What types of sewing machines are there?
There are two basic types of sewing machines: mechanical and electronic. Mechanical sewing machines are the most basic type of sewing machine and are ideal for anyone looking for a budget-friendly model for occasional light use. Most of the features will be hand-powered and it is up to most typical sewing needs like repairing hems and creating basic clothing, as well as simple crafting. Electronic models are more advanced and tend to be pricier, but are necessary if you are an experienced sewer and need something more heavy-duty with a lot of features and abilities. Most electronic models offer digital screens and push-button technology for many tasks. They also make it easy to switch between a variety of stiches.
How many stitches do I need in a sewing machine?
The most versatile and commonly used stitches are straight stitches and zigzag stitches; however, many sewing machines can offer over 500 stitches. For example, a lower-priced Brother sewing machine might have 27 stitches, while a higher-priced Singer machine might have 600. If you are looking to make simple clothes and designs with your sewing machine, you don’t need a whole lot of variety of stitches. But, if you like to be very creative and experiment, having a wide variety of stitches can be important. Look for a sewing machine that offers at least straight and zigzag stitches, and expand to more if you want to have more creative control.
What are the main components of a sewing machine?
When looking for a sewing machine, the number of details and information about its different features can be confusing without a basic idea of its main parts. The main parts of a sewing machine are the needle, the presser foot, the feed dogs, the bobbin housing, and the foot pedal. The needle is what does the actual sewing; unlike regular needles, the eye of the needle (or the hole where you insert the thread) is right above the point. The presser foot keeps your fabric in place so that it doesn’t slide around, and helps regulate the size of the stitch. The feed dogs move the fabric as you sew based. The bobbin housing is where you put the bobbin, which holds your thread. The foot pedal powers your machine and regulates the speed as well as stopping or starting the machine during use.
What features should I look for in a sewing machine?
Some good features to keep an eye out for when shopping for a sewing machine include an automatic needle threader, an ergonomic design and easy-to-use controls, a top-load bobbin, an adjustable presser foot, an automatic buttonholer, speed control, needle position adjustment, tension adjustment, automatic thread cutters, and
Why is an automatic needle threader a benefit?
An automatic needle threader saves you the frustration of trying to thread the needle yourself, which can be extremely tricky and aggravating.
What should I look for in terms of ergonomics and controls?
When looking at a sewing machine’s ease of use, look for models that are easy to control using the foot pedal and which can handle thick materials without stalling or bunching. You should be able to reach the controls and adjust as needed with one hand, and if you have a digital LED screen you should be able to understand what is being displayed. Look for models that include multiple lights to illuminate different parts of the fabric as you work, as well as machines with large amounts of space on the right-hand side of the needle so that you can easily manipulate fabric, even large amounts of fabric.
Why is a top-load bobbin beneficial?
A top-loaded bobbin makes it easy to change thread as needed by simply dropping a new bobbin into the top of the machine in its special compartment. You won’t need to try and squeeze your hands into a small space, and most models will have a clear window so you can monitor how much thread is left at any given time.
What are the benefits of an adjustable presser foot?
The pressure foot allows you to control exactly how tightly the machine holds on to the fabric, so you can tailor it to your specific needs and avoid tearing, pulling, or bunching the material.
Why is an automatic buttonholer beneficial?
An automatic buttonholer allows you to create buttonholes without having to remove the fabric and turn it to where you want the buttonhole to go. Some models, including many Singer and Brother models, will even sew in a button for you. The Brother LS2125i has a custom buttonholer that can accommodate different sizes and shapes of buttons.
Why is speed control important?
You want to make sure your sewing machine gives you adequate speed control so that you can work at your own even, steady pace and avoid having to stop and re-start the machine each time it begins to go too quickly. It can also help to avoid having to constantly put pressure on the foot pedal.
What are the benefits of having needle position adjustments?
Needle position adjustments will tell the machine what height you want the needle to stop at; set it to stop at a high level to make removing and adjusting fabric easy, or set it to a low level for easy turns and pivots so you can turn corners rapidly.
What is tension adjustment, and why is it important?
Tension adjustment is vital to maintaining the quality of the fabric; you want to keep an even tension so that the fabric doesn’t bunch if it’s pulled too tightly through the machine and so that your stitches are tight and not loose.
Why are automatic thread cutters beneficial?
An automatic thread cutter will cut both the top and bottom threads when you are done or need to change thread colors; this saves you a lot of hassle trying to get your scissors around the fabric while it’s still in the machine and reduces fraying. Automatic thread cutters are available on many Singer models.
What sort of attachments should I look for with a sewing machine?
Depending on what sort of sewing you plan on doing, sewing machines can come with a variety of attachments that make any project easier to complete. Look for a model that comes with different presser feet, such as a zipper foot and a walking foot. Also look for presser feet that have different range of sizes so you can control your stitch size easily.
How loud is a sewing machine?
A sewing machine can be either very quiet or very loud depending on which model you decide to purchase. Look for a model that offers quiet operation; you may be spending many hours using it at one time, so prolonged exposure to a loud noise can irritate you. Janome makes a line of super-quiet sewing machines that won’t disturb the whole household during use.
What can I make using a sewing machine?
With a sewing machine, you can make just about anything you can think of. From clothing like T-shirts, dresses, jackets, and pants to home décor like throw pillows, quilts, curtains, and tablecloths, there is almost no limit to what you can make. You can find fabrics with patterns you like to make napkins or seat covers, or you can use felt and furry fabrics to make dolls and stuffed animals. Look for patterns and sewing books that can give you all the resources you need to start making your own amazing creations.
