What Should I Look For When Buying a Sewing Machine?


If you are thinking about buying a sewing machine, there are several things that should guide you and help you get exactly what you need. There is nothing as bad as ending up with a sewing machine that barely does what you need it to.

There are several important factors that you need to consider, including your budget, the machine’s features, its make and model, and its portability, among other factors discussed in the article below.

With so many options to choose from, choosing the right sewing machine for your needs can be a little overwhelming. This article will guide you on everything you need to know to help you buy the best sewing machine for you. 

Basics

You should purchase your sewing machine from a well-established brand. The brands that reign supreme in this industry include Brother, Singer, Bernina, Kenmore, Janome, and Viking. It is important to choose your retailer wisely. You should also avoid models with lots of plastic. You should instead, buy a quality machine with no cheap plastic parts that tend to break very easily. 

Features

1. Automatic buttonholer

This is a basic feature that helps make the sewing process much more convenient. With this feature, you are able to sew a buttonhole in a single step without having to stop and manipulate a dial or turn the fabric. Some sewing machines have a slot where you can insert a button and a buttonhole will be sewn by the machine to fit.

2. Feed-dog adjustment

The feed-dog adjustment feature allows you to do free-style embroidery or darning. It does this by allowing you to drop the toothy mechanism below the sewing surface.

3. Good ergonomics and controls

Another important factor you should consider when buying a sewing machine is its ease of use or ergonomics. The machine should be responsive and easy to manipulate. The controls should be easy to reach. The machine should be able to respond flawlessly when pressure is applied on the foot pedal. It should be able to work efficiently on thick and multiple layers of fabric. It should not growl or stall when in use. You should also consider getting a machine that has more space to the right of the needle. This provides more space for your hands and the fabric you are working on. Also, you should look for a machine whose symbols are easy to read. 

4. Weight

This is an important factor to consider when purchasing a sewing machine. Lightweight sewing machines are convenient especially if you do not intend to use the machine often or if you intend to move with the machine frequently. Lightweight machines are easy to put away when not in use. Portability is also an important factor to consider if you are getting started with sewing and have to attend classes with your machine. If this is the case, you should look for a machine that has a handle on top and is easy to lift. You should check the weight of the machine online before buying or you could try to lift the machine before buying just to be sure.  

If you plan to use your machine at a designated place in your home or office, then you could consider getting a heavier machine. Heavier machines are generally of better quality since they are made with metal parts instead of plastic ones.

5. Needle position

You should also look for a machine that enables you to move the needle and shift the stitching line from right to left and to move the needle up or down when you stop. This feature makes releasing pressure from the foot pedal easier.  

6. Needle threader

The needle threader pulls the thread through the needle. This is very convenient and saves you time that would otherwise have been spent attempting to pull the thread through the eye of the needle.

7. Free arm for circular sewing

This feature helps you sew in a circle. It makes it easy to sew sleeves, trouser leg hems, or anything circular. It is really convenient to be able to remove part of your sewing machine to reveal the free arm. This enables you to place the tube of fabric around the revealed free arm, allowing the part you are not sewing to pass underneath the machine without getting caught up in the sewing. This makes it easy to complete a full circle while sewing.

8. Built-in light

This is a very important feature especially if you spend a lot of time in the evening. This helpful feature can be used any time of the day particularly if your eyesight is not so good. The built-in light makes it easier to perform tasks such as threading the needle. 

9. Speed control

This feature allows you to adjust the operating speed on your machine. This is an important feature especially when you are learning to sew. Being able to reduce the sewing speed at will helps in building your confidence. Speed control is also essential when applying techniques that require a lot of accuracy. It is also useful when doing applique’. Speed control allows you to sew at a steady pace instead of stopping and starting.

10. Tension adjustment

This feature allows you to change the tension of the thread. When the thread is too tight, you may get puckered fabric and when it is too loose, it results in loopy stitches. Being able to adjust the tension of the thread allows you to avoid such complications.

Stitch options and accessories

1. Straight stitch with auto tie-off function

This is an important function that your machine should have. With this function, once you press the foot control, the machine sews four stitches forward and in reverse. It will then continue to sew forward until the you release the foot control. Once you push the reverse button at the end of the seam, the machine will sew four stitches in reverse and forward and then stop. This function is really convenient since without it, you’ll have to pull the top thread end under manually to tie a knot with the bobbin thread end at the beginning of each seam and at the end. This function helps you save a lot of time.  

