How to Buy a Sewing Machine: Choosing Your New Best Friend

So you want to buy a sewing machine. The options are endless—so endless, in fact, that buying a sewing machine can be incredibly intimidating, especially for beginners. More experienced sewists may have a better idea of what they’re looking for, as previous sewing machines may have had features that they liked or would prefer to do without. But for beginning sewists, buying a sewing machine is totally overwhelming.

Well, have no fear! We at AllFreeSewing are here to help. If you’re a beginner sewist out to buy your first sewing machine, keep these simple tips in mind and the whole process will be fuss free.

Home Machine or Industrial?

Antique Home Sewing Machine

The first decision you’ll have to make as you set out to choose your new sewing machine is whether you want a home or heavy duty sewing machine. I know it can be tempting to fall for all the bells and whistles that industrial sewing machines offer, but be honest with yourself: are you going to need it? How often do you plan to sew? If this is a machine that you’ll be using almost every day, or if you’ll be making items to sell, it may be worth the price to buy an industrial machine, as they tend to deliver a bit of a neater stitch and are often much faster than home machines. Keep in mind, however, that industrial machines are exponentially more expensive than home machines—they can come with a price tag of up to $2000.

Oh, For the Good Old Days

To compare, good home machines generally cost between $200-$600, depending on how many features and extras the machine has. For a beginner sewist who plans to use her machine a few times a week, these machines are going to be a great fit. They are far more portable than industrial machines and tend to be a bit simpler to use.

Another thing you need to ask yourself is: What type of projects do you want to tackle? Home machines are built to handle a large variety of sewing tasks, from quilting to tailoring, whereas some industrial machines are a bit more specialized. This is, of course, not always the case, and you can certainly find industrial machines that are able to sew the kinds of projects you’re making. But it is something to keep in mind.

Sight, Sound, Touch

The very first thing you want to do when you’re looking at sewing machines is, well, sew something. Pay attention to the sights and sounds that the machine makes as you’re using it. Does the motor sputter or kick? Does it sound like there’s something grinding or bumping? You want your stitching to run as smoothly as possible, and one of the best ways to tell whether or not your motor has an issue is just to listen to it. A nice, single-tone hum usually indicates that all is well “under the hood.”

Straight and Zigzag StitchesNow, look at the stitches that you’ve made. Are they even? If your stitches vary in length (for example, if one stitch is twice as long as the next) then that means your machine is skipping a stitch, which will cause endless headaches and problems down the road. So be sure that each stitch is the same length. Turn the fabric over—do the stitches look the same on the back as they do in the front? Ideally, you don’t want to be able to tell which side of the fabric is meant to be the “visible” side (at least, not by the stitches).

Sewing machines are complex beasts, so be sure that you thoroughly understand the way that your potential new sewing machine works before you invest. Do you want a front-loading bobbin, which yields a bit of a smoother stitch, or a drop-in, which is a bit easier to load and manage? Is the machine easy to thread, or is the process so complicated that it will put you off your projects before you even begin?

One detail that a lot of people don’t take into consideration is the weight of the machine itself. Many companies are replacing the heavy metal parts with a lighter plastic, making machines more portable and cheaper. This is great for our wallets, but can become an issue if you’re working with particularly heavy fabric. Are you planning to sew any kind of drapery or heavily weighted fabric? If this is the case, be sure you get a machine with a bit of weight to it; after all, you want the fabric to move during the sewing process, not the machine!

Finally, check the pedal. Not only do you want to make sure that it’s comfortable and easy to use, but also that it’s an actual foot pedals. Some sewing machines, particularly antiques, use the knee to control the speed. If you’re a beginner sewist, I don’t recommend this particular feature. They can be a bit tricky to get used to, and you’re better off just sticking with the trusty foot pedal.

