5 October 2022

How to Choose a Sewing Machine

Buying a sewing machine

“Which sewing machine should I buy?” is one of the most frequently posed questions I get in our inbox and social media DMs... so here's a guide to how to choose a sewing machine, no matter what budget or skill level you have.

Whether you’re buying your first sewing machine, upgrading to a mid-range model, or looking to splash some cash on something flash, there are tons of options to choose from. I’ve only tested a fraction of the sewing machines that are out there in the world, so I can't tell you which are “the best”. Besides, choosing a sewing machine does come down to personal preference, so there isn’t really such a thing as “best” anyway :) 

But what I can tell you are the models I use most regularly and why I love them, and - perhaps more useful - some things you might want to bear in mind when choosing which machine to go for, depending on whether you’re a novice, improver or advanced stitcher.

Buying a sewing machine - Janome J3-18

Buying your first sewing machine

If you’re just getting started sewing and aren’t sure how much use you’re going to get out of a sewing machine, you probably won’t want to spend too much money on it. In which case, you might want to go for a mechanical model – with knobs as opposed to a digital display - as they are usually cheaper than their computerised counterparts.

The first sewing machine I bought was a J3-18* [if you're in the US, a similar model is Janome 2212], a great value machine that served me well for my first three years sewing.

Mechanical sewing machines tend to have a limited number of functions, but that’s fine because you really don’t three million different types of stitches for most dressmaking projects – as long as you’ve got a straight stitch, zigzag stitch and a buttonhole function, you’re doing well.

Another consideration is whether you have a dedicated sewing space or whether you’re sewing on the kitchen table and need to pack away at dinner time. If you’re just getting into sewing, the latter scenario is more likely, in which case a lighter machine such as the J3-18 will be easier to manage. Models like this certainly aren't the snazziest, but they're relatively low cost and great for getting started - you can always upgrade later...

Buying a sewing machine - Janome DKS100

Upgrading to a mid-range sewing machine

If you’ve become a regular stitcher and looking for more functionality, then you might want to think about moving onto a computerised machine. Computerised sewing machines usually have a large range of stitch options, which is great if you want to try out different techniques or get jiggy with decorative sewing.

Perhaps more importantly, they are generally better at handling thicker fabrics or multiple layers of fabric better than mechanical models as they have more needle penetration power (behave). Plus they often feature snazzy extras, such as a one-step buttonholer, a needle up-down button or an automatic thread cutter – things you don't necessarily need but that will make your (sewing) life a whole lot easier.

We use the Janome DKS100 Special Edition in our studio and I use the same model at home - omigawd I’m in love with this machine! It's got a good range of stitch settings - including the cutest kitty embroidery stitch (eep!). It feels nice and powerful, but although it’s a sturdy guy, it’s not too heavy to carry, so still easy to pack away when needed. I also think it looks really nice – modern squared-off edges and that turquoise face! Love love love.

Buying a sewing machine - Janome 6600P

Investing in a high end sewing machine

If sewing is a big part of your life, at some point you might decide to upgrade to a professional-type model with even more functionality. A high end machine with a powerful motor and strong guts will be able to handle all sorts of fabric types and multiple layers. They will usually be at the heavier end of the spectrum, but if you are a serious stitcher with a dedicated sewing table that probably won’t pose a problem.

The machine I sometimes use at home for personal use is the Janome 6600P [similar to the 6500P available in the US]. It sews fast, and the range of stitches is huge – you can choose from seven different types of buttonhole, and you can even programme it to write a sentence! A model like this costs around £1,200 (price as of 2014 - but £1800 in 2022 for the closest model 6700 model) so I wouldn't suggest it as a first buy, but it's a great investment for serious stitchers.

Final thought – you know the saying, “The best camera is the one you have”? I reckon you can apply the same sentiment to sewing machines. Maybe you don’t yet have the top-of-the-range model of your dreams, but whichever machine you have will serve you well in that it’ll enable you to get on with sewing stuff! 

Similarly, if you’re looking to buy a new machine, it’s always worth doing a bit of research, but too much research can sometimes become overwhelming and counterproductive, so my advice would be to work out what you really need, make a decision, buy the thing... and then get on with your sewing :)

How to Choose a Sewing Machine
Pictured: Janome DKS 100 Special Edition

Learning to sew? Take our online workshop Make Friends With Your Sewing Machine to get comfortable and confident using your new machine. Whether you’ve never touched a sewing machine before, or want to refresh the basics, our friendly and practical course will take you step by step through the fundamentals. Learn the essential skills to get started. See you in class!

If you liked this blog post, check out Six Steps to Start Sewing & Five Shortcut Features on Your Sewing Machine!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you choose to buy something from Amazon after clicking on one of the links, we receive a small percentage of the sale - at no additional cost to you. Tilly and the Buttons has received sponsorship in the past from Janome. All views expressed on the blog are my own and I never recommend any products or services that I honestly don't love - that’s just not how I roll. Thanks for supporting us to continue writing this blog!)