Things to Consider Before Buying a Sewing Machine

This buying guide will provide things you should consider before getting a sewing machine.
This buying guide will provide things you should consider before getting a sewing machine. | Source

Buying Guide to Sewing Machines

A sewing machine is an investment. You can save money and do so much with a machine:

  • make alterations to fit your style and size and be stylish
  • lengthen the use of your clothes by mending them or making minor alterations, such as hemming and adjusting sizes
  • make homemade gifts for loved ones
  • spend rewarding time with your children and grandchildren making doll clothes
  • save money by making your own Halloween costumes
  • make your own clothes that fit you and look good on you, and not be beholden to what is sold at the stores
  • make useful items for your home, such as potholders and curtains, inexpensively
  • have fun making quilts and other crafts

Once you have decided that you do need one, you may be wondering, "What sewing machine should I buy?" Before you run out to the store, you should consider the places to buy a sewing machine, the quality of the brand, and the features that will work best for your sewing needs.

This high-quality used Singer sewing machine provides the basic features that everyone who sews needs. It is also a highly sought-after collector's item.
This high-quality used Singer sewing machine provides the basic features that everyone who sews needs. It is also a highly sought-after collector's item. | Source

New Machine

New machines can be bought from discount department stores such as Walmart and Target at reasonable prices. However, these machines are the high quality name brands, and you can return the machine if you are satisfied with it within the return policy. However, you will not find support from the store in terms of training in how to use it, or maintenance. The store will probably also not have a lot of accessories to help add functionality to your machine.

Sewing machines can also be purchased at stores that specialize in them. Some quilt stores and sewing stores, such as Joann's, also offer them. These stores are recommended for beginners, since they will be able to provide training and answer your questions about how to use one. They will also likely stock accessories and can help you find the ones that fit your machine. In addition, they will be able to refer you to people who can repair or provide routine maintenance for your machine to keep it in good running condition over the long term.

Places to Buy a Sewing Machine

One of the most important decisions you can make is to decide where to buy your sewing machine.

Used Machine

You can buy a used one from a thrift store, auction, yard or estate sale, or from a friend. There are also antique stores and even stores that specialize in selling used sewing machines. You can get a quality machine from these places, often at reasonable prices, but you take the risk that the machine has issues and may need repair and maintenance before you can use it.

Another option to try is eBay, which will sometimes has really good deals on used, old and antique sewing machines.

This is a good option for people who will not be using the machine very often, and are familiar and comfortable with doing repairs. You can save some trouble by trying to sew with it before you buy it, but some issues may not be evident until you have run the machine for some time.

Which brand has the highest quality sewing machines?

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Quality of the Brand

The quality of the brand is a very important consideration. Singer used to be a very high quality brand. If you want to get a used sewing machine, depending on its age, Singer is a quality, durable machine. I bought a Kenmore, which was made by Singer, 24 years ago and it is still going strong after heavy use. The Singer brand, however, is no longer considered to be a quality brand. While I am sure they are working on regaining their quality, their reputation still endures.

Today Janome, Viking, Brother have higher reputations of quality than Singer. You want your sewing machine to last a long time, and finding a quality brand will give you a better chance of longevity.

You can find other brands that are much cheaper at the department stores. I bought a Shark EuroPro from Target that had an issue within the warranty period. I regrettably chose to get it repaired instead of returning it, and had to pay to ship it to New York, even though the repair was free. When it was returned, it worked fine for about a month. It was an expensive lesson to look into the quality of the brand, to read the reviews of previous purchasers, to know the return policy, and determine the long term repair and maintenance strategy ahead of time.

Types of Sewing Machines

I like to break the types of sewing machines into three types, depending on the types of bells and whistles it includes.

Basic or Mechanical Sewing Machine

Even though the basic model runs on electricity for the motor, it runs mechanically with a sewing wheel, a belt, and knobs. The basic machine has a good running stitch, and can reverse. It generally also includes a buttonhole and zigzag stitch. It is good for sewing clothes, costumes, and repairing a hem or adjusting a size of a garment. The old Singer shown above is a basic machine. Basic machines tend to be less expensive than their fancier counterparts, but are actually a very smart buy, because most people don't use the extra features that they purchased. When buying a basic machine, do not look at the price alone. Be sure to check for the quality of the machine. A sturdy machine that has more metal than plastic parts will last much longer, and will be worth the extra price.

