Thanks to a sewing machine, we can easily sew fabric and materials together with a thread. They emerged in the first Industrial Revolution as an invention aimed at reducing the manual sewing work amount necessary for a clothing company to function. Since then, they have enhanced the effectiveness and productivity in the clothing industry to a large extent. Now, they are commonly used not only at factories but at homes as well. Modern sewing machines have been automated to let the fabric smoothly glide in and out without the necessity of using such accessories as separate needles and thimbles.
If you are passionate about sewing, or you simply appreciate the possibility to make some clothing amendments quickly and conveniently, you may be interested in buying a sewing machine to use on your own. However, there are so many models with various features available on the market nowadays that it seems very difficult to pick the most suitable one for you.
To make it a little bit easier, we have prepared a guide on choosing a sewing machine. Here you will learn more about various kinds of those devices and the criteria you should take into consideration. When you know what you need to look for, you can proceed to our buyer’s guide on the best sewing machines to select a specific model and buy it.
Types of Sewing Machines
For a start, you should know how we divide sewing machines and what are the characteristics of each type. Let’s begin!
Mechanical Sewing Machine
A mechanical machine is equipped with a foot pedal and a switch for turning it on and off. It does not have too many features – just a few simple stitches to choose from. Nonetheless, this device allows you to set the stitch length and width easily by turning the dials and knobs. It is most commonly used for mending ripped clothes or carrying out straightforward sewing projects (like skirts or T-shirts). It is not extremely precise, but due to its simplicity, low price, and easy maintenance, it is often recommended as a good sewing machine for beginners.
The Singer Classic 23-Stitch is our favorite mechanical sewing machine.
Electronic Sewing Machine
Thanks to an electronic sewing machine, you can sew with higher precision and apply many decorative stitches. What is more, such a device is typically enhanced with an automatic needle threader and can even have an LCD screen allowing you to track the amendments you are making.
If you choose one of the most recommended electronic sewing machines, it will provide you with high speed and effectiveness, as well as some more advanced features. For example, it may allow you to create your own embroidery designs and apply buttonhole stitch styles. Electronic machines are also usually durable and suitable for carrying out heavy-duty projects.
However, they are usually more expensive than mechanical machines and require more professional maintenance.
Computerised Sewing Machine
If you want to sew with a really high-tech device, you can buy the best computerised sewing machine. Such a product can often be connected to the internet or plugged into a computer, to download any pattern you need. Also, it has an impressive capacity of stitches, reaching 50-200, and can deal with very difficult fabrics.
A computerised sewing machine is usually big and has many different needles and spool spinners. It will allow you to add various colours of threads while working on embroidery, quilting, sewing, smocking, and more. They can save you a lot of time because they can speed up your workflow significantly. Moreover, they are even more heavy-duty than electronic sewing machines, so if you want to make a demanding, high-end piece of clothing, such a modern device may make it much easier for you.
Interestingly enough, some advanced models have a useful feature called an autopilot stitching mode allowing the machine to automatically control the thread tension, the stitch strength, and the number of stitches per minute.
Despite all the advantages those devices have, they are not the most suitable sewing machines for beginners. They are designed for professional work, and it may take a while to learn how to use them properly and use all the sewing, embroidery, and other features. But when you familiarize yourself with it, it can do wonders!
The Brother FS40 Electronic Sewing Machine is our recommendation for the best computerised sewing machine.
Embroidery Sewing Machine
As the name suggests, an embroidery sewing machine has been designed for creating different patterns of embroidery on fabrics. They can be electronic or have an embroidering presser foot attached to it.
Also, there are many kinds of such sewing machines. For basic embroidery, it is recommended to choose a zig-zag stitch model with a relatively big variety of patterns. However, there are also more advanced devices allowing you to import even more designs thanks to their USB port. It is the right machine for everyone who wants to specialize in embroidery and use equipment that has been created entirely for that purpose.
Overlock Sewing Machine (Serger)
An overlock sewing machine, also referred to as a serger, makes it possible for you to overlock or seam fabrics. To put it simply, those machines are designed to join or sew the edges of fabric together. What is more, you can also edge a single fabric for functional or decorative purposes. It is commonly used in, for example, lingerie production (for elastic seaming or hemming) and garment industries (for edging napkins). Apart from that, overclocking is essential for preparing pillow covers, edging curtains, and many other kinds of decorative crafting.
The most significant element of an overlocker is its in-built cutter. Thanks to this blade, such a sewing machine can cut the uneven edges of the fabric. The number of available stitch patterns can vary because they depend on the number of threads available (usually from one to five). To make it better adjusted to your needs, you can modify the stitch length and width in overlock sewing machines.
The Brother M343D is our favorite overlocker.
