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Sewing Machine Buying Guide

From automatic buttonholes to awesome ergonomics, buying a machine and furniture for your sewing room doesn't have to have you grasping at threads. Our sewing buying guide offers some key advice so you'll be stitching in no time.

Sewing Machines: Mechanical vs. Computerized

One of the key things to consider when shopping for your sewing machine is the difference between mechanical and computerized machines. The mechanical machine, in use for over a century now, is electrically powered but wholly operated by you. Computerized machines, on the other hand, automate the process and usually feature an LED screen with a range of programmable settings.

If you're a beginning sewist, speed control, up/down needle positioning, and automatic bobbin winders can take a project from intimidating to downright pleasant. For advanced sewists, more complex computerized machines can include everything from automatic monogram fonts to customizable, plug-and-play stitch designs.

Features, Features, Features

With so many sewing machine features available, it's easy to find yourself in as confused as the first seam you ever sewed. Here's a closer look at a few of the more popular ones:

This is exactly what it sounds like - embroidery machines allow you to do monogramming and intricate embroidered patterns on your projects. On computerized machines, embroidery designs are pre-programmed and ready for you to select.

Janome 15822 Hello Kitty Sewing Machine

Janome 15822 Hello Kitty Sewing Machine

Automatic Buttonhole
No elaborate twisting and turning here - just a feature that allows you to create a buttonhole, often by simply inserting a button into a slot so the machine sews to the correct size.

Presser Feet
These fancy feet control how tightly your machine holds the fabric. More basic machines may simply include a multi-purpose foot that allows for simple stitches, while more advanced models may include zipper, button, and other presser feet

What is your machine's stitch length and width? Does the machine go beyond the basic straight and zig-zag and offer more decorative patterns?

Needle Position
This feature allows for more control over whether the needle is up or down when you stop sewing. Handy for turning corners without jump stitching.

If your machine will always sit on your sewing table, weight may not be a concern for you. However, if you'll be frequently storing your machine or taking it places, consider a lightweight model. Carrying handles are key, too.

Which stitch? Your Stitch

Above all, you'll want to choose the sewing machine that suits your personal projects. What do you plan to sew? Will quilting settings be your go-to setting? Do automatic buttonhole makers sound like an afterthought or an absolute essential? No two sewists' needs are quite the same, and fortunately, the huge range of sewing machines on the market can accommodate them all.

If you're a beginning sewist, you may be tempted to opt for the most basic, cheapest machine. But watch out--you may grow easily frustrated with inferior design, or you may really get an itch to stitch and outgrow your machine's features too quickly. Carefully consider how you plan to evolve as a sewist, and make sure your machine can grow with you.

Juki MO-50E 3/4 Thread Serger
Juki MO-50E 3/4 Thread Serger
Janome 7318 Magnolia Sewing Machine
Janome 7318 Magnolia Sewing Machine
Lil Sew & Sew LSS-202 Mini Sewing Machine

Lil Sew & Sew LSS-202 Mini Sewing Machine

Table Space for Your Space

Just as important as your sewing machine is the table it sits on. Ideally, your work space will have two sewing tables--a chair-height table so you can sit at your sewing machine, and a standing-height table where you can cut fabric, take measurements, make notes, and more.

Surface area matters, too. If you're sewing a full-length dress or quilt, consider a table with a large surface area. If your projects involve baby clothes and tea towels, a smaller table should work just fine. And don't forget to make room for a lamp or other task lighting!

For more on how to find that perfect sewing table.

Have a Seat

You're going to be spending a lot of time at your sewing machine, so be sure to choose a chair that's cozy. Hayneedle offers a range of task, drafting, and sewing chairs to have you stitching in no time.

The sewist saying goes, "Keep your sewing machine close and your seam ripper closer." When you're deep in your latest sewing project, a chair with rolling casters can keep you on a roll as you hunt down your scissors, seam ripper, and more without interruption.

But probably the most important factor to consider when shopping for sewing chairs are ergonomics. As a general rule, your chair should be positioned so your work is at elbow height, your wrists straight, and your feet flat on the floor. One of the best ways to ensure you're snug as you stitch is a chair with an adjustable height feature.