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How to Choose a Sewing Machine

So you've decided that you're gonna have a go at sewing, and you want to invest in a snazzy machine - but which one do you go for? Choosing a machine can often be confusing, especially if you've never really sewn before. You don't want to be wasting money on features you don't need, but you may not feel like you know what you should have as a standard on your machine. Read on!

How to Choose a Sewing Machine


When choosing a machine, there are so many different brands to pick from. Each one makes their machine in a slightly different way, although they all tend to do essentially the same thing and have the same core features. Some swear by one brand in particular, others don't mind which they sew on. We would personally recommend Janome machines for their durability and practicability, but other popular brands are Brother, Viking, Singer and Bernina.


Machines vary from fairly simple manual machines (and mini machines), to digitised and computerised ones that automatically adjust to what you're sewing. Deciding which model to go for can often be tricky, as there are so many features! On the whole, starting on a manual rather than computerised machine is often best, as you learn how to work out thread tension and other important knowledge which you may need in the future. Manual ones tend to be much cheaper, starting from below £100, whereas digitised machines begin from around £250. If you are an intermediate or above sewer, then selecting a digitised or more complex machine is often a better choice as it will see you through a wider range of projects with more extensive features such as automatic button holes, free arm, more footers, and a wider range of stitches.


The functionality of your machine can often be the most baffling part - sewing machines have so many features nowadays, even on the simpler machines! As a basic sewer, you will probably use all the standard stitch types on a more basic machine (such as straight stitch), and will need to use a reverse stitch lever. Some mid-level machines offer automatic buttonholes - my advice would be, go for a machine that does automatic button holes, it's such a time saver! Even if you go for the cheapest model that has this feature, you will be so glad of it. All sewing machines use footers to help you guide your fabric and needle together under the machine, but mid-to-high range models tend to have a wider range available, and more easily. Think about the different types of projects you may want to use your machine for and buy accordingly. 


Sewing machines now come in two main sizes - mini and standard. Deciding which is best for you is really dependent upon how much you want to spend, what functionality you want, and how much space you have to store or use it in. Mini machines are great for those who don't want to shell out a lot at first, and offer a good range of basic functions. They tend to be less durable, however, than standard machines. Standard machines are great for most sewing projects, but whilst they tend to last longer, they are also bigger and heavier. 


Prices range far and wide when it comes to sewing machines. You can grab a mini sewing machine for a bargain - often less than £50 - but they often struggle to last anywhere near the length of time that a standard machine does. Standard size machines are a bit more of an investment, however, cheaper options on the market can still come in for less than £100 sometimes, particularly if you manage to catch them on a good offer. As with most machinery, quality costs money, so if you want a machine that does last, it's often a good idea to fork out a little bit more for a mid-range machine that will see you through a good 4-5 years at least. 


Don't forget that sewing machines, like most other machines, usually need servicing every so often to keep them running smoothly. All sewing machines tend to need this at some point in their lifetime, so be prepared for this extra cost - which can sometimes include buying new parts to replace worn ones. This is where purchasing a second hand or older machine can sometimes become costly, as the parts may be harder to source, or sometimes, completely unavailable any more. 


National Hobby Month: Getting Started in Sewing

So you've decided that this month is going to be the month that you finally start learning to sew... but how do you get started? Read on to find everything you need to know about starting your sewing journey, from resources to equipment and patterns to projects!

National Hobby Month: Getting Started in Sewing

Hand Sewing or Machine Sewing?

First of all, you need to decide whether you want to go for it and get right down to machine sewing, or start off a little more slowly with hand sewing. There are pro's and con's to each - machine sewing is a bigger investment as you'll have to buy a sewing machine, but you can make a wider variety of projects using them. Hand sewing is ideal for a cheaper and slower introduction to sewing but you may find you quickly get bored of the projects available to you, and the time involved in sewing everything by hand. 

What do I need?

