Ask any serious sewist or quilter for advice on buying a new sewing machine and you will get some serious opinions. A sewing machine is not just a tool to get a job done, it is almost like a mechanical sewing buddy. Whether you are a newbie getting your first machine or an experienced sewist looking to upgrade, there are a few things to consider before you go shopping.
Do a little research.
Ask you friends what they have. Pay attention to what they do and don’t like about their machine. Go online and look at brand websites. Check out customer reviews for machines you might be interested in. If you are researching a machine online and the owner’s manual is available, read it! You don’t have to take the whole manual in like a novel but you will get some good info on what comes with the machine, ease of use, and what it is capable of,
What do you like to sew?
If you are a garment sewist, quilter or crafter, your needs will be different. A quilter might simply need a straight stitch machine. A garment sewist does not need 200 decorative stitches but a great selection of utility stitches. A crafter might want a wide choice of stitches. Think about how you are going to use your machine to narrow down choices.
What is your skill set?
If your are new to sewing you might not want all the bells and whistles but you may want something you won’t outgrow at you learn new skills. If you aren’t computer savvy, don’t pick a machine that is overwhelming with a big learning curve. Like to take things slow? Make sure the machine you are looking at has speed control!
A simple hobby machine can cost as little as $100 – $200 but don’t expect much. A really good machine will be between $400 – $1000. A serious sewist can spend anywhere from $1000 – the price of your first car. Decide on what you truly want to spend. If you shop online, no worries. If you shop with a dealer, don’t let them talk you into something you are not comfortable with.
Online, Sewing Machine Dealer, Big Box Store? Where do I look?
If you have a local sewing machine dealer you should start there. A good dealer will have a repair tech on-site, offer a lesson on your machine with your purchase, and will be there to answer questions if you have them. If you do not have someone local, look online for a machine dealer that sells online but also has a brick-and-mortar presence. They will be able to answer your questions easily by phone and tend to be more customer service oriented. Even if you order from them online, call them! Ask them the same questions you would if you shop in person. Back-up support for a machine is very, very important.
I have very definite opinions on purchasing machines from big box stores. Big box stores like Walmart do carry low end brand name sewing machines for a low price. These machines are not the same quality (they were probably not even made in the same country) as the brands offerings at a dealer. They also do not carry a range of accessories like specialty presser feet. A Brother sewing machine on the shelf at Walmart will not be one of the models you will find at a Brother dealer. The same goes for other brands. If you get your machine home and need tech support or a sewing lesson, you are out of luck or you are going to have to spend some more money. That defeats the whole purpose of saving money in the first place. It also cracks me up that I can buy baby food and toilet paper within twenty feet of a sewing machine.
Shops will have very different return policies, make sure you know before you fork over dough!
Maintenance and Repairs
The ideal situation is to buy a machine from a shop that also has a certified tech for that brand. If you have to drive five hours to get a repair on a fancy-pants machine, are you going to be happy? Machines also need a little maintenance every 1-2 years depending on how you use your machine.
Do brands matter?
Well, yes and no. The major names in the sewing machine all have great products. If you are leaning toward a particular brand analyze why. Does the brand have a great product or it is a luxury item? Don’t buy a machine for the logo, get what is right for you and your budget! If the brand also makes toaster, vacuum cleaners and irons, move on!
Have fun and take your time!
Take a sewing buddy shopping with you. Test drive every machine you would possibly consider. Don’t feel pressure from anyone to make a decision on the spot. Have a great time!