What the best sewing machines have
- Enough built-in stiches for your needs. You may not need hundreds of stitches, but, at the very least, you should have
a straight stitch, a zigzag stitch, a button stitch and the ability to
backstitch so you can lock stitches in place at the beginning and end of a
seam. Beyond that, look for stiches that fit with whatever type of project you
think you'll be doing the most, such as embroidery or cross stitch.
- A good
selection of presser feet. It doesn't
matter if you're a novice or an expert, the right presser foot, such as a
walking foot for quilting or a zipper foot, can make life much easier for you.
automatic buttonholer: It's a valuable skill to
know how to make your own buttonholes, and many Sewing 101 classes insist on teaching
this, but it's wonderful when your machine can do it for you. The best machines
make consistent buttonholes with a simple adjustment (or a couple of simple
adjustments). Many can even make several styles of buttonholes.
automatic needle threader. This is not essential,
but many sewers love the freedom from squinting and/or pricking your fingers.
It also saves time if you can just push a button or pull a lever to thread the
needle on your machine.
controls. The guides on the machine, such as the
thread or stitch guide, should be easy to follow. The LCD screen on
computerized sewing machines should be easy to read, and have enough built-in
tutorials to walk you through just about anything. All controls should be easy
lightweight design: Especially if you'll be hauling the
machine back and forth to a class, or if you have to lift it from a shelf every
time you need to use it, you want it to be easy to carry and, at the very
least, have a handle on top.
to grow: Try to think beyond the features you want today to those you
may want in the future. If you choose a machine that's too basic, you won't be
able to add extra stitches or different needle positions as your skills
Know before you go
What are your
sewing goals and expectations? If you're a serious sewer or crafter who does all
kinds of projects on your machine, spring for a computerized machine with a
plethora of features. If you just need to do basic tasks (hemming, for example,
or making simple costumes), go for a sturdy, mechanical machine that will last
you for life.
Are you really
ready for a fancy machine? Many models are loaded with tempting features, but it's
easy for novices to become overwhelmed. Stick with a simpler -- and less
expensive -- sewing machine until you are confident that you've mastered the
basics. Good sewing machines lose very little value over time, so you'll
probably be able to resell it for enough of the original retail price to make
it worth your while if you decide to upgrade.
Will you travel
with the machine? If so, you will want to look for a machine that is highly portable, yet
can perform like a regular sewing machine.
Where will you
stow it? The more
often you use your sewing machine, the more crucial it is to have a dedicated
area for your sewing and crafting. Consider a sewing machine table or cabinet
to keep all of your projects organized and easy to access.
How often will
you sew? If the
answer is "frequently," consider forgoing mechanical units and
purchasing a computerized machine. The ability to program stitch patterns will
make repetitive work go faster.
Try before you buy
There are a lot
of very expensive, high-end sewing machines out there, and they are wonderful.
These sewing machines -- made by companies such as Pfaff, Baby Lock, Bernina, and
Elna -- can run you into the thousands of dollars, and plenty of owners say they're
worth every penny. However, they are sold only through authorized retailers and
we strongly recommend that before you spend the money, you spend the time to
travel around and try a few of these premium machines. It's a terrible shame to
read sad, buyer's remorse tales from people who bought a $1,000-plus machine
sight unseen and found that it was well beyond their skill or interest level.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Sewing Machines | Best Sewing Machines for Beginners | Best Portable Sewing Machines | Our Sources