For Me, Buying A Sewing Machine Is A Big Decision
I know it is the same for most of us. If I buy well, hopefully, the new machine will be a lifelong investment and even something I can give to my daughter eventually. However, I also know that if I choose badly, the new machine may be nothing but trouble and something soon discarded. And who can afford to waste many that way these days?
What is more, once I get accustomed to using a machine, it's a real disappointment when things go wrong and this can set me back days or even weeks on my sewing projects. Hence we should be extra careful when buying a new one.
A Few Things You Need To Consider Before Buying A Sewing Machine
1. Choose Your Features
The type of machine you buy should depend on the type of sewing projects that you undertake. Even though most sewing machines perform the basic function of sewing, there are certain additional features that you should consider. There are embroidery machines, machines with quilting features, those with options for stretch stitches and some even have specialty feet. Consider if you want to go with a basic model as you are likely to outgrow it once you start doing new projects. Get a machine you can grow into as your skills grow.
Another aspect of the machine's features is what accessories are available for the machine and whether standard accessories like presser feet will fit the machine. We've written a lot about presser feet over the years. If you want to know all about press feet, please review this article More presser feet than you will ever need.
2. Brand Origins And Materials
There are a variety of brands offering sewing machines like Singer, Bernina, Brother, Husqvarna Viking, Kenmore, Janome, Juki, and even Toyota. (One of the best machines I've ever owned is a Toyota.) While selecting a brand, you should take into consideration the country of manufacture and the material used for construction.
Many of these brands come from large industrial companies with long histories of quality products and some brands have remained true to their origins. These brands often, although not always, still manufacture in their home countries or countries with reputations for quality manufacturers such as Japan (Toyota), Sweden (Husqvarna Viking), Germany (Pfaff), and Switzerland (Bernina). Sadly, I've not been able to find any machines still being made in the US although there are rumors that Brother might have built a plant in the US. Try to choose a machine made in one of these countries. It will give you years of trouble-free use.
Unfortunately, other brands have been sold off or licensed to mass retailers or lower-quality manufacturers and their quality has slipped sadly. You often don't hear such good things about Singer, Kenmore, and even Juki these days. (I'm talking about the newer machines. I'm sure many of us have an ancient Singer that just won't quit. I certainly do.) I bought a small Juki recently for light work around the house. It was made almost entirely of plastic and has been nothing but trouble, unfortunately. Generally, lower-quality machines are coming from China, Vietnam, and sometimes Taiwan. Buy these machines with caution.
The price of a sewing machine can range anywhere between $100 to $700 or more. Unfortunately, good quality sewing machines are expensive, and the old saying “you get what you pay for” is definitely true for sewing machines like it is with so many other things.
Sewing machines made of plastic tend to be cheaper and may not provide sewing precision or durability over the years. Metal frames and construction is usually a better choice.
Generally, it is advisable to go for machines in the mid-range, where you can often find a good mix of quality and features at a reasonable price. The absolute cheapest machine is rarely the best option, but of course, only ever buy what you can afford.
4. Buy From A Dealer
When you buy a machine from a big chain retailer selling lot of other items, the salesperson is very unlikely to know the detailed ins and outs of each machine. Whereas when you buy directly from a dealer he will be able to guide you in selecting the right machine based on your exact requirements.
The sewing machine dealer will also be able to provide you with useful information on how the machine works, demonstrate it and teach you how to clean the sewing machine. For additional information on how to clean your sewing machine, please check out our article on the topic.
Some dealers still even offer trade-ins or trade-ups which can be good value. Dealers are also the contact point for warranty claims which can save you time and headaches in the future. Many dealers offer used machines that could save you a lot of money too.
After-sales support and access to spare parts is also important consideration. A general or mass retailer will not likely provide much or any support and almost certainly not stock spare parts, but your local sewing machine dealer makes their living on such often-needed services.
5. Test The Sewing Machine
Before finalizing on any one brand or machine, you should always test the machine. You'll almost certainly be able to do this at a dealer but probably not at a mass retailer. Take some swatches of fabric and thread with you to the store and stitch the fabric to see how the machine works. Does it do everything you want it to? How does it work with the fabric and thread you use most often? How is the quality of the buttonhole? This is one of the keys to a garment looking professionally made or not.
You should pay special attention to the smoothness, noise, stitch quality, and stitch options of the machine. If you don’t like it, try another one until you find a sewing machine that you like. The more types of fabric you can test with the sewing machine, the less likely you're going to get any surprised later when you use it for the first time say on a stretchy knit fabric or light sheer fabric.
6. Buy Local If Possible
It is often advisable to purchase your new sewing machine from a local shop. This way you are not only supporting a local business but also making sure that help is at hand if you need it.
When you purchase the machine from a big shop or through an online store, you may not always get the after-sale service as expected. You also won't have anyone to turn to if you need help and guidance on how the machine works or to make repairs.
We know it's not always possible to find a local sewing store anymore, unfortunately, but it's in all our interests to continue to support the trade when possible.
7. Read The Reviews And Do Your Homework
There’s an enormous amount of information available these days on the internet. The web has become the primary information source for many, if not most, people these days and it is a great tool to use when trying to research a new sewing machine. There are a number of good review sources for sewing machines.
I've always found that Consumer Reports is a good place to start when looking for relatively unbiased reviews and information about a product. You may want to check out their section on sewing machines HERE. They also have a useful video on understanding the different types of sewing machines available.
Another great resource is reading through the comments on Amazon from people who have bought particular machines in the past. If you have a look at the machine below, at the time of this writing, nearly 6,000 consumers have left reviews and comments on the Brother CS6000i.
8. Ask Your Friends Or Join A Chat Group
It is always advisable to seek the help and advice of someone you know who knows about stitching and sewing machines before zeroing in on a particular model. There's usually nothing better or more trustworthy than first-hand information and feedback from an acquaintance.
If you don’t have a neighbor you can ask, and join one of the online chat groups about sewing. Here at So Sew Easy, we think we have one of the best online chat groups around where you can get the opinions of nearly 19,000 members (at the time of this writing) and which you can find on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/soseweasychat/
This group is extremely active and I'm sure you'll find someone with information about pretty much any sewing machine you're thinking of buying. However, to keep the group focused and useful to its members, the chat is a “closed” group which means you have to request to join. Because we review every new potential member, there can be a short wait to get in from time to time, so please accept our apologies if there is any delay. We always do our best to keep up.
9. Shop The Sales
Like with any other product or commodity, sewing machines will go on sale quite frequently and you can save a bundle. Sometimes prices can be cut in half or even more for brand-new, modern sewing machines. Figure out what machine you want and then keep a look out for when it goes on sale.
10. Consider the Second-Hand Market
While new sewing machine prices have come down a lot in recent years, sometimes you can get a lot more for your money if you buy a good used machine. There are plenty of ways to find a second-hand machine from your local classifieds or bulletin boards to Craig's List or eBay. As mentioned above, sewing machine dealers often recondition and sell used machines.
You can even potentially buy a good quality industrial machine that will last you a lifetime for a fraction of its new value. We wrote an article about this recently so you may want to review it: Do you need an industrial sewing machine? for more ideas about this. I bought an industrial Pfaff 563 machine made in Germany a few years ago. It's an absolute workhorse and I have no doubt it will help me sew thick fabrics like denim, multiple layers of fabric, and even leather for many, many years to come.
Hopefully these tips will help you with your choices when next you're thinking of buying a sewing machine. If you have any other good ideas that we should share with everyone, please leave your thoughts in the comments below. We always love hearing from you!