How to buy a Sewing Machine

A handy checklist from Bernina

When buying a sewing machine you want to look for a model that offers you advantages in four key areas:

Versatility, ease of operation, special features and long term satisfaction.


- Will the machine sew at least six layers of fabric?
- Can the machine sew over two layers of flat-fell seams on jeans?
- Can the machine overcast an edge without tangles?
- Will the machine feed fabric straight without pushing, pulling or steering?
- Can the machine sew on all fabrics with proper tension so that stitching is the same on both sides?
- Will the machine sew an invisible blind hem fast and accurately?

Ease of operation

- Are the machine's buttons or dials easy to read and understand?
- On computer machines, can you manually choose alternative settings to override pre-programming on all stitches?
- On computer machines are your length and width completely variable for all stitches?
- Does the tension balance automatically on all fabrics, from chiffon to leather, with no adjustments?
- Is the bobbin winder easy to use?
- Does the bobbin winder fill evenly and stop automatically when full?
- Is the foot control comfortable and easy to control at any speed?
- Can you easily change the presser foot?
- Can you raise and lower the presser foot with the knee to keep both hands free for guiding fabric?
- Can all sewing jobs be done without changing the needle plate?
- Can you open the feed dog area easily to clean it?
- Is the thread cutter conveniently located and will it hold the threads until you are ready to continue sewing?

Special Features

- Does the machine stop sewing with the needle up out of the fabric and the stitch completed each time?
- Can you choose to stop with the needle down if you prefer?
- Does the light illuminate the needle area without shadows?
- Are all stitches built in or do you have to change cams for each stitch?
- Does the machine have built-in topstitching and basting up to one inch long?
- On computer machines, will buttonholes repeat exactly in length and density automatically, even over varying thickness?
- Do you get a perfect buttonhole-a smooth satin stitch with no fabric showing between stitches?
- Is the buttonhole neat when cut open?
- For automatic buttonholes, does the machine sew in one place and automatically tie off to prevent unraveling?

Long term satisfaction

- Does the manufacturer make parts and services available throughout Canada (in case you move)?
- Does the manufacturer offer a warranty on all mechanical parts? Electrical parts? Electronics?
- Is factory authorized full service available on the premises?
- Can the dealer give detailed information on what the buyer's information course will include? Are lessons "hands on" ?


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