Beginner Sewing Machine Buying Guide – Choose the Best for Your Needs

We already talked about how to choose a sewing machine in this article. However, in this buying guide, we will discuss further what sewing machine you should choose to suit your project.

As we know, there are different brands and models available in sewing machines, including heavy-duty industrial sewing machines, standard home sewing machines, and portable travel sewing machines. Hence, when looking for the best sewing machine for your personal requirements, make sure that you pay special attention to its features, and you should also ask yourself few questions.

What Types of Sewing Machine Do I Need?

#1. Portable sewing machine. Portable sewing machines are often packaged with carrying cases so that you can bring them with you wherever you want to go. You can take them from place to place and sew practically anywhere you like. They’re very easy to use. Simply open it up, plug it in, and start sewing!

It’s essentially a smaller version of your standard home sewing machine. Portable machines are also often much less expensive than larger sewing machines, so if all you need is a simple machine for small projects, this might be your best bet.

However, the disadvantage of portable sewing machines is that you can’t take these machines with you when you’re traveling by plane or train unless you want to spend the money to check it in. It is possible to take a portable sewing machine on an airplane, but you need approval from your airline and a small fee (usually $50-$75).

Also, because they are more compact than standard home machines, these models can feel somewhat cramped when sewing larger projects.

#2. Self-Threading Sewing Machine. Self-threading sewing machines have what is called an automatic needle threader, which will make your life easy.

Sewing machines with automatic needle threaders are very popular among sewing enthusiasts because you do not have to take time threading the machine by hand. An automatic needle threader may sound like a simple invention that doesn’t make your life easier. But if you sew often or are just getting started on sewing, this is definitely one feature that will save you from headaches and keep frustration away.

If you have never used an automatic needle threader, it can be a little complicated to figure out at first. But once you figure it out, threading your machine becomes second nature.

#3. Intermediate Sewing Machines. Sewing machines can be broken down into three basic groups: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The beginner sewing machine is for those who are just beginning to learn to sew.

The intermediate sewing machine is for the time when you already know how to sew and want a better machine that can handle more complicated projects.

Advanced sewing machines sometimes overlap with industrial sewing machines as they are primarily used in industrial settings by their owners, who use them for commercial purposes.

For the large majority of sewers, an intermediate sewing machine is the way to go. They are more versatile and better suited for all sorts of fabrics and many different types of jobs.

The cost of an intermediate sewing machine is in the $400-$1,000 range, depending on whether it’s a computerized or manual model. High-end intermediate sewing machines can be more expensive.

#4. Quilting Sewing Machines. Quilting is one of the most interesting and rewarding forms of handwork, but sometimes it becomes boring because of its repetitive character, which requires multi-step sewing over a large area.

Sewing machines and quilting machines are very similar in designs and functionality, but the main difference is that quilting machines usually have a much larger work area.

Many sewing machines can do both sewing and quilting. But for quilters who want to use their sewing machine for sewing and quilting, they need to make sure that their machine is designed specifically for this purpose.

Also, quilting machines have a faster sewing speed than other sewing machines. The basic purpose of a quilting machine is to speed up tedious stitching work and make it easier for you.

An essential factor in deciding if your sewing machine is suitable for quilting or not is the maximum stitch length. The longer the stitches are, the better.

You will be using a straight stitch for quilting, so ideally, your stitches should be 2.5 to 3.0, which is basically 8 – 12 stitches per inch. But this is not crucial because you can use a longer or shorter stitch if you need to.

#5. Left-Handed Sewing Machine. A left-handed sewing machine is a mirror image of the right-handed models. This unit was specially designed for a small population (2%) of left-handed people.

The bobbin winds and loops to the left instead of to the right. A left-handed sewing machine would not make right-handed people ambidextrous, nor does it do anything for left-handed people.

It only accommodates a small group of individuals, and the design can be extremely frustrating if you are accustomed to using a regular right-handed sewing machine.

#6. Mid-Arm Sewing Machines. The mid-arm sewing machines are also described as semi-industrial or lockstitch sewing machines. They are popular as they have a very sturdy construction and work at an impressive speed. Thus, they are mainly used in heavy industries because of their capability to produce large volumes of products.

The mid-arm sewing machines are the most preferred choice of quilters. This is because they give a lot of freedom of movement to the quilter (as it’s a hybrid type) and offers similar affordability as compared to the larger long-arm quilting machine, with some extra perks that make them worth considering.

