So you are on the hunt to buy your first sewing machine. Excellent, I’m so excited for you! However I know that when you start searching for the perfect machine it can be a bit intimidating. There are so many factors to consider, and often the terminology can sound like a foreign language. Here are some tips to help you choose the right one for you:

Consider your budget

Sewing machines can be expensive, but there are options available for every budget. Determine how much you’re willing to spend before you start shopping, and stick to that budget. The most basic, entry level sewing machine, of a quality brand, that I have come across, is the Brother LS14S (see below), which is usually about £90. Spending less than this on a machine is, in my opinion, a false economy, and will cost you more in tears and tantrums down the line. Saying that, I do recommend keeping your eye on places like Marketplace or Gumtree for second hand machines. You have the opportunity to save a lot and get a very decent machine. If you are worried about buying second hand you can get the machine serviced for about £35-45. Don’t buy a second hand machine without testing it out/seeing it working!

Brother LS14S*

This is the lowest priced entry machine (of a brand I would recommend) that I have come across. It’s typically about £90.

It has limited functions, but absolutely enough for those just starting out. Straight stitch, zig zag, a 4-step button hole, elastic and hemming stitches. It has a drop-in bobbin, which is a plus.

Which brand and model?

There are many different brands and models of sewing machines on the market, each with their own features and capabilities. Do some research to find out which brands and models are most highly recommended by other sewers. Look for reviews and ratings online, and visit a local sewing store to try out different machines in person.

My general advice is to stick to the most well known names. Singer, Brother & Janome all offer machines for beginners, at affordable prices. If you have the budget then Pfaff, Husqvarna, Elna, Bernina & Juki are all excellent names in the business.

You will find that sewers are very loyal to their brand and once you find the machine that you love, you will advocate for it fiercely! When you start researching which brand is best you will find die-hard Pfaff fanatics and Bernina besties – it’s really all trial and error to find which machine you love the most.

Machine Type:

Generally speaking, there are two ‘types’ of sewing machines available;

  • Mechanical Sewing Machines: Ideal for beginners, these machines are straightforward and easy to use. They are cost-effective and great for basic sewing tasks. Saying that, many mechanical machines are work horses and excellent for a wide myriad of tasks, so don’t dismiss a mechanical machine as ONLY for beginners. You can get a mechanical machine from about £90.
  • Computerised Sewing Machines: Equipped with advanced features, computerised machines offer a range of stitches, automatic settings, and precision. They are suitable for both beginners and experienced sewists. The starting price for a computerised machine is around about £200 (or cheaper when on sale).

What will you be sewing?

Before you start shopping for a sewing machine, it’s important to determine what you’ll be using it for. Do you plan on sewing clothes, quilts, or home decor items? Will you be using it for basic repairs, or do you want to tackle more advanced projects? Knowing your sewing needs will help you choose a machine that has the right features and capabilities for you. Think you will use your machine for a variety of functions? Scroll down to my list of essential and additional features and pick & choose those features that matter most to you!

An example of a few features that would be helpful depending on your preferred projects are:

  • Dressmaking – needle down for pivoting around corners; a heavy duty machine if you plan on sewing substantial projects like coats and heavy jackets and jeans; a 1-step button hole.
  • Quilting – an add-on extension table which will give you more sewing space when working on your large quilts; or a larger space to the right of the needle will also allow larger projects to be worked on; some brands (such as Pfaff) have a built-in walking-foot which helps with sewing through multiple layers
  • Embroidery – some machines come with a multitude of embroidery stitches and some can even be programmed to write names and phrases so search for those features if they are important for you; if you are interested in doing free-motion embroidery, make sure the feed dogs can be lowered (may be called ‘drop feed’ in the listing).
  • Home Decor – if you only want to make cushions and simple curtains you will be able to do this on most machines; if you want to do heavy-duty sewing of thick velvet curtains and chenille boxed cushions with piping you will struggle to sew this with a lighter-weight machine in the lower price range and would do with investing a little more to get a stronger machine.

Singer Heavy Duty 4423*

Singer do a line of ‘heavy duty’ machines. Please do research on this range if you are interested in getting a machine for heavy duty sewing.

Saying that, I have heard good reviews of this machine & it has indeed worked well sewing through thick layers. This model is around £290 but there are cheaper and more expensive models in this range so pick and choose which features you would like based on your budget and needs.

Brother FS70WTX*

A decent machine for those keen on quilting. Comes with an extension table and free-motion foot (good for swirly quilting and also free-motion embroidery). It comes with 7 presser feet (!) but I would recommend investing in an additional walking foot if you are interested in quilting.
LOTS of ‘additional’ features that you will enjoy too!

The bare essential features

When shopping for a sewing machine, there are a few essential features that all machines will invariably come with. These include:

  • Basic stitches: straight, zig-zag, buttonhole (see below) – these are essentially the ONLY stitches you need, but all machines will come with a few more…to entice you!
  • Adjustable stitch length and (maybe) width
  • Drop-in or front-loading bobbin (drop-in is easier, and you can see when your bobbin is running low)
  • Free arm – the left hand side of the machine comes away so that you can sew smaller pieces (like sleeves)
  • Multiple needle positions
  • 4-step or 1-step buttonholer (1-step is ‘easier’ but I often find that the 4-step gives you more control. As far as I have found, a computerised machine will always come with a 1-step button hole, while a mechanical machine could be either. So do watch out for that!)
  • Backstitch/reverse lever or button – essential for securing your stitching at the beginning and end of a seam

Additional features

In addition to the essential features, there are many additional features that can make sewing easier and more enjoyable.

