What should you look for when buying a new Sewing Machine? As any machine is a reasonable investment, make sure that you have a machine that will give you room to grow your skills. I will share with you a few things to consider.
Standard Electronic Sewing Machines
If you prefer knobs and dials to a computerised display, then these are for you! At the lower price end these are ideal as a starter machine or if you are only going to use a machine to take up the odd hem etc. I do like facilities that make life easier though! Many great features are available if you spend a little more. The more sophisticated standard machines offer many functions such as automatic buttonhole attachments and a larger variety of stitches. Consider the Janome J3-20 or Janome J3-24.
Computerised Sewing Machines
Don't be afraid of a computerised machine - in reality they are no more complicated to operate than a calculator or microwave! Features that can come with computerised machines include increased stitch options, many with lettering, and speed limiters that will stop the machine running away with you. If the thought of a computerised machine still scares you a bit but you would like the extra functions, then do consider the Janome DKS30. Each stitch has it's own simple button, so press and go. I love the orange too!
Overlockers are specialist machines that cut and neaten seams to stop fraying that you would buy in addition to a sewing machine. The finish will be one you would expect to see on any professionally made item. They are also marvelous for stitching stretchy fabrics. So an overlocker is well worth considering if you are going into making with jersey fabrics, or if you want to start making some items to sell. An overlocker on it's own is not going to do regular sewing.
Otherwise known as a needle felting machine, an embellisher is perfect for creatives who want to create, decorate or embellish their own fabrics. They are very simple to use as there is no threading involved - there are five barbed needles that mesh layers of fabric / thread / yarn together. Check out the Janome FM725.
Bernina is the Rolls Royce of sewing machines, and most Bernina owners would agree that they are the best on the market. Swiss designed Berninas are heirloom machines, and the confidence in the engineering is backed by a seven year guarantee. Bernina also offer a free foundation course for owners at its London Head Office for most machines that are sold.
Janome is the world's largest sewing machine manufacturer, and offers a great quality product range and great value. At Clothkits we have 15 of their machines in our workshops, and these are used by students of all ages and skills day in, day out. They are straightforward and intuitive to use, and offer machines that are perfect for complete beginners to the more experienced dressmaker or quilter alike. A two year guarantee is on all machines and overlockers, and their customer service is second to none.
Another Swiss brand, Elna is also owned by Janome. Well built with excellent back up, the Elna machines have a two year guarantee.
Features to Consider
Auto Threading Facility:
I can't see to thread a needle without specs, and even with then I struggle. For me an easy threading facility is a MUST, and has reduced the swearing in my household!
Weight of the Machine:
If you are going to be taking your machine out and about - such as to workshops if machines are not provided - or if you need to be able to pop the machine away when not in use, then weight will be something to think about. The Janome JP760 or the Janome XL601 are nice lightweight models. And on the other end of the scale if you are going to be sew with heavier weight fabrics then a sturdy machine will be preferable. Check out the Janome 2522LE or the Bernina 1008 - these machines in particular have heavy metal bodies and are top choice for indestructibility (the machines that schools buy!!)
What are you going to be sewing?
For curtains or quilting consider a machine that can have an extension table added to it to widen your working area. An adjustable stitch length is required as you will want a long stitch length. A strong motor is also good to look for.
For patchwork and quilting look for a machine that offers lots of stitch variations, as it is easy to outgrow a simple machine. An adjustable presser foot will make it easier to work with thick layers of fabric too. Serious quilt-makers may want a ‘long arm machine'. This type of machine will have a much wider area between the sewing area and the body of the machine, so that even a large size quilt can be worked on with ease.
If dressmaking is your area, then an automatic buttonhole facility is vital - I don't know a single seamstress who enjoys the challenge of making a buttonhole with a conventions four step process (ah, poppers all the way!). You will also want a machine that has a ‘free arm'; this allows you to sew around hems of sleeves etc. The Janome Sewist 525S is an excellent machine for dressmaking if you are not worried about added embroidery stitches to add to a garment. The Bernina 350PE is an excellent all round machine with an excellent stitch library. If you plan to work with delicate fabrics then a machine that has the ability to adjust and reduce the pressure of the presser foot will stop fine fabrics snagging.
It is great fun to play with creative textiles and use the machine like a drawing tool. ‘Free machine embroidery' is just that - and highly addictive it is too! We use the Janome CXL301 for this in our workshops. Make sure that you purchase a machine with which you can drop the feed dogs. A darning foot will also be necessary.
For a great basic machine, the Janome 2200XT offers great value and comes with lots of extra feet for the money.
Our very favourite machine that you won't outgrow too quickly is the Janome CXL301. It is a great all rounder with a total of 30 stitches, covering basic utility to decorative embroidery stitches and a one stop buttonhole too! The ‘tortoise and hare' speed control facility means that it is perfect for beginners, or when working on any project that you do not want the machine to run away with you. A super quick change ‘drop in' bobbin means that you never unexpectedly run out of thread.
If you can stretch your budget a bit, and would like to have fun with some decorative embroidery then the Janome TXL607 has a massive 400 stitches and an alphabet function. It will even cut the thread for you at the end of your stitching for a really neat finish!
The Janome 5900QC is a machine that you won't grow out of! It is a well built machine and great all rounder that also boasts three fonts for monogramming and personalisation and a whopping 600 plus stitches, so you will never get bored! There is an automatic tension control, extension table and more extras than you can shake a stick at. That's for me!