2. Straight stitch with stitch length that can be adjusted to at least 4.8mm

This option is important for projects that require gathering baste or fabric. In this case, the longer the stitches, the better it functions. This function is convenient as it helps you save time that would otherwise have been spent hand sewing. 

3. Buttonhole stitch and foot

A machine with this function helps you save a lot of time and improves the quality of your sewing. The one step buttonhole function makes it possible to sew a buttonhole in one step to the size of the button you are using. 

4. Blind hem stitch and foot

This function is essential especially if you need to hem skirts and formal trousers. This stitch is used to make hems that are barely visible from the right side of the clothing.

5. Drop feed dog button

This function allows you do free motion quilting. The button moves the feed dog down to the chamber allowing you to move fabric with your hands, not the machine feed dog.

6. Twin needle function

It is convenient to get a sewing machine that has two identical needles side by side. There are various types of twin needles. They are used to sew stretch fabrics. The twin needles allow you to produce two parallel rows of stitching around the cuffs, hem, and neckline of jersey garments, giving them a ready to wear and professional look. The twin needles include a zigzag stitch on the reverse of the two rows of stitching. This gives the stitches an elastic effect, allowing them to stretch without breaking. Having a machine that facilitates twin needles allows you to accomplish this task with ease. 

7. Differentiating feeding

Differentiating feeding is a function that is absent in most sewing machines. When sewing on average sewing machines, the top layer of the fabric often ends up being longer than the bottom layer of fabric when sewing a seam. This is usually a result of the feeding dog pulling the bottom layer of fabric to the back while the top layer of fabric is stretched forward by the pressure foot. This causes the top layer to be longer than the bottom layer of fabric at the end of a long seam. The differentiating feeding function helps you avoid this challenge.

Mechanical or electrical

There are two main types of sewing machines to choose from; mechanical or electrical. This has a significant influence on the cost of sewing machines. Most high-end sewing machines are fully computerized with touch screens and programmable stitch sequences. They are generally more expensive than mechanical sewing machines.

Mechanical sewing machines are available with recent models having modern designs. There are also antique mechanical models of sewing machines. Mechanical sewing machines with modern designs tend to be lighter than the older models. They, therefore, have less parts and are easy to transport. They are a good option especially if you do not have a dedicated sewing area or have to attend sewing classes with your machine. Mechanical sewing machines are also easy to maintain and don’t cost a lot to service.

Mechanical sewing machines lack the convenience and versatility of computerized sewing machines. However, they are capable of handling basic sewing tasks. They are therefore, a good option for beginners. The older models, especially, are an excellent option for beginners since they are durable due to their material and heavy weight, and are also easy to master. In addition, it is easy to find reputable models of mechanical sewing machines at an affordable price because of the competition they face from computerized models. 

The best models of sewing machines, however, are electronic or computerized. Computerized machines stronger and more efficient motors that produce more power. They are therefore, capable of performing efficiently with heavyweight fabrics under constant use. They also produce superior stitch lines that are stronger and spaced more evenly compared to their mechanical counterparts.

The computerized sewing machine and the hybrid machine, a model with both computerized and mechanical features, provide you with a wider range of options compared to mechanical models. Computerized sewing machines can be programmed to remember specific stitch sequences. They can also perform a wider variety of decorative and embroidery stitches as well as thread cutting and automatic tie-offs.

Apart from the features and options found in an electronic sewing machine, you are also capable of doing embroidery and monogramming for projects such as bedspreads, garments, and pillowcases. The designs are built into the memory of your machine or you can purchase them in memory cards or linked to your computer. This allows you to reposition, mirror, and resize designs to suit your own preference.

The choice between computerized and mechanical sewing machines primarily depends on your financial capabilities. However, if you intend to go for a mechanical sewing machine, you should go for an older high-end model instead of the cheaper plastic models. Even though they can only perform basic functions, the older mechanical models are a lot more durable.

Budget

Your budget is perhaps the most important factor to be considered before purchasing a sewing machine. If you can’t afford an expensive model, do not buy it. You should however, buy the best machine you can afford. You do not want to buy a machine which you will outgrow skill-wise in less than two years. You should also consider whether or not your purchase would be a financial investment. If you are sure that buying that expensive sewing machine would bring value for money to your business, you should then go for it.   

Service and warranty

You should also find out the length of the warranty of the machine you intend to buy and what the warranty covers. You should also find out whether your machine can be serviced locally or if you’ll have to mail it somewhere.

Final thoughts

It is always important to do your research before buying your sewing machine. With the tips outlined here, you should be able to find the perfect machine to suit your needs. Good luck!

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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