Sewing machine buying guide: How to choose the best sewing machine for you

What you need to know to before buying a sewing machine.

If you are new to the world of sewing or you are looking to upgrade your old machine after many years of faithful service, you might be surprised just how advanced modern sewing machines actually are.

From beginner sewing machines to top-spec models with all the trimmings, there's no shortage of models to choose from. Sewing machine prices range from $100 up to several thousand dollars.

Our guide will show you how to compare the options that fit your budget and stitch up a deal on the best sewing machine for your needs.

Compare some of the best sewing machines

Data obtained December 2018. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.
Name Product Average Price (AUD) Bobbin type Needle threader Number of stitches Purchase today
Elna Sew Fun
Elna Sew Fun
The Elna Sew Fun is designed for beginners with easy-to-use, basic sewing functions.
Singer Fashion Mate 3333
Singer Fashion Mate 3333
The Singer Fashion Mate 3333 is modern and easy to use, with LED lighting and a top drop-in bobbin.
Elna eXplore 340
Elna eXplore 340
The Elna eXplore 340 offers an easy-change spool system, with an automatic needle threader, instant reverse lever and built-in thread cutter.
Singer Heavy Duty 4432
Singer Heavy Duty 4432
The Singer Heavy Duty 4432 has a metal interior frame and automatic needle threader for faster sewing speeds.
Singer Featherweight C240
Singer Featherweight C240
The portable Singer Featherweight C240 features an integrated even feed system that makes it easy to sew all kinds of fabrics.
Elna Lotus
Elna Lotus
The Elna Lotus is designed for portability and features an integrated sewing table with protective flaps.
Janome Sewist 780DC
Janome Sewist 780DC
The Janome Sewist 780DC is a computerised sewing machine with an LCD screen and an automatic thread cutter.
Elna eXcellence 730PRO
Elna eXcellence 730PRO
Elna’s eXcellence 730PRO can help make complicated projects easy to sew and quilt.
Janome Memory Craft 9900
Janome Memory Craft 9900
Janome’s Memory Craft 9900 has a removable embroidery unit with precise stitch quality and fast, quiet stitching.
Janome Skyline S9
Janome Skyline S9
The Janome Skyline S9 is designed for sewing, quilting and embroidery with Wi-Fi capability, an LCD touchscreen and several iOS apps.

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Whether or not a sewing machine is worth the money really depends on your personal circumstances, but there are several reasons why buying one is a good idea:

Why shouldn't I buy a sewing machine?

Sewing ain't for everyone. While some people love sitting down to stitch, create and mend, others find it to be a repetitive and frustrating chore. If you fall into the latter category, how likely are you to ever want to use a sewing machine on a regular basis?

Before you part with any money, think about how much you will realistically use your machine.
If you prefer to buy your clothes rather than make them, and if you're happy tackling basic mending tasks with a needle and thread, you're probably better off saving your money.

And if you ever need clothes altered in any way, take them to a tailor instead.

What types are available?

There are four main categories of sewing machines:

Mechanical sewing machinesControls are manipulated by hand.
  • Most affordable.
  • Can be used for hemming, repairs and making simple craft projects.
  • Small number of stitches and operations.
  • Less widely available.
Electronic sewing machinesUse a built-in motor operated by a foot pedal to control the needle.
  • Makes sewing quicker and easier.
  • Wide range of models to suit everyone from beginners to professionals.
  • Foot pedal leaves your hands free to guide the fabric through the machine.
  • Dials and push-button controls are available.
  • Many models come with a selection of attachments and stitch settings.
  • More expensive than mechanical models.
Computerised sewing machinesFeatures a microprocessor that is pre-programmed for different stitch styles.
  • Available features include an LCD screen, touchpad controls and settings for hundreds of complex stitches.
  • Some models allow you to download designs from the Internet.
  • If you want more features, you'll have to pay more.
Sewing/embroidery machinesThese models take all the features of a computerised machine and add the ability to do complex embroidery.
  • Most advanced model.
  • Allows you to add embroidery to garments, bedspreads and more.
  • Most expensive.

How much do sewing machines cost?

The cost of a sewing machine depends on the features you need:

  • Beginner sewing machines. A beginner sewing machine should offer a basic selection of stitches, at least one buttonhole setting and solid construction. Prices in this category range from $100 up to around $800, with computerised models usually starting around the $300 mark.
  • Mid-level sewing machines. Machines for intermediate sewists offer a wider range of basic and decorative stitches, embroidery patterns, more attachments and an automatic needle threader. They are capable of tackling a much wider range of challenging and ambitious tasks, and are generally priced anywhere from $700 or $800 up to $3,000.
  • Advanced sewing machines. Top-level machines offer the widest selection of stitches, presser feet, embroidery capabilities and customisable features. Please note that these are only for experienced sewists, as many of the advanced features and options will be a waste of money for anyone new to sewing. If shopping in this category you can expect to spend several thousand dollars.

Whatever type of machine you are shopping for, make sure you try before you buy. Take along a variety of fabrics to test out how the machine performs, how easy it is to use and whether it's a good fit for the type of sewing you do.

How to compare sewing machines

Once you have thought about the type of sewing you want to do and how much you are willing to spend, consider the following essential factors:

Which sewing machine is best for me?

The best sewing machine for you depends on your skill level, the type of sewing you want to do and how much money you can afford to spend. For example, a machine that excels at basic mending and hemming often won't be the best choice for someone who takes on complex tasks like quilting. Similarly, while a top-spec machine with all the bells and whistles may be perfect for an experienced sewist, many of its features may be overkill for a novice.

To find the ideal sewing machine for your needs, compare a range of options and the features they offer. As an example, we've weighed up the pros and cons of five popular sewing machines in the table below:

The goodThe bad
Singer Fashion Mate 3333
  • Good entry-level machine.
  • Does all the basics well.
  • Hand wheel difficult to turn.
  • Some users report issues with bobbin casing skipping out of track.
Singer Heavy Duty 4432
  • Easy to use.
  • Great for decorative stitching.
  • A little noisy.
  • Heavy
Elna eXcellence 730PRO
  • 170 stitches.
  • Large sewing space and easy to operate.
  • Pricey
Janome Skyline S9
  • 250 built-in embroidery designs and 300 stitches.
  • Wi-Fi capability.
  • Expensive
  • More than what basic sewists need.
Janome Sewist 780DC
  • Robust performance.
  • User friendly.
  • Fairly new model so limited customer reviews available.

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