Purchasing Your First Sewing Machine

Purchasing your first sewing machine can be a thrill...or a huge disappointment. When new sewers call to schedule lessons, I always ask if they have a machine -- if they don't, I suggest that they complete the beginning sewing course before shopping for their first machine.

While it's true that most independent sewing machine retailers offer lessons or training with the purchase of a new machine, that training is generally machine specific, and happens after you've made your purchase. So if you've never used a machine before, you're at the mercy of the sales person to tell you what you want. By completing a basic sewing course first you can go shopping armed with information, and reduce the risk of going too big, or too small. Click on "Read more" to continue.

Still, this is the time of year when non-sewers are considering buying a sewing machine as a gift for someone else, so here are a few tips on buying a machine for the new sewer.

1. Tempting as the prices might seem, don't purchase a machine on-line unless it's from a  sewing/embroidery retailer that you know, and trust. There are many trustworthy on-line retailers out there, so just take a little time to check them out. When making on-line purchases, I prefer to deal with sites that list a phone number, and address. 

Most of the higher end machines are not available for on-line purchase. Many "big box" stores, fabric & craft retailers, and most sewing machine retailers carry entry level, and mid-level machines. And there are some machines that have a "web only" availability -- I just purchased an American Home serger from Simplicity -- a model that is available only on-line.

2. Choose a known brand such as Singer, Babylock, Brother, Janome, or Viking. Those are all good machines, and more importantly it will be easy for the user to find accessories, and support for those machines.

3. Consider going to a mid-level machine for the few extra features that the new sewer will eventually want -- a stitch width selector, a one-step button hole (as opposed to 4 step), stretch stitches, and a drop-in bobbin. The total number of stitches that a machine features is much less important than those other features.

4. If you're purchasing a combo machine (sewing and embroidery), I would suggest a Brother machine. Accessories and support are readily available, as are additional embroidery designs. Be aware that many embroidery only machines, and some Singer combo machines do not feature built-in designs -- they require a computer to transfer designs to the machine. And if you are purchasing a sewing/embroidery combo (or embroidery only), do not purchase additional software -- I've seen too many people end up with very expensive software that is just too much for the new user.

5. Do a little research on-line before you shop. Search for sewing machine reviews, and go to the big box store's websites to read user reviews on various machines.

6. If you would like a second opinion on a machine you're considering, feel free to send me an e-mail -- I'm happy to help.


  1. Hello thanks for the info you've printed here, I'm a beginner at sewing, however I want a serger that can handle commerial work. I plan on going into the home decor business. Therefore I want a quailty machine that's gonna last with a good warenty if possiable. I read different reviews about the machine at Joann,and they seem confusing some say the machines are good others say bad. I'm in need of a serger, I don't mind paying top of the line prices if the machine will last, can u help me? You can email me at bungalow54@yahoo.com thanks Susan Sinclair

    1. I would suggest going to a Babylock dealer, and/or a Brother dealer to have a look at their machines -- both are made by Tacony, and have similar features. If you want a work-horse, you'll be likely be looking at a higher end machine, and service will be important to you. I'm a big fan of the Babylock machines.

      Joann does not service machines, so if you purchased from them you would need to take the machine to another shop for servicing. Many of the Joann shops have a Viking kiosk inside where they sell the entire line of those machines. While Viking has many good machines you should be aware that these Viking stores inside of Joann stores do not have service personnel -- if your machine needs repair, they send it out.

  2. Along the lines of what Michele just mentioned, if you are planning on using your machine ALOT, to where you will be frequently servicing it for maintenance and cleaning, I highly recommend getting familiar with your local repair shops and their personnel. Some places are only skilled at handling newer machines, others at older machines etc. If you send your machine to someone who isn't familiar with them, they may end up giving you incorrect information, particularly if they are inside a dealer shop for another brand.

    I have a vast collection of machines, ranging from 1800s treadles to my brand new Viking Ruby, which I adore, but I would not have the same person work on my treadles that works on my computerized machines, if that makes sense.

    That said, investing in a machine should include not only the machine, but the support you can get from the dealer/store you purchase from. This is the reason I now buy Viking instead of Bernina, even though both make fantastic machines.

  3. I can mend items and sew crafts ect, but I know nothing about embroidery. I want to get into embroidery. I am thinking about buying the Brother SE425. What is your opinion of this machine.

    1. It appears the the SE425 is the same as the SE400...I don't know if that's a newer version, or a version that is sold outside the US. In any event, this is a good starter machine. As you probably already know, the embroidery field for this machine is 4" x 4". While that may sound small, it's quite adequate. The machine also has a good selection of utility and heirloom stitches for sewing. So overall, I think it's a good choice. If you decide to purchase an embroidery machine, be sure to read my Embroidery Software Buying Guide published here.