The following table of information is meant to help compare sewing machine features and help you choose those features that are most important to you as you shop for a sewing machine. Each feature includes a description of its purpose, things to consider about that option, and a rating describing the importance of that option in the decision making process.
Priority #1 means that you can’t add this feature to your sewing machine later AND it may have an impact on sewing machine performance. The description can help you decide from there if the feature is important to you personally.
Priority #2 means that the feature may not be added to the sewing machine later but it also does not have a significant impact on the performance of a sewing machine. These are “nice-to-haves” but not required to get the job done.
Priority #3 items are those that you can add to most sewing machines later and, therefore, may not play a significant role in comparing sewing machines other than to understand the value of those items if they are included with any sewing machine you are considering.
Features are sorted alphabetically but you may click on the column headers to re-sort or use the SEARCH box below to filter the results. If you only want to see Priority #1 items, enter a 1 in the SEARCH box.
|Sewing Machine Feature||Description||Importance||Priority|
|Accessories||Sewing machines come with a number of sewing accessories used to care for your sewing machine or to help finish off your sewing tasks such as a seam ripper or spool caps.||Most of these accessories can be purchased separately. They become important when comparing machines where one has significantly more accessories than the other and may save you from buying those accessories later.||3|
|Adjustable Presser Foot Pressure||Presser feet are pre-set to apply a certain amount of pressure to the fabric underneath. For really thin fabrics or really thick fabrics, this might not be the appropriate amount of pressure. Sewing machines that allow you to adjust the presser foot pressure can move a variety of fabrics more smoothly and create more even stitches on those other fabrics.||This is not something that can be added later. For more experienced sewers, this is often a must-have. Lack of adjustable presser foot pressure option can be made up for with the use of stabilizing material or a better feed dog system but will still not offer quite the same flexibility as adjustable presser foot pressure. ||1|
|Adjustable Thread Tension||Sewing machine upper thread tension is pre-set by the manufacturer but some machines allow you to change that tension with a dial. This is important for creating even stitches on different fabric thicknesses. Every built-in stitch on a sewing machine is prgrammed to utilize a certain amount of thread per stitch. When you are working with really thin fabrics, that amount of thread may be too much and may create loose stitches. When working with thicker fabrics you might find the thread is pulling too tight and the fabric is puckering. Being able to adjust the upper thread tension can improve stitch appearance.||Important feature for those who are going to sew with a variety of fabrics.||1|
|Automatic Needle Threader||An automatic needle threader aids in getting the thread through the eye of the needle. Some models have what's called a "one-handed" threader system which means with one hand you can thread the machine, push the automatic needle lever and have the thread through the eye in no time. Others may still require that you have both hands in use - one to hold the thread and one to operate the automatic threader. Regardless of the level of automation, an automatic needle threader can make sewing machine set up a breeze.||This is a nice feature to have particularly for those with poor eyesight or for those who have weakened finger and hand dexterity.||2|
|Bobbin Cover ||The bobbin cover is a plate, either metal or plastic, that covers the bobbin case. It is located below the needle on the machine's working space. Bobbin covers may be solid or see-through, allowing a peek at the amount of thread left on the bobbin.||A see-through bobbin cover is a plus. It’s not a make or break sort of sewing machine feature, but it is nice to be able to see how much thread is left on the bobbin before you start sewing. If you've left your sewing machine to sit in the middle of a project for several days, it's simply faster to get going again if you don't have to remove the bobbin cover to check the status of the bobbin thread.||2|
|Bobbin Loading Type||Bobbins are the small, cylindrical containers that hold the bottom thread for stitching. There are two types of bobbin loading arrangements- either the bobbin is inserted into an opening under the needle or it is inserted from the front of the sewing machine. The first style is referred to as a top-loading or drop-in bobbin while the second may be called a front-loading bobbin. ||General perception is that top-loading bobbins are easier to work with. More experienced sewers who learned to sew using a front-loading bobbin may have quite an attachment to that original method. Most machines today come with top-loading bobbins and this generally reduces bobbin frustration.||2|
|Bobbin Winding||The bottom thread must be loaded onto the bobbin before you can begin sewing. Some machines feature an auto-clutch or automatic winding system that senses when the bobbin is fully loaded and stops automatically. Others require that you stop the machine yourself as the bobbin becomes full. ||An automatic bobbin winder is nice to have. It takes a tiny bit of pressure off of the sewer in preparing bobbins. However, it is not a necessity.||2|
|Built in Stitches||These are the stitch patterns that are programmed into the sewing machine by the manufacturer. The manufacturer bundles a set of stitches together that they think are an attractive package for a particular group of sewers. Some machines come with more utility stitches that are required for finishing fine, sturdy seams. Some come with more decorative stitches.|
Utility stitches are the construction stitches of sewing. They build the sturdy seams and aren't overly fancy about it. These include straight stitches, zigzag stitches, and blind hem stitches.
