I am often asked what to look for when choosing a sewing machine. Whether you are buying for the first time or replacing your old sewing machine, the choices are quite bewildering. It is worth sitting down beforehand and thinking carefully about what you want from your new machine. That will immediately start to narrow the choices for you and make the choosing a little easier. I must state straight away, though, that I can’t recommend a particular machine as there are just so many out there and there are new models coming out all the time. In addition I can’t comment on the computer controlled machines because I have never used one myself.
Cost and timing
- What is the upper limit that you want to spend?
- Do you want to buy new or secondhand?
- Do you want this sewing machine to last a few years until you can afford to upgrade or does it need to last for ever plus a bit?
- Will the machine only be used by you – you know the limits of how complex a machine you can cope with
- If it will be used by others (children?) as well as you, then you may wish to keep to one that is relatively simple to use.
What will your sewing machine do?
- Will you use it mainly for sewing clothes?
- Sewing quilts?
- Repairs and alterations?
- Curtains, upholstery?
Location, location, location
- Where will you use your sewing machine?
- Dedicated sewing room? In this case weight won’t be so important
- Any space that is free? Taking it to classes and workshops? In these cases you might want to consider a lightweight machine.
- Do you want a hard carrying case? Useful if you are transporting the machine around a lot.
- Soft case?
- Small as possible – or big enough to have space for extras like threads and accessories?
Answering the above questions should begin to give you an idea of some of the overall features of the sewing machines that you need to look for. Next it is important to think about the detail of what you want the machine to be able to do.
- Do you need a regular or heavy duty machine?
- Do you need a large platform to sew on – helps with large items like curtains, for example.
- Do you need a long arm machine for quilting?
- Basic electric or computer aided electronic?
- straight stitch and zigzag only, or embroidery stitches as well?
- Automatic needle threader?
- Needle down option – returns needle to down position each time you stop sewing. This stops the fabric moving around each time you stop sewing.
- Needle position can move to right or left – useful for sewing zips?
- Drop in bobbin?
- Tension adjuster automatic – changes tension automatically if yo use different types and thicknesses of fabric.
Now that you have more idea of what you want from your sewing machine, it is important to visit a stockist and try some machines out. Take some samples of the kind of fabric that you might use with you so that you can try the machine on them – for example light cotton fabric and heavy curtain fabric, a small sample of quilting, an applique or embroidery sample.
Try out any of the following:
- Straight stitch, forward and reverse
- Try different stitch lengths
- Zigzag in various lengths down to satin stitch.
- Blindstitch – for hemming
How did it feel?
- Was the foot pedal comfortable and easy to control, smooth in speed changes?
- Could you change stitch type and stitch length easily?
- Was it easy to load the bobbin with thread and to replace it?
- Easy to change the tension?
- Was it quiet? A noisy machine might not worry you, but at least be aware of it.
- Did you feel comfortable with the amount of things it could do, or overwhelmed by them? Don’t allow yourself to be talked into buying a machine with features that you know you will never use – you are paying for all these features.
- Does it come with a carry case?
- How many bobbins?
- How many different feet?
- Does this include the feet that you feel you will use most, or if not are they readily available to buy?
- Take a good hard look at the manual. Do the instructions seem easy to follow? Does it cover all the things you think you might need to know?
- Are the diagrams clear?
Most of the above points still apply, but there are a few more:
- Is there a guarantee?
- Any bumps and dents – that can mean that it hasn’t been looked after too well.
- Are all the attachments there or can you buy those that aren’t?
- Is there a manual?
Questions for the shop
- Do they deal with aftercare and guarantee or is it the manufacturer’s responsibility?
- Do they carry most spare parts or if they order them in does it take long?
- How reliable do they find this particular brand?
- Do they carry out repairs or send the sewing machine away? This can sometimes add to the time taken for repairs.
- Do they provide lessons or videos? Are these included in the price?
- Some shops have a policy of accepting returns within a set period if you decide that the machine is not suitable for you.
After you have been to the shop
- Talk to friends who sew and see what experiences they have had with different sewing machines.
- The assistants in quilting and fabric shops are usually avid sewers and will have ideas about different sewing machines.
- Look on the internet. there are manufacturers’ sites and comparison sites to help you choose – but don’t be guided by price only.
I hope the above will help you to decide which sewing machine is the right one for you. Whichever one you choose, I hope you have lots of fun with it and get as much pleasure from your sewing as I do from mine.