What to look for when buying a sewing machine
Easy To Use/Learn
One of the most basic features to look for in a machine is how easy it is to operate, or learn how to operate for first time users. There are complex machines that can handle near industrial level projects and have what look like spaceship control panels on the side of them. Look for something that either markets itself as easy to use, or that comes with quality instructional material (DVD, CD, Web Access Codes, ect.). This video is a very helpful start when beginning with sewing and making the right choices when buying one:
Needle Up/Down Control
When it comes to making turns in sewing, such as completing corners without stopping/restarting, you want a machine that has up/down control for the needle. This simply means that you can keep the foot down and lift the needle up, or keep the needle down and lift the foot while you adjust the fabric while the machine is on.
In addition to up/down needle control, it is not uncommon to also find an adjustable needle feature. This is important for when you want to work with materials of different thicknesses, such as denim versus satin. When a needle is set at a fixed position, you would find it difficult to smoothly sew some materials. You want to be sure any model you consider also has at least preset, or free range, adjustments for the needle height/ start position.
Automatic Needle Threader
As implied, a basic quality sewing machine is going to either have semi, or fully, automatic needle threading. Threading the needle of a sewing machine can be somewhat more tedious than threading a needle for hand sewing. For those with less steady hands, or who want to avoid eye strain, a machine that has a spring loaded (or other mechanical) feature to thread the needle automatically is considered a must have. Look for machines that mentioned automated, or assisted, needle threading.
Assisted Manual Needle Threading
While automatic needle threading features are fairly common and make it easier to use the machine, almost all older and many newer models still use manual threading. However, one manual threading feature that should be sought is easy-to-thread systems. This particular feature is the next best thing to automatic threading. There is no set method for how to make it easier. So, look for machines that advertise the phrase “easy thread” or “ez thread”.
Making buttonholes is considered a basic feature for sewing machines. There are two distinct methods for this feature to use; automatic and assisted. When it comes to choosing a machine, look for models that have automatic. While both will get the job done, automatic buttonhole features don’t require you to turn and shift the fabric, which can make it a lot easier to do a series of buttonholes, or place them at the edge of larger pieces.
Built In Stitching Patterns
Most enthusiasts and experienced users will agree, you want to get a machine with no less than four built in stitching patterns. These are considered the stitches you will need to perform all the basic duties of a sewing machine in terms of creating and repairing cloth goods. Be sure to look for models that have at least: straight stitch, buttonhole stitch, zigzag stitch, and a back stitch.
Adaptable For Upgrading
For anyone buying a sewing machine for the first time, it is important to consider how much you plan to use it and what all you would like to be able to do with it. A common feature for many machines is the ability to be upgraded later on down the line as your skills and needs increase. Upgrades include being able to expand the workspace, use accessories (such as hoops and stabilizers for embroideries), or for some models, the ability to expand its stitching pattern repertoire. It is highly advised to look for models that have the capacity to be upgraded in some fashion, which can save the expense of having to buy a new machine with more features down the line.
Light Weight Or Manageable Size
The definition of manageable concerns the size and weight of the machine itself. It should be easy to move, especially around the home. Look for models that list a weight and dimensions you feel able to handle, so you can easily store and retrieve it, negating the need to have a dedicated space for it.
The control pedal for the sewing machine should ideally be for more than just on/off operation. Not only should it come on a cord that is around 6″ in length, the pedal itself should have a slight incline. The concept is much like the accelerator pedal in a car, it should slowly increase the speed of the needle as you depress, allowing you to move slower/faster as you desire. Make sure the pedal offers adjustable controls.
Free Arm Design
One of the most overlooked features is the free arm design. The arm, or workspace around the needle and foot, should either be minimal (allowing free workspace to more easily hem things like pants legs) or adjustable (having a broader area that is removable). It is best to look for models that have an arm piece that clips off for the most variety and use.
One of the oldest names in the sewing industry, Singer has been synonymous with sewing machines since the 1850s. On just about any list of the bests, Singer, Brother, and Janome are almost always among the top three today. In particular, Singer is known for their features to pricing ratio, with excellent models that can make professional quality pieces on a standard budget machine. They also offer a very wide range in options when it comes to complexity and ease of use, which makes them excellent for people who want a reliable machine to learn on or teach children and young adults with. Some of their more popular models are the Heavy Duty and Quantum Stylists series.
Brother is one name that is known for quality products in a variety of technological fields. For sewing machines they offer some of the highest quality models, compared to Janome and Singer. One of their key traits is consistent pricing and features offered. The most popular model they offer is the Brother XM2701, which is described as being one the most versatile and lightweight standard model machines.
While not as old as Singer or Brother, Janome sewing machines have been rising in popularity over the last few years. They specialize in high-end models, most of which make use computer integrated controls and software. Their simplest machine is a single straight stitch that produces industrial quality work, while their featured Horizon (Memory Craft 1500) has just about every feature and included accessory you could imagine.
Much like Janome, Bernina sewing machines integrate a lot of modern technology and control into their machines. They have seven series of machines to date, with each one progressively more advanced and feature filled than the last. It is not hard to see why they are hailed as the ideal machine for enthusiast and professionals alike, the series 7 machines (790 being the top end) could easily outrank any other brand in terms of ease of use and quality embroidering. The only point that the company loses some competitive edge on is the higher pricing that their machines have.