October 19, 2013

Buying Your First Sewing Machine

Buying a new sewing machine, especially your first sewing machine, can be as daunting as buying a new car. There are so many variables that need to be weighed against each other: needs, wants, price, brands, models, etc. It can be quite overwhelming. Fortunately, with a few key points, it doesn't need to be this difficult.

#1: What do you need in a machine?

Or put another way, what are you going to be sewing? If you're a beginner sewer just starting out, you're probably going to want a general machine - that is, a machine that can handle garment sewing, quilting, home decor, and that probably has at least a few decorative stitches as well as multiple accessories.

If, however, you'll be doing very specific sewing, then you'll want a machine made specifically for that purpose. For example, if you're going to be quilting, you're going to want to look for a machine that's marketed specifically for quilting - this machine will be probably have a straight stitch and not much else, large throat space, and an extension table. Or if you're going to be doing embroidery, you'll want to look for a machine that can handle the type, size, and amount of embroidery you'll be doing.

#2: What is within your budget?

There are hundreds of machines on the market today ranging in prices from the double digits to several thousands. So it's exceptionally important for you to not be overcome by the features of the more expensive machines and drive yourself into debt.

If you're a beginning sewer just dipping your toes in the waters, you probably want to look for a machine in the $80-200 price range. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, if you're new to sewing, after some time, you may ultimately decide it just isn't for you. If that's the case, then you'll have saved yourself from putting more money toward what's going to essentially become a closet decoration! Secondly, if you find out you absolutely love sewing, you'll be able to upgrade to a more expensive machine later while retaining this basic machine as a reliable backup.

However, if you know sewing is what you want to do and have a specific task in mind, then you'll probably want to spend a bit more and get a more specialized machine.

#3: Where do you feel comfortable buying?

There are several different outlets for buying a machine: you can run down to the local big box store and pick one up, you might buy one on-line from a site like Amazon.com, or you might visit a local sewing machine dealer to buy one. Each option has its advantages as well as its drawbacks.

Probably the best option, for most any sewer, is to get their machine from a sewing machine dealer. The biggest advantage to this is that you have an actual person you can talk to, learn from, and work with in regards to your new machine. Also, most dealers offer classes either for free with the machine or for a nominal fee. So this can be a huge plus for anyone just starting out and who may benefit from being taught by someone!

Unfortunately, not everyone has a local dealer they can run off to. In this case, buying from a big box store or ordering on-line may just make more sense. The downfall to this is you're pretty much left on your own to figure out your new machine. But your machine will come with a manual and there's plenty of information on-line to help you out, so this may not really be a problem for you. In any case, if you go this route, make sure you're able to return your machine if there's a problem! Most machines will be just fine, but the horror stories abound on-line about broken, defective machines. But as long as you're able to return it, this won't be a problem.

  • Don't stress over finding or needing a specific brand or model. Use the three points above to narrow down your search, then compare. 
  • Once you've gotten your search narrowed down, look at reviews on-line. Though the website is terribly outdated aesthetically, PatternReview.com has a wealth of information on machines and is well worth a look. You can also check out reviews on Amazon.com as well as the big box stores' sites. 
  • When you get your new machine, USE IT!!! Don't let it sit in the box unopened. Actually get it out and use it, even if all you do is play with the different stitches on some scrap fabric! 
  • Read your manual! A sewing machine is just that, it is a machine, and not all machines function exactly the same way. Even if you know how to use another sewing machine, you still need to learn the ins and outs of using this machine specifically. Learning how to thread it properly, clean it, use specific stitches, etc. is super important!
  • Most importantly, have some FUN, get excited, and don't be afraid of messing up - it's the only way we learn!!!

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