The 3 Keys

Whatever else you decide to do, there are three key features that you should double, triple, and quadruple check that your sewing machine has:

  1. A straight stitch. This is the stitch that you will use most often, on almost every project. I can’t imagine that you’d find a machine without it, but still, double check! The symbols for stitch patterns are universal across all machines, and the one for the straight stitch looks like this:straight
  2. A zigzag stitch. You’ll use this stitch often when quilting or sewing a bit heavier fabric. You can also use the zigzag stitch to sew button holes (I’ve often found it preferable to using the actual button-hole setting).  That symbol looks like this:

    zigzag

  3. Most importantly, because there are machines which don’t include this feature, make sure your machine can backstitch! Backwards stitching is so helpful, especially when you want to end a stitch with a really sturdy knot. Unfortunately, this symbol isn’t necessarily universal, and not all machines have it, so you’ll want to check with the company to make sure that the machine is capable of stitching backwards.

+ Bonus:

This symbol is the symbol for a stretch stitch:

stretch

This is a useful feature to have, but totally unnecessary; you can use a straight stitch and be totally fine. Don’t let it make or break your decision, but if it comes down to two machines and one has the feature while the other doesn’t, it can be a handy tool.

So there you go, sewists! You have all the information you need to buy a sewing machine. Good luck, and have fun!

CharmedLiebling Winner's Choice Pattern GiveawayPlus! After you’ve selected your sewing machine, don’t forget to enter the AllFreeSewing and charmedLiebling giveaway to win a free purse pattern! Enter here once a day, every day until December 9th!

 

Did we miss anything? Do you have any questions or tips?

Happy National Sewing Month 2013: Daily Giveaway and One Grand Prize

It’s not Christmas or your birthday; it’s National Sewing Month, and today is Day One! AllFreeSewing has been counting down to these thirty days for months, and they’ve finally arrived.

National Sewing Month 2013

To celebrate, AllFreeSewing is hosting a series of guest blog posts, tutorials, and idea roundups all available right here on the FaveCrafts Blog. There’s more…

Coats & Clark PrizeEvery time you comment on the daily National Sewing Month blog post (all blog post titles will contain “National Sewing Month 2013”), you’ll be entered into our daily giveaway to win 18 Spools (250 yards each) of Coats & Clark Thread plus their 200th Anniversary tin. That’s right, one winner every day, all through September. Can this celebration get any better? Yes, yes it can.

This September, you’ll also have an opportunity to enter our final, grand prize from BERNINA which is (drum roll, please)….

BERNINA 215 Sewing Machinea BERNINA 215 Sewing Machine!

Yes, in exchange for your questions, thoughts, and comments, AllFreeSewing and BERNINA are giving away a brand new BERNINA 215 Sewing Machine at the end of September. You can enter win to win every day here! There’s even more…

Apart from the entry form, you’ll also be given an additional opportunity to enter the final grand prize giveaway. At the bottom of every daily National Sewing Month blog post there will be a link to an AllFreeSewing project page. When click on that link and comment on the actual AllFreeSewing project page, you will receive an additional entry into the final, grand prize. Remember, though, you must comment on the AllFreeSewing project page, not the page that it links to in order to be entered into the final, grand prize (however, we encourage you to comment on the linked-out page as well!)

Let’s start the celebration right now, shall we?

Tell us, what would you do with a brand new, BERNINA Sewing Machine?

Official Rules for Daily Contest

  • There is a maximum of one entry per person. The entry will be based upon a comment left on this blog post. Duplicate comments will be deleted and are not tallied.
  • Winner will be selected at random from the comments on this blog post below.
  • You have until tonight, September 1st, 2013 at 11:59p EST to leave your comment on this post. Comments posted after that will not be counted.
  • Contest open to anyone 18+ in US and/or Canada.

Enter here for the BERNINA 215 Sewing Machine. For additional entries into the final, grand prize, comment on today’s project of the day which you can find here.

Good luck, everyone! We’re so excited to share ideas with our much loved sewing community and give away lots of goodies!