Decorative stitches are fancier than utility stitches and are used to create decorative hems or simply to decorate edges of fabric with pretty detail.
Heirloom stitches are decorative stitches that mimic the look of hand-sewn, heirloom projects. They can be used for quilting, baby blankets, baby christening outfits and Victorian style home accents. They may be used to join fabrics or lace or create the look of sewn lace.
Joining stitches are used to piece fabrics together at their edges and can be quite decorative in appearance, even leaving small gaps between the pieces for interesting detail.
Quilting and patchwork stitches can be used to make quilts yet can look like hand-sewn quilting work.
Monogram stitches are sewn letter and character stitches used to monogram cuffs, collars and tags.
Embroidery stitches resemble hand-done embroidery designs and may use multiple colored threads.
|Unless the sewing machine has a USB port or an embroidery card reader, you cannot add built-in stitches to a sewing machine at a later date.|
Therefore, it is important you compare sewing machine stitches when looking at a number of machines.
More built-in stitches is better IF you are going to perform the type of sewing for which those additional stitches are intended.
This means there's no need to buy a sewing machine with tons of decorative stitches if you only intend to do some basic mending and alterations every now and then.
|Computerized||Computerized sewing machines use buttons and LCD screens for operation vs dials and knobs. Some even connect to a desktop or laptop computer in order to receive new stitch patterns and sewing machine updates.||Computerized sewing machines have lots of cool sewing features. They can greatly expand the functionality of the sewing machine itself. Basic computerized sewing machines are very easy to learn and operate. Advanced models can be slightly more complex. These can also cost more to maintain, particularly if the computer components experience a problem.||1|
|Drop Feed Dog Lever||Feed dogs control the movement of the fabric through the sewing machine. If YOU ever want to control the movement then you need the ability to drop the feed dogs so that they make no contact with the fabric. This leaves complete control in the hands of the sewer and is beneficial for darning, free motion embroidery, and free motion quilting as well as for attaching buttons.||Not all sewing machines come with the ability to lower the feed dogs. If they do, you should be able to find mention of a "drop feed dog lever". Whenever a machine has this functionality, we've included it in our reviews.||1|
|Embroidery Card Reader||Embroidery sewing machines will often have a card reader built in. A card reader can read digital data on the memory cards inserted inside. Embroidery cards can be purchased that include a number of additional embroidery designs that were not built-into the sewing machine. The machine reads the embroidery card data and the machine's computer uses that to drive the needle to create that pattern.||Built in embroidery patterns will only take one so far. An embroidery card reader or a USB port that will allow one to download additional embroidery patterns is important when shopping for a sewing machine that will be used heavily for embroidery.||1|
|Embroidery Sewing Machines||An embroidery sewing machine is a combination machine. It performs both traditional sewing functions and stitches as well as embroidery work. Built-in stitches should include a number of embroidery patterns and the machine will use either an embroidery card reader or a USB computer connection in order to sew new embroidery designs, too. These may come with hoops or frames that hold the material in place while embroidery work is being performed. A sewing machine capable of free-motion embroidery is not the same as an embroidery sewing machine. Free-motion requires that you be able to drop the feed dogs and then allows you to manually move the fabric around and create your own design rather than being programmed to create a specific design.||Embroidery sewing machines are specially programmed to perform embroidery work and will include a set of embroidery accessories. For those who want to do a lot of machine embroidery, this function is critical and their selection should focus only on sewing machines designated as "embroidery sewing" or "embroidery" machines. ||1|
|Feed Dogs||Feed dogs are the rows of jagged teeth under the needle. They control the movement of the fabric through the machine by rotating, making contact with the fabric and pushing it forward. Not all feed dogs are created equal. The more rows of teeth - or points - the better grip the feed dogs can have on a variety of fabrics. Sewing machines may come with two to seven point feed dog systems with seven points considered a "superior" feed dog system. ||A better feed dog system can delivery an overall better sewing machine performance. A lower quality feed dog system can be compensated for with the use of stabilizer material or an adjustment to the presser foot pressure IF the presser foot pressure is adjustable (this is not the case on all sewing machines).||1|
|Jam Proof Bobbin||The bobbin thread is the thread most likely to jam and cause issues when sewing. Sewing off of the edge of the fabric, incorrectly loading the bobbin, incorrectly inserting the bobbin, or incorrectly bringing up the bobbin threads can all cause the thread to jam. Some sewing machines have employed jam-proof technology which better controls the bobbin thread and greatly reduces thread jams and breaks.||On today's sewing machines, this is a high-tech improvement and a really nice feature, especially for beginners. It greatly reduces frustration and machine set up problems.||2|
