How To Choose Your First Sewing Machine

Are you looking at buying your first sewing machine? The sewing machine market can be overwhelming, often leaving people with the question “How do I ever choose my first sewing machine”

Sewing can be a business venture for you or just a hobby. The key is to get that main ingredient into the mix that will make the difference between succeeding in your venture and failing. This is your sewing machine, I love my sewing machine and without it, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love.

The Difference Between Automatic And Manual

The difference can mean everything to a beginner to make learning easier or can confuse you too much.

While at the university there were 3 options of sewing machines- automatic, manual and industrial. You can forget about industrial, these are used in factories, theatres and manufacturers. Personally always manual.


Using a manual machine means that if you are wanting to change from a straight stitch to a zig-zag stitch you have to change it by moving the dials.

This will change the settings but you control it, you move it manually. Whereas if you are using an automatic, the stitches are already programmed in and you simply press a button and it has changed.


You can later on if you find a stitch length or style you want to save and use again you can program this into your machine. This will act a memory and save that stitch to use again.

This is where manual lets you down as you can’t save a stitch that you like, you have to take note of it or just remember. I have always chosen a manual as I like things simple, I have never been able to control too many settings and prefer to keep things as simple as possible.

What Does Every Sewing Machine Offer

  • A Warranty – this is to ensure the machine works well, can be returned or repaired within a time frame for no extra cost.
  • Needle
  • Standard Foot
  • Test thread – most machines come with a test thread to try the machine before using it.
  • Instructions on care and use and how to thread
  • A care kit – most machines come with a small brush, oil and some other care tools.

Think About What You Want Your Machine To Do

When purchasing my third sewing machine (my current is a Bernina 1500) I decided to think about what I want to make, what I want to get out of my machine, do you want it to be for dressmaking, embroidery, patchwork or simply to make cushion covers?

For most of these projects, the machines can be pretty much the same or very similar as you might not need too many fancy stitches. If you after a machine because you want to create beautiful machine embroidery you will want something completely different to someone using theirs for patchwork quilts.

I wanted mine to do a bit of everything but didn’t need the machine to be too much to handle because even now I only use a handful of stitches. I always learnt on a Bernina 1500 so that was what I was comfortable with, it was second nature to me so it fit well for me.

What Can You Afford

I have spoken to a few different people during the past few months on what is the best machine to start with but I could recommend the best machine and only 1 of the few could afford it. You have to decide on a budget you can afford and stick to it. If you find a cheap second-hand machine on eBay, gumtree or local listing, check it out.

If you aren’t too sure to see if you can get a refurbished model from a sewing shop or online. It can be a scary thing and I definitely found it scary to buy my first machine.

My very first machine was Christmas presents from my sisters, the second machine was a present from my parents for university and the third was my purchase. It was a scary thing and I decided that whatever career and job I worked I would always want to sew so I did it. There are plenty of places to find a good sewing machine, make sure you do plenty of research into the brand and the model before purchase.

What I have learned

I have spoken to many people and got many opinions over the best sewing machine for a beginner, the truth is there isn’t one sewing machine that you need, to begin with. There are hundreds, you have to find out what works for you, think of it like Harry Potter walking in to pick a wand but the wand chooses the wizard.

There isn’t just one machine that fits everyone’s needs like the wand is special to the wizard (please forgive my Harry Potter reference). Funnily enough, when speaking to many people that the sewing machine they learnt on at school or at home or self-taught, they stick to that machine or brand. Some said they have more than one machine and the cheapest one is their favourite.

There is no guarantee that the machine you get is going to be the perfect machine or even that the machine you love is the one for you. If in doubt join a class or go to a store and try out a machine. Whether it is money you are worried about losing or the hassle of getting a refund source out a shop to try out machines to see what fits best.

Here are a few screenshots from the group that gave me the wonderful insight to picking the right machine. *All images and names have been covered to protect those opinions and people involved. The comments are all from people who use sewing machines on a daily basis and are professionals.*

Here are a few machines that have been recommended by experts in the field:

  • Bernina- Any Model- “Rolls Royce of sewing machines”- Bernina 1008, these sewing machines are very popular in schools, colleges and universities. This is a great sturdy machine that can handle the bashing from a beginner. You can pick these up brand new on amazon for £519 or second hand on eBay for anything from £200 to £300.
  • Hobby craft has an array of sewing machines from Singer, Janome and Brother. They range from £70 to £700.
  • Brother LS14.- used in teaching beginners, This sewing machine is available to buy for £69 at Hobbycraft. It comes with 14 different stitch functions, a 4 step buttonhole function and a three-year guarantee.
  • Lidl and Aldi often have a sewing machine available in their stores. They are more affordable and easier to pick up in the supermarket.

There are so many sewing machines available that there will never be a right answer or perfect pick for your first machine. Not one machine will have everything that people need.

I would recommend doing your own research and seeing what can work best for you, try out a sewing class and get used to working with a machine before buying one, visit a sewing machine retailer to test out different machines and of course, take your time deciding.

The majority of sewing machines still sell well on the second-hand market so even if you decide it isn’t for you then sell it on. I hope this has been helpful to you in deciding how to pick your sewing machine and happy sewing!