While a mechanical machine can be taken to a specialist for maintenance, these are fairly easy to maintain yourself. In addition, since the machines are fairly simple, the repairs for them are likely to be easier than for the other types of machines.

This electronic sewing machine comes with additional stitches that are not available in the basic model.
This electronic sewing machine comes with additional stitches that are not available in the basic model. | Source

Electronic Sewing Machine

An electronic machine has more features than the basic machine. It will often include many different kinds of stitches. It may have an automatic needle threader, thread cutter, the ability to lift the presser foot with your knee, and an option to always end with the needle down. Some will even provide some alphabet stitches.

This type of machine is recommended for people who make a variety of creative things, and like to try out more options. You can add designs to already made garments or embellish a towel or blanket. The more bells and whistles, the likelihood is that the price will be higher. Also note that these machines may require regular maintenance by a specialist.

However, be careful since some manufacturers will use cheaper material to be able to provide extra features. I recommend focusing on quality more than the extra features. While it is easy to be wowed by the extra features, think about how often you will really use them before paying extra for them.

This computerized sewing machine automatically sews embroidery designs onto the hooped fabric.
This computerized sewing machine automatically sews embroidery designs onto the hooped fabric. | Source

Computerized Sewing Machine

A computerized machine has even more features than the electronic machine. It will often include many different kinds of stitches. It may provide more guidance about what type of foot to use on the machine, and recommendations on the stitch width and length. At the top end, a computerized machine can even be programmed to embroider designs automatically onto fabric. Since there are so many computerized parts, these machines tend to be more sensitive to bumps and falls, so you need to be gentler with them. They also may require costly specialized repair and maintenance.

A computerized sewing machine is for people who have a lot of experience with sewing machines, and is ideal for people who sew for a living. These are more expensive, but also provide many more features than the basic or electronic models.

Required Features of a Sewing Machine

Before buying your sewing machine, there is one more thing to consider. Now is the time to think about the features that you absolutely must have in your sewing machine. If you think about them before you go to the store, you will be less likely to get wowed by all those extra bells and whistles. You will also be able to make sure that the machine you choose has the features you want.

Some examples of features you may wish to consider are:

  • straight and quiet running stitch
  • ease of making button holes
  • knee lift pressure foot
  • needle down position
  • ease of changing bobbins
  • lighting
  • ease of threading the machine
  • automatic needle threader
  • bobbin winder
  • weight, size, and portability
  • built in free arm for sewing cuffs and hems
  • type and number of stitches
  • alphabet stitches
  • accessory feet that come with the machine
  • whether other accessories will fit on the machine
  • ability to customize embroidery designs

Sewing Machine Buying Tips

Sewing machines can be pricy, and you want to make sure it will last you a long time, and meet your sewing needs for a long time. When buying a machine it is important to consider where you purchase it, the quality of the brand and the machine, and the features that you will use for the type of sewing that you do. Focus on the quality of the machine instead of falling for all the fancy stitches and features that you will never use.

Once you have narrowed down your choices, check out their review on Consumer Reports, and read other customer reviews on the machine. Then you can finally go to the store. Be sure to test out the machine at the store so that you can see whether it feels sturdy, smooth, quiet, comfortable, and easy to use.

© 2012 Shasta Matova

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Comments: "Things to Consider Before Buying a Sewing Machine" 25 comments

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Mama Kim, I am glad that your Singer is working well for you.


Mama Kim 8 profile image

Mama Kim 8 3 years ago

You brought up a lot of great points to think about before purchasing a sewing machine. I have a singer and LOVE it... I make everything from dresses to curtains and it always gets the job done hassle free. Fantastic hub, voting a bunch!


