Jenny’s guide to buying a sewing machine!

This is a long one so pull up a pew! I’ve split it into categories so you can jump to the relevant bit and they are:

Sewing Machines for Beginners

You’ve either just started sewing or are just thinking about it wahey!! Welcome to the club. I bet you’ve had a look at sewing machines and have no idea where to start and I don’t blame you. To put myself in your shoes I looked at lawnmowers and they all looked the same and all promised to cut the grass but I know some of them will be too heavy, some of them will not be suitable for how often I want to use it, some of them will be too advanced for me. It’s the same for sewing machines so let’s get stuck in shall we?

First piece of advice is, you get what you pay for. I hear you saying OF COURSE I’d say that I’m a sewing machines retailer but seriously there is a reason so many people think they’re not good at sewing and the answer is CRAP MACHINES. Sewing machines are complex little things, there’s a lot going on underneath that shiny shell but once you can thread them you can sew on any machine right? Wrong. I have had machines brought to me that are straight out the box and do not work. Had that customer not brought it to me they would have assumed it was THEIR fault and they weren’t skilled enough. This drives me mad! As a sewing tutor first and foremost I want everyone to go home and confidently sew on their machine knowing that you can thread it correctly and it will work not you can thread it correctly and it still doesn’t work. Not wanting to point fingers but supermarkets are particularly bad for selling cheap rotten sewing machines, often with brand names you recognise! They know you’ll go home and either try and thread it, fail, blame yourself and put it in the cupboard for 2 years and 1 day or you’ll immediately put it in the cupboard for 2 years a 1 day. Goodbye warranty! Also no one in the supermarket can help you thread that bad boy, just saying! ANYWAY look at me going away off on a rant.

Let’s get back on track…spending a wee bit more basically means stronger parts (metal not plastic), better functionality (read: easier to use!), quieter, less shoogly (that means shakey in Scottish) and an all rounder nicer experience.

If you are a beginner who doesn’t yet know what direction you want to go in, so you quite like the look of dressmaking, AND home furnishings, and hey Quilting looks good too then you want what I call an “all rounder”. This is a machine that will service you well whatever you fancy doing.

My two favourite beginners all rounder machines are the Elna eXplore 340 (top right) and the Janome DKS30 (bottom right). Both beautiful machines, one slight higher price point with some extra features.

Elna eXplore 340 Sewing Machine
Janome DKS30 SE Sewing Machine

The Elna eXplore 340 is a machine favoured by sewing schools (such as Sew Confident) because it is the perfect balance between affordability and decent features. One of thee most important features in a sewing machine is the strength of the motor. A lot of people think they can buy any sewing machine, stick a denim needle on it and start sewing through layers of heavy fabric but the truth is if that machine doesn’t have the power behind the needle to push it through those layers of fabric then it just isn’t happening. The Elna eXplore 340 however does have a strong motor that can handle all your denim hemming, curtain making and even lightweight leather sewing needs. The Elna 340 is a mechanical machine so it has dials but it also has arrows and number all over it making it pretty easy to use. The ONLY thing that lets the side down slightly is the buttonhole function, which isn’t the easiest to use. This machine is so popular it often goes out of stock, if that’s the case the Elna 320 is a close second option!

The Janome DKS30 picks up the buttonhole slack where the Elna 340 left it. So if you are a beginner who loves dressmaking and shirt dresses then opt for this machine. The Janome DKS30 is digital, a little bit smoother than the Elna 340 with some very very nice features such as Start/Stop button, auto thread cutter, speed adjustment on the front…it also looks a bit nicer Than the Elna 340 I think so if you’re going to have this sitting out in your livingroom, it looks pretty!

Sewing Machines for Upgraders

You’re an upgrader? Perhaps you were given a machine that you have now outgrown, or you bought an inexpensive machine to start with and now realise you need and want more features. Well this section is for you! If you are a dedicated dressmaker/quilter/home furnishers then check out the specific section just for you. This section is for those looking for an all rounder machine.

Upgrading can be based on budget so here are my top 3 machines upgrade options to suit all budgets!

elna 520s sewing machine

Under £400

My top pick coming in at under £400 is the Elna eXperience 520. A gorgeous digital machine thats easy to use, smooth, speedy and with plenty of stitches and features to keep you happily sewing for years to come! The buttonhole is a particular dream on the Elna 520 with 6 one step buttonholes to choose from.

£400-£800

For a mid range upgrade I would have to suggest the Janome M200QDC apart from anything else it’s my own machine and I love it! It has a tonne of stitches including an alphabet (200 to be precise) and comes with some very nice accessories as standard such as an extension table and a walking foot. The Janome M200QDC also comes with an adorable pincushion that sits on top of the machines. I would be lying if I said that this alone didn’t sway my purchase decision somewhat… but the M200QDC has no disappointed. It’s a true dream to sew with and comes in at only £639!

