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Choosing the right sewing machine for beginners

Good Beginner Sewing Machine
Brother cs6000i Sewing Machine

All beginning sewers need a good sewing machine. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for hand sewing in this world, and even on this blog.  However, a good sewing machine is absolutely worth its weight in GOLD!!!  There are so many machines for different purposes, it can be overwhelming.  But don't fret....

You CAN get a quality sewing machine appropriate for a beginner at a reasonable price.  You just need to know what you are looking for and what your needs are.  I have grown into a fabric and iron snob, for sure!  However, I am definitely NOT a sewing machine snob.  Lets review what machine features I have found helpful, and help you determine your own needs.

The Death and Rebirth of my first machine...

I have owned two sewing machines over the course of my 12 year sewing journey.  The first machine died through no fault of her own.  Several years ago my mom was babysitting at my house and I left my “sewing studio” set up on my kitchen table.  Our sweet dog became tangled in the sewing machine cord under the table and WHAM!  He pulled the whole machine right off the table and it smashed to pieces on the floor.

Thankfully no one was hurt! I do think it speaks volumes that we replaced it with the exact same brand and model.  Truth be told, my mom felt so bad about the whole thing she insisted on replacing it for me….she’s so great!

A great machine for beginners...it was my first and will be my last...

The machine that I have used and loved for all these years is the Brother CS6000i electronic machine.  It currently retails for around $199 and includes extra accessories and 9 specialty presser feet, which can be a fairly significant cost if you buy them all separately.  This is a great review, if you would like to learn more about this particular machine.

While you don’t NEED these extras as a beginner seamstress, they do come in handy for certain projects.  If you catch the sewing “bug” like I did, you will be grateful you received these extras in the months and years to come.  Many machines have several specialty and decorative stitches, which seem fun upon first glance.  However, I don’t think I have ever used them!  You may or may not find those useful, it depends on what you plan to create.

Determine what features you need and will use...

The vast majority of my sewing involves straight and zig zag stitches.  And I have made A LOT of different things!!!  However, there are a few specialty stitches and functions that may be useful to you.

If you plan to one day create drapery, curtains panels or roman shades, a blind hem stitch would come in handy.  This is also a great stitch for less fun projects like hemming pants, because sometimes we have to do those things too.  I have used this stitch fairly often and it creates a very clean, professional hem without too much effort.

The 1 step automatic button-hole feature is also very handy.  I do not sew clothing, mostly because it stresses me out and I do not find it enjoyable.  However, there are projects that require button-holes and a 1 step auto button-hole maker is the best and easiest way to do it.  No question!

Choosing a Machine for Beginners: Recommended Features

Feed Dogs

I would prioritize the following features when choosing a sewing machine:

  •       Drop-in bobbin
  •       Snap-on presser feet
  •       Easy speed control
  •       Easily adjustable stitch length and width
  •       1 step automatic button-hole

In years past, my mom had a Bernina machine.  After using my machine at our gatherings ,and when helping me with projects, she loved it so much that she purchased the exact same machine and model for herself.  She also purchased the same model for my sister-in-law, when she joined our sisterhood of seamstresses!

I think that speaks volumes about our love for this machine.  It has been very handy having 2 or 3 of the same machines at our sewing therapy sessions (AKA weekend sewing get-togethers), since we can share bobbins and presser feet.  It is a time saver to borrow a bobbin full of neon orange thread for the few stitches you need to make, versus winding an entire bobbin!

And yes, my mother has bobbins full of neon orange thread.

What projects are you planning? Pick the machine to meet your needs...

Not only is this machine economical, it is a little work horse!  I have sewn on faux leather, fur, fleece, cotton, linen, canvas, home décor and upholstery weight fabrics and she just performs and performs.  I have also quilted MANY quilts on her, including free-motion quilting with the free motion quilting foot attachment.  More to come on quilting another time.

I will even admit that I have not had my current machine serviced for YEARS!  I’m pretty sure my aunt just flinched in her sleep.  That is NOT a good practice and I am not proud of it….but such is life!  You should have your machine serviced annually, if you sew regularly.  I do switch my needles frequently and clean out the bobbin compartment with every project.  I recommend you get in the habit of doing the same.

No need to spend more than $200, but do spring for a full-size version.

If $199 is too steep for your budget, fret not my friends.  There are several good quality machines available between $100 and $200.  Think about the features that are important to you and the projects that you are interested in completing.

I would avoid the “mini” machines, even if you are thinking of getting something for the children in your life.  My daughter has a "mini" child's machine from a very reputable brand, and she prefers to use my full size machine now that she is 7.  So unless you are making the purchase for a VERY young child, I would skip the “kid” machines and buy a full-size basic machine.  You are making the investment in a machine, you might as well get a full-sized model capable of tackling all of your upcoming projects!

Sewing machine presser foot

A few machine recommendations...

While researching machines for beginning sewers, the following were economical and well reviewed options. I will only personally vouch for my Brother cs6000i  machine, because that's how I roll.  However, based on the experiences of family and friends, I feel very comfortable recommending these machines and brands.

Bond with your new best friend, and her instruction manual...

Regardless of the machine that you have or choose to purchase, the user manual will be your new best buddy.  Dive into it, all the goodness starts there!  Get out some scrap fabric and start playing around.  You can also “sew” on basic white computer paper to start out.  Learn the threading apparatus, bobbin, stitch settings, adjustments and how to be comfortable with her operation before you start your beautiful, playing with your expensive fabric!  Making your first, or next, project is much more enjoyable when you’re not stressing about how to use your machine.

Now that you have the perfect sewing machine for beginners, start thinking about what sewing tools and notions you will need.  See my post Best Sewing Tools for Beginners: My Top 12 for some good recommendations to get you started.

Be safe & stay well,

Jen J

Check out the other posts in my Sewing 101: Beginners Series!