Firstly think about what stitches you may need, if you are a basic seamstress then you do not need too many. If you are looking forward to doing more complicated stitches like embroidery then you will need a more functional machine.
Consider things like warranty, ease of finding replacement parts, flexibility, comfort and sound.
My buyers guide
Some of the less expensive models out there may not offer the right long term investment. It is far better to think of it as an investment for your hobby or if you want to make it a business, repairing or producing original designs you will want your machine to last a long time.
Parts and warranty
- A good machine will come with some spare parts as standard
- Check the spools, non-standard spools can be hard to find
- Make sure the tools are all high quality
- Check the warranty for replacement parts, do you have to pay for them?
- A good machine should have a good warranty
Flexibility and comfort
- If you are planning on making clothes, think about how you are going to go about fiddly sewing of sleeves etc.
- Look for a wraparound feature for making neat sleeves
- Find out how comfortable you feel sitting at the machine
- Check how to change spools
- Check how easy it is to thread
- Check the tension of the stitches
- A good machine comes with a good instruction manual, have a good look before you buy
Buttons and bobbin holders
- Check up and down needle holding positions, check for stability
- Have a look at the bobbin cotton holder, make sure it strong and looks durable (not cheap breakable plastic)
- Traditionally bobbins are on the top, new designs have them at the back
- Have a look at the bobbin all set up ready to go, does it look sturdy?
- Some are noisy, no good if you are going to burn the midnight oil and keep everyone awake!
- Make sure you try a demo model and don’t forget to try the foot pedal for both noise and comfort
- Automatic threading is easy when you know how, so make sure you do know how!
- You may prefer to use traditional manual threading, that is a choice to be made
Check for overlocking
- Which is essential for knitted fabrics
- Saves so much time and will give a much more professional finish on clothes and curtains
- Another time saving feature, make sure turn direction quickly and easily
Cabinet or stand alone
- Cabinet sewing machines are great for convenience if you want your machine set up all the time
- Free standing models are easier to put away when not in use
Don’t let a sales person over sell to you, giving you options that you will never use. Stick to your guns, and go for the machine that looks sturdy, has a decent warranty and all the functions you need.
A few words on Maintenance!
Regular cleaning = every time, ok, well at least at the end of each project. If you are doing piece work clean it as regularly or as often as you can.
Begin with your tools
- The manual if you have it or check online for a download
- Small lint brush
- Sewing machine oil (clear oil, not expensive and available in your sewing shop)
- To unplug
- A can of compressed air
- Don’t try anything you are unsure of
- Take out the needle and the presser foot first
Clean the feed dogs
- Remove the feed plate screws
- Use the lint brush, use the compressed air
- Remove the shuttle assembly and clean that
- Check the manual to find out where the oil should go
- When you oil the underside and the shuttle hook and turn the handle wheel to spread the oil
- Put it all back together and wipe it all down with a soft cloth
- Before you start anything run a few stitches to make sure it is not oily
- Keep it in a dry place, a leaking shed or garage is not good
Now you know the basics on what to look for and how to keep it going with regular maintenance of your sewing machine, there is nothing to stop you.
Except for one thing, if even with the manual you are a little bit baffled about cleaning, oiling etc. get some professional help. It may even benefit from a service after a few months of regular use. Make sure you know the best place to take it.
If you have a friend with many years’ experience keep in with them, they may be able to help your first time efforts.