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 and which features matter to you. In this post, I show you how to figure all that out.
Things to consider before you head out to buy
Depending on how you found my blog and which post you've read you may already know I've worked for Husqvarna Viking sewing machines for many years and taught sewing classes at JoAnn Fabrics. I've also had the ability to go to a lot of sewing conferences and classes hosted by a variety of sewing machine companies. During that time regardless of whom I was working for when someone asked me about buying a sewing machine I shared the same advice with them I'm about to share with you.
Get the Most for Your Money
This does not mean the machine has to have every option that is offered on a sewing machine and cost as much as a used car. The sewing machine industry has come a long way from the basic straight stitch machine. Think about what you want the machine to be able to do and then shop online to compare features and prices. Set a budget and then go from there.
First, you have to ask yourself what type of sewing do you currently do or plan to do. I sew a lot of medium weight cotton fabric and occasionally some light-medium weight denim. That means when I go to look for a machine those are the types of fabrics I want to make sure the machine can handle with ease and produce a good consistent stitch on. A good dealer will be happy to let you test the machines they have out on the floor. Dealers also have a stock of fabrics to demonstrate the machine with.
A Sewing Machine with Room to Grow
Just like when you buy pants for your kids, you want to ensure there's room to grow when buying a sewing machine. One of the common things I hear from students is they tried to sell me a machine with a bunch of stitches and features and all I want to really do is sew straight stitches and maybe zig-zags. Well, it may seem like that when you're first starting out but trust me when I say you'll want to do more very quickly! When I help someone buy a machine I want to help make sure they are going to enjoy using the machine and it will meet their needs down the road.
Your first machine doesn't need to have every feature available but there are some features that are very nice to have and will make your sewing journey easier. My top pick features are the needle up/down feature ( makes pivoting at corners very easy), adjustable presser foot pressure, trim/scissors option, and an automatic one-step buttonhole (button-holes are for more than just clothes). For beginners, I usually suggest the automatic needle up/down, one-step buttonhole, a variety of stitches and adjustable speed control. My favorite machine that offers all of the features and I use with my students when I teach in public schools and in private lessons is the Brother CS6000i. It's even the machine I suggested my son-in-law buy my daughter. It's easy to use, has lots of features and accessories and is priced around $150 on Amazon.
What do you want to sew?
Not sure which features matter to you? Think about what you want to sew or learn to sew in the next week, month and even year. What type of techniques does the project require? What sewing machine features or accessories would make that project easier. If you don't know, reach out to us in our Facebook group, email or google a video on how to do it and make notes. Also, take your list of goals and questions written down with you when you head to the store to buy. A good dealer will answer all your questions and never rush you into making a decision.
Where to Buy a Sewing Machine
Buy from an authorized dealer whenever possible. When you buy from a dealership you are getting more than a sewing machine. What I tell customers, is when you buy from a dealer you are essentially getting a sewing mentor. Dealers receive training from the sewing machine companies that make them a valuable resource to their customers.
Most dealerships offer free lessons to show you how to use your machine and classes that include projects that will help you grow your sewing knowledge. Many dealerships also offer repair work and regular maintenance and cleaning services for the machines they carry and sometimes even for other brands.
Best of all, most dealers and their employees are passionate about sewing and want to see you succeed at your sewing goal. Can you say that for the big box stores? Usually not!
What to Ask When Buying a Sewing Machine
The biggest reason I like buying from a dealer is the ability to ask someone that has sewing and sewing machine knowledge my questions. If you go into a dealership and they don't have time to answer your questions and aren't willing to set up a time to do so find another dealer! Each section below covers key items to ask about: Warranty, accessories, classes, and taking a test drive.
Take the Sewing Machine for a Test-Drive
Would you buy a car without taking it for a test-drive? Probably not and you shouldn't but a machine you know nothing about without testing it out either if at all possible. Some things to watch for and listen for are:
- Is the level of noise it produces acceptable?
- Does the machine seem to struggle when sewing heavier fabrics?
- Does the machine pull light-weight fabric down into the throat plate?
- Are you able to easily maneuver the fabric and keep the seam straight?
- Are you able to control the speed of the machine easily? This is usually done with the foot pedal or an adjustable slider/knob.
- Is the machine easy to thread? This is usually shown in a new owner's class but it doesn't hurt to ask to see the threading demonstrated before you buy.
What Type of Warranty Does it have?
This is a big one if you're planning to buy a higher-end machine and especially an embroidery machine. Find out the specifics on the warranty. A 20-year warranty is great if it covers most components. Does the warranty require you to have the machine services at specific intervals? Are only the parts covered and you're responsible for the labor? Then most importantly where and how will they handle warranty work or replacement? It's no fun to have to box your machine up and have to ship it off for repair. This can leave you without a machine for months.
Does it come with classes?
This may or may not matter to you. I know some people like to sit down with some next to them and show them, in person how to use something. New owner classes are some of my favorite classes to teach! It's so much fun to watch someone learn how to use their new sewing machine. While others prefer to go online and find the information they need.
Either way, know what classes or training come with your machine. If you prefer online training or your machine doesn't have classes be sure to take advantage of our free online sewing machine Bootcamp. My goal as a blogger and sewing instructor is to help you love your sewing machine and the art of sewing.
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 later. If presser feet aren't mentioned be sure to ask which presser feet the machine comes with and what else is available.
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
- Embroidery or letters
- Specialty stitches
Keep in mind the features I think are nice to have could be your must-have features.
Like I said, in the beginning, finding the right sewing machine really depends on how you intend to use it and which features matter to you. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to buy the perfect machine for you!