Sewing 911 - How the Heck to Buy & Choose a Sewing Machine

the time has come ladies.  most of you know my current sewing machine is the devil reincarnate & i've been saving for a loooong time to buy myself a new one. 

the whole process has scared the wits out of me so i've done a fair amount of research on the topic & thought it would be pretty silly of me to keep it to myself.  so i'm going to share a bit of info to help the rest of you who may be looking to get a machine on how to take the what what's out of machine shopping & maybe we can all figure out together how the heck to buy & choose a sewing machine.

now i'm not an expert by any means so this will be more of a give and take kind of post.  i'll share what i've learned and you can share what you've learned in the comments too!  i've asked this question to you guys a fair bit on here and on our facebook page and have picked up some handy tips along the way so i thought i would list them all on here for an easy resource.

1. make your wish list.  i made a list of all the bells and whistles that i would love to have with my new sewing machine.  then make a list of your must haves.  the things that you won't buy the machine without.  you've now got a great place to start to help narrow down all the thousands of sewing machines out there.  in our house we are die hard spreadsheet people.  it helped me to make a list and then compare which models i liked and if they had all the features that i "must have" and even some that were just on my wish list.

2. what's your sewing style?  think carefully about what type of sewing you do and how much sewing you are doing on a regular basis.  if you're not embroidering steer clear of paying lots of extra cash for a machine with tons of embroidery features cause you just won't need em'.  if you're only sewing an hour or so here and there for fun and can't forsee it increasing that much a very basic machine should work just fine for you but if you're like me and sewing a few hours (if possible) each day you need a workhorse that isn't going to let you down.  make sure you look into the future a bit don't need a fortune teller for really think about your goals and aspirations for sewing.  don't buy a very basic machine if you are going to end up quilting or selling items in a year or so or you'll be back machine shopping before you know it.

3. do your research.  other sewers are your best resource.  ask as many of them as you know which brand/model they love and why.  read online recommendations, check reviews (a lot!), read sewing blogs to see which machine they are using and their readers, check the forums - there is always a fair number of people looking to buy a machine and they are always asking for help so there is a lot of great info in the replies to their posts in the thread, if you're on twitter tweet to see who loves the machine they are using.  make sure to use the valuable resources available online for you to access and to get tons of info even if you don't know a soul who sews.

4. budget.  make sure you know the price range you are looking in and stick to it.  don't get swayed by looking at all those lovely, wonderful machines that are $1000 more than you can afford.  it will just depress me :P  unless you plan on financing (some shops offer this) or going into debt it's better to find a brand that you feel comfortable with and are interested in and then find a model by that brand that fits your budget.

5. visit the shops.  check out your local sewing machine stores/fabric shops and see which brands/models they carry and the price ranges they offer as well.  i highly recommend looking for a shop that is the dealer of that brand and also does maintenance and repair.  you will get way more service for your dollar and these shops more often than not come highly recommended for making machine purchases.  most also offer free classes on learning how to use your machine properly as well when purchasing one of their machines. this a "must have" perk on my list.  when i buy my machine this month i will be buying from a local dealer that knows my machine.

6. try out the floor models.  when you are in the shops try out the floor models.  ask questions and take advantage of the knowledgeable staff.  most staff in a good shop will be able to help direct you to a machine that will work the best for you and offer lots of great tips and knowledge.  don't be shy or embarrassed to ask what you are looking for and your sewing level and also don't be swayed or upsold to a machine you don't need.  be confident and be a smart consumer.  i know from first hand experience, even fabric shopping, i have run into more "snooty salespeople" than i care to have met, but i've slowly started to learn how to hold my own and feel more confident in my shopping abilities. it also doesn't hurt that, if i so chose to, i could go home and blog about their poor customer service :P  it gives me that little bit of oomph in my step when i walk into a shop now.  i've never done it but i do tell friends when they are looking for somewhere to shop which places to avoid "the snoots" and rude customer service.

7.  old is new again.  if you haven't been able to find a model to fit your needs or price range consider purchasing a refurbished or second hand machine.  craigslist and other secondhand sites are great for machine shopping as are your local sewing shops.  you can also check places like ebay and amazon for machines too.  make sure though if you are buying secondhand from a person's home that you do it safely and i always recommend not going alone.  you can never be too safe :)

 your other option if you currently own a machine that you are not happy with, is to trade in for money towards your purchase as well. a fair amount of shops offer this as a way to keep their secondhand machine stock up.  it also never hurts to ask about upcoming sales/promotions and financing options.  you could also raid your mother or grandmothers storage.  most have a sewing machine kicking around and i bet you could borrow or take one to practice and learn on if that's all you're looking for at the moment.  a lot of people swear by vintage sewing machines and love them.  i consider mine vintage as i got it in the year 2000...j/k.  can you believe it's still going?  eek!  no wonder the silly thing is moody and cranky beyond belief all the time.

8. go right to the source.  i also recommend going right to the website of the brands you are interested in.  most have great facebook pages announcing sales/discounts/giveaways as well as very informative websites filled with checklists, stats, compare sheets and their list of reputable dealers online and in brick/mortar shops.  i've learned a lot from reading these sites and finding what perks are actually available in a sewing machine.

here are some great links that i have found that you can use for reviews, info and other tips on how to purchase your machine.

- the fab site pattern review has a great section all on machine reviews. this is a great resource and definitely worth checking out!
- sew mama sew had a whole sewing machine month filled with great posts and a giant sewing meme.  click here for the link to a post with all the handy links.
- i did a post asking readers to share and vote on their fave sewing machine models and you can read all their comments here too.
- this blog had lots of great tips.
- burdastyle has a post on buying a vintage sewing machine.
- i enjoyed reading how to two of my fave bloggers chose their machines of choice:
  anna from noodlhead & katie of no big dill

reader faves:

- crafster forum

now, let's hear from you guys!  what's your favorite place to go to help you shop for a sewing machine?  do you have tips to share?  we want to know!  please leave a comment and share the wisdom. this post is meant to be a catchall for great info on purchasing a new addition to your arsenal of crafty machines of choice & your comments are an invaluable part of it :)  i will add in any links or posts that aren't already shown that you guys recommend.  happy machine shopping!!