If you are a sewer or quilter, buying a sewing machine can be one of the most important decisions you can make. Not only can this be a huge economic decision (prices can range from a couple hundred dollars to over $13,000), but it is also an emotional decision since it can so greatly affect your sense of well-being and how you feel about sewing. I don’t know about you, but sewing/quilting is like therapy for me. A great stress reliever – except when I’m making those dreaded Halloween costumes up until 4 p.m. on October 31! To help quilters with this decision, I've put together a list of one of the common quilting FAQ's, the top 5 things to think about when buying a sewing machine, in a two-part article.
Buy from a local dealership, not a big box store. This is probably one of the most important considerations when purchasing a machine. When you buy from a chain store, you typically have lower quality models to choose from. They may have a great price, but that’s about it. They are not going to help you thread your new machine, they won’t know how to help you when you have questions about how to use it, and they certainly won’t be helpful when your machine doesn’t work properly after 3 months of sewing. After all, you do get what you pay for. When you buy from a dealer, you are gaining a trusted partner on your sewing journey. They are well-versed in the sewing machine brand they sell and typically have years of sewing and/or quilting experience that they are more than willing to share with you. They will help you understand the variety of models available and their corresponding features to help you find a sewing machine model that best fits your sewing needs. And they have a wide range of price points to accommodate all types of sewers and all types of budgets. Oftentimes, they can offer financing to help you get the sewing machine of your dreams; and they typically have sales or promotions throughout the year that you can take advantage of. Dealers will also stand behind their products and offer warranty programs not available at the chain stores. They may also offer trade-up programs or take trade-ins. Many dealers have used machines for sale that might be a good fit for you. Once you have made your purchase, they usually will offer free new owners classes to help you learn all of the features of your new sewing machine and teach you how to clean and maintain your machine. Most dealers will have on-site repair services provided by certified technicians to help you maintain your machine throughout its lifetime and to address any specific issues you may be having. A good dealer will also have a variety of supporting classes and sewing machine accessories to help you grow your sewing skills and learn new techniques. Most important, look for a dealer with whom you feel comfortable. They are going to be your advocate, so you want to work with someone who you like and trust. The actual sale is only the first part of the relationship. After the sale is when the true relationship starts, and you want someone who is going to be there for you.
Take the time to truly understand what your sewing needs are. This is going to help you tremendously when you look at sewing machine features. Be realistic in your expectations. You may say you want to sew every day, make clothes in all of the latest styles, or start a small embroidery business. Everyone who sews wishes they had more time for it than they do. The reality may be that you work full time, take care of an elderly parent or your grandchildren, or you realistically can only allocate a few hours a week to sewing. That reality could change the type of sewing machine you really need. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the new possibilities that some of these sewing machines have to offer. But if it’s not something that you will actually use, then cross that machine off your list. If you recognize that you're the type of sewer who will probably only get your machine out every few months to hem some pants or make a few curtains for your granddaughter’s nursery, then a top of the line, feature-rich sewing machine may not be the best investment for you. But a good quality computerized machine may enhance your sewing experience and encourage you to start sewing more often.
If you have been bitten by the quilting bug and the only thing standing between you and all those quilts you hope to make is the lack of a good machine, then buying the best machine you can afford will give you the opportunity to take advantage of many of the new quilting/sewing features as well as challenge you to take your sewing to the next level with more advanced features.