Buying your first sewing machine should be viewed with the same care as if you were purchasing a new car. There are so many choices that it’s easy to get lost in your options. Finding the perfect beginner sewing machine is easy once you know a few basics.
This may sound odd, but you don’t need to know much about sewing machines or sewing in general in order to purchase a great model. These seven tips will help you make the best decision.
Please download and print Sewing Machine Purchasing Checklist from the Free Resource Library. This 1-page document will ensure you get the minimum requirements.
More information will be posted soon regarding specific machine features, getting to know your sewing machine, and presser foot selection.
Sewing Machine Buying Tips
1. Don’t start with the Price
Most people usually start shopping by considering the price they want to pay. Without any knowledge of how this device can benefit you, how can you really base that decision?
Let’s say you were shopping for a new refrigerator and you decide to spend $100. When you start shopping around, you may find your options to be quite limited. For $100, you may be able to buy a dorm size refrigerator which could accommodate a gallon of milk, a couple cans, and maybe some lunch meat or condiments. You may also find a used refrigerator at a thrift sale, but you may not know the features or problems that come with it.
Shopping for a sewing machine can be just as daunting! You certainly wouldn’t be able to use a dorm refrigerator long term if you are feeding a family of 4. If you purchase a used refrigerator you often will not know the features or problems the previous owner had.
If you limit yourself to a low-end sewing machine, you will be limited to what you can accomplish with it. If you purchase used, you may not have the necessary knowledge of the machine, its issues, and its features.
2. Trust your dealer
Trust someone who works on commission? I know this may seem crazy!
Face it; Depending on your geographic location you may only have 1 or 2 sewing machine dealers in or near your city. This means your only other option is a big box retailer with no sales staff experienced with using, threading, or cleaning the machine.
Besides being able to show you the basics during a demonstration, most dealers offer free machine lessons when you purchase your new machine. They often have other classes for learning different skills or simply socializing with other people with the same type of interests.
Sewing machine dealers are small businesses that want YOUR business. As such, they want you to be happy so that you will tell your friends. They hope you will be satisfied with your new hobby enough to return for classes, books, threads or other essentials. Who knows? You may even upgrade your machine down the line.
People often avoid sewing machine dealers as they are afraid of the price tag. However, most dealers sell used machines that have been serviced for a much lower cost than buying a brand new model.
3. Involve your spouse in the buying process
So many times, I hear women say, “My husband would never let me spend $XX.XX on a sewing machine.” You would be surprised how many times this not true.
Most men understand that you need the proper tool for the job.
Imagine that you are considering two very similar models of rotary saws. You may only need the 7” blade for your current project, but your spouse may opt to get the larger 10” blade since he knows he will need the larger blade on a future project. Why invest in 2 machines to do the same job when you are getting started?
You want to get a machine with the features you will need and those that you think you will use.
4. Consider your sewing goals
If you are completely new to sewing, you likely have no idea what your goals are. This is okay!
Try using Pinterest and entering a few search topics that interest you. Just add “sew” or “sewing” to your search. For example, “sewing baby blankets”.
There are several types or categories of sewing such as apparel, quilting, general, alterations, and repair.
Most newer sewing machines will come with the essential stitches you need to accomplish general sewing. These include straight stitch, overlock stitch, basting stitch, and blind hem stitch.
Additional stitches may be nice if you intend on using decorative stitches in making crafts or crazy quilts. So, it’s great to have a real idea of how you intend you using your new machine. You want a machine that will grow with you as you learn your new hobby.
5. Necessary sewing machine features
Even if you don’t plan on making clothing, you will also want to ensure your new machine has a buttonhole feature which usually means you will need a buttonhole foot. The buttonhole is used often in crafts and home décor as well as clothing. Knowing how to use this feature is essential for success.
Your new machine should allow you to adjust both the length and width of your stitches. This is important to success on certain types of fabrics.
You want to ensure you can lower the feed dogs on the machine. These are the gripper teeth located directly under the needle which move the fabric through the machine. If you are working on a project that gets stuck, it is a great help to be able to lower these so that you do not tear your fabric. Quilters especially will want to drop the feed dogs in order to sew free motion.
You likely will want a drop-in bobbin system as it’s much easier to insert and regulate the tension. Most newer machines will have this feature.
Lastly, you want to be able to change your needle position. In other words, the machine can adjust the needle position to ensure the perfect seem rather than moving your fabric. The needle can be moved left or right by tiny increments.
6. Consider buying used
I hesitate to tell a beginner to buy used. However, you can score an incredible deal!
I paid $600.00 for my most recent sewing machine and the original cost was $6499.99. That’s 90% off! Another machine was purchased for $230, and it was originally $1299.99.
If you decide to buy a used machine, there a just a few guidelines.
Take your smartphone with you! You can easily compare used prices on E-bay and search online for the manual. Many machine manufacturers will supply the full manual in a pdf file on their website.
Make sure you get the power cords and foot pedal. I’ve seen too many online auctions where the machine sells cheap, but the purchaser did not read the details. Since each machine is different, it can be confusing.
You may have a single input on your machine for your power/pedal. These types of cords have 1 end that goes into the machine. The cord then separates so that there are 2 cords leading out (to your power outlet and to the foot pedal).
Some machines will have 2 separate cords (One input for your power and a separate input for the foot pedal).
Check the manual to ensure the standard presser feet which were originally included with the machine are still present. If you are purchasing at a garage sale, it may be difficult to track down a local sewing shop to purchase presser feet.
As well, standard feet often have to be special ordered and take time. Would you stock an item that comes with every machine when you could use the space to display something unique?
7. Try several models
Most sewing machine dealers will show you a short demonstration and give you a brief description of the machine features. Feel free to ask if you can try the machine for yourself!
You may get a good feel for which machine is the right one just by sitting down with it. You may like the positioning or lighting of a certain model. You may feel the power of the motor or feel the smoothness of the material feeding through the machine.
If you already have a certain project or fabric selected, advise the representative what you will be working on and take a small sample of your fabric along. For example, if you are hemming jeans, your machine will need to get through 9 layers of denim. Not all machines will do this easily.
If you opt to shop online or through a big box store, you likely will not have the option to try the machine prior to purchasing. Make sure you are completely familiar with the store’s return policy before completing your purchase.
Buying your first sewing machine can be intimidating and overwhelming, but it can provide you so many rewards.
Besides being an enjoyable hobby, no extra out of pocket costs for alterations or repairs on clothing will certainly help you save money in the long run.
Certainly, don’t allow yourself to be pressured into a high-end purchase, but remember to allow yourself some convenience in your purchase. If you are uncomfortable using your machine, you likely will not use it.
Let me know if you have any additional buying tips for this guide! Happy Sewing!