Buying a new machine should be fun – after all, you’re excited about all the beautiful things you see yourself making once you have it! But making a decision can be rather daunting.
New vs 2nd hand: I find my clients are usually surprised how affordable a new sewing machine is and often consider buying 2nd hand before looking at the prices of a new machine. Currently, you can buy a new machine for the same price as a sewing machine service would cost. So I suggest buying a new machine as you just don’t know which parts are worn and may conk out at any time (this might not be the case for industrial machines and overlockers).
But please DO save any sewing machines your family might not be using anymore – a good clean and oil can do wonders for an ol’ gal.
Function: You only need 3 stitches on your machine to do basic and even intermediate sewing – clothing repairs, alteration, making garments and interiors (not upholstery which requires an industrial sewing machine due to the thicknesses of fabrics):
- Straight stitch: Basic stich used to sew
- Zig-zag stitch: is used to sew around the edge of fabric (to prevent fraying) if you do not have an overlockering machine. You don’t need an overlocker – it simply looks neater and more professional and saves time by combining the straight stitch and anti-fraying stitch into one, so saves time.
- Button hole stitch: At some point you will need to make button holes (not as daunting as it might seem) so good to have.
- Adjustable stitch length: This allows you to set your machine to any variation of stitch length – machines without this can only be set to specified lengths: usually small, medium or long stitches. It is definitely a benefit to have complete control of the length, especially for appliqué. If possible stitch width adjustment on all stitches (not only on zig zag) is also preferable but not necessary.
Bobbin position: Top-loading vs front loading: Generally speaking, if you can afford a machine with a top-loading bobbin slot, then get it. Front loading bobbins are more fiddly and there is more chance of getting thread jammed with a front loading machine. If you have one of these – it’ll work perfectly fine so don’t worry.
Where to shop: In store or online is fine. I suggest you buy your machine from a sewing machine specialist (as opposed to online 2nd hand websites or a department store or your cousin Vinny) who has after sales support, technical advice and helpline, parts and sometimes offer a free session to get-to-know-your-machine once purchased. You may never need these services but if you do you’ll probably get them free in many instances.
Machine supplier prices are not more expensive so it’s a bargain to have this peace of mind and support at hand and you might even speak to the technician directly in some cases whereas a department store is more likely to send their product away for repair etc.