What are the best cheap SEWING MACHINES for beginners & How to find them?

YOUR GUIDE TO FINDING THE PERFECT ENTRY LEVEL  SEWING MACHINE FOR YOU!

WITH A FREE PRINTABLE CHECKLIST 

Shopping for sewing machines are one of my least favourite things to do, don't get me wrong I love shopping and buying a new sewing machine, but finding the right one to buy can be time-consuming, draining and overwhelming. 

Now that most of the world is spending time at home while in Quarantine, more people than ever are learning to sew & trying to find an affordable sewing machine either online or at their local craft/sewing store. 

When buying your first sewing machine most people do not want to spend a lot of money, I know I didn't. Thoughts are in your head like 'What if I don't like sewing?
'What if I can't figure out how to use the machine?
"I can't spend all my savings on a sewing machine, I might be crap at sewing?" etc

I am here to guide you through all those fears and give you the best steps for you to buy your first machine and what to look for that will get the job done.

Where to find an affordable quality sewing machine

Finding and buying a cheap sewing machine is hard at the moment, Covid 19 has supplies low everywhere, but stores are stocking up as fast as suppliers allow, so check your chosen retailer often and once you have done some research, buy fast so you do not miss out.

The two main places to buy are

  • Local retailers
  • Online retailers

LOCAL RETAILERS
Find your local retailers who sell quality sewing machines. My local Craft Department stores (Spotlight & Lincraft in Australia) offer lots of beginner sewing machines in brands that are well known, have warranties and have popular sewing machines that have lots of tutorials online to help you learn how to use. My local Department store Big W also sells Brand name sewing machines for beginners, so also look at non-sewing retailers for machines. Most main towns have smaller independent sewing stores who sell machines where you can also look.

Look at their machines on SALE, either online or their current catalogue, most have sales every few months and make sure you sign up to be a VIP member, you can receive huge discounts this way.

The advantage of buying locally is there is no postage cost and you can pick up and start learning to sew straight away. No one likes waiting! You can also test the machine in smaller retailers.

The disadvantage of buying locally is you may be paying a little more than online.

ONLINE RETAILERS
There are so many online stores who sell sewing machines which can be overwhelming, my number one tip is to visit these sites and look at their postage cost BEFORE you even look at their products. There is no point in finding your dream machine for $99 and the postage is $200! If there is not a postage page to view, put any machine in your cart and calculate the postage. 

Next step is to see if they ship heavy items to you, you can do this the same way as checking the postage. I learnt the hard way when I had finally found my dream machine on Amazon and they would not ship to Australia. If this happens, put your Machines model in Google search and find another retailer. I ended up buying from an overseas retailer on Ebay.

The top websites to buy online are
  • Local online sewing retailers, you can find these by doing a google search
  • Amazon
  • Ebay
  • Discount retailers in your country (like Catch in Australia)
When searching for machines on each site, change your search results to Lowest to Highest price first. This way you can quickly see the lowest price sewing machines first. 

Once you have found a site that posts to you, has FREE or affordable shipping costs, you can then start searching through the machines.

If you are lucky enough in your country to buy directly from a dealer, then also look into that option.

How to select a sewing machine

Shortlist
When you have found the stores you can buy from, look at the 10 lowest price sewing machines that are available to buy. Have a read of what the machines offer and write down the model numbers of at least 3 Sewing Machines you are interested in, you can write these on your Easy FREE comparison list I have made for you (available within this post to print) 

When deciding on your shortlist, look at
  • Is it in your Price range?
  • Will it serve your needs on what you will be sewing?
  • What are the stitches available? (read full details below)
  • Is it Portable? You may need to move it often
  • What Sewing feet are available with the machine? 
  • Is the power cord compatible in your country, only if buying from Overseas
  • How high does the sewing foot rise (read below)
  • Does it have a sewing light?
  • Does it have an automatic thread cutter?
  • Will it sew most fabrics?
  • Does it come with a warranty?
  • Does the machine have an adjustable arm? (read below)
  • Is it Heavy Duty? (read below)
  • Is it a trustworthy brand?
  • Is there an automatic threader? (read below)
  • Is the bobbin top-loading and has a clear lid to see when the thread is low?
  • Does the machine have adjustable Tension?
  • Do you want Computerized or Mechanical (read below)
Right-click to save or print the compare list above 

You will not need everything on that list, but it's a great way to figure out what you want with your new sewing machine. 
Most basic machines will be Mechanical and not heavy duty. You do not need a computerized machine for beginners sewing and only need a heavy-duty machine or a high sewing foot if you are working with very thick layers of fabric like denim.

You will need an adjustable arm if you are sewing clothing with armholes etc  For example, If you are only sewing homewares like Pillows, this feature may not interest you.

Most Sewing Machines will have an adjustable Tension feature, but always check the machine does as I have noticed a few lower price machines do not have this. You will need this for different fabrics and threads for smooth sewing. Delicate fabrics like taffeta or tulle to basic fabrics like cotton will pucker if the tension is incorrect or skip stitches.


What do you need on a basic sewing machine?

Stitches you will use and need
When looking at machines you need to look at what stitches are available and decide what stitches you need. Some beginners may only need a few different types of stitches, so 80 stitch designs & choices are not needed

  • Straight Stitch 
  • Zig Zag Stitch
  • Back Stitch
  • Buttonhole Stitch

Those are the basic stitches most sewers will need or want. Okay no one at first wants a buttonhole stitch, but I put it there anyway 😂 Buttonholes can be scary..

