Rather it’s your first or an upgrade, investing in a sewing machine can be an exciting and overwhelming adventure! There are seemingly endless makes and models on the market making choosing seem that much harder. I’ve used many makes and models since my mom gave me my first sewing machine many, many moons ago and what I can tell you is finding the right sewing machine really depends on how you intend to use it. Once you have a basic idea of what you want to do on the machine it’s all about finding the features that matter to you!
Things to consider before you head out to buy
Get the best machine you can for what you can spend. This doesn’t mean the one with the most bells and whistles but one made with quality parts. One that isn’t going to break on you in a matter of months and not be worth repairing. Consider this an investment. While working for a sewing machine company and as I’ve been teaching, I’ve seen countless times where a new sewist who isn’t sure how much they’ll sew, so they purchase an inexpensive machine to get them started. It has so many problems that every time they sit down to work it’s such a chore, they rarely sew. You might be better off borrowing one from a friend or putting a quality one on layaway to avoid a needless purchase that can ultimately be a waste of money and make your learning experience unenjoyable.
Take samples of fabric you work with (or hope to work with) and test out the machine. A little bit of time spent with a machine and your favorite fabric can go a long way in determining whether the machine is right for you. A good dealer will be happy to let you test the machines they have out on the floor.
Get a machine you can grow into, but not so big that you feel intimidated to use it or feel bogged down by unnecessary features. There are definitely some features that make sewing easier. A few for me would be the needle up/down feature, adjustable presser foot pressure, trim/scissors option, and an automatic one-step buttonhole. It doesn’t hurt to have your goals and question written down to take with you. A good dealer will answer all your question and never rush you into making a decision.
What do you want to sew?
If you know you want to sew a quilt, you might want to look for a machine with a large extension table for all that fabric. However, if you are keen on adding fancy decorative topstitching to your projects, you might consider a machine with lots of stitch options. Do you want to make clothes in leather and denim? You might want to test out a digital machine that’s strong enough to get through thicker fabrics. Otherwise, a more basic model with fewer stitch options should serve you well. You’ll be able to sew a whole world of projects with just three stitches – straight stitch, zigzag stitch and a buttonhole option.
Where to buy from
Buy from a dealership, not a big chain store. When you buy from a dealership you are also gaining a resource–getting assistance, experience, advice, and usually a machine owner class where they can guide you through all the features of the machine and learn how best to clean and maintain your machine.They also likely service machines and you will have a warranty guarantee with them. Ask if they offer trade-ins and trade-ups. This may take the pressure off the initial purchase if you know you can get started on one and move up the line if you want. They may also have used machines that have been serviced and can take guess-work out of older machines.
Here are a few questions to ask and things to do while shopping
Sit down and sew on the machine.
How smoothly does it run? Does it make a lot of noise? How much control do the feed dogs seem to have? Is the fabric weaving all over the place? How easy is the buttonhole? What about tension? How’s the stitch quality? How do you choose stitches & alter them? What stitch options are there—a zigzag, a blind hem, stretch stitches? Can you change the needle position? I put ease of use so high that for me it would be worth spending an extra $100-$200 for certain features like a one-step or automatic buttonhole and with my eyesight changing an automatic needle threader is feeling less like a luxury and more like a necessity.
Does it come with accessories?
Most machines come with a few basic accessories. You’ll want to know which ones are included and which ones can be added on later. If presser feet aren’t mentioned be sure to ask which presser feet the machine comes with and what else is available. There may be other, better options for the work you will be doing.
Some examples are:
- presser feet
- an extension table
- or a supply of bobbins
Presser feet are great extras to have included with your machine – you can buy them separately but they can be very expensive.
What features does it offer?
There are some features that are nice to have while others are in my opinion must haves.
- A great stitch
- A sturdy base
- Adjustable needle position
- A free arm
- A bright light
Nice to have
- Needle Up/down I would put this in must have but that’s probably because I’ve had it for so long.
- Drop-in bobbin
- One-step buttonhole
- Automatic needle threader
- Decorative stitches
- Automatic thread cutter
- Adjustable speed control
- Specialty stitches
Keep in mind the features I think are nice to have could be your must have features. Again, it’s all a Some machines have useful functions that you might just fall in love with. A speed setting slider is helpful if you’re just starting out and want to sew slowly. A one-step buttonhole function creates neat buttonholes more easily than a four-step buttonhole process. Other features could include an automatic needle threader or thread cutter. None of these features are essential, so if you’re not bothered, you might want to ignore them. But if you have fallen in love with the idea of an automatic thread cutter, look for a machine that has one!
Gather as much information as you can and choose the right machine for you. Don’t feel rushed or pressured.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!
Do you already have a sewing machine? If you like it and would recommend it to others, feel free to share what it’s like in the comments below.
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