How to Pick the Right Sewing Machine

Hello, Threadbugs!

I get a lot of questions on this blog, and one of the most common questions that I get asked is "What sewing machine should I purchase?"

That's a good question. And the answer is:

It depends.

Sure, I could say "just buy Sew-and-Sews Super Deluxe Model 2000 Do-Everything-Miracle-Seamstress Edition" and be done with it. (And wouldn't it be neat if there really were such a model at an affordable price?!) But honestly, there are so many sewing machines out there that perform different sewing tasks better than others. It can be really difficult to decide which sewing machine is right for you. To help you pick the right sewing machine we'll take a look at some of the various features offered on modern sewing machines. Let's start with the basics.

What do you want to sew?

What do you want to do with your sewing machine? Are you going to use it to do normal sewing jobs like a simple hem? Mend a pocket? Fix a zipper? Add a few inches to your tablecloth? So, first we must ask ourselves what will we be using the sewing machine for most of the time?

Lets consider some common uses for the different varieties of sewing machines:

  • Mending clothes and simple items
  • Creating Entire Outfits
  • Complex stitching across a variety of fabrics
  • Decorative embroidery
  • Finishing professional garments
  • Quilting

It seems pretty obvious that if you are going to do quilting then you need a sewing machine designed for quilting. And naturally, if you are going to do lots of embroidery you would want to buy a good embroidery machine with lots of options to add your own designs.

  • Mechanical.
  • Electronic (or Computerized).
  • Embroidery.
  • Quilting.
  • Overlock (or Serger.) 

 Now first up, the choice between Mechanical and Electronic is going to be left up to your personal preference. But if you are just at the larval stage here on Threadbug (that means beginner) you probably want to start with a mechanical sewing machine. Unless you learn fast and will sew a lot! Even to this day, my mechanical sewing machine probably gets 90% of my day to day work.

Mechanical Sewing Machines

Mechanical sewing machines are exactly what they sound like. No computer to deal with and no complicated settings. They have a rotating dial to set the stitch type and everything is set in place with the old fashioned way - with your own two hands.  No matter what path you may go down in your sewing journey, you are going to start with either a mechanical sewing machine or a computerized one. For the most part, they accomplish the same basic sewing tasks.

If you aren't sure that you are going to be sewing your brains out, learning all the stitches, and making complex items with many different fabrics, then you may want to start with a solid mechanical sewing machine.

My Budget Pick for Mechanical Sewing Machine

SINGER | Heavy Duty 4452 Sewing Machine with Accessories, 32 Built-In Stitches

One of my favorite mechanical sewing machines is the Singer Heavy Duty 4452.  It is a really solid little machine, capable of handling some pretty tough jobs around the house. I use it for all sorts of fabrics from light cotton, fleece, and faux furs to the occasional textile and denim. This is truly an affordable model and worth every penny.

However if you have a bunch of extra money and feel that you will be working with textiles and a lot of denim items, sewing your own drapery, or stitching furniture coverings on a regular basis you may want to look at something with a bit more power. The Janome HD3000 is something that will power through your tough jobs and easily take you from beginner to experienced eewist and keep up with you every step of the way.

Computerized Sewing Machines

What are computerized sewing machines? 

There is a lot to like about computerized sewing machines. Aside from offering up to hundreds of built in stitches, computerized machines can add time saving features to their long list of advantages. My favorite machines include multiple easy to use buttonhole guides, monogramming, automatic needle threading and drop in bobbin loading, too!

Self threading models are an absolute dream for older tired eyes on those long nights of last minute projects! I don't know how many times I was just too bleary eyed to thread another needle and had to call it a night. That's not the case with an automatic threading machine. It seriously is worth the extra money to me, and I wouldn't have a shop without one these days.

With an extension table included in many models, you don't have to worry about working on larger items such ass pants or quilts. 

My Budget Pick for a Computerized Sewing Machine

The winner here is where price meets value. Affordability makes the Singer 9960 my clear favorite. It doesn't cost a whole lot more than my budget mechanical sewing machine, and it saves you a ton of headache in those long, late hours of sewing. I still cannot get over the autopilot option! Sometimes I feel like I could just let it do it's thing! If only it could do my whole sewing job for me! Just kidding! I like sewing too much to let a machine do it all for me.

