Finding the Best Sewing Machine
To make sure you get the best sewing machine, you should do some research and read online reviews. There are a lot of different brands to choose from, from simple mechanical machines to high-tech computerized ones. When choosing a sewing machine, think about what you want to make and how you want to make it. If you’ve never used a sewing machine before, look for the best one for people who are just starting out. Experienced designers might want to think about getting a sewing machine with the latest technology. Either way, take your time to learn about sewing machines, you can feel good about your decision to buy one.
Trying to find a sewing machine can quickly become a difficult task. So many brands, features, and price ranges are available. There are a lot of words that describe how the machine works and what it can do, but do you really know what they all mean? Do you know what a bobbin is and what a feed dog is? If you don’t, you might buy a machine that doesn’t really meet your needs.
Finding and buying a sewing machine can be an exciting adventure that can give you hours of creative time, saves you money on clothes and may even help you make some extra money. But, before you can start sewing, you need to know what features your sewing machine needs to have.
To get the machine of your dreams, you have to decide which brand is the best and how much you are willing to spend.
We’ve put together this handy guide on buying a sewing machine to help you make this important choice.
- What kinds of things will you sew with the machine?
- Will it have to be put away every time it’s used?
- Do you need a place to keep supplies and extras?
- How much cash do you want to spend?
- Who will be using the machine to sew?
- Is the main user a beginner or someone who has done a lot of sewing?
- How often will they sew?
After you know the answers to these questions, you can start to think about what kind of machine you’ll need.
If the machine is for a beginner, it should have a number of simple stitches. A sewer with more experience will want more advanced tools. You’ll also need to think about how the machine will be used in the long run. If you are a beginner but want to get better at sewing and move on to more advanced projects, you may want to think about getting a machine with more features than you may need at first. But you’ll be able to use those features when you’re ready.
If you only want to sew occasionally, it won’t be worth it to buy a sewing machine with a lot of expensive attachments and a lot of stitch options. If you plan to use the machine often, especially if you want to sew every day, you should get a sturdy machine with a metal frame.
A sewing machine can cost as little as less than $100 or as much as several thousand dollars. You decide how much you want to spend on your machine. Just make sure you’re getting the features you need for your sewing. Make sure your purchase comes with a warranty, either a specific one from the store or a general one from the maker. Make sure you know what is and is not covered.
What will you be sewing?
Think about the kinds of projects you want to make with your sewing machine. Do you want to make clothes and design them, or just fix them and make changes? This should be easy enough to do with a simple machine that has about 10 stitches. If you want to make dresses, you should make sure the machine has a “buttonhole stitch.” You’ll need the “free arms” feature if you want to sew sleeves and pant legs. Will your machine be used to make furniture and upholstery for the home? You’ll need to find a machine that can handle fabrics that are thicker. You might want to make things like embroidery or quilts. If this is your specialty, you’ll need a machine that can do a lot of different stitches.
Will your sewing machine live on a sewing table that stays in one place or on a rolling cart? If that’s the case, the weight of the machine doesn’t have to be a deciding factor in which one to buy. If you want to bring the machine to class or put it away after each use, the weight of the machine is something you should think about.
What about Portability and Storage?
Plan ahead for where you will store your machine. If you have a sewing table that stays in one place, you don’t have to worry about storage space. Most machines come with a soft dust cover or a hard case that you can use to transport and store your machine safely and easily. Still, you’ll need to think about where you’ll put it—in a closet or under a cabinet. Many sewing machines have a space in the bottom where you can keep things like scissors, pins, needles, extra bobbins, and small attachments.
Electronic vs Computerized Sewing Machines
There are many different brands of sewing machines, and they all want your attention and money. But there are only three main kinds of sewing machines. Here is a brief description of each type:
- Electronic sewing machines. This kind of machine has a single motor that moves the needle with a pulse of electricity. The way the needle moves is coordinated with the way the material is fed. You use a foot pedal to control all of this. With this style, you can move the fabric with both hands. It lets you control how fast or slow you sew. Most have a dial that lets you choose the type of stitch and how long it is.
- Computerized sewing machines. Most people will find it easy to use these machines, and both new and experienced sewers will be able to do well with them. As their skills improve, many people who start out with an electronic sewing machine will move up to one that is computerized. Several motors are used to control the different parts of a computerized sewing machine. You can change the maximum speed, move the needle up and down, and use the automatic lock-off feature to close the last stitch or pattern.
