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The Best Sewing Machines at Walmart Right Now

sewing machines at walmart

What? Sewing machines at Walmart? If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop that includes everything you need from the sewing machine to the fabric to the thread, look no further than the discount giant where you buy your toothpaste.

Yes, Walmart has sewing machines — and not just no-name brands, either. In fact, if you know what you need and shop carefully, you could walk away with a sweet deal.

How to Choose a Sewing Machine

Before making any large purchase, knowing what you need will save you money and frustration. It will also make the process faster and, dare we say it, a lot more fun.

So, how do you choose a sewing machine?

Sewing machine, crafting machine, or serger?

There are a lot of different kinds of sewing machines.

The three main types of machines you’ll encounter are regular sewing machines, sergers, and crafting machines.

A regular sewing machine is for all-purpose sewing: garment construction, quilting, housewares, you name it.

Sergers only sew on fabric edges. They’re great for making strong, sealed seams.

Finally, some sewing machines are made for specific crafts like machine embroidery or quilting.

You can buy all of these sewing machines at Walmart.

Mechanical or computerized?

Some sewing machines have an onboard computer. Others do not. What’s the difference?

Computerized sewing machines generally have more functions. That’s because the computer has memory to store them.

What kind of functions? Try these:

  • More stitch types and designs
  • Alphanumeric fonts
  • Variable speed control
  • Automatic thread tension
  • Programmable needle position
  • Stitch combination and stitch memory

Not all computerized sewing machines will have all of these, but this is a sampling of what an onboard computer can provide.

Mechanical sewing machines, on the other hand, have a few advantages of their own.

First, they’re cheaper.

Also, mechanical machines are easier to set up and use right out of the box.

Finally, the knobs and dials give you finer control over stitch length, width, and thread tension than you get with push-button computerized controls.

Mechanical machines’ simplicity and ease of use make them perfect for beginners.

Features or bust

So, what features should you look for? These are some of our must-haves.

  • One-step buttonhole
  • Straight stitch
  • Zigzag stitch
  • Free arm
  • Drop feed

In addition, here are some features that aren’t strictly necessary but are still nice to have.

  • Automatic needle threader
  • A selection of decorative stitches
  • Multiple buttonhole designs
  • Alphanumeric fonts
  • Programmable needle position
  • An extension table
  • Heavy-duty metal frame

The great news is, most sewing machines at Walmart, and all of the machines on our list, have many of these features.

The Best Sewing Machines at Walmart

So, how did we choose our favorites?

First, we broke their selection down into types: mechanical machines, computerized machines, sergers, and crafting machines.

Next, we examined features. There’s no need to consider a model if it doesn’t have the features that home sewists use most.

Finally, we considered how actual customers felt about their purchases. Because at the end of the day, that’s the most important metric of all.

Best mechanical sewing machines

If you’re looking for a beginner sewing machine at Walmart or anywhere else, mechanical sewing machines come out on top for price and ease of use.

Each of the mechanical machines in our survey would make an excellent first sewing machine.

Brother XM2701


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You might recognize Brother as a producer of printers and office equipment. But they started out making sewing machines. And they’re still making them today.

The Brother XM2701 is a powerful, lightweight mechanical sewing machine with a surprising range of features, including:

  • 27 built-in stitch designs
  • Free arm
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Automatic one-step buttonhole
  • Generous accessories pack with six presser feet, a twin needle, and more
  • Lifetime technical support

At just a bit more than 12 pounds, the Brother XM2701 is also light and portable enough to bring to classes and meetups.

Brother XR3774


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Brother excels at producing affordable yet feature-rich equipment. The Brother XR3774 is one of the most powerful mechanical sewing machines on the market today.

Check this out:

  • 37 built-in stitch designs
  • One-step automatic buttonhole
  • Free arm
  • Automatic needle threader
  • An extra-wide extension table for larger projects
  • Large accessories pack that includes eight presser feet

If you’re thinking of dipping your toe into quilting or free-motion embroidery, this model should definitely be on your list.

Singer 4432 Classic Sewing Machine


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Singer has been America’s sewing machine company for over 160 years. Like Brother, Singer produces high-quality machinery at affordable prices.

The Singer 4432 is one example.

This model’s features include:

  • A heavy-duty metal frame
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Free arm
  • 32 built-in stitch designs
  • One-step automatic buttonhole
  • Above-average 1,100 stitches per minute sewing speed

The heavy-duty metal frame and high stitching speed make this model an excellent choice for heavy work, such as quilting or working with denim or canvas.

It’s worth noting that the Walmart sewing machine selection includes a lot of different models from Singer’s 44 lines. They’re all worth considering, in our opinion.

