Guide to buying a sewing machine

We love sewing at The Avid Seamstress! The excitement of choosing a pattern and browsing gorgeous fabric for your project makes us giddy with joy! Having a sewing machine that you love and the right tools to get you started will make the journey into sewing a pleasure.

We also know that the craft market has exploded with beginner’s sewing machine and online fabric shops bursting at the seams. It can be daunting to know what to buy and what you need. We’ve put together a handy guide to help you with this exciting step!

So, what do you need to think about when buying your first sewing machine? 

Buying a sewing machine is an investment. Buy the right machine the first time and it can last you for years. Don’t rush into the decision or be persuaded by “cheap deals”. Knowing what you are looking for will help you make the right choice.

Buy from a reputable store, preferably a dealership. Great sewing brands names such as Elna, Brother, Janome and Singer will have dealerships near you. Go in to the store and talk to the team – they can guide you through the features of the different machines available and you will probably be able to test it. A good store should also be able to service machines and provide you with a warranty or guarantee.

High street stores are ok too! I buy my sewing machines from John Lewis. Their sewing machine options are excellent and as they have a dedicated Haberdashery department they have staff that know what they are talking about.

Consider your budget. Don’t be seduced by the machines that do it all, it’s really not necessary at this point. On the flip side, there are lots of “beginners” cheap machines that have emerged on the market. These are great for children learning to sew and those that will rarely use them, apart from the odd alteration. You don’t know how much sewing you are going to do yet and can quickly outgrow these cheap machines. Spend a little more, around £160, and you are looking at the great sewing machines, such as the Elna eXplore 240. My all-time favourite machine which has lasted me years. This machine glides through silk and denim and is just a dream to work with.

You won’t be a beginner forever. Don’t be tempted to buy a “beginners” sewing machine or on the flip side one that you will be completely overwhelmed by when sewing. Buy a machine that will grow with you, not one that you will outgrow within the first few months.

You get what you pay for. This is so true with sewing machines. Spend a little and your machine will have limited stitch options and won’t be able to handle thick fabric (denim, canvas) easily. You won’t get very many accessories with these machines and will end up spending close to £10 each for additional “feet” (the connections to do different things like invisible zippers, overcasting (like an overlocking stitch) and blind hem).

Computerised or standard – we teach a lot of beginners who want to buy their first sewing machine and often fall for the computerised machines. Whilst these are great if you have the budget, we’ve never owned one and would rather save that extra money for an overlocker!

Will you be transporting your machine to workshops? This is worth considering as a heavy machine can be a burden to carry around. However, the heavier machines will come with a hard case that will protect it. A great way to transport your machine to workshops is to wrap it in a blanket and pop in a luggage bag that has wheels. It’s safe and protected.

Sewing machine features to take into account: 

Stitch options. As an experienced seamstress who is constantly sewing I still rarely use more than 7 of the different stitches available on my machine – straight, zig-zag, overlock stitch, buttonholes, blind hemming and stretch stitches. Don’t be seduced by the machines that can do a million stitches – chances are you will never use them and will feel intimidated by a large number of unnecessary features. 

Seam allowance guides. Probably the most important feature on your sewing machine. Most seam allowances on bought patterns are 1.5cm. This is the distance from the edge of the fabric to where the sewing stitches take place. Good quality machines will have very clear seam allowance guides on the machine plate that will help you sew in a straight line. I’ve seen the guides on the cheaper machines so inadequate that they are difficult to follow. On the image below they are very clear – in cm’s and inches.

Buttonholes. Most machines will have very clear instructions on how to do buttonholes – ether as one stage or four stage. Don’t be put off by the four-stage buttonholes. These take a little extra work but, with some practice, can still look beautiful. The cheaper machines may not come with a buttonhole attachment so do look out for this.

