What do you look for in a Sewing Machine?
Especially your very first adult sewing machine? Style? Cost? Features? I struggled with my first machine because I didn’t want to invest too much as a beginner. I just needed something to tinker with… Taking sewing classes to start is smart because you can learn and try out machines at the same time. But what about when you’re ready to buy?
I didn’t want to spend too much yet I still wanted the best machine I could find for my purpose. Basic yet versatile, so I could easily try whatever type of sewing struck my interest. Well-built so I could sew comfortably and for many projects to come. And lastly, something I wouldn’t outgrow too fast.
How much would that cost? What options were available? What’s a good value for the price? There’s lots of options, it’s hard to know where to begin. So here’s what I found during my research. Whatever your budget or purpose, hopefully this list will help you research and find just the right one. It’s a comprehensive list of home sewing machine manufacturers and the factors I used to narrow down options. You can get a decent well-built machine ranging from $70 – $160!
Sewing Machine Brands in Other Countries
Elna, Switzerland Website
Baby Lock, Juki, Japan Website
Consew, USA Website
Feiyue, China Website
John Lewis, UK Website
Kenmore, USA Website
Necchi, Italy Website
Usha, India Website
Yamata, China Website
Toyota, Japan Website
Merry Lock, Taiwan Website
Michley Tivax, USA Website
Sewing Machine Brands in North America
Singer, USA Website
Janome, Japan Website
Brother, Japan Website
Bernina, Switzerland Website
Husqvarna Viking, Sweden Website
Pfaff, Germany Website
Juki, Japan Website
Ikea, Sweden Website
$200 or below. Entry-level beginner machines usually range from $100- $499. To be honest, I wanted to see if I could get away with a kids’ hobby sewing machine for $100 or less but I found a vintage machine for $25 and went with that to start instead.
Under $100 can get your kid a great first sewing machine or budding home sewer their very own machine to experiment on. Affordable enough to take the plunge, plus it’s cute! It can even get the savvy crafter a very functional sewing machine that will serve them well.
Under $200 is generous enough to cover crafties like myself who need a solid basic they can rely on and grow with who doesn’t want to invest in the holy grail of sewing machines yet until they find what kind of sewing they’d like to focus on most!
$499 can buy a machine that can handle the seriously savvy or creatively crafty mom who not only sews for their pleasure but can double as a tailor, halloween costume maker, throw pillow/curtain/tablecloth maker and casual accessories designer/etsy shop owner on the side.
It’s a strict budget but it’s realistic. It can buy a trusty sewing machine that can both perform all the essentials and grow with you at the same time. Great for the dabbler, great for the serious kid learner, crafty mom, or for an adult learner like me who wants to gradually try it all.
❤ Features & Options
Straight Stitch, Back Stitch, and Zig Zag Stitch are all I needed. They are also the 3 most basic and most essential stitches needed for all beginning to intermediate sewers. Every modern sewing machine comes standard with these stitches.
Removable Sewing Bed. Hemming pant legs or sewing cuffs? Working with sleeves or skirts? Anything tubular where you will have to sew around the edge of a ring is difficult without this feature. The base of the sewing machine will pop out revealing an arm-type base. You should be able to slip a sleeve or pant leg on there and sew it around. Not all modern sewing machines come with this feature.
Foot Pedal Operated. Every modern sewing machine comes standard with foot pedal operation. Vintage machines do not though. They can come with anything from a knee pedal to a hand crank.
Sewing Feet and Bobbin Winders. Like detachable feet for Zipper or Button-hole makers, and Bobbin Winders. Bobbin Winders and Zipper Feet usually come standard with modern machines.
Reliable Stitch Length/Tension Control. Adjustable Tension Control is also standard among all sewing machines. Being able to control how tight your stitches are is handy for basting and working with different textiles. A machine that can do this reliably and accurately is important and not all machines can promise this.
Durability. How long the machine will last, if the feed dogs can reliably feed different textiles through, and how accurate the stitches are are what make a sewing machine reliable and durable to me. Perhaps if it can sustain long periods of accurate sewing at its maximum speed is also a factor.
I have two sewing machines now! Here’s my new Singer Fashion Mate 7256 !! It’s my first modern sewing machine and will be my main machine for as many years of sewing as I can squeeze out of it. As the name suggest this machine is great for Dressmaking or Fashion Sewing. Which is just what I needed. My vintage Singer Treadle 66 was a great starter machine at $25 (and ideal for Quilting given the flat bed is flush to the table) but was cumbersome for most of my other projects which are mainly clothing and accessories.