Quilting Sewing Machine
Buying a sewing machine designed particularly for quilting can be very helpful for people planning to make large quilts. Thanks to its long arm, thicker volumes of fabric can pass through the machine needle. Having such a device, you will be able to sew through greater amounts of fabrics put together. The feed of a quilting machine allows you to make sure that the device is steady and that the fabric will be held in place for precise, even sewing. If you decide to buy the best quilting sewing machine, it will be suitable also for general sewing, so you will be able to carry out various projects while working with it.
Additional Criteria for Choosing the Best Sewing Machine
When planning to buy a new sewing machine, you should know not only the types of those devices but also take into consideration some other vital criteria. Have a look at some of them explained below!
One of the essential features of your new machine should be the most suitable stitches, adjusted to your needs and preferences. It is definitely helpful to change the width and length of your stitches, and typically, new machines have such a feature, but there are also some cheap, very basic models without it available on the market.
The most popular stitches are as the following:
- The straight stitch. You can adapt this type of stitch from 0 to 5 mm. With the 0 setting, you can secure stitches, and with the 5 mm one, you can baste and gather. Most often you will probably work with the 2.5 mm length, but you will be able to adjust it at any time. There are a lot of possibilities to use your machine.
- The stretch and the knit stitch. These features will prove useful for projects that require sewing with knits. With both of them, you will be able to stretch the knits after you sew them.
- The zig-zag stitch. It is a back-and-forth stitch useful when a straight stitch is not enough. For example, you can use it to reinforce a buttonhole. Usually, you can adapt its width and length.
- The buttonhole stitch. To be honest, it is pretty similar to the zig-zag option, but you will encounter this name when it occurs automatically. In most cases, if a sewing machine has a zig-zag feature, the buttonhole one can also be found.
- The utility stitches. These features are excellent if you need to additionally secure your sutures.
- The blind hem stitch. With this option, you can apply barely visible hems on skirts and pants.
Before you start looking for your first sewing machine (or simply a new one), you need to settle the maximum cost you can afford. Bear in mind that the prices can start with 2-digits and end with even 5-digits.
Buying a sewing machine within the 2-digits price range means that you are likely to get a low-quality product that will miss many vital options and is bound to break quickly. It will end up with you having to spend additional time and money to find a new device. It is recommended to save up for some longer time and buy one of the machines from more renowned brands.
If you do not mind spending a 3-digits sum, it will be easier for you to find a low-cost model produced by famous manufacturers. Even though they may be lighter, have fewer options to choose from, and likely to have some plastic-made elements, they will be worth their price, especially if you are still a beginner.
In the case of a 4-digits budget, you will be able to select from an amazingly wide range of possibilities when it comes to the available needle or thread numbers, and many other different features.
Accessories and Additional Features
The machine price is often highly affected by the number of available features and accessories. Here you have some examples of the most important ones:
- Needle position adjustment. You will find this feature in almost every premium machine, but some simpler models also have it. It allows you to pass the needle on the right or left and proves useful when dealing with, for instance, a zipper.
- Needle up/down. With this feature, you can hold the needle in either the up or down position. As a result, it will be easier for you to turn and rotate the fabrics.
- Needle threader. This option depends on the standard of a particular machine. In cheaper models, it will be just semi-automatic, while in premium machines you will have it fully automated.
- Automatic thread cutter. As the name suggests, you will be able to use such an option to cut the thread automatically with your machine.
- Adaptable speed control. If you are a beginner, it will be fantastic to learn how to sew by starting at a slow speed, and then gradually make it faster as you gain more experience using your machine.
- Free arm. This detachable element will make it possible for you to sew sleeves or other narrow elements.
- Knee lifter. Such an option allows you to raise the presser feet while your hands are gripping the fabric. It is especially helpful when dealing with sharp corners.
- Lighting. When you are sewing, you need to be able to have a closer look at what you are producing and to make sure everything is going well. Hence, to save your eyes, it is crucial to have good lighting installed in your machine.
There are many different sewing machines available on the market nowadays. For this reason, it is not that easy to pick the one that is the best for you. You need to look at the price, machine type, available stitching options, and included features and accessories associated with the needle, lighting, free arm, and more.
If you are still at the beginning of your sewing journey, you can go for a simple mechanical machine that will not harm your budget too much, but at the same time provide you with all the most necessary options. However, it may also be an excellent idea to invest a little more and purchase an electronic model that will be more modern and have many useful options, allowing you to deal with different kinds of fabric. More advanced users will certainly appreciate high-tech computerised machines, as well as those designed for one particular purpose (like an overlock, embroidery or quilting machine).
To make a reasonable choice, it is most recommended to familiarize yourself with our comprehensive reviews of specific sewing machines and see if they are suitable for your skills, financial capabilities, and expected results.