I debated even adding a top of the line computerized model here. I mean, if you are ready to spend a lot of money on a computerized sewing machine then you probably all ready know what you want. But I'm going to mention a couple, anyway.

The Janome 3160QDC is clearly a stand out in it's class. For less than one thousand dollars you get a pretty great machine. And you can often find it on sale for about half of the retail price! Just about all of the features above, with an extension table and a quilt kit, too! Quilting, while definitely something that does benefit from its own machine, can be done on any regular machine given the time and patience. And this machine can handle a quilt or two, for sure. (Really, any of them can.) Not only that, but you also get the support Janome is known for around the world.

The Juki HZL-DX is the machine of my dreams. It is strong, quiet, and super easy to use. It also costs several times more than many of my other machines, and double the cost of the Janome model. Is it worth it? Absolutely. But I don't think I would start off with such a wonderful machine if I were new to the sewing world. I mean, why would I want to give up my experiences threading needles in the dead of night, dropping bobbins into the void of my sewing table, and feeding my material too fast and ruining the stretch in my tights?  I never would have learned to appreciate the subtle nuances of guiding my machine by hand and getting a real feel of what it is doing. Isn't that the art of it, anyway?  But... If you don't have the patience to learn and experience the good and bad of all things sewing, you can start with the Juki. I won't judge.

Embroidery Machines

Are you artistic? Maybe into graphic design? Do you want to personalize your wardrobe with more than a simple monogram? Well, friends, an embroidery machine just might be for you.I've only dabbled in embroidery myself, so I really have to go with the experts on these machines.
Many embroidery machines include a set of fonts and built-in designs to let you get started with your embroidery work right away. What I really like to have is the ability to draw up my own designs and send it to the machine to make my own logos and patches. You have to have the right digitizing software to add your own designs, but this machine has that feature and it costs sew little (forgive the pun, I just had to do it!.

The Brother PE770 Embroidery Machine can can whip up your custom logos for patches and badges, too!

Quilting Machines

When I was deciding on a quilting machine I discovered there were a lot of opinions on all the machines out there. I think many of them were based on a combination of experience and workflow - how you, the experienced sewist, approach your quilting task. My quilting machine pick may not jibe with all the big websites out there, but it is often in the top 5 recommended lists and having over 3000 positive reviews on Amazon sure doesn't hurt.

The Brother PQ1500SL can perform 1500 stitches per minute!

This one has all the things you are looking for right off the bat. It has an extended bed for large projects, four feed dog settings for maximum fabric control, and automatic thread feeder and thread trimmer.. It also has a knee lifter so that you can lift your presser for with your knee - leaving your hands free to keep all those quilt layers together. 
And it does  include a 25 year warranty from brother, which includes one of its best features - free technical phone support!

Sergers or Overlock Machines

If you want a serger or overlocking sewing machine you probably all ready have an idea of your basic requirements. Our pick is a real serger machine trimming, coverstitch, and overlocking. If you are buying your first sewing machine, please remember that a serger will not do simple tasks like buttonholes and zippers - that is the job of your regular sewing machine.

If you are going to have a dedicated overlock machine in your sewing room, then you want a good quality one.  Many people spend just a few hundred on a solid and affordable Brother 1034DX that can do maybe 90% pf what you'll need it do do, and that might be right for you. If so, we couldn't recommend a better budget model.

Brother 2340CV Serger Machine with Cover Stitch

If you want a serger or overlock machine capable of performing that bottom hem stitch you see on t-shrts you want a coverstitch machine. To recommend a serger that does have the coversticth ability I really like the Brother 2340CV. It can pretty much do it all (serger-wise, remember it is not a regular sewing machine) and not empty your wallet. 

It can be really difficult to recommend a high end specialty machine like these sergers, overlockers, and quilters because you get very near the realm of the industrial machines. But if I were to recommend a coverstitch machine near the prosumer level I feel confident that the Juki CoverPro 1000CX would be a step in the right direction. If you have it please leave a comment below and share your experiences with that machine.