I’ve previously talked about the different types of sewing machines, and even dug into the best leather sewing machine for anyone interested in sewing leather, but today it is time to discuss buying a sewing machine.
I consider this an essential article for sewing beginners especially, as it is often them that get badgered into buying a sewing machine – and usually the most expensive option – which I am completely against. If you are completely new to sewing with a sewing machine, it is more important that you buy a more basic machine that will let you sew the basics and learn some skills before deciding to invest in a more expensive machine with a gazillion functions.
In fact, in my view, the best sewing machine you can buy as a sewing beginner is a secondhand one from a Thrift store. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a machine when you don’t know if sewing is a hobby that you’ll love?
In this article I’ll be providing a very brief overview of the history of a sewing machine, the different sewing machine brands, and of course the things you need to consider when buying a sewing machine for yourself.
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means that I may receive a fee at no extra cost to you if you purchase a recommended product. I only recommend items I have experience with.
Who Invented The Sewing Machine?
The very first sewing machine was invented by Thomas Saint, and English inventor, all the way back in 1790! So the sewing machine has been around for over 230 years now!
What Is The Oldest Sewing Machine Brand?
The oldest sewing machine brand is Bernina, a Swiss brand which was founded in 1893. Bernina is still a family owned business and make amazing sewing machines – their higher priced, top of the line machines are still manufactured in Switzerland, while their lower priced, more wallet friendly machines are made in Thailand. I have their Bernina 1008 which is about 30 years old now, and whenever I mention possibly trading it in for a newer model, I always find myself being inundated with messages from people asking me to sell it to them, which of course means I hold onto it even tighter!
What Are The Different Kinds Of Sewing Machine And Their Uses?
There are 15 different kinds of sewing machine – each used for different purposes:
- Domestic Sewing Machine
- Mini Sewing Machine
- Industrial Flatbed Sewing Machine
- Overlocker Sewing Machine
- Leather Sewing Machine
- Cover Stitch Machine
- Twin Needle (Top Stitching) Machine
- Button Sewing Machine
- Buttonhole Machine
- Bar Tack Machine
- Baby Lock Machine
- Blind-Stitch Machine
- Merrow Perl Machine
- Embroidery Machine
- Quilting Machine
I have put together a very in-depth guide to the different types of sewing machines which explains each type of sewing machine in detail if you’d like to learn more!
Which Type Of Sewing Machine Is The Best?
This really depends on what you need a sewing machine for! As I said at the start of this article, the best sewing machine is the one that is affordable and allows you to sew basic stitches and seams, but you also need to consider what it is that you intend to sew!
If you are a home sewer looking to make the occasional piece of home furnishing – from lightweight curtains to cushion covers, then a mechanical sewing machine might be perfect for you.
If you’re thinking of sewing your own clothes, then you’ll want something with enough power to handle the various clothing elements – zippers and buttonholes, as well as various fabric weights – as light as silk and as heavy as denim!
If you think you’ll be wanting to make quilts, you could decide that a dedicated quilting machine is better for you and your needs as they usually give you more room to manoeuvre your sewing projects than a regular domestic sewing machine.
And if you plan to design and create clothing, bags or home furnishing pieces, you’ll want to invest in one of more industrial machines, as you’ll be putting the machine through its paces, and industrial machines are designed to work hard.
At the end of the day, it’s about choosing the best sewing machine for YOUR needs!
How Do I Choose A Sewing Machine?
Start by sitting down and listing out what you hope to use your sewing machine for. Will you want to:
- Sew clothing?
- Create quilts?
- Make bags and small accessories?
- Work with only knit or woven fabrics?
- Sew light weight or heavy weight fabrics?
- Sew with leather and other tricky materials?
- Make things for personal use and gifts or plan to sell?
As you can see, there are lots of considerations for choosing a sewing machine.
If you wanted to work only with leather, you may want a more heavy duty machine, or one that has a walking foot option which will help you sew leather with ease. There is this guide to the 7 best home sewing machines for sewing leather.
