Buy the Right Sewing Machine for You
The Basic Machine
The Essential Basic Features
Some things are always essential for successful sewing: good tension control and even stitching are always necessary. While machines are now available with hundreds of stitches, most sewing can be done with straight stitch, zig zag stitch, and a blind hem stitch. If you sew clothing, an automatic buttonhole feature makes your life easier.
If you plan to work with denim, home decorating, or drapery fabrics you will want to sew samples of heavy fabric on several machines to be sure they are powerful enough for heavy-duty sewing. You don't want to buy a machine only to find it cannot handle stitching a zipper into couch cushions or heavy jeans!
A knee lever that enables you to lift the presser foot while keeping both hands on your sewing project is essential for those who make quilts or work on other projects with many layers of fabric (such as wedding gowns.)
Cool Optional Features
Some features are nice to have if there is room in your budget for a more expensive sewing machine. An automatic one-step buttonhole is great when sewing shirts and shirtdresses. Those who make special baby clothes, christening gowns, or other heirloom sewing on fine fabrics will want stitches that imitate French hand sewing: pin stitch, featherstitch, and appliqué stitch for example. Decorative stitches, monogramming, and other machine embroidery features make it easy and fun to create gifts such as monogrammed sheets and fun children's clothes.
Features for Professional Sewing
The home sewing machine should handle most family sewing and mending. If you plan to sew professionally, however, consult with trained staff at a sewing center. Explain the type of sewing you want to do and ask for their recommendations. You may need a heavy-duty machine or an industrial model if you plan to do production sewing for sale. You may also ask for recommendations from a 4-H leader, American Sewing Guild chapter, quilting club, or your local Cooperative Extension Service.
It may surprise you to learn that many fine dressmakers in small shops use older, basic sewing machines. The more complicated a machine, the more time it takes to learn to use each feature. By selecting a machine that is as complicated as you need, but not a bit more, you can spend more time sewing and less time reading the manual or watching the instructional DVD that came with your sewing machine. Many sewing centers sell used machines as well as new machines. An older sewing machine can be a simple, sturdy, and budget-friendly option.