Essential features to look for in the best sewing machines for beginners
For the complete novice, your sewing needs may include constructing basic clothing, pillowcases, curtains, and other basic household sewing tasks. Because these types of sewing do not often require fancy stitching and designs, mechanical sewing machines may be adequate for you. They are less expensive than computerized sewing machines. Again this is not to say there aren’t basic computerized sewing machines suitable for beginners. It’s just that I feel you don’t need all the extra features at this time. But if you are still interested in a computerized machine, then check out my guide on the best computerized sewing machines. All the machines listed on there are easy-to-use and suitable for beginners. Computerized machines might do most of the work for you, but mechanical machines allow you to learn the basic sewing skills you need.
Shopping for a child or teen? Check out our picks for kids sewing machine models!
Controls on the best sewing machines for beginners
There are design elements shared by most entry-level mechanical sewing machines that make them suitable for beginners. Most beginner sewing machines should have basic features like a foot pedal, a bobbin winder, a stitch selector, a speed control mechanism, and a tension adjuster.
- Pedal control – The pedal control on a mechanical sewing machine often appears and works similar to your car’s accelerator. The pedal is attached to the machine via a cord and sits on the floor. You start sewing by pressing on the pedal, and you stop sewing by letting up on the pedal. On some machines, the harder you press the pedal, the faster the machine operates. A foot pedal is essential for a beginner’s sewing machine because it frees up both hands to perform other tasks, such as controlling the fabric when sewing. Some computerized sewing machines come with a stop/start button, which achieves the same thing.
- Speed Contol – The machine must give you the ability to sew at a slower speed. Most beginners will have trouble controlling the fabric when sewing at high speed. A beginner’s sewing machine should have a lever or dial that allows you to set the sewing speed to a speed that is comfortable for you. As a beginner, you’ll have trouble gauging the right amount of pressure to put on the pedals to achieve the right speed. A speed control lever allows you to set the maximum speed you are comfortable with. The sewing speed will never go above your selected speed, no matter how hard you press on the pedal. The best computerized sewing machines have a button you press to achieve this setting.
- Stitch Selector Control – Some mechanical sewing machines come with different types of stitches you can pick from. This control often comes in the shape of a dial located on the front side of the machine. There is usually a stitch guide diagram on the arm or the bed of the machine. Each stitch style has a number attached to them. You turn the dial to select the number that corresponds to the type of stitch you want to sew. For most beginners, machines that provide a straight and a zig-zag stitch is more than enough. Another feature to look out for on a beginner’s sewing machine is the stitch length control. This is also often controlled with a secondary dial. We use short stitches to lock the end of a seam, medium-length stitches for regular sewing, and long stitches for basting and gathering fabric.
As a beginner, you want a machine with conveniently placed speed control, which is easy to decipher and with basic options rather than a complex array of options.
Thread Tension Controller: Getting the right tension on the thread is essential in making clean, strong stitches. If the tension on the thread is not taut, the stitches you make are loose, and your finished seams will come apart quickly. If the tension is too tight, your thread will frequently break during sewing. The best sewing machines for beginners have thread tension recommendations in their manuals. The machine must have a dial or some other means of quickly adjusting the thread tension to the desired setting. The best tension controls are easy to operate and do not have sophisticated selection processes.
Bobbin Winding System: The bobbin system contains a small spool of thread that catches and locks the stitches in place. The amount of thread on the bobbin spool is low when compared to the main thread spool on the machine. As you sew, the bobbin thread depletes rapidly, and you’ll have to rewind it to add more thread to it.
It should be easy to rewind the bobbin on the best sewing machines for beginners. On some machine’s you’ll have the bobbin winder located on the top of the machine. You’ll have to take the bobbin out and place it on the winder to wind it. Most modern machines have a mechanism that winds the bobbin within the machine.
Other features you might like on a beginner’s sewing machine
There are a few extra features a beginner sewer might want to have on their machine. These features may not be essential but can add a bit more style to your work and provide you with convenient functions.
Some machines will come with a few extra decorative stitches in addition to your basic straight and zigzag stitches. While you do not need these stitches to complete your projects, they can occasionally be used to add a bit of fun to your work.
Some sewing machines for beginners also come with a function that helps you make buttonholes for your projects. Mechanical sewing machines often require more than two steps to create a buttonhole. As a beginner, you want a machine that requires fewer steps as possible when making buttonholes. Some beginner-friendly computerized sewing machines will have a one-step automatic buttonhole feature.
Essential Accessories on a Beginner’s Sewing Machine
It is easy to be taken in by a machine that lists a whole host of accessories. However, for most basic sewing tasks, you only need a few accessories. Some essential accessories for the best beginner’s sewing machines include an excellent array of needles and bobbins, machine oil, and cleaning tools.
You also want a few extra presser feet for your machine. The presser foot is the part of the machine that presses down on the fabric and holds it in place during sewing. You lower and raise the presser foot with a lever or a knee lift. There are different feet to accomplish various sewing tasks such as the zipper foot. It aids in sewing zippers into your work. A walking foot helps to smoothly move heavy fabrics along during sewing to ensure even stitching. Another essential presser foot is the buttonhole foot, which allows you to sew buttonholes for your project. The machine you end up buying should have at least these two feet included in the standard accessories. You can purchase additional feet as you need them.
Needle Threading on sewing machines for beginners
It is essential to thread the machine correctly and quickly. An incorrectly threaded machine can cause a whole lot of headaches. It can lead to the wrong tension on the thread and cause it to break frequently during sewing. This can be very frustrating if you have to rethread the machine several times during sewing. Most mechanical sewing machines for beginners will come with a threading diagram that guides you through the threading process step-by-step. Some computerized sewing machines come with an automatic needle threader that does all the needle threading for you, saving you the headache of having to thread the needle manually. Most will also pick up the bobbin thread automatically.
Let’s take a detailed look at some of the best sewing machines for beginners on the market today.