Want to learn to sew?- How to buy a sewing machine.

Decided to take up sewing? The most important pieces of a sewing kit is the sewing machine.

Here’s my first ever machine …….. simple, and cute, but teeny!

Want to learn to sew?- How to buy a sewing machine.
Start by considering what you’ll want to use a sewing machine for. Machines vary in cost from around £100 to thousands.
ENTRY LEVEL – If you are likely to only use your machine occasionally, then it’s not worth splashing out on a top of the line machine and there’s some great models in this category.
MID RANGE–  If you’re unsure of where your sewing will take you, but you’re already hooked, then maybe invest in a mid range machine which you won’t out-grow too quickly.
TOP RANGE – If you think you want to take up sewing professionally then it might be worth investing in a great machine like a Bernina. If you’re sewn for years and want to splash out, then there’s some fab machines out there for you
  • Manufacturers want you to get pleasure from your machine and have come up with lots of new innovations that make using a sewing machine a much easier experience
  • Shopping around online for the model you want usually means you get lots of great sewing freebies thrown in
  • As a professional Costumier and Seamstress I rarely use more than 7 of the different stitches available on my machine- straight, zig-zag, triple stitch, stretch stitch, overlock stitch, blind heming and buttonholes, so don’t feel you need that  expensive machine with “50” stitches unless you want to do embroidery!
Entry level machines-

Janome SMD500 £99- a pretty standard basic machine. comes with a darning plate which is great if you fancy trying out some free-hand embroidery. You get some great freebies too!
Want to learn to sew?- How to buy a sewing machine.
Janome SMD1000 £169- comes with a few more feet, and this one has a 1 step buttonhole, so it’s great value
Want to learn to sew?- How to buy a sewing machine.

Both entry level machines come with a soft plastic cover which will keep dust out, but won’t protect your machine from knocks if you’re out and about. There’s lots of other similar models on the website I’ve linked to

Mid- range machines-
Janome SMD2000 £219 ON SALE– A great price and lots of good features including a one stage buttonhole stitch
Want to learn to sew?- How to buy a sewing machine.
Janome 525s £269 – As seen on a popular BBC 2 show, this is a great mid range machine that won’t break the bank. It has a one stepbuttonhole, a selection of feet and a hard case too. These are the machines I teach with
Janome 5018 £319 – one of my favs.  I really love this machine, and used them to teach with for 5 years. Comes with a great selection of feet. Easy to use storage. An extra long free arm and a good strong motor, and a one stage buttonhole stitch. This machine is quite a bit heavier than the entry level machines, meaning it doesn’t move about when sewing.
Want to learn to sew?- How to buy a sewing machine.
Pfaff smarter 260C £269-  This machine has german engineering and is a world famous brand. It features a 1 stage buttonhole and a variety of stitches
Want to learn to sew?- How to buy a sewing machine.
Janome DKS30 £449 – Said to be one of the easiest to use machines janome has ever invented, This computerised machine is packed with functions, like automatically locking off seams, and there’s no need to draw up the bobbin thread. The computerised functions make sewing easy, as you don’t need to think about settings every time you change stitches. I’ve recently converted to using a computerised machine, and they are Soooo easy to use.
The rolls royce of  mid range sewing machines-
The Bernina 1008 is a Bernina standard. If you invest in one of these it will last a lifetime. I love this mechanical machine and am always excited when a theatre has one! John from Maculloch and wallis has sold me a couple of machines and services my vintage elna
Want to learn to sew?- How to buy a sewing machine.
Top range machines-
Janome 1600 p £849- only does a straight stitch but if you sew curtains for a living, and don’t have space for a full industrial machine then this is a great machine. Sews twice as first as a domestic machine..
Want to learn to sew?- How to buy a sewing machine.
Bernina 380– £995. This wonderful machine comes with an extension table and walking foot, as well as a wide election of feet. It’s a solidly built machine, thats still relatively compact. If you’ve sewn for years and want to treat yourself then this is for you!
Janome MC6600P£999 ON SALEIf i were still a freelance Costume maker then this would be the machine for me. I worked with one in 2013, and it made me so sad to have to hand it back. This beauty will sew through pretty much anything, and comes with an integrated Acu-feed system that ensures precision sewing across all types of difficult fabrics. My fav function was that it cuts your bobbin thread when you’ve stitched a seam, and that it has a knee lever! 
If you don’t want to fork out hundreds for a new model, then a re-conditioned machine from a dealer offering a warrenty is a great alternative. Most older mechanical machines were made to last, and provided they’ve been serviced, should give you many years of sewing. Make sure you have a go in the shop, and try and get one that does a zig-zag, or your sewing will be really restricted.
These are some great dealers that offer re-conditioned machines with a warranty-
Olympic sewing machines– very close to some great fabric shops on Goldhawk Road,- very knowledgable owner too
Wimbledon sewing centre– Huge range of machines, and good service too
Tony’s sewing centre– specialises in singers and  pfaffs and will match online free gift offers
If you’re looking to buy a machine, I do hope this has helped de-mystify it a little? We’ve got lots of lovely beginners classes  that will help you get Machine confident too.
Once you’ve bought your machine, you can watch my free threading videos!
threading-up-a-top-loading-machine threading-up-a-front-loading-machine
Happy Stitching:)