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks GoldenThreadPress - that's true. you wouldn't think of machines as being trendy, but they are! A lot has to do with the quality of the workmanship in building the sewing machines, and some of it has to do with the features and design of the machine itself.


GoldenThreadPress 4 years ago

I love to sew, too, and found your Hub informative. It is interesting how sewing machines, just like any other item, has its "in" manufacturer and those that go "out-of-style," no pun intended.--Deb


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for your visit and comment ElleBee. I've heard this about the quality of fabric as well. You would think that the manufacturers would want to protect their reputation and change the brand name at least. We do need to be careful where we buy our sewing machine.


ElleBee 4 years ago

Interesting article. I took a sewing class recently,and was told to definitely avoid the machines from Walmart or similar stores! Apparently companies like Singer that sell machines in Walmart have two different "levels" of machine - the machine they sell in sewing and sewing machine stores, and the ones they sell in Walmart which are typically made with more plastic and are of lower quality.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks GTF, I hope you find the right balance and get a new sewing machine that meets your needs, is expandable for the long run, and has a good sturdy construction so that it will last you a long time. I think taking your time to decide is a superb idea.


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

Useful and voted up tips! Good hub. I have a very standard sewing machine for my quilts and taught myself how to use it. When I buy my new one I'm hopefully going to get something fancier but it will take a long time to make up my mind.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Ruchira, Jamie, and Jaye. I use my sewing machine regularly, so I consider it an investment, but I do know that there are people who don't use theirs at all. It is a matter of deciding how and whether you will use one. You might want to think about what you enjoy about sewing, and try to find the kind of project that does that best. I personally have difficulty with sewing clothes - they have big pieces and curved seams - but quilting with its small seams and mostly straight seams fits my style exactly.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Gail. What sewing machine did you get, what must have features did you look for, and most importantly, are you happy with it?

Thanks Pat. I am glad you were able to find a machine that you are happy with. Buying from the internet from a major store is very smart - you can get support from the store, but can have it delivered to your home! I am glad that the telephone consultation is available for you.

Thanks Rose for your compliment and visit.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

I decided, after trying to sew when I was younger (including choosing some difficult-to-do projects), that in order to have good results one must have a certain talent for sewing...or at least, enjoy the activity enough to develop the requisite skills. I cannot raise my hand "yes" to any of those things, so my sewing machine sits covered and unused. I admire those who do have the talent, skills and enjoyment for sewing well. Voted Up++

Jaye


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

Wow.. this is a great hub with lots of info about sewing machines... I've always loved them since way back when I was just a little one and my grandma made me a pair of knickers -I got to pick out the material,that was so exciting for me! Right now, I have an old 50's singer in a beautiful cabinet and here a while back I bought a used Singer Ingenuity but I've yet to get sewing on either one of them. The computerized one needs a tune up I think and I've not been able to figure out the 50's one yet.. though I was told it worked when it was given to me. Thank you for sharing this :) Voting up, useful!


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

Sewing machines have come a long way and they are so trendy and useful. I would love to own one someday.

My mom has a singer sewing machine. It's old but still does wonders when used :)

Voted up as useful


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This is such a great comprehensive resource for both novice and experienced sewers! Thank you.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 4 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Both of us Patricias have bought sewing machines in the last few years. Tricia (the other Patricia) bought hers first, and so I was able to learn from her experience. She found that it was very difficult to adjust the tension on her machine, so I made sure to check that out.

Also, I wanted to sew heavy curtains with my machine, so I knew that I needed one that was capable of handling thick/heavy fabric.

I looked up details of machines that I thought might be suitable, and then went to stores to look at them before making a decision.

I purchased mine from a major store, but on the internet and had it delivered to my home. The store has been helpful and provided advice on the telephone on one occasion.

I chose an expensive machine, but am satisfied that it has given (and will continue to give) good value.

This is an interesting hub - voted up and sharing.


