How to Choose a Sewing Machine

If you’re a sewist, buying your first sewing machine may be overwhelming and exciting at the same time.

A wide variety of makes and models exist, making it even more challenging to choose one that fits the bill.

So how do you choose a sewing machine? Here are some considerations.


When setting aside a budget and choosing a sewing machine, consider quality over gimmicks and features. At the same time, your budget will dictate what features you will afford.

If you have a small budget, find a dealer that offers quality used machines, and accepts trade-ins.

Others offer quality machines at low prices. The tradeoff is some parts are made of plastic, so if they’re broken, it may not be easy to repair them.


Another important feature to consider is the number of stitches available on a particular machine. The key here is to find a machine that has the stitches you will actually use.

Here are some examples:

  • Straight Stitch – the straight stitch should be adjustable from 0 to 5mm. The 0 setting lets you lock stitches, while the 5mm stitch lets you baste and gather.

  • Zigzag Stitch – this should be adjustable in both stitch length and the stitch width.

  • Buttonhole Stitch – machines that have zigzag stitch should also have a buttonhole feature.

  • Stretch or Knit Stitch – allows the knits to stretch and not break the threads once they are stitched.

  • Blind Hem Stitch – creates “invisible” hems on skirts and pants.

  • Utility Stitches – most machines have a few utility stitches good for securing seams.


Apart from the range of stitches, you may also find machines with some extra features such as the following:

  • Needle Threader – higher-end machines have an automatic needle threader, while budget machines have semi-automatic ones.

  • Needle Up/Down – allows you to stop the needle in an up/down position.

  • Adjustable Speed Control – allows you to adjust the speed of how you sew.

  • Adjustable Needle Position – allows you to move the needles either left or right.

  • Lighting – allows you to see adequately while you’re sewing.

  • Automatic Thread Cutter – allows you to automatically cut threads.

  • Knee Lifter – allows you to lift the presser foot while you hold the fabric in place.

  • Free Arm – allows you to slip something narrow under the needle.

Make sure you test these features first, if possible, before buying the machine.

Attachments and Feet

Attachments and presser feet will depend on what you plan to sew.

For instance, quilters prefer a walking foot, spring action foot, and ¼” foot, while garment sewists may look for a zipper foot, buttonhole foot, button attaching foot, and stitching foot.

Lower-priced machines might not offer a larger variety of feet and attachments, while more expensive machines often have better selections.

Top Loading vs. Front Loading

Sewing machines also have the so-called top loading and front loading features. What’s the difference?

Top Loading

Top loading machines have “drop-in” bobbins. The bobbins go in from the top, underneath your needle and presser foot.

Front Loading

Front-loading machines have trap doors where the storage box for the bobbin is hidden. You cannot see the bobbin unless you open the trap door. You’ll also see a removable metal bobbin case.

Mechanical vs. Computerized

What’s inside the machine? You also need to choose between mechanical machines and computerized ones.


Choose mechanical machines if you want the following characteristics:

  • Simple to operate

  • Lightweight

  • Requires less maintenance

  • Cheap and affordable


Choose computerized machines if you like the following characteristics:

  • High-end machines

  • Simplified stitch selection, stitch length, buttonholes, and programmable stitch sequences

  • Higher-powered motors

  • Good for heavy-duty projects

Buying a Sewing Machine

Overall, you can find the right machine if you know what features, attachments, and kind of machine you need.

Make informed decisions and find the best machine for you. Good luck!