How to Choose a Sewing Machine? (Types, Brands & Features)

When you decide to buy a sewing machine, think about these features: price, types of needle threader, foot pedal style, speed, accessories, etc.

Many people will advise you that the most popular sewing machine brands are also the best. Some will even try to convince you that only one brand can truly provide superior quality, great value, and exceptional service — which is sometimes true, but not always!

By asking yourself few questions to decide what sewing machine you want will help you choose the machine with features you need to achieve high-quality and professional-like stitches:

What Is Your Budget?

Your budget should be the first thing to consider. If you have a small budget, then a simple machine with basic features is for you. However, if your budget is flexible, it’s worth going for a top-end model that includes all accessories and lots of useful extras — just in case.

What Types of Sewing Machine Do I Want?

Mechanical Sewing Machine

Mechanical sewing machine uses manually controlled knobs and dials to control the length and speed of stitch, while computerized machines can sew automatically.

Mechanical machines make it easier to understand the sewing process and can be very helpful when something goes wrong.

However, a mechanical machine requires experienced hand-eye coordination of needle control, or you’ll find yourself with dozens of stitches where you only wanted one. It takes some practice to master the technique and some patience while you work through it.

Computerized Sewing Machine

Computerized machines offer many automatic features, such as automatic bobbin threader, automatic buttonhole making, automatic tensioning, or adjusting the length of a stitch with the touch of a button and LED displays.

These automatic features can be helpful for beginner or special projects, but there’s a learning curve.

Specialized Machines

Some sewing tasks are more difficult on a standard machine, like heavy quilting, certain types of embroidery, or overcasting. Often you’ll find a specialized model designed to address these issues.

The most common is the walking foot machine, which is basically a straight stitch machine designed for industrial use. It has an additional feed mechanism that produces accurate seams in thick fabrics and multiple layers of fabric.

Embroidery Sewing Machine

Embroidery sewing machines are best for creating decorative needlework, patterns, and designs on fabric surfaces. They have a large embroidery bed that accommodates multiple layers of fabric.

They can also be used for quilting and sewing except for fine arts work. The stitches are varied in width and length and will create a better-finished look than a regular sewing machine.

Embroidery attachments are also available for regular sewing machines that allow you to make decorative designs on clothing with a seven-pointed star or other web-like design.

Serger/Overlock

Serger (also called overlock) works best on cotton knits. This type of sewing machine can hem, seam, and finish edges effectively.

The major difference between sergers and regular sewing machine is the differential feed. Serger machines use a differential feed, which means that the needles move faster than fabric in some parts (usually side to side).

This is why you can stitch elastic seams using a serger. The downside of this system is that it may eat up your fabric if you’re not careful; read your manual to do this properly.

Sergers are more expensive than a regular sewing machine and sometimes out of reach for many beginners. Also, serger machines often come with a steep learning curve, so make sure you’ve mastered your regular sewing machine before moving on to a serger.

Quilting Machines

Quilting machines are designed to sew through multiple large layers. Quilting machines even replicate hand stitching, for example, Sashiko or running stitch quilting. The most important factor to consider when you start shopping for a quilting machine is the stitch quality it produces.

A machine that uses a straight stitch can make a quilt in about an hour while using the optimal needle and presser foot. However, if you need to sew through multiple layers and place the quilt sandwich, you will be better off with a machine that uses a zigzag stitch.

Quilting machines are more expensive than serger sewing machines because they have a wider range of add-ons and capabilities a regular sewing machine doesn’t have. They have wider working space, and an extension table meant for bigger projects.

Some models are designed with a built-in walking foot, eliminating the need for an extra foot when sewing through several layers.

Also, quilting machines are often equipped with decorative stitches, which is an excellent way to add flavor and style to your quilt, especially when dealing with borders.

Hints and tips:

Every sewing machine needs to care for to keep those stitches precise and strong properly. Follow the care instructions given in the user manual, which can differ from brand to brand.

What Sewing Machine Brands Do You Prefer?

What Essential Features Do You Need?

A good sewing machine should have several basic features that help produce top-quality stitches. Here are some of the essential features to keep in mind when you shop:

Models with multiple stitches. Many sewing machines offer more than a dozen different stitches, making it easy for you to work on all kinds of projects like hems, seams, and decorative embellishments. The longer the list of available stitches, the better.

Automatic or manual needle threader. A needle threader is an important feature that makes the job of threading your machine’s needle much easier than what would be possible without one.

1-step buttonholer. 1-step buttonholer helps you create the buttonhole in one step. A buttonholer is an attachment for a sewing machine that automates the side-to-side and forwards-and-backward motions involved in sewing a buttonhole.

Top-loading bobbin (also known as a drop-in bobbin). A bobbin is a basic part of a sewing machine, and it is a plastic or metal wheel that fits underneath the needle plate of a sewing machine. And a top-load bobbin helps you easily replace thread without taking apart the entire casing and allows you to see at a glance when the bobbin needs more thread.

An automatic thread cutter. An automatic thread cutter can automatically cut the excess threads after sewing, which helps keep your work area looking neat.

Free arm. The free-arm feature (which allows you to sew around corners and necklines) is handy for sewing cuffs and collars and hems on trousers, sleeves, and blouses. It makes it easier the guide the fabric under the needle and makes it less likely you’ll catch other parts of the garment accidentally. Some examples of when to use a free arm are hemming sleeves and the bottom of pants.

Adjustable presser foot pressure. Adjustable presser foot pressure helps you achieve professional-quality stitches on multiple fabric types in a wide range of thicknesses.

Automatic speed control. Automatic speed control lets you set the maximum number of stitches that can be sewn per minute.

Drop feed. The most common type of feeding mechanism in a home sewing machine (and some industrial machines) is the drop feed, also known as the regular feed system. This method utilizes feed dogs underneath the foot to advance the fabric through the machine. By controlling how the material is fed through the machine, you can control the direction of the stitch and the length of the stitch [1].

Working area. Does the sewing machine have enough space for what you want to sew? Usually, the larger the machine, the better working space you will have.

Conclusion

Shop around and compare models of sewing machines thoroughly before buying. Don’t just rely on the brochure to decide what’s best for you: your requirements might differ from those of the average home sewist.

Your local sewing machine dealer may have helpful advice if he or she knows you are serious about purchasing a machine. Don’t forget to take along a piece of fabric to test stitch types, tensions, and threads.

Since there are many sewing machines to choose from, it can be difficult to determine which ones are right for you. To help with this issue, we’ve put together this in-depth buying guide that should hopefully make your decision a little easier.