If you are reading this thinking, “SWEEET! She’s going to tell me the best machine to buy.” This is not that post 😆. What I would rather do is guide you to the best machine for you. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sewing machines available for purchase and your needs are different than mine and different than your neighbor’s.
What I do want you to take away from this blog post is how you can evaluate your options and based on your needs, be able to make an educated decision on your first or next sewing machine. 😃 That being said, let’s get started.
Things to Think About When Purchasing
Are you looking to get your first sewing machine or an upgrade? What will you be doing with it (list aaaalll the things)? Where are you getting your machine from? Will you get to try it hands on before you buy? What are good, reliable brands for your purposes? What happens if something jams or stops working right, where can I take it? Does it need to be portable (small and/or lightweight) for taking to classes and retreats?
These are all really great questions to ask or at least think about when you’re looking to purchase your first or your next sewing machine. I’ve gone into detail on some of these questions and, of course, if you have others add those to the list or feel free to reach out to me with others you think of… I’d love to add them to the list or go into more details about them in an update on this post! 😃
Functions, what do you want it to do – sewing, quilt piecing, embroidery, quilting, mending, etc.
Right now, you probably only have one purpose on your mind for your machine (quilting, right? 😅), but what other projects could you foresee using it for?
Might you be doing some…
- “hubby mending”—of jeans or coats (heavier materials).
- maybe you hunt and take your own canvas tent that sometimes comes in need of repair.
- maybe you’d love the look of embroidery—but doing it by hand is laughable (I know, I hear you… I’m laughing with you 😁).
- maybe you want to be able to do your own quilting (the kind holding the quilt layers all together).
- or maybe making outdoor decorative pillows or cushions (also a heavier fabric).
In other words, how might you be using your machine in the future or in ways other than piecing a quilt top and putting on binding?
So grab a pen/cil and piece of paper and make a list of all your potential needs for your sewing machine. What type of material will that sewing be using? Is it a light, medium, or heavy weight material?
The material actually matters when it comes to sewing… if you’re just planning to sew quilt tops it may still matter… jeans are a lot thicker than quilting cotton, even quilting flannel is thicker than “regular” cotton. So having an idea of what you plan to make, create, or fix and what material it/they’re made of will help narrow down your search from hundreds of options to dozens or maybe even a dozen. Yay!
If you’re going to be making clothes or mending, what kind of material will you be using—think the hardest stuff… jeans, canvas, leather, vinyl, etc. Knowing what you’re going to be sewing is huge, because it can whittle down your options… not all sewing machines are made the same. They used all be made of metal parts, but with plastic becoming an accessible and cheap option (thus reducing cost of the machine) the gearing is often plastic on the lower-end machines. This has two effects… 1) saving on costs to them and you and 2) making it lighter weight.
The downside of plastic gearing…??? With tougher materials, such as leather (and faux leather, aka pleather), vinyl, jeans, canvas, etc. the plastic gears can strip 😫, leaving you not sewing 😭. If you only plan to piece cotton quilt tops, sew on binding, or sew light to mid-weight clothing, an inexpensive, lightweight machine may do just fine for you.
If jeans quilts are your thing, you’ll want a heavier duty machine with metal gears. Or if you plan to use “home décor” fabric, leather, canvas, etc. you’ll also want metal gears, so you can go through those thick layers with more ease and less sweat (yep, I still sweat it sometimes with thick fabrics and multiple layers, but I just go slow and sometimes hand-crank to ensure even stitching).
So you can see how knowing what you’ll be sewing can help guide you in the direction of machine you’ll need to purchase 😊.
Brands for quilting
There are sew 😉 many brands of sewing machines out there, some machines are good for all sewing projects and others have specific uses. A serger for instance can be used for piecing a quilt, but it’s typically it’s for clothing. There are machines with a large throat space (if you don’t know what I’m talking about check out this blog post) that can hold a good-sized quilt sandwich inside that area, and they are built specifically for quilting (though they’re able to do more as well 😃) versus a smaller machine.
