Does Anyone Sew? Looking to buy 1st machine, need advice!

Hi everyone,

I’ve been wanting to learn to sew for some time now. I’m an absolute beginner and looking to buy a first sewing machine. I want to get that balance between spending an arm and a leg and getting something unsuitable for a beginner with functions I’ll never learn to use, versus getting something crappy I will have to replace in 6 months when I figure out what I’m doing.

I want to use the machine for finishing handknits (of course!) - putting in zippers and reinforcing steeks are 2 things that come to mind. I’d also like to try my hand at quilting at some point. Other than that I’m not sure. Simple garments probably…

Any suggestions or advice about what to look for or even where to shop for my first sewing machine?

Thanks! :hug:

I’ll give you the same advice I give people on the quilting lists I belong to:

Go visit a sewing machine repair shop (often paired with vacuum-cleaner repair shops, at least in the United States) and talk to the repair technician(s). Often, there will be reconditioned sewing machines available for sale right there.

Ask to test-run a couple. Ask for recommendations, if nothing in the shop is exciting to you. I know quilters who like everything from Janome (moderate price) to Bernina (quite expen$ive).

What you’re looking for is an early computerized model or a late mechanical one, preferably from the early to mid-'90s. A few decorative stitches, a few different presser feet (definitely a zipper foot, a zigzag foot, a straight-stitch foot, and a buttonhole attachment), needle up/down (although this may not be available on mechanical machines), bobbin winding that you can understand, threading that you can understand, and smooth-sounding action. You’ll also want a free-arm mechanism; this makes it possible to sew on knee patches or elbow patches or other small-diameter objects without torquing the material (and your fingers) into odd configurations. Ask how to acquire a copy of the instruction manual–LOTS of them are available online these days. Make sure, since you’re a beginner, that the manual for the one you want is available online before you purchase the machine.

You can add better light and better needles after purchase; don’t worry so much about those. If you like, you can also purchase an “extension table” post-purchase, too.

Hope you find the right machine without too much frustration! :slight_smile:


I avoid sewing anymore, but I used to sew a lot. I’ve made prom dresses (for me), baby and child clothes for my girls, curtains, etc.

What type of machine you get sorta depends on what you want to do. Many of them come with all sorts of bells and whistles and dozens of stitch types. I really only used the straight and zigzag stitches, used the zipper foot, etc. So think about what you’ll be doing.

BTW… my machine is an old Kenmore and other than maintenance stuff it’s barely needed any repairs.

Yep, I agree with getting a used machine. You can look at all their features and not buy something with functions you don’t need. I bought a basic used Singer about 35 years ago for $100 and it still works for what I need. It does zigzag and straight sewing - that’s all I’ve ever wanted. It came with a buttonhole attachment but I’ve never used it, have used the zipper foot a few times.

Initially I was going to say that I have had my Brother machine for 14yrs now and it is still going strong. I do basic sewing, a few dresses here and there, curtains, blankets, soft books etc. If you want to do quilting then I agree with PP about looking for a used machine. I have a Pfaff serger (think they also make sewing machines) I got from a seamtress for $25. Granted - I had to spend $75 getting it re-timed and oiled, but it works great.

Thank you guys so much! I am printing out your reply as a checklist to take along, DogCatMom! :thumbsup:

I have always noticed that sewing machine and vacuum repair shops are together. It always seamed (see what I did there? :wink: ) weird to me, but I guess they are similar?