Is It Cat Friendly?
Answer: That really shouldn’t be a consideration but for cat lovers out there, I’m throwing in this one for free!
For the rest of us…
Each year the heads of sewing machine industry gather around a large table putting their heads together to generate strategies to lure every sewist from all levels of experience and expertise to purchase the “latest and greatest” sewing machine.
The past 10 years alone have witnessed a consistent and dynamic evolution not only in the manufacturing process but in the way these sewing machines are used. This is a far, far cry from the time when I was a little girl sitting beside my aunt as she made quilts on a treadle Singer sewing machine – one very similar to the image below.
Keeping It Simple
No doubt, back in that day (late 1890s to the early 1900″s) the decision-making process was quite simple. Aside from availability, price was likely the only factor. The basic requirement for a sewing machine was also quite simple – the only thing needed was a threaded needle to go up and down through the fabric to catch the bobbin thread from underneath.
These machines sewed only 1 stitch – a straight stitch, and each stitch was the same length. Period. The power was provided by placing your foot (or both feet) on the rectangular shaped metal platform near the floor and bending your ankles up and down. When your feet stopped moving, so did the machine.
These machines were heavy – made of steel with a wooden cabinet and they were made to last. This was well before the day of planned obsolescence and the luxury of tossing it (or anything else, for that matter) in the dumpster (or back alley) and buying a new one after 2-3 years was unthinkable.
Other features of this vintage sewing machine are depicted in the diagram below taken from the manufacturer’s user’s manual:
Today, choosing a sewing machine is not so simple. In the interest of time I will not even attempt to describe even a fraction of machines available and their respective attributes however, you can click on a picture or manufacturer’s name below each machine and it will take you to the respective website – each site is guaranteed to provide enough eye candy to put you in a sugar coma! I should note here also, this is a very small sampling and the images only represent the top of the line models from each manufacturer.
Now that you’ve done a little window shopping let’s return to reality and discuss what you came here for – the top five items to consider when purchasing a sewing machine.
To begin with here are my Top Two Recommendations:
1) BUY THE MOST EXPENSIVE MACHINE YOU CAN AFFORD.
2) BUY FROM A REPUTABLE, LOCAL DEALER.
Do this and the remainder of the list will pretty well take care of itself.
Buying a sewing machine is, in my opinion, a major purchase and…you do get what you pay for. However, if you took a look at the high end models and even a few mid-range models you also see it not necessary to go straight to the top. Man of these newer machines may do everything but bake bread and wash windows but there is no need spending money for features you do not want or need or may never use.
On the other hand, buying as much machine as you can comfortably afford saves you the hassle of having upgrade later on down the road or ending up with a machine that lacks the workmanship and durability to perform your desired tasks.
Regarding using a local dealer – when you machine needs servicing or a repair you know exactly where to go. It also helps local businesses. These business owners and employees can offer you advice and instruction that you will not get from an online review.
3) Decide what exactly you want to do with your sewing machine.
If a straight stitch or maybe a zigzag stitch or making a button hole now and then is all you are looking for then your best bet is to find a machine with as few options as possible.
If you plan do any decorative stitching or embroidery then it is best to look into a model that accommodates an embroidery hoop.
For creating embroidery on a large scale, i.e., a business, then you need to look into a computerized machine with a few bells and whistles. Many models have the option to purchase or download patterns and will practically do the work for you – all you have to do is set it up.
On the subject of running a business such as a quilting business, you may want to invest in a machine that not only sews a variety of stitches and stitch lengths but on that also incorporates quilting software. This takes the process to another level that allows you first design your own quilt before piecing and sewing it together!
4) Determine if your machine needs to be portable.
Most of the time a sewing machine will be set up in a designated room or area of your home and stay there. However, there may come a time when you will want to join a quilt guild or attend a retreat or special class and will need to be able to bring your own machine. If these activities occur frequently I would check the overall weight specification.
Typically, the heavier the machine the higher the quality. It also usually means less noise, less vibration and increased durability. However, for frequent traveling you may want to consider a lower end of the mid-range models. If it becomes damaged in transit the cost for repairs is minimal compared to the costs of repairs or replacement of a high end computerized machine.
5) Decide who will be using the machine
It seems there is a growing number of teens, tweens (and according to Pinterest, cats) are becoming interested in sewing. If you have younger individuals in your home who may be using the same machine you should consider purchasing a machine that won’t feel too intimidating to use. Returning to the business model, if your interests extend into teaching others to sew or quilt, a machine that is well-built but with a lower learning curve is your best bet.
Final Thoughts and Other Useful Information
Considering today’s shopping trends it goes without saying, it is always a good idea to first do a little online research. However, before making a final decision, grab some fabric swatches and head down to your local sewing machine dealer and take a “test drive”. They will have a variety of floor models available for you to try as this is really the best way for you to make this type of purchase. The result? A sewing machine that fits the way you sew and the establishment of a relationship with a local merchant who can quickly and easily provide the service and repairs when you need them.