Monday, June 9, 2014

How to Choose a Sewing Machine

I got my first sewing machine when I was about eighteen years old and I still use it today. My first sewing machine is a basic Singer machine that was purchased at Costco as a gift from my mother. It cost less that two hundred dollars and it has served me well. I am often asked what type of sewing machine I have and what I prefer. My sewing students also ask my advise on choosing a sewing machine, so I have decided to address the subject and I hope it will be helpful.

Over the years, I have purchased several sewing machines, specialty machines and sergers. I have found myself investing primarily in a selection of Singer and Janome machines. I also have a four-thread Kenmore serger and an inexpensive Brother sewing machine. The machines I have range in prices and have been purchased from different suppliers; however, I have been very happy with them all. The machines I have were selected based on the type of projects I make, how often I use them, how easy they are to maintain and the initial cost.

Sewing machines can be found from under a hundred dollars to over ten thousand dollars. Identifying what type of projects you will like to produce is a great place to start. When it comes to different textiles and weight of materials, all sewing machines are not created equally. Generally speaking the more you invest the better quality you will find. Having said so, I have found that you do not have to invest a small fortune to find a good sewing machine. I also think that the brand you choose, are really a matter of preference and there are machines available in different price points from the different brands.

Doing your research is key in finding the right sewing machine. Become familiar with the different sewing machine brands and visit their websites (see list below) for product information. Visit several dealers and prepare a list of questions you may have about machine features, maintenance and servicing. It is most important that you are comfortable with your sewing machine; so if possible try it out in the store to get a feel for the machine. Keep a journal and make a note on what you like and dislike about each machine.

If you are a beginner sewer looking to develop your garment construction or home decorative furnishing skills; the basic "dressmaker" sewing machine with a selection of basic stitches would properly do the trick. A machine with a built-in button hole feature and some basic decorative embroidery stitches may also be an asset and will support more advance projects.

If you are interested in quilting then you may want to think about the types of quilts and the complexity of the quilts you will like to make. You can use a basic “dressmaker” sewing machine; but may want to consider investing in a machine that will provide you with more features to help make your quilting easier. There are lots of great specialty quilting machines available, but keep in mind that the price point will generally be higher than a basic dressmaker machine. You can also review articles on finding the best sewing machines for quilters, to get more information on what is best for the type of projects you are interested in making.

As you develop your sewing skills and you start sewing more projects, you may want to consider purchasing a serger or overlocking machine. The serger or overlocking machine is great for seams and adding a finishing touch to your projects. This machine is especially helpful for finishing sheer lightweight fabrics, such as chiffon. I have a Janome and a Kenmore four-thread serger and have been very happy with both their performance. Other specialty machines include embroidery machines, buttonhole machines and hemming machines just to name a few. The more advance your work becomes or if you will like to move toward your own production, then the importance of these machines will be a consideration. Once again the cost will range and how much you are willing to invest will determine the quality of the machine.

If you are looking to invest in an industrial sewing machine, the options vary and are based on the type of projects you will like to make, and what you want to invest. There are machines that only do straight stitch and those that do both straight and zig zag stitches. You can also invest in a machine that makes buttonholes or a serger. I purchased my Singer industrial sewing machine several years ago. It fit within my budget and is great for the fabric I use to make handbags and heavy weight projects. This series have been in production for well over 20 years. It can be used to sew a wide range of materials including lightweight leather. With 2500 straight stitch per minute, this machine is a staple in my studio. Another personal favourite of mine are those produced by Juki.

Regardless of what type of machine you are looking for, only you can decide what is going to work best for your needs. I have read several articles on the subject and the only objection I will like to add is that you can often find the same machine at a lower price so do shop around. You may find that with a little reach the same machine can be found at your local hobby shop or craft department for a bit less. So make note of the machine style number and features and shop around.

Happy shopping!

Some sources for sewing machines:

Baby Lock -
Bernina -
Brother -
Elna -
Husqvarna Viking -
Janome -
Juki -
Pfaff -
Singer -

I also hope that once you have gotten your machine, you might find the following demonstration helpful.

How to Fill Your Bobbin

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