Sewing Machine Comparison
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Sewing Machine Buying Guide
What is a Sewing Machine?
When you first start out learning to sew buying a sewing machine can be an exciting adventure. It can also be an exercise in frustration if you don’t know what to look for and what to compare among the models you look at. This buyer’s guide will tell you everything you need to know to choose the right sewing machine for you, as a beginning seamstress.
There are some basic features that you will want to make sure your new sewing machine has that make learning much easier and less intimidating. Things like being easy to thread the machine, easy operation, being able to sew straight stitches and other factors are important to have because they make the whole process a lot more enjoyable. When you’re new to using a sewing machine, battling every step of the way is a quick way to want to quit.
Be sure to make a list of the criteria that is important to you and use it when you start shopping. This will make the process much simpler and can help even the most inexperienced seamstress be able to choose the right model for them.
Things to Consider Before You Start Shopping
Buying a sewing machine for the first time can be daunting if you don’t know where to start in your hunt. With a huge variety of styles, models, brand names and features available it can be pretty scary for anyone wanting to be sure they don’t buy the wrong machine. Before you begin your comparison shopping, be sure to ask yourself the following questions about your sewing machine needs.
What is your Budget?
You should aim to buy the best sewing machine you can that is within your budget. This is not an area where you only want to look at the price and then go for the cheapest one. Get as much as you can for your money. If your budget is limited, don’t be unfair to yourself by looking at high end machines that are not in that budget. Your goal is to buy the best sewing machine you can afford to buy and no more. You will always find machines that offer a bit more than the one you are looking at and all you have to do is up your budget. This could quickly become an endless cycle where you end up spending way more than you wanted to.
How Many Stitches do you NEED?
There will be two categories when it comes to what you want your sewing machine to have: what you NEED and what you WANT. These are two very different things. If you just want to do very basic sewing, all you really need is a straight stitch and zigzag stitch. With at least these two stitches, you’ll be able to do almost anything you want to do.
However, if you have specific goals or even certain stitches and features you are looking for; you will need to incorporate this into your search. Make sure that you don’t get caught up in the bells and whistles off stitch choices. 200 different stitch choices sound really excitingbut how many of those stitches will you actually end up using? Some of the more basic machines offer a much lower 10-20 stitches and that is normally more than enough to take care of all of the sewing projects you want to do.
Adjustable Stitch Length Feature
The straight stitch and the zigzag stitch are the two most commonly used stitches. You want to find a machine that allows you to widen and lengthen these stitches to accommodate the different sewing tasks you may encounter. Some of the lower priced sewing machines may not offer adjustable length and width so be sure that the machines you’re considering offer this invaluable feature.
What Kind of Accessories do you want?
There are many accessories that really come in handy when you do a lot of sewing. A selection of presser feet may well be one of the most important and most often used accessories you’ll have. You will need to check in the description of the models you are looking at to find out which presser feet come with the sewing machine and which can be purchased separately. The kind of machines that have snap-on presser feet are the most convenient and efficient when it comes to changing them out. Other accessories include needle sets, bobbin sets, extra spool pins and other useful sewing gadgets.
Motor Size and Strength
A heavy motor means a strong sewing machine that is going to last longer. You’ll be able to easily handle heavier fabrics such as denim, and it won’t be affected by frequent use. A heavy motor will make the machine heavier over all, but what it lacks in lightness, it more than makes up for in strength and durability.
Plastic vs. Metal Parts
If the sewing machines you’re looking at are mostly made of plastic, they will not be able to handle the same amount of use a machine made of mostly metal parts can handle. The metal parts will also make the machine heavier. Even if you are just taking the sewing machine out of the cabinet to use, you will need to decide if it’s worth it to have extra weight when you do need to move it or transport it to have the extra durability. If you have a sewing room, you can always set up the machine and leave it there which makes the heaviness of the machine irrelevant.
Pay Attention to Noise Level
Most people don’t realize that sewing machines can actually be pretty noisy so this is something that you will need to take into consideration when you are shopping for your machine. Most people sew in the evenings after work or during the kids’ naptimes if they are stay at home parents. Both are times of the day (or evening) that you won’t want to be running a loud sewing machine.
Make sure that you read customer comments and reviews if you can’t hear for yourself how loud the particular model you’re looking at is. You don’t want to find out after you get it home that it sounds like a drill on steroids.
Which is Better: Computerized or Mechanical?
The higher end sewing machines available on the market are usually fully computerized and even have touch screens and programmable stitch sequences. They tend to be much more expensive and are simply not in everyone’s budget. Below are some of the differences between mechanical and computerized.
Mechanical sewing machines are lighter than computerized models, even if the motor is a good, strong one. They have fewer parts than their computer counterparts which mean they are easier to transport. Mechanical is a good choice is you take sewing classes and need to bring your machine with you or if you don’t have a sewing room to leave your equipment set up.
In addition you will find that computerized models will be more expensive to service and maintain. Mechanical models can be oiled easily by removing the cover, but computerized models must be done professionally. They are much better for beginning seamstresses because they are usually much easier to master and can handle the mistakes a newbie makes when first starting out.
Once you’ve learned how to use a more basic machine easily, you can always upgrade to a computerized version if you think you would like it better. One of the great things about sewing and sewing machines is that you can always learn something new and get higher end machines to challenge yourself even more. Just make sure you have a good grip on the basics first.