Janome HD3000BE Heavy Duty Sewing Machine


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The Janome HD3000BE  stands out for a number of reasons. But the first thing you may notice is the price. Don’t let that put you off, though.

Janome makes expensive machines in general. But their machines are also quite well made. And, quite frankly, a Janome of any description at this price is a real find.

The HD3000BE’s features include:

  • All-metal construction inside and out
  • 18 built-in stitch designs
  • Automatic one-step buttonhole
  • Built-in needle threader
  • Free arm
  • Drop feed
  • Included hardshell cover

If you’ve ever wanted to own a Janome but were intimidated by the price tag, this affordable model should be on your list.

Best computerized sewing machines

A mechanical sewing machine can take you far. But there are some features that only a computerized model can provide.

When it comes to computerized sewing machines at Walmart, these are a few of the best.

Singer HD6600

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If you liked the sound of Singer’s HD line but wanted a bit more in terms of stitch designs and automatic functions, the Singer HD6600 is one to check out.

Its features include:

  • 100 built-in stitch designs
  • Six automatic one-step buttonhole designs
  • Programmable needle position
  • Drop feed
  • Free arm
  • Heavy-duty metal frame
  • 1,100 stitches per minute sewing speed
  • 60 percent stronger motor
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure

This model provides not only an amazing array of useful features but also the speed and stout construction necessary to make easy work of heavy projects.

And really, it would be hard to find a better price.

Singer Quantum Stylist 9960


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When it comes to computerized sewing machines, Singer’s Quantum Stylist 9960 is a standard-bearer. It’s powerful, richly featured, and suited to a wide variety of crafts.

On this machine, you’ll find:

  • 600 built-in stitch designs
  • 13 automatic one-step buttonhole designs
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Extension table for quilting and other large projects
  • A generous package of presser feet and other accessories
  • Five alphanumeric fonts, including Cyrillic
  • Mirror-image stitching
  • Automatic thread tie-off
  • Self-adjusting thread tension
  • Heavy-duty metal frame
  • Variable speed control
  • 25-position programmable needle
  • Extra-high presser foot lift

If your bottom line is features, features, and features, this might just be the model for you.

Brother SQ9285 Computerized Sewing Machine


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One of the things that tickles us about Brother’s sewing machines at Walmart is how they manage to squeeze high-end surprises into their budget models.

The Brother SQ9285 is one such model.

The “SQ” in the model number stands for “sewing and quilting,” and that’s what this sewing machine is for.

Here are some of its features:

  • 150 built-in stitch designs
  • Special quilting stitches, like stippling and joining stitches
  • Eight one-step automatic buttonholes
  • An alphanumeric monogram font
  • 10 included sewing and quilting feet
  • Included quilting extension table
  • Free arm
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Drop feed
  • Start/Stop button
  • Variable speed control

This is another excellent model for budding quilters to consider. At the same time, it will serve very well for general purpose sewing, too.

EverSewn Sparrow 25


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EverSewn is a newer sewing machine company. Based in Chicago, their goal is to spread the joy of crafting, one sewing machine at a time.

EverSewn’s machines are user-friendly above all. If you want the power of a computerized sewing machine but are tech-shy, the EverSewn Sparrow 25 might be a great model for you.

Its features include:

  • Seven one-step automatic buttonholes
  • 197 built-in stitch designs
  • One alphanumeric font
  • Stitch sequencing and memory
  • Variable speed control
  • Free arm
  • Seven included presser feet
  • Drop feed
  • Automatic thread tie-off

It’s difficult to find a friendlier, more fun machine than an EverSewn. And were thrilled to find this one at Walmart.

The Best Sergers at Walmart

For garment construction, it’s difficult to beat a serger. Sergers use multiple needles and threads to sew strong, flexible sealed seams. The differential feed makes sewing knits a snap.

You can’t use a serger for regular sewing. They have no decorative stitches, and they can’t make a buttonhole. But if you’re making clothes, a serger gets the job done fast and well.

Buying a serger is a lot different from buying a regular sewing machine. So why not check out our serger buyers guide before you shop?

These are our favorite sergers at Walmart.

Brother 1034DX


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The Brother 1034DX (and its sibling, the Brother 1034D) is one of the most popular sergers on the market today.

This is a straightforward, easy-to-use three- and four-thread serger that has everything you need to start making clothes today. Its features include:

  • Three- and four-thread stitching
  • Differential feed
  • Free arm
  • Heavy-duty metal frame
  • Simple lay-in thread tension
  • Color-coded thread guides
  • 1,300 stitches per minute sewing speed

If you’re new to sergers, this machine can get you stitching right out of the box.

