9 Tips To Finding Your Ideal Sewing Machine – And 7 Questions You Should Ask Yourself
Finding your ideal sewing machine, new or used, can be a daunting task. What should you look for?
So, have you ever asked…
… “Which sewing machine is the best: mechanical, electronic, computerized?”
… “Which sewing machine should I choose?”
… “Which sewing machine features should I look for?”
… “How different are sewing machines, really?”
… “Should I get a used or a new sewing machine?”
… “Someone gave me a sewing machine. How do I know if it’s a good one?”
If you’ve ever asked any one of these questions – well, do I have some answers for you that can help you in finding your ideal sewing machine!
What Should You Look For In Your Ideal Sewing Machine?
NOTE: (The information I’m sharing in this post is only about home sewing machines.)
If looking at a used sewing machine, ask about its age and condition. Quality and performance are the most important considerations about any machine you’re considering.
I don’t recommend one sewing machine brand over another, but I will give you some general insight so you’ll be better equipped and more knowledgeable when it comes time to look for your ideal sewing machine.
In today’s sewing machine world there are so many different models available and searching through all the options can get really confusing. Just remember, a quality sewing machine can last more than a lifetime. With proper care, some are even passed down from one generation to another!
So, think about your vision:
What are your needs or your goals?
What do you want to accomplish?
If purchasing a machine, what price point will your budget allow?
Do you want to start a new hobby, or do you want to sew for other people, as in making custom garments or doing alterations?
Do you want to start a sewing business?
9 tips I give my students so they’ll know how to find their ideal sewing machine:
1. Determine what your budget is and do your best to stick to it. There’ll be a lot of “shiny bells and whistles” attempting to lure you in many directions, so be better equipped by knowing how much money your budget will allow before you start shopping.
2. Sewing machines can range in price from $99 to upwards of many thousands of dollars – as much as a good used car would cost! A good, basic model can start in the $100 – $200 range.
NOTE: Be aware that some of the higher quality machines are not sold on the Internet. Therefore, purchasing from a local sewing machine dealership gives you dealership support, i.e., classes, technical support, and service.
3. Research manufacturer websites for basic mechanical sewing machines, as well as electronic and computerized models. If available, write down options and prices in a research notebook for each model that appeals to you so you’ll have a way to compare efficiently.
Three Types of Sewing Machines:
A. Mechanical sewing machines are usually very basic and have no “bells and whistles.” They have dials for changing settings, and are made of mostly metal parts, or gears, on the inside, and only have a few basic stitches.
A mechanical sewing machine would be a starter-level machine, or a good machine for mending and making some basic items.
If this will be your first sewing machine, make sure it has a zig-zag stitch (besides the basic straight stitch), and reverse stitch capability.
I have seen some sewists, who actually have a sewing business, using a basic, mechanical sewing machine, and are very successful with it.
And you can always move up to a higher level model later on, after you determine if you’re going to stick with sewing.
B. Electronic sewing machines have more “bells and whistles,” with features that are built-in, such as:
decorative embroidery-type stitches and alphabets,
a needle-up/needle-down setting,
a twin needle setting,
multiple needle positions,
an automatic needle threader,
possibly a memory bank to store frequently-used decorative stitch patterns,
a digital, LCD read-out screen,
automatic buttonholes (some are 4-step buttonholes)
buttons, instead of dials, for changing settings — just to name a few.
C. Computerized sewing machines will be controlled by a built-in computer, although some of the inner workings of the machine are metal.
Some of these machines will come equipped with an embroidery module; however, some may have that as an optional purchase.
With or without an embroidery module, computerized sewing machines come with literally hundreds of built-in decorative stitches, and built-in embroidery stitches and designs.
Most computerized sewing machines will come with:
an extension table (a great addition),
a knee lift,
an automatic pivot function,
a presser foot lift function,
a reinforcement/reverse stitch function…
…all of which are great time-savers, in addition to the features mentioned above for electronic sewing machines.
4. For general or basic sewing, electronic or computerized sewing machines are not necessary, so don’t be enticed by all the fancy “bells & whistles,” buttons and built-in stitches, unless that’s what you’re looking for and it fits into your budget.
5. Most modern sewing machines come with a “free-arm” capability, which means it has a removable sewing table that exposes a smaller “arm” that enables you to slide a cuff, pant leg or sleeve over it for ease of sewing.
6. Let’s not forget about the different types of bobbins! There are two types of bobbin assemblies in today’s sewing machines:
A) Drop-in bobbin – where the bobbin drops into the bed of the machine just in front of the needle and throat plate;
B) Front-loading bobbin – where the bobbin is inserted into the front of the machine below the needle and throat plate.
