Sewing Blog

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Your First Sewing Machine

When choosing a sewing machine, considering all the options can be overwhelming! With so many, makes, models and features, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself before shopping for your first sewing machine, so you can narrow down the options and easily select the best machine for you.

Side view of sewing machine

A word to the wise…

You might be tempted to rush the process. After all, you’re probably already dreaming up your first project! Try to resist the temptation to just buy the first machine that looks good — you may end up disappointed when your new machine does not perform the way you’d like or is missing an important feature.

How do you plan to use your machine?

Take a few moment to determine what you want the machine to sew. Think big! It’ll be disappointing to outgrow your machine right away. Depending on what you want to use the machine for, you might look for a few special features.

Mending

If you plan to do simple mending, hemming and tailoring, find a machine with a free arm, making hemming much easier by allowing the leg or sleeve to move around the sewing area. A blind hemming stitch and foot will allow you to more easily hem dress pants and skirts.

Consider that a less expensive machine may not be able to sew through thicker fabrics, such as denim or heavyweight curtains. In that same way, it may not hem a thinner voile blouse well either. 

Home decor

Making your own curtains, throw pillows and seat cushions saves a lot of money and allows you to customize them perfectly. Look for an automatic buttonhole option to help create simpler and more professional-looking projects. Home decor fabric can be very thick, so search out a machine that can feed many layers of thick fabric easily.

Garments

Most garments can be sewn using a combination of five different features. Look for a straight stitch, zig-zag stitch, stretch stitch, automatic buttonhole and the ability to change the needle position (which is ideal for sewing zippers). Most machines will perform a back-stitch as well, locking your stitches so they don’t come apart.

If you plan to sew knit fabrics, you’ll need a stretch stitch or a zig-zag stitch to allow the stitched fabric to stretch and move with the wearer. It’s also helpful to have a sewing machine that will sew with a twin needle, which creates a more professional hem.

How much can you spend?

Buy the most expensive machine your budget will allow. This way, you’re less likely to outgrow the machine. Whether you have $50 or $5,000, there are many ways to find a good machine in your price bracket.

Tips for buying new machines

  • Begin by visiting your local sewing machine dealers. Owners can help you select a machine that will fit your budget. They can also direct you to the machine that will best suit your plans and your wish list.
  • Many dealers offer a free one-time class with a new machine purchase, where they show you the machine’s features. This is invaluable and it’s highly recommended even if you have sewn on many machines before.
  • Local big box stores can offer lower cost machines. However, you won’t receive the extra services and possible free classes a dealer can offer.
  • Many lower cost machines will not perform well long-term, especially if you plan to sew a lot. If your budget is lower, it is best to think about finding a used machine.

Tips for buying used sewing machines

  • aired with careful research, local thrift shops and online sellers can offer great deals on quality machines.
  • Many local sewing machine dealers offer discounts on their demo models as well.
  • Make sure the machine is in good working order before buying it.
  • Check with the local dealer for your machine type to see if they offer repairs and cleaning services before making a purchase.
  • Many second-hand machines need to be cleaned right away to spruce them up, so make sure to factor this cost into your budget.
Sewing strips of blue fabric on machine

Is the machine noisy?

Some machines are considerably noisier than others. Listen to the machine when it’s in good working order. Will the noise wake up any sleeping family members when you sew at night? Can you hear your podcast over the machine? Can you hear others speaking when you take the machine to classes or meet-ups?

Does the machine come with any extras?

Many machines come with bonus feet and accessories. Look for a zipper foot, automatic buttonhole foot, blind hemming foot and extra bobbins. Some manufacturers include considerably more bonus accessories with their machines than others.

How heavy is the machine?

Lighter machines usually indicate plastic parts and a smaller motor. They’re best used for small amounts of general sewing, but are not a great choice for thicker fabrics and may not last if you’d like to sew every day.

Heavier machines usually indicate more durable metal parts and a larger motor. They may last longer and perform better long term.

Also, think about carrying the machine around your house or to a class. Can you lift it easily to set it in your vehicle or onto a table?

Presser foot on standard sewing machine

Do you want other non-standard options?

Here’s a quick list of non-standard options you may want to consider researching, in addition to the above information.

  • Speed control
  • Needle threader
  • Good lighting
  • Thread cutter
  • Free arm
  • Automatic buttonhole
  • Needle up/down

Check many shops and types of machines before you decide what is best for you. Your local sewing guild, fabric shop or online chats provide valuable first-hand information. Be sure to ask your friends about their machine and why they like it!

Whichever machine you choose, enjoy it! Ask your dealer or a local shop if you have any questions and get it cleaned regularly to protect your investment. 

5 Comments

Deb Pearl

I really want to get a new sewing machine, but I don’t know how to find a good new one. I really like your tip about checking a local sewing machine dealer. I bet they would be able to help me pick out the right kind of machine for my needs.

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Katie Wilson

I agree that you need to consider what you want your machine to sew before buying one. Determining its purpose would help you find one more specialized for the right job. My sister is looking for a new sewing machine, so she’ll have to decide what she usually uses it for first.

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Barbara Harris

I just bought my first sewing machine in April of last year. I saw the title of this post & said “Oh great, here is the advice I was looking for over a year ago & I’m gonna find out I did it all wrong.” But I’m so glad to report: I did it all right! I love my 1986 Pfaff 1471. I haven’t had a single problem with it & I got a fair price for it. The staff @ my dealership is wonderful, I took a new owners course there a few weeks after I bought the machine & they were so helpful. In fact, I think I may need to go in for a refresher course as I have been piecing quilts on it, but I’m starting to get into clothes making techniques again. Thanks for the post Meredith!

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Kevin Spear

thanks for the guide. which one you guys can recommend under $500…

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Katherine

There again it depends on what you want it to do. Also, new vs used. New I bought my daughter an Eversewn sparrow 20. It a “cousin” company to Bernina, a company considered to be one of the top. It will be perfect for her as she will make clothes like her older sister and myself (no jeans! That is best done on an industrial machine). Older Singers are great, I learned on a touch and sew. Newer ones are not made by the same company it was sold in the late 80’s I believe and the quality is just not there anymore. No matter what, I will always only buy machines with Speed Control.

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