The mid-arm sewing machine is also significantly more expensive than the regular sewing machine. However, the cost is worth it because this machine offers enhanced stability and control over the sewing process. The best thing about these machines is that they are highly customizable. The quilter can change many parts of a mid-arm to suit his or her need.

The advantage of the mid-arm sewing machine over the long-arm sewing machine is the cost. Compared to the long-arm ones, these machines are less expensive and provide a similar stitching flexibility level. The disadvantages of the mid-arm sewing and quilting machine lie in its smaller throat space than that of the long-arm counterparts and the lesser number of stitch choices.

#7. Sit-Down Sewing Machine. A sit-down sewing machine is a machine that remains stationary. There aren’t many differences between a regular sewing machine and a sit-down sewing machine in some cases.

In a sit-down sewing machine, the working surface is fixed at one end of the machine, and it cannot be moved to any other position, which is different from conventional machines.

Rails are utilized in this method. When the quilt is placed on rails the fabric rolls and you can quilt without the need to tackle the heavy material. This way you can easily get your job of quilting done more easily.

The large throat space is the main feature that hobbyists look for in these machines. Both hobbyists and professional quilters have this type of machine on their wish lists.

#8. Free-Arm Sewing Machine. The free arm is a term used to define a certain component present inside most contemporary sewing machines of today. It is located right at the bottom of your sewing machine. And the main purpose of the free arm is to help you with hemming, cuffs, and sleeves, allowing you to work on these small areas much easier and can be used with extra feet for better results.

These attachments can be of great help to the users in accomplishing various tasks related to sewing and designing. Hence, the free arm is an integral part of most modern-day sewing machines. It is very much visible in a lot of sewing machines available today.

All in all, a free-arm sewing machine allows the user to work with garments, clothing, and other related items without any hassle.

#9. Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine. A heavy-duty sewing machine allows you to handle heavy and large fabrics easily. It is also suitable for projects that require precision sewing.

These sewing machines especially fitted with a heavy-duty motor and strong frame, are designed to handle heavier fabrics like denim, canvas, and also leather, among others.

Heavy-duty sewing machines are built to last longer and cost a little more than regular sewing machines. They also have extra features that suit industrial or commercial use.

These are the best sewing machines for beginners if they plan to get into many heavy-duty projects. Also, many quilters you can find in Facebook groups, and forums recommend buying a heavy-duty machine, especially if you are an advanced sewer, as this machine will make your task easier by allowing you to sew through multiple layers of fabric at once effortlessly.

This is also the best sewing machine for quilting, and also if you plan to do home-decor projects which need heavy fabrics, a heavy-duty sewing machine is a must. Furthermore, you can use it for simple alterations like hemming pants or skirts, drapes, draperies, and many more.

What Purpose Are You Going to Apply These Sewing Machines?

#1. Free Motion Quilting. Free motion quilting is a particular style of machine quilting which, when completed using dedicated equipment like the darning foot that allows you to move the quilt in all directions, creates an intricate design over your finished work.

Many quilters are daunted by the thought of free motion (or ‘freehand’) quilting. However, once you’ve tried it, you may find that it’s much easier to use than standard hand-quilting.

For free-motion quilting, you simply need a sewing machine that allows you to lower or disengage your feed dogs so that you can feed the fabric easily. Many modern machines can be used for free-motion quilting, but it’s also possible to use some older sewing machines without this feature.

A sewing machine for free motion quilting also requires a free motion foot, which sews freely in all different directions, through as many layers of fabric you can fit under the foot.

Unlike when quilting with your walking foot, the free motion foot allows you to stitch in any direction and use wavy lines, not just straight ones.

Most likely, you already have a free motion foot on your machine, but if not, it’s easy to find one at any sewing or quilting store.

#2. Making Your Own Clothes. Are you looking for the best sewing machines for making clothes? When going for a sewing machine for making clothes, a must-have option is the adjustable stitch length and width. This is a very important function that makes sewing convenient, and you can sew different types of fabrics with this function.

A shorter stitch length will be used for lightweight fabrics, while a longer stitch length can be employed for thick fabric. Adjustable stitch width is also very important to get the best sewing results.

Modern cloth-making sewing machines for making clothes often come with a whole range of presser feet. These are accessories that you can attach to your sewing machine, and they perform a specific function for a particular type of sewing work.

A hemming foot, an overcasting foot, or even a buttonhole foot can be used. You can also use a zipper foot or an all-purpose foot to work with different types of materials and embellishments. By having the right presser feet for your sewing machine, you will be able to eliminate the need for additional tools in your home sewing room.

