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CHOOSING THE BEST SEWING MACHINE

CHOOSING THE BEST SEWING MACHINE

There are a few things to consider when purchasing a sewing machine. Although all machines will create a sturdy stitch, whether you need extra features depends on your skill level, sewing requirements, and budget. As you deliberate on the best sewing machine for you, consider these factors, and also think about how you might use the machine as your sewing skills improve.

Type

There are three types of sewing machines: computerized, electric, and mechanical. True mechanical machines are not as readily available anymore, but they still are around, and some sewers love to use them with a nod to nostalgia. Each type of machine has its advantages and disadvantages.

Computerized machines come with a variety of built-in stitch types—some elaborate and others simple and all available at the touch of a button. These machines take a lot of the guesswork out of sewing, which might be especially important for beginners. The downside of computerized sewing machines is that sometimes problems can arise from software issues. This means maintenance and repairs can be more expensive than they would be for a mechanical machine.

On an electric machine, you adjust settings and stitches with a mechanical knob, but an electric motor drives the needle assembly and other components of the machine. They are a hybrid of mechanical and computerized sewing machines. These basic machines offer essential stitches for sewing projects, such as straight stitches of varying lengths and zigzag stitches of varying widths. These pared-down offerings, however, often don’t include decorative embroidery stitches. While the options are simpler, maintenance and repair are often simpler (and cheaper), too.

Mechanical sewing machines provide basic functions. These machines use a wheel that must be turned by hand or a foot pedal that must be pumped up and down to move the needle. These machines are slow but easy to operate. The foot-powered machines are sometimes called treadle sewing machines and are the type your great-grandmother might have had. Today, most people purchase these machines for novelty décor.

Size and Weight

Sewing machines come in various sizes and weights. So, it’s important to take into consideration the size of your workspace and whether you’ll be moving the machine around a lot. Do you have a dedicated sewing table, or will the machine need to be pulled out for use and then stored when you’re finished?

Machines with expandable arms to accommodate quilting are bulkier and large and are not as portable. Most beginner machines are lightweight and are easily moved and stored.

Material

Sewing machines have either plastic or metal bodies. Plastic-body machines are less expensive and lighter. Most sewing machines designed for hobby and home use have plastic bodies. They are cheaper to produce, which makes them more affordable. They also come in a wider range of sizes and are lighter to transport, making them easier to move from storage to tabletop.

Metal machines are extremely durable but cost significantly more and are heavier. Metal machines are typically made for industrial sewing purposes and can sew through tough materials such as denim, canvas, and leather. You will often find metal sewing machines in garment factories and alteration/tailoring shops.

Skill Level

Sewing machines designed for home sewing are relatively easy to use. However, the features you want in your sewing machine will depend on your skill level. Determine what type of sewing projects you want to try. Do you want to sew pillowcases, home furnishings, apparel, and accessories? Or do you plan to try quilting and embroidering? Typically, basic electrical sewing machines will accommodate most home sewing projects. Quilting and embroidery projects require machines with more stitch options and extended sewing arms for larger pieces of fabric.

The more options you have on your sewing machine, the more complicated it can be to operate, especially if you are a beginner. Experienced sewers may have fewer issues navigating computerized machines and troubleshooting common sewing problems due to skills acquired from experience. A novice sewer may be better off using a basic electric sewing machine with only a handful of options and learning how to fix common machine issues without the help of an onboard computer.

Stitching

All sewing machines provide a basic straight stitch. However, when deciding on a sewing machine, it’s important to consider the number, types, length, and width of the stitches the machine is capable of making. Some sewing projects require the ability to choose and adjust stitches.

Most models of sewing machines allow the adjustment of widths and lengths of the stitches. Some lower-priced models or kids’ machines may not have this feature, but if you are looking for a machine with versatility, pick a sewing machine that offers this possibility. Keep in mind, however, that although it may seem like a great idea to have over 100 stitch-style options, in reality, you will probably use only a handful of stitches for most sewing projects.

Here are some useful/popular stitches that will take care of most of your sewing needs:

  • The straight stitch is what you will use for most of your sewing. The length of this stitch type is usually adjustable from 0 to 5 millimeters.
  • The zigzag stitch is a back-and-forth one that is used for adding a finished/reinforced edge on hems or seams. This stitch is also good for use on stretchy fabrics.
  • The buttonhole stitch is basically another type of zigzag stitch. It’s a programmed stitch that will create a regular border automatically with the help of a specialty buttonhole presser foot.
  • The stretch/knit stitches are for sewing with knits and other types of stretchy fabrics. These stitches allow the fabric to stretch once they are sewed.
  • The blind hemstitch produces almost hidden hems on pants and skirts with the help of a blind-hem presser foot.

Attachments and Presser Feet

A presser foot is an attachment that holds the fabric flat as it is fed across the stitch plate and stitched. It keeps the fabric flat so that it does not rise and fall with the needle and pucker as it is stitched. There are numerous types of presser feet that are made to work with different types of fabrics, stitches, seams, and more. The following are the most common types of presser feet that come with most machines, along with their functions.

  • The all-purpose foot is used for any type of sewing, but it’s most often used in straight single-needle machines.
  • An open-toe foot has a large open area in the front of the foot that provides a wide view for decorative stitching. It also gives the needle a wider area to move in various directions when creating the decorative stitching.
  • The zipper foot is narrow, which allows for close stitching around a zipper.
  • A buttonhole foot is rectangular and helps you sew neat and uniform buttonholes. They are often used in conjunction with the programmed buttonhole stitch on computerized machines.
  • The blind-stitch hem foot features an extension at the front of the foot for guiding the fabric fold. The foot is used in conjunction with the blind hemstitch.

There are also many other types of specially designed presser feet for quilting and embroidery. Standard machines normally do not come with these specialty presser feet, and they are often purchased separately.

Other accessories available for sewing machines include dust covers, magnetic sewing guides, needles, and bobbins.

Needle Features

The needle punctures through the fabric, drawing the thread with it and creating stitches. All machines feature a shank that holds the needle and the presser foot. However, there are a few features that will make it easier for you to sew.

A machine with a needle up/down feature allows you to hold the needle in either the up or down position. This feature is useful for rotating and turning fabric when sewing. Another useful feature is a machine that allows you to adjust the needle to the left or right, instead of remaining dead center. This is useful when sewing on zippers with a zipper foot. And a machine with an automatic needle threader takes the guesswork and frustration out of threading a needle.

Most machines come with a package of universal needles that will handle the widest range of sewing applications. However, needles are designed for specific types of fabric. Be sure to choose the correct type of needle based on what you are sewing.

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