Juki MO-8CB Serger

the Juki is one of the sewing machines at Walmart with serger functions
Buy at Walmart.com

Juki is another relatively new company. It was founded in 1964. But in its short history, Juki put out some stunning innovations, including the first-ever serger for home use.

The Juki MO-8CB serger is a 2/3/4 serger. That means it sews with your choice of two, three, or four threads.

More threads mean more versatility: two threads for delicate edgings on ultralight fabrics, three threads for normal seams, and four-threads for heavier work.

You also get:

  • Free arm
  • Built-in rolled hem
  • 1,500 stitches per minute stitching speed
  • Color-coded threading
  • Lay-in tension
  • Differential feed
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure

This model costs a bit more than some of the others, but it’s well worth it in our view.

Best crafting machines

Is quilting your thing? What about machine embroidery? There are specialty machines for that.

We’ll talk about our favorites in just a sec. But if you’re in the market for a crafting machine, why not check out our buyer’s guides for quilting machines and embroidery machines?

We’ll wait.

Great. Are you ready? Here are our top models from Walmart.

Brother LB5000M Marvel Sewing and Embroidery Machine


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One of the best parts of machine embroidery is stitching licensed characters. And the Brother LB5000M Marvel Sewing and Embroidery Machine has them.

This machine comes with:

  • 103 built-in sewing stitches
  • 80 built-in embroidery designs
  • Nine built-in alphanumeric fonts
  • 10 downloadable Marvel embroidery designs included in price
  • USB port to import more designs of your choice
  • Changeable Marvel-themed faceplates

If you want a fun, affordable, easy-to-use embroidery machine for kids’ projects, the Brother LB5000M could be your new best friend.

And if you decide machine embroidery isn’t for you, after all, you’ll still have a high-quality Brother sewing machine to use.

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9850


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The Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9850 is the most expensive machine on our list. But it really does do it all.

Quilting, sewing, and embroidery, the MC9850 has you covered.

You get:

  • 200 built-in stitches
  • 175 built-in embroidery designs
  • Six one-step buttonholes
  • Two fonts, including European characters
  • USB design transfer
  • Stitch and design editing (flip, resize, move, combine, etc.)
  • Stitch memory
  • Free arm
  • Programmable needle
  • Full-color touchscreen

If you’re ready to make an investment in your crafting future, check this one out.

Sew, Are You Ready?

Who knew that Walmart had sewing machines? Who knew that they had a wide selection of high-quality machines from major manufacturers?

Now you know.

So now that you know, which one will you buy? Or rather, which one will you buy first?

What’s your favorite sewing machine? Have you bought a sewing machine from Walmart? Tell us about it in the comments!

What Is a Straight Stitch Machine and Do You Need One?

The foot and needle of a straight stitch machine

A straight stitch machine does one thing; it sews straight stitches. But it’s no one-trick pony. In fact, you can do a lot more with that one stitch than you might think.

Do you need one for your sewing room? Now that’s a completely different question.

Recommended Read: Singer 9960 Sewing Machine Review

What Is a Straight Stitch Machine?

A straight stitch sewing machine is a specialized sewing machine that sews straight stitches only.

That may not seem impressive, especially when compared to machines like the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960, which has 600 stitch designs, or the Quantum stylist 9985, which has 960.

Even the entry-level Singer Simple has 23 built-in stitch designs.

But the fact is, nearly 90 percent of sewing, whether it be garments, quilts, or other items, uses a straight stitch.

And even sewists who use decorative stitches usually stick with a handful of favorites.

Nonetheless, a general-purpose sewist may start to feel hemmed in, so to speak, by that single stitch.

But for some purposes, a straight stitch-only sewing machine is exactly the tool that you need.

Recommended Read: The Singer Simple Sewing Machine: A Great Machine for Beginners

Thread and needles for quilting with a straight stitch machine

Straight Stitch Machine vs. a Regular Sewing Machine

What’s the difference between a straight stitch sewing machine and a regular sewing machine? It’s more than the number of stitches.

A straight stitch machine is mechanical

Most straight stitch-only sewing machines are mechanical, as opposed to computerized. This means that they have no onboard computer. They don’t need one.

Instead, you control thread tension, stitch length, and stitch speed using manual controls like knobs, dials, and sliders.

One advantage of a mechanical sewing machine is that it’s cheaper and easier to fix them when they break. In fact, a savvy sewist can perform many repairs at home.

Another advantage is that those knobs, dials, and sliders give you much finer control over tension and stitch parameters.