Bobbin placement. The little bobbin, something so small and yet something that makes such a huge difference to the stitch quality. The bobbin holds a small spool of thread that is inserted into the bottom of the machine or on the machine plate area – this thread creates the “underneath” stitch. The “top” thread and the bobbin spool thread create the stitch. Older machines and the more basic machine have the spool as a separate mechanism that you have to take out of the machine and then “drop” the bobbin into it before putting the metal case back into the machine. It can be all fingers with this one and a tad frustrating so look out for the newer models that have this metal case built into the machine. All you do is drop the bobbin in and off you go!

Sewing machine “presser feet”. Entry level machines often come with only a couple of sewing presser feet (accessories for the machine). For instance, if you want to sew invisible zips you will often need to buy that foot separately at around £10. Mid-range machines often come with a good selection of feet as standard.

Presser feet
Presser feet

Now that you are armed with all the information you need you can happily go sewing machine shopping – how exciting!

Your machine will come with an instruction manual. Keep it close and refer to it – they will take you through each and every element of your machine and will show you how to do some fabulous stuff!

Last but not least, once you have found your dream machine look after it. Dust it, clean it and most importantly have it serviced.

If you’re struggling with finding the right sewing machine for you, we’re more than happy to lend a hand – email us at with your needs/requirements and budget, and we’ll see what we can find.  Scroll down to find out how you can enjoy a free digital sewing pattern on us.

If you’re in the UK, we’ve got two great workshops that will teach you how to sew (hopefully soon when we are able to meet!). You could visit our gorgeous studio and take a 2 hour one-to-one lesson with our founder, Lisa who will take you through your sewing machine and get you confident to start your first project. All the details are here. You can also join our very popular Learn To Sew workshop and we’ll teach you everything you need to know to get sewing, plus you’ll make a gorgeous cushion. All the details are here.




Learn to sew

Once you have your wonderful new sewing machine, you can make our gorgeous Drop Sleeve Top – a free digital sewing pattern aimed at beginners or choose a sewing pattern from our wonderful range. We’ll take you through each stage of making your first garment.

About The Drop Sleeve Top

Featuring a relaxed fit, The Drop Sleeve Top is finished at the neckline with a facing and a simple button and loop closing at the back. The drop sleeves are super easy to insert, making it the perfect project for beginners. 

If you are more advanced, then you’ll certainly whip this stylish number up in no time, and fall in love with the versatile shape. Get creative by adding an exposed zip at the back or by colour-blocking the sleeves.

This pattern comes in sizes UK 6- 22

How to join our newsletter

Simply head to and join our newsletter and be the first to hear about new releases, helpful tips and tricks, and special offers. You’ll also receive The Drop Sleeve Top digital sewing pattern completely free. Browse our collection of sewing patterns, sewing tools and kits and more.

8 thoughts on “Guide to buying a sewing machine

  1. Finally, a comprehensive guide which isn’t as the other google-top listed results, full of marketing based repetitive keyword bs. No obvious facts such as “mechanical machine” vs “electric” wrapped in a hull of text but actually some aspects what to take into account. And finally, not a ton of amazon affiliate links plastered into the guide. Thank you! This is the first guide I came across which I found worth reading because it actually resulted in gain of knowledge.

      1. Love the article very informative. but I am new to sewing machines. I do not plan to do much with my sewing machine. Just basic stuff. Maybe shear drapes.. but my budget is very limited. I have a question about a specific sewing machine. The Jamone 7318 Magnolia. Is it any good? What are the problems with this beginner level sewing machine? Can you please help me? Thank you.

      2. Thank you so much. The Janome 7318 is a lovely machine. I would suggest buying from a shop that is reputable and, even better, if you can go in and see the machine and they offer a warranty and can do the servicing on the machine. I hope that helps :)

  2. Thank you for the information; it was very helpful. I was gifted a “beginner’s” sewing machine for my birthday and I think I’ve definitely outgrown it. It’s time to get a new one😊

  3. Thank you for the very solid advice. I have been wanting to make sewing my hobby for years, and now I believe I’m ready. This post really helped me.

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