My Top 10 tips for buying a sewing machine or overlocker with confidence

Always buy from a reputable retailer

Go along, discuss what skills you have (if any) and what you are most likely to use it for (for quilting you might consider a dedicated machine with a long-arm like the Elna EX 580). Always, always try the machine. Remember, you wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive.  Machines are not always cheaper online and you won’t necessarily get the same level of advice or after purchase support. The old adage – “if it seems too good to be true” it most probably is.


Elna sewing machines and overlocks Logo

Elna sewing machines and overlockers

There are lots of manufacturers so it is down to personal preference, reputation and budget. I am thrilled to be an official supplier of the fabulous Elna range of sewing machines and overlockers and the amazing baby lock overlockers, coverstitch and coverlock machines. The Jane White Couture Tuition studio is equipped with machines students

baby lock overlocker, coverlock and overstitch machines

baby lock overlocker, coverlock and overstitch machines

can use to try-before-they-buy. I do have some views on other brands based on experience but I’m afraid I can’t express them here!

Set your budget

Think about how often you are likely to use your machine. Will it for

Elna EX 520 sewing machine

Elna EX 520

occasional use, to learn to sew or do you need something you can grow into as your sewing skills develop. Ask yourself some questions: do you need to pay for 500 embroidery stitches but would a fully automated buttonhole (the Elna EX 520 has an excellent automatic buttonhole) be less scary and more time efficient?

I find prices tend to be controlled by the manufacturer so may not be any cheaper online and you won’t get the advice and after-sales support.

Brand new-v-second-hand and eBay/auctions

A tricky one this. Can be a good move if you know the owner and the machine’s history but a nightmare if it’s a machine that’s been run into the ground and being sold to fund the owner’s next purchase.  No definitive answer I’m afraid other than take someone who knows about machines and try it out first. Ask the date of manufacture (I’ve spotted my first new machine bought in 1979 with my first month’s pay going for more than I paid for it then). Do your research – for a little bit more money you might get a new machine with a warranty and after purchase support. Use a reputable retailer.

Manual or electronic/computerised?

Manual machines have dials, knobs and sliders to control the functions (the Elna Ex 320 is a fabulous starter machine). Electronic/computerised machines have an LED screen and more automation. As a generalisation, a manual buttonhole will be made by you turning a dial for each part and measuring each buttonhole an electronic/computerised machine will usually have a machine foot that holds the button, you press the foot pedal and the whole thing is done automatically in one go without you having to measure anything. Electronic machines (have a look at the Elna Ex 520) start at about £50 more than a manual. It depends on how much you are going to use the machine. Don’t be put off an electronic/computerised because you are a beginner. They are user-friendly, especially if you are into technology but easy to use if you are not.

Bobbin case –v- drop in bobbin?

Open for debate, The Elna EX 220 is a great starter machine with a front loader bobbin.

I do prefer a drop-in-bobbin like the Elna 340 a manual machine with an automatic or one-step buttonhole but either type will do the job.

Want to get the most from your machine?

Get some tuition. Have a look at my or our How to use a sewing machine workshop. I promise you will go away with lots of skills, confidence and in complete control of your machine.

Still can’t decide?

Don’t despair, don’t buy anything! Book a free, no-obligation demonstration on our lovely Elna sewing machines and overlockers.

But, whatever you do, Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy!


Official supplier Babylock and Elna sewing machines & overlockers

Official supplier Babylock and Elna sewing machines & overlockers

Jane White Couture Tuition is an official supplier of Elna sewing machines and overlockers.