How to choose a sewing machine: things to consider before you buy

Posted by Alfonsina Uriburu on

“I don’t want to spend a fortune on a sewing machine – which model should I choose?”

Instead, 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 to seem that much harder.

I’m a certified trained expert on sewing machines by Bernina and Babylock, and what I can tell you is finding the right sewing machine depends on how you intend to use it.  Once you have a basic idea of what you want to do on the sewing machine, it’s all about finding the features that matter to you!  

choose a sewing machine

Myths to consider before you head out to buy

Get the best machine you can for what you can spend. I heard this concept many times. How in this world can you measure these? Nobody wants to "spend money" we better think about investment and how long are you willing to have this machine. Some times financing or trade-ins are the answer we need to hear.

Your first machine should be simple. These are another myth; the fact that you don´t know how to use it doesn´t mean it is complicated. The real question is if you have access to instruction in your machine, and gives you the possibility to grow your repertoire with the sewing machine. The more you learn about the sewing machine, the more chances to explore new techniques.

Test out the machine. A little bit of time spent with a display machine and the different fabrics can go a long way in determining whether the sewing machine can do.  A good dealer will be happy to let you test the machines they have out on the floor.

Your old machine is not worth to fix. That is a bit of ridiculous advice you can get from a wrong intentioned person. The first thing to check is if your machine is an excellent machine or not, and then if you are decided to upgrade, you can have it as a backup machine. 

What do you want to sew?

If you know you want to sew a quilt, look for a machine with a large extension table for all that fabric and long throat space for free-motion quilting options.

Do you want to make clothes in leather and denim? You might want to test out a mechanical 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 two stitches – straight stitch, zigzag stitch.

However, if you are keen on adding fancy decorative topstitching to your home decor projects, you might consider stitch options.

Consider embroidery capabilities if you are into craft bags, kids' clothes, or quilting your small or medium size quilts.

An automatic buttonhole option nowadays is a must for sewists. Even the simplest models have this modern feature.

Special Features

Many machines come with some excellent features that make sewing so much fun.

  • Needle Threader: High-end machines will have an automatic or semi-automatic needle threader.
  • Needle Up/Down: This feature allows you to stop the needle either in the up or down position, which simplifies pivoting and turning fabric.
  • Adjustable Speed Control: Allows you to adjust how fast or slow you sew. Perfect for difficult fabrics or teach kids to sew.
  • Needle Position Adjustment: Allows you to move the needle either left or right — ideal for zippers or topstitching.
  • Lighting: Lighting on most machines has improved significantly. Look at the light to make sure you can adequately see what you’re sewing.
  • Automatic Thread Cutter: Many machines have an automatic thread cutter. All you have to do is push a button, and it cuts the thread. Test this on different sewing machines. Some are better than others.
  • Knee Lifter: This used to only be available on expensive, high-end machines, but now on modestly priced. It allows you to lift the presser foot while your hands are holding the fabric in place — ideal for curves and sharp corners. I can’t imagine sewing without it.
  • Free Arm: A removable piece from the sewing deck, which allows you to slip something narrow (like a sleeve) under the needle. Sometimes doubles as a removable accessories storage box on the front of the machine.

Does it come with accessories?

Most machines come with a few necessary accessories. Be sure to check which presser feet the sewing machine comes with and what else is available. There may be other, better options for the work you will be doing.
Some examples are:

  • assorted basic presser feet
  • an extension table
  • or a supply of bobbins and needles

Whether you want an electric sewing machine for quick and easy sewing or an overlocker model to achieve a professional finish.

It’s essential to choose the right sewing machine for your needs.

Ask an expert you trust

Get a good idea online of what is available for what price and ask for advice.  

Contrary to what many people think of being "encouraged" to purchase something more expensive than what you need. Not because you need the machine, but because the salesperson needs the commission; in many places, you can find a real salesperson trained as an expert on sewing machines to help you find the right that fits your needs.

What Are the Advantages of the Best Brands?

Each brand provides a unique advantage that can make your sewing chores easier.

It is easy to confuse the old good brands with the new plastic made ones. The best Old Singer sewing machine, for example, used to provide you consistent speed and quality. Nowadays sewing machine reviews show something different.

You’ll find higher levels of quality with every feature for a surprisingly good value ratio. Even the best Bernina sewing machine reviews can help you take your embroidery needs to the next level!

What advantage do you need with your sewing? Beginners are going to love a Bernette, Baby Lock, Brother or a Janome sewing machine.

For those that want to step up to embroidery for the first time, Baby Lock, Bernette, Husqvarna, and Brother make some good mid-range options. If you’re ready to become a sewing professional, then the investment into a Bernina brand makes a lot of sense.

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