|Mirror Stitch||Some computerized sewing machines allow you to sew the mirror image of a stitch. This is particularly useful for creating a unique line of stitches using the same pattern. Singer's puppy dog stitch, for example, can be sewn one direction and then as a mirror image so that it appears as if two puppies are facing each other.||Can't be added later but is a nice feature to have if you are considering a sewing machine with a large selection of decorative stitches. It simply expands your stitch options.||1|
|Needle Positions ||A sewing machine needle is generally positioned to come down between the stems of the presser foot. There are times, however, when you may need to sew on the very edge of your fabric or when you need to get up close to an existing seam but getting the material where you want it under the presser foot isn't convenient. That's the perfect opportunity to change the needle position so that it will sew up against another seam or on the fabric edge without having to force the project under the presser foot. This feature makes many sewing tasks easier to accomplish.||The more you sew, the more important this feature becomes. It does not often come with the most basic sewing machines but is often found on sewing machines a step or two above the basics. This is also not a feature that can be added later.||1|
|Needle Up/Down||This sewing machine feature lets you tell the machine in advance where you want the needle to stop when you take your foot off the foot pedal. If you know that you'll be sewing a row of stitches and then need to remove the fabric, tell the machine to stop with the needle in the up position. If, instead, you are going to turn a corner at the end of your row, tell the machine to stop with the needle in the down position so you only need to rotate your fabric for the next line rather than realign the needle, as well.||You can do this manually with a hand wheel but the convenience of programmable needle up/down makes it nearly goof-proof.||2|
|Pattern Memory||Pattern memory allows you to store certain settings about a favorite stitch (width & length) or may allow you to store a set of decorative stitches that you want to sew in alteration (one heart stitch, one asterisk, another heart, etc.). A sewing machine with a memory function reduces the amount of time you have to re-set any of those preferred settings for your projects.||This isn't something that can be added later and is very convenient. This is more important for machines with lots of decorative and embroidery stitches than it is on machines with basic utility stitches.||2|
|Presser Feet||Every sewing machine comes with at least one - the general purpose presser foot. Presser feet hold fabric in place so that the feed dogs can make contact. They can also, however, help manipulate fabric or provide additional guides as you sew in order to make certain types of stitching easier to accomplish. A walking foot, for instance, provides a top layer of feed dogs to help when working with thick quilting squares. A rolled hem presser foot curls fabric as it sews rather than requiring you to hold the fabric in place to create that kind of hem.||Most machines come with a few types of presser feet at the time of purchase and additional presser feet can be purchased later. When comparing sewing machines, assign some value to any additional presser feet that come with a sewing machine as buying them separately may cost you extra.||3|
|Presser Foot Height||A lever on the back or inside arm of the sewing machine lifts and lowers the presser foot. Presser foot height options can make it easier to work with thick fabrics. Most machines today come with three height settings but those with only two - down and up - may make it difficult to slip thick projects underneath the presser foot.||Having the third height level is helpful when working with thick fabrics. If you're going to be doing some quilting or working with several layers of thick fabrics, this feature can be very useful.||2|
|Quilting Guide||A quilting guide is a little L-shaped bar that attaches to the presser foot or needle arm and extends out over your fabric. Line the end of the quilting guide up with a row of pre-existing stitches and you can follow that to create a parallel set of stitches. Great for quilting.||Not all machines accommodate a quilting guide nor is one required although it is incredibly helpful in creating an exact row of duplicate stitch work.||2|
|Reverse Button||Pushing the reverse button causes the machine to sew in reverse. Useful for tying off stitches. Some reverse buttons have dual functionality and rather than sewing only straight stitches in reverse will also sew directly over the last stitches of a decorative stitch. This makes for a clean finish to decorative hems.||All sewing machines have a reverse button. The dual functionality that some offer provides a more polished look and can be important to those who are creating retail-style projects.||2|
|Sewing Machine Case||A hard cover case may be included with the sewing machine and makes transporting the machine much easier. It also helps keep the machine clean and free of dust when not in use.||Not all machines come with a hard cover case but generic cases and totes can always be purchased separately.||3|
