Friday, May 15, 2015

So You're in the Market for a Sewing Machine

Whether you’re just getting interested in sewing or have been doing it for 40 years, whether you’re a home hobbyist or a professional seamstress, there comes a time when you start looking at getting a machine or getting a new machine. Before you delve into the wonderful and confusing world of sewing machine shopping you should ask yourself a few questions:

  • What is the Budget?

Yep, hitting this one the head first your answer to this question will be the biggest deciding factor in how you proceed. I’m not going to sugar coat it, a good home sewing machine will cost anywhere from $100 to $15,000. Decide your budget first, because if you don’t want to spend more than $1000, you don’t even want to look a Bernina, they’re cheapest is $1,500 (awesome but expensive machines).

Sewing machines are priced like everything else, the simple, basic machines are going to be cheaper and the more features the more expensive. So if you’re a beginner you can probably get away with a cheap $100 machine but if you’re a seasoned sewist looking for more out of your machine, expect to pay more.

You may also notice that different brands have different price ranges. Brother and Singer tend to be on the low side of the price spectrum and you can get them at any walmart or craft store. Janome tends to be middle of the road on price while Viking and Bernina are at the high end. You tend to have to go to a dealer to buy the latter three, which gas is another thing to think about but that’s something you worry about after you’ve answered the rest of the questions.

  • What is it for?
This question is just as important the “what is the budget question”. Do you just want it for simple mending projects, do you want to make clothes, do you want to quilt, or do you want to embroider? You have to answer this question because you don’t want to waste your time and money on a machine that’s not going to do what you want it to do.
If you want to do mending projects, or simple projects like curtains, a simple or basic starter machine will work wonderfully.
If you are going into garment sewing a machine will a few more options may be necessary, like the zig zag stitch, an automatic buttonhole, and a free arm. Also think about adding a serger along with your sewing machine.
If you are going into quilting, think about a large sewing space, also consider one with a table attachment. For large quilts you could also think about a long arm machine instead of a regular sewing machine.
If you are going into embroidery, you will need one that has the hoop attachments and most likely a way to connect to a computer.
Another thing to consider is the type of materials you are going to be using with it, if you are going to be working with heavier fabrics like canvas or upholstery fabrics a heavy duty machine will last longer and work better than a standard machine.

  • Who is it For?

Is this sewing machine going to be for a child or an adult. Is it for someone with really large hands or fairly petite hands. Your answer to this question can help you decide on some of the features you’re looking for.

  • If you are getting a machine for a child, you may want to consider a smaller lightweight machine. Also a machine with a speed control might be something to think about.
  • If you are getting a machine for an adult or someone with larger hands you want to consider a larger machine.
  • If you are getting a machine for someone who doesn’t have good foot control or can’t use the pedal you may want to consider a machine with a “cruise control” or start and stop option.
  • If you are getting a machine for someone who doesn’t work well with computers you probably want to concentrate on simpler models. Without complex touchscreens.

Also think about how quickly someone could outgrow their machine. Basic machines, like the Singer Start or the Brother LS 2000 are generally only good to get started and do basic projects like curtains. For someone who wants to do more they will eventually outgrow a simple machine, and how quickly they will outgrow their machine will be different with different people. An adult will need a more advanced machine sooner, while a child could probably stay with a basic machine for a while.

The answer to this question will lead into the next question.
  • What is the Skill Level or Experience of the User?
Is the machine for a beginner who’s never touched a sewing machine, or for a seasoned sewist with 40 years experience. For someone who has never touched a sewing machine you should stick with a simpler model, the fewer confusing features the better.
If you are looking for a more advanced machine you probably already know what features you want and features cost extra. It may be hard to find a machine that has all the features you want and at the price you want. You can save money on a more advanced machine by prioritizing which features are the most important for you and your personal situation and which features you can get by without.
I always suggest for beginners to start learning on a mechanized machine, then move into a simpler computerized machine before trying a more advanced computerized or embroidery machine.

Once you answer these questions you will be ready to look into the sewing machine that will be right for you and your situation.

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