I’d been looking for a machine for awhile and just couldn’t commit to one. So instead my darling BF did it for me! :) I got this for Christmas last year. He picked it out all by himself and surprised me. The Best! (Rygo is getting a run for his money!) And it turned out to be just the perfect machine for me to graduate to. It has everything and more a budding home sewer needs from fashion sewing to quilting to home/dec sewing. And it’s well under $200!
Best of all, I get to sew all my future projects on a machine that was carefully selected by my darling BF! Who knew nothing about sewing or machines lol! He spent a lot of time researching though, looking for the best value (which I like!) that suited my needs, and last but not least “one that had lots of decorative stitches”! He personally likes colorful decorative stitches like embroidery, monograms, embellishment stitches etc. Too cute! It’s just perfect! ❤ ❤ ❤
Compact Yet Packed with Features
I went from doing everything manually on my old machine to a machine with 70 stitches that’s packed with features where everything is automatic! Little things like removable bed, Back Stitch, and Zig Zag Stitch are all luxuries for me so I love that. But this machine also has fully automated button hole maker, automatic threader, and an automatic tension setter! All this in a compact frame so it’s great for small apartments.
Learn and Grow
Start with whatever you’d like to learn. Your first A-line skirt, a pair of paints or shorts, a dress, a top, a tote bag! Or if you’d like to try your first quilt or make some curtains to spruce up your apartment. So it’s great for an adult beginner sewer or hobbyist sewer.
Quiet and Speedy
Compared to my old sewing machine it’s whisper quiet and really fast! My vintage Singer Treadle 66 can be really loud (and louder at full speed) and it’s fastest speed, compared to modern sewing machines, is slow!
Built To Last
This sewing machine features an all metal frame underneath its plastic compact shell. So it’s a great full-sized machine that fits in small spaces that will also ensure many years of happy sewing to come. It comes with a 25 Year Limited Warranty too.
Great Value at Under $200
It costs $160! Well under $200.
70 Stitch Electronic Sewing Machine
6 Fully Automatic One-Step Buttonholes
8 Basic Stitches
8 Stretch Stitches
48 Decorative Stitches
Needles: 2020 & 2045
Bobbin Class: 15J
Light Bulb: LED
14.5 x 7.5 x 12 inches
Wow! Old meets new in the new Singer 160 Anniversary Limited Edition celebrating 160 years of Singer sewing machines. Sew stylish and worth a mention. This came out early this year for the first time on HSN I believe. I just found out about it yesterday while doing research for a new sewing machine I got!
~ It’s a beauty with a stylish nod to the past and slick modern features!
~ Extra-Large Sewing Space – The arm measures 14.7 inches, allowing sewers to easily manage quilts and other large projects.
~ Drop Feed – A conveniently located lever lowers the feed dogs for free-motion embroidery, monograms, and button sewing.
~ Expensive! It was originally priced at $599.99.
Date Issued January 2012
Overall, I like that it’s a beginner-ish machine that tries to do it all. For a hobbyist that might like to try anything from dressmaking/fashion sewing to quilting to craft sewing it does a good job of trying to give some great features for each.
Until recently I sewed on the vintage Singer Treadle 66 seen below which is from the 1920′s. I got a new Singer last year for Christmas so am now learning that one!! Do you have an old Singer Sewing Machine? As part of the celebration they also created a new page for My Singer Story. Go there to enter your story or find out more about your machine!
*** CONTEST! ***
FYI: Check out my Pinterest for details on how to win the above sewing machine!! Contest ends April 23, 2012.
More Info/Where To Buy:
Amazon – http://amzn.to/IrDNAs
Singer Co. – http://www.singerco.com/160
Joann – http://www.joann.com/singer-160th-anniversary-sewing-machine-/zprd_11457413a/
Timeless Style and Modern Innovation. Introducing The SINGER 160™ limited edition sewing machine. The SINGER 160 Anniversary Limited Edition Computerized Sewing Machine features a nostalgic heritage shape and color with updated features and new technology. Created to commemorate the SINGER® brand’s 160 year anniversary by taking design cues from the past while introducing our simplest and most easy to use machine available. –Singer Co.
Look what I found when I went to visit Lancaster, PA earlier this year! Well actually I didn’t find it. I totally missed it. My BF found it and got it for me as a surprise :) :) :) Score! AWESOME FINGER PIN CUSHION!
It’s a tiny little pin cushion that fits on your finger! Traditional ones are much larger and strap onto your wrist. They’re much handier for the serious home sewer since they can hold a lot of pins at once. But this one is great for small projects and such. Plus it’s really cute!
