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People have been asking my advice as to what to look for when buying a sewing machine.  The following are general suggestions:

I strongly recommend that you visit an authorized sewing machine dealership.  You may find the same brand of machine at a discount store and a dealer, but the difference is “night and day” between the two:

1.  Plastic parts vs. metal:  Plastic breaks – plain and simple.  I once bought a machine “off the shelf” and the thread holder broke off the first time my daughter used it!  It will cost you more than the machine is worth for you to ship it to and from the company for repair; the parts may be covered, but the labor is not.

A dealer will provide customer service on your machine, and often has extended warranties direct from the manufacturer.   When visiting a dealership, ask what they offer when you buy a machine from them.

2.  $100 will buy you a machine from a discount store, but it won’t be serviceable for more than the very minimum sewing needs (specifically Halloween costumes!).  Expect to spend $200-$400 for a basic machine from a dealer, but it will much be more reliable and will service you for many years.

3.  You can’t “try before you buy” at a discount store.  There is no one who can make recommendations as to what you need.  (You probably don’t even know what to ask if you’ve not taken any lessons.)

A dealer will show you the different functions of the machine, and more importantly, let you “test drive” it.  Even if you don’t know the first thing about sewing, notice how quiet the machine is, whether it can handle heavy jobs and not “strain” or slow down when you are sewing thick fabrics, etc.  A good dealer won’t try to talk you into buying a machine you wouldn’t benefit from, so let them know if you’re just a beginner, or if you plan to make lined drapes for your whole house!

3.  There won’t be any classes on a discount store’s sewing machine, free or otherwise.

A good dealer will offer free lessons on the machine you purchase from them until you feel comfortable with it, and offer classes beyond that if you want to broaden your horizons.

4.  There will be no layaway or financing available at a discount store; (you know what I would say about the dealer.)

The following suggestions are features that I would recommend on a new machine.  They save you time and make your sewing more efficient.  These are especially important for the beginning sewer:

NEEDLE UP/DOWN:    If you can set your machine for “needle down” before sewing, you will always have the needle stop in the fabric so it won’t slip out from under the needle when you pause to adjust your project.

SPEED SELECTION:  This really helps the beginner.  If you can set your machine to stitch at a lower speed, then you don’t have to pay attention to what your foot is doing on the floor pedal when you want to focus on what’s on top of the machine bed.  Once you become more confident, you can put your “pedal to the metal” and break all speed limits.

DROP-IN VS. FRONT LOAD BOBBIN:  Let’s just say that you save a lot of time clearing a thread jam if you don’t have to take half the machine apart.

NEEDLE THREADER:  OK, OK, this isn’t absolutely essential, but now that I have one, I’ll always have one!

What if you inherited a machine from your Mom or received one as a gift?  Let’s just say that “they don’t make them like they used to”, (that of course refers to the inherited one.)  If you need a recommendation as to a machine repair service to keep this little gem running smoothly, I’ll be glad to help.

A gift of a sewing machine says so much from the giver, (usually “I love you and I want you to make things”).  Seriously, we all need to start somewhere; I didn’t know anything about sewing machines when I bought my first one, and to my knowledge, no one “out there” is putting out this information but Simple to Sew.