Regardless of which type of sewing you begin with, you'll require some basic items to get you going. All sewers will ideally need a sewing box including the following items:

These are the basic items that will get you through most sewing projects. It's worthwhile investing in the best quality you can afford in these items, especially scissors and pins, as they'll last you for many years to come! If you want to start with a more extensive set of equipment, it would also be worthwhile getting some fabric pencils/markers, embroidery scissors and a selection of basic coloured thread.

One other thing you might find helpful is a book about sewing. These are often designed for beginners, and have many helpful hints and tips, as well as common problems and how to fix them. If you start sewing on a machine, they can also offer help and advice on using your machine. Our favourite book for this is The Colette Sewing Handbook, which whilst based around dressmaking, has lots of hints, tips and information on fabrics, drape, usage and problems.

Teaching and Classes

Sewing is one hobby that is reasonably adapted to being self taught, through books and the internet. There are many free tutorials all over the web that can introduce you to basic stitches and techniques, as well as projects on items like bags, clothes and home furnishings. 

Some people find it more beneficial to have someone to teach them everything properly, or just need the confidence of having someone there to help them if they get stuck. Check your local community centres and sewing shops to see if they run classes or teaching - quite often you'll find one-on-one teaching, group workshops and sewing clubs available to sign up for.

What next?

First things first, pick your first project! You can either find something on the web to follow (usually a little harder as it can involve you having to make your own pattern), or find a book or pattern to follow. It really is up to you!

Then you will need to source the items that are required for the project - so fabric, haberdashery and any specialist equipment or trimmings.

For an easier project, you can also start with a pre-prepared kit, which usually include a pattern, written instructions, and everything you need to complete the project. Take a look at our range of kits - I'd recommend the strawberry pincushion or felt owl kit as a great start for a beginner!


Where can I get everything I need?

We sell a great range of haberdashery and fabrics for whatever project you want to start on. Simply take a look at what you need and find it on our site! If you're struggling to find it, try using the search bar at the top, or drop us an email and we'll try to help. 

What if I get stuck?

First things first, don't panic! There are so many solutions on the web for any problems you may encounter, and chances are that somebody has already asked the question somewhere! Most good sewing books for beginners also have help and advice on trickier techniques or common problems. 

If you really can't find the answer to your question, drop us an email and we'll try and help you with it!


Shop Sewing Basics

January 03, 2015 by Amy Gilbert

What are Fat Quarters?

Ever heard or seen talk of 'Fat Quarters' but not quite sure what is being referred to? Read on to find out more about the rise of a new cut of fabric...



Fat Quarters are becoming increasingly common with the rise in popularity of quilting in the UK. Originally an American term, a Fat Quarter refers to a cut of fabric which is essentially half of a half-metre of fabric, but cut in half as a square (along the selvedge) as opposed to across the width of the fabric (which normally creates a quarter-of-a-metre strip much wider than it is high).


What's the point? I hear you ask...

Well, Fat Quarters are usually associated with quilting and offer a great solution to buying a variety of different fabrics in small quantities to make up parts of a quilt. Their size means they are great for creating sections of a quilt with a variety of textures/colours/patterns that can co-ordinate, without having to waste money buying extra metres of fabric just for the sake of needing a square sized piece of a certain height. But they are being used for more than just quilting nowadays, and in the UK they offer a great option for sewers that enjoy patchwork, applique or making lots of smaller sewing projects, along with those who want to try out quilting.

How do I find/buy a Fat Quarter?

Most fabrics (especially craft fabrics and cotton fabrics that are suitable for quilting) are now offered as Fat Quarters, including most fabrics on our own website. To purchase, simply find your desired fabric and select 'Fat Quarter' from the drop down box to add one fat quarter to your basket.

Fat Quarters are also frequently sold in bundles that take the hassle out of co-ordinating colours, themes and patterns between fabrics as they comprise of a pre-selected bundle of fat quarters, usually in packs of 5 or 6. We offer Fat Quarter bundles ourselves, which can be found here, which are a great-value option for those wanting to try them out. You get a great selection of fabrics to use and a discounted price from buying them all separately - simple and hassle-free to get started!

Take me to the Fat Quarter Bundles!