I went through this just a few years ago, and even though I am an accomplished seamstress, I found the abundance of machines out on the market to be mind boggling. I’ve often wondered what new sewers go through in trying to find a machine.
If you’re like me, by the time you’ve made up your mind to get a new machine, you want it NOW! So, the advice I’m about to give is hard, but you won’t be sorry if you do it… Take your time!
Go to the sewing machine sections on and read as many reviews as you can to get a good feel of what machine is consistently highly rated.
Think about what kinds of features you just can’t live without. I know for myself, I wanted a machine that did consistently good buttonholes. That was the feature that I was most picky about.
How does the bobbin get wound… do you have to take it out of a case to wind it, or is it one that you can refill in place? I personally prefer the ones that you have to wind at the top of the machine as you give up a bit of quality to get the other feature.
Which feet are offered with the machine, and is there one particular one that you can’t live without? Like the walking foot for instance. Try to find a machine that you like that includes that as part of the package. Barring that, negotiate to get it included in the price. After market feet can be quite expensive with some models. My walking foot set me back $120.00!
After you have thought about everything that you want and need in a machine, go to a store that sells the brand that you want. Go there with a maximum amount you are willing to spend (in your head). Then have them demonstrate the machine. And don’t be afraid to sit down and try it out! If they won’t let you do that, find another dealer!
What kind of buttonholes does the machine do? Does it take a lot of setup time or are they built into the machine? Are the buttonholes consistent? The buttonhole feature will sway me toward or away from a certain machine.
Honestly, the first machine that did a flawless buttonhole is the one that I bought (after having looked at at least 10 different models). I feel that you can tell a lot about a machine by the buttonholes it does. Because a buttonhole is made up of a lot of little stitches put together (called a satin stitch) you can tell whether or not you are going to get uniform stitching even in your regular sewing. Is the bobbin thread even as well? If it is, then the tension (the even pull of the top and bottom thread) is good and being in a display model at the store gets higher points in my book because it takes a lot of abuse and if the tension still stays good, then it has passed the test.
Also remember that salespeople will almost always try to sell you more machine than what you need. Don’t get caught up in this. Remember that they are the experts in selling techniques, but you are the expert in knowing what you need.
If you are just beginning to sew, then you may want to think of purchasing a used sewing machine from someone who has outgrown their old machine. Sew a bit with it, then upgrade from there when you are ready and know what you like and dislike in a machine, or what you would like that the machine doesn’t have.
Happy hunting! If I can answer any other questions that you may have after reading this review, feel free to indicate that in the comments, and I will do my best to help you.