How To Choose The Best Beginner Sewing Machine

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What is the best sewing machine? It’s a minefield. There are so many makes and models out there, and some of the machines do the most amazing stitches and sewing feats. So how do you choose? Well, here are some good pointers for how to choose the best beginner sewing machine.

How To Choose The Best Beginner Sewing Machine

I have been sewing for just over 6 years now. And I have had a go at a lot of different techniques and patterns. From bag making, to making clothes, then to knit/jersey fabric sewing, I have tried a lot of different sewing skills out.

I have a good idea about what I want from a sewing machine. 

So – what are the questions that I think you should ask yourself when choosing a new sewing machine?

Are You Going To Use It?

Yup. Basic question really. I will admit, this was my first thought when I bought my first machine. Was it just going to be a phase I went through? Was I only going to use it occasionally? Should I invest in an expensive model anyway if it is not going to get any use? 

If you are not sure how much use you will get from a machine, maybe it would be better to ask to borrow one first. More on that later. But if you do need to buy one, then certainly I would advise getting a budget model first.

Me personally? After thinking about all these things I ended up going to one of my favourite shops  – John Lewis. I always feel like you get a no nonsense sales experience from shopping there. You get a good warranty with the products. Most of the stores have a good selection of machines on display in the store. And usually there is someone who can give you good advice in the department. All big plusses in my book.

At the time I bought my machine, their cheapest model was the JL110 machine. At £135 you can buy it in a lot of pretty colours, and they often have discounts. And when I started sewing lessons at a local sewing school I discovered that the JL110 is just like the basic entry level Janome sewing machine – only about £150 cheaper. I will shout from the hills – buy this machine over the more expensive model – it is practically the same model but cheaper!

John Lewis JL110

This is mine, and you’ll find it in most of my blog posts. In fact, 2 years on, I am still using mine for the majority of my sewing. It does all the basic stitches that I need to make garments. It is just such a great workhorse machine. So I would definitely recommend it if you are thinking of buying a first sewing machine. Or as a gift for a wannabe teenage sewer perhaps?

(Please note, there is also a very basic level Brother sewing machine now available that is slightly cheaper. I have not used this machine but it is also a great budget buy)

What Do I Need To Sew?

My JL110 was great until I realised that I wanted to learn how to sew jersey fabric. And at that point I realised that I might need another machine – an overlocker.

Yes you can use a standard sewing machine on its own for knit/jersey fabrics. You do not need any other machine if you don’t wish to use one. But an overlocker/serger gives a more professional finish, finishing the seams so much more neatly. See here my guide to sewing stretch fabrics.

An overlocker is also useful for giving a great finish to the seams of woven fabrics too, especially fabrics that fray easily. So it is a useful machine to have. But, because I wasn’t sure how much it would be used, I went for a simple model. And so I went for the most basic Janome overlocker.

My Janome Overlocker

And yes, almost 5 years on, my Janome 9200D has been just the best machine for my sewing. (it has now been replaced with the Janome 9300DX) Yes, you occasionally get LIDL doing special offer Singer models, but in my experience (and actually also the experience of lots of ladies at my sewing club) these have a tendency to be temperamental. The cutting blade goes blunt. The machine threads unthread themselves. Conversely, my Janome has been a sound machine for a reasonable price.

Later on, when I realised that knit fabrics were definitely more my style, I looked into buying a coverlock machine. This is yet another specialised machine that you can buy for hemming and finishing knit garments. But I still haven’t committed to buying one yet. They are very expensive!

look at this one on Amazon – for that price I would expect it to make breakfast!

Instead, I started using a twin needle to finish my projects – see here how that works for me!

Could I Borrow One To Try Out?

As I said in my post about how to start sewing, there are lots of old sewing machines out there gathering dust. You may not need to know how to choose a new sewing machine if you know someone who already has one! If you ask about, you may find that a friend or relative has one in a spare bedroom or attic.

Or looking on eBay is also a good idea if you have a particular make or model in mind. People do still buy sewing machines on a whim and don’t use them. Borrowing, or buying second hand is so much better for the environment as well.

