How do you choose the best sewing machine

A laundry list of factors goes into this decision. What’s your level of experience? What projects are you planning to complete? What’s your budget? There are so many options out there that it can be a bit overwhelming to try to figure out which machine is the perfect fit for you.

Use our best sewing machine buying guide to find the perfect option for you. The basic steps are as follows:

Types of Sewing Machines

You can quickly narrow your search down by determining which function you need from the machine. There are generally three types of sewing machines: (1) the basic, all-purpose sewing machine, (2) specialty sewing machine, (3) serger machine (also known as “overlock”).

Sewing machine:

A basic domestic sewing machine is generally able to handle a wide variety of home sewing projects. It’s the perfect option if you plan on sewing clothing, home décor, small craft projects and more. Additionally, it’s also possible to purchase a “heavy duty” basic sewing machine, which typically has more power (higher stitches per minute) and can handle tougher or thicker materials.

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Specialty sewing machine:

Specialty sewing machines are designed for certain processes such as embroidery or quilting. Often these machines also have the ability to do basic stitching as well.

Serger:

A serger, also known as an “overlock” machine, is designed to create a strong, professionally finished seam on your projects. They do not have the capability of doing topstitching and thus you will need a basic sewing machine if you are planning to do more than finishing edges.

Electric vs. Computerized vs. Manual

Sewing machines can either be electric, computerized or manual. The manual option is possible to obtain in vintage models, and requires physical labor of the user. Here we will just discuss electric vs. computerized, however, as they are the most common found on the market today.

Electric sewing machine:

The electric sewing machine utilizes a single motor, which provides power to the needle. The user can typically control the speed with the electric foot pedal. Additionally, there is a dial (or dials) on the machine to select stitch length and width. Electric sewing machines offer the user the basic functions without many extra advanced features. They are often relatively easy to use (compared to the computerized version) and can come with some automatic processes as well.

Computerized sewing machine:

The computerized machine offers more advanced features than the electric model and does not contain any exterior dials or buttons. Instead, this option features a built in LED or LCD display or touch screen. Here, the user can set all of the functions of the sewing machine in addition to choosing from a wide variety of options such as built-in stitch designs. You can often connect a computerized sewing machine via a USB to your computer for completely customized designs or to retrieve previous projects.

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Value-added features of a sewing machine

Each sewing machine will come with built-in features or capabilities to enhance the user experience. Here we’ll list the most important merits that go into a high-quality machine in which a user may find valuable depending on factors such as level of experience and skill, purpose and budget:

Stitch quality and selection:

Some machines come with just a handful of built-in stitches while others are equipped with several hundred. It’s important to determine what stitches you will need for your projects. There’s no need to spend more for many stitches you won’t end up using. Pay attention to what type of stitches are included. Heavy-duty machines often come with only utility stitches and aren’t designed for decorative projects.

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Most basic all-purpose sewing machines will come with utility, decorative and heirloom stitches. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that the stitches that are available produce a good quality result. You want to ensure the machine doesn’t skip stitches and they are produced evenly and according to the built-in pattern.

Automatic features:

To save time and streamline your sewing process, it can be very helpful to work with a machine that features automatic features such as: automatic threader, thread cutter, winding bobbin, needle up/down or buttonhole. These are typically more common on computerized models, but it’s also possible to find these features on electric machines. You want to look for these features especially if you plan on doing a lot of sewing or need to produce results quickly.

Ease of use:

To Starting from the instructions manual, the machine should facilitate ease of use, even for the most advanced models. The thread or stitch guide should be simple to follow and, if using a computerized machine, the LCD selection screen should be easy to read and program. Even if the sewing machine features a number of manual controls, they should be easily understandable for the user. This is also very important for the serger, which tends to be more difficult to thread than a regular sewing machine. Often users may need to use tweezers to get the threading right. Look for a color-coded threading path for enhanced ease of use.

Good selection of accessories:

Many machines come with accessories that may be necessary for the machine to work properly, such as a selection of presser feet, or perhaps provide enhanced specialization such as an oversized table for quilting, carrying case for traveling, etc. Consider which accessories come included with your machine versus additional ones that would need to be purchased, especially when comparing prices between models.