|Sewing Machine Soft Cover||A soft cover or dust cover may come with some machines to keep them free of dust when not in use.||Not all machines come with a soft cover but generic covers can be purchased separately.||3|
|Single Button Stitch Selection||Even with computerized sewing machines, stitch selection can take some time when you have to push buttons to scroll through all of the available stitch patterns or have to push arrows to get to the right pattern number. Machines that have a select number of utility stitches available at the press offer a handy convenience. For example, a sewing machine may have a set of five to twelve buttons, one to select the straight stitch, one to select the zigzag stitch, one to select the blind hem stitch and so on.||This isn't necessarily required as you can still get to any of the built-in stitches even if you have to push extra buttons to get there but having some single button stitch selections available does make it a little bit easier to get to the stitches that you are going to use most often.||1|
|Speed Control Slider||A speed control slider can cap the sewing machine's sewing speed at something less than maximum. Perfect for slowing down the machine when working on a complicated project or for beginners who are just learning to sew.||This feature is usually coupled with a Start/Stop button and the ability to sew without using a foot pedal. It can't be added later but is a really convenient feature not only for beginners but for those who do a lot of sewing.||1|
|SPM||Stitches per minute - the number of stitches the machine can perform in a single minute. This defines the speed of a sewing machine.||Most home sewing machines operate around seven to nine hundred stitches per minute. Industrial machines or more expensive home sewing machines may sew at more than one thousand stitches per minute.||2|
|Start/Stop Button||This button does just what it implies. It starts the machine sewing or stops the machine as desired. Sewing machines with this feature often allow you to sew without the foot pedal.||Neat feature that can't be added later, although some sewers feel like they have more control with the foot pedal than without and it may require some practice to feel more comfortable with this function if it hasn't been used before.||1|
|Stitch Function||Sewing machines come with a number of built-in stitches but those stitches may be modified by either width, length or by sewing a mirror image which, in effect, creates another stitch opportunity. The number of possible stitches that can be made from built-in stitches are called stitch functions.||Additional stitch functions can't be added later. ||2|
|Stitch Length||Lengthening a sewing machine stitch gives the stitch a slightly different look. Being able to adjust stitch length means more flexibility in creating just the right look for finished hems. Some machines do not allow for modification to stitch width.||This can't be added later. Sewing machines that do allow for stitch length to be modified will still apply limits up to seven millimeters. The higher the limit, the more flexibility you'll have for creating project-appropriate hems.||1|
|Stitch Width||Widening a sewing machine stitch gives the stitch a slightly different look. Being able to adjust stitch width means more flexibility in creating just the right look for finished hems. Some machines do not allow for modification of the stitch width.||This can't be added later. Sewing machines that do allow for stitch width to be modified will still apply limits up to seven millimeters. The higher the limit, the more flexibility you'll have for creating project-appropriate hems.||1|
|Thread Tension Sensor||Sewing machines equipped with a thread tension sensor notify you when the top or bottom thread has broken or experienced a jam. Saves you from continuing to sew before the thread break reaches your material.||Some computerized machines include this feature. It cannot be added later and is not required for sewing but does save some headaches.||2|
|Twin Needle||A twin needle is two needles attached at the top and used to sew parallel lines of stitches. Each needle must be threaded separately and may use the same or different color thread. A twin needle makes nice, two-stitch hem lines. Not all sewing machines allow a twin needle to be attached.||This can't be added later. A sewing machine is either designed to work with a twin needle or it isn't. Having this sewing machine feature provides an additional opportunity for decorative hems.||1|
|USB Port||Computerized sewing machines equipped with a USB port may be connected to the internet through a desktop or laptop computer in order for new stitch patterns or sewing machine updates to be downloaded to the machine.||This can't be added later. This is most important for embroidery sewing machines and provides on-going new stitch patterns to easily be added to the sewing machine.||1|
|Walking Foot||Some sewers shop specifically for walking foot sewing machines. A walking foot is a type of presser foot that has an additional set of feed dogs on the bottom that will lay on top of the fabric and assist the bottom feed dogs in moving through thick layers of material.||This is a very popular sewing machine feature and can be added to most machines after purchase by either buying the manufacturer's available walking foot separately or buying a generic walking foot.||3|