If you plan to only make silk scarves for an online store, then a standard home sewing machine with a rolled hem foot and fine needles will work well, but as silk scarves are very easy to sew – they’re essentially geometric shapes of silk needing only the hem finishing – you could also get a dedicated baby lock sewing machine which will sew super fine hems.
For sewing clothing or projects requiring fastenings, then a basic home sewing machine with a selection of presser feet would also work. You’d want:
- Standard presser foot – this is the one that comes as standard with any sewing machine
- Invisible zipper foot – for inserting invisible zippers into clothing, cushions etc
- Button hole foot – to make the process of sewing buttonholes on clothes and home decor items easier
There are many different types of sewing machine presser feet to choose from, but the three above will certainly work for sewing beginners getting started.
The best place to start is by writing down what you want to achieve with your sewing machine, and then working from there.
What Is The Best Inexpensive Sewing Machine?
Inexpensive is subjective – one person may find $100 inexpensive while another will find $500 inexpensive. For that reason, I’ll cover three sewing machines in the $200 or below price range and another three in the $500 and below.
Note that I am also only sharing information on the sewing machines from brands that I have used and trust – while there are other sewing machines available for slightly less, they are manufactured by brands I have never heard of and as such, I do not know their standards.
As I’ve previously said however, do look online, in your local thrift stores and any sharing / free groups to see if there is a basic sewing machine that you can pick up for free or very low cost just to get started with!
Best Sewing Machines Under $200
While $200 is a lot to many people, it is possible to get excellent home sewing machines for less than this when you’re new to sewing.
1. Brother GX37
This is a very basic, manual sewing machine, perfect for sewing beginners. It has just 37 stitch options, with each one being selected by turning the main dial. This is such a great beginner friendly machine, with no buttons or electronics to worry about.
I have used this machine – a neighbour has it, and having hit an issue with it, called upon me to help. Unfortunately the issue was that she had sewn over the clips she uses to hold fabric together and in the process had caused the needle shank to warp when it hit upon the metal clips. Lesson? Use pins!
The bobbin on this budget friendly sewing machine is top loading with a clear cover so you can keep your eye on how much bobbin thread you have left.
Check out the Brother GX37 on Amazon here.
2. Singer 4411
I have often recommended Singer sewing machines, having never had a problem with them myself. The Singer 4411 is a ‘heavy duty’ machine – which just means that it can also sew heavier weight materials like canvas, denim and leather.
This is the little brother to the Singer 4432, so although it can sew heavier fabrics, it does have some limitations.
There are a limited number of stitches – 6 basic stitches and 4 decorative – plus a buttonhole stitch too. You can also modify the stitch length and width with separate dials, which is something that other basic sewing machines in this budget range don’t offer.
Check out the Singer 4111 on Amazon here.
3. Janome Pink Sorbet
Janome is a very well known and respected sewing machine brand, and although I prefer a less colorful sewing machine myself, this ‘pink sorbet’ machine from Janome is perfect for sewing beginners – if you can handle the pink of course!
I will note however that this really is the most basic machine, with a front loading bobbin and a limited stitch selection using just the one dial. Yes you can sew a buttonhole with it, but otherwise it is very limited compared to the two sewing machines above.
Check out the Janome Pink Sorbet on Amazon here.
There you have it, three very beginner friendly and basic sewing machine for under $200. From experience, the Brother is the better machine. If heavier weight fabrics are something you’re likely to sew, then the Singer 4411 would be a great choice too.
Remember though that you can probably pick up a used machine for less than half of what these ones cost brand new!
Best Sewing Machines Under $500
The three sewing machines listed here are all amazing machines. The Janome and Singer are great manually operated machines – the dials and stitch types, not the actual sewing machine! – while the Bernette from Bernina is also a great machine but being a computerized machine, may be a tad overwhelming for sewing beginners.
1. Janome HD1000 Heavy Duty
This Janome machine is a big step up from the ‘Sorbet Pink’ mentioned above. It is again a manual sewing machine, with a stitch selector dial, another for changing the stitch length and a reverse lever.
