Sunday, October 2, 2011

New to sewing?? First step- get a machine!

What to look for when purchasing a sewing machine.

A friend asked for help when choosing a sewing machine. She has never owned a machine or sewn before- I thought I would turn it into a blog.

The first question is –what are you looking to make? Once you know that- you will know what features to look for.

If you are a first time sewing- you can honestly make a million things with the most basic of sewing machines. Ask yourself what is your budget. Because you will not only have the cost of the machine, but all the accessories you need/want to work with as well. is a great resource to see what the different features on a machine are. Even if you don’t buy a singer machine it is nice to look at the different model features.

When looking at the features –here are what each “feature” means.  These are for basic models, none electronic sewing machines only.


                -a strait stitch is all you need for most sewing needs for the first time sewer. The list of everything you can make with a strait stitch is endless. You will want to make sure the machine offers adjustable stich lengths.

                -zig zag stitch- even most basic models most likely have this- you can use this to reinforce different kinds of “edges” when you don’t have a serger. You can also use this to add appliques, patches, and different decorative additions- for me, that’s a necessity.

                -Back stitch- a must! Back stitching means when you start sewing a line, if you just go from point A to point B then you can easily rip out that stitch and your final project will not withstand wear and tear, the washing machine, it might not even last while you are finishing your project.

                -Decorative stitches- Honestly, My sewing machine has something like 170 decorative stitches, I can honestly say I do use these very often at all. Now, you could ask other people and they would say they couldn’t make a single project without a decorative stitch. For me- it’s just not a must. Most of the time, the more expensive the machine the more decorative stitches you get.

                -Double stitch- this stich is basically two forward, one back, two forward, one back, etc… This is a must if you are making things that need to withstand a lot of wear and tear, multiple times in the washing machine, something like a throw pillow that will be “stuffed” tight.

-Button holes-

                -for me, I need a button hole. I love adding buttons to purses, pillows, clothes, etc… Most of the time a basic machine has this also, but usually only 1 kind. The more expensive- the more options you will have.


                -The bobbin is the “under-side” stitch. This is a smaller spool of thread that goes on the bottom of the machine. It is nice to have a “drop in” bobbin- they save a lot of time. But it is not something I consider a necessity. What is a necessity is a built in bobbin winder. To be honest I don’t know if I have ever seen a machine that doesn’t have this, but I don’t personally know EVERY single model ever made, so just know it’s something to look for.

-Snap on pressure feet-

                - Most newer sewing machines offer this on all models. This is only something to care about if you are always doing different stitches. It possibly saves a couple seconds but not anything I think should be a deal breaker.

-Automatic needle threader-

                -A MUST in my eyes. This is usually not in the most basic of models. This saves so much time; I use this every time I thread my machine.

-Free arm-

                -this is where the bottom of the machine can come off to allow for easier stitching around things like leg holes for hemming.  For me, it’s a must.

-Extension table-

                -Again, for me this is a must. Even if I am not sewing a large project I still use this more than half of the time. It keeps more of the fabric flat and it is easier to keep your stitch where you want it to be.

Electronic machines-

-this is the sewing machine I have and LOVE!
     -The benefit to having an electronic machine is the “electronic” part of it. There really isn’t another way to say it. My husband got me my first electronic sewing machine about 2 years ago and I will never go back!

                -I know exactly which pressure foot I need for each stitch

                -The button hole feature is automatic. I place my button in the pressure foot and hit start- that’s it!

                -you can replicate an exact stitch. For example if you are sewing a strait stich, then add a button and want to go back to that same strait stich. If you are using a basic sewing machine you might have had the dial turned a fraction of a turn and it comes out looking different. With the electronic sewing machine you know for a fact- the length of your stitch is a “2.5” and not “2” or “3”.

                -just the fact that it is so user friendly. If you have everything ready and you start to press on the pedal and nothing goes- with a basic machine you don’t know what the problem is. Is it that the pressure foot came loose? Is the bobbin thread stuck? When using an electronic machine it tells you the error code. It is so much easier to tell what you are sewing, and if you have an electronic model you most likely have all of the above “features”

Embroidery machines-

                -they are exactly what they sound like. They embroider designs. Now, I don’t have an embroidery machine (although, I would like one) I work with a professional embroider at work and I hear all about it from her.

                -Depending on which machine you buy, there will be different designs that the machine comes with. If you have something other than those designs you will have to purchase a DST file –otherwise known as a digitized file.  I see them for sale on etsy all the time. But you can also work with an online company to digitize a custom piece of art for you. The price ranges from just a few bucks to hundreds of dollars depending on how detailed the design.

                -You will need to purchase the different colored threads. You can get them from any online site, but Madeira is one of the top online sites for embroidery thread that I have heard of.

                -The usually have a couple different alphabets built in- this is my personal favorite feature and what makes me want to get one.


                -A serger is a sewing machine that cuts and sews an edge stitch at the same time. Chances are- If you go grab a T-shirt out of your closet and look at the inside arm holes- they have been finished with a serger. You CAN use a serger to sew things together and not need to sew with a machine for SOME of the stitching. Something I use my serger for is sewing a pillow case- I use my serger for 3 of the sides then I use my sewing machine to fold down the open pocket area.

                -You need to purchase special serger thread.

                -for me, its hard to learn to use a serger and get all of the dials figured out on how long and tight each piece of thread should be

                -they usually have 4-5 different spools needed. So when you purchase thread you cannot work with just 1 spool.

So now that you know what each machine does, you have to think to yourself what you need out of a machine. A basic machine can do a million projects, but if you are going to be doing a lot of things I personally would recommend spending a little more on an electronic one.  

Look out for my next posts-

                Sewing accessories

                How to sew for the first time