Jane’s Top ten tips for buying a sewing machine with confidence

1 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 out the machines. 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.

2 Brand

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 pleased to be an official supplier of the fabulous

Elna range of sewing machines and overlockers and the amazing baby lock overlockers, coverstitch and combination overlocker/coverstitch machines. The Jane White Couture Tuition studio is equipped with machines you can use to try-before-you-buy.

3 Set your budget

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

4 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. Some retailers off reconditioned machines with a short warranty.

5 Manual or electronic/computerised sewing machines?

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.

For 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 because they come on with stitches on a default setting you can then alter or if you are into technology but easy to use if you are not.

6 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 it is very much personal preference.

7 Weight and where you sew

Number 7 of my top ten tips for buying a sewing machine is often forgotten about in the excitement of a test run! I speak from experience as I spent a lot of years sewing in the hallway hauling my machine and sewing stuff in and out of the cupboard under the stairs every time!

Think about the size of the machine and how much it weighs. If you are going to have to put it away every time or you struggle to lift, you might be better with something compact like the Elna EX 240 or the EX520.

If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated sewing room you can go for a bigger machine like the Elna EX580 or the Janome 6700p semi pro model.

8 Taking to class

A lot of our sewers like to bring along their own machines so they can get more from them. This again is a size/weight matter. You might like a second smaller ‘class’ machine so you don’t have to keep moving your main machine. The Elna EX 220 and 240 and the 320 and 340 are popular.

9 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.

10 Still can’t decide?

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

I hope my top ten tips for buy a sewing machine has helped and, whatever you buy 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.