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Sewing Machine Buyer’s Guide

sewing machine buyers guide featured imageWhat Is The Best Sewing Machine For You?

Well, in all honesty, that depends on you. What is best for a novice will not be best for someone with a high skill level. It also depends on what type of sewing you will do. What works for basic repairs and hemming will not be enough for someone who does quilting, bedspreads or drapes. That is why we have written this Sewing Machine Buyer’s Guide.

You also want to take into consideration that your skill level and the type of projects you want to embark on may increase over time. So the right sewing machine for you might need to include the expectation of growth.

You can get a good basic sewing machine for under a couple of hundred bucks. This type of machine will usually satisfy the novice and hobbyist sewist.  You might need to spend more for a more complex sewing machine that has a lot more programmed functions. A top of the line model can cost you upwards of a thousand dollars or more.

We at Taber’s Best Reviews want to help you make wise decisions in your purchases. That is why we have written this sewing machine buyer’s guide. We want to make buying a new sewing machine easy for you.

That is important in today’s world. The latest sewing machines have many features. They can tell you the proper pressure foot, determine the right thread tension and stitch length. They can give you options on the sizes of buttonholes and sew it automatically; Then when you are done, they can cut the thread for you as well.

Types Of Sewing Machines

There are three basic types of sewing machines. They are mechanical, electronic, and embroidery/specialty sewing machines. We will give you a brief overview of each type of device.

Mechanical Sewing Machine

antique sewing machineA mechanical sewing machine is just a primary machine without any real computer or programming included. You usually have to thread them manually, and you have to set the controls of them by hand. They have a foot pedal that controls the speed the machine sews, but at least they are not like the antiques where you had to rock the pedal to control the speed mechanically. They are electrical but just not fancy.

Electronic Sewing Machine

Unless you are just going to do some clothing repairs or hems on garments, we recommend that you purchase at least an automated sewing machine. These machines can automate most of the monotonous tasks that are performed.

They usually have a LED screen with touchpad control. These machines have many presser feet for challenges such as piping and topstitching. Many of them come with dozens if not hundreds of different programmed stitches from which to choose.

Embroidery/Specialty Sewing Machines

In addition to all the great features you will find in an electronic sewing machine, the embroidery/specialty machines come with some very unique features of their own. You will gain the ability to do monogramming and embroidery for projects such as garments, quilts, bedspreads, and pillowcases.

These machines hold a hoop under its needle and move the hoop in four different directions as the needle sews the pattern. You start by stretching the fabric over the hoop. You then secure the hoop under the needle. Designs are built into the sewing machine’s memory or purchased on SD memory cards, CDs, or data sticks, or they can even be linked from your computer.

A touchscreen or link to your computer lets you position the pattern and specify the colors for each design element. Often these machines allow you to resize, re-position and mirror patterns and give an audio signal to let you know when to change colors.

Features To Look For In A Sewing Machine

Sewing machine buyer's guideMost sewing machines, including the basic mechanical ones, can handle a variety of fabrics. The can be used on satin or denim or corduroy, without stretching or puckering the material or causing loose, loopy stitches. Having good lighting around where you are working is essential of course. However, there are a lot more features to consider. Here are some of the most important ones.

Automatic Buttonholer

Sewing a buttonhole can sometimes be a pain with turning the fabric and changing stitches. Now you can get an automatic buttonholer with many sewing machines. Some machines even allow you to insert the button into a slot on the machine so that the machine will sew a buttonhole to fit the button’s size correctly.

Needle Position

There will be many times where you will need a  feature that allows you to move the needle, and stitching line, from left to right, and to have the needle up or down when you stop. Making sure you have a machine that allows you to do this is essential.

Needle down position makes it easy to lift the pressure foot and turn a corner without a jump stitch.

Automatic Needle Threader

This feature pulls the thread through the eye of the needle and saves you from squinting and prevents frustration. I don’t know how many times I have missed the needle eye trying to thread a needle!

Feed-dog Adjustments

A feed-dog is the mechanism in a sewing machine that feeds the material under the needle. Some devices allow you to drop this mechanism below the sewing surface to do freestyle embroidery or darning.

