Sewing Machine Buying Guide
Sewing Machines 101
Types of Sewing Machines
Mechanical Sewing Machines
Electronic Sewing Machines
Computerized Sewing Machines
Embroidery Sewing Machines
Quilter Sewing Machines
Serger Sewing Machines
Sewing Machine Safety Tips:
- Keep fingers away from sewing machine needles
- Wear shoes when operating a sewing machine in case of a malfunctioning foot pedal
- Ensure cords of electric sewing machines do not become frayed or tangled
- Turn off and unplug sewing machines when not in use
- Dispose of used sewing machine needles with care
Sewing Machine Features
When purchasing your sewing machine, consider what and where you'll sew most often. A lightweight model offers the flexibility of easy storage and transportation, a plus if you'll be bringing it along to sewing classes or tucking it away to make room for other activities in your home. A heavier model provides the stability required for large, weighty projects such as quilting.
A bobbin is a small spool that attaches to your sewing machine and holds your thread. The majority of basic sewing machines have a front-loading bobbin. This type of machine requires you to remove the cover to access the bobbin and change thread. Some of the more advanced machines have top-loading bobbins. In this design, the bobbin is easier to load and often is visible behind a see-through cover, so you can easily monitor how much thread you have left.
Free Arm +
Most sewing machines come equipped with a free-arm attachment for sewing circular items such as cuffs, sleeves and pant legs. The free arm is located at the bottom of the sewing machine and is usually connected to an accessory box that houses bobbins, sewing feet and other items. You can remove the accessory box to access the free arm or keep it in place for a flat-bed sewing surface. The ability to slip fabric over the free arm allows you to more easily stitch small rounded areas.
Auto Thread +
Auto thread is a convenient feature that can save you valuable time, and the need to reach for your glasses. A hook-and-spring operation forces a loop of thread into the hole of the needle, so you won’t have to thread it manually. The efficiency of this automation means you can spend more time on your sewing creations and less time threading your sewing machine.
Needle Up/Down +
With a needle up/down mechanism on your sewing machine, you can select whether your needle will remain in the up or down position at the end of your seam. When you select the down position, the needle remains in the fabric, allowing you to easily pivot for a clean corner seam.
Knee Lifter +
A knee lifter is a convenient lever that allows you to raise and lower the presser foot of your sewing machine with your knee, keeping both hands free to control your fabric. A knee lifter combined with the needle up/down function works particularly well for moving large pieces of fabric in quilting or performing intricate stitches in embroidery.
Adjustable Presser Foot +
The presser foot regulates how tightly fabrics are fed through your machine while you sew. More pressure is required for thinner fabrics to keep them in place and prevent puckering; less pressure is used for heavier fabrics so they move freely without bunching. An adjustable presser foot lets you control the amount of pressure, ensuring fabrics are fed properly through your machine for smooth, even stitching.
Sewing buttonholes is a tricky skill to master, but it's much easier with an automatic, or one-step, buttonholer attachment. In newer sewing machines, buttonholers are generally included as built-in features. With the turn of a dial, you're able to create perfect buttonholes. Some lower-end machines come with less-sophisticated four-step buttonholers, which stitch the buttonhole in four distinct stages. During the stitching process, you must turn the dial after each step until the buttonhole is complete.
Tension Control +
Your sewing machine's tension control function regulates the tension of your thread. When thread is too tight, puckering can result. When it’s too loose, you can get loopy stitching. Many sewing machines feature a tension control dial, so you can adjust the thread tension manually. Some computerized sewing machines come with automatic tension control; the mechanism senses the thickness of your fabric and adjusts the thread tension accordingly.
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Sewing Machine Maintenance Tips:
- Change sewing machine needles often to prevent damage to fabrics and the machine
- Remove bits of thread and other debris on a regular basis to prevent buildup
- Keep your sewing machine covered when not in use to prevent buildup of dust and lint
- Oil your sewing machine as directed in user’s manual
- Professionally service your sewing machine approximately every two years