Buying a sewing machine can be an incredibly exciting and daunting prospect. The huge and varied options available can be so overwhelming. In this video we’ll share our expert knowledge to help you identify what to consider when choosing the best sewing machine for you whether you are a complete beginner or a very experienced sewist. Below the video you can read in detail everything we covered and more in our comprehensive buyers'guide.

Our Expertise & Sewing Machine Range

Our team have over 100 years combined sewing experience and have worked with everything from a treadle machine to the most impressive and expensive computerized machine currently on the market.

As a specialist sewing machine dealer we absolutely love sharing our sewing machine knowledge and expertise. Our range includes market leading sewing machine manufacturers JanomeBrotherHusqvarnaPfaff and Elna sewing machines. You can find them all on our website (see the links below).

Buying a Sewing Machine Online

If you are unable to visit our showroom we are more than happy to talk at length over the phone or via email to help you when buying a sewing machine. Many of our customers enjoy speaking to us from the comfort of their own home. They find we are able to answer any queries or concerns they might have before placing an order.

When buying a sewing machine through our website you are eligible for all the same warranties and guarantees you would get in a bricks and mortar store. Our in house expertise allows us to offer you fantastic after sales support.

You can also benefit from some great deals and free gifts, we even have a special section on the website for sewing machine deals. Also remember we won’t be beaten on price. Give us a call or drop us an email if you have seen an offer you would like to discuss.

How to Choose the Best Sewing Machine for You

Now I'm going to talk you through the five key areas we discuss with our customers to help them when buying a sewing machine.

1. Are you a Beginner or Experienced Sewist?

This is the first question we ask our customers. In order to get the best value for money it is important to understand your current and potential future capabilities.

Choosing the Best Sewing Machines for Experienced Sewists

If you are experienced and are looking to upgrade your current sewing machine consider where you feel your machine is lacking. Creating a wish-list will help you to clearly define what you are looking for. Share the list with us and we can also make you aware of additional machine features you may find useful.

Choosing the Best Sewing Machines for Beginners

If you are a beginner you will probably be looking at buying a sewing machine with limited features that is simple to use. However, it is also important to consider how you think you might progress. If you are super keen and committed consider buying a sewing machine with features you won’t use straight away, but may find incredibly useful once you’ve developed your skills! For example you could buy a machine with over 24 stitch options rather than a basic model that may only have 10 or 12. This will mean it will take longer for you to outgrow your machine and you won't need to replace it as quickly saving you money in the long run.

2. What will you Use the Sewing Machine for?

Here we outline the most useful features depending on the type of projects you want to complete. Once again try to consider your future sewing aspirations. Do you think you will branch out into other areas, for example, from dressmaking to quilting or vice versa? If so consider the features listed below and opt for a good all round machine, which includes the most important features highlighted below. To make life easier we include a detailed product description for each sewing machine on our website. You can check the product descriptions if you want to know whether the features I mention are available on any specific machine.


Our top features to consider for all you budding dressmakers out there:


A basic sewing machine uses a four step buttonhole. You have to manually measure the button, mark it on the fabric then create the buttonhole following four manual steps. If your budget allows you may want to consider a sewing machine with a one step buttonhole. This automates measuring and making your buttonhole, which is so much quicker and easier. You simply pop a button into the special buttonhole foot provided and the sewing machine does the rest for you. This makes recreating the same sized buttonhole over and over again so much easier and more accurate. Many of the machines with a one step buttonhole are often only marginally more expensive. Check our detailed product descriptions for information.

Sewing machine feet:

As a general rule of thumb the more you pay for a sewing machine the more presser feet and accessories are included in the box. However, it is also very useful to look at the range of additional feet or accessories that are available to buy separately for future reference. A specialist sewing machine dealer, such as Sew Essential, will offer a range of accessories and any advice you may need on them. Useful presser feet for dressmaking include an invisible zipper foot, a bias binder and an overcasting foot. An invisible zipper foot will make inserting concealed zips much easier, which will give your handmade garments a very professional finish.


Useful stitches on a machine for dressmaking are a blind hem stitch, a stretch stitch (or zigzag stitch) for knit and jersey fabrics and, if you don't have an overlocker, a good overcasting stitch for neatening seams. A blind hem stitch will allow you to sew hems that are barely visible on your machine, again, giving a much more professional finish to your handmade garments.

Multiple Needle Positions:

A sewing machine with multiple needle positions allow you to move the needle position to the left or right. This is useful for top stitching and inserting zips amongst other tasks. This feature is generally available on computerised sewing machines.


What you need to consider if soft furnishings are your bag:

If you will be mostly working with upholstery fabrics you will need a machine built to cope with these heavier, thick fabrics on a regular basis. A budget range machine isn't capable of performing these tasks repeatedly since the machine has to work much harder to sew through these fabrics. You will need to pay more for a stronger motor. We are happy to talk you through the options.

If you want to use your sewing machine for dressmaking, general sewing and occasional soft furnishings most machines will be suitable, although also bear in mind a good range of decorative stitches may be useful if you wish to embellish your home decor and soft furnishing projects.


Our most important considerations for quilting and patchwork enthusiasts:

Space under the Arm:

Working on quilts and larger projects is so much easier if your sewing machine has a good amount of space under the arm. We suggest from 8" (200mm) upwards.

Machine Feet:

Make sure your chosen sewing machine comes with a ¼ inch foot or you can buy one separately. All patchwork has ¼ inch seams and has to be accurate. An option for a walking foot is also very useful. A walking foot has it's own set of feed dogs, which works with the feed dogs under the needle plate to feed multiple layers of fabric through the machine at the same rate, especially important when making quilts and patchwork projects. Also most Pfaff sewing machines come with the IDT system. This is an integrated system that achieves the same results as a walking foot.


