Saturday, March 09, 2013

How to choose a Sewing Machine…

I often get asked by interested crafters advice on which sewing machine to buy, or what features to look out for. So here goes…

I usually begin my advice by comparing sewing machines to cars: I'd be keen not to suggest one and only one model or even brand being the 'best' as there are so many factors to consider... There are many different styles or features that certain sewers prefer, or have got used to during their sewing life. So… my personal experiences have lead me to suggest the below – but please bear in mind this is very much my opinion…


I suggest that moderately heavy is usually better - you want the machine to stay in place on the table while the (possibly heavy curtain or large dress fabric?) project goes through the machine rather than drag the machine across the table. The 'lightweight' claim that a few make doesn't actually necessarily translate into a pleasureable sewing experience in my opinion, though it does potentially make storage marginally easier…

Also - you only really need a few functions. As long as the needle can go left and right (ie it can zig zag-and is also therefore able to insert zips) and it can maybe do a buttonhole or two, you will have plenty on there. Basic ‘feet’ options that you may find useful would be a zipper foot and a clear general sewing foot (so you can see where you’re going) as well as a button hole foot are good for starters. Extra options that you can purchase as they become of interest to your craft could include: overlocking, hemming, freeform embroidery and a walking quilting foot …You are unlikely to need computerised models that can embroider Shakespeare, so don't be readily convinced that you *may* need that in the future... It's unlikely and you will end up spending £100+ more than you need to!


Brands to look out for that I rate highly would be Janome, Brother and Toyota (the make that I have). is based in Borehamwood and are very helpful on the phone and/or their website is very slick. I would suggest not choosing a non-branded machine – ie a cheap and cheerful own-brand model – as services and replacement or supplementary parts will be more tricky to come by and will not necessarily translate into a long term value-for-money price. The machine that I have now, I have owned for 10 years and is still going strong. Services can cost about £50, so be prepared to spend about £150-£200 initially in the understanding that, with maintenance and regular service, you should hopefully have a machine that works happily for 25+ years. 

Here at Homespun Living, one of our most popular classes is 'Learn to Love Your Sewing Machine' and I have them available for booking once a month for the forseeable future… I’m keen for people to learn how to use a sewing machine on their own model. They generally work on the same basic principles, but to new stitchers, the details that each model use are easier to comprehend (and replicate at home without a tutor) on your own machine. The course is 3 hours long at the Courtyard Cafe in St Albans with classes limited to 5 people. We cover threading the machine and the bobbin, as well as tension, stitching and trouble-shooting your machine, finally working towards making an appliquéd cushion.


Do get in touch to chat about your thoughts, but the best advice, really, is to get your hands on a few models and brands and see what you prefer. Don’t be afraid of your machine – once you’ve parted with your pennies… Get stitching and you will happily get used to working together with your sewing machine to make and amend many and various projects in the future!

Happy stitching!

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