Janome m200QDC sewing machine
Janome MC 8200 sewing machine

£800+

If you’ve got a bit more money to spend go for the Janome Memory Craft 8200. This machine is fast, strong, and full of features that will make your sewing life easy breezy! With 11’ of amp space, monogramming, knee lifter and 1000 stitches per second there isn’t a sew-er on this planet who would be disappointed with the Memory Crafty 8200. Coming in at £1699 the price is actually amazing for a machine that’s almost as close tp an industrial machine as you could want!

Overlockers for Beginners

You might not be new to sewing if you’re buying your first overlocker, but they are a totally different kettle of fish so how do you know what to buy? Let me demystify these for you!

The Elna 664 overlocker is a machine that is close to my heart. It’s an entry level machine that has a lot to offer in terms of user friendly-ness and performance. The Elna 664 has a big sister the Elna 664 PRO overlocker that you might be interested in if you have a slightly bigger budget. It comes with a waste tray to catch all your bits of fabric and is a smoother, quieter machine. A real beauty! One thing that I really love about these two machines is as far as overlockers go they are easy to thread. There is one particular part of the overlocker(the lower looper thread) that is feared by many and in both of these machines there is a super easy switch that takes all the trouble out of it.

elna 664 pro sewing machine
Janome 9300DX Overlocker

Under £300

Overlockers are more complex machines so the starting price for decent entry level models is high. Please don’t buy your overlocker from the super market for £100 unless you enjoy throwing machinery out the window, in which case go for it!

First up is of course the aforementioned Elna 664! We use this machine in classes and they are fabulous and great for beginners. Another machine worth a mention here is the Janome 9300DX. Rumour has is it’s almost the same machine in  different jacket

Janome 6234XL Overlocker

Under £500

With a greater budget comes nicer features and to be honest a less noisy machine. Overlockers can be “travellers” in that with fast use the shake about so much they move about your table – well the more you can spend on it the less shaking about that machine is going to be doing!

Up first is my personal overlocker so obviously I love it! The Janome 6234XL is strong and smooth and has some very nice features such as easy switch to rolled hem, 2, 3 and 4 thread overlocking, waste tray included and comes in at just £449!

Another contender if you’re budget falls within this price bracket is of course the Elna 664 Pro. It’s the Elna equivalent of the 6234XL – just in a different jacket!

 

Overlockers for Upgraders

So now we’re really talking overlockers…You’re already a fan, you perhaps had an entry level one, you LOVE sewing with overlockers and it’s time to get fancy. Well look no further…

Janome-air-thread-overlocker

This will come as no surprise but I am pushing you towards the Janome Air Thread 2000D. IT.THREADS.ITS.SELF. Need I say anymore? Incase you answered yes to that I’m going to continue. 1300 stitches per minute, 2, 3 and 4 thread overlocking, built in needle threader, upper and lower looper air threading system, so many beautiful features and it overlocks fabric like a warm knife through butter. The Janome Air Thread 2000D Overlocker comes in at £899 and it will make your all your jersey sewing dreams come true!

If the Air Thread 2000D doesn’t do it for you don’t worry, I have something a bit different for you. Let me introduce the Janome 1200D Overlocker AND Coverstitch machine all rolled(hem LOL) into one! This is a very special machine brilliant for anyone who wants an overlocker but doesn’t like switching onto a normal machine to hem things. Also amazing for budding lingerie enthusiasts, as a lot of underwear item are sewn using cover stitch machines for elastic etc. See also: SWIMWEAR! The Janome 1200D comes in at only £999 which is an absolute bargain for both overlocking AND coverstitch functionality. DO IT!

Janome-1200D-Overlocker
Treat Yourself Dream Machines

So you have been saving up, or got a nice bonus or for whatever reason have decided you deserve a beauty of sewing machine, well I agree! If you do a lot of sewing, perhaps are considering turning your hobby into a business or just want something that will make you’re sewing friends want to visit for a ‘shot of the machine’ we’ve got something for you!

Janome Atelier 3 sewing machine

Under £1000

Lets start off with the Janome Ateiler 3, at the bottom end of our luxury machine bracket coming in at £799. It’s a real delight with monogramming feature, alphabet, super bright led lights, 120 stitches, and superior feed 7 piece dog system. It really is a beauty!

Over £1000

If you’ve got a bigger budget I would be looking at this Janome Memory Craft 9450 QCP. Coming in at £2399 it’s a machine for the sew-er who enjoys the finer things in life – and this is one of them! Feature wise it comes with just about everything except a butler to make you a cup of tea. I’m talkin, electronic knee lifter, several alphabets, full colour touch screen, 350 stitches, USB port, easy change needle plate, 9 LED lights – I’m getting exhausted listing them all! This truly is a DREAM MACHINE!

