Ask Sewing School: Buying Your First Machine

Posted in: Ask Sewing School — By on December 10, 2010 9:53 AM

Petra asked:

I am interested in getting started on learning how to sew. I think that a guide on what to look for and what kinds of machines would be best for the different sewing needs would be extremely helpful for beginners, such as myself. For me, the kind of sewing I am looking into doing would be mostly tailoring and clothing/garment construction.

For any beginner, we have some general advice for buying your first sewing machine:

  • Do your homework because a sewing machine is an investment.  Read online reviews, ask friends for recommendations, and try out different machines.
  • Decide on your price range before you go shopping. Sewing machines can cost anywhere from $100 to thousands.  You’ll be less likely to spend more than you want to if you have a limit in mind.  Don’t be wooed by expensive machines with extra features that you don’t need!
  • Often when you buy a new sewing machine, you can get a free lesson on how to use it.  Learning to use your machine at the start can save you a lot of aggravation!
  • It’s a good idea to buy from a dealer who can service your machine or offer a warranty.  You may get a cheaper price at a big box store, but you risk missing out on staff expertise and a range of machines to try.  The more reputable brands usually have licensed dealers who offer lessons and can help you maintain or repair your machine.
  • Consider a used machine. There are shops out there that buy and sell used sewing machines, or keep an eye out for something at a thrift shop.  A lot of the older, metal-bodied machines still work very well. Sometimes all they need is a good cleaning, and some oil. But beware – you should check to see that the machine comes with essential parts like the shuttle assembly for the bobbin, or decorative stitch cams – these parts could be difficult to find if the machine is too old.

Petra is interested in making and altering clothes…

Jordynn Mackenzie

  • A basic machine with a few stitches is all you need to get started.  It is a good idea for a beginner to start with the basics because it’s less of a risk and it will have everything you need.  You don’t need to spend more than $200 for a good machine.
  • You can make most garments with a straight stitch and a zig zag stitch (…a button hole stitch is very handy too!) Eventually you may want to invest in a serger if you are looking for a more professional finish, or if you are making a lot of clothing.  A more advanced machine may be useful when sewing thicker fabrics because it will have more power, and it will have more stitches and features.
  • Your machine does not need a lot stitches or functions; clothes-making is more about techniques.
  • Consider taking a class to learn about tailoring and pattern-drafting.  Knowledge and practice are the keys to being a successful tailor, no matter what machine you have!

We hope this helps you find a machine that is just right for you!

Do you have a sewing question?  Ask Sewing School!  Email your question to or post it in the comments, and we’ll get back to you in a future post!

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  1. Petra says:

    Thank you very much for your timely reply.
    This article is very helpful in guiding me in the right direction and knowing what to look for.

    Happy Holidays ladies!

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