Hey there. So, you want to start sewing but you’re not sure where to even begin? Does sewing machine shopping overwhelm you? No worries. Here are a few things to consider when shopping for that perfect machine.
First, consider what you will be using the machine for? Are you making garments? Piecing quilts? Quilting quilts? Next, decide on a budget. Sewing machines are a lot like cars, in the sense that you can buy a simple compact model that gets the job done or you can buy a fancy expensive model with lots of bells and whistles. What is important to you?
Now, let’s talk about stitches. Some machines come with hundreds of stitches, and some come with one – a simple straight stitch. Regardless of what you are planning on using the machine for, it’s safe to say that most people use the same two stitches most of the time. Those two stitches are the straight stitch and the zigzag stitch. Both stitches are used in quilts, garments, bag-making, mending, etc. It would be wise to consider a machine that offers both of those stitches.
Do you need hundreds of stitches? Maybe. Maybe not. Many sewists do use those extra stitches. You may not know now if you would ever use those unique stitches, but as you grow and improve your sewing skills, you may wish one day that you had them. If a machine with hundreds of stitches is in your budget, go for it. Otherwise, just having a basic straight stitch and a nice zig-zag stitch will take you far.
Will you be traveling with your machine? Perhaps, you would like to take it to a class or workshop? Be sure to check the weight of the machine before you purchase. Sewing machines range in weight. Be sure to pick one that you can lift out of a carrying case and onto a table.
Most of the machines on the market these days offer built-in lighting, however some have brighter lights than others. If your eyes do best with bright lighting, be sure to test out your machine lighting. If you find a sewing machine that you like but feel as if the light is not bright enough, there are LED accessory lighting kits available to add to any sewing machine.
Garment sewers will want to be sure to buy a machine that has an open, or free arm. This is simply a piece of the flat sewing surface, or deck, that is removable. This allows you to slide a narrow sleeve or pant leg under the needle.
Throat space is the amount of space between the right of the needle and the machine body. Throat space determines how much fabric you can push through the machine. If you are planning on quilting with your sewing machine, consider buying the largest throat space you can afford. The larger the throat space, the larger the quilt that can be easily quilted on your machine.
What are feet and why are they important? A “foot” attaches to the needle shank of a sewing machine. There are many different types of feet – zipper foot, buttonhole foot, and many more. The two most important feet to a quilter are the walking foot and the ¼” foot. If you are planning on piecing quilts with your machine, be sure that these two feet come with your machine or can be purchased separately. The walking foot allows you to sew thicker projects. This is especially perfect for bag making or for quilting. The ¼” foot allows you to guide your fabrics through while obtaining a ¼” seam allowance. Almost every quilt pattern uses a ¼” seam allowance, so this foot is extremely helpful if you plan on piecing quilts.
Some “bells and whistles” that are nice to have are an automatic needle threader, adjustable speed control, needle positioning, automatic thread cutter, and knee lifter. The automatic needle threader comes in many varieties and all of them are very handy for the sewer whose eyes have trouble threading that small sewing machine needle. This feature does the work for you. The adjustable speed control allows you to adjust how fast or how slow you sew. It regulates the foot pedal and is very handy when sewing something that requires very slow stitches. The needle positioning allows you to slightly move your needle either to the right or to the left. This is useful when perfecting your ¼” seam allowance. The automatic thread cutter is a real time-saver and cuts the thread for you at the end of every seam. No reason to pick up your scissors when you have this feature! And finally, the knee lifter is a metal arm that hangs down from the machine and is positioned next to your knee while sitting. When you are ready to end your seam or if you need to pivot your fabric, you simply tap the knee-lifter with your knee and the presser foot of the machine will raise so that your fabric is free. This saves time and your hands can stay on your fabric, instead of pushing buttons.
The final point that you need to consider when buying a new sewing machine is where will you buy it and do they offer a warranty? Local shops usually offer lessons and can spend some time with you while you get to know your machine. Trusted internet sites also offer some support and warranties as well.
Sewing machine shopping can be very exciting and fun. Now that you know the basics, you are sure to find the right machine for you!