We recruited an expert and a regular sewer to put the machines through their paces.
Our sewing expert, Rhonda Staudinger, has more than 50 years’ experience in sewing. She teaches sewing classes and runs in-store demonstrations. She has extensive knowledge of major brands but isn’t affiliated with any brand.
Our regular sewer, Christine Shaday, works for the Australian consumer organisation Choice. She’s been an avid sewer and quilter for over 30 years. She assessed the machines from a typical user’s perspective.
To rate sewing performance, our sewers tried a variety of stitches and functions on a range of fabrics. Stitches and functions included straight stitch, zigzag, stretch stitch, back-tacking, blind hemming, buttonholes, appliqué, and decorative stitches. Specific foots for these stitches were used when provided. Where no specific foot was provided, the standard foot was used.
To rate ease of use, they assessed how easy it was to thread the machine, remove and replace the presser foot, use the controls and functions, and understand the labelling. They also looked at how easy the instructions were to follow, whether the machine’s work area was well lit, and how simple it was to change the light bulb.
If you're looking for a basic machine, some features may differ between brands.
Manufacturers often sell several models in the same series: the machines are fundamentally the same but as they move up in price you get additional stitch types, functions and accessories. Many machines also have optional accessories so you can add on as your skills grow.
Whatever your level of sewing, it’s worth trying before you buy. Thread up the machine and sew on a range of fabrics and try different stitches to check their quality. A machine with good tension will produce even stitches and will sew well both forwards and backwards.
Features to look for
If you’re looking for a basic machine, some features may differ between brands.
Bobbin: 5 of the machines we trialled had a top-loading or drop-in bobbin. These bobbins are often "clear-view" (made of clear plastic), which can make it easier to tell how much thread you have left. The rest had the more traditional front-loading bobbin, where you remove the bobbin from the front of the machine.
Presser-foot pressure control: The presser foot holds the 2 pieces of fabric together for sewing. A presser-foot pressure control lets you adjust the foot’s force when you use thicker or thinner fabrics. All machines we trialled except the Brother had this feature.
Automatic needle threader: All the machines in our trial had an automatic needle threader. Some people find using a threader more fiddly than threading the needle by hand. You may need practice to perfect the technique.
Foot control: A good foot control should be a decent size and have an anti-slip base. Some machines can also be operated without the foot control. 3 of our machines had this option.
Noise: The noise level of the machines in our trial ranged from 66 to 80dBA. For comparison, 70dBA is a loud conversation and 80dBA is kerbside heavy traffic.
More Appliances reports
Check out more of our tests, articles, news and surveys in our Appliances section.
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