Well, congratulations, a sewing machine is a wonderful tool and accessory to have, a gateway to many creative ideas, and a great therapy and relaxation. So how do you decide which machine to buy? Having been an exhibitor at many sewing shows, I have seen so many people overwhelmed by the choice available, often ending up going home with nothing. So let’s see if we can help filter it a bit.
A few questions to ask yourself before you begin looking:
- Why do I want a sewing machine?
- What sewing do I do now?
- If I have a sewing machine, why am I looking to replace it?
- Is there a new area of sewing I would like to try, but the machine I have does not have the capability to do it?
Don’t be too worried about trying to find a machine with everything you might ever want to do on it all at once. Yes, a sewing machine tends to be a long term investment, but they do have a value as they get older so you can always sell the one you have on, or part exchange it against an upgrade. Many people begin with a simpler machine and as they grow in skill and experience they upgrade to machines with more features.
Ok that has hopefully got the cogs whirring, so let’s have a look at some of the types of machines that are available, by genre (if you have a particular genre in mind, simply click to jump to the genre):
– Traditional mechanical machines
– Computer sewing machines
– Sewing and embroidery machine combinations
Traditional Mechanical Sewing Machines
The technology used in traditional mechanical sewing machines has been around for many a year and they are a great place to start the sewing journey. Modern ones are easy to thread and use, require minimal maintenance and will give years of trouble free service if given some TLC and a service occasionally.
Stitches and size of stitches will be selected by dials and it will be necessary to set the stitch length and width manually to suit. There could be some electronics involved to help control the speed of the machine and for needle piercing power for heavy fabrics.
A mechanical machine will offer, at minimum, straight stitch for joining seams, zigzag for overcasting seams, 3 step zigzag for inserting elastic and repairs, blind hem for easy curtain and trouser hemming (once the technique is mastered) and a buttonhole. It may also have some stretch and overlock stitches, some decorative stitches or a free motion facility for free motion embroidery or stipple quilting.
I’m afraid you get what you pay for so if you’re looking at a sub-£100 machine from a supermarket, don’t expect it to be up to much! The engineering in a sewing machine needs to be excellent, as do the materials used to build it, so if it’s very cheap then this will be reflected in the quality of materials or build. You may end up spending more on a cheap machine in the long term when problems arise from its poor quality.
Ideally you want to look at spending, as a minimum, £150. Go with a reputable brand, ideally bought from a sewing machine specialist, and if you can pop in (or have a virtual demonstration), so much the better. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so only watching YouTube videos before you buy might not necessarily help you make the right purchase.
Why have a demonstration?
When you are choosing a machine, a specialist sewing machine shop like Coles will offer you a free demonstration. Not only do you get to see (and hear) the machine in action and have a go for yourself, you also can ask any questions you might have. The demonstrator will try to ensure that the machine is within your budget and meets your needs and as they are experts, they can offer suggestions that you wouldn’t get otherwise. You would test drive a car, why not a sewing machine?!
Some examples of mechanical sewing machines from Husqvarna Viking:
- H|CLASS™ E10 – currently £189.00 with 2 years’ warranty
- A great place to start the sewing journey
- Easy to use and so reliable, with a good range of sewing and utility stitches plus 3 step buttonholes and a built in needle threader
- For beginners to intermediate users
- H|CLASS™ E20 – currently £239.00 with 2 years’ warranty
- Similar to the E10 but with an additional drop feed mechanism for easy free motion sewing, a few more stitches, a one-step easy buttonhole, and independent stitch width control
- For intermediate users, or great as a backup machine for taking to class
- EMERALD™ 116 – currently £339 with 5 years’ warranty
- A very reliable machine and simple to use, great with heavy and light fabrics alike
- Includes 1-step easy buttonholes, stitch width control, decorative and utility stitches – it’s just lovely to use!
- For beginners to intermediate/advanced users
- EMERALD™ 118 – currently £369.00 with 5 years’ warranty
- Similar to the Emerald 116, but with a slide speed control and needle up down function to make sewing even more controllable, plus a few more decorative stitches
- For beginners to intermediate/advanced users
Computer sewing machines
Computer sewing machines started appearing with the advent of the microchip, as long ago as the late 1970’s. They are so much easier to set up than mechanical machines as simply selecting the stitch sets the machine up ready to go. They often have computer controlled upper tensions, with the tension matched automatically to the chosen stitch/fabric combination. They usually have needle/up down functions to save you having to turn the handwheel. They will probably have a stitch count in the hundreds, with specialist stitches for utility, quilting, decorative and lettering.