With a computerized sewing machine, you can easily make many different stitches by pressing a key or touching a touch pad that is connected to an LCD screen. If these machines are connected to a PC, you may be able to save past projects or download designs from the Internet.
Accessories, Attachments, and Presser Feet
Most sewing machines come with a variety of attachments and accessories as standard equipment. But what’s the difference between a part and a piece that goes with it?
Accessories: These are extra tools or other things that you’ll need to keep in your sewing basket. You won’t always need these things when you sew, but you don’t want to be without them when you do. Here are some examples:
- Instruction manual: If you have a problem with your machine, you should definitely keep the instructions close by.
- Seam guide: Straight seams are important no matter what kind of sewing you are doing. This tool helps you make them.
- Cleaning and repair kit: If you sew a lot, you should make sure to have your machine serviced and tuned up at least once a year. In the meantime, you should make it a habit to use special sewing machine oil to grease the different parts of your machine.
Follow the directions in your manual for how to oil something, and make sure to use the smallest drop that will do the job. To protect the delicate parts of your sewing machine, you must use oil that is made for sewing machines. Let the machine sit for a whole day after you put the oil in it.
This will let the oil get into all the parts that move. Put a cloth or paper towel under the foot of the presser to catch any drops. Check the screws often and tighten them if they need it. The tiny heads on the tools in the repair kit will fit the screws in your machine. Wipe down the machine before using it.
Attachments: Attachments are tools or specialized gadgets that you put on the machine. The best examples are the different types of presser feet attachments, which are also the most confusing parts for most people. Here are some of the most common attachments and what they are used for:
- Zipper foot: This could also be called a cording foot that can be changed. If you don’t know how to do it by hand, you can’t put a zipper on without one of these. The feet for zippers come in two different styles. The easiest one to use is the one that slides over the top of the zipper. The other hand holds the zipper from the side to keep it in place while sewing.
- Buttonholer: Depending on the type you have, this attachment can be a big help or a big problem when you’re sewing. Look for a buttonholer that lets you see your work as you go and slides easily back and forth over where you want to put the buttonhole.
- Ruffler: This attachment does exactly what it sounds like it does: it lets you make ruffles. You can also make a nice, neat pleat with many of these attachments.
- Hemmer: Hemming is one of the most boring parts of sewing. The raw edge of the fabric is covered by this attachment, which makes a perfect hem. It takes some practice to learn how to use this attachment well, but the time spent is well worth it once you do.
- Binder: When binding tape needs to be used to finish a seam, this attachment is used. If you attach the binder to the machine, it will fold and sew the binding tape for you.
- Edge stitcher: With this very versatile attachment, you can topstitch along the edge of your fabric for a decorative look. With this attachment, you can make small tucks and sew lace together. With an edge stitcher, it’s easy to put bias tape where you want it.
- Walking foot: If you want to sew more than one layer of fabric together when straight sewing or quilting, you must have this attachment. This attachment works by keeping the top layer of fabric moving while the feed dogs keep the bottom layers from bunching up or sliding out of place. If you are going to buy a machine just for quilting, make sure it comes with a walking foot.
Presser Feet: You can tell how serious you are about sewing by how many different presser feet you have. If you don’t mind taking a few minutes to switch from one foot to another, these add-ons for your sewing machine can make hard sewing jobs much easier. Some of these may come with some machines by default, depending on who made them. Check with the seller to see what kind of feet come with the machine you want to buy.
We recommend these types of presser feet (typically purchased as extras):
- Overlock foot: With this foot, knits and wovens will have nice, clean seam edges. This is a cheap way to do the same thing if you don’t have a serger.
- Pintuck: This foot looks great on baby clothes and lingerie. The pintucks come in different sizes, so your double needle machine can make tucks of different sizes on your fabric.
- Edgestitch: With this handy tool, you can add topstitching that is perfectly straight.
- Open toe embroidery: This foot is a must-have if you like to do free-motion embroidery on your sewing projects. It lets you see where you are going while you are sewing.
- Jeans: If you don’t have the right tool, it’s hard to work with denim and other heavy fabrics. Using a jeans presser foot will help you make seams that are neat and straight in these special fabrics.
