So, you have decided to take the plunge, become a sewist and buy your first ever sewing machine. Hurrah!
Do you also have no idea where to start? Never fear! Read on for our simple guide to finding a wonderful starter sewing machine, no matter what your budget. You'll soon be creating your very own Sewing Bee, right in your living room.
Here are 5 top tips for finding a sewing machine for beginners, followed by a selection of recommendations for each price bracket.
1 - How much to spend on a beginner sewing machine?
Don't be intimidated by how much some sewing machines cost. A budget of between £90 and £300 should secure you a really nice machine that will last for many years. Sure, there are some uber fancy computerised machines out there which practically cut out your fabric and then make you a cup of tea (just kidding - they don't do that, if they did I'd be saving up now), but don't be distracted by them just now. While it's good to get the very best you can afford, you don't need to spend squillions of pounds to find a great beginner sewing machine.
2 - Buy local!
Nothing beats getting to try out loads of different sewing machines in the shop, ask questions and benefit from that important after-sales care. Need your machine servicing or repairing? You'll have a local port of call and a friendly face, as well as no worries about how to post your machine off to the place you bought it from. That said, if there isn't a good sewing shop a reasonable distance from you, buying online isn't the worst thing in the world. Although the prices of most machines are set by the manufacturer, meaning sellers can't drop the price below the RRP, some shops offer nice deals to tempt you to buy from them, such as a bundle of accessories or extras. So if you do have to buy online, shop around and try and find the best bundle for you as well as buying from a well-established, reputable store.
3 - Think about the type of sewing you will do
Do you want to start dressmaking with light slippery fabrics, sew curtains or make things from heavy fabrics such as denim? Try and narrow down what you'll be using your machine for, and then chat to someone face to face in a good sewing store if possible so they can guide you towards a machine for your specific needs. And don't forget to head to the end of this article, where I'll be making recommendations for good all-rounders in every budget.
4 - How portable does it need to be?
If you're planning on attending sewing classes with it, you'll want something you can easily pop in and out of the car boot, so maybe don't pick the all singing all dancing model with built-in table...
5 - Not all brands are equal
I'll always give Janome my vote as they offer excellent quality sewing machines at entry level all the way up to super fancy.
Brother also have an fab reputation for producing robust, easy to use beginner sewing machines as well as higher-end models. In fact my first ever sewing machine was a Brother costing around £90, and I loved it. These are both reliable brands to stick with at every price level.
Singer, while an iconic vintage brand, have sadly gone downhill a bit in recent times, and their modern machines have mixed reviews. Don't write them off, but do your research and read a lot of reviews before buying.
Just tell me which machine to get, already!
Okay. ;) There are lots of lovely sewing machines out there at each price point, so I've narrowed them down into a few categories: Under £100 (or just a tiny smidge over, as a few are), sewing machines under £300, machines under £500 and then finally a nod to sewing machines priced above the £500 mark, although we won't spend much time on those, as for a beginner sewist you don't need to worry about scaling the dizzy heights of expensive sewing machines just yet.
Best Sewing Machines Under £100
These are all decent sewing machines worth considering in this price range, although Singer has had a drop in reputation compared to their heyday. Brother and Janome make high quality machines, and the John Lewis offering looks really worthwhile as well and has very good reviews. The JL option also comes in a few different limited edition colours, so it's worth having a look around to see if a previous colour is now on sale and going cheap. Don't confuse it with their £50 machine though, which is less good.
If you can possibly stretch to £169.00, however, I would without hesitation buy the Janome J3-18, a lovely little workhorse that would make a wonderful first sewing machine.
Best Sewing Machines Under £300
Janome 2200XT - £149.00
Janome J3-24 - £229.00 - similar to the Janome J3-18 mentioned above, but with slightly more stitches, this would make a great first sewing machine.
The Janome Sewist 725S which is new also looks promising, and costs £299.00.
Brother Innov-is 15 - £249.00
Juki HZL-353Z - £259.00
Husqvarna Viking Emerald 116 - £289.00
Best Sewing Machines Under £500
Juki HZL-H80 - £399.00
Janome DKS30 SE - £479.00
Elna Experience 540 - £449.00
And a shade over at £554.00, the Bernina 215 looks like a very nice machines. Bernina are a bit like the Apple of sewing machines...
Sewing Machines Over £500
Now we're into waaaay different territory, and generally as a beginner you won't be wanting to spend this much at the start. However if you have the cash to splash or are thinking of an upgrade, the Janome Atelier range starts at £799.00 with the Atelier 3, and Pfaff are also a good brand to consider in this price bracket.
Hopefully that's given you something to think about. Did this help? Have any more questions about choosing a beginner sewing machine? Feel free to comment below.