The sewing machine you decide to buy will depend on your needs and level of expertise.
For beginners, there are simple machines with basic functions to choose from. If you’re a more advanced sewing aficionado, you’ll benefit from a greater range of specialised features.
The three main types of sewing machines available on the market today are electronic, computerised and overlockers.
Electronic sewing machines: use a foot pedal to work the needle, and control the sewing speed and feeding mechanism simultaneously, leaving your hands free for guiding the fabric. You can select your stitch length and type using a dial on the control panel.
Simple, yet offering a wide range of functions and stitches, electronic machines are by far the most popular for home sewing. They often have time-saving features, like single-step buttonholing, drop feed and automatic threaders.
Computerised sewing machines: give more versatility for experienced users. They use a number of motors to drive the various functions (compared to the electronic machine’s single motor that drives only the sewing mechanism).
Extra functions make literally hundreds of different stitches available, and some can download online patterns when connected to a PC. Some have a memory function for saving previous projects and recalling them for future use. These models generally have a keypad for selecting stitch types and other functions, and an LCD screen.
Overlockers or 'sergers': are finishing machines for professional looking hems and seams to prevent fraying - great for curtaining and taking up trousers. Some also offer decorative stitching options. Overlockers use loopers for sewing stitches, unlike conventional sewing machines, and have a set of knives that trim as you sew.
Lacking the versatility of a sewing machine, they can’t tackle jobs like buttonholes or zips - for which you will need a standard sewing machine. Great for simple jobs, they can sew a seam, finish the edge and trim the fabric in a single step.