Sewing Machines: The Types

Sewing Machines

If you want to learn to sew, you’re going to need a sewing machine. But where do you start?

Interested in learning how to sew? Not to worry. With a few pointers, you’ll be able to narrow down your search and buy a sewing machine that fits your needs at the price you have budgeted. We at Viewpoints have created a guide, outlining types, features and where to buy.

The types of sewing machines

There are many different types of sewing machines, but there are three basic types:

  • Computerized: This type of sewing machines are controlled, of course, by a computer. Meaning, it drives the motors, controlling not just patterns but the speed the needle is moving.
  • Mechanical: This is the kind of sewing machine I’m most familiar with. It has one motor, whose speed is controlled by a foot pedal.
  • Embroidery: This type of sewing machine that is used to create embroidery patterns. These are the same machines used to put logos on school uniforms.

Sewing machine features

Like automobiles, most sewing machines come equipped with “standard features.” It can be overwhelming trying to parse which features are right for your needs, so rather than just list them all, let’s look at them based on what you plan to use your machine for, and the fabrics you plan to work with.

Sewing Machine

Janome Memory Craft Computerized Sewing Machine

  • Basic sewing and mending: If you plan to do a lot of mending of zippers or hems, look closely at those features that will help you most with those tasks such as an automatic buttonhole. Make sure the machine is equipped to handle zippers, buttons, and darning.
  • Apparel, costume and fashion: If you dream of becoming the next designer on Project Runway, you might be most interested in a machine with an adjustable platform, a variety of stretch stitches for knits and lightweight fabrics, automatic buttonhole, and specialty options for zippers, darning, ruffling, gathering, blind hems, and special seaming. You may wish to invest in a sewing/serger combo or even an industrial-level machine.
  • Home decorating and quilting: If you have visions of pillows, draperies, and table skirts dancing in your head, focus on machines that will allow you to make the most of embellishments, trim, and even embroidery. If you are a quilter, consider machines that have a wide platform to support quilt projects, a quarter-inch presser foot or seam allowance guide, and a variety of quilting stitches.
  • Crafting: Unless you are a bona fide textile artist, you’ll find all the features you need for crafting on even the lowest priced models of machines. You may even want to try out some of the compact, handheld, and As Seen on TV models.
  • Business use – There are many talented sewers who are looking to start a business with their new machine. If this is how you plan to use your sewing machine, it is crucial that you find one that is sturdy and is specifically designed to be a workhorse. For example, you are not going to want to start an embroidery business with an entry-level embroidery machine that can only load one color spool at a time or is prone to breaking down if worked too hard.

How much should I spend?

This question is typically a variation of the universal question: Are more expensive models better than cheaper ones? To some degree, a better made machine or one with fancy features is going to cost more than a basic version. However, don’t buy something with lots of pricey bells and whistles you aren’t going to use. On the other hand, don’t buy a bargain-priced model that is so cheaply made it is prone to breaking down or will create hours of frustration.

Janome sewing machine

Janome Sew Mini Mechanical Sewing Machine

Sometimes, your sewing solution may come in the form of a used or reconditioned machine at a local dealer. If you do go this route, try to get a limited warranty in case you encounter mechanical problems later. Dealers often list their store price in addition to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Shop around, and see if you can negotiate a better deal. Ask for extras such as thread, specialty feet, or embroidery cards. Also when considering your budget, don’t forget to factor in the prices of accessory items and add-ons. For example, embroidery machines are of little use without specialty thread and stabilizers. You may need a larger hoop, and unless you are only planning to use the images that come with the embroidery machine, you’ll need to purchase additional cartridges.

If you come across a great machine on Craigslist, your local classifieds, or the neighborhood thrift shop, it’s a coin toss as to whether or not you should buy. A bargain is only a bargain if it works as advertised and doesn’t cost you more in repair bills. This is usually a gut decision, because you’re often not able to give it a thorough try out before you purchase. Some folks have found real gems at estate sales and thrift shops, and others have had their “bargains” conk out soon after purchase.


There is no one best brand of sewing machine for any one user. Buy the best model you can afford, with the features that are most important to you. Do plenty of research both locally and on the Internet, and ask lots of questions of experienced stitchers. Before you buy, whether online or in a store, make sure you fully understand the warranty, return policy, and service options. Finally, remember that preventative maintenance will keep your new purchase in good running order.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on The Goods. It has been updated with the most current information before being republished here. Its original author is unknown.

Allegra Pusateri Allegra Pusateri (70 Posts)

Allegra Pusateri is an intern at Viewpoints. She recently graduated from DePaul University with a B.A. in English and Creative Writing.