Sewing Machine Guide

You might think that buying a sewing machine is a straightforward and easy task.  But your sewing machine may be a more complicated appliance than you think, and a poor purchase can make or break the next thing that you sew.   So here are some tips to help you out when choosing one.

What will you use the machine for?
First of all, determine what you will use the machine for.  Is it just for repairing and altering your existing clothes or are you planning to make clothes from scratch?  Are you going to use it mainly to sew drapery or to explore the more complicated world of embroidery and quilting?  Different sewing machines are made for these different purposes and it is crucial that you decide what it is you’re going to use it for most of the time.  Basic machines are meant for only occasional mending and creating the simplest of clothes, while high end machines – some with touch-screen monitors - can be used for embroidery, creating monograms, working with different thickness of material and more.

What is your budget?
Second, you need to set a budget for yourself once you'’ve decided what kind of machine you actually need.  Those machines $200 and below are probably the “disposable” kind with plastic parts that you might find hard to replace and those can usually be found at your local Kmart or Walmart.  If you are an occasional seamstress that needs the basic functions for alterations and repairs, machines range from $200-600 and can be occasionally found in higher end department stores like Sears or JC Penney.  Machines in the $700-2000 range are typically the better engineered ones with the better materials. They usually cannot be found in department stores and can be bought at sewing shops or online. For tailors, seamstresses, upholsterers and others who use their machines on an almost daily basis, chances are the machines that you would need cost around $2000 and up.

Brand and model
A good sewing machine is usually not cheap and it is key that you do some reseach into the brand or model that you plan to purchase.  As with many appliances nowadays, you can find a tremendous amount of information online.   Check on the history of the brand that you’re considering.  Companies who have been around for the longest time and who have lots of testimonials from seamstresses and tailors are always a plus. And if you have time, visit your local sewing shops to ask for advice and to have some of the machines demonstrated to you.  Also read what other consumers have said about the model and/or brand you are considering purchasing.  Advice or a heads-up from someone who has already made the purchase you are considering can sometime be invaluable.

A few features to consider when buying a sewing machine:
Ease of use – Will its threading feature make your life easier or harder? Do you understand all the buttons and levers on the machine or will you need the manual every time you use them?

Cleaning features – how easy is it to clean?   Clean machines will last longer so this is important. Some machines have a feature that warns you when it needs to be cleaned, so if you have the extra dough, this is a good feature to have.

Stitch length and width adjustments – does your machine have the ability to adjust your stitch length and width on all your stitches? You may not need this but if you do then ensure it is available.  Many of the less expensive machines do not have this feature.

Traveling options – will you bring your machine with you when traveling  (or does it need to be portable in any way)? If yes, then you need to find one that has a good travel case that will keep your sewing machine clean and dry and cushion it from all the bumps and bruises.

Additional features – of course additional features cost a bit extra, so try to figure out first which ones you actually need or which ones are just luxury features – these range from features you really want, to “nice-to-haves”, to features you may never use.

Some purchasing tips
If you only plan to use a sewing machine for a short time, some sewing shops provide rentals – something to consider.  Another useful tip: dealers often put their machines on sale in October and November, so that is the perfect time to shop for your new machine. And if you are buying from a dealer, do your due diligence.  The after sales service for sewing machines is often a very important aspect of the purchasing decision.


See our Sewing Machine Ratings Table!  It provides sewing machine ratings from our reviews all in one place...  

Kick-start your purchase by reading our helpful Guide to Sewing Machine Buying.

About me...
About me - sewing machine ratingsHello!  My name is Alison and I started Sewing Machine Ratings over 10 years ago. Since then I’ve reviewed scores of sewing machines. Sewing has been a hobby for me since I was a young and I love to make my own clothing.
My website should help you find the best machine for your sewing needs. In addition to reviews, I gather owner ratings for each machine and calculate a score. So you can quickly compare one machine to another and also see how others feel about their sewing machine before you buy.
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