Sewing Machines

Sewing Machine Buyers Guide

Finding the right sewing machine and understanding the ins and outs of using it can spell the difference between a happy experience or a frustrating one. But with the different types of sewing machines and the number of makes and models available, it’s hard to know how to get started.

We are here to help you make the right decision. We’ve written at length about sewing machine types and features and added tips to guide you, whether you plan to buy your first sewing machine or upgrade your trusted Singer.
Sewing Machine: an invention of great practical importance

The french tailor Barthélemy Thimonnier was the inventor of the first functional and widely-used sewing device. In 1889, the first electric machine was developed by Singer Corporation, one of the largest sewing machine manufacturers in the world, founded by Isaac Merritt Singer and Edward Clark.

Sewing machines transformed the clothing industry in the first Industrial Revolution, which freed women dressmakers from the time-consuming clothing creation and allowed more time for leisure and finding employment.

So, you dedcided you need a sewing machine…

The simplest machine and high-tech computerized model have the same basic sewing functionality. There will be variations in the way you thread the top spool, number of stitches selection, or the way you select functions, but the underlying mechanism will be similar.

Sewing is an exciting pastime and rewarding profession. To improve your sewing skills, you need the right tools and plenty of practice. Those are the keys to success. Owning a sewing machine doesn’t only save you money, but also provide the fulfillment of creating something that is uniquely yours.

There is a wide range of sewing machines on the market to help you make professionally finished clothes, furnishings, and accessories with just a little time and effort.

What’s the best brand or model?

It depends on how you intend to use it and how much your budget can accommodate. You don’t need an extravagant machine with all the bells and whistles if you only plan to use it occasionally. But if you would be sewing frequently, you need to put a premium on durability. The attractive features should be your second priority.

Modern sewing machines have so many enticing features that they can look a bit overwhelming to a less experienced sewer. But these shiny add-ons make repetitive or difficult tasks effortless and stress-free. They can also open up a wonderful world of decorative techniques.

Rule of thumb: if you are not sure what type of machine is right for you, get a basic machine and save your money. Most types of sewing can be done on a simple machine. It is reliable, easier to learn, adjust, and troubleshoot!

Beginner

For newcomers, you need a model that is simple enough to use easily and yet sophisticated enough to grow into you. High-end multipurpose machines that can stitch detailed embroidery from a photograph is nice to have, but can you afford it? How often would you be using this function?

There’s no point in paying extra for a multifunctional machine if you are a first-time use or only want to stitch the occasional seam.

Intermediate

A mid-range model or a computerized machine may be worth the extra investment if you plan to develop your skills. Sooner or later, you will benefit from a bigger range of stitches, functions, and accessories.

These extra functions and features cannot be added later to a basic machine, so that’s one thing to consider. You also need a machine that will continue to serve you as you develop your skills.

Expert

Experienced users will most likely require more functions to begin with and perhaps some special features, such as decorative stitch types, dual feed, thread cutter, buttonholers, and the ability to compose embroidery patterns. Some models can even connect to the internet!

If you will be sewing stretchy fabric often and you want a professional finish to your seams, consider the faster and more effective serger.

Types of Sewing Machines

Mechanical Sewing Machines

At a glance:

  • Excellent for beginners and children
  • Simple to clean and fix at home
  • Great as a backup machine
  • Very durable and well-made
  • Fewer options and limited customizations
  • Lacks one-step buttonhole function
  • Standard models are heavy

Manual or mechanical machines are simple to operate and have a few options. They are sturdy and can withstand a few bumps and scrapes without risking damage to the interior components.

They are operated by turning a handwheel with one hand and pumping on a treadle with your foot–most controls are manipulated by hand. They can handle basic repairs, hems, and craft projects but they can only perform basic stitching.

If you are on a budget, this type is perfectly adequate. You can find second-hand or reconditioned machines on auction sites or antique shops.

Electronic Sewing Machines

At a glance:

  • More expensive than manual models
  • Faster and more accurate
  • LCD screen to adjust your stitches
  • Ideal for beginners and amateurs
  • Recommended for home sewers
  • No embroidery stitching options

An electric sewing machine is a hybrid of mechanical and computerized machines. The machine has a motor in the body usually driven by a foot pedal–the harder you pressed down, the faster you sew.

The budget machines have no fancy extras so they are simple to learn and operate. They offer a small range of preset stitches and may not have all the functions you need.

