Here is the text of the " FAQ: What Sewing Machine Should I buy?"
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FAQ: What Sewing Machine Should I buy?
About this FAQ: This document was written to answer the commonly asked
question, ?what sewing machine should I buy?? There is no one answer.
You should have a good idea of what your sewing needs and goals are.
Reading this document may help you get clarity. Please note: no one
brand is endorsed, it is a very personal decision.
Contributors: JJ, Penny S, Charlotte H, Sally Holmes, Sharon Hays
Information in this document:
* What machine should I buy? (read this FAQ for the answer to
New vs. Used
* What to look for in a dealer
I want to get one as a gift for someone/ Which machine should I
buy for my wife?
* What about the tiny tailor, school machines, etc.?
Which is the best machine for $100/150/200?
* Which machine is best for children to learn on?
What's the difference between an electric and an electronic
* Which features are essential/nice for certain sewing tasks?
* Should I buy a machine from ebay/Costco/an internet dealer?
* Should I buy on line? How do I test driving a machine? What
about embroidery machines?
What about heavy fabrics and industrials?
* What are some good sewing books to get started
Sewing machine links (reviews etc) sewing faq links
What machine should I buy? (read this FAQ for the answer to that)
The answer is, "the right one for you". The purpose of this FAQ is to
give you a list of things to look for and look out for, and to give
you enough information to ask yourself a set of questions that will
help you decide on your machine. The machine has to fit your needs and
skill level. It has to be easy for you to use. It has to be
comfortable for you to use. These are all very subjective things.
Buying a sewing machine is very much like buying a car. You need to
find what works for you. Read this FAQ, and know it comes from a lot
of people who have spent a lot of time with a lot of sewing machines.
Which features are essential/nice for certain sewing tasks?
Quilting: walking foot, large bed, seam allowance guide.
Clothing construction: seam allowance guide, stretch stitch/zig-zag
for knits, needle-down, automatic button holes, adjustable bed (both
large and narrow), various special purpose feet...
Other features that are nice to have, some might consider essential:
multi position needle, knee lift.
Should I buy a machine from Costco/Walmart/discount store? Should I
buy on-line (ebay, internet dealer)?
The received wisdom is NO. It is a cost/benefit tradeoff and generally
the amount you (might) save is far less than the ensuing headaches are
worth. In general the quality of machine available at a discount store
is poor. In either case, there is no opportunity to test drive the
machine. The warranty is usually with the manufacturer, far away, not
your local shop. There is little or no instruction or customer
support. For all these reasons, a well-built used machine from your
local shop is a better value.
How do I test drive a machine?
?Play? with it. Bring the materials you intend to use in your work
(silk, lycra, denim, rip-stop, faux fur, tulle?) and try it! Change
settings on the machine (stitch length/style and speed,
forward/reverse, etc.). Are the mechanisms where you?d expect? Does
the machine respond as you?d expect? How is the stitch quality? Much
like a car there are sewing machines that ?fit? a driver better than
others. Only you will know your best fit.
Which is the best machine for $100/150/200?
There is no best machine to buy. If on a limited budget, it is better
to look for a used machine at a thrift shop or local dealer who may
give a limited warranty and will service the machine if necessary. You
should buy one that you can try out on your own material, using your
own thread and needles. If it performs to your liking, then it's your
machine. If you are unable to try it out using your own supplies,
leave it where it sits.
Which machine should I buy for my wife? I want to get one as a gift
for someone (wife etc)
None!! Let her go out and try out different machines so that she can
decide which one she likes. Give her a gift certificate. A sewing
machine is a very subjective thing. You have to like the way it
handles when you sew. It's like buying a car: If it suits the person
using it it's the right machine.
If you've read this far, you should understand by now that there is no
"one size fits all" in the sewing machine world. Unless you've been
told (by the person receiving the machine) a specfic machine, at a
specific store, for a specific price, don't buy a sewing machine for
someone else. Instead, give that person a card with a note saying
you'd like very much to give him/her a sewing machine. Then set a date
and go shopping with that person.
Which machine is best for children to learn on?
A supervised child can learn to sew on any machine available to them.
If it works properly, the experience is a pleasure. So called "toy"
sewing machines are ineffective at the least, and frustrating at the
What's the difference between an electric and an electronic machine?
An electric machine is powered by a single electric motor that turns
gears, belts and cams and cranks. electric machine
An electronic machine has a built in computer that runs a series of
motors. electronic machine
New vs. Used
The appeal of a new machine is obvious. It is NEW after all. If you
want absolute, top-of-the-line, newest features in your machine, this
is the way to go. However, if your budget is limited, or you are just
starting out with your very first machine, used might be a better
route to go. Often dealers will take old machines as "trade-ins" on
new machine purchases. (Just like trading in your old car for a
discount on a newer one.) Then the dealers will usually go over the
trade-in models and make any necessary repairs before they sell them.
