Sewing machines have come a long way from the old Singer in Mom and Dad's attic. The good news: machines have gotten much easier to use. They are more versatile and can sew pieces as light as silk or as heavy as denim. The bad news: there are more models on the market leaving you with a difficult decision to make.
* '''Determine your skill level. '''
** Beginners should stick to something with the basic stitch options that doesn't cost too much.
** If you don't plan to use your machine more than a few times a year, don't bother with complex machines.
** Advanced users with professional expectations will want a computerized version that can download patterns from a PC.
* '''Think of the things you want to sew.'''
** Clothes made with simple fabrics are fine on basic machines, whether they are traditional or electronic.
** Quilting and making crafts require a more advanced machine that can handle a wider variety of stitches.
** Upholstery should be sewn on heavy-duty machines.
* '''Warranty and Service'''
** These are important, as is your relationship with your dealer. Will you be able to get the machine serviced with minimal hassle?
** Buying online may impact your level of service or void your warranty.
** Make sure you know exactly what you're getting (or not getting) for your money.
** You may need to buy replacement needles. You'll need more thread eventually.
** High-end machines may have extra costs for additional stitches, embroidery patterns or memory chips.
Mechanical or Electronic?
Major types of sewing machines include:
* The traditional '''mechanical''', which is used for basic sewing purposes.
** Prices are generally lower for the less-advanced mechanical models, but the quality does not necessarily have to suffer. Kenmore offers an easy-to-use, lightweight, mechanical machine for less than $200.
* '''Electronic''' machines, which include a wider variety of stitches and automated features are the best mid-level choice.
** For avid sewers that use their machines very often, opting for an electronic model is worth the money. Good machines with lots of features by Brother (Pacesetter NX 400 or 600) start at $500.
* The latest models are '''computerized''' so instead of manually adjusting the tension and stitch, you simply push a button and the computer sets everything up for you using small motors controlled by a microprocessor. This feature reduces errors.
** Computerized machines are the most expensive (up to $5000), but they allow the user to sew any stitch, embroidered monogram, and more with the ease of an LCD computer screen that internally monitors the stitches, widths, zig-zags, etc.
* '''Integrated needle threader''' makes threading simple and fast.
* A '''hard case''' is heavier but more protective.
* The more '''stich options''' the better.
* A '''carrying handle''' makes moving the sewing machine easier.
* Consider the '''weight''' of the machine with the case. If you can't lift the machine, it might be difficult to take out and put it away without a helping hand.
* Look for machines that can do '''buttonholes in one step'''.
* '''Presser feet''' should be able to do the following:
** Buttonholes, button sewing, blind hems, satin stitch, overcasting, walking, spring-action quilting, 1/4-inch foot for thick fabrics and denim, rolled hem, darning, gathering, cording, embroidery, overedge, open-toe, Teflon, zipper.
* '''Bobbin''' choices are vertical or drop-in.
* '''Adjustable feed dogs''' allow you to drop the toothy mechanism below the sewing surface to do manual work without damaging the fabric.
* '''Integrated dual-feed system''' makes for easier use.