The mid-range machines offer more stitch selections and handy features, such as adjustable stitch width and length, one-step automatic buttonhole, adjustable foot pressure, and many others.

Computerized Sewing Machines

At a glance:

  • Relatively quiet even at high speeds
  • Automated functions are user-friendly
  • Offers embroidery stitches
  • Ability to save stitch combinations
  • The most expensive type
  • Require a certified technician for repairs
  • Ideal for beginners and experienced users
  • Interaction with other computers

Computerized machines are very versatile and offer more stitches than standard electronic machines. High-end models can do complex embroidery patterns–digitize a drawing through compatible software and stitch it out at a touch of a button.

Any of these multifunctional machines can be used for sewing, tailoring, quilting, and repairs. If you want to stitch garments, home décor, and accessories then embellish them with embroidery and decorative stitches, you will definitely benefit from a computerized/embroidery machine.

Other factors to consider

The biggest difference between a basic machine and a higher cost machine is that the latter tend to have more features. The truth is, there is little or no difference in the stitch quality. But the feature-packed machines help automate tasks and facilitate sewing.

Stitch Selection

Do not be lured by expensive brands that offer a crazy number of stitches. Very little sewing is done using decorative stitches. The essential stitches you will probably use often are a straight stitch, zigzag, buttonhole, tricot or elastic, overcasting, blind hem, and stretch/knit stitch.

Attachments

Sewing machines usually come with some accessories and attachments (feet). You should make an informed choice as to what features you really need. Look for models with specific attachments particular to your sewing plans. If your desired model doesn’t come with the attachment you wish to have, make sure they can be purchased separately.

Attachments typically included with most machines:

  • All-purpose foot/zigzag
  • Buttonhole foot
  • Rolled hem foot
  • Blind hem foot
  • Overcast foot
  • Automatic Features

Most machines offer a variety of convenient features like thread cutters, stitch length and width, needle position, fix stitch, and a needle threader. Some of these features can only be found in high-end models, but some are now standard on new machines.
Repair Policies

Some sewing machine dealers offer in-store service. Others will ask you to bring your machine to the manufacturer or a repair center. Always inquire about the turnaround time, as repairs can take days or weeks. Repairs made by unauthorized technicians can void the manufacturer’s warranty.

Sewing Machines FAQ

Q: Are portable handheld sewing machines useful?
A: Handheld battery-powered machines may be fine for simple repairs, but you will not be able to do any serious sewing with it.

Q: How much does a good sewing machine cost?
A: You can find basic sewing machine for home use at less than $150. Heavy-duty home machines range from $200 to $500. Industrial machines for business starts at about $1000.

Q: What is the best sewing machine for quilting?
A: Quiltmakers will benefit from a machine with a larger backward opening between the needle and the control side of machine. Look for the following features: adjustable bobbin case, presser feet (walking foot, ditch quilting, applique, and open-toe free motion), extension table, and electronic speed limiter.

Q: What is the best sewing machine for embroidery?
A: You can choose between a computerized sewing and embroidery combo machine or embroidery-only machine. If you already have a regular machine, buy a special machine for embroidery because it is cheaper than a combo machine.

Q: What is the difference between a serger and a sewing machine?
A: A serger is also known as overlock sewing machine. A serger is considerably faster than a conventional sewing machine: can stitch, trim, and finish the edge in one step. However, it doesn’t offer a full range of sewing functions.

Our full list of Sewing Machines for 2019

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Our full list of Sewing Machines for 2019

#1 Brother Embroidery Machine, PE550D

Overview

Pros

  • Packed with various features that allow you to customize all your creations
  • Bring Disney characters to life with its built-in designs 
  • Large, colorful LCD touchscreen display

Cons

  • May stop running after only a few minutes 
  • Defective units only go in circles

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The Brother PE550D may not be a flawless embroidery machine, but that doesn’t stop it from making it to the top of our list for the best embroidery machines of 2019. Just the fact that it has so many features to offer as well as providing the complete package has bumped it up the ranks and has outperformed every other competition. It is not only an excellent product for adults to use on their projects and creations, but it also serves as a great tool to make perfect gifts for children thanks to its included Disney designs. 

