September is National Sewing Month – a month long celebration of my favorite hobby. Every Wednesday this month I’ll be doing a post on basic sewing essentials. Last Wednesday’s post was Basic Sewing Essentials – The Basic Tools. This week I’ll share tips on how to buy the right sewing machine.
A sewing machine is probably the largest investment you’ll make in any of your sewing tools. There is a lot to consider and newbie sewists are often intimidated when looking for a sewing machine. Sewing machines can range in price from less than one hundred dollars to over eight thousand dollars. Keep this in mind, buying a sewing machine is like buying shoes for kids – you buy for your needs now with a little something to grow into.
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Consider the reasons you want a sewing machine. Do you want to sew drapery? Make crafts? Make clothing? Do mending or alterations? Do embroidery or quilting? Are you a beginner or a more advanced seamstress? Select a sewing machine that will best suit your sewing needs and skill level. You have a wide array of sewing machines to choose from. Beginner sewing machines are available from virtually every manufacturer in the industry. If you are searching for a basic sewing machine for constructing clothing, curtains, and other items for household use should consider mechanical models. Unlike the more complex, computerized sewing machines that are programmable for fancy work, mechanical sewing machines are based on the same platform that has been used for generations.
Be honest with yourself. How much time will you actually spend at your sewing machine? How long do I plan on keeping this machine? If you are just getting something to learn on, you may want to go with something cheap. If it’s a machine you want to keep for a long time, maybe even pass down to your children, then you will want to pay more for a nice, sturdy machine.
How much am I willing to spend? The price difference is depending on brand, features and what the machine is made of. The nicer brands have machines that are made of all metal whereas the some of the cheaper brands have plastic parts in the machine. The more features you would like with your machine, the more expensive it will be. Sewing machines are available in many different sizes and varieties, so a good place to start is establishing a budget. Working within a set financial frame will narrow the field of contenders and keep you from becoming overwhelmed with the process.
Consider those factors when comparing machines. What features and functions would I like? Sewing machine types and quality range from very basic machines meant for only occasional mending to very high end machines meant for sewing multiple layers of upholstery material and even to machines that will embroider anything you can imagine. Will I travel with the machine? If so, you will want to look for a machine that is highly portable, yet can perform like a regular sewing machine. Many models intended for beginners come with several decorative stitches in addition to zigzag. While these are not essential to basic sewing tasks, they are fun to use from time to time. When comparing machines with several built-in stitches, consider which ones would be the most useful. When shopping for a sewing machine, it is easy to be overly impressed with those models that come with lots of accessories. Basic sewing tasks require very few extra attachments, but all machines should come with an adequate number of bobbins and needles, plus machine oil and cleaning tools.
Shop around. Check out machines online first. Get a good idea of what is available for what price. Compare your budget to the price machine you want. Read reviews. Look up reviews of particular beginner sewing machine models to see if other users have noted any difficulty. Ask sewing friends about their machines—likes and dislikes, recommendations, etc. Narrow down your preferred machines to two or three. Decide where to buy. Shops often offer “free” lessons when you buy there. Consider whether the personal instruction at the shop is worth the extra $200-500 dollars you’ll pay at the shop. If you already know how to sew and you can get a copy of the manual, you may not need to talk to anyone about it to use the machine.
Visit your local sewing shop and ask for a “test drive.” Before you purchase any machine, sew on it—don’t just watch someone else demonstrate the machines. You may have to visit different shops for different brands. Stitch on the kinds of fabrics you’ll be using—multiple layers of denim if you hem jeans, lightweight knits if you make T-shirts, metallic and satins, if you make costumes. Sew with different stitches. Sew at different speeds, adjust tensions and get a “feel” for the machine. Is it comfortable? How’s the noise level? Ask the salesperson to demonstrate the threading procedure.
Compare your budget to the price machine you want, and decide on any compromises or adjustments you will need to make if they don’t quite match. Will you purchase a used machine? Will you save up for a little longer? Will you chose a slightly lower quality machine?
Buy your machine, take the time to learn how to use it, and enjoy. Just remember that the key is to get yourself a sewing machine, first and foremost.
Choosing a sewing machine is a personal process. Only you can know what you want and need in a sewing machine, and everyone will require something different. Determine your budget and get the best machine you can for the price, because having a basic machine is better than having no machine at all!
Next week my post will be Basic Sewing Essentials – How to Sew on a Button Until next week, Happy National Sewing Month!
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