National Sewing Month 2013: Daily Posts and Projects

 

National Sewing Month 2013 Blog Posts & Projects of the Day

Day One – September 1st
Blog Post of the Day: Happy National Sewing Month 2013
Project of the Day: Easiest Lace Skirt Ever

Day Two – September 2nd
Blog Post of the Day: How to Make Stuffed Animals
Project of the Day: Raw Edged Dresden Plate Pillow

Day Three – September 3rd
Blog Post of the Day: Invisible Zippers With Deby Coles
Project of the Day: Sinfully Simple Ruffled Clutch Bag

Day Four – September 4th
Blog Post of the Day: Bias Tape with Melissa from Melly Sews
Project of the Day: Kid Size Football Jersey

Day Five – September 5th
Blog Post of the Day: DIY Jewelry Organizer With Meream
Project of the Day: Portable Hard Drive Case

Day Six – September 6th
Blog Post of the Day: Sewing Social: Easy and Sweet Sewing Patterns
Project of the Day: Kids Top Chef Hat

Day Seven – September 7th
Blog Post of the Day: Sewing Dresses & Apparel Tips from Suzannah
Project of the Day: Sweater Into Infinity Scarf Tutorial

Day Eight – September 8th
Blog Post of the Day: 2-in-1 Art Tote from Made By Marzipan
Project of the Day: U-Shaped Pillow for Baby

Day Nine – September 9th
Blog Post of the Day: Quilted Table Runner from Samelia’s Mum
Project of the Day: Charm Pack Placemats

Day Ten – September 10th
Blog Post of the Day: Sew a Tote With Anna from Charmed Liebling
Project of the Day: Your Go-To Travel Pouch

Day Eleven – September 11th
Blog Post of the Day: How to Sew Hoodies & DIY Sweatshirts for Every Young Man
Project of the Day: Ruffled Fall Table Runner

Day Twelve – September 12th
Blog Post of the Day: Handmade Fall Decorations from Love to Sew Studio
Project of the Day: Fabric Pumpkin Doll

Day Thirteen – September 13th
Blog Post of the Day: Woodland Christmas from Ric Rac
Project of the Day: One Hour Softie

Day Fourteen – September 14th
Blog Post of the Day: While She Was Sleeping on Special Fabric
Project of the Day: The Lady’s Nappy Wallet

Day Fifteen – September 15th
Blog Post of the Day: Hollywood-Inspired Vintage Patterns to Sew
Project of the Day: Fit for Pemberley Dress

Day Sixteen – September 16th
Blog Post of the Day: Pleated Knees from Sew a Straight Line
Project of the Day: Choose Your Own Adventure Jacket

Day Seventeen – September 17th
Blog Post of the Day: Princess Gloves from Blooms and Bugs
Project of the Day: Little Ladybug Costume

Day Eighteen – September 18th
Blog Post of the Day: The Little Belt Bag from Domestic Diva
Project of the Day: Camisole Turned Dress Tutorial

Day Nineteen – September 19th
Blog Post of the Day: Be a Crafter XD on Single-Fold Bias Binding
Project of the Day: Romping Good Time Romper

Day Twenty – September 20th
Blog Post of the Day: Sewing a New Wardrobe on a Budget
Project of the Day: Upcycled Rubber Organizer

Day Twenty-One – September 21st
Blog Post of the Day: Scrappy Fabric Baskets from Threading My Way
Project of the Day: Alice in Wonderland Apron

Day Twenty-Two – September 22nd
Blog Post of the Day: Easy Sewing Projects to Make for Kids
Project of the Day: Comic Book Cushion

Day Twenty-Three – September 23rd
Blog Post of the Day: 4 Ways to Refashion Your Wardrobe from Fleece Fun
Project of the Day: Red Riding Hood Cape

Day Twenty-Four – September 24th
Blog Post of the Day: How to Organize Your Sewing Room
Project of the Day: Wrapping Paper Organizer

Day Twenty-Five – September 25th
Blog Post of the Day: Applique with Becky from Patchwork Posse
Project of the Day: Pattern Full of Posies Skirt

