Learn to Sew – Buying your first machine

The reason I’m writing this to start my “Learning to sew” blog posts is because working in the sewing and embroidery industry for almost three years, it became quite apparent that this step (the very first one) was often the most detrimental to someone’s experience in sewing.

It was more often than not, people would go out and purchase the cheapest sewing machine, that looked fancy but probably wasn’t even computerised or easy-to-use. These machines mostly came from larger retail stores. In Australia we have Spotlight or Lincraft. Some even came from Target, Kmart, online on eBay or other stores that were difficult to go back to and ask for advice.

While larger retail stores are getting better at classes and offering more for its customer, it’s unlikely that you can call up and speak to a staff member who can answer your questions about ‘why your bobbin thread and needle keeps getting jammed and how to fix it’.

I was once browsing through patterns at one of these larger retail chains, while an elderly couple was standing next to me in the sewing machine section trying to figure out what the difference was between a drop-in bobbin and a front-loading bobbin. The husband went in search for a staff member, who ended up being a 15 year-old-girl. She most likely worked there hoping to save up for a first car or to spend on her hobbies (which didn’t seem to include sewing). To answer their question she had to get out a large book, showing all of the different machines, listing a number of different comparison charts, but none offered an answer to this simple question. When she couldn’t find the answer she went in search for another staff member, hoping they could help.

I had to stop myself from just yelling out the answer. However, knowing that this poor lady was probably buying her first machine and wanting to enjoy this hobby while in retirement, I decided to approach her when the staff member walked away.
“Excuse me,” I said, “Did you do know that there are a few sewing machine stores around the corner, that specialise in Brother or Janome (since those were the machines she was looking at) and could offer you a world of advice. They also do classes and ongoing support. You might even find you’ll get a better machine for this price (pointing to the dodgy, non-computerised machine to which she was looking at buying).” To say they were thrilled was an understatement. Especially since they had already been there for nearly 30 minutes and were still clueless. They walked straight out and hopefully in search for a better deal and better customer service.

The fact is, this is very common. People come up with an idea to start a new hobby but don’t actually purchase their products from a store than can offer long-term support. With everything now being online people are only searching for the cheapest, easiest purchase, instead of investing in something that’s a little more expensive, from a store that will give them the best customer experience.

My Advice

If you’re interested in learning how to sew, before you rush out and make an impulse buy or order something off eBay without even thinking, please research the following:

  1. What do you want to use your machine for?
  2. What deals do your local sewing and retail store offer? Are these machine suited to your needs?
  3. Do they offer any second hand machines that may be better suited to you while you learn?
  4. What in-store support and advice do they offer?
  5. What after-sales support and advice do they offer?
  6. Do you get a free sewing machine run-through or can you enrol in sewing classes, if need be?

Some of these stores may even be online! Some may be interstate or a 30 minute drive away. But when you do your research and ensure you’ve got your money well spent, with a company you can call up and ask questions, then you’re on the right track.

Also, why not check out the store reviews. See what people say about their after-service customer support.

The cheapest deal is not always the best deal

Once you have researched these things, then it’s time to make your purchase and decide what machine is perfect for you. My previous boss also used to always say, “The cheapest deal, isn’t always the best deal!” So if you’re wanting to only spend $300 on a machine, really think about what you will get for your money. If saving up an extra $200 will get you a quality machine that lasts forever, then it’s definitely worth the investment! Sometimes these deals will even get you a starter sewing pack, thus making it the best deal.

Ongoing support and advice is a MUST!

You might not think you need this because hey, YouTube is your best friend. BUT when all it takes is one phone call or one email to solve an awful sewing machine issue, then it’s worth doing some research first. The girls in the office where I used to work (a local family owned sewing and embroidery machine store) used to get hundreds of emails and phone calls each day. It just goes to show that genuine help is priceless.

Support your local sewing/fabric stores

This to me, is a big one. Even recently, I’ve seen so many local fabric and sewing machine stores that I absolutely loved having to close their doors because of large retail chains popping up around the corner, killing their business. This is awful to see but the truth is… we’re not supporting them! So how can they survive!

These mum and dad stores with years and years of experience and knowledge in sewing, embroidery, fabric selection etc., can offer advice and support and teach you things you never even dreamed of learning. Many of these stores provide classes and even free sewalongs where you can go and enjoy the company of other people who share in the same interest. These are the stores that you need to support when you’re wanting to enjoy, learn and continue with this awesome hobby.

Plus, the worst part is, retail chains who end up dominating the industry are often expensive. I used to love getting my buttons from my local Bargain Box Fabric store for only 10c – 20c each but now having to pay $8+ for 10. If only we had supported them more while they were in business!

My Sewing Machines

I first learnt off a Janome 6260 sewing machine and a Janome MyLock overlocker. These are the only two machines that I used for over 5 years while I was learning how to sew and I’m proud to say they are still running strong! As long as you service your machines regularly and take good care of them, they can last a life time.


Through learning and loving this hobby, I decided to upgrade to a newer computerised model, which was the Brother Innovis NV1100. I haven’t looked back!


Plus, if you get to test run some of your mum’s machines (like I do, yay me), who has even more money and skills, you realise what’s possible when you invest in a good machine! She has the Brother Dream Machine, which pretty much does everything except sew the garment for you.

the-dream-machineImage source: Brother Dream Machine XV500D

4 thoughts on “Learn to Sew – Buying your first machine

  1. This is a really useful post! I decided to go with a vintage machine for my first machine, it is pretty robust, especially since it has no electrical components other than the motor! For computerized machines I can’t imagine buying a machine with no support! There are so many things that can go wrong that are not intuitive to fix on computerized machines!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Learn to Sew | sixteen stitches

  3. Pingback: Learn to sew – Pattern Review | sixteen stitches

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