Buyers’ Guide: Sewing machine
Shopping online for a new sewing machine can be a daunting prospect, especially when faced with jargon such as ‘feed dog’, ‘knee lifter’ and ‘free arm’ (take a look at our jargon buster to find out what the heck they are!).
Here at Genie Shopping we love doing all the hard work for you, and that’s exactly what we’ve done; scouring the web we’ve brought you the best sewing machines that money can buy, from cheap sewing machines for beginners to top of the range designer models for the aficionados amongst you.
Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about sewing machines:
Types of sewing machine
A mechanical sewing machine is a basic model that requires more work by the user as it has no foot pedal but a wheel that you control by hand. Mechanical models are rarer than other, modern sewing machines and those still in use are usually by companies such as Singer, making them quite a collector’s item.
These models are less powerful, with fewer features, and cheap mechanical sewing machines can often only work with lighter/thinner fabrics. As you’d expect from an earlier machine, the mechanical sewing machine is very basic and only allows you to do very simple sewing.
Electronic sewing machines are the most common model on the market and contain a motor that controls the needle. The motor is controlled with a foot pedal allowing you to control the fabric and feed it through with both hands, or change dials.
Speed is controlled by pressing down on the foot pedal; the harder you press down the faster the machine will work.
You can vary the speed and stitch length and style of electronic sewing machines with dials and controls.
Electronic models are the perfect sewing machines for beginners and can vary in price and features.
Computerised sewing machines are a step up from electronic models and are best suited to experienced and expert sewers who are looking for a more versatile model.
Computerised models are advanced machines, using several separate motors to control different areas and functions. Computer chips control these machines and they have the correct tension, length and width programmed in for each stitch style. This clever machine can also memorise past projects and download programs when connected to the internet.
To operate this sewing machine you need a touchscreen and computer.
Overlocker sewing machines are usually used to finish seams and hems and give a professional finish. They also have decorative stitching settings for something a little fancier.
Overlocker sewing machines work faster than standard machines and have additional attachments and features to make it the best option for finishing and neatening. And not only can it finish off seams and hems, it can cut off the excess fabric in the same way, saving you time and effort.
The downside to overlocker machines is that they’re less versatile than standard models. If you’d like the neat, professional finish given by an overlocker and the versatility of a standard machine you can always use them both alongside each other to get the best of both worlds.
Beginner vs. expert
Knowing which sewing machine to shop for can seem like a daunting task but a good place to start is by thinking about your level of sewing ability.
An inexpensive, simple model with a few basic stitches may be the best sewing machine for beginners. For more advanced sewers a reliable machine with lots of features should be the best option. If you’re really after something top of the range, a computerised sewing machine is your best bet.
Sewing machine use
Have a think about what you’ll be using your new sewing machine to do. This will affect the type of model you should be shopping for.
For dressmaking, alterations and home furnishings even a basic model will do the trick. You shouldn’t need to spend more than around £200 to get a cheap sewing machine that’ll feature all the specs you need. Have a look for machines with some simple stitching – straight and zig zag of differing length, and an automatic buttonhole.
Look for models with several foot attachments for inserting a zip and buttonholes. If you’re likely to be working with delicate fabrics look for a plastic foot. A ‘free arm’ will help make working with sleeves and trouser legs easier.
If you think you may advance in future to create more elaborate pieces look for a brand of sewing machine that you can buy extra parts and attachments for to save you having to buy a whole new model in the future.
For more advanced use, including crafts and quilting you’ll need a sewing machine with wider range of stitches and will have to spend a little extra to get a sufficient model. Why not try a computerised sewing machine or specialist embroidery model? If you’re likely to be using your machine frequently it’s worth splashing out for a top of the range model.
Consider buying a machine with a memory card too to allow you to download further stitch programs.
Other things to consider
Weight: Will you be using the sewing machine in a designated area or does it need to be portable?
Brand: Some well-known brands include Janome, Singer, Brother, Elna and Bernina
Extra features: Carry case, accessories
- Spool The plastic cylinder that holds the thread
- Bobbin The bobbin thread comes up from the bottom of the machine and is the thread you see on the underside of anything you’re sewing. The bobbin is the small spool itself that holds the thread within the machine.
- Feed dog The aptly named feed dog is situated under the needle and foot and looks like tiny little metal teeth that help feed the fabric through as you sew by gripping the underside of the material. Some feed dogs can be lowered so that they are not in use whilst you sew – useful for embroidery.
- Free arm A cylinder on the bed of the sewing machine that allows you to sew things like pockets and sleeves.
- Knee lifter A knee lifter is a feature on some machines which allows you to life the foot without having to take your hands off your work. This is a great option for large or fiddly work.
Mosey on over to our shopping and comparison pages where we’ve brought you the best sewing machines the UK has to offer.
Have a think about which features are important to you before filtering your search with the columns down the left hand side of the page – this’ll make shopping for your perfect sewing machine a doddle.
Once you’ve spotted a deal or price that tickles your fancy (and we guarantee you will!), click on the offer and you’ll be transferred to the site of your chosen independent retailer. From there you can either click and buy or continue on your quest to find your perfect model – just be sure to check our sewing machine reviews before you click ‘pay’!