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Guide to Buying a Sewing Machine

I get asked this and the questions below all the time so I thought it time I created a blog post

How much should I spend?

As with a camera or bike it’s always good to buy the best you can afford.  That being said there is really no need to be spending any more than €200 on a basic machine, unless you are intending to be a seamstress or professional textile designer. 
If you are buying for a complete beginner you should expect to pay at least €100 for a machine that will give you all the basic functions listed below.  I myself have several machines but continue to use a Toyota sewing machine that I bought nearly 20 years ago for €70 and it’s never caused me any problems.

What brand should I buy?

Some of the most popular brands would be Singer, Brother, Bernina and Janome.  For me if it does what you want who cares about the name.  However I am used to working with and fixing machines.  That being said I wouldn’t recommend own brands in some of the cheaper retail shops as many dealers will not fix/service them should something go wrong. 

What type of machine should I buy?

This, to me, is the most important question really.  Is the machine for general sewing i.e. craft sewing, basic clothes mending etc. or is it going to be for an advanced seamstress/dress maker/textile designer.  Please don’t be lured by 50+ decorative stitches and embroidery options for a beginner as you will rarely ever use them.   The basic stitches – straight stitch,  zig zag, over locker and button hole are all you need 99% of the time.  If you are an advanced sewer I would recommend going to a dealer where you can try before you buy and/or a trade show where you can speak directly to the sales reps for each brand and see demos. 

What are the basics I need?

  • ·         At least 10 automatic stitches.
  • ·         2 needle positions
  • ·         Automatic bobbin winding
  • ·         4-step buttonhole
  • ·         Zipper insertion
  • ·         Push lever reverse
  • ·         Clip-on feet
  • ·         Stitch pattern indicator
  • ·         Stitch length control
  • ·         Stitch width control
  • ·         Tension control

Most models come with a clear bag of accessories which include: Zigzag foot, zipper foot, buttonhole foot, button sewing foot, large screwdriver, seam ripper/brush, oil bottle, pack of spare needles, bobbins, seam guide, darning plate and spool holder.
Apart from that I would suggest going for a top loading bobbin.  It’s much easier for beginners.  I would also make sure that the machine has a free arm – this will be useful for all sorts of sewing projects.  Most new models do but it’s worth checking.

Final words of wisdom

Machines need to be used (like a car) to keep them in good working order.  There’s no point buying a machine and leaving it sitting in a box under the stairs because you’re afraid to use it.  I run Sewing Machine Basics workshops to help get you started.  Find out more on my website.

What are your tips on buying a sewing machine?  What would you say is or are must have feature (s) ?
 Let us know in the comment section below.

2018-11-08T19:00:46+00:00August 14th, 2013|Categories: guide, info, Sewing, workshops|


  1. Linda Lee Steaples 15/08/2013 at 5:21 pm

    I really think you covered everything I have ever looked for in a sewing machine I have 4 machines myself my latest was a embroidery machine my hubby got me for Christmas but I find myself using my old faithful Brother I have had for 20+ years. All the media hype makes us sewers think we need the "HIGHLY END" of everything on the market which is usually just as said "HYPE". thanks for sharing with us Linda Lee (just a sewing Mama & Granny

  2. I would agree with what you've said, I get asked this question a lot too and always give similar advice. I started sewing on a Lidl machine, and for the money I paid, it served me well a didn't owe me a thing when it packed it in. I have a Pfaff machine now and I always recommend them, they're a great brand. Just one thing I'd add – if you're buying a machine with the intention of quilting, try to get one which allows you to drop the feed dogs completely rather than cover them with a plate.

  3. Michelle Fallon 19/08/2013 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks for your commment Linda :O) Yes, we are always encouraged to go for the one with bells and whistles when all we need is the basics. Keeeeep stitching!

  4. Michelle Fallon 19/08/2013 at 3:06 pm

    Good point Sarah – same too for machine embroidery. :o)

  5. Crafted by Carly 11/09/2013 at 11:30 am

    What a great post! I'm thinking of upgrading some time soon, but I wouldn't have a clue what to look for. So, thank you for the tips….. 🙂

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