Thank you, Woot! Finally! My sewing machine Woot that I have been asking for - for about three years! And it's a good one! I'm in!
So is my sister - but not for her - for my seven-year-old niece for Christmas. (That's the answer to question number one: is this a good machine/serger for novices and beginners? My niece has been sewing for two years and is ready for an upgrade from a very basic machine. Plus, after two years, she needs a serger.)
Let me just start with: I sew professionally, and I've beeen sewing, yes, using a machine, since I was five. That's nearly 40 years of sewing (and learning form sewing mistakes.)
This package is not a mistake - it's a mistake to pass it up.
There's been a lot said about Singers in the comments above, and both opinions of the brand are true - Singers held absolute dominance in quality from the founding of the company in 1860, until the mid-1960's A good 100-year run. They designed and marketed arguably the best home machine ever, the 500A Slant-O-Matic Rocketeer, released in 1960, and then suddenly in the mid 60's made the curious decision to change from all-metal to mucho plastic in their moving parts fabrication. At the time, little was known about the long term wear on plastic parts, and after a few years' use, some of the machines started falling apart. Thus Singer suffered a deserved rap on its reputation, and most Singers made from 1968 through the mid 1980s are junk.
Enter new management for Singer, and a new era of pride in what they produce, and today's Singers are again at the top of their game and have been for the last decade.
This Singer package is an extremely good deal on a high-quality product. Gentlemen (unless you are Tim Gunn), the value of this Singer package is equivalent to a Vizio 42" TV for $99.95. Or an iPad for the same 100 smackeroos.
The "little sister" to this exact machine, the "Stylist" was a Consumer Digest Best Buy, at $400, and with only 100 decorative and utility stitches. This upgraded model of the Stylist has 400 stitches, and comes with a decent serger, to boot.
Is it a machine for beginners? More importantly, it is a machine easy enough for beginners to use, although it will keep a more experienced sewing enthusiast or tailor (Seamstress is a synonym for prostitute in 16 languages, so kindly don't call me or your mother that...) happy for years. The decorative stitches are also fun for scrapbooking, and, yes, it will sew and embroider beautifully on paper.
About the only thing I wouldn't use this machine for is repeated use on denim, upholstery or marine vinyl. The occasional hobby slipcover or pair of jeans, yes. But over and over with the heavyweight fabric - no. But then, if you sew a lot of marine vinyl, it's likely you know you need a commercial heavy-duty power machine for that work.
(This is such a good deal that I'm even getting a set, and I have a 20x20 studio full of sergers and sewing machines already!)
On to the serger: If you are completely new to sergers, think of the serger as the microwave to your conventional oven. It's very possible to live without a microwave in your kitchen, but it's damn nice to have. And most home tailors would never want to relinquish their serger once they have had one.
A serger can sew strong finished seams especially stretch seams, can finish seams on tailored garments, this serger can flatlock (activewear seams), and do rolled hems (those tiny hems on scarves and napkins.) You can also make interesting decorative ribbons for the serious crafter or scrapbooker.
This is an excellent home serger, that will sew a 2, 3, or 3/4 thread seam, but not a 2/4 seam. The 2/4 configuration is one of the heavier duty configurations you see in ready to wear and is not available on this serger. This machine will sew and finish seams on stretch fabrics, and will finish seams on woven fabrics, although I would still recommend reinforcement with a straight stitch from the sewing machine on stress areas when using a 3/4 as a seaming stitch on wovens (as oppposed to a finishing stitch.)
This is a good serger for a beginner to an intermediate home sewing enthusiast. Again, it is not a professional weight, and not ideal to run in a 16-hour a day environment. But, if your shop is serging 16 hours a day, you know this.
All in all, this is an excellent gifting package for the home sewing fan in your life (and you will look like you spent $1000 at a dealer or $700 at HSN).
Don't be a Fool! Buy now and hide it away for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/Yule!
And thank you, WOot!