It was freezing cold but we managed to browse around Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, PA and we also stumbled across this whole cache of Quilting and Yarn Stores right nearby! Jackpot! That’s where I found places like The Old Country Store and Bitty Kinna’s. And the Lancaster Yarn Shop where I first saw the Knitter’s Pride Interchangeable Needle Set in person! They remind me most of the Knit Picks Interchangeable Sets.
I bought my first Quilt Block Kit and am planning to make my first quilt block shortly! I found it at a quilting wonderland of quilt stuff and fabrics at The Old Country Store. I cracked it open and, although I’m excited to start, it was a little confusing already! The fabrics I got did not match the pattern, so it wasn’t easy to figure out which pieces were meant to be cut into what squares. I’ll have to tackle that soon though.
I ate Chipped Beef and Shoofly Pie for the first time. I. LOVED. CHIPPED BEEF! Ha. Which was basically some type of sliced corned beef or pastrami-type deli meat smothered in this white flour/milk/butter gravy. I ate it for breakfast! But didn’t care for the Shoofly Pie much which was basically sugar or corn syrup baked into a pie crust. We also ate Whoopie Pies! YES! We went to the Canning Kitchen in KKV and sampled a huge variety of pickled vegetables, pickles, jams, and spreads. Everything was weirdly sweet IMHO. But in general the food was great (albeit gut busting and not the most diet conscious). Great for every once in awhile or a little splurge.
We stayed at Eden Resort Best Western. The service was so warm and friendly, they made our stay very nice. The room rates were great and came with an awesome breakfast buffet each day! It was seriously the best meal I had all day while visiting. The bathroom was spotless and had these cool dual shower heads one with a rain shower head from the top and some water jets from the sides. The entire hotel was well kept and clean. They also had wonderful amenities like indoor and outdoor pools and whirlpools and sauna. The indoor one was really nice, it was crowded with kids (and not the cleanest) but decorated really nice. Great for families with kids and nearby attractions like Dutch Wonderland.
We saw lots of horse drawn buggies clopping around, weirdly old fashioned yet with modern materials. It smelled like horse poop everywhere, even at the hotel! There were even metal posts found along the streets for buggies to tie up their horses. It was affordable, we went in the off season, took the Amtrak (although a car is really needed) and trudged around in the snow. But we had a lovely little “country” getaway from NYC that turned out to be a great knitting and sewing trip too! (more…)
I WANT THIS!!! I saw this sewing machine at Target and instantly wanted it. It was exactly what I’ve been looking for for awhile and for the right price, under $100! I love that it’s simple with all the essentials, sturdy, and compact. All in all a great beginner machine that you can also grow with. I don’t have the space for it yet unless I get rid of my vintage Singer, but hopefully soon. Oddly enough, I also prefer anything with knobs and levers rather than something with electronic push buttons! So that was a plus for me. It’s more satisfying! I’m kitschy…
Suitable for the crafter who just needs a sewing machine every once in awhile to the budding home sewer to the intermediate seamstress on a budget! It comes with everything you need for most home-sewing projects. No need to buy the buttonhole or zipper foot separately. Or have to shop around for that hard to find foot made of tungsten titanium or whatever for your Bernina. Just plug and play. For those who are serious seamstresses this may not be robust or advanced enough but for most of us home-sewers it could be the perfect sidekick and a good pinch hitter for the occasional advanced project.