  • Rachel Greenaway

    06.12.2016 at 21:28

    Hi. This is a real help to me thank you. Ive taken up sewing just this year doing classes making sampler quilts which I llove. I have been using my mums basic Brother machine but am looking for my own for Christmas now and am struggling to choose. I wanted ( after reading your blog) the 5018 sounds perfect for me, but I can’t find it anywhere to buy. Has I tried been discontinued? If so do you know its replacement?


    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      10.12.2016 at 01:24

      Hi Rachael,

      the Janome 5018 is exclusive to Sewing machines direct, and is still available as a student ordered one this week.
      here’s the link

      Have a great Christmas :)

  • Clarissa

    25.09.2016 at 09:54

    A really helpful summary, thank you.

  • Alison o

    02.03.2016 at 21:45

    I was looking at the manometer from the sewing bee, but upon a visit to a retailer whom sells Janome and Husquarvna the suggested the Husquarvna which I have no knowledge of. Anyone have any pointers.

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      28.03.2016 at 20:03

      Hi Alison,

      I don’t have any personal experience with Husquarvana machines. My do teach with janome machines and have had very good experience with them for 6 years.

      Best wishes Cl:)

  • Lisa

    17.02.2016 at 09:26

    I am looking into getting a sewing machine however in the past I haven’t had much luck with them which has put me off! My husband brought me one for £60 and it only did a straight line when it worked, the other stitch settings it just didn’t sew. Then it decided to not sew at all, the top thread was ok but the bottom stitch never held .

    So now I would like to give our pop up camper a bit of a make over with new curtains, cushion covers etc and need a machine that will help me do this! I have looked at lots of machines like brother etc but there are just to many to choose from

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      28.03.2016 at 20:07

      Hi Lisa,

      If you plan to sew upholstery, id say you need a machine with a bit more punch than a £60 model. Try the janome 5018, which is one of the best machines I’ve ever bought

      Best wishes:)

  • Adam Waddy

    28.11.2015 at 14:14

    I just started taking on the task of learnings how to sew, thanks for the sharing!

  • Tina Marshall

    25.11.2015 at 20:59

    Hi, I am looking to buy a machine, and have sewed on and off all my life but am a ‘ home sewer’ , no expert! I enjoy making curtains for myself , cushions upholstery and bags . I never make clothes . I have been searching for a sewing machine but I need to tell Santa which one I want ! Think it will have to be second hand to keep costs down. I want. To do mainly upholstery , curtains etc and also want to try and do some quilting . The machine has to have a slow speed as well as fast ( to many sewn fingers in the past !) but the main thing is to be able to get a hefty thickness of fabric under the foot and for the machine to capable to sew it …7. Layers of chenille for example plus curtain header . I have a new home domestic one at the mo’ but can’t get great thickness under the foot. I also don’t need loads of fancy stitching . I have turned down a few sewing jobs because I don’t have a substantial machine so could be earning money from doing what I love , if I had the right machine …can anyone advise me ?? I’m lost in the myriad of machines and don’t want something like loads of fancy stiching that I know I won’t need

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      25.11.2015 at 23:36

      Hi Tina,

      I can’t advise on a second hand machine, the only way to find a good one is to go to a dealer who offers a warrantee and ask their advice and try out some machines,
      The janome 5018, or janome 5024 are sturdy machines with extra height lifts for thick fabric and motors that can power through thicker fabrics. they were designed more for soft furnishings, and have a long firearm which helps with quilting etc.