Pressure Feet

Presser’s feet are designed for activities such as gathering and rolled hem, buttonholes, zippers and cording, blind hem and open toe, zigzag and more. You need to find out how many come with the sewing machine you are considering.

In a basic sewing machine, a multi-purpose foot lets you do straight and zigzag stitches. However, you will want a zipper foot and buttonhole foot at a bare minimum as well. An adjustable presser foot regulates how snugly the machine holds the fabric you are sewing, preventing puckering in fine light fabrics and stretching in knit fabrics. There are hundreds of specialty presser feet from which to choose.

Efficient Controls

Nothing is more frustrating than operating a sewing machine that doesn’t have the controls in the right place or are hard to adjust. Your new sewing machine should be responsive to slight pressure adjustments on the foot pedal, and not bind up or growl when thick sewing fabrics or multiple layers of material.

The machine controls should be easy to reach and manipulate with your free hand, and the symbols on the machine or LED display should be easy to read, especially for us with older eyes.

Sewing machines that have more room on the right side of the needle provide more space for fabric and your hands while sewing.

Machine Weight

If you are storing your sewing machine in a closet and hauling it out when you want to start sewing, look for a machine that’s easy to lift and has a handle on the top. Most importantly pay attention to how much the machine weighs. They can get heavy.

On/Off Switch

Pay attention to whether or not your machine will have a power switch. Some devices do not. This feature is especially important if you have children or clumsy adults in the house. If it doesn’t have a power switch the Sewing and Craft Alliance recommends that you plug your machine into a power supply that does have a power switch.

Speed Control

The speed control determines the pace at which fabric is fed through your sewing machine, enabling you to sew at a nice, steady tempo rather than stopping and starting. Check to see what type of speed control the machine you are considering has. Most have a foot pedal, but some have a slider bar on the machine that will control the speed as well.

Top-Load Bobbin

Today’s newer machines are different from older devices, in which you had to thread the bobbin in a hidden compartment. Today many machines now allow you to slide open a drawer and drop the bobbin in simply. A transparent cover lets you see when you are running low on thread.

Tension Adjustment

No, this is not a setting to help you get along better with your spouse. Instead, it helps you to change how tight the thread is. When it’s too tight it can result in wrinkled fabric; if the thread is too loose, the result is sloppy stitches.


The number of stitches varies wildly, from the basics, such as straight and zigzag, to decorative stitching. When shopping, verify the machine’s maximum stitch length and width. Many devices come with programmed stitch settings and will make hundreds of stitch patterns at the touch of a button.

Sewing Machine Buyer’s Guide Tips

Here are a few valuable tips when making your buying decision on your next sewing machine.

Tip #1 The Brands

Singer, Brother, and Kenmore (Sears) are long established, well-known brands, and Bernina, Husqvarna Viking, and Janome have gained popularity. Choose your brand wisely. Some brands have better customer service and warranties than others.

Tip #2 Check The Warranty

What does it cover, and what does it exclude? How long does it last? What things will void the warranty? Those are the types of questions to ask yourself before you believe the warranty. The important stuff is in the fine print.

Tip #3 The Repair Procedure

Nobody likes to think they will need to send his or her sewing machine in for repair but it happens. The smart shopper will check out what it takes to get their machine repaired. Usually, the manufacturer will send you to a repair center or the manufacturer’s system.

No matter who does the repairs, take a look at turnaround time, which can vary from days to weeks. Remember that repairs made by technicians who are not factory-authorized can void the manufacturer’s warranty. Moreover, keep your machine’s box and packaging, in case it needs to be shipped for repairs.

Final Thoughts

We honestly hope that this sewing machine buyer’s guide has been a help to you as you get ready to purchase your next sewing machine. If you are prepared to buy, you might want to check out our list of the best sewing machines for beginners, or our list of the best sewing machines for quilting. Also, you can check out our sewing machine reviews and informative articles like this buying guide below.

Duke Taber is the owner of 3 successful websites and is now taking his skill as a writer and using it to help non-profit organizations and leaders around the world.