Learn to Sew: How to choose your First Sewing Machine

Learn to Sew: How to Choose your First Sewing Machine

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Learn to sew: How to choose your first sewing machine.  Are you one of those people who have a sewing machine taking up space in your house because you bought it but never learned how to use it?  Are you the person who wants to learn to sew but is too intimidated by the process to even start?  I am here to tell you that people have been sewing for thousands of years and it is not as difficult as you think it is.  Not only do people sew out of necessity but they sew for fun as well.  I am one who sews for fun and you can too. My grandmother taught me to sew when I was very young so I have been sewing on and off for about 50 years.

In those 50 years I have sewn just about everything from clothes, to toys, to my favorite, handbags.  I love to make handbags above all things. They are fun to make and very functional and you can use really cool hardware to take them to the next level.

But, where do you start? It is still possible to sew everything by hand and I am sure there are people out there that do but most people in this day and age use a machine.  There are many different brands and types of sewing machines for beginners out there to choose from.  Some have very basic features while others are totally electronic and have the ability to do most everything automatically.  As a beginner, you really only need a basic sewing machine to sew beginner projects but you do not want to get one that you will grow out of too quickly.  How do you go about selecting your first sewing machine? Lets find out.

How to Choose your First Sewing Machine:

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Before you can even consider buying a sewing machine you need to consider your budget and what you will be sewing.  You can spend anywhere from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars on a sewing machine so you should do your research before you buy.  I would recommend that you check out a local swing machine distributor or an online distributor like Sewing Machines Plus that has a wide range of machines to choose from.  I like Sewing Machines Plus because of their selection, prices and the free shipping for any product over $49.

There are many options that you can choose from when buying a machine but for a beginner sewer there are a few things that you should consider.

  • Purpose
  • Cost
  • Features and Attachemetns
  • Extras
  • Weight
  • Warranty

These six items are the basics that you should look for when deciding on the perfect machine for you.  How do they apply in the selection of your machine?

Purpose:

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What is your purpose in buying the machine?  Do you plan to do simple mending and craft projects or do you plan to really learn to sew and make garments and quilting projects.  Thinking long-term will impact the type of machine that you will choose to purchase.  If you are just going to be using your machine for basic crafts and mending projects you can limit your search to a basic model of machine but if you expect to grow into garment making and quilting then you will want to consider a more mid range-high range machine that you can grow into.

Cost:

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You want to keep within a budget.  Decide what your budget is.  You should not buy a machine that you cannot afford because it has a lot of cool features that you will likely not use as a beginner sewer.  Decide what you want to spend and stick to that sum.  Having said that, buy the machine that has the most features that you can afford so that you will not outgrow it quickly.  There is a balancing process that you will have to make between features and cost in this instance.  A few hundred dollars can buy a good, basic sewing machine that can handle most clothing and crafts projects. Spending a little bit more will get automated functions that you won’t get with a basic machine.

As a beginner sewer there is no need to go top of the line unless you have an unlimited budget.  But with top of the line comes difficulty of use.  All of those features and electronic components can be a little daunting at first so you may want to consider starting with a mid range machine if you can afford it.  Personally, I have a mid-range machine that works just fine for everything that I need to do.  I make garments, crafts, and have made a few quilts though quilting is not my favorite thing to do.

Features and Attachments:

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Sewing machines are either mechanical or electronic/computerized.  If you are on a small budget and intend to use your machine for basic mending projects you should go with a mechanical model.  These models require you to manually adjust all of their basic settings.  The are lighter in weight and easier to repair.  Most Sewing Machine companies offer a few basic mechanical models that will fit within most budgets and will work fine for the beginner sewer but if you can afford and electronic machine I would recommend that you pay the extra money to invest in one if you can.

The primary reason to invest in an electronic/computerized machine is that it will handle many sewing tasks automatically. Tasks such as stitch length and tension are handled by the machine.  These machines have touch screens, numerous stitch types, automatic buttonhole functions and much more.  There are hundreds of features that machines can have and you need to decide which ones are important to you.

Some of the features that I think you should consider are:

  • Snap on presser feet: For ease of changing out your feet when you need to.
  • Button hole attachment: So create button holes with ease
  • Adjustable stitch length: Stitch length is important depending on the type of fabric you are using so being able to adjust it is important
  • Multiple stitch types: Having a zigzig, blind hem, decorative and other stitches comes in handy
  • Speed Control: This is especially important for ht beginner.  You want to be able to slow the machine down when you are starting out.
  • Free Arm: The free arm allows you t sew small things like cuffs and small bags
  • Needle Down: The needle down function keeps the needle down when you stop sewing for ease of turning corners
  • Automatic Tension: Too much tension will result in puckering and too little tension will result in loopy threads so having the machine adjust this automatically is a godsend
  • Drop in Bobbin: A drop in bobbin system in practically the norm today but I would make sure that your machine has it for ease of changing out the bobbin
  • Presser Foot Sensor: To Sense the presser foot that is on the machine

These features will make sewing much easier and faster so if they are in your budget try to purchase a machine that comes with them. Most of these features are pretty basic but you will want to double-check that your machine has them and more if you can afford more.

Extras

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Presser feet

There are a number of extras that can come with your machine. Many machine manufacturers include a variety of presser feet, additional bobbins, needles, tool kit and oil. When I purchased my machine it came with 14 different presser feet and I have purchased several more since.  A presser foot is the attachment to your machine that holds down the fabric as you sew.  The presser foot keeps the fabric flat as it is fed through the feed dogs of your machine. The basic presser feet that your machine should come with or that you should purchase at the same time as your machine are:

  • General All Purpose Foot
  • Zipper foot
  • Button Hole Foot
  • Satin Stitch Foot
  • Blind Hem Foot
  • Overlock Foot if your machine has this function for finishing raw edges
  • 1/4″ Foot if you plan to do crafts or quilting
  • Free motion foot if you plan to do quilting
  • Walking foot if you plan to do quilting

There are dozens of other feet that will make your sewing life easier but these are a good start for the beginner sewer.  When you are looking at purchasing a machine for yourself make sure that it comes with these feet.  Although you may have to purchase the 1/4″ foot, free motion and walking foot separately as they are specialty feet but if you plan to sew crafts or begin quilting these are important feet to have.  And again, you want these to be snap on so that you do not have to screw them on and off. If you have to purchase them Sewing Machines Plus is the place to go for presser feet as well.

Weight

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The weight of your machine may be important to you.  If you do not have a dedicated sewing area or will be transporting your machine to classes you may be looking for something that is a little lighter in weight and more portable.  However, light weight machines may have smaller motors and more plastic parts that are of less quality than others that have more metal pieces and larger heavier motors.  Also, larger motors will be important if you are doing thicker layers of fabric like denim or upholstery type fabrics or are using your machine frequently. Consider again what your longer term goals are with respect to your machine when you invest in your first machine. These longer term goals will weigh into whether a heavier higher quality machine is best for you.

Warranty/Customer Service

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Check to see what the warranty and return policy is.  Each company has their own warranty and return policy so make sure that you are familiar with the one that is perfect for you.

These are my six considerations for buying your first sewing machine.  The takeaway from this is buy the most expensive machine that you can afford with the most features so you can learn and grow as a sewer.  Head over to Sewing Machines Plus for the widest array of machines for beginners and advanced sewers alike and do your research to determine the best machine that fits your budget and skill level.

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