Sewing Machine Features Explained: Choosing The Best Machine


Although all sewing machines share the same basic function, the huge range of features available on different models makes choosing the best sewing machine far from straightforward. Here we walk you through some key features of the sewing machine to look for so that you can better understand what to look for when buying and how to find the perfect sewing machine.

Types of sewing machines

Electronic sewing machines

Electronic sewing machines have a single motor that drives the needle, along with a feed mechanism, through your fabrics. The motor is operated by a foot pedal – press harder on the foot control to sew faster – leaving both hands free to guide the fabric. Most have a dial on the side that allows you to change the type and length of stitch. Available in a wide variety of designs with prices ranging from around £ 50 to £ 300, electronic sewing machines are excellent all-round machines suitable for both novices and experienced dressmakers alike.

Computerized sewing machines

Computerized sewing machines have built-in computers that automate sewing, making them simple to use. Operated by touch screens or LCD screens, they offer hundreds of different stitches and patterns, and can automatically adjust the length, tension and speed for those you select. Most can remember your stitches so you can reuse them in the future, while the premium templates allow you to program your own embroidery designs or upload designs to the internet. With prices starting at around £ 250 and reaching over £ 2,000, a computerized sewing machine can be a major investment. However, they are much more versatile than electronic machines and allow you to complete a sewing project faster and more efficiently.


Overlockers give a professional finish to the seams and hems of a garment by cutting off excess fabric as they sew. With their limited functionality, overlockers must be purchased in addition to a sewing machine.

Features of the sewing machine to research

Automatic buttonhole

An automatic buttonhole allows you to sew a buttonhole in one step without having to stop and turn the fabric or handle a dial. Some sewing machines allow you to place the button in a slit on the foot, so that the machine can sew the correct size buttonhole to fit.

Automatic thread tension

Some sewing machines automatically calculate the correct thread tension for your fabric, although most offer a replacement option so you can adjust it manually.

Adjusting the feed dogs

The feed dogs are the zigzag shaped teeth that guide your fabric through the machine as you sew. All machines should allow you to lower the feed dogs below the sewing surface for freestyle embroidery or darning.

Free arm

This cylindrical arm on a sewing machine allows you to sew sleeves and pant legs. It is usually concealed in the body of the machine, so you must first remove part of the frame from the machine so that the arm protrudes.


Choose a sewing machine with responsive, easy-to-use controls. Electronic machines, for example, should respond to varying pressure on the pedal, while dials and touchpads should be easy to read and use. Also, make sure there is enough room to the right of the needle for your fabric and your hands.


Think about how you plan to use and store your sewing machine. If you have to take it out of a closet or other storage place every time you want to sew, look for a machine that is light and easy to lift. If you are sewing home furnishings or upholstery, consider purchasing a more sturdy machine that adapts well to thicker fabrics.

Dual integrated power supply

Useful when sewing two pieces of fabric together, such as for quilting, this ensures that both fabrics move smoothly over the seam plate avoiding puckering.

Needle position

This allows you to move the needle from left to right to change the stitching line, or to move it up or down when you stop sewing. With the needle down, you can lift the presser foot and turn the fabric to sew in a different direction without creating a jump stitch.

Automated needle threader

A hook and spring operation that guides the thread through the eye of the needle. A handy feature that helps prevent eye strain and lets you sew faster than a mechanical needle threader.

Lockstitch ease

This ensures that all stitches are securely locked at the end of the sewing sequence using a reverse stitch.

presser foot

Your sewing machine may be supplied with several presser feet, which hold the fabric against the feed dogs. You can purchase additional feet for your machine, but look for a general purpose foot, zipper foot, and buttonhole foot as a minimum. The ability to adjust the pressure of the foot is also useful for sewing different thicknesses and weights of fabric.

Top loading spools

With older machines, the bobbin has to fit into a built-in compartment, which can be a bit tricky. With some modern machines, you can drop the bobbin on top of the machine, saving you time, and its transparent cover lets you see when the thread is running low.

Point selector

On basic models, you change the stitch type by turning a handwheel on the side of the machine. Computerized machines have touch pads and LCD screens that allow you to choose from hundreds of stitch types.

Which sewing machine is right for you?

How often will you use a sewing machine

There’s no point in buying an expensive sewing machine with a lot of features if you plan to use it for an occasional sewing project or repair job. If so, go for a basic, lightweight electronic sewing machine that can be easily stowed away when not in use.

On the other hand, if you are an avid hobbyist or a seamstress who regularly uses a sewing machine, then a model with many stitch functions, accessories and time-saving add-ons such as buttonholes in one. step and seam cleaning is a good choice.

What are you going to use the sewing machine for?

In addition to the frequency of use, you should consider how you plan to use your sewing machine, as different models are suitable for different tasks.

Simple tasks and repairs

If you are a beginner or only sew occasionally, a basic electronic sewing machine for around £ 100-200 will suffice. Choose a pattern with a range of stitches – including a straight stitch of varying lengths, a choice of zigzag stitches, and an automatic buttonhole – as well as a selection of foot attachments.


If you like to make clothes, go for a mid-priced sewing machine with a wide range of features. These should include a free arm for sewing sleeves and pockets, and a decent range of machine feet such as a concealed zipper foot, a blind hem foot, and a piping foot. If you can afford it, consider a pattern that has an overlock stitch, to clean the seams.

Embroidery and crafts

If the budget allows, go for a computerized sewing machine that offers a wide range of pre-programmed stitches and patterns so you can create multi-colored hoop embroidery designs.

Singer sewing machines: a comparison

When it comes to sewing machines, Singer is one of the best known and beloved brands, along with Brother, Janome and Minerva. It’s important to shop around and read reviews to find a make and model that is right for you and at a price that is right for you. YouTube can be a great resource to see these machines and others in action.

These three Singer sewing machines are good examples of machines for a beginner, intermediate and experienced tailor or craftsman. The features vary greatly among themselves, as does the price.

Singer 1507: inexpensive, portable and great for beginners

If you are looking for a compact machine that is simple and easy to use, the Singer 1507 does the trick. Users find it easy to use, with hassle-free feeding, simple donning and smooth sewing. Ideal for beginners, it has easy-to-follow instructions and is light enough to be easily transported from room to room. It even comes with a handle for easy transport. It features a 4-step buttonhole adjustment for professional-looking results and a 4-segment feed dog to ensure fabric is picked up and fed accurately, and has seven built-in stitches. A removable arm allows you to tackle the sewing of cuffs, collars and sleeves as well.

Singer Talent 3321: perfect for those looking to improve their skills

The Singer Talent 3321 is an ideal beginner’s sewing machine for those looking to develop their sewing skills. With 21 different built-in stitch patterns, it allows a wide variety of finishes for fabrics and garments. Ten different stretch stitch patterns let you work with confidence on more difficult fabrics such as Lycra. Button attachment is simple with a 4-step system and a simple insert bobbin system makes set-up and thread changes easy. Users love that it is well made, simple to use, and can sew thicker fabrics.

Singer Confidence 7640: for the advanced tailor

With 200 built-in stitch patterns (including letters and numbers) and a convenient push-button stitch selector, the Singer Confidence 7640 sewing machine is both versatile and highly precise. Aimed at skilled dressmakers who want a range of easy-to-use options, the Confidence 7640 delivers excellent results on a range of materials – from denim to knits. An intelligent Drop & Sew bobbin system simplifies thread changes and setup, and delivers up to 750 stitches per minute. To reinforce the seams, a push of the button will switch to reverse. Users love the quality and detail, including a useful LED dot light for fine sewing jobs.


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