by Alexandra F | popular guides
With so many different sewing machine models out there and so many different features, buying a sewing machine which suits your needs can often be a daunting task. I hope that this page will help guide you through the process.
This guide is for beginner sewing machines, which will normally be priced in the range from £60 to £120 for mechanical machines, and up to £200 for computerised machines.
The table below summarises some of the key features for the top 5 sewing machines I recommend for beginners, but keep reading for more information about choosing the best one for you!
|Price|| Check Price|
| Check Price|
| Check Price|
| Check Price|
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|Bobbin Type||Top Loading||Front Loading||Front Loading||Top Loading||Top Loading|
|Presser Feet Included|| All Purpose Foot|
| All Purpose Foot|
Button Sewing Foot
| All Purpose Foot|
Button Sewing Foot
| All purpose foot|
Blind stitch foot
Satin stitch foot
| All purpose foot|
Blind Stitch foot
Button fitting foot
Your Sewing Needs
When choosing a sewing machine, start by considering what types of projects you will be using your new sewing machine for. This will help identify the features you will need most. Here are a few examples:
- If you intend intend to use your machine for classes, you may need to get a lightweight machine which is easy to transport and store.
- For embroidery projects you may prefer a machine which allows you to lower the feed dogs.
- For dressmaking you probably won't need a large range of decorative stitches.
- Upholstery projects will normally mean working with heavy fabrics so you will probably need a heavy-duty machine.
- If you plan on making a lot of garments, you might also want to look into getting an overlocker.
Having identified the types of projects you are likely to be working on, you can use this information to compile a shortlist of suitable machines. Of course you may not know exactly what you will end up using your machine for, and in these cases it may be worth choosing a more advanced machine which is more future-proof. It is a false economy to get a cheap machine with limited functionality if you end up having to replace it in a year's time!
Your Projects And The Materials You Will Be Using
Once you have your shortlist you can begin comparing the specifications of the different machines. A good place to start is by checking out the comparison tables in my sewing machine reviews.
Motor power will be an important parameter to compare if you plan on using your machine for heavier materials, but will be less important if most of your projects will use lightweight materials. Bear in mind that if you plan on using your machine for upholstery or for sewing very heavy materials such as multiple layers of denim and leather, you may need to invest in a more powerful machine such as one of the Singer Heavy Duty sewing machines.
Also related to material weight, being able to adjust the presser foot pressure can be invaluable when sewing particularly light or heavy fabrics. For example for light fabrics loosening the pressure will allow the fabric to be fed through more easily and prevent it from getting bunched up. Not all beginner machines allow the pressure of the presser foot to be adjusted manually, so this is something that it could be worth checking.
Other features may be particularly important for some users. Automatic needle threading for example can be particularly useful for those who struggle to thread needles manually, although it is not a feature which is available on most entry-level machines. Bear in mind though that there are accessories which can be purchased separately from the sewing machine which can help in these cases (e.g. you can buy a needle threader tool).
If you plan on doing a lot of quilting, you may also want to have a read of my guide to sewing machines for quilting.
Mechanical or Computerised?
Broadly speaking sewing machines come in two types - mechanical and electronic.
The motor on a mechanical machine is mains-powered, but everything else is controlled by gears, levers and switches. Computerised machines on the other hand have integrated circuit boards and microprocessors which control the way the machine works.
Mechanical machines tend to be more reliable, as there are no circuit boards or electronics which can get damaged. But on the flip side electronic machines have far more stitches, and tend to have a few other useful features that mechanical machines don't have.
As a beginner I would suggest opting for either a mechanical sewing machine or a basic computerised machine. You want to avoid spending a fortune on an expensive computerised machine which has a myriad of complicated features you will never touch! Trust me, the complexity of some of the more advanced computerised machines is astounding!
Singer separates its computerised machines to "simple computer" and "advanced computer" categories. You can take a look at their "simple computer" machines here.
The number and type of stitches offered by different sewing machines are also likely to influence your purchasing decision. Do you prefer a machine with a large selection of decorative stitches? Will you need any specific stitches such a blind hem stitches or stitches specifically for stretch fabrics? These are all factors to consider when choosing your first machine.
