Buying a sewing machine - what to keep in mind

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored by any sewing machine manufacturers. It may sound like I am talking down one brand and praising the other. That is not the case. The only one I am talking down, is me. 

Buying your very first sewing machine can be exciting but also difficult. It is so easy to get confused with seemingly endless choices of models and makers on the market. 
Finding the perfect machine for you depends a lot on what are you planning to use it for. Sewing clothes? Mending or upcycling clothes? Or quilting? Or maybe all of the above?

Most of the brands out there try to cater for all the sewists. 
Before you hit the stores, do some research on different brands and features the machines have.

Features matter. Try to think ahead what kind of projects you might be doing and match a machine to your needs,
There are two things you should try to avoid: buying a machine that you will soon outgrow, or buying a machine that is more than you need. It is very easy to get distracted by 170 different stitches, 10 automatic buttonholes, built in letter embroidery features and etc. But do you really need 170 different stitch types?

I have a Brother sewing machine with 59 different stitches. I’ve only ever used maybe six of them. That makes 53 stitches I don't really need.

Features I’ve come to appreciate the most are: one-step buttonholes, bartacks, stretch stitch, ability to change presserfoot pressure, auto thread cutter and knee lift.

Also, pay attention to what kind of presser feet and tools the machine comes with. Sometimes the brands put out special edition sets, adding some extras for the same price.

How easy is the machine to use. The machine you pick should be easy and comfortable to handle and use. Where the bobbin thread tension screw or the presser feet tension regulator are located do matter.

My Brother, mentioned above, does not have a presser feet tension regulator knob. Instead it has a screw, that’s bedded deep into the machines plastic body and the machine came without a screwdriver for it. 

How the machine is constructed matters. Many brands no longer use metal parts but have opted for plastic ones instead. That causes the machines not to last quite that long and may make the machine less precise in the long run.
Sadly if you don't have Xray vision, it is hard to tell how the machine is constructed simply by looking at it. The price however tells a lot more. The cheaper the machine, the cheaper (read - made of plastic) the guts. If possible consult with someone who sews or ask the internet. There are many forums and boards you could turn to. The dealer may make every machine look desirable and more awesome.

Set a price limit. It is very important to know what you can spend on a sewing machine.
The reality is - quality costs more. You may not be able to get the most expensive machine there is, but you also don’t want to get the cheapest of them. 
Mid range Janome sewing machines cost around 250-500€. They are well built, consistent and easy to use on all sewing levels.

If you don’t want to splurge, look for vintage machines. There are many for great prices out there! Just make sure that it still operates correctly.

Buy locally. There may come a time when you need face-to-face support, and the local store will be there for you. They will be more than happy to help you out with finding a mechanic, ordering some super fancy presser foot or replacing your power cord that your kitten just happened to munch on (true story, I got a replacement cord within 2 days, and I am in Estonia of all places).

And also, it is nice to support your local businesses. :)

Test the machine. It is VERY important to test the machine first. Set up a meeting at the store and bring variety of scraps - different weights and thicknesses. The biggest mistake people do is test the machines on one layer of cotton muslin. Every machine will have no problems to sew that!
It is important to test the machine on different fabric types and weights, also with different thread thicknesses. Bring a scrap of denim, some knits, wool suiting and coating, and then some poly silk.

Where do you get the scraps if you haven't sewn anything before? Most fabric stores have a bin with roll ends. Usually, they are pretty damn cheap. Also, ask if they have any defective fabric pieces, they may just give them away for free! 

Most important thing, is to get the best sewing machine you can for your money. Because having a basic machine is way better than having none! 


For the very first machine
  • Janome DC6030
  • Janome DC7060
  • Pfaff Select 4.0

For upgrade
  • Janome Memory Craft 6600P
  • Juki TL-2000Qi
  • Janome 1600PQ

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