Generally most of these additional features are found on computerised machines, rather than mechanical, and as such, are more expensive. If you have the budget, and feel the features would help, then I really recommend investing now.

  • Needle threader – absolutely wonderful, especially if you struggle to see the eye of the needle
  • Additional stitches such as blind hem, lightening stitch (for sewing stretch fabric – but you can sew stretch fabric with zig-zag) and various decorative stitches. Some machines have 100s of stitches! My machine has about 300…I probably only use about 5 of those.
  • Built-in thread cutter – some machine shave a little knife on the side you can use to cut your threads. Some….have an automatic cutter that cuts your thread for you!!
  • Needle down function – the needle will stop in the fabric when you stop stitching. This is so useful when sewing fiddly things as it keeps your position while you adjust your fabric.
  • Automatic backstitch or knotting – a very convenient way of securing your stitching without having to remember to do it!
  • Adjustable speed control – this is an excellent feature, particularly for children, as it stops you sewing too fast and loosing control!
  • Presser Foot warning – your machine will beep and not sew if you forget to put your presser foot down. I honestly wish my class machines did this as it is the number 1 thing that people forget to do when they first start sewing.
  • Bobbin winding, automatic stop – the machine will stop winding the bobbin when full. Handy, but not that necessary
  • Bobbin empty warning – the machine will warn you when the bobbin is starting to run out. Sounds very helpful, and can be, but my machine warns me far too early!
  • Bobbin winding from needle – you can wind a bobbin without unthreading your needle – this is a genius feature and very convenient! It’s generally only on more expensive machines.
  • Start/Stop button – this allows you to sew without the use of the foot pedal
  • Knee lift control – this is a large lever you can attach to the front of your machine to lift & lower your presser foot with your knee, allowing for hands-free sewing
  • Embroidery capabilities – if you want to add lettering or embroidery to your work you can get entry level machines which will do a few basic designs or you can spend thousands and get an all singing, all dancing embroidery machine!

A lot of these additional features are also very helpful for those with mobility issues – sewing should be accessible to everyone and it’s wonderful to see these options becoming more available (although there is more work to be done).

Now for Some machine recommendations….

Janome J3-24*

If you have been to one of my classes, you may have used this machine. A very decent mechanical machine. It has a 1-step button hole, a decent selection of stitches and is strong enough to sew through multiple layers!
It retails for about £299 – currently £269 on sale!

Janome 219S*

The other machine we use in the studio. This is a more budget-friendly machine, which retails at about £150. It has a 4-step button hole (rather than 1-step) and doesn’t have a dedicated ‘stitch width’ dial. It does still allow you to alter your zig zag width and still allows you to move your needle position. A very decent machine!

Brother ke14s*

A very beginner-friendly machine currently at an EXCELLENT price point! £69 in the Black Friday sale, rather than £99!
It is a 4-step buttonhole, basic stitches and mechanical, but does everything you need when you are just starting out. You can’t beat this price, from a well known brand, which is why I had to include it in the list!

Brother FS40S*

Fancy a computerised machine? This model gives you a lot of functions, for a decent price point (about £240 – but currently down to £160 on sale!). It offers speed control, needle down, start/stop button and 40 stitch options!
Unlike the Janome options above, it’s also a drop-in bobbin, which is easier to manage.

John Lewis Sewing Machines!

If you want a statement piece, John Lewis stock a range of stunning machines in beautiful colours and even prints. But you aren’t substituting style for quality. These machines are actually Janome machines in disguise, so come with quality built in! They are mechanical machines, so functions are somewhat limited. But as a sewing school with only mechanical machines, I don’t think that will hold you back! Two ‘dial’ machines cost £145 while 3 dial machines are £190. What’s the difference? They all do 4-step buttonholes so the only difference I can see is the number of stitch options. I would say the main choice will be what colour and design you like best! There are more colours on the website too (pink! yellow!).

Brother Innovis NV15*

The Innovis range from Brother is an excellent quality range. All are decent, so just choose the features you want and the price point you are happy with.
This one is approx £265 and offers speed control, needle down, start/stop, one step buttonhole, top loading bobbin and 16 stitch options to name a few.

Janome 360DC*

Oooo a very nice machine! Definitely not a ‘beginner’ machine at about £470, but if you have the budget then I say go for it! It comes with allll the additional features you might need to make life easier.
Speed control, needle down, start/stop, 1-hole buttonhole, computerised selection plus a whopping 60 stitches to play with!

Sewing machines direct – black friday sales

There are also lots of excellent sewing machines on offer at the moment in the Black Friday sales at Sewing Machines Direct. Any of the machines in their sale would be excellent, so I think when you are choosing it might just come down to your budget and aesthetic! Check out the sales here (this is not an affiliate link, just sharing good deals!).

happy shopping!

So those are a few tips to get you started on your sewing machine hunt. I know it can be very daunting, so I do hope these tips help. Keep with the basic few brands and choose a few features that are important to you and I am sure you will end up with a machine that works for you. Happy sewing!

* I have provided suggestions & link to some machines that ‘fit’ the criteria I have suggested. There are MANY other machines that will also be fantastic candidates….I can’t list them all! Please do your research and read lots of reviews and, if you can, take the opportunity to try machines out before you buy. Links with a * are affiliate links. Affiliate links do not alter the price you pay, but I may receive a (very small!) commission if you click and purchase through those links. And if you do – thank you for supporting my blog! And if you did find my guide helpful and you bought a machine based on my tips – I’m delighted and I wish you many many years of happy sewing with your new machine!