Gail Meyers profile image

Gail Meyers 4 years ago from United States

Another well written, informative hub! I just purchased a sewing machine not so long ago, but this is a helpful and comprehensive guide to choosing the right one. Voted up and useful.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for your comment DzyMsLizzy. It is possible that he was recommending a serger for the project that you were working on. The needle down feature is something that not a necessity, since as you pointed out, you can do it manually, but it can come in handy if you do a lot of quilting, especially free motion, with lots of stops and starts. I tend to forget to keep the needle down and wind up getting slipped stitches.

Thanks Aurelio, sometimes it helps to read about topics that are out of our comfort range so we can learn something new.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

You just come up with the most interesting topics. Too bad that I don't sew, otherwise, I'd find your hub quite helpful. But I'll vote it Up and Useful anyway.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

Yes, I thought it was a type of machine, rather than a brand, as well, but the guy at the sewing machine place indicated that they made other types. He may not have said "serger" but I thought he did....maybe some manufacturer picked up the type to use as their brand?

(I find it easy enough to simply turn the hand-wheel to leave the needle down if I need to turn something...I wouldn't need that as an automatic feature.)


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Terrye. I hope you get your sewing machine this year. If I were you, I would choose the one I want, and present that to him, so he doesn't wind up choosing the wrong one!


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Ms Lizzy, that Singer was a workhorse, and continues to be. The needle down position is useful for quilters. We use it to readjust our quilt before quilting some more. Your Viking sounds like something that has a lot of bells and whistles but winds up breaking down more often. Sometimes a simple is better! A serger is a different type of sewing machine, and not a brand name.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for your visit, comment, vote and share Paula. I have often done that - been impressed with the results of a poll only to find that I was the only one that voted. Usually once other people have voted, I find that I may not have picked the most popular one. I am glad that you found a machine that works best for you. I sew a lot too - quilting competes with genealogy, and now hubbing as my favorite past times. Work is what I do when I can fit it in. :)


TToombs08 profile image

TToombs08 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

This is awesome! I've been asking Hubby for a sewing machine since our first anniversary and he STILL hasn't gotten me one. This year, for Christmas, I'm printing this out and pinning it to his butt. Maybe he'll get the hint THIS year. :) Voted up and sharing.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

Good points. The antique Singer treadle-operated machine you showed brought me back to my childhood. My mother had one of those. Non-electric, treadle-operated (good workout for the legs!) and it sewed a forward-only running stitch. If you wanted to reverse, you had to manually turn the hand-wheel backwards. It was easier to just cut the thread and hand-knot it.

I'm not sure what would be the point of a machine that ends with the needle in the down position--you have to raise it to remove the fabric, anyway--and most machines, if you sew off the end of the material, will provide you with a nice jam-up of thread in the bobbin compartment.

I have a Viking, it does a few things like zig-zag width options, stitch length adjustment and buttonholes, and it's 'electronic' which means it's supposed to sew through bulky seams (like jeans) without stalling. Eh. It sort of does.

But, high-end brand that it was supposed to be, it spends more time being repaired for stupid little things than my basic Kenmore that I got to "replace" it one while when I didn't have time to wait on repairs. (Of course, that was before the economy fell apart...)

This latest trip to the repair shop, the fellow said that Viking USED TO BE a good machine, but that now, he recommends Sergers...and they do make some that don't do that fancy 'serge' stitch...Well, at this point, I'm NOT buying any more new machines. (I've never heard of "Janome.")

I used to sew a lot when my kids were growing up, both to make clothes and craft items. Now, they mostly get used for mending. I'm really not that crazy about sewing.

Voted up, interesting, useful, and shared. (No 'too late' button! ;-) )


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

LOL....I voted on the best brand of machine and thought, "Oh wow....everyone agrees with me!" and then realized, I'm the ONLY one at the moment.!!.....I have a Janome and I love it.....LOVE it. The machine is most important to me.....I mean, what it does, ease of use, durability, least maintenance or repair....I sew A LOT. It's my 4th favorite thing to do after, hubbing, reading & relaxing...(Hey, I did my Hard Time, I'm retired!! lol)

This hub is loaded with terrific and accurate info...You either like to sew too and know your stuff or you did some great research...either way...it's... UP!! & shared.

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