Some dealers will also offer warranties on the reconditioned machines.
It is sometimes possible to buy a very advanced used machine (e.g. it
has a high number of different stitch functions, or it is computer
controlled) for less money than a basic new machine. As always, try
them out and see what fits you best.
Note: there are many old, reliable classics out there. Lots of sewists
cruise thirft stores and garage sales for machines. Many times you
can't try these out, or they need work and/or parts... but if you are
feeling adventurous this may be another way to go. The risk is that
your $15 machine many need $100 worth of service, but it may also just
need cleaning and oiling... caveat emptor...
What to look for in a dealer
You want all the same things in a sewing machine dealer that you want
in a car dealer. Most only sell one or two brands of sewing machines.
If you have a specific brand in mind, start by looking for a dealer
that carries that brand. You want them to be able to service the
machine once you buy it. Ask about that before you buy. Some will
offer free classes with machine purchase. Ask about that. Also you
want to look around the shop for accessories for your machine. You
want to know that they stock (or can get quickly) any accessories you
may want for your machine in the future. Ask about that too. You want
to be comfortable with your dealer, like you would with a car dealer.
You will be seeing them again when you bring your machine in for
routine service, or when you come to buy other things for the machine.
Do they let you take as long as you need to test a potential purchase?
Are they friendly and helpful?
What about the tiny tailor, school machines, etc.?
Tiny Tailor, HandyMender, Stitch N Go, etc.: Most of these machines
are not what their ads claim. Almost all the ads claim that you can
sew anything and everything with these machines. Several of them claim
to work just like "bigger, bulkier, more expensive" machines while
using 4 AA batteries and costing under $40 US. Here's just a few
things they don't tell you: These things only do one type of stitch.
Usually it's something close to a machine straight stitch, although
they often only use one thread. If the stitch is formed with one
thread, it won't "lock" together and will pull out with only a slight
tug on either end. A real home sewing machine uses a variety of
stitches all formed with two threads. These machines often don't have
feed dogs. Feed dogs are what pulls the fabric to be sewn under the
needle. With these machines, you have to pull the fabric with your
hand. That means you could easily pull too much, too hard and snap off
the needle. In short, these machines just don't do the same things as
real sewing machines, and are just not suitable for every day, general
School Machines: This is a sales technique that is used widely and
often. Most of the time, it's a ploy to get customers in the door. The
pitch is usually an ad in the local paper saying that a local school
system is selling off new or slightly used machines at huge discounts
because they bought too many of them. Sometimes the ad says that a
dealer ordered a huge lot of "school machines" and for some reason
they were then not purchased by the school system. Almost always the
sale is held at a hotel or convention center of some sort, sometimes
just in the back of a truck in a parking lot. This should already
sound suspect to you. If it's a school system selling off surplus
items, they usually have an auction on school grounds. If it's a local
dealer that ordered too many machines, why would he compound his
expenses by renting space somewhere when he has a store that could
house the sale? Normally, when a customer shows up to buy one of the
"greatly reduced school models," they are shown and encouraged to buy
much more expensive machines that the seller just happens to have on
hand. Also, the seller normally turns out not to be a local dealer.
Instead, the seller is often from out of state, and they say up front
that they will only be in town for ONE day, so you need to buy RIGHT
NOW. Being pressured to buy any machine, without any time to think
about it, is always a bad sign. These "sales" are best avoided all
together. If you do decide to attend one, remember that you may get a
basic machine really inexpensively, but you will have no dealer
support after the fact, and likely no warranty or guarantee of the
goods. Caveat emptor.
What about heavy sewing and industrial machines?
An industrial sewing machine is a heavy-duty machine. There are many
different types; most are designed for either a certain range of
fabrics or a specific type of stitch or sewing. An industrial is very
powerful, fast, and typically more single-task suited than a regular
sewing machine. A typical industrial will do 2000+ stitches per minute
as compared to 600-800 on a home sewing machine. Industrials also have
separate motors, usually between 1/3 to 1/2 horsepower, and are built
into a large table that takes up quite a bit of space. If you are
going to be sewing heavy materials, multiple thickness of heavy
fabrics, or quantities of items, an industrial machine might be a good
The problems with using a home machine for heavy fabric are generally
not enough 'piercing power' for many heavy fabrics, an inability to
feed difficult and thick fabrics properly, and an inability to use the
extremely heavy (upholstery nylon) thread that may be needed for
strength. Again, here is where you need to know your sewing machine's
"personality". Some home sewing machines will handle anything that
comes their way, others will give you fits. If you decide you need an
industrial, watching the want ads is a great way to find one.
Can you recommend some good books?
Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing
The Singer Sewing Series