However bear in mind that simply looking at the number of stitches does not tell you the full story. For example the Brother LS14 boasts 14 stitches, but in fact 10 of the 14 are simple straight or zig zag stitches. Always check which specific stitches the machine can sew. To make this easier I have included an image with the relevant stitches for each machine which has a page on my site.
It largely comes down to personal preference as to whether to go for a sewing machine with a front or top loading bobbin. Most entry-level machines have a front loading bobbin, but some (such as the Brother LS14) are top loading, so if you have a strong preference one way or another you should consider this when choosing a machine. I personally prefer top loading machines as I find them easier to load, less likely to jam, and if they have a clear plastic cover you can see how much thread is left on your bobbin at all times!
The main big sewing machine brands are Brother, Singer, Janome, Husqvarna, Pfaff, Juki, Toyota and Berinina. Some of these brands are less readily available than others in the UK. A few large UK-based retailers such as John Lewis and Tesco Direct also have their own sewing machine models for sale, although these machines are often made by one of the large well-known manufacturers. You can read through my guide to the best sewing machine brands for more information about each brand, and what you can expect from their machines.
Most sewing machines come with a number of accessories, such as different presser feet or tools like seam rippers and edge guides. Think about the type of presser feet you are likely to need for your projects, although bear in mind that if a specific presser foot does not come with the machine, it can still be purchased separately. You can see four of the most basic presser feet in this photo:
The following table summarises all of the most common types of presser feet and provides a brief description of each:
|All Purpose Foot||Standard foot which comes with all sewing machines. Also called a Universal or Zig Zag Foot.|
|Zipper Foot||Foot with notches on each side which allows you to sew very close to the edge of an item. This is useful when sewing on zips, hence the name, but can also be used for sewing cording, or other instances where you need to be very close to an edge.|
|Buttonhole foot||Often made of plastic, this foot is used for creating a buttonhole. It contains a slider which allows you to define the size of the button hole based on the button you are using.|
|Walking Foot||This foot helps feed fabric through from the top as well as the bottom, and is useful when working with very thick material or multiple layers of material, and with materials which tend to slip.|
|Blind Hem Foot||This foot contains a flange which acts as a guide to assist with sewing blind hems.|
|Cording/Piping Foot||Similarly to the zipper foot, this foot allows you to sew right up against cording.|
|Darning Foot||Sometimes spring-loaded, this foot has a small opening for the needle, and moves up and down with the needle to allow the fabric to move freely beneath it.|
|Satin Stitch Foot||Similar to an all purpose foot, the satin stitch foot has a groove on its underside which allows dense satin stitches to be fed through more easily.|
My Sewing Machine Recommendations for Beginners
The Brother LS14 is a bestselling mechanical sewing machine which is very well suited for beginners. As one of the cheapest fully functioning sewing machines out there at the moment, it is super affordable.
It has a total of 14 stitches (though bear in mind that they are mostly variations on straight and zig-zag stitches), and it has a top loading bobbin, which I recommend for beginners (most entry-level machines are front loading). These factors combine to make it the ideal mechanical sewing machine for beginners.
The Singer 1507 is a very simple sewing machine, which has 8 stitches and a 4-step buttonhole, with adjustable stitch length and width.
It has a top loading bobbin but is easy to use. The plastic handle is practical if you are taking classes and need a portable machine.
Singer Promise 1409
The Singer Promise 1409 is similar to the 1507, but it has a total of 9 stitches.
It is even more lightweight than the 1507.
Singer Confidence 7465
The Confidence 7465 is a basic computerised machine from Singer. This particular machine is extremely easy to use, as it is much simpler than most computerised machines.
It has a total of 30 stitches, and it even has a needle threader (it is the only one of the 5 machines I am recommending which has one). It also has a drop in bobbin, which is perfect for beginners.
The Brother FS40 is a computerised machine offering 40 stitches. There are a couple of things I love about this machine. The first is that it has a stop/start button and a speed slider, which means than you can control the speed of the machine using your hands, rather than the foot pedal! This is practical as you can slow things down whilst maintaining full control over the machine, which is great for helping you master the trickier aspects of sewing, like turning corners.
Another great thing about this machine is that you are unlikely to feel the urge to replace it with something more advanced as you improve. It comes with 7 presser feet, and with plenty of decorative stitches there is a LOT to experiment with!