You might want to choose a sewing machine with a wide range of decorative stitches to enhance your quilts. The higher end computerized machines allow you to create sequences, change stitch sizes and even flip the direction of the stitch.

Free Motion Embroidery:

Machines with the option for free motion embroidery allow you to drop the feed dogs on your machine so you can move the fabric around freely under the needle as it stitches out allowing you to effectively draw with the thread. It really is as fun as it sounds and lots of sewers enjoy incorporating it into quilting, patchwork and craft projects such as bag making.


Also sometimes referred to as free motion quilting, stippling works on similar principles to free motion embroidery, but creates a more uniform swirly pattern. Where applicable there will be a specific stippling stitch option on the machine and a special presser foot (usually purchased separately) to use when creating this effect.


An automatic needle threader is also a popular feature for all types of sewing, particularly for sewers with poor eyesight who might struggle to push the thread through the eye of the needle.

In most machines you pull the automatic needle threader down using a lever located near the needle bar and it inserts a very fine wire through the eye of the needle, which catches the thread and pulls it through.

It is undoubtedly a very useful feature, however, whether on a basic first sewing machine or a much more expensive machine it is very easy to bend the wire and damage the needle threader. It is usually an easy fix to remedy this, but it is worth taking extra care when using this feature to avoid this common problem.


Some other great features, which lots of sewists enjoy, but are nice to have rather than fundamentally important are:

An automatic thread cutter:

This type of thread cutter allows you to snip your threads at the touch of a button once you've finished sewing. It may sound like an extravagance, but once you get used to it you'll wonder how you managed without one. This feature is usually only available on middle price range machines upwards.

Needle up/down:

This feature means you can choose whether you would like the needle to finish in the up or down position when you finish stitching, which is so helpful for times when precision and accuracy is key. For example, if you are turning a corner you can set it to stop with the needle down to allow you to pivot, which is particularly useful in patchwork and quilting and dressmaking. It also means you can stop and check your stitching without fear of the fabric moving when precision is key.


This allows you to control the stopping and starting of stitching at the push of a button instead of using the foot control. This is particularly useful for anyone who struggles with using a foot control.

Knee lifter:

A knee lift allows you to control different parts of the sewing process, such as raising the foot, by moving a bar with your knee. This is particularly useful when you want to maintain contact with the fabric as much as possible, for example when working on free motion embroidery or stippling or chain sewing.


It is also important to consider how often you will be using your sewing machine. If you will be using your sewing machine all day every day you will need to look at a semi industrial machine. Domestic machines aren't designed for this level of use and we will happily talk you through the semi industrial options we have available.

3. Types of Sewing Machines

You've considered your ability level and what projects you'd like to complete. Now it is time to consider the type of sewing machine you would like to buy.

Mechanical Sewing Machines

The most basic and inexpensive type of machine is a mechanical machine. On mechanical machines you use stitch selection levers and dials to choose your stitch or change the stitch length whereas you can do this at the touch of a button with computerized machines (see below).

Digital Screen Sewing Machines

In the next level of technology are sewing machines with a digital screen. These machines have a screen for selecting options such as stitches and stitch length. They sometimes also have a few additional bells and whistles such as a needle up down and or stop start buttons as a reflection of the additional cost.

Computerised Sewing Machines

These machines are far more sophisticated. You can change stitch sizes, create stitch sequences and flip stitches to point in the other direction. They will often come with fancy features such as built in scissors or the ability to select the type of fabric you are working with. The computerized machine then automatically sets the correct tension and stitch length. Although computerized sewing machines might sound scary they are actually very easy to use and are by far the most popular type of sewing machine.

Computerised Embroidery Machines

These sewing machines are able to complete all of the tasks mentioned above, but you also have the ability embroider within a hoop. There are also editing features such as flipping, rotating, enlarging, reducing and merging your designs to name but a few. Embroidery machines have come a long way in the last ten years and you can also do so much more than embroidery. Potential projects include motif embroidery, lace making, hand embroidery effect, cross stitch, hardanger, cutwork and many more.

If you decide to go down this route it is important to consider the range of hoop sizes available for each model. In our experience customers often want to progress onto creating larger embroideries once they've got the embroidery bug! The sorts of projects our customers enjoy include embroidering onto garments, household linens such as bedclothes and table cloths, soft furnishings, underwear, children’s clothes, bag making and cushions amongst others.

4. Budget

Budget is an important consideration for most of us so why don't we address it first? We think it is more important to help our customers identify their wish list first then look at affordability. This way your judgement isn’t clouded by your budget. We can always help you to identify features you are prepared to compromise on if necessary.

Last Few Words of Sewing Machine Advice

Remember it is always advisable to purchase your sewing machine from a specialist sewing machine dealer such as Sew Essential. The trained and experienced staff are in a better position to help you choose the right sewing machine for you. They can also offer after sales support often unavailable from non specialist stores.

If purchasing a sewing machine for a child we recommend buying a basic adult sewing machine rather than a toy model. Toy models often have very limited capabilities and are often unreliable.

Whichever machine you choose always use a good quality of thread to avoid problems with breakage and stitch quality.

You can view our full range of sewing machines, embroidery machines, sewing machine feet and accessories, overlockers, thread and everything else you might need to complete your projects on our website.

Please remember we are here to help! If you have any questions or require any further advice please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01283 210422 via email: or via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. This doesn’t change once you’ve purchased your machine either! We want you to be happy and get the most out of your machine so call us and keep smiling!

Have fun sewing!


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