Janome MC 9450 sewing machine
Sewing Machines for Dressmakers

Different types of sew-er like different types of features so here are my picks of dressmakers depending on your budget!

elna 520s sewing machine

Under £400

If you’re looking for a machine thats got lovely dressmaker approved features and you need it to be under £400 I would be looking at the Elna 520S. I used to have this machine before I upgraded for no apparent reason to the Janome 200QDC(think it was the alphabet that swayed me!). The Elna 520S has loads of nice features, it’s smooth, easy to use, digital and has an automatic buttonhole straight from heaven!

Janome m200QDC sewing machine

Under £700

It will come as no surprise that I am recommending this machine as it’s the one I use and I primarily dressmake! The features on this machine are really top notch. There are so many time saving features, and features that make this machine feel like a real luxury comapred to cheaper models. I am talking about the alphabet, the thread cutter button, the extension table as standard, the plethora of stitches… it’s a dream! It also has a very nice buttonhole function with 11 to chose from no less! If you are a dressmaker, there is nothing the Janome M200QDC machine can’t do for you!

Sewing Machines for Quilters
Janome M100QDC Sewing Machine

Under £600

Coming in under the £600 mark is the Janome M100QDC. I’m picking this for quilters because it comes with some nifty pieces of kit that quilters love such as the extension table, the walking foot(an expensive one to buy!), the 1/4″ foot and the stitch in the ditch foot to name a few! These are all included as standard! What else does it offer you? 100 stitches, thread cutter button, needle up down button, stitch memory functions, 7 piece superior feed dog system.. I’m exhausted listing them! A really lovely machine for quilters who want all the favourite accessories included!

Under £1700

The Janome Memory Craft 8200 may as well have come from heaven itself! Don’t be alarmed when your friends come round and cry at the sight of this beautiful piece of kit. We are talking long arm for your quilting projects, alpha bet and mongramming feature for personalisation, 9mm stitch width, knee lifter, thread cutter, start/stop button and with 1000 stitches per minute it might even be faster than your car!* This beauty is the ultimate quilters companion!

*That was a joke, I don’t know what you drive!

Janome MC 8200 sewing machine
Sewing Machines for Home Furnishers

Under £300

Home furnishers use heavy fabric A LOT and layers and layers of the stuff at that so you need something with a good strong motor – a little work horse! In this price bracket the Janome 423S stand outs from the crowd. This guy is sturdy with a strong motor and robust metal body, it’s raring to go with those layers of canvas! In addition to it’s braun it’s also got brain with it’s 2 stitches, easy to use interface and impressive 800 stitches per minute speed! You’re house decor will be revitalised in no time with the Janome 423S!

Janome 423s sewing machine
Janome HD9 sewing machine

Under £1000

Coming in at under £1000 the Janome HD-9 machine is as close to an industrial you’ll get in this price bracket. It packs a serious punch and will effortless go through layer and layers of fabric, believe me! It has an aluminium die-cast body and boasts and incredible 1600 stitches per minute. You’ll have your entire house soft furnishings  freshened up every month at the rate this beauty goes at. The HD-9 is your best friend if you need power and reliability.

Sewing Machines for Bag Makers

Under £300

Anyone who knows me know I am not a bag maker! I have made bags in the past but it’s just not my passion but I have friends in high places in the form of bag making heroes Becky Alexander-Frost and Lisa Lam! I asked them for their pro tips and this is what they said!

For entry level machines you’re looking for a strong motor, adjustable foot pressure and the ability to lift the presser foot high to get chunky layers underneath. Bearing this in mind I reckon the Elna 340 is ticking all those boxes for you AND I have actually sewn leather and PU on this(Just get yourself a teflon foot to make your life easier!). The price point on this machine for what you get is incredible, you’re unlikely to get more bag making bang for your buck than the Elna eXplore 340!

Elna eXplore 340 Sewing Machine
Janome MC 6700P sewing machine

Under £1300

For those of you requiring professional grade features be it for hobby sewing or work you will love the Janome 6700P. We’ve got a semi industrial machine on our hands here, it has an aluminium die cast body, 1200 stitches per minute, 200 stitches to choose from, 9mm stitch width, Acufeed system(build in walking foot but better!), 2 alphabets and an LCD screen to name but a few! This is definitely a machine for the esteemed sew-er, and one that will tackle whatever project you through at it! We love you Janome 6700P!

Sewing Machines as a Gift

If you are thinking of gifting a sewing machine, first of all wow can I be your friend and second of all if you know what kind of sewing they do I would suggest checking out the categories above.

