Buying your first sewing machine

Tips and thoughts

Buying your first sewing machine can be a daunting task. There are so many different brands available, each with a whole range of different machines.

So here’s a few tips and thoughts when you’re considering buying a sewing machine:

  1. Borrow a machine first. A sewing machine is often a lot like a bicycle, everything in your being wants and needs it, yet after a month it collects dust and you forget all about it. So borrow one from your mom or someone you know and try it out and see if it’s something you’ll pursue.
  2. Ask around. If you’re unsure what machine to purchase, ask people you know about their machines. What they like about, what they don’t, what they recommend and why or why not.
  3. Set your budget: I have the Elna Express 340 that is quite a hefty investment at round about ZAR 6500.00. Cheaper machines are available for as little as ZAR 1600. And the price can go up to ZAR 30 000. So set your budget and try to stick to it.
  4. Insurance. If you decide to invest in a proper machine ,get insurance to protect yourself if it gets stolen or damaged.
  5. Cheap isn’t always the way to go. You might be considering buying the cheapest machine you can buy because you’re unsure if it’s a hobby you’ll pursue, but this can be a big mistake. Cheap machines are unbelievably limited in their capabilities, and when something breaks (it probably will), it might be difficult to find the necessary parts for it to be fixed.
  6. Stick to famous brands. Brands such as Elna, Brother, Singer and Pfaff are examples of well-known brands. If your machine breaks, you are likely to find a supplier and parts easier if it’s a well known brand.
  7. Visit the provider often. Apart from reading your manual, get well acquainted with the provider that services your machine so you can ask them any questions or they can show you how certain features work.

An Elna Express 340 machine

Machine features:

When looking at different machines, you need to make sure that your machine, preferably, has the following features:

  • More than three needle positions. My machine only has two needle positions, which limits me to stitch really thin seams¬†for example. These option makes it easier to sew buttons, giving better results and makes sewing a lot easier.
  • Free arm: This refers to a piece of the bottom part being removed so you can sew on small space, like a pants hem or cuffs of a short for example. Without this you will be limited to only sewing on large pieces of clothing.
  • Presser feet. You want a standard presser foot for zig zag and straight, a zipper foot for sewing on regular zippers and a buttonhole foot is all you need to start sewing, however a blind zipper foot would be a nice bonus! You can always pick up special feet along the way, once you specialize in certain fabrics or finishings.

My sewing machine

Once you have mastered your sewing machine, your next step will be to buy an Overlocker. A lot of people get along fine without an overlocker, but this becomes rather necessary, especially if you make clothes. Again the same things mentioned above will apply.


I have the Elna 664 pro Overlocker, which is the sister of the Elna Express 340 sewing machine I have. This too, is a hefty investment of about ZAR 8000.00 but I strongly recommend buying a good quality overlocker. Their prices range from around ZAR 2000.00 to round about ZAR 30 000.00 as well. Quality is even more important with an overlocker than with a sewing machine, as it has a significant number more parts than a sewing machine, and more complicated functions.


A Singer machine

If you have any other questions on buying your first sewing machine, feel free to ask me in the comments section below!

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