were $39.98! I never thought I'd find a new, full-sized sewing machine that cheaply. Sure, I'd never heard of Shark or Euro-Pro, but man it was cheap! And that's how a simple grocery trip ended with me lugging a sewing machine home.
I knew I shouldn't get my hopes high, so I did some research on the machine before I opened it. Its normal price was around $80, and while I didn't find glowing reviews of it, it sounded like it would be sufficient. So I opened it, grabbed the instruction manual and went to work.
And that, my friends, is where the problems come in. What looks on the surface like a perfectly good instruction manual is actually about the dumbest, most poorly organized thing I've ever seen. There are three languages dumped on each page. Most of the parts names on the chart do not match the names used throughout the manual. The drawings (and they are drawings, not photos), are incomplete, hard to read and just downright confusing. As for organization, the first real instruction, after "plug it in," is on how to change the bulb. Are they nuts? I'll probably own this machine five years before I have to worry about the bulb!
So I plowed through the manual, somehow got thread on the bobbin, threaded the needle, and got going. All that probably took about 45 minutes and likely would've taken 15 with good directions. Once I accomplished all this, I was pretty pleased with the machine's efforts. It seems to do well with the best my unsteady hands and lead foot can give it.
Now, here's what the machine can do, and my overall impressions of it.
Some of the features displayed prominently on the box:
- 28 stitch-functions
- 11 built-in stitches
- Solid metal construction
- Sews multiple layers of denim
- Automatic buttonholes
- Overlook stitch
- Converts to free-arm
- 25 year limited warranty
It comes well-stocked with whatever you'd need to start out with, which was a concern for me since I don't own much sewing equipment: Six metal bobbins, one of which has some white thread on it. A needle that's already installed, and some extras. Felt for the bobbins. A little vial of oil and a couple of screwdrivers. A seam ripper and a little brush to clean it with. A couple of extra feet a buttonhole foot, zipper foot and blind stitch foot. And a quilting guide and darning plate. To be honest, there was a lot more with it than I wouldve expected for such a good price. All you need is some thread and cloth. There are actually a few "sample" clothes to show what it can do, but they didn't leave much room for you to test it yourself.
This machine seems really well made. It doesn't have a lot of cheap plastic parts like most low-end products do most of the little parts you'd expect to be metal in a good machine is metal in this one.
The only thing I really hate, and I haven't used enough sewing machines to know if this is common, is the way you load the bobbin. It's right underneath the part where you stitch at. And since this model has a little extension table that you'll probably want to use put your fabric on, you have to go through quite a process to load it. You take off the little extension table, open the door, pull out the bobbin case, put it through there, then put it in just right and put all that stuff back in place. If you have a thread break, you have to pull out the little pieces behind the bobbin shuttle. Those little pieces are annoying, hard to keep in place, and have already cost me a huge chunk of my fingernail in the short time I've been using the machine.
All the little adjustments changing the stitch, adjusting the tension seem to work fine for me. The reverse stitch works alright, although I seem to have a hard time with it. (I think it's just inexperience.) The foot pedal works OK I have trouble keeping a steady rate, but again, I think it's me instead of the machine. It's actually easy to use, once you figure out how to use it.
The stitches look really nice I'm always really proud of myself upon seeing them. I have tested the machine with some pretty thick cloth, and I have tried three thick layers of cloth, and it sews them perfectly.
I'm going to be honest I haven't tried to do a buttonhole or a zipper, or anything besides the basic stitches, and I probably won't do so anytime soon. I'm not capable of doing a good job with that type of thing right now, so I wouldn't know if the machine was working right or not.
My overall thoughts:
For a beginner with a little knowledge of sewing, this machine is a good value. Despite the awful instructions, I managed to set it up by myself. If possible, I suggest beginners have someone with experience help them it sure would've made it a lot easier on me.
This machine may also be adequate for people who've been sewing a little while but can't afford a really nice machine, but I can't really speak for that group.
If you truly don't know anything about sewing and sewing machines, you may want to seek out additional literature if you pick up this machine, because the instructions definitely aren't a "sewing for beginners" type of thing.
Overall, I am pleased with this purchase, and think I got an excellent deal the Shark Euro-Pro does everything I want it to do, and does a solid job.
I haven't had the machine long, so I will certainly update this review over time to comment on its durability.
A short tutorial
Just in case some people might be reading this who already bought this machine and can't figure it out, I wanted to tack on some basic directions. (Seriously, folks, the directions it came with are THAT bad.) Feel free to disregard this part if you don't happen to own the machine.
1. Winding the bobbin: There are two metal pins on the back right side of the top of the machine. Pull up on the left one. (Leaving out that part will send your thread flying across the room, as I learned.) Then put your thread on it. Now take the end of the thread and pull it over to the back left side of the top of the machine. Put the thread on the little hook (top to bottom) and pull it down to where it slides under the flap. Then bring it back over to the right side. Thread it through one of the holes in the side of your bobbin, with 4-5 inches of thread hanging out the end. Put the bobbin on the metal pin next to the white plastic piece (known as the bobbin winder spindle, apparently). Push it down, then push it to the right, towards the dot that says "bobbin winding." Now, go to the wheel on the top part of the right side of your machine. That's the hand wheel. Pull it out until it kind of snaps. Now, you're ready to go. Push the foot pedal slowly and continuously, and the bobbin should begin winding.
2. Threading the top needle: Put your thread on the little pin you used while winding the bobbin, and run it through the same metal part on the left side. Then run it straight forward and down the side, into the grooves of the metal wheel thing next to the numbered dial. Now run it to the left, under the plastic hook. Flip open the top left cover. When you go under the plastic hook, it should catch on a thin wire hook behind there. Now, turn the hand wheel until the metal hook just inside the cover goes all the way to the top. Bring the thread back up to the top and around that metal loop. Now bring the thread all the way back down, through a small guide right above the needle, and down to where you can thread the needle.
Since the bottom thread should be already in there (at least it was on mine), that should be enough to get you ready to sew.
Note: I got pretty confused while trying to compare model numbers and product names on this machine to the ones in the database, because some things matched and some didn't. But after inspecting the listing and picture, clicking through to the Target link off this product and inspecting that, and knowing that I bought my machine at Target, I am certain that this is my machine. I suspect there may be several slight variations of this product out there.