STRAIGHT & ZIGZAG STITCH
These stitches are the 2 essential stitches that will construct almost any basic sewing project. When looking at what stitches are available on the sewing machine, you need to look at the stitch length and width. Machines that you can not adjust these will be a waste of your money. What to look for is a range of small to large stitches that you can change to suit your project.

The Straight stitch is used for 95% of your sewing projects and different fabrics and projects require different length stitches. For example, when sewing corduroy, I would use a small to medium length stitch, but sewing a heavier fabric like denim or leather I would use a larger stitch.

The Zigzag stitch is used for stretchy fabrics, hemming garments and applique application to name a few. Although you may not need this stitch for most projects, it's a stitch you will use.


The Back stitch is used to at the beginning and the end of each line you stitch. This is to prevent the thread from coming undone. Some cheap sewing machines do not offer this function, so if you do not want to spend all your time hand stitching every start & end of your sewn line, then look for this stitch. No one has time to hand backstitch 😊

What other features are great to have for a first-time sewer?


An automatic Needle Threader is one of those features you think you don't need but if your eyes are bad or you hate threading needles, then you want to look for this magical feature 😃 I rarely use my older machines due solely to this, I can not see for crap these days and do not want to spend 10 minutes trying to thread a needle.

Removable Arms are when a section of the sewing machine pulls off to allow smaller sewing projects or pant holes/armholes to slide around the base of the machine for easy sewing.

A High-Pressure Foot allows you to sew multi-layers of fabric at once, thick fabrics like denim, leather or heavy weighted home furnishing fabrics. 

Heavy Duty Machines are also used for the above heavyweight fabrics and if your main sewing projects will be these, I recommend buying a heavy-duty machine, these will cost more but in the long run, you will be happier. I can sew heavy fabrics with my medium priced machines but have trouble with the entry-level models.

How long is the Warranty and can you get it fixed if required. This is important when buying from overseas. When I purchased my Brother LB6800PRW Project Runway Sewing & Embroidery machine, this was my biggest worry but decided to risk it, as I really wanted that machine and could not buy from Australia. I love that machine and have had no issues with it, it is now my go to machine.


Research, Reviews & more Research
Once you have selected your shortlist, go to the Machine Brands website and look and compare all the specs. You will find more details on their website and sometimes a video of the machine. 

Now go to Google search and Amazon, type in the model of the machine and read at least 20 reviews on each. I know that sounds a lot, but before making your decision you want as much information and honest feedback as possible. Reviews have helped me a lot when buying machines. When I was looking for a heavy-duty sewing machine for jeans, reviews were what sealed the deal and also kept me searching. 

Next step is to put the machines style number in youtube and see if there is a lot of videos, the more the better! This means you can easily find tutorials on how to thread the machine, sew different stitches etc. You can also watch an unboxing of the machine to see how the YouTuber explains the features and if they are impressed with it. Brand new machines will not have many videos but a lot will pop up quickly if you are patient, otherwise, you can look at a similar previous model as most features will be the same.

With all this information, you can mark your Checklist and select which machine is best for you.

Sleep on your decision and go and buy that new baby!!!!

OTHER COMMON QUESTIONS WHEN 
BUYING A SEWING MACHINE

What Sewing machine Brand to buy?
The most popular Brands for beginners are Brother & Singer, but most brands will have a basic Model, ranging in price from $79 to $299au
  • Brother
  • Singer
  • Toyota
  • Janome
  • Elna
  • Pfaff
Between myself & my sisters, we have used all of those brands and have had no major issues with them.
Do I need an Expensive Sewing Machine?
The simple answer is NO, unless you decide you want to sew every day, have 1000 projects on your to-do list and want fancy features. My advice is if you have a little bit more money, just go up one model. That way when you become more advance you can grow with the machine and have extra features available.

Are cheap sewing machines any good?
Entry-level machines are great to get you started and most will be suitable for almost all your projects. There is Toy type "buy from tv" mini sewing machines that I would not recommend, other than maybe fix your hem on pants, they will not do much else and cause you stress and giving up on learning to sew.

Do I need a sewing machine to sew?
Technically no, you can sew most things by hand, but to get a clean finish with nice edges, a machine is what you need. They will save you time, give you new skills and make you HAPPY, well happy when everything is sewing smooth and the tension is perfect  😂

What is the difference between a Sewing Machine, an Embroidery Machine, a Quilting Machine and a Serger/Overlocker?
Each has their own purpose, I will not go into great detail here, but basically, this is what you need each for
  • Sewing Machine - All common sewing projects, with standard fabrics, although stretch can be sewn it is with trial and error with different machines.
  • Overlocker - Used for stretch fabrics like lycra and while sewing can cut off the edge and give you an over hemstitched look.
  • Quilting Machine - Used to make quilts, detailed fabric artwork and have a larger sewing base. Normally in the higher price bracket.
  • Embroidery Machine - Used to stitch pictures, words and fancy patterns on to fabrics. Normally you can not do basic straight sewing with these unless they are a 2 in 1 machine.
When you finally purchase your machine, check out our beginner sewing projects that have free patterns and instructions 
How to sew a Scrunchie
How to sew a Tote Bag

If you have any questions or want to share your own advice when buying an entry-level machine, please share in the comments below, I'd love t hear from you.

GOODLUCK with purchasing your new machine, you can share below or on Instagram @nowthatspeachy

Stay safe & Stay sewing!


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