Guide to Buying your First Sewing Machine

Lots of people ask me to recommend them a sewing machine to buy.  It's always a difficult question to answer as there are so many variables! Plus there are so many fab machines out there to buy it is very difficult to limit it to just one!  So I decided to put together a little list of things to consider when buying a new machine.

Guide to Buying a Sewing Machine
  • Budget: The first thing to consider is your budget of course.  When you have decided how much you would like to spend then make sure you get the most bang for your buck.  
  • Where to buy from?:  If you can buy from a local independent retailer then please do.  I know you can buy sewing machines from department stores, but how about thinking of supporting a local family business? If we don't use them we lose them!  Most independents will price match if you ask them to.  They'll appreciate you buying from them rather than just test driving it there and then going off and buying online!  They have a wealth of knowledge about sewing and sewing machines that can't be matched at department stores or supermarkets.  If you are local to me (Fleet, Hampshire) I'll put some links at the bottom to local dealers.  I would caution against buying from a budget Supermarket.
  • Test Drive it First: The benefit of buying from a local dealer means you can test drive the machine first.  They will sit with you and show you the features of the different machines you are interested in.  In my opinion this is vital before buying a machine as even a machine with the same features, but from different brands, will 'feel' different to use, much like one car to another.  So find one you like the feel of lol!  Plus, of course, if you buy from a dealer, they will be there for any after sales service.
  • Brand: This is a toughie, my personal preference would be Janome because they are so reliable and have machines to match all budgets.  If your budget is big then I would say Bernina.  I am basing these opinions on my experience of having all sorts of brands brought in to me for the Get to Know your Sewing Machine Class.
  • Mechanical versus Electronic?:  Generally the machines at the lower end of the price spectrum will be mechanical machines with dials on them.  As you go up through the price banding you will start to see electronic machines which have buttons instead of dials.  Electronic machines normally allow you to have more features and stitch patterns.  Either option is fine for your first machine, your budget will normally determine type.
  • Mini Machines:  I would caution against buying a mini sewing machine, even for a child.  I haven't seen a good one yet!  They are really noisy, very limited in what stitches they can do and you are unable to change the presser feet on most.
  • Features: OK so this list could be endless! But for your first machine, so you don't feel the need to upgrade immediately I would recommend the following.
    • The ability to vary the length of the stitches rather than having preset lengths
    • The ability to vary the width of the stitches rather than having preset widths
    • A buttonhole feature would be useful, 4 step is fine, 1 step would be fab
    • The ability to drop or cover the feed dogs - helpful if you want to stitch buttons on, do free motion embroidery or free motion quilting.
    • An automatic needle threader is a nice to have - especially helpful if your eyesight isn't great!
    • Snap on feet - so you can purchase the relavant ones you might need in future

Hope that helps you in some way.  If you are local Hampshire and looking for a local dealer I can recommend Sew Divine in Reading.  And also Sewmaster in Reading and Guildford.