Potential for customization/advanced features:

For more complex sewing, quilting or embroidery projects, you want to ensure that the machine offers the required capabilities. The computerized model will provide you with more advanced features for maximum customization, creating a unique style all your own. You can download patterns off the Internet, or for the most advanced models even create free hand designs yourself.

Durability:

A good sewing machine should be passed down through generations. Metal construction and parts is a good indicator of a durable machine. As well, if you plan to work on tougher or thicker fabrics, you want to ensure that the machine can handle this without challenges.

Lightweight & portable:

Is the machine light enough to carry with you to class or for last minute alterations should you need it for these purposes? Or if you’re planning to store it while not in use, can you easily move it? Sewing machines typically range between 10 and 20 lbs. while still being lightweight enough to be portable.

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How to choose the right machine for your purposes

Different machines will be best suited for different purposes. Therefore, you want to carefully think about how you plan to use the machine both now and in the future.

What type of projects are you planning to work on:

Your first point in deciding which sewing machine is the right fit for your purposes is to identity what type of function you will need the machine to perform – both now and in the future. Starting off with a good, solid sewing machine is the perfect base for the majority of projects.

However, if you know you’ll want to do a lot of quilting, for example, opting for a quilting machine or a basic sewing machine that also offers the potential (and required space) for quilting will be a great option. In the case of a serger, many seamstresses go years without having one. But if you plan on doing a lot of edges, this may be a great addition to your collection as it produces professional quality seams quickly and efficiently.

Skill/experience level:

Your skill and experience level is an important indicator of what type of machine will be the best fit. If you’re just starting out and are unsure of how much sewing you’ll really end up doing, a less expensive model that offers just the basic sewing functions will most likely be the best bet. Electric sewing machines, for example, are typically well suited to novice sewers, as they don’t include the many complex features that often come with a computerized version.

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If you’re a more advanced sewer, on the other hand, purchasing a machine that doesn’t offer potential for more complicated projects may leave you feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied. Finding the right balance between skill/experience and machine capabilities will be important in determining which is the perfect machine for you.

Future capabilities:

Especially if you’re just starting out, you may also want to consider purchasing a sewing machine that you can grow into in the future. This is where enhanced ease of use comes in, too. Even if the machine offers many advanced features you plan to use down the road, it should still function simply enough to be able to use now. At the same time, be realistic with the level of the machine. There’s nothing worse than spending a significant amount on a sewing machine only to find you won’t use all the features in the future or it’s too complicated to learn on.

Frequency of use:

Are planning to simply pull the machine out of the closet a few times a year or do regular sewing multiple times a week? The frequency of use will be not only an important factor for price, but also when considering the machine’s capabilities. For example, a computerized option that offers the potential to program stitch patterns will be well suited for those who plan to sew often, as it will save time.

Popularity of the machine:

There are many online tutorials available via social media for the most popular machines. This is not only a great option for beginners who want a more detailed explanation of how the machine works, but also for more advanced machines in which the tutorials can give the user insight into how to unlock all the sewing machine’s potential.

Budget:

Prices of sewing machines range from under $100 to more than a thousand. Setting an upper limit of how much you’re able to spend on a machine is a good place to start. From there, you can sift through and weigh the value-added features against the price.

It’s also important to consider which accessories are included in the machine versus which will need to be purchased to fulfill your project requirements. While one machine may be more expensive, but come with many accessories, another could be cheaper, but you’ll need to purchase a number of additional accessories to fulfill your needs. The price of the machine you’ll need to purchase additional accessories for may quickly add up and end up costing more.

Brand name and warranty:

Many of the most popular sewing machines come from trusted brands in the industry. Before you decide to purchase, make sure to take the time to read through the warranty of each machine so that you won’t end up paying more down the road. Also, find out where the closest certified repair center is for each particular brand to still be covered by the warranty.

Customer reviews:

Another important factor you may want to consider before purchase point is what actual users have to say about the particular machines. There are many websites which feature verified customer reviews and you can easily sort through to determine the most highly rated sewing machines. With this, pay attention to the date of the review. Often sewing machine companies update their machines if there is a repeated malfunction reported in the user reviews.

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