~ 9 Stitch Patterns including basic and decorative
~ Automatic 4-step Buttonhole
~ Adjustable Stitch Length
~ Automatic Reverse to reinforce stitches
~ Snap-on Presser Feet, quick release for easy on/off
~ Heavy Duty Metal Frame for skip-free sewing
~ On Board Accessory Storage
~ Free Arm for sewing difficult-to-reach areas
~ Extra-High Presser Foot Lifter for bulky fabric
~ Two Needle Positions for precise top stitching
Included Accessories: Darning Plate for free motion sewing, Spool Caps, Screwdriver, Bobbins, Needles, Lint Brush/Seam Ripper, Oil Bottle, Edge/Quilting Guide, Buttonhole Foot, Button Sewing Foot, General/All Purpose Foot and Zipper Foot
Features: Unistyle Buttonhole, Built-In Thread Cutter, Built-In Light, Heavy-Duty Metal Frame, Portable, Reverse Stitch, Free Arm, Light Weight, Built-In Storage, Stitch, Width, Length Adjustments
Includes: Needles, Seam Guide, Extra Presser Feet, Bobbins, Feed Cover, Seam Ripper, Owner’s Manual
Number of Stitch Patterns: 9
Bobbin Type: Front Load Bobbin Class 15
Buttonhole Steps: 4 Step
Presser Feet Included: General Purpose Foot, Zig Zag Foot, Zipper Foot, Buttonhole Foot
Dimensions: 12.0 ” H x 15.0 ” W x 6.25 ” D; 14.2 pounds
Warranty Description: 25 Year Limited Manufacturer Warranty
“The 1409 SINGER Promise sewing machine includes all the basic features you need to create almost any project. Basic and decorative stitches include an automatic buttonhole, easy stitch selection with adjustable stitch length and the included darning plate allows your imagination to run wild and become reality. Simple machine threading and an automatic bobbin winder make set up a breeze. A reverse lever is right at your finger tips for automatic stitch locking. Four included presser feet (general/all purpose, buttonhole, button sewing and zipper) are easily accessible in the accessory storage drawer that can be removed to create a free arm for stitching in hard-to-reach areas. Stitches include buttonhole, straight, zig zag, blind hems, rick rack, scallop, and rampart.” -Target.com
NOTE: The cheapie Singers had a bad reputation for being all plastic bodies and not very sturdy. However, “Singer made the move back to metal frames even for entry level mechanical sewing machines. This means your machine doesn’t bounce all over and is made to last. One review on Amazon claims to be an engineer and approved of the machine engineering.” SewSing.com has a nice review on it.
Also, as a coincidence, I happen to have Singer everything almost… From a sewing machine to serger to dress form. It just turned out that way. As a budding home sewer I felt all their products had the right features for the right price thus making it the right value for someone like me.
I GOT A SERGER!! I’ve been wanting a serger for awhile. They are great for sealing raw fabric edges and working with knit fabrics. But they cost more than I’d like to invest and they take up a lot of space. Plus for a home sewer like myself, a serger is sometimes more a luxury than an essential. So it was just a pipe dream until now!
It came all the way from Bushwick, Brooklyn somewhere near Hart Street in mint condition with almost all the original accessories including the extra needle, spool caps, and threaders! I don’t know exactly when it was made but from looking at the box and pictures on it my guess is it’s from the 80′s or 90′s.
It’s more of a junior serger or kids-type hobby serger but this means it’s also extremely compact and the perfect beginner machine for someone who might just like to try it or have it around for when in a bind!
~ It’s compact and light, about 6in. x 12in.
~ The foot pedal has a switch for 2 speeds
~ There is a handy sewing light
~ Hand wheel
~ It’s super cute!
Overedge vs. Overlock
It’s actually an “Overedge” machine rather than an “Overlock” machine so it works basically like your typical serger except it does not trim or cut off the fabric edges. This can be a benefit for beginners who need practice working with a serger because the fabric does not get cut. So if it goes crooked you can simply rip out the thread and try again without the risk of losing fabric!
3 Spools vs. 4 Spools
A typical serger for home use usually has 4 spools. But the Tiny Serger only uses 3 spools. When you see a typical serger with 4 spools it will most likely be an Overlock machine that also trims the fabric as it stitches.
Resources and Manuals
The Singer Co. website is normally full of great information on all their products. But I could not find much information on the Tiny Serger. But I did find the full instruction manual!
Manual – Singer Tiny Serger, TS380A
I’ve been googling around and read mixed reviews about it. Some people say it’s difficult to work with but given its size and function it’s definitely noteworthy. Since it’s more a novelty item it may not be suitable for more serious sewers but perhaps for a budding sewer or hobbyist crafter it can be perfect!
❤ I got this as a present from Craigston Yip III, Esq. and it’s not even my birthday! My first project on this little serger will be a surprise present for the treasure hunter himself! Heart it so much and thanks. It’s perfect! ❤ ❤ ❤
What’s the difference between a Serger, an Overlock, and an Overedge Machine?
All the above are sergers. Sergers create a different type of stitch that wrap around the sides of fabric in order to join them. Unlike sewing machines, sergers only do a single stitch. This stitch cannot be reproduced in a sewing machine. Therefore a separate machine is needed for this stitch.
An Overlock machine traditionally uses 4 threads at once to create the stitch and it trims the fabric edge as it goes. An Overedge machine typically uses 3 threads at once and does not cut the fabric edges. Wikipedia has a nice intro article on sergers, overlock, and overedge machines.
I have yet to practice threading it and taking it for a test drive but will soon, so more about the Tiny Serger in action later. I’ve also only ever used the serger (overlock) featured in a previous post, so don’t have that much experience with a serger but now I’ll have a great opportunity to get comfortable with one!
