How To Select Sewing Machines & Overlockers

How To Select Sewing Machines & Overlockers

A sewing machine is an investment in your craft, and choosing one can seem overwhelming to beginner sewists. Luckily we've got some tips to help you find the perfect machine for you.

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Choosing A Sewing Machine

Sewing machines, like many other appliances, range from the simple and functional to the deluxe. It's important to consider both your budget, and what you want to use your machine for when you make your choice.

Most sewing machines vary in a few basic ways, and working out what you need from each of these variations will help you make your decision.

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Choosing A Sewing Machine

Stitch Types

The variety of stitches your machine can produce can vary from a few basics to literally hundreds.

  • The vast majority of all hobby sewing and dressmaking will be done with either straight stitch or zig zag, and all machines from beginner to high end will offer these. You do not need to buy an expensive machine to have all the stitch types required for everyday sewing.
  • If you plan to use your machine for garment making, choosing one with a button hole stitch will save you lots of time.
  • If you're looking to do a lot of decorative stitching, consider a machine with a larger stitch library. These tend to be a feature of higher end machines, but they're worth the investment if you like to add those more ornate touches.

Mechanical or Computerised

Sewing machines are available both with and without computerised operating systems, and there are pros and cons to each:





Usually more budget friendly.

Smaller range of stitches.

Straightforward to repair and service.

Fewer advanced features.

Generally more simple to use.



Several advanced features that make sewing easier, such as needle being programmed to stop in the 'up' position.

Usually more expensive.

Often have a speed control so you can set your maximum comfortable sewing speed.

More complex operating system is harder to repair and service.

Generally more versatile due to their larger range of features.


Additional Attachments & Features

All sewing machines come with the basic requirements to begin sewing, including bobbins and feet. However, if you intend to use your machine for specialised crafting projects, it's likely that you will be able to choose one that is designed with features that are suited to that craft. For example:

  • Quilting
    • Hobby machines can be fitted with quarter inch feet and walking feet to make the different stages of quilting easier and more accurate.
    • Specialised quilting machines are available to make this craft even easier - they have a wider base for more accurate piecing, and a longer arm to fit larger pieces as they are pieced and quilted.
  • Embroidery
    • If you like adding embroidered details to your sewing projects, a computerised machine with a large stitch library could be a good choice for you.
    • If machine embroidery is something you plan to do a lot of, you can find specialised embroidery machines that allow you to create intricate designs and stitch them effortlessly.
  • Garment making
    • While a simple sewing machine is enough to get started with garment making, it's worth considering a computerised option that offers stitch options such as, a 1-step buttonhole, stretch stitch, etc. These will allow you to work with a wider range of fabrics, and complete many tasks more quickly.
    • Some specialty feet make garment making easier as well. For example, a walking foot is handy for sewing slippery fabric, and a zipper foot allows you to sew zippers into your garments.
    • If you're planning to to a large amount of garment making or tailoring, consider getting an overlocker.

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Sewing Machine Attachments & Features


Overlockers are an amazing investment for any garment maker. Whether you like to make clothes for your kids, gorgeous outfits for yourself, or you're into making costumes for theatre, dance and cosplay, an overlocker will help you create functional, professionally finished pieces.

When shopping for an overlocker, have a look at the features it offers, and consider what is important to you. Just as with sewing machines, a machine's price will generally increase with the number of special features you find included.

The main variations you should consider are pretty straightforward.

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Sewing Machines & Overlockers

Three or four spool

Some overlockers work with three spools of thread and others use four.

  • Three spool machines:
    • Have a single needle
    • Will finish raw edges
    • Do not create a secure seam in addition to a finished edge.
  • Four spool machines
    • Have two needles
    • Will finish an edge with three threads, while creating a secure seam with the fourth.


Working with multiple spools simultaneously can make threading an overlocker tricky. Some machines are easier to thread than others, so choose one that you think you'll be able to learn to thread without too much difficulty.

Adjustable Differential Feed

While it sounds very technical, this simply refers to how the machines feed dogs operate. If a machine has adjustable differential feed, its two feed dogs are able to work independently of each other, and can be adjusted to achieve different finishes. Various adjustments can produce edges that are wavy, bunched, fluted and more.

Tension Control

The ability to adjust tension is essential to neat and even sewing. Different machines have different mechanisms for adjusting tension, from manual to automatic. Automatic tension control makes sewing easier, but it makes a machine more expensive, so decide which works best for you and your budget before you select a machine.

Remember, the best way to decide if a particular sewing machine or overlocker is right for you is to test it out. Get an idea of how it works, and what it feels like to sew with, so you go home with the perfect one.

Want to look at more Sewing & Quilting options?

Check out Spotlight's range of sewing & fabric ideas online, visit your local store or contact one of our experts for assistance.

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