#3. Making Buttonhole. There are various features to take into consideration while shopping for a reliable sewing machine for making buttonholes. These features include the number of stitches, buttonhole styles offered, sewing speed, and stitch length.

A good sewing machine for buttonholes should offer professional stitch quality and run consistently without causing even one stitch error or disruption in the thread tension. It should also be capable of making various types of buttonholes – plain, covered, and decorative.

These buttonhole sewing machines allow you to make more buttonholes in a wide variety of sizes and styles than using them. Since they are specialized machines, they can make the job easier and also considerably faster.

When you’re sewing your buttonholes with a dedicated buttonhole sewing machine, there is no need to worry about how deep the stitch needs to be or how wide the opening needs to be. These machines have a special mechanism that is all set and adjusted for making buttonholes.

#4. Hemming. The term for folding a raw edge under and stitching it down is hemming. When choosing a sewing machine for hemming, you want a machine with a built-in hemming stitch that’s simple to use and easy to adjust.

You want the stitching area to be large enough for folding thick edges under. You’ll certainly need a machine that is not also capable of making blind hems but also allows you to make topstitching and decorative stitches.

Sewers who are purchasing a sewing machine with hemming in mind will want to find a machine that can work with a wide range of materials.

The hemming machine’s presser foot must be strong enough to withstand frequent and long-term contact with thick fabrics. The machine should have a heavy metal casing that can effectively handle the heavy material being worked with.

What Fabric Types and Sizes Are You Going To Sew?

#1. Heavy Fabrics (denim, leather, canvas). What type of material you want to work with for your project is of utmost importance. If you want heavy fabric, like denim, you will certainly need a heavy-duty sewing machine.

Denim is a sturdy cotton twill fabric, typically blue, used for jeans, overalls, jackets, and other clothing. It is made from thick, heavy, and natural materials, meaning that you can’t handle well with it with a regular sewing machine. A lightweight machine, or a smaller sewing machine with less horsepower, can not stitch through the thick material and will break down.

Another material that is often used in sewing is leather, which is made from the hide of an animal. The most common hides come from bulls, cows, and sheep; however, there are many other animals that are used to make leather.

All leather is made by a process called tanning, which refers to the conversion of raw skin into usable material. This makes the leather fabric durable and heavy. To sew leather, you will also need a heavy-duty sewing machine.

Canvas. While the early versions of canvas were usually made of linen, throughout its history, the fabric has also been produced using flax, tow, and jute. Today it’s mostly made using linen or cotton, usually mixed with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to increase durability.

Canvas is a durable and heavy fabric that can be used to sew home decor, curtains, bags, accessories, and other decorative projects.

When sewing canvas, you can just use your regular sewing machine if it is just an occasional occurrence. However, if you want to sew this fabric regularly, then you should go for a heavy-duty sewing machine.

#2. Lightweight Fabric. Which is the best sewing machine for delicate, lightweight fabric? Many people assume that all machines are capable of handling most lightweight fabrics, but the truth is that they aren’t, which is why you need to make sure that they can.

Lightweight fabric can be made from cotton, rayon, linen, silk, polyester, and nylon. They can a stretchy knit or soft woven, but they are often found as chiffon, challis, lace, charmeuse, satin, and lining.

Sewing with lightweight fabric is a bit tricky because they don’t have any give and will stretch a lot on the bias. The worst thing is that they are slippery and can move a lot while you are sewing them.

Moreover, lightweight fabrics are more delicate and can easily break or tear. If they snag on something during the sewing process, you could end up with a tear in your garment.

When you plan to sew lightweight fabric, it’s important to find a machine that will feed materials properly without bunching or snagging.

If you’re planning on making a lightweight fabric garment, you should consider using a serger machine. The differential feed of a serger machine eliminates the stretching of knit fabrics and the puckering of lightweight fabrics.

You can sew lightweight fabric with a regular sewing machine, but the whole process is not as smooth as using a serger and will require more time.

If you use a regular sewing machine, make sure to use presser feet that are compatible with both knits and wovens.

If you don’t have a serger, you should choose the correct size needle (as recommended by your machine’s owner’s manual) because it helps prevent holes from forming in your garments. You can use a ballpoint needle, which can better penetrate fabrics without breaking or pulling out easily.

If you’re having problems when making your garment, read the manual for proper instructions on how to use your specific machine!

Final Words

A good sewing machine could be for home use or for professional use. Whatever your purpose is, make sure that you choose a suitable machine that is of high quality and will last longer.