Or why not join a sewing school/class that has several to try? Which leads me on to the next point.

Can I See One First?

Some people are fine going on the internet and seeing all the options before making the choice. But I do like to try things or at least see them before I purchase.

Plus you do need to see how large they are and whether they will fit into your sewing space.

My local sewing school is now a Brother credited dealer, so they do give me the chance to try out the new machines. Or again going to a shop may be your best bet. See all the features before making your choice.

Do I Need More Complicated Equipment for Specialised Stitches or Effects?

As I said before, I still may hanker after a coverlock machine in the future. But after 2 years of being with my JL110, I decided that I would like to try a machine that has a few more different stitches. And more whistles and bells than my rather basic model.

At that point I realised that there were several things that I wanted from my next machine:-

  • the capacity to do free motion embroidery
  • some different decorative stitches
  • the ability to do letters and numbers

I decided to buy a slightly more advanced model. I actually bought a Brother FS130QC. With the myriad of different stitches, the ability to do quilting, free motion embroidery and the capacity for sewing letters and numbers, I knew that this was the next evolutionary step in my sewing journey.

My Brother sewing machine

But you may have a different set of specifications…

After a specialised model of machine for a specific job? I would certainly recommend John Lewis, who had a great offer on my Brother machine. Again, they have a great selection – and often have offers.

But I do hope that this has been a useful guide into how to choose a new sewing machine. Do let me know if you have any questions in the comments, or holler at me on social media using the buttons above.

And why not pin this post for later?

How To Choose the best beginner Sewing Machine - it can be a minefield deciding when looking for a sewing machine. Here are my pointers on how to make a decision. #sewingmachine #sewing #janome #brother #johnlewis #giftideas #sewingideas #newsewingmachine #brothersewingmachine #overlocker #coverlocker #serger #coverlock



22 Replies to “How To Choose The Best Beginner Sewing Machine”

  1. Maureen at Let Go of Being Perfect says:

    I want to get a machine for sewing my knits as well, because I love this fabric the most. But, like you, I just can’t handle the price right now!

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Certainly, a coverstitch machine is a real luxury item. Maybe if I were considering a business!

    2. Maria says:

      I’m glad I’ve read this. I’ve been thinking about getting a sewing machine just to have a play around with and I wouldn’t have thought to head to John Lewis. #KCACOLS

  2. JIll says:

    This definitely helps on my upcoming search. Thanks for the ideas on what to look for!

  3. Kate Holmes says:

    I have not used a sewing machine for decades. I got one with the best of intentions a couple of years ago but am a bit scared of it to be honest. My daughter is so keen to sew so I must get over this and have subscribed to your blog for inspiration #MMBC

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you Kate! Trying simple things first is a great way to start. Maybe even just making some reusable kitchen roll is a start. It is all straight lines, so is one of there easiest things. Plus you can practice on old tea towels etc.

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      I know it isn’t for everyone. But hope this guide is useful and practical.

  4. Malin - Sensational Learning with Penguin says:

    Nice guide and sound advice, thank you! I have an old Hugin (made by Husqvarna) sewing machine, which I bought second hand many years ago, and it’s good enough for my very basic and irregular purposes. I managed to sew my own wedding dress on it (a simple 60’s style dress). Rigth now I’m going through the process of choosing a new camera to buy, it’s a similar kind of process, with so much choice… You haven’t got a guide for that as well by any chance? 😉 Thanks so much for linking up with #KCACOLS, hope you join in again next time! x

  5. Crystal Green says:

    This is a very informative review. I believe my son would like this sewing machine. It’s definitely one worth considering. #KCACOLS

  6. Jo Boyne says:

    I always check out John Lewis. They are ‘never knowingly undersold’, so if you go to them with a price form a competitor they will usually be able to accommodate a matched price. Plus, their warranties are usually far better than high street.

  7. Sewing madi says:

    This is such a beneficial, complete guide. I wouldn’t have had a clue wherein to start!

  8. heatherknight says:

    Thank you Kate a simple and useful guide to choose a sewing machine. very helpful for the beginner sewers


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