A computer sewing machine may also have auto thread trim, and auto presser foot lift (with an extra height setting for thicker projects) plus a pivot function for patchwork, and a bigger distance between the right side of the machine and the needle, to allow for bigger projects such as quilts. They are simple to use once the basics of threading are mastered, so any user level can use them – beginners to advanced.
A few Husqvarna Viking computer sewing machines to chew over:
- OPAL™ 690Q – currently £899 with 5 years’ warranty
- This is just such an amazing machine – it has so many features, but is still intuitive and so easy to use
- It has growth room, so you could buy it as a beginner/intermediate, and grow with it, or buy it as an advanced sewer, and still be amazed at what it offers!
- If you really think you will be into sewing long term then this is the machine for you
- SAPPHIRE™ 930 – currently £1499 with 5 years’ warranty
- The big sister of the OPAL™ 690Q, the Sapphire 930 has a longer arm to accommodate bigger projects such as quilts, as well as additional stitch functions
- If you’re a quilter then it’s a great machine to go for as it is big, but light enough to carry to classes
- BRILLIANCE™ 75Q – currently £1929.00 with 5 years’ warranty
- This is a top of the line computer machine, but still easy to use
- It has a colour touch screen like the SAPPHIRE™ 930, as well as extra wide decorative and quilt stitches
- For intermediate to advanced users
Sewing and embroidery machine combinations
This innovation in domestic sewing started to appear in the early 1990’s and allowed for small embroideries to be added to garments. It was simple stuff at first, and quite complicated to set up through using electronic memory cards that went into a specialist port on the computer. Designs and customising designs were quite tricky too. But not now!
We really are spoilt by the choice, ease of use and familiarity of operation these days. Designs are plentiful and easy to customise, or you can create your own design with software – the only limits are your imagination! They come with USB connectivity and the most recent machines have built in Wi-Fi, letting you download your design straight onto your machine, no matter where you are. There is even a phone app, with which you can take a photo of an item and send it to your machine for stitching out direct from your phone! The combination machines are top of the line sewing machines as well, so you get the best of both worlds.
I would recommend buying one from somewhere that can support you, as you need to learn the techniques of hooping, positioning, the right backings and thread and so forth. The investment in one of these is high, but the rewards are amazing – imagine seeing an embroidery you have created on a garment, cushion, or quilt! It can even turn into a cottage industry as there are always clubs, businesses and societies wanting embroidered logos stitching on garments, as well as the massive opportunity in the small craft business. They can be used from beginner to advanced, as the modern interfaces with large colour touch screens make the stitching side easy. You just need to master the art of setting the fabric to embroider up correctly, and to find inspiration.
A few Husqvarna Viking embroidery machines to look at, all with 5 year warranty and free tuition with Coles:
- DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 40 – normally £2299.00, we have some demonstration models available at £1299.00 while stocks last
- An easy to use sewing and embroidery combo
- Great as a sewing machine and simple to set up for embroidery
- Maximum hoop area 240mm x 150mm
- DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50 – currently £3059.00
- A longer arm than the Topaz 40, with more built in stitches
- Simple to use on sewing and embroidery
- Maximum hoop size of 360mm x 200mm, so you can do pretty big designs!
- DESIGNER SAPPHIRE™ 85 – currently £5299
- Longer arm and larger colour touch screen than earlier machines
- Has the deLuxe™ Stitch System: the machine works out the thickness of the thread, fabric, and works with the project being stitched to alter the tensions in real time as necessary to give perfect results
- Technology for sewing at its best!
- DESIGNER RUBY™ 90 – currently £7499
- We love the Ruby 90, it has so many features as a sewing and embroidery machine!
- Big, so can take big projects
- Massive touch screen, like an iPad
- Built in JoyOS™ system giving you access to training on board the machine
- Hundreds of stiches as a sewing machine
- Will embroider up to 360mm x 360mm (with a turnable hoop)
- It’s just awesome!
- DESIGNER EPIC™ 2 – currently £8999.00
- Awesome plus plus!
- In addition to the features of the Ruby, the EPIC™ 2 has an integrated dual feed system
- Long and high sewing area, making it the perfect quilting machine as well as being one of the most advanced sewing and embroidery machines in the world!
Well I hope that helps a little. I have concentrated on examples of Husqvarna Viking machines as we know them well here at Coles – it’s worth clicking to have a look at any machine you’re interested in as we have some fantastic offers on our website right now. If nothing here takes your fancy then there are many other makes out there which you can find on the web, but hopefully you now have a bit of a filter onto the genre of the machine for you. Whatever you choose to look at, I would certainly recommend a test drive if possible to make sure you feel happy using it; also make sure there is some support, other than a couple of online videos!
Happy sewing from all at Coles!