The stitches included are suitable for both woven and knit fabrics and you can also sew a buttonhole with this machine too. Win!
One of the best features – at least for anyone that struggles to thread a needle! – is the automatic threading feature which will thread your sewing needle for you!
Check out the Janome HD1000 Heavy Duty on Amazon here.
2. Singer HD4432
I mentioned the Singer HD4432 in the under $200 section above – this machine is a real workhorse! Again it is a manual sewing machine, with just two dials – the stitch selector dial and the stitch length dial. the reverse lever is located just below the tension dial for easy access.
This Singer machine also has an automatic needle threading function like the Janome above, but better yet, it can sew 100 stitches per minute, making it perfect for someone that wants to sew fast, but doesn’t have the space for a more heavy duty industrial sewing machine.
Check out the Singer HD4432 on Amazon here!
3. Bernette 37
The Bernette 37 is a Bernina sewing machine, and is the only computerized sewing machine that I have included in this guide.
The reason for that is manual sewing machine from Bernina are always priced at $500 and upwards, which makes getting your hands on one tricky. Of course you can always buy one secondhand, as I did, but the Bernette 37 is a great starting sewing machine from a company that I have loved and trusted for a couple of decades now.
As this sewing machine is computerized, it can take some time to get used to how it works – everything is done with buttons. There are no levers and dials, except the hand wheel. It even has a stop / start button so that you can sew without the foot pedal – this is something I have never gotten used to!
Check out the Bernette 37 on Amazon here!
If your budget allows, and you’re not worried about using a more technical sewing machine, then the Bernette 37 is a great sewing machine to invest in and start using.
For anyone not yet comfortable with the idea of a computerized sewing machine, you can’t go wrong with either the Janome HD1000 or the Singer HD4432. The first being a great all round sewing machine, the second being one that is well respected for sewing heavier weight fabrics.
What Is The Most Reliable Brand Of Sewing Machine?
For me, time and time again, the most reliable brand of sewing machine is Bernina (makers of the Bernette) followed closely by Janome and Juki. Janome definitely have some great beginner friendly sewing machines, which is why I have included two here in this guide. Juki is another brand that has always been reliable for me, but they are not available in the price range covered in this article.
In my experience using their industrial machines (alongside Jukis), Brother is another reliable brand which have never failed me, and is why I am happy to recommend the more budget friendly Brother GX37.
How Long Do Sewing Machines Last?
Sewing machines will last a lifetime as long as you care for them. I have had my Bernina 1008 since the early 2000s now, and I bought it secondhand.
Granted I do not service it as often as I should, but I am very conscientious about keeping it maintained. You can learn how to keep your sewing machine in tip top condition with my online course Master Your Machine – perfect for sewing beginners too!
Are Old Sewing Machines Better?
Old sewing machines can be better in some circumstances. I have a very old hand cracked Singer sewing machine, which I use for sewing or repairing heavy leather. Being able to manually control the sewing speed with the hand crank gives me far more control than a more modern sewing machine – bar the old Brother Mark II industrial sewing machine I had which I had great control with.
My Singer is getting on for 100 years old now, and still works beautifully, so old sewing machines can definitely be better if well taken care of.
What Sewing Machine Should I Buy For Making Clothes?
If you plan to only sew clothes with a sewing machine, then any of the above sewing machines that we’ve looked at will be great starter sewing machines. Whichever machine you find to start your sewing journey is the right one – just make sure that it has the ability to sew zippers, buttonholes, straight and zigzag stitches and you will be well away!
Learn How To Use A Sewing Machine
Now that you’re all set on choosing a sewing machine that is perfect for YOUR needs, why not learn how to use it and care for it so that you can feel more confident as a sewing beginner?
My beginner friendly sewing course ‘Master Your Machine’ will teach you how to thread your sewing machine, choose the right needle and presser feet, as well as creating a stitch diary and showering TLC on your machine with my cleaning and oiling lessons too!
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.