HOLY CRAP! I just found the sewing book of my dreams. I went to the bookstore on a lark (as per usual) to check out the sewing books. I wasn’t expecting to find anything to write home about. Instead I found something to write to the world about! Ha. Ok. I kid. But seriously.
So far it’s got everything I’m looking for. Everything I’ve learned in my previous classes (all the beginner topics like Sewing Machine, Tools, Fabrics, Stitches, and Reading Patterns) to what I’m looking for now, Alterations! Along with much more like Button Holes, Pleats, Pants etc.
All with clear gorgeous and very descriptive photographs (not illustrations). And in a very digestible format great for beginners or as a very handy reference for the more advanced. Comprehensive yet easy enough for beginners to digest, expansive yet organized, beautifully laid out all in a giant pink hardcover textbook. IT’S A GEM!
Compare that to the $430 I’ve spent on 2 classes (and that’s with major shopping around and a half price class!) I still think beginning Sewing for the first time requires a class. But once you get that and the basics down it’s easier to choose which way to go from there. After no real luck looking for a decent comprehensive sewing class and then finding this book, I’m going to forego my next sewing class. And self-learn for a bit like I did for Knitting and Crochet. I can get more done on my own time in this fashion too. If you’re in the same boat as me, then I highly recommend flipping through to see if it’s for you. If so, you can save some money on classes!
Here’s my new dress form! It is Singer DF150 Adjustable Dress Form, Sizes 10-16 or S/M. It’s an econo version of the classic dress form that happens to be adjustable! It comes in S/M and M/L. This Model 150G fits sizes 10-16 and has 12 adjustment dials. I got this from Joann.com during a sale and received free shipping too! It came so quick, I placed the order on Dec 6th and got it Dec 11th!
What I like so far: Its cheapiness is in fact perfect for beginner sewers because it still gives professional results and is a handy tool for a home sewer to have (I tried to mark and gather in a simple dress on myself which was impossible!). It’s light, easy to take apart for stowing away, and the dials and adjustments are true to measurements (I measured after adjusting). It comes with a hem guide and the pole is marked for height so it can adjust to your exact height. It’s extremely easy to figure out and adjust. The instructions are simple:
Example: My bust is 36″. So to adjust bust size – turn all the dials to the 36″ setting around the bust area. 1 in front, 2 on the sides, 1 in back. Making the bust measure a total of 36″. Measure your waist and hip, then do the same for those dials!
Neck Sizes: 13″ – 18″
Bust Sizes: 33”-39” (84cm-100cm)
Waist Sizes: 25”-31 1/2” (64cm-80cm)
Hip Sizes: 34”-40” (86cm-102cm)
Torso Heights: 16” to 19”
Overall Height: The entire dress form is adjustable to your overall height too
Fashionary.org publishes a dictionary + sketchbook for clothing designers! While I’m more interested in exploring sewing with some personal projects for now, I found all the fabulously handy information especially helpful for a home sewer like myself. Like the fabric dictionary and fiber chart, seam and stitch guide, body measurement guide etc. The book also includes blank body templates for sketching and denoting measurements and ideas which will be great for logging my measurements and notes for each project! It contains 34 pages of reference information and 130 pages of blank templates. All in a cute Moleskine-style notebook. $17 USD + shipping.
Every sewer needs a few more tools besides their sewing machine! Oddly enough, the hardest part about sewing is the preparation. The most basic sewing tools are for measuring and cutting which need to be done with precision. Getting the steps right leading up to the actual sewing part are essential for having your project be a success. So choosing tools that help you achieve this most effectively are key. In general, I found choosing the best quality tools when possible are always a better value than going with cheaper ones first. It’s also likely you will need various types of the same kinds. It’s unfortunately necessary that you will need many tools. So choosing wisely is a task in itself. Here are the tools I feel every home sewer needs to get started. See Where To Buy: Sewing Supplies for where to get it all!
Dressmaker Shears or Fabric Scissors, 8″
Gingher 8″ Dressmaker Shears are highly recommended. I have Mundial 7″ Dressmaker Shears and I can feel the difference. I chose them for the size and price. Choose the best ones you can afford for these. You will be doing a lot of cutting and cutting neatly and accurately is key. So a nice pair of Ginghers are invaluable. To me, a Rotary Cutter for all cutting needs is ideal, the smooth precision is unbeatable and I like neat!, but cutting curves with the rotary cutter is a more advanced technique which will take more practice (and smaller-sized blades and a humongous self-healing mat depending on the piece), so for now Dressmaker Shears are most effective.