young woman in pink shirt leaning on Brother Innov-is KD40s sewing machine smiling

Which sewing machine is right for you?

When it comes to sewing machines, there really is something for everyone (and once you get into it, there’s always another machine with your name on…).


Deciding on a sewing machine is always exciting. It can also be quite daunting when you see how many models and machines there are.

The first, and most important, question you must ask yourself when choosing a sewing machine is – ‘what do I want to do with it?’

Do you want to make clothes? Are quilts your thing? Do you have no desire for sewing, but want to add embroidery to everything you own? Or are you looking for something to learn to sew on? Or to up your sewing skills?

Mechanical sewing machines

Brother LX17 sewing machine white background

Mechanical sewing machines come with basic features and a limited number of stitch choices. This doesn’t mean you should dismiss them. Their simplicity means that they can be the perfect starter machine to learn to sew on.

Mechanical sewing machines are also an economical investment. Especially if the limits of your sewing will stretch to nothing more than simple projects, alternations and repairs – like hemming, patching or repairing pockets.

On a mechanical sewing machine, you’ll use a dial to select your stitches and a foot pedal to sew. At the higher end of the range, you’ll find machines with features such as needle threaders and one-step buttonholes.

Mechanical sewing machine features to look for:

  • LED light – helps you see your work better and lets you sew at night.
  • Free arm conversation – to make sewing sleeves, bags and other similar projects easier.
  • Top-loading or quick set bobbin – for easy bobbin replacement.


Computerised sewing machines

Brother Innov-is A60SE with wide table on white table

Computerised sewing machines vary from simple machines with only a small number of stitches, to higher level machines on which you can even design your own stitches!

Even at the lower end of the range, computerised sewing machines will have more timesaving features and more stitch choices than a mechanical machine. This makes them great for beginner and experienced crafters alike.

Computerised sewing machines usually have a ‘start/stop’ button that gives you the option of sewing without the use of a foot pedal. Most will also let you control the speed of your sewing, increasing precision.

Computerised sewing machine features to look for:

  • Start/stop button and speed slide control – for greater precision.
  • Digital stitch length and width controls – for making adjustments.
  • Decorative stitches – for enhanced creativity.

If you simply want to do repairs

Look for sewing machines that are:

  • Simple.
  • Lightweight.
  • Easy to store away.
  • Have a free arm conversation.

If you’ve got a passion for fashion

Look out for sewing machines with:

  • A good variety of utility and decorative stitches, so you can add detail.
  • One-step buttonhole method – quick and precise.
  • Speed control – good for curved areas, where accuracy is key.
  • Larger working space – if you want to sew bulky projects like jackets or wedding dresses.

If quilting is your thing

You’ll need a sewing machine with:

  • A much larger workspace, to cope with extra fabric.
  • Drop feed - essential for free motion embroidery.
  • Pivot function – allows you to turn corners and rotate fabric easily, without taking your needle out.
  • A case - take your sewing machine to quilt meets and classes.
  • A walking foot and wide table offered as accessories – essential kit for quilters!

If it’s homes and interiors you want to sew for

You’ll want a sewing machine that has:

  • A stronger feed system - to deal with heavier upholstery and home furnishing fabrics.
  • A larger sewing space or wide table accessory – especially if you’re attempting curtains.
  • Start/stop button - so you don’t tire stitching long lengths of curtains
  • Lots of decorative stitches or a combination embroidery machine – add personal style to your makes!



Brother Lock M343D on white table

If you are a keen dressmaker, then an overlocker is invaluable. An overlocker works by sewing the seam and simultaneously trimming and ‘locking’ the edges of a seam allowance together to give a professional finish to any garment.

What to look for in an overlocker:

  • Lower looper threader – for quick and easy rethreading.
  • Free arm – makes sewing sleeves and trouser legs much easier.
  • Stitch options – such as three or four thread and rolled hems.
  • Support – if you’re new to using an overlocker make time to look at the machine set up at a dealership and ask to be shown how to thread it properly.


Brother CV3350 on table

With a coverstitch you can create lapped seams on thick fabric, covered seams on reversable garments, or select chainstitch to create temporary seams. Coverstitch machines are particularly useful if you sew a lot of stretch fabrics.

Coverstitch machines will stitch your fabric, but unlike an overlockers, they won’t cut it for you.

What to look for in a coverstitch machine:

  • Accessories – such as belt looper, binding attachment and hem guide, to provide increased versatility.
  • Support – if you’re new to using a coverstitch make time to look at the machine set up at a dealership and ask to be shown how to thread it properly.


Embroidery machines – for those who want to do more than sew

Brother Innov-is F480e on table in front of pink double bed

While sewing machines are predominantly focused upon construction, an embroidery machine focuses upon the aesthetics. With an embroidery machine you can sew intricate designs – from brand logos through to full scenery. You can even buy embroidery machines that sew Disney characters!

Embroidery machines come pre-loaded with decorative stitches and patterns that you can stitch out using a special hoop that fits into the machine. At the lower end of the market you’ll be able to change the size of the pattern you want to stitch out and flip it. As you increase the amount you  spend, you’ll see more features appearing on the machines such as:

  • Larger embroidery areas.
  • Increased amount of stitch and pattern designs built-in.
  • On-screen editing and design capabilities.
  • Turning line drawings or images into stitch designs via scanning features.
  • Precise pattern placement using scanning features or Brother’s placement app

There are also semi-professional embroidery machines that are perfect for more experienced users, or small to medium businesses. Having up to ten needles, they offer a quicker stitch out as there’s no need to change thread spools for colour changes. Like home embroidery machines many have design capabilities built in.

woman in craft studio embroidering on jeans with Brother PR680W embroidery machine

Combination machines – the best of both worlds

If you want to embroider, but still love to sew, then a combination machine might be the answer for you. A combination machine is an embroidery machine that has sewing ability built in.

Models vary from small, compact machines, to super-large machines which are suitable for quilting too. Combination machines come with both embroidery and sewing accessories

Usually the only difference between an equivalent embroidery and combination model is that you will use a quick release button on the machine to switch between the sewing arm and the embroidery arm.

Some people prefer to have separate machines for sewing and embroidery. Others choose to have a combination machine which allows them to do both, especially where working space is limited.
Brother Combination machines on white background
Whatever level of sewer you are, and whatever you want to create, there’s a machine that’s perfect for you. Before you invest it’s best to read about each machine you’re considering, ask friends and family (or online if you don’t know anyone who sews!).

It’s also a good idea to speak to your local sewing machine dealer – they’ve been selling machines for a long time, to a lot of people, so know a lot about what’s best for your level and style of sewing.

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