      Good luck

      • Tina

        30.12.2015 at 19:37

        Many thanks for the advice, I have looked at Janome and will definatley go fo the make. I am seriously looking at a Janome 1600p…any thoughts ?

  • Amber Evans

    28.10.2015 at 13:48

    Hi Claire. I remember seeing your videos on Youtube before but havent had the chance of following you here to your blog. Stumbled this content when I was looking for some seamstress’ blog to feature on my site for a new roundup post I’m launching in December for my blog. Glad I found you again.

    Re: this blog post
    I’m surprised not to find the Brothers CS6000i and Janome 7318 in the list? Any particular reason why it wasn’t included? Just curious.

    I really enjoy your videos and your tuts. Love the blog as well.;)


  • Susan Craggs

    02.08.2015 at 16:09

    Hi, Has anyone used or purchased the new Elna Lotus. I have seen it here in Holland and it looks really good but I cannot find a review of it anywhere.

  • Ian

    18.06.2015 at 17:24

    Thanks your comments – however I would not class John Lewis as a specialist shop – they are a department store who happen to sell sewing machines along with a lot of other white goods etc. It does not surprise me that their customer service and advice is poor.

    It would be great to know what the best customer service you have ever had is from an online retailer – did they show you how to use the machine , how it handles, what it is like to pick up, did they tell you the do’s and dont’s of sewing, did they show you how to thread up the machine correctly etc? As a seamstress you may know all this but a huge amount of first time sewers don’t. One of the reasons there is not a local shop to you is because online retailers are killing them off along with the rest of the high street.

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      03.07.2015 at 01:47

      Hi Ian,

      Actually the appeal of sewing Machines direct was that they had an affiliated London store. I travelled over an hour, using 4 different tubes to get to the North West London branch, and indeed had a human being show me the threading etc. As a seamstress trained on industrial machines many moons ago, I had never used a modern needle threading function on a domestic machine, so it was very useful to be shown.
      I am giving advice to readers who may not have the time or inclination to make such a big trek to a physical shop. I appreciate that the online world has damaged the high street, but the reality is that this is the world we live in, and I am unable to stop global consumerisation. How I wish there was a local shop that I could take my machine to, but in 2015 the small sewing shops of the olde days have vanished.
      Just a side note, there used to be a small shop in chapel market, and I did support them. Shortly before they closed I collected a machine that they’d had for 2 months to service, and that I’d paid £50 for. In actuality, they did nothing to the machine and on taking somewhere else I was informed that the internal arm had snapped, and that it had definitely not been serviced. I mention this because in all areas of trade and commerce there are good and bad, just because some of the world has moved online doesn’t mean that it’s all bad.

      May I ask what you do for a living?

      kind regards

  • Ian

    03.06.2015 at 12:13

    It is sad to see you recommend buying online to pick up a few freebies – because that is all you will get online, or a catalogue brochure or supermarket etc. All manufacturers recommend you buy from your local specialist shop – where you will be able to actually see the machine and get great advice beforehand. More importantly if you get a problem after using the machine the specialists will be able to sort it for you immediately without charge. Buy online and you will get a machine in a box and a premium cost phone number to call. Most online retailers have little or no knowledge of how a machine works or how to repair it – it is a false economy to buy from them. Plus if you get a problem youwill have to return to them in the original packing (that means keeping the box forever) and they will charge you for carriage if the problem is of your making. 99% of returns are usually due to user mis error – which is NOT covered by online guarantees. Specialist shops will “show” you how to use a machine properly.

