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Whether you've been sewing for years or you've always dreamed of learning the craft, there's no better time than the present to invest in a sewing machine — or upgrade your current set up.
But, where do you start? There are so many models and types. Amber Layne, an experienced seamstress and sewing instructor who owns AmberLayne.co, an online sewing resource, spoke to Shop TODAY about what you should look for when buying a sewing machine.
Layne began sewing at age seven, and says when it comes to choosing the right machine for your sewing aspirations, it's important not to stress or feel overwhelmed.
"Sewing is such a useful skill that can be learned at any age," Layne told Shop TODAY. "Just start where you are and you'll continue to make progress through practice."
Make a list of your goals
Before beginning to look at sewing machines, Layne suggests making a list of the types of sewing projects you hope to create in your first year of sewing with the machine. Then, research to learn more about how to reach those goals.
Take it for a test drive
"Think about buying a sewing machine like you would a car," said Layne. "Shop around. Note the features machines have that you like and don't like. Ask the shop workers to show you machines for the specific tasks you are interested in learning to sew."
Layne says to keep in mind if you do go to a sewing machine shop that shop workers will try to sell you the machines they sell in their store, but it's OK to leave without buying so you have time to think about the best machine for your needs.
Ask about used machines
Layne says many sewing shops have used machines in the back and, while they won't tell you about them unless asked, they can be a great way to get a more affordable machine that meets your needs.
"Ask if they have any used machines in the back they could show you as well," said Layne. "Often sewing machine shops have serviced older models or used machines at better prices available."
How much should I spend?
"You should be able to get a good reliable starter machine for between $300 and $700 depending on the brand or model," said Layne. "You can get cheaper machines, but I find anything under $300 is not a good investment for the long run."
"If a shop doesn't have anything available in your price range," she continued, "now that you know the features you like and don't like, continue your search online. You may find the exact machine you wanted at a better bargain online."
Sewing machines for beginners
When learning to sew, Layne says focus on finding a machine with clear LCD displays that let you select stitch settings and change simple settings with ease. Also find a machine that performs a wide variety of stitches.
"Avoid machines with only knobs, wheels and levers," said Layne. "These machines are often advertised as good machines for beginners, but in actuality they are more confusing and not able to advance your skills well as a result."
Layne also suggests avoiding brands that only work with their own specific brand accessories.
This Bernina machine comes with a variety of functions like LED sewing lights and a high sewing speed of 1100 stitches per minute. It's also tough: with the ability to sew through 12 layers of denim.
This Janome machine can be used for basic household projects such as hemming, but also has enough power to support quilting and home decor projects.
This intuitive machine from Baby Lock tells the user which presser foot and stitch length and width to use based on the type of stitch selected. If following an instruction manual isn't your thing, the LCD screen and helpful suggestions offered by this machine will make learning easier.
The high-end LED screen featured in this unit is usually reserved for higher-priced models, making this Brother machine a good deal for the beginning sewer.
Between the beginner and intermediate levels, this Singer machine is the company's best-selling machine. With more than 600 built-in stitches, easy button hole sewing and a stitch selector that provides a preview of stitch style, width and length, this machine would easily grow with a beginner as they master next-level projects.
When it's time to upgrade your machine
When looking to upgrade to a more powerful sewing machine, Layne says to make a list of the features in your current machine that you can't live without, then add a list of things you hope your new machine will also do.
"As an advanced sewer, you know what kind of sewing you perform the most," Layne explained. "Each brand of sewing machine companies have more advanced machines better suited for specific kinds of sewing. For example, there are machines with features dedicated to quilting, machine embroidery, tailoring and crafting. Choose a machine and brand suited for your niche of sewing, making and creating."
This Baby Lock machine is a great value for the price: 190 built-in stitches tell the user which presser foot to use and presets settings for stitch length and width. The unit is great for everything from heirloom stitches to quilting, and is a favorite of garment sewers and crafters alike.
This machine's dual vertical thread can hold all threads needed for a variety of products, and has high power to handle heavier fabrics such as drapes.
This Brother machine is a great upgrade option for those looking to master their embroidery skills, as it's designed to handle both sewing and embroidery projects.
Perfect for quilters, the Baby Lock Crescendo has multiple features that help you measure and keep quilting projects symmetrical. With its easy-to-read full color touch screen and included extension table, it's a great option for an experienced sewer.
What about teaching kids to sew?
When it comes to purchasing a sewing machine for a child, Layne recommends following the same rules you would for an adult beginning sewer.
"I would warn against buying a machine marketed towards kids, tweens or teens," said Layne. "They are usually not as user friendly as portrayed and will frustrate younger sewers. Kids are smart, teachable and tech savvy, and are more than capable of learning on a regular machine."
"Plus, you want your child to be able to grow into their machine as they advance," she continued. "Getting a nicer machine to begin with will make the whole learning process more enjoyable for your child from the start and reduce their confusion."
This Singer unit has the functionality to create an array of products at an affordable price.
Still unsure if your child will be a life-long sewer? This simple sewing machine from Baby Lock offers 19 types of stitches and features like a built-in needle threader and four accessory feet.
This incredibly fast machine sews 900 stitches per minute and is perfect for small spaces, though it is definitely a splurge for younger sewers. This is a machine that will last them a lifetime.
This entry-level machine is inexpensive and may be a good option for kids who want to attempt using a sewing machine before purchasing a more advanced version.
Another inexpensive option for beginners, this comes in a variety of fun colors that will appeal to kids of all ages.
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