Choosing Your First Sewing Machine What Questions You Need to Ask Yourself
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
Buying your own sewing machine for the first time is a joyous occasion and a big leap forward for any sewing enthusiast. Plenty of sewing opportunities open up for you, your skills get a chance to further improve, and you get to decide what your specialty and focus will be. That is why you must choose wisely and select the model that can provide you with everything you need, nothing more and nothing less.
With an adequate sewing machine, your innate talent and skills can blossom and you can enjoy sewing to its fullest. So, let’s make sure you get that chance by making the right choice when purchasing your new sewing partner. Here are the questions you need to ask yourself.
What is your budget?
This is the first question you need to answer because it pretty much shapes up the entire purchasing process. Obviously, the bigger your budget is, the better machine you can buy. But this doesn’t mean that you must get a poor-quality model if you can’t spend all that much money. A lot of stores sell very cheap machines that are advertised as if they are extremely capable. Don’t buy these, they won’t work for long. If your budget is small, get a used sewing machine from your local dealer.
What kind of projects will you focus on?
Most entry-level sewing machines, as seen in this roundup here, do certain tasks very well but lack in other areas. This is normal, because it reduces the costs of manufacturing and makes the machine more affordable. So, before you buy a machine, think about what you are planning to do with it. Then find a model that excels in that line of work. Let’s see what different types of sewing require from a machine.
Repairs and alterations
If you wish to focus on repairing and altering clothes, you will need a sewing machine with a free arm and a blind hemming stitch and foot. The arm will hold a sleeve or a leg in place while you hem it. The rest will help you do the actual hemming much easier.
If you think you’ll be working with some thicker and stronger fabrics like denim, search for a heavy-duty model. They have enough power to penetrate the fabric with ease.
If you like to change up the interior of your house every now and then with new fabrics, sewing them on your own will save you quite some money. To do this, you will need a machine that has an automatic buttonhole option. It should also be able to feed multiple layers of thick fabric and penetrate it, so look for heavy duty models.
Straight stitch, zig zag stitch, stretch stitch, automatic buttonhole and the ability to change the needle position in order to sew zippers will allow you to create clothing pieces from scratch. Any additional features are welcome but not essential, like back stitching which help you strengthen the stitch. Again, if you intend to sew multiple layers of fabric or very thick fabric, get a heavy-duty model.
Some machines make considerably more noise than others, don’t forget that. So, if you have small kids but you like to sew at night, check how noisy a machine is before you buy it.
Heavier models are mostly made from metal, lighter ones are made mostly from plastic. Metal is obviously much stronger than plastic so it can take some accidental hits or drops and survive without consequences. Also, if you plan on carrying your machine from place to place, choose a portable model. They are light but sturdy nonetheless, and they are compact so you can carry them easily.
Some manufacturers provide you with plenty of additional accessories in the original packaging which saves you some money. Zipper foot, auto buttonhole foot and some spare bobbins are some accessories you’ll probably have to buy regardless of the type of projects you’ll be working on. Therefore, if you see that they come as extras together with the machine in the original packaging, consider it a big advantage.
Top or front-loading bobbin
Front loading bobbin allows you to reload bobbins without removing what you’re working on. Top loading on the other hand, are easier to change and usually have a clear plastic cover so you can see how much there is left as you sew.
Do you want some non-standard options?
Automatic needle threader
This feature protects your eyes and saves you from the strain of threading the needle by yourself. Just push the lever and the machine will do the rest.
This feature helps you sew at a consistent speed. You set the limit and no matter how much you push the pedal, the speed won’t change.
Automatic thread cutter
Handy, but not really necessary. This is usually a feature of more expensive models, so it’s not quite worth the extra cash.
This is very important if you ask me. With an adequate, bright lighting you won’t be straining your eyes as much and you’ll be able to work during the night and with some very darkly colored fabrics.
Needle up or down position
Want to take your project out of the machine fast? Needle up. Need to reposition your project without losing the place where you stopped? Needle down.
If you plan on making things with buttons often, you’ll need this. With just a few clicks you’ll get a perfect buttonhole, every time you need it.
Did you enjoy reading this article? I hope you’ll be able to find yourself the perfect machine that meets all your demands. Enjoy your new sewing partner!
Note from Frocks & Frolics (Marina):
Thank you Helen for your input, which will steer everyone who has never bought a sewing machine into the right direction. Think carefully, make a list of features you want and check out your local dealers. Then make sure you visit her site, which links directly to excellent offers on Amazon. Compare the prices and purchase where you will find the most reasonable offer.
Additionally I want to add Pfaff machines first and foremost to the selections of outstanding sewing machines. You can only purchase them at a dealer and they are not available via Amazon, on the other hand they come with great service should something go wrong at your local dealer. They are also a little more expensive than your Janome, Singer or Brother options. Worth every penny is my personal opinion but only if you really plan to sew a lot or want to start your own sewing business.
Do leave a comment if you have questions or suggestions that might help all our readers find the perfect machine.