Using a sewing machine is many things to many people; some find it a relaxing hobby, others use it to stretch their pound by doing minor tailoring work at home. Even young people can use many sewing machines. The opportunities are endless -- you might embroider a handkerchief, hem a pair of trousers and make a pillowcase in one afternoon. Machines have gotten much easier to use as well as less expensive.
Even if sewing isn't your cup of tea, perhaps a youngster in your family shares his grandfather's tailoring talent and you'd like to get him a machine to practice on at home. Sewing with a sewing machine can be the start of a lifetime love of crafts and home-made wearables. Kids with a creative edge can have a lot of fun making stuff for themselves, their friends and even for their dolls. Using the sewing machine can be a great family activity, since grandparents, parents and kids can all use it.
The field of sewing machines is vast; there are many choices in a wide range of prices. The most basic models start at less than £30, while the feature-rich "prosumer" models can cost hundreds or thousands of pounds. Unlike many appliances, with sewing machines you shouldn't buy the best machine you can afford; you should buy the best machine that suits your needs, whether you occasionally hem your trousers or quilt competitively.
How to Choose
- 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 computerised 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. Some very good machines can cost just £125 or less.
- 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 start at £200.
- The latest models are computerised 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.
- Computerised machines are the most expensive (up to £3000), 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 stitch 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.
- Some machines may use four or six steps, but so many on the market use one step that it is not hard to find, even in less expensive machines.
- 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.