Tips for buying a sewing machine

I get asked very often in my beginner sewing classes what machines are best to buy as a sewing beginner. So I thought I give you my tips on what to look for in a new, longtime friend ….ahem sewing machine (same thing really 🙂 ).
I am not absolutely preferring a brand so far, as I have only sewn on a few and certainly not all of them.

I would recommend to purchase your new sewing machine in a dealership, rather than a big chainstore. You get better service, you can try the machines out, most likely you get a 30 minute lesson included for free and you are supporting your local businesses. So win-win, really.

I have bought my sewing machines for the Needlefruit Sewing Lounge at Henderson’s Sewing Machines in Chermside (Brisbane). I don’t get paid for saying this or get any commission when they sell machines, but I have sent a few students there and they have all been very happy with the service.


In my opinion, purchase the best sewing machine you can within your budget. There is really no point getting a cheap machine that might ultimately be biggest hindrance to your sewing fun. Just imagine, you get all excited about your sewing project, bought beautiful fabric and have taken the time to sit down and sew, only to get all frustrated because you have the feeling you’re holding on to a tumbling old washing machine when trying to sew a straight line. ugh!

At the same time you don’t need to spend thousands for a good machine. Talk to a dealer you might be able to get a great deal and some extra presser feet or good quality scissors with your purchase. And maybe also consider second hand. There are some great deals for older models that are just as good as new.


Look for a machine that is nice and heavy when you lift it up. This means two things, your sewing machine will sit nice and firm on your table (remember the washing machine) and it will be made with mainly metal parts rather than plastic. In the long run metal parts are easier to look after and maintain and they are unlikely to snap in half.

Also it means that the motor is a bit larger and can sew heavier fabrics, like upholstery and denims smoothly.

Think about what sort of projects you might enjoy sewing now and in the near future. Don’t get  a “million dollar computerised embroidery machine with an automatic quilting program” if you want to sew pillow covers and clothes for your little ones.

If you are likely to sew clothes, consider a zip foot, a buttonhole foot and a blind hem foot.

Here are some of my top features:

drop in bobbin or top loading bobbin


It doesn’t mean a front loading bobbin is bad, the top loading ones are just easier to learn how to thread and faster to thread. Plus you can see what’s going on if the machine mucks up. The top loading bobbin is the one that sits under a clear plastic lid on the needle plate of your sewing machine.

one step buttonhole

It just makes buttonholes so much easier and no fuss at all.

movable needle position in both directions

This means you can swing the needle from the centre to the left and to the right to get closer to a seam without having to move the fabric around. Very handy for sewing zips.

adjustable stitch width and length


Rather than 50 decorative stitches I would look for the basic stitches you will use every time you sew (straight, (topstitching), zig zag, blind hem, overlock stitch and automatic buttonhole) and make sure you can adjust them in width and length. This gives you a lot of options for different sewing projects and fabric types.

If you are planning on sewing decorative quilts, you might go for the decorative stitches too 🙂

adjustable presser foot pressure

This is great if you are planning on sewing with stretch fabric like jersey or very fluid light weight fabric like rayon or silks. It is so much easier to sew these fussy fabrics when the pressure on the foot is a little less.

retractable feed dogs


Not a must, but if you are planning on sewing a lot of buttons, this is the thing for you. If the feed dogs are retractable you can sew your standard buttons on with your sewing machine.

I have a quick How To here: Sewing Buttons by machine

a variety of presser feet

Apart from the standard presser foot…

For sewing clothes you will most likely use the zip foot and buttonhole foot for every project.

Look for a machine with clip on feet, they are quicker and easier exchanged when you are in the middle of a sewing project.

look for a fairly quiet machine

Another reason to buy your sewing machine in a dealership and try it out. Compare the noise they make while sewing. This might be really important to you (and your housemates / family) especially if your sewing time is mostly at night.

And lastly you will have to decide between a Manual and a Computerised sewing machine.

Well, I have sewn on both and found them equally good. Often the manual machines can be easier to maintain and cleaned by yourself and might be able to take a bit more of a beating than the computerised ones. On the other hand most really good modern sewing machines with larger motors are computerised.

Well, I hope this helps you little making a decision on what sort of sewing machine to buy.


Until next time,

Kristina xx


One thought on “Tips for buying a sewing machine

  1. Judi McKail says:

    As sewing machine collectors, repairs / restorers and displayers of these antique / vintage beauties in our travelling sewing machine museum, we think that is sound advice indeed. Commonsense advice as opposed to ‘you must buy this – it will sew everything under the sun’ plastic fantastic promotion. Well done.

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