I have both types of machines, with no preference of one over the other. They both have advantages, and the disadvantages are minimal.
Some older machines have a side-loading bobbin assembly, which has more disadvantages – one being it’s harder to insert and remove the bobbin easily.
NOTE: Please, please be aware that there are different sizes of bobbins and not every sewing machine can accept all types. Always check the instruction manual for your sewing machine, or ask at your dealership which size bobbin your machine accepts.
7. Spend some time going to the sewing machine dealerships in your area, with your research notebook in-hand. Be ready to take more notes on features of machines you’re interested in, along with their prices. You’ll be better prepared to ask educated questions because you’ve done your homework!
8. Each dealership has sales staff who are trained and ready to demonstrate any sewing machine you choose. But take it a step further. Ask if you may sit at the machine and give it a test-drive.
And, take your own fabric for this test-drive. By doing so, you can get a good “feel” of how the machine reacts to your fabric.
9. Purchase a sewing machine that you can “grow into,” meaning a machine that has more features/functions than you need now, but will serve you well into the future.
You may not think you need all those features right now, but you may find that a lot of them will help you grow your sewing skills to an amazing level!
7 Questions To Ask Yourself
“What will I be sewing?” (What are my needs/goals?) Write your answers down in your notebook so you can talk to the sales person about them. It’ll be easier to direct you to an appropriate machine once you share this information.
“Am I a total beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate or advanced sewist?” (Or, you might be coming back to sewing after a long hiatus.) Each level will influence your decision.
“Do I just want to try out sewing to see if it’s something I’d really like to spend time and money on?” Sewing is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn its fundamentals, it stays with you. You may get out of practice, but it does come back to you!
“Do I only need to do repairs and mending occasionally?”
“Do I want to learn sewing in order to make my own well-fitting garments using the fabrics, colors and styles I prefer – to be my own designer?”
“Do I want to do my own home-decorating by making curtains or drapes, throw pillows, chair coverings, bedspreads, quilts, tablecloths, placemats and napkins?” (Therefore, saving a lot of money, being budget-friendly!)
“Do I want to start a sewing business of some kind – an online shop or selling at craft shows, making custom garments or setting up an alterations business?”
In this case, you should consider an industrial sewing machine. An industrial machine is very heavy-duty and has a motor that will endure long hours of sewing. Also, it sews at a very high rate of speed.
The Most Important Tip I Can Give You
There are many reasons to learn to sew, and many different sewing machines available. So, the very most important tip I can share is that sewing machine dealerships will give you excellent customer service, as opposed to NO service on purchases from the “big box” stores.
Also, be aware that sewing machine dealerships have great brands, from very basic models to unbelievably high-end models; some may offer for sale a trade-in model, where someone upgraded their sewing machine; and…
Most dealerships offer new-owner lessons beyond the test-drive, to get you a little more familiar and comfortable with your new sewing machine purchase. Some will also offer private, one-on-one lessons by appointment for more in-depth instruction.
Most dealerships offer group classes where you can learn the latest and greatest sewing techniques, and you’ll learn about tools, notions and new products that can make your sewing easier, more efficient and more fun.
My recommendation: Always Purchase From a Reputable Sewing Machine Dealership
Purchase your ideal sewing machine from a reputable sewing machine dealership for all the reasons I’ve listed above. When, or if, you have a problem with your machine, there’ll be someone you can call on for help. Also, dealerships usually have their own service department (ask if theirs is on-site).
By purchasing from a “big box” store, online, or used, you most likely won’t get any support, and you’ll have to go searching for a repair person. If you purchase from a reputable online source, be sure to find out if they offer support if you need service or repairs. Some actually do!
By purchasing your ideal sewing machine locally, you’ll have “lifetime” service and you can “try before you buy.” Some of us are willing to pay $600-$1,000+ on a cell phone, but a sewing machine can actually save you money while giving you a lot of enjoyment, and even helps with your stress level!
See my post on the stress-relieving benefits of sewing HERE.
Sewing will also build confidence and self-esteem, especially in youngsters and teenagers! (And, it increases math skills and comprehension.)
Have More Confidence In Finding Your Ideal Sewing Machine
I hope these tips will give you more confidence in finding your ideal sewing machine – one that suits your needs, your sewing goals, and your budget (if purchasing).
Sewing can be a satisfying and rewarding hobby, a great way to save some money, and a great way to make some extra money (and some new friends).
So, go out there and purchase your ideal sewing machine and have fun while you’re at it. You’ll find that your new “friend,” your sewing machine, can give you many hours of enjoyment. And give your new “friend” a name while you’re at it. All of my sewing machines have names!