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      09.06.2015 at 00:42

      Hello Ian,

      I have recommended specific online retailers, with whom I have had a great service relationship over the 5 and a half years of my business. I spoke with one of them at length when I started my school, and they suggested a great machine which they were prepared to accept back if it wasn’t right for me. It was and I bought another 5! They picked up, repaired and returned a machine that was faulty in one week, at a time when john lewis had a repair backlog of 3 months. I have never recommended an online retailer that has a premium number, nor a supermarket. I recommend specific models that I have personally tried, or have used with students, so I know they are great machines wherever they are bought from.
      When researching machines for my business, my nearest physical shop was john lewis. I was given poor advice and waited a long time to speak to an advisor. Had I not been a seamstress, they would have sold me a poor machine indeed. I had previously never bought online, but not able to travel across london to another retailer I did some online research and discovered sewing machines direct, who have given me some of the best customer service I’ve ever had. In 5 years, my students have always had a positive experience too! The reality is that are not that many specialist shops around any more, and many of my students and readers are too time poor to travel just to find a sewing machine shop.
      I do wish there was a shop local to me that I could indeed support.

      Best wishes:)

  • auto part casting

    12.05.2015 at 07:15

    Great Post! really liked it.thank you for info.

  • Lisa W. Degregorio

    08.05.2015 at 13:05

    Great page! We share almost the same opinion on the best sewing machine for beginners. My personal favorite is Janome SMD2000.

  • Lindy groom

    18.03.2015 at 08:40

    Sorry I have just seen the comment above mine.

  • Lindy groom

    18.03.2015 at 08:38

    Morning, do you have similar recommendations for overlockers. I would love one and have seen the Bernina 700d and 800, but wonder if that is because I have had the Bernina 801 for years and trust the brand.

  • Wai Fong Lai

    17.02.2015 at 19:44


    And thank you for helping through the world of sewing machines. Ended up buying 5018 and absolutely love it!

    That said, recently attended knits session and an overlocker is calling out to me!

    Someone said, “sewing is addictive!” and it’s so true!

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      17.02.2015 at 21:35

      So Glad you love the 5018, it’s m all time fav machine. If you’re after an overlocker, then save up and get one of these beauties http://www.jaycotts.co.uk/products/bernina-800dl#.VOO0G9x62fc

      So sorry, sewing is indeed addictive, we should carry a warming on the website:)

  • Tolu

    19.01.2015 at 00:49

    Hi TS, I am a complete novice with sewing machines. I intend to attend beginners classes however I do not know which to buy even after reading many reviews. I am hoping to eventually take up sewing professionally. Please advise which machine would be suitable for me.

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      19.01.2015 at 14:51


      Thanks for leaving a comment. The machine you buy will depend on budget you have in mind. I’d suggest either the 5018( links in my post) The Bernina 1008, or the Janome MC 66OOP

      Happy shopping:)

  • Richard

    09.01.2015 at 17:44

    Hello, I have never sewn before but am very “crafty”. I’m looking for a cheap ish machine under £200 to try and learn to make a patchwork quilt. I’m guessing I’d be best with a machine with enough space between the body and the foot?
    Can you recommend any models that would be good for quilt making?
    Many thanks

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      13.01.2015 at 23:57

      Hi Richard,

      If you can stretch to the 5018 in my review, it’s perfect for quilting, although i’d recommend buying a walking foot/quilting set as an extra attachment. Otherwise all of the janomes have an extra height lift which allows for quilting and can have the walking foot and quilt kit added as an attachment. The 5018 is the best of the machines i’ve reviewed as it has a long free arm and lots of space between the right hand side of the machine and the foot, but you can do patchwork/quilting with any of the machines i’ve reviewed in this post plus a walking foot
      best wishes:)

  • Sarah

    27.06.2013 at 22:28


    Fully inspired bythe GB Sewing Bee I am looking at buying a sewing machine. Having read a couple of your blog posts I am unsure whether to go for the Janome 5018 or the 525s?

    Any advice welcome please.

    Thanks Sarah

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      02.07.2013 at 19:56

      Hello Sarah.

      the 5018 is a slightly sturdy machine than the 525s, and is a little more user friendly with a flip front accessory tray rather than a slide in one. They are both great mid-range machines however, and if budget is an issue, then the 525s is a little cheaper

      happy stitching CL :)

  • Emma Pridal

    18.06.2013 at 11:12

    Thank you for the honest review. It’s so nice to read a review by someone who actually uses sewing machines everyday. I bought the Janome 5018 and am loving it – perfect recommendation. =)

  • Heather

    12.04.2013 at 06:43

    Thanks for this. I got the crazy idea to get a sewing machine yesterday and needed some info about what to consider when buying. :-)