We often get asked which sewing machine you should get when you’re just starting out, and while there’s no definite answer, there are a lot of tips we have to make the decision a little bit easier.
Firstly, consider asking around friends and family, to see if anyone has a sewing machine sitting in their garage or attic collecting dust. That’s going to be a much cheaper option for you, as well as less commitment if you aren’t sure how you’ll take to sewing. They might also have sewing materials they don’t want anymore to get you started!
If that’s not an option, you’ll be looking at buying a new or secondhand sewing machine. Here’s some things to consider –
- Machine type. There are all sorts of machines available now, from embroidery machines to domestic overlockers. What you’re looking for as a beginner is a standard Sewing Machine.
- Weight. Lighter machines will wobble on your table more, so heavier will be sturdier. But make sure you or someone else can lift it! For reference, the machines we use range between 5.5 – 7kg
- Parts. Are the parts mostly metal or plastic? Plastic pieces wear out and break more easily, and are harder to repair. Specifically the bobbin case, which needs to be robust because the rotary hook spins back and forth creating a lot of friction in this area. So its good to look for front loading bobbins with a removable metal bobbin case (like in the pic above). The ones with a top loading bobbin and built-in (usually plastic) bobbin case wear out quickly. We recommend sewing machines with more metal internal parts, if you can. If you don’t know if there are mostly metal or plastic parts, the weight of the machine would be a good indicator. Metal parts will be heavier than plastic parts.
- Stitches. Make sure it can do a straight stitch, and a zigzag would be good too. After that, buttonholes are useful but not essential (you can make a buttonhole without it), and most others are a nice bonus, rather than essential. Ideally, the machine will also be able to handle going backwards, to start and finish off your sewing.
- Automation. We see a lot of people buying snazzy machines with automatic threading capabilities, and all sorts. And they look great and when they work, they save some time. But, we wouldn’t recommend relying on them to always be there, and if they ever don’t work, you’ll be thankful for knowing how to thread up the machine by hand! We would recommend generally avoiding computerised machines, instead opting for mechanical ones for ease of use, and repairs over time.
- Brands. Brother, Janome, Elna are generally fairly reliable brands, bearing in mind all the other advice in this post.
- If you’re looking for a secondhand machine online, check out the reviews of the seller as usual, but also look up reviews of the make and model of sewing machine they’re selling, to get an idea of what you’d be purchasing. Older machines were made from more solid metal parts. So a secondhand or vintage machine is often a good choice, but ask to see it working when you collect it to be sure. And try and find a manual online so that you know how to clean and take care of it, as older machines often need a bit more maintenance.
- Consider any adaptations your sewing machine might need to be useful to you if you have an impairment. Features such as automatic needle threaders, knee lifters and wireless machines could make sewing a lot easier for you.
And, if you want to learn how to use your sewing machine, including troubleshooting when things go wrong, in a kind and supportive environment, book on to one of our beginner workshops to learn the ropes!