Sewing Machines

Monday, 10 March 2008

The ultimate tool for do-it-yourself fashionistas, crafters, and interior designers, sewing machines can require a lot of buying know-how. We find out how to buy the right machine for your needs.


The Basics

  • The amount of sewing you’re going to do dictates the type of machine you should buy:

    • Mechanical (non-computerized) machines use electricity but have many manual controls (e.g. thread tension, stitch size) and tend to be the most popular. They are more reasonably priced, and can easily handle basic repairs, hems, and simple clothing and craft projects.

    • Electronic (computerized) machines are similar to mechanical but a computer chip does the thinking and memory work on the more tedious jobs. It is also “smarter” and can display recommendations on the LCD screen for tension, stitch length, etc. Of course, the convenience of computerized machines means you’ll pay a lot more.

  • Big chain department stores tend to offer basic mechanical models. For higher-end models, and more knowledgeable staff, find a specialty sewing machine store.

  • When considering an inexpensive model, make sure it has a zigzag stitch, which is invaluable for mending.

  • With any computerized machine, check what’s included, for example, how many patterns are included in the basic software package. Extra software will add to the price tag.

  • Make sure you try out the machine in-store before you commit.

    • Bring a variety of fabrics with you for testing: stretchy, slippery, light and heavy. The fabrics should feed through easily and seams should be straight.

    • Try folding fabric to see how well it handles multiple layers.

    • And, test a number of stitch patterns.

  • For the warranty to be valid, the vendor must be an authorized dealer.

Other Considerations

  • Looking for a bargain? Summer is often a good time to buy, when  suppliers reduce their prices to distributors in order to move products during this slow period. Also consider visiting craft shows to spot manufacturer deals.

  • If buying used, know that a warranty technically expires when the machine changes hands. That said, a reputable retailer will honour the warranty if the previous owner has kept the original receipt.


We tested two mechanical and two computerized on a simple t-shirt patter, with help from some very experienced sewers:

  • Kenmore (mechanical): $300
  • Singer (mechanical with 34 different stitch patterns): $700
  • Husqvarna (computerized with info display): $1000
  • Bernina (computerized with CD Rom drive; internet connected): $9000

Sewing Test

  • The Bernina was just too much machine for any of us, in features and in price.

  • We all enjoyed working on the Huskvarna. It was the smoothest and easiest to sew with.

  • The Kenmore was also a good machine, and a great value.


The computerized Huskvarna was smooth and easy to sew with, but for beginners or occasional sewers, we recommend the more economical Kenmore.




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  • Shannon Roberts

    This article is now 5 years old. Any updates?