Day Twenty-Six – September 26th
Blog Post of the Day: Flirty Fall Skirt with Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom
Project of the Day: Lady’s Shirred Maxi Dress

Day Twenty-Seven – September 27th
Blog Post of the Day: Watermelon Pencil Case Tutorial from Creating my way to Success
Project of the Day: Giant Pencil Case

Day Twenty-Eight – September 28th
Blog Post of the Day: Sew an Eiffel Tower Heat Bag from A Spoonful of Sugar
Project of the Day: Yo Yo Pattern Weights

Day Twenty-Nine – September 29th
Blog Post of the Day: Install Pillow Piping from The Sewing Loft
Project of the Day: 6 Step Skirt

Day Thirty – September 30th
Blog Post of the Day: 27 Free Clothing Projects for Every Season
Project of the Day: Your DIY Maxi Dress and Skirt: 27 Free Clothing Projects for Every Season

 

Memory Craft 9900 Giveaway from FaveQuilts and Janome

The editors at FaveQuilts cannot contain our excitement over our latest big giveaway sponsored by one of the longest-running and most successful craft product companies around, Janome. This is for more than just quilters; needle crafters of any kind in need of a sewing machine that’s as versatile as they are will be missing out if they don’t enter our giveaway for a Memory Craft 9900.

Until June 2nd, FaveQuilts will be running this exciting new giveaway on our site. This means one lucky winner will have their chance to start sewing with a brand new Memory Craft 9900 machine worth $4,999 gifted by the gracious staff at Janome.

When it comes to innovation in sewing machines, there’s no one who can design one like Janome, and the excitement in the crafting community already can attest to that! Not only does this machine have incredible helpful processes, as well as improved speeds and an increased memory for more embroidery, but also improved attachments and holders to make even the simplest needle threading take no time at all. If you’re excited to hear more about this latest product, be sure to  read the full review on FaveQuilts.

Janome Memory Craft 9900

Ready to enter? Here’s how:
1.    Like the FaveQuilts Facebook page.
2.   Like the Janome Facebook page.
3.   Fill out the entry form on FaveQuilts.com.
4.    Make sure you enter by June 2nd.

National Sewing Month: Watch and Learn on YouTube

Dear Readers,

It’s National Sewing Month! To celebrate, AllFreeSewing.com is hosting a special blog series throughout the entire month. Check back daily for posts featuring our favorite projects, new sewing videos and tutorials, guest blogs from talented designers and more. We’re also giving away a HUGE sewing prize at the end of the month. You won’t believe how EASY it is to WIN!

Leave a comment on any of the blog posts with the headline “National Sewing Month”. Your comment will count as an entry into the giveaway. You are free to comment as often as once per blog post (for a total of 30 chances to win!). At the end of the month, we’ll pool all of the comments together and pick one lucky winner to win the mystery grand prize. And trust us; you want to win this one!

Whether you’re already a sewing enthusiast or new to the craft, our hope is that this September will encourage you to create wonderful sewn projects.

Happy National Sewing Month!

Here’s today’s post:

I’m a visual learner. I like to look at pictures and watch videos, especially when it comes to developing a new skill. Sewing isn’t always the easiest craft to master and it’s always nice to hear someone’s voice and watch them complete a project instead of merely reading instructions. That’s why I love AllFreeSewing’s YouTube channel!

With over 40 videos available to view, this channel is so informative and exciting. There are basic tutorials (Sewing 101: Hand Sewing Basics) as well as more complicated projects (How to Make a Baby Quilt). There are even helpful videos on topics like cleaning your vintage sewing machine.

My favorite video on the AllFreeSewing YouTube channel is How to Make a Fabric Box. I just moved in to my first apartment and I’m always looking for fun, unique home decor ideas.

Maureen Wilson‘s step-by-step tutorial is so easy to follow. These boxes are great for bedrooms, living rooms or even a college dorm rooms. Store magazines, books and even blankets in your own , homemade storage bins.

Do you find video tutorials helpful for your projects? Why or why not?