Some of the top-rated machines include Singer and Brother come up the most in my “best of…” searches. Juki and Janome would be the next most often that come up. Bernina and Baby Lock seem to come in next for beginning quilting machines. Pfaff and Bernette came up one or two times each in my searches, but not often and Bernette wasn’t a name I was familiar with and even went so far as to check and see if it was a real brand and not a spelling mistake 😆. In all the searches I did Viking and Ever Sewn didn’t pop up at all. I’m not sure why the Viking isn’t rated for quilting as I, personally, know it’s a great brand; it’s what I use, and I love mine. That being said, everyone has their opinion, so you need to take your list of your needs and do your own research 😊.
Now, buying a sewing machine directly from a store is a great way to go, but isn’t always budget friendly, so the other option you have is second-hand stores and estate & garage sales. You can also check with family and friends for a sewing machine they may not be using. The downside to this route is “you get what you get and you can’t throw a fit”, so it may or may not be working and it may also may not be everything you were looking for (or it very well could be more 🤞🏻).
If you’re getting an older machine, generally speaking it will have those nice, metal guts we want for sturdier projects 🥳, but unless you are getting a “popular” machine you may have trouble finding parts. For instance, I have a fabulous singer treadle machine, and although it’s an oldie, it’s a “goodie”, so I should be able to get additional presser feet (like a ¼” foot) because the model is fairly popular. With some mid-century sewing machines, you may have a harder time finding feet or parts for repairs, so unless you know it’s in good working order and it has many presser feet options, you might want to tread carefully.
Another major consideration when purchasing a sewing machine is service (and potentially classes to better understand your machine). If you buy your sewing machine from Amazon, do you have a local place that can still service it, should it be needed? Or do you have a local quilt shop that sells sewing machines? Do they offer service for sewing machines, even if you didn’t buy it from them or if it’s not a brand they sell? I’ve found with smaller towns, many times they are combined with something else somewhat domestic… a soak (hot tubs) & sew or vac & sew as examples.
Another possible option for maintenance and repair is YouTube if you happen to be mechanically inclined 🤓.
And don’t forget the manual! The manual can usually be a huge help for at least the basics of your sewing machine, especially if older. If you’re sewing machine is a digital one, I would suggest you leave that to the experts 😅
Why do you need to worry about servicing your machine??? Well, for a few reasons 1) life happens and things break or don’t function correctly, and that’s usually something a professional sewing machine repairer needs to fix or replace (they also have the hookup for ordering factory parts from the manufacturer 😃). 2) It’s a good idea to get regular maintenance done to keep your sewing machine t in good working order; I just happened to pick up one of my sewing machines from my local quilt shop & repair guy this week, nothing was wrong with it, but my time in the Army taught me that preventative maintenance is a really good thing. And I’d much rather spend $50-100 for a preventative service where he can spot any potential problem areas early before they become an expensive repair job costing me a couple hundred dollars. 3) Another reason you may want a trained service person to do any services and repairs is your warranty… if you’re not a certified sewing machinist, but crack open your machine to fix it yourself will that void the warranty on it? That may especially be the case with digital or computerized machines—fair warning. 😊
There is a lot of food for thought here on how to purchase your first or next sewing machine. I hope it’s useful enough you feel ready and calm to walk into that store or garage sale knowing you have a basis of information as to what you want and what you need.
Please comment below if you have any questions or feel I missed something and need to make an update. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and whether this helped you get started on your next sewing machine chapter.
Warmth & Love,
If you like this post, you may find these ones interesting as well:
- Sewing Machines Pt. I – The Parts of a Sewing Machine
- Basic Quilting Tools
- DIY Bowl Cozy Tutorial
- Quilt Blocks for Beginning Quilters
- Casserole Hot Pad & Trivet
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