Are you a beginner, overwhelmed by all of the sewing machine brands and available features on the market today? Do you get lost down the rabbit hole of sewing machine reviews only to realize you’ve lost hours and aren’t any closer to making a decision? Are you ready to commit to sewing, but don’t know what to look for when buying your first machine? I see you, and I get it. Because I’ve been there too.
What if I told you buying a sewing machine didn’t have to be time-consuming or confusing? What if I told you there were only 5 things to consider before your purchase? Are you ready to buy a machine and get started learning to sew? These go-to machine buying tips will help you determine your sewing goals, pick the best machine to meet hose goals, and keep you sewing with your machine for years to come. Regardless of what you want to sew, here’s my sure fire way to find the sewing machine that’s right for you!
Define your #SewingGoals
From the very beginning I always knew I wanted to design and sew my own clothes and costumes. I needed a machine that could handle a variety of fabrics & thicknesses. It had to have specialty feet for invisible zippers, rolled hems, and buttonholes. And it needed to be sturdy and last for years of sewing and being carted back and forth to my apartment to sewing workspace on campus. I explained all of my needs and wants to the sales lady at the Bernina dealer and she helped me select a machine. My Bernina 1080 fit the bill for my personal sewing needs and it has been my trusted sewing partner for the last 20+ years.
Close your eyes and picture yourself sewing, machine whirring, thread flying, losing track of time. Ask yourself, “What is the one thing I want to make more than anything else?” Really think about it and envision it happening. Taking the time to think about what you want to sew will help you figure out what you need in a sewing machine. All sewing machine have the same basic features, but some are better suited for sewing clothes, while others are better for making quilts. Narrowing down what you want to sew will help you choose a machine that will grow with you and your skills for years to come.
Budget—How much can you afford?
Sewing machines range in price from a few hundred dollars (Singer, Brother, Jenome) to several thousand dollars (Bernina, Husqvarna Viking).
Mechanical sewing machines are cheaper than fully computerized models. Mechanical machines have manual dials to set the tension, stitch width, and stitch length. Computerized sewing machines, by comparison, will thread your machine for you, cut the tread, and adjust the sewing speed! These machines usually have a screen instead of buttons or dials and almost every aspect of sewing is computerized.
Think about your commitment to sewing and how much you want to spend. If you aren’t 100% in, buy a basic mechanical machine in the $100-$250 price range. However, if you are fully committed to sewing for the rest of your life, buy the best machine you can afford with all of the bells and whistles of your heart’s desire. You won’t regret it.
Stitches—How many do you really need?
My semi-computerized Bernina has 14 utility stitches and 14 decorative stitches. In all the years of owning this machine, I’ve used a decorative stitch once or twice. My mechanical Brother XM2701, has 17 utility stitches and 10 decorative stitches. These days the price of the machine doesn’t limit your stitch options.
The two stitches you will use ALL THE TIME are the straight stitch and the zigzag stitch. The good news is that ALL sewing machines include these two stitches.
Must have stitches are buttonhole stitch and blind hem stitch.When sewing clothes an automatic buttonhole feature will help you make neat, professional looking buttonholes. A blind hem stitch will hem your garments without the time and effort hand sewing!
Nice to have stitches include a stretch stitch for sewing knits and other utility stitches, like a triple stitch and faux overlock stitch. If you would like to add decorative stitches on your sewing projects, consider the various designs offered by individual make and model sewing machines.
Attachments & Feet
Every sewing machine will come with a few attachments, like a double needle and additional spool holder, and feet, including a buttonhole foot and a regular zipper foot. More expensive machines usually come with more attachments and have additional specialty feet available for purchase. Check with the manufacturer, dealer, or Amazon to learn which additional options are available.
To properly sew clothing, you must have a buttonhole foot, a blind hem foot, and an invisible zipper foot. If your machine doesn’t come with any of these, order them ASAP, so you have them on hand when you need them.
Nice to have include a narrow hem foot, a wide hem foot, and a gathering foot. Keep in mind you can always buy specialty feet as you need them.
Think about use and set up of your machine and features that would make your life easier. It’s more fun to sew with a machine you love than one you just tolerate.
Portability: Do you plan to have your machine in a designated sewing space, or will you use the dining room table and need to keep it safely stored in a closet? Do you plan to carry your machine around for classes or travel? Check the weight of your machine and determine if it’s easy for you to lift and move. Some machines have a handle for portability and others come with a carrying case. Amazon sells generic cases which fit a variety of machine sizes. A hard sided case will protect your machine and is worth the investment in the long run.
Lighting: More light helps you thread your needle and maintain a straight seam. Most machines have a built in light near the needle. The important thing is to make sure the bulb is accessible and replaceable without a trip for service. There is nothing worse than having a burnt out bulb keeping you from finishing a project.
Thread cutter: A thread cutter will easily cut the top & bottom threads and detach your project from your machine. This feature is standard with most modern sewing machines.
Free arm: The free arm appears when the size of the sewing platform is reduced, usually by the removal of a flat bed attachment or storage compartment. In order to insert a sleeve, your machine must have a free arm.
Needle position adjustment: You have to be able to move the position of your needle from center to left or right in order to sew garments. It is impossible to insert a zipper without the ability to sew to the left and right sides of the center.
Nice to have features include an automatic needle threader, sewing speed adjustment, and a detachable sewing table attachment.
You may be thinking, “That all sounds great Toni,
but do you have any recommendations for a specific sewing machine brand or model?”
I learned to sew in college using a Bernina and the brand will always have a place in my heart. I love my Bernina 1080 but they stopped making it years ago. Bernina is a reputable sewing machine company, but their sewing machines are all computerized and cost a few thousand dollars. However, if they are in your price range, Bernina makes great machines that will last you for years to come.
When I decided to teach beginners to sew, I purchased a Brother XM2701 based on the great reviews on Amazon and Brother’s sponsorship of Project Runway. This machine comes with a standard foot and 5 additional ones: buttonhole foot; narrow rolled hem foot; blind hem foot; zipper foot; and a button foot. There is also an instructional DVD for set up and use of the machine. For under $200, it’s a good quality machine for a reasonable price.
So there ya have it, my 5 tips to figure out the best machine for your sewing goals, to help you buy the sewing machine that’s right for you in years to come. Ready to go shopping?