- Nonstick foot: If you want to sew with leather or fake leather, the Teflon, or nonstick, foot will keep the leather or other fabric from sticking to the surface while you stitch.
- Straight stitch foot: When sewing with short stitches on fine cotton, the straight stitch foot gives you more control over the fabric.
Finally, find out what you need, what you want, and what you can pay for. You can only sew as well as your sewing machine lets you. Take your time, find the best sewing machine for you, and then start making things.
There are a lot of important words that are unique to sewing and sewing machines. If you are considering embroidery or other things you can make with a sewing or embroidery machine, check out our guides and tips page.
Understanding the jargon used to describe it and the attachments or upgrades it uses is important as you research and learn more about sewing and sewing machines.
Here is a handy glossary that defines the most-used terms:
- Auto thread tension: If the machine you choose has this feature, it means that the machine will figure out how much thread tension you need for the fabric you are using. Most of the time, there is a way to override this if you want to set the tension yourself.
- Bobbin: A small spool used to hold thread goes by this name. It could be made of metal or plastic. A stitch must be made for the machine to work. The thread for the needle goes down from the top, and the thread for the bobbin goes up from the bottom. Together, these two threads make a stitch. Before you can start sewing, you have to put the thread you want to use on the bobbin. This is something that most machines can do. Once the thread is wound on the bobbin, it is put in a bobbin case and put in its place under the needle plate.
- Bobbin case: After you put thread on a bobbin, you put the bobbin in the bobbin case. The case for the loaded bobbin will fit into a slot under the needle plate. If you buy a top-loading machine, the bobbin case will go into its slot on the arm of the machine.
- Buttonholes: Most machines have a one-step or four-step process that will automatically make buttonholes for you. The process will be harder to do if there are more steps. Most machines with more features will let you choose from different buttonhole styles.
- Feed dogs: These are the teeth that grab the material and move it through the machine. They are the little teeth that move back and forth when the needle moves. As the needle makes stitches, the feed dogs move the fabric under the presser foot, keeping it moving in the right direction. You can lower the feed dogs, which is called “drop feed dog,” if you want to do freehand work like embroidery or darning.
- Free arm: On the machine’s bed is a cylinder-shaped platform. You can sew things like sleeves or pant legs with the free arm. Usually, you have to take off a piece of the machine’s base to get to the free arm. This leaves the arm open so that the sleeve or leg of the pants can be slid onto the arm and stitched.
- Integrated dual feed: This feature is important if you want to sew two pieces of fabric together, like when you’re making a quilt. This part makes sure that both fabrics move in a smooth, even way.
- Integrated needle threader: This piece will help you thread your needle correctly.
- Knee lifter: You can press this lever with your knee. It lets you raise the foot of the presser while keeping your hands on the work. This feature is especially helpful for quilting, applique, and sewing around corners.
- Lock stitch facility: This lock stitch facility closes the sewing sequences on its own, so they don’t come apart as you wear or use them. This makes sure that when a sewing sequence is done, all stitches and stitch patterns are securely locked off. For a very short stretch, the stitch is turned around.
- Needle plate: This piece of the machine goes over the top of the feed dogs in the machine’s bed. The needle can go through a hole in the plate. Most needle plates have a guide that looks like a ruler on one side to help measure seam allowance and keep it even.
- Needle up/down function: With this feature, you can set the position of the needle so that it always ends up or down. When sewing seams that go around corners, you will need this function.
- Presser foot: As you sew, the presser foot holds the fabric against the feed dogs. This keeps the fabric from moving in ways you don’t want it to while you sew. There will be a level that lets you move the presser foot up and down. There are different kinds of presser feet for different jobs. Quilting, patchwork stitching, darning, putting in zippers, embroidery, and binding all need special presser feet.
- Stitch selector: On simple machines, you can usually choose the type of stitch you want to use by turning a dial. On a computerized machine, you might use a keypad or touch pad to choose the type of stitch you want to use.
- Thread cutter: This is a useful feature that the machine may or may not have. The thread cutter does exactly what it says: it cuts the thread when you’re done sewing.
- Twin needle functionality: The parallel rows of needles on a twin-needle machine let you sew parallel rows of stitches if you need a stronger seam or want a more decorative finish.