How to choose the best sewing machine for you

This was a dilemma we faced recently when we had to decide which new machines we would have in our studio as the current ones were going to be discontinued.

With hundreds of machines out there to buy where do you start when choosing the one that’s right for you? After all not only can it be an expensive investment, but it’s something that will offer you hours and hours of sewing pleasure. But if it’s not right for you it could end up being an expensive mistake that just sits in the cupboard.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

What level of sewing do you do?
Are you a complete beginner, looking to improve your technical skills and sewing projects? Or maybe you have been sewing for ages and now want to treat yourself to something superduper with all the bells and lights and more embroidery stitches than you can count!

What do you want to sew?
Are you just looking for an all round machine that can cope with a bit of dressmaking soft furnishings and maybe some decorative stitches? Will you be mainly making curtains or soft furnishings with a few alterations thrown in. Or are you more of a quilter that needs a large throat on a machine for bigger quilting projects?

There will be a lot of crossover here as many machines do similar stuff allowing you to both quilt and dressmake for example. But it is worth considering what YOU will want a machine to do for YOU.

Where do you want to sew?
If you have a sewing space at home and you don’t need to pack your machine away every time you use it then it doesn’t necessarily matter how heavy your machine is. On the other hand if you are going to a regular sewing group or you need to pack your machine away frequently you may want to consider a lighter weight machine that you can mange more easily.

What to look for…


ABSOLUTE BEGINNER LEVEL (£50- £200)
Start simple! But go for the best you can afford. (If you decide you really don’t like sewing – unlikely I know – but then your machine will have a better resale value if you decide to get rid of it). Buying a cheap and cheerful machine can seem like a good idea at the time but could be a false economy if you really get into sewing. You could also look at getting a reconditioned one that has been serviced by a professional. If you are very new to sewing or will only use it occasionally then we suggest a basic electric machine that does the following:

  • Basic range of stitches – stright, zigzag and buttonhole
  • Top-loading (less chance of threads getting tangled)
  • Foot pedal for sewing at your own pace

INTERMEDIATE LEVEL (£250- £800)
Once you’ve got the hang of this sewing thing and you know what it is that you love to sew it’s time to get a bit fancier with your machine. A computerised machine may look scary but it actually far easier to use. One thing that I really looked for when choosing a new machine after using one at my sewing class was whether it had a needle up/ down button (a machine that has an up/down needle feature means that when you stop the machine the needle stays up or stays down in the fabric- you can determine which position it stays in and makes pivoting around corners quicker). We suggest a machine that does the following:

  • Wider range of stitches – including an overlocker stitch to neaten raw edges and a stretch stitch for knit fabrics
  • Wider range of machine feet including automatic buttonhole foot, blind hem foot, free motion embroidery foot (also called a darning foot) and a stitch in the ditch
  • Extra accessories like an extension table as this gives you more flat space to sew on and a presser foot knee lift to leave your hands free.
  • Wider range of features like the needle up/down button, the auto lock button, the auto thread cutter button and being able to lower the feed dogs

ADVANCED LEVEL (£800 plus)
If you sew often and are serious about it you will want a machine that has all the tricks. Depending on what you are sewing we suggest a machine that does the following:

  • Stronger motor that will allow you to sew heavier and thicker layers of fabrics. But this is likely to be heavier machine.
  • Semi industrial machine if you are using your sewing machine for business. But these do not tend to have many, if any decorative stitches.
  • Specialist embroidery machine which has pre-programmed patterns

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

The best thing to do when you want to buy a machine is go and test them out. Department and specialist stores will expect you to want to have a fiddle to see if a machine is right for you. Also visiting large scale events such as the Sewing for Pleasure Show at the NEC in March or the Knitting & Stitching Shows at Olympia, Alexandra Palace and Harrogate will mean you can chat through with all the major brand names and find out exactly what their machines can offer you.

Happy Sewing Machine shopping!

Busy doing Nothing!

This is where I have been for the last couple of weeks – MY spot on the sofa.

Not ill – just hibernating!

I was discussing with my eldest last night his lack of motivation to find a new Saturday Job. “But I actually like doing nothing” he protested. And the problem is I totally get where he is coming from.

Having sat on the sofa for the best part of two weeks determined to “HAVE SOME TIME OFF” *she says with a slightly maniacal look in her twitching eye.  It was slightly scary how quickly I have become used to doing nothing.  

Now having just sat back and reread that sentence, it’s not quite correct. I have been doing stuff, just not necessarily work stuff.

    • I have read three books. All of them trashy!
    • I have nearly finished a rather scrumptious jumper from Mrs Moon.
    • I have planned out what seeds I’m going to plant for next years veg crop and where I want to put the greenhouse I have yet to acquire. (More about that later.)
    • I have watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers for the 10 millionth time. (My daughter was obsessed by it as a littley, and we know all the words to all the songs!)
    • I have researched plant based recipes that might, just might be OK for all the members of my fussy family.
    • I have researched staying Iceland for my big birthday in November.
    • I have joined a new Gym and booked in all the classes I want to do. (Yes I know you can see the irony too.)

And, yes at times I have just sat with my feet up, eyes closed and just thunk thoughts. And yes, a lot of those have been about work.

So I haven’t really been doing nothing. I have just been doing ‘different stuff’. And it’s OK to have time away from what you do everyday. Well that’s what I have to tell myself as I’m not really very good at that.

When you run your own business, and you are the business and the business is you – to a certain extent – it is very hard to switch off.

But with the whole team on a break I have switched off and really enjoyed it too. Time off does have its benefits and the longer I am running my own business the more I am beginning to see that this is actually an essential part of running my own business.

Time off has made me want to come back with renewed vigor! Going Cold Turkey (please forgive the pun) has cleared my mind and allowed me to focus on this new year.

Last year was tough, both personally and professionally. We moved premises, lost team members, commitments to certain projects meant we didn’t produce as much new stuff as I would have liked and I have had to shoulder the financial burden after Charlie’s accident. But I have answered the call and last year we gained a new key team member, grew our audience, doubled our turnover, created 3 new patterns, ran our first sewing retreats and have completed a big new project that will go live next week.

And we have lots of plans for more ace stuff for this year too. I’m excited and can’t wait to get back into the studio on Monday.

If you want to find out about what’s coming and how you can join in sign up to receive our emails  and you won’t miss a thing! Just fill in your name and email and we’ll do the rest.

Happy New Year!

Jules x