How to choose the best sewing machine

Lynn Wright / 20 May 2016

Whether you have a lot of sewing experience or are an enthusiastic hobbyist, our guide will help you find the perfect sewing machine for you.

From budget units to all-singing, all-dancing computerised models, there’s a vast choice when it comes to buying a sewing machine. Which sewing machine is best for you depends on your skills level, budget and how you plan to use it. Novices or occasional users need a sewing machine with a good range of basic stitches and accessories, while experienced sewers may require additional features depending on the nature of their sewing projects.

For a full list of essential sewing machine features read Sewing machine features explained.

Types of sewing machines

Electronic sewing machines have a single motor that drives the needle, in conjunction with a feeding mechanism, through your fabrics. The motor is operated by a foot pedal –press harder on the pedal to sew faster – leaving both hands free to guide the fabric. Most have a dial on the side that lets you change stitch type and length. Available in a wide choice of models with prices ranging from around £50 to £300, electronic sewing machine are great all-rounders suitable for both novices and experienced sewers alike.

Computerised sewing machines have built-in computers that automate stitching, making them simple to use. Operated by touchpad screens or LCD displays, they offer hundreds of different stitches and patterns, and can automatically adjust the length, tension and speed for those you select. Most can memorise your stitches so you reuse them again in the future, while premium models let you program your own embroidery patterns or download designs from the internet. With prices starting at around £250 and rising to more £2,000, a computerised sewing machine can be a major investment. However, they’re far more versatile than electronic machines and let you complete sewing project faster and more effectively.

Overlocker machines give a professional finish to the seams and hems of a garment by trimming excess fabric as they stitch. With their limited functionality, overlockers need to be bought in addition to a sewing machine. 

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How often will you use a sewing machine

There’s little point buying an expensive sewing machine with lots of features if you plan on using it for the occasional sewing project or repair job. If so, opt for a basic, lightweight electronic sewing machine that can be easily stored when not in use. On the other hand, if you’re a passionate hobbyist or dressmaker who uses a sewing machine regularly, then a model with plenty of stitch functions, accessories and time-saving add-ons such as one-step buttonholes and seam neatening is a good choice.

What will you use the sewing machine for?

Along with frequency of use, you should consider how you plan to use your sewing machine as different models suit different tasks.

Simple tasks and repairs If you’re a beginner or sew only occasionally, then a basic electronic sewing machine for around £100-£200 will suffice. Choose a model with a range of stitches – including a straight stitch in various lengths, a choice of zigzag stitches and an automatic buttonhole – along with a selection of foot attachments.

Dressmaking If you enjoying making clothes, then opt for a mid-priced sewing machine with a wide range of features. These should include a free arm for sewing sleeves and pockets, and a decent range of machine feet such as a concealed zipper foot, blind hem foot and piping foot. If you can afford it, consider a model that has an overlocker stitch, for neatening seams.

Embroidery and crafts If budget allows, plump for a computerised sewing machine that offers a wide range of stitches and pre-programmed patterns so you can create multicoloured hoop embroidery designs.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.