Important features to look for in a beginner sewing machine

Important features to look for in a beginner sewing machine

I am pretty sure that you came here to read about the features that you need to look for in a beginner sewing machine. But before that, I have to tell you one thing. More than the features, the first thing you need to look for is 'Quality'. I am not joking. There is no point in having a 100 stitch sewing machine that doesn't sew well. So your first criteria must be quality and then comes features.

As a beginner, there are some features that are absolutely essential for you. The features I am talking about may not sound much, but it definitely makes a difference in the overall ease of use. User-friendliness is a key trait for sewing machines. It makes all the difference between hell and heaven in the sewing world. In this article, I have created a list of 11 features that are absolutely important for a beginner.  If your prospective machine ticks all these features, it is more or less guaranteed that you will love sewing on it.

Built-in Stitches

Choose a sewing machine that has at least 15 built-in stitches. The machine must have all essential stitches (almost all beginner machines have this) plus some decorative and buttonhole stitches. The reason why I chose the number 15 is because, it gives you some room to grow your creativity. If you have a sewing machine with essential stitches only, you tend to overgrow it quickly. Few more stitches gives you the opportunity to experiment and learn the skills on the way. Brother XM2701 is one such beginner machine with 27 built-in stitches.

One-Step Buttonhole

Old mechanical sewing machines came with 4-step buttonholes, which means you will have to go through four agonizing steps to finish a buttonhole. Modern sewing machines come with 1-step buttonholes which enables you to finish it in a single step. Which is more beginner friendly? It's your pick. Don't get tricked by the word 'Modern' here, because still there are some modern beginner sewing machines with 4-step buttonhole. As a beginner you will be better of with a sewing machine that has 1-step buttonholes.

Automatic Needle Threader

Threading used to be a big deal on old machines, now it is not, thanks to the automatic needle threader. The automatic needle threader will thread the eye of the needle for you, thereby saving eye strain. But don't think that this will be a default feature in all beginner machines. While most have this feature, you still can find machines without this feature.

Top Drop-in Bobbin

Another feature that improves the ease of use by quite some margin. In case of a top drop-in bobbin, you just need to drop the bobbin into the slot. Most of them even come with a transparent cover which lets you keep an eye on the thread supply. There are beginner machines with front loading bobbins, which means you need to remove the storage compartment attachment every time you want to change the bobbin. Moreover you won't get the luxury of watching the bobbin thread. So choose the one with top drop-in bobbin.

Sewing Machine Weight

Most beginners have a false impression that 'Lighter the machine, the better', which is not an ideal way of thinking. Yes, lightweight helps, if you want to take your machine to sewing classes. But don't pick a machine that is too light, because it can vibrate at high speeds which in turn will affect the overall stitch quality. Personally I won't recommend a machine that is below 7 lbs. Brother XR9500PRW is a prime example for a sewing machine that is not too light nor too heavy. It weighs just 9.92 lbs and packs quite a lot of features as well. You can even term it as an intermediate sewing machine.

Drop Feed And Free Arm

Free arm allows you to sew cylindrical areas with ease. While most beginner sewing machines have these features, the same is not the case with drop feed. There are even some intermediate sewing machines without an option to drop the feed dogs. Drop feed lets you do some free-motion designs. Nowadays, machines that don't have drop feed dog lever, usually come with a darning plate to cover the feed dogs. So that you can do free-motion sewing without dropping the feed dogs.

Programmable Needle Up/Down

If you are into quilting, this is a must have. With this button, you can tell the machine to stop the needle either in the up or down position. This is vital while pivoting or removing the fabric and it literally works like an extra hand. Machines like Brother CS6000iXR9500PRW and Singer 7258 have this feature.

Powerful Motor

Motor is the heart of a sewing machine. A sewing machine with a powerful motor will be able to sew through multiple layers of thick fabrics like denim with ease. Generally a beginner machine will have a motor speed ranging from 700-900 stitches/min. Singer 4423 is an exceptional sewing machine in this regard. It can deliver a whopping 1,100 stitches/min, which is almost like Serger sewing speed.

Built-in Sewing Light

This is not something to stress up on as almost all beginner sewing machines come with at least one bulb for work space illumination. All sewing machines I reviewed till date had at least one bulb.

Other Luxury Features

Until now, I talked about features that are absolutely must. Now let us talk about some luxury features that a beginner will love.

Sewing Without Foot Pedal

First thing is the ability to sew without the foot pedal. A sewing machine with sewing start/stop button and speed control slider will be able to do this. You can sew without the foot pedal and still be in control of the sewing speed by adjusting the speed control slider. This feature will be available in computerized sewing machines only. Eg: Brother CS6000i and Singer 7258.

LCD Screen

Generally computerized beginner sewing machines tend to have an LCD screen to display the stitch number, stitch width and length and recommended presser foot. Don't expect this in a mechanical sewing machine though. 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer only. Opinions may be subjective.