Teaching beginners to sew I often get asked “what machine should I buy?” and “can you recommend one??”
Here’s my guide to buying a sewing machine and what to look for when buying a domestic machine.
My personal preferences are digital operation, top loading machines with a one step button hole and snap on accessories (feet) these features make the machine much quicker and easier to use especially if you are a beginner.
Things to consider when buying:
Digital or Manual model?
The digital will have a small display screen and navigation to help you choose stitch settings quickly and may carry more stitches than on a manual machine. Whereas the manual machine will use turn dials for stitch settings like length and width.
Top loading or Front loading spool?
Top loading is more simple and you can see the spool during sewing to check how much thread you have left. (Note if the listing does not advertise this as a feature it probably is not top loading so always check the photos!)
New / second hand / reconditioned / ex demo – Second hand is always an option, but consider where will you get it serviced? Search local servicing centres before purchasing a second hand machine. And if your machine is missing accessories or parts you can usually contact the maker directly and download some manuals online for modern machines. Some shops will also sell pre-loved and ex demo machines so you could grab a bargain.
Most importantly – Your budget! – Consider how much you want to spend and how often you will use the machine before you start looking. I suggest you will have to spend at least £100 for a brand new model.
I can personally recommend Janome who supply the machines that we use to teach with at Stitch Studio, we have used the 230DC for some years now but the other big hitters to consider are Brother, Singer and Elna.
Where to buy?
Shop local where possible help real people stay in business, search for a ‘sewing machine center’ near to you and that way it will be easy to get your machine serviced in the future. I am based in the North West UK and these are some of my nearest independent shops:
Hobkirk Blackburn – Sell Brother Elna and Janome, offers training on all machines purchased.
Bambers Manchester – Sell Bernina, Brother + Janome
Lords Accrington – Sell Brother
Buying for children or teens
I teach children from age 8 upward to use the sewing machine so I get asked about kids machines a lot. My advise is keep it simple but don’t underestimate what they will need if they are seriously interested in sewing. Consider buying second hand or ex-demo to see if the hobby sticks before splashing out in haste.
My biggest piece of advise when buying for youngsters is do not buy a toy machine, good sewing machines do not cost less than £80 new, in my experience these mini machines can be very limiting, so much so that they may put the child off entirely. Parts cannot be changed and projects are limited on these toys.
If you have a machine already in the house, supervise and teach them safety first but let them explore the machines capabilities in the way that only children can with complete creative freedom.
My TOP 5 for beginners by price:
Please note that COVID-19 has caused a shortage of Sewing machines in the UK 2020 so you may have to pre-order a machine. Or why not call your local sewing center to find out what they actually have in-stock.
< Under £100 >
1> Brother L14S Top loader / manual operation £99 (Hobkirk)
< £100-£200 >
2> Brotherxr27nt Top loader / Manual operation £189 (Bambers)
< £200-300 >
3> Brother nv15 Digital / top loader £229 (Lord Sewing)
< £300+ >
4> Janome 230DC Digital / top loader £349 (used at Stitch)
5> Singer 7640 Digital / top loading / 200+ stitches inc alpha numerical £375
I do hope that this has helped, if you purchase a machine off the back of my recommendations please comment below and let me know how you get on, I would love to hear from you.