Earlier this week, I posted a follow-up review on my Brother CS6000i. Now, here is some general advice on how to pick your first sewing machine.
Three questions to ask before buying your first sewing machine:
1) What am I going to use the machine for?
No one told me this when I was in the market for a machine – so I’m telling you now. When you go to the store, you’ll find machines for quilting; machines for embroidery; machines that make you breakfast and do your laundry… well, not really, but there are sewing machines out there that are mini-robots. Don’t let the options overwhelm you. If you’re a newbie or a true hobbyist, just invest in a solid, general hobby machine like the Brother CS6000i.
Next, you may ask yourself, am I a hobbyist? I really don’t know what I am yet. My response: You like sewing. Period. Dabble in one thing or another – just keep learning. Embrace the hobby and purchase a general machine.
2) Can I operate a new machine on my own or do I need some help?
This is a critical question. I purchased my machine from Amazon.com because it was a good deal, and I was already familiar enough with the model to know how to use it.
But let’s face it, a new sewing machine, which may have a lot of bells and whistles, may require more than just an operators’ manual.
If you need some help with your new machine, I strongly advise purchasing a model at your local sewing machine dealer, where they probably offer classes in conjunction with your purchase. Alternatively, you can buy a model that is the same or similar to one at your local quilt shop. With either option, you will have built-in, personal assistance from someone who’s already familiar with the make and model of your machine.
On the other hand, if you’re already adept with a sewing machine, you may not need this kind of support. There are a lot of deals online, and you can probably save some money by purchasing a model and getting it shipped right to your door. That’s what I did with my first machine, and it’s probably what I will do for my second one too.
3) How much money should I spend on this new machine?
There isn’t a cut and dry answer to this because, of course, it depends on how much cash you have in the bank. That said, here’s a little guidance.
If you DO know what you’re going to use the machine for, then yes, plan on spending some money on your machine. You will be glad you did.
If you do not know yet, then spend $200 or less on a basic, hobbyist’s machine.
I’ll use myself as a proof point: when I purchased my Brother CS6000i, I wasn’t sure what kind of a sewist I wanted to be. I spent some time trying out a little bit of this and that – it took me a couple years to discover what kind of sewing I love. The Brother CS6000i has been the perfect machine for discovery – it is a solid, general machine for a variety of projects: bags, dolls, quilts, pillows, garments.
However, now I know that I mostly use my machine for quilting, with the occasional garment-making and general crafting. The quilting part is pretty important to me. So, the next time I get a machine, I will purchase one with a big throat and a solid straight stitch. But I still need a machine with a variety of stitches, in case I want to overcast on a shirt or zig zag to secure a bag. I know what I want now, and so I’m going to spend some good money on it.
If you know you want to quilt, quilt, and nothing but quilt, you’ll want a machine with a big throat, a straight stitch and not a lot of bells and whistles.
Maybe you know you love machine embroidery. That upgrades you to a whole higher class of machine.
Regardless, if you know what kind of sewing you are going to do, get a machine that fits your sewing profile; and yes, spend a little more money on it.
I’ll repeat my first point though; if you’re not sure what you are going to use the machine for yet – THAT IS OKAY. Buy a machine like the Brother CS6000i – it will serve you well until you have a more specific sense of what you want to do. Then, when you make the bigger investment, you’ll keep the Brother as a reliable backup, for those difficult days when your machine is in the shop getting a cleaning and tuning.