14 August 2013

Guide to Buying a Sewing Machine

I get asked this and the questions below all the time so I thought it time I created a blog post

How much should I spend?

As with a camera or bike it’s always good to buy the best you can afford.  That being said there is really no need to be spending any more than €200 on a basic machine, unless you are intending to be a seamstress or professional textile designer. 
If you are buying for a complete beginner you should expect to pay at least €100 for a machine that will give you all the basic functions listed below.  I myself have several machines but continue to use a Toyota sewing machine that I bought nearly 20 years ago for €70 and it’s never caused me any problems.

What brand should I buy?

Some of the most popular brands would be Singer, Brother, Bernina and Janome.  For me if it does what you want who cares about the name.  However I am used to working with and fixing machines.  That being said I wouldn’t recommend own brands in some of the cheaper retail shops as many dealers will not fix/service them should something go wrong. 

What type of machine should I buy?

This, to me, is the most important question really.  Is the machine for general sewing i.e. craft sewing, basic clothes mending etc. or is it going to be for an advanced seamstress/dress maker/textile designer.  Please don’t be lured by 50+ decorative stitches and embroidery options for a beginner as you will rarely ever use them.   The basic stitches – straight stitch,  zig zag, over locker and button hole are all you need 99% of the time.  If you are an advanced sewer I would recommend going to a dealer where you can try before you buy and/or a trade show where you can speak directly to the sales reps for each brand and see demos. 

What are the basics I need?

  • ·         At least 10 automatic stitches.
  • ·         2 needle positions
  • ·         Automatic bobbin winding
  • ·         4-step buttonhole
  • ·         Zipper insertion
  • ·         Push lever reverse
  • ·         Clip-on feet
  • ·         Stitch pattern indicator
  • ·         Stitch length control
  • ·         Stitch width control
  • ·         Tension control

Most models come with a clear bag of accessories which include: Zigzag foot, zipper foot, buttonhole foot, button sewing foot, large screwdriver, seam ripper/brush, oil bottle, pack of spare needles, bobbins, seam guide, darning plate and spool holder.

Apart from that I would suggest going for a top loading bobbin.  It’s much easier for beginners.  I would also make sure that the machine has a free arm – this will be useful for all sorts of sewing projects.  Most new models do but it’s worth checking.

Final words of wisdom

Machines need to be used (like a car) to keep them in good working order.  There’s no point buying a machine and leaving it sitting in a box under the stairs because you’re afraid to use it.  I run Sewing Machine Basics workshops to help get you started.  Find out more on my website.

What are your tips on buying a sewing machine?  What would you say is or are must have feature (s) ?
 Let us know in the comment section below.


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