The Pretty One

Gift should always be pretty right? With that in mind my number 1 goto gift machine is the Janome DKS30 Special Edition…I mean look at it. This beauty wouldn’t look out of place as an ornament in your livingroom but it most certainly isn’t fashion over function! It has envy inducing features such as a thread cutter, speed control on the front(LOVED by beginners) and the easiest user interface we think we have seen. This is a present that lucky person will be talking about for years to come – your gifting game is strong here!

Janome DKS30 SE Sewing Machine
Janome 6234XL Overlocker

The Secondary One

If you gift recipient already likes sewing and you KNOW they only have one machine then I know they have a normal sewing machine and I know what they want. The OVERLOCKER, specfically the Janome 6234XL! If you are the gift buyer you might not know that much about machines. Let me tell you there isn’t a sewer in the world who wouldn’t enjoy an overlocker. What does it do? If you’re wearing a T shirt right now look inside it, see that fancy neat stitch that still has stretch? That is your overlocker. It makes the sewing machine look like a snail and allows you to sew stretch fabric in the blink of an eye. It also neatens the raw edges of fabric creating the most fabulously professional finish. Buy them the Janome 6234XL, its easy to thread and easy to use!

The One-They-Won’t-Buy-Themselves One

Finally we come to the decadent one that many would never buy themselves but everyone wants! It’s an embroidery machine, the Janome 550e! This dream machine will let you monogram, personalise, and adorn everything you own. If you want to get fancy you can even digitise your very own images(additional software needed!), for the ultimate in bespoke textiles! It’s not cheap but you will find yourself in the gift buyers hall of fame for this one!

Janome 550e sewing machine
Sewing Machines for Kids

Sewing is such a fantastic hobby to encourage young people into. It helps with dexterity, self confidence and it gets them off the computer for hours on end! What machine you buy depends on whether or not this is likely to be a fad or if your child is serious about this hobby. Check out my recommendations below!

The Kid Who Changes Their Mind

Some kids are still finding their crafty feet and you’ll know there is a chance they’ll dip their toe into sewing and then head off in another direction. If this describes your child then the machine I would suggest would be the Janome J3-18. It’s amongst out entry level machines but it’s not THE entry level machine which means it’s actually still pretty good and user friendly. The risk with the cheapest machines is your kid gets frustrated trying to use it, as they can be temperamental. The other positive with the J3-18 is you could easily sell this machine on if you kid goes off the hobby quickly! 

Janome j3-18 sewing machine side
Janome 230dc sewing machine

The Kid Who is in it for the Long Haul

Perhaps you have been being pestered for a long time for a sewing machine so you know they are serious about it, or maybe you are nurturing a your kids desire to forge a career in fashion? Whatever the reason if you think your kid will be sewing for years to come it really makes sense to get a machine that they won’t outgrow in 3 months. You need a strong motor so ti can sew denim, or layers of canvas or upholstery fabric. You need the ability to drop the feed dogs incase they want to try free motion embroidery. And you need user-friendliness, and a jam proof drop in bobbin. You want the Elna eXplore 340 or the Janome 230DC. I’ve given you a mechanical option in the 340 and a digital option in the 230DC. Both of these machines tick the boxes. The 230DC is probably for that special birthday as it’s smother and a bit quieter(good if the sewing is getting done in the livingroom!).

I hope you find this complete guide to buying a sewing machine useful. If you are still not sure and need some help please drop us an email hello@buysewingmachines.co.uk!

5 thoughts on “Jenny’s guide to buying a sewing machine!

  1. Michelle greenland says:

    Hi Jenny I am looking for a new machine bought my last machine from Whitley bay I bought the singer one plus & the customer service it’s very disappointing

  2. Michelle greenland says:

    Hi Jenny I am looking for a new machine bought my last machine from Whitley bay I bought the singer one plus & the customer service it’s very disappointing

  3. Jenny says:

    Hey Michelle! Oh No that’s a shame you had a bad experience. What kind of sewing do you do(dressmaking/quilting/home furnishings/bit of everything)? Do you have any features you would love and do you have a budget and I can find you some options?

    Jenny x

  4. Linda says:

    Good morning Jenny, I am new to sewing not done any since I was at school and I have been given a lovely gift of a Janome M200Qdc I have been looking for someone to help me to get to know my machine, and how I get some nice work from it .ls this something you do or can you please put me in the right direction to find an online class or where to look for something local to me I am not a wiz kid at on line ,so any advice would be appreciated.

    Regards
    Linda

    • Jenny says:

      Hey Linda, an M200QDC is indeed a lovely gift! That’s the machine I myself have, it’s lovely! My speciality is sewing classses so I hope I can help. To get started right away your only option is online classes which we have here https://www.sewconfident.co.uk/online-beginners-class, for in person classes we have studios in Glasgow, Dundee, Birmingham and Chorley are any of them close to you? Jenny x

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