 

Overall, the Brother PE550D is undeniably an excellent embroidery machine despite its flaws which are quickly covered in the shadows as its impressive features outshine everything else. So stop what you’re doing now and get one of these in your cart, because whether you want to create your own designs or are making pretty Disney Princesses for your little girl, the Brother PE550D Embroidery Machine has got you covered. Plus, with its reasonable price and 25-year limited warranty, what have you got to lose? Just be sure to get your hands on this fantastic machine and let the magic of Disney capture your imagination!

#2 Brother Computerized Sewing Machine

Overview

Pros

  • Beautifully designed Project Runway limited edition sewing machine
  • Boasts 165 unique styles and designs to choose from 
  • Easy-to-use, even for beginners

Cons

  • Auto-threader may break sooner than expected 
  • Fabric may get caught in the feed, resulting in jamming

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The Brother XR9550PRW gives an excellent performance overall and deserves its spot among the best sewing machines for 2019. And with its affordable price tag, the bargain is made twice as sweet, so you can make your creations without breaking the bank and at the same time, you get this stylish limited edition sewing machine. Even with its difficulties and struggles, the Brother XR9550PRW can show its better features and make them shine. 

 

From the easy-to-use LCD screen that makes it easier to navigate, to its eight presser feet options and its 110 built-in stitches, the Brother XR9550PRW has so much to offer. With its low price and a 25-year limited warranty, no other offer even comes close and could arguably be the best sewing machine available in the market now. So what are you waiting for? Level up your sewing machine and creations with the Brother XR9550PRW Computerized Sewing Machine!

#3 Brother Sewing Machine, XM2701

Overview

Pros

  • Has 27 unique built-in stitches 
  • Jam resistant features 
  • Comes with six quick-change sewing feet

Cons

  • Poor customer service from the manufacturer 
  • Plagued by many flaws that make it hard to use

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The Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine has too many unsavory issues that keep it far from becoming the best sewing machine for this year, which is a real shame, considering the other products that have come out from this company. And while it does try to give us plenty of features to use and play with — especially for those who know their way around a Brother sewing machine — others who aren't as familiar might not enjoy troubleshooting all of the problems it comes with. 

 

All in all, the Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine is not a great sewing machine but is a decent attempt at giving us useful features to use for our projects without breaking the bank. Thanks to its affordable price, this machine has one saving grace from its otherwise flawed design and system that leaves little to be desired. But for anyone on a budget or for those lucky enough to get a properly functioning unit, you just purchased an excellent product for all your creative sewing needs. 

#4 SINGER Heavy Duty 4432 Sewing Machine

Overview

Pros

  • Boasts a 60% stronger motor than most other machines  
  • Uses a durable, heavy-duty metal frame
  • Has reverse stitching capabilities

Cons

  • Is not strong enough to stitch even lightweight curtains 
  • May have a life span of less than a year

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In the end, the SINGER Heavy Duty 4432 Sewing Machine has many flaws, which the company tries to hide behind a false promise of a 2-year warranty. However, once a customer falls for the trap, they reveal it to not only be a lie, but they ultimately ask you to do the work they're supposed to provide for us. And while this sewing machine shows a lot of potential, its features, and the company itself aren't good enough to be recommended to other sewing enthusiasts. 

 

That being said, if you get lucky enough to score a sewing machine that doesn't have any of the flaws mentioned above or can last you a lifetime like it promises it would, then you may have just come upon a pot of gold. Should you encounter a correctly working unit of the SINGER Heavy Duty 4432, then you'll get everything you ever wanted to get your sewing projects done. You might also have a sewing machine that would've been good enough to make it to the top of this year's best of the best.

#5 SINGER Start 1304 6 Built-in Stitches

Overview

Pros

  • Has six built-in stitches for beginners 
  • Portable and light enough to be carried around
  • Comes with a selection of essential features

Cons

  • May constantly unthread itself
  • May get jammed after only a few stitches

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While the SINGER Start 1304 Sewing Machine isn't the worst sewing machine money can buy, it is also far from being the best. Its annoying habits paired with a 25-year limited warranty that has loopholes, this may not be the best option for beginners and sewing enthusiasts. This product may try to lure us in with its low asking price; it is probably safe to say that anyone should stay away from this product and find something else for the same price since that might be more worth your money. 

 

In the end, the SINGER Start 1304 Sewing Machine has too many flaws and not enough positives to save it from being a total fail. But if you want to look at the bright side, you might be happy to know that not all their units are complete junk. Some of them actually work as they should, and have been an absolute dream to work with. If you're willing to risk the chance of getting one of these units, be prepared for disappointment and losing around $73.