Most of the new machines on the market today are a combination of mechanical and computerized so you should be able to find a good quality machine for a great price.
How often will you be using the Sewing Machine?
Try to answer this as honestly as you can. When you think about how often you will be using your sewing machine, you’re not answering how often you wish you could use it. Are you starting a business that involves a lot of sewing? Do you just want to take up the hobby and learn something new? Do you want to learn a skill that you could start a business with in the future?
If you only think you’ll be using your machine every couple of months, then getting a high end model is basically a waste of your money. It is also important to decide what you’ll be doing with your sewing machine. If you’re repairing hems, or making blankets, you wouldn’t need a fancy machine with all the bells and whistles.
It’s tempting to want to get the “shiny” higher end machines but if you keep in the forefront of your mind that you are just starting out and learning, you will get a great starter machine to learn on and leave the higher end sewing machines for when your skills outshine your starter machine. This doesn’t mean that you should buy the cheapest model either. A good quality machine that leaves some room for growth will encourage you to sew more often.
What are your Sewing Goals?
If the thought of a machine with tons of features and options makes you nervous, you will be much more comfortable with a simpler model. What are your goals for sewing? Do you want to become an accomplished seamstress that can basically sew anything? Do you just want to learn the basics to fix clothing that needs repairing?
If you have aspirations to one day go into business, then be willing to learn the ropes one step at a time. If you do end up wanting a higher end sewing machine later on, you can always sell yours to another beginner or keep it to teach your kids to sew. A machine that offers twin needle capability, overlocking stitches and variable stitch lengths is a good choice for anyone who wants to learn to make their own clothing.
There is a fine line between buying too much sewing machine and not having enough features and options to do anything more complicated than a basic straight stitch. Knowing which camp you are in will help guide you in your choice.
Beginning Sewing Machine Controls
Your entry level sewing machine should have the basic features of a pedal control, tension adjuster, stitch selector, speed setting control, and a bobbin winder. These are the basic elements that any machine, basic or high end, should have as standard. Any machine you are considering should have an adequate number of bobbins and needles, cleaning tools for the machine and machine oil as well. Also look for models that have an assortment of presser feet, including a zipper foot.
A Good Sewing Tool Kit
There are several swing tools that will make your sewing experiences much easier and more enjoyable. As with any endeavor, having the proper tools makes the difference between having a positive experience and getting frustrated. Below are tools that will come in handy often during the sewing process.
- Rotary Cutter and Mat –A rotary cutter is a great tool to have and provides the seamstress with much more precision when cutting fabric. The mat protects the surfaces of anything you are cutting on. Always cut on the mat.
- Scissors or Shears – You will use shears for trimming seams and hems and any other cutting that you need to do while you’re sewing. The scissors will be for cutting the patterns. You can also get a small pair of embroidery scissors for trimming extra thread.
- Tracing Wheel, Paper and Pattern Weights – These tools are used to keep the pattern and fabric straight and flat while you are cutting it. They also aid in not tearing the pattern the first time it is used.
- Ruler and Tape Measure – You will need a ruler or tape measure for measuring hems and seam allowances as well as for marking bias tape and placing buttonholes in the right places. The plastic bendable rulers are a good choice.
- Pencil, Fabric pen, chalk – These tools are great for marking your fabric in a way that won’t ruin the outfit you’re making. Tailors chalk is the best choice and a smooth fabric pen is easy to use as well.
- Straight Pins and Pin Cushions – Depending on how old you are, you may remember those cool tomato- looking pin cushions your mother had with tons of colorful straight pins sticking out of them. Pins and pin cushions are very useful when pinning hems up, pinning patterns to the fabric and other sewing tasks.
- Seam Rippers – The seam ripper is a tool that you will find a lifesaver whenever you need to correct a mistake or take the seam out of a garment so you can reconstruct it.
A Few Common Troubleshooting Tips
Two issues that can crop up when using your sewing machine are tension trouble and skipped stitches. Both are common and both are fairly simple to fix.
Tension – if the needle is not inserted correctly this can lead to poor tension. Sewing machine needles are always flat on one side and this flat side always faces the back of the machine. This is how you can tell if it is inserted properly. Also makes sure the bobbin is wound properly. You don’t want it to have any loose threads or loops.
If you want to wind thread onto a bobbin, never do it with one that already has thread on it, use an empty one.Adjust the tension with the tension dial after you read your instruction manual to make sure that you are doing it properly. If the thread is pulled up to the top of the fabric, you know that the tension is too tight. If the thread is pulled too much on the bottom of the fabric the tension is too loose. Adjust accordingly.
Skipped Stitches –If your machine is skipping stitches, a bent needle could be at fault. If the machine starts skipping stitches, start troubleshooting by changing your needle first. Also make sure that the needle us threaded correctly. Make sure to keep the pressure foot up whenever you pull thread through the machine. You also need to make sure that the thread you are using and the needle as well is matched for the job at hand. Different weights of fabric will require different sized needles. Learn what these are and don’t use any other type of needle for that fabric.
Beginning sewing can be both exciting and nerve-wracking especially when you need to buy your first sewing machine. The information in this buyer’s guide will help you understand a little more about them and help you narrow down the choices into a list that will provide only the machines that work for your needs and preferences. Take the time to learn before you start comparison shopping and your sewing machine purchase will be exciting for you rather than an exercise in worry.