Generally speaking, mechanical sewing machines are less expensive than computerized ones. Straight stitch machines are an exception, however. We’ll talk more about this in a bit.

Brother PQ1500SL Sewing and Quilting Machine, Up to 1,500 Stitches Per...

One stitch type

As we said, a straight stitch-only sewing machine has one built-in stitch design, and one only. There are no decorative stitches, here, no stretch stitches, either.

There’s not even a zigzag stitch, and you won’t be making any buttonholes.

It’s fast

On the positive side, a straight stitch sewing machine is fast.

The average speed of a domestic sewing machine is 850 stitches per minute. Many straight stitch sewing machines can do twice that. Industrial models can go more than five times that fast.

This is because people use this type of machine for long, straight rows of stitching, such as garment seams and straight line quilting.

It’s powerful

Certain crafts, such as sewing with leather and sail making, require not just a dedicated machine for straight stitching, but also a powerful motor to sew through heavy materials.

Some straight stitch models, like Sailrite machines, have an external servomotor, which can power through leather, canvas, and other fabrics that would destroy a regular sewing machine.

Recommended Read: What Is The Best Sailrite Sewing Machine? A Buyers’ Guide

How Do You Use a Straight Stitch Machine?

For a machine that only does one thing, it has a surprising number of uses. Here are a few.

Quilting

There are many types of quilting. However, two lend themselves perfectly to the use of a straight stitch sewing machine.

Straight line quilting

Quilting means sewing together a “sandwich” that consists of two layers of fabric with a layer of batting between them.

Many quilters like to use their stitches to quilt designs onto their quilt tops. Others prefer straight line quilting.

Straight line quilting means, simply, sewing straight lines across your quilt top.

The speed and power of a dedicated straight stitch sewing machine makes straight line quilting fast, easy, and precise.

Free motion quilting

Free motion quilting means moving your quilt sandwich through your machine in any way other than a straight line.

You might quilt around designs in the fabric itself, for example. Alternately, you could “stipple,” that is, quilt in a wavy freehand pattern.

You might also apply a design to your quilt top using washable transfers or fabric markers, and sew over that.

No matter what sort of free motion quilting you undertake, however, you’ll be using your straight stitch.

Here’s what free motion quilting looks like on a dedicated straight stitch only sewing machine.

Garment making

The majority of garment making comes down to sewing seams. And seams are straight lines.

If you’re making a lot of clothes, this type of machine can help you to power through those seams quickly.

Sailmaking

Sailmaking uses two types of seams: the straight stitch, and sometimes a zigzag stitch.

But sails are made from multiple layers of thick canvas. This type of work will wreck a regular sewing machine.

Specialized sailmaking machines generally only have those two stitches. Many only have a straight stitch.

However, they’re built tough, with heavy metal construction. Also, many have a powerful external motor.

JUKI DDL-8700-Servo Industrial Straight Stitch Sewing Machine, Servo...

Why Is a Straight Stitch Machine So Expensive?

If you’ve been looking at this type of machine, you’ve probably noticed the budget. Why is something that only does one thing cost so expensive?

Like most industrial and semi-industrial machines, a straight stitch sewing machine is specialized equipment. It may only do one thing, but it does it perfectly and all day long.

Another difference is construction. Years ago, all sewing machines were made from metal. But over time and bit by bit, manufacturers began to replace metal parts with plastic ones.

This made sewing machines lighter and more portable, yes. But it also made them less durable.

Many straight stitch-only machines have a durable internal metal frame. Some even have an all-metal exterior. This gives the machine added stability when sewing heavy materials.

Finally, speed and power will increase the expense of any sewing machine.

A straight stitch-only machine is twice as fast as a regular sewing machine. Often, it has a more powerful motor, too.

Straight Stitch Machine: Must-Have Features

So you’ve decided you need a dedicated straight stitch-only machine for your sewing room. How do you choose a good one?

Here are a few of our dealbreaker features.

Speed

As we said before, straight stitch-only sewing machines are fast. The average model sews at around 1500 stitches per minute, but many go even faster than that.

How much speed do you need? That’s up to you. Just don’t get a ticket!

Speed control

Yes, super-fast stitching is a plus. At the same time, you may encounter situations where you want to go a bit slower. For example, around curves and corners.

A speed control slider can help.

A speed control function is like cruise control for your sewing machine. It allows you to set a maximum stitching speed.

That means that even if your foot slips on the pedal, you won’t lose control of your stitching.

Many mechanical sewing machines lack a speed control slider. Unfortunately, so do many straight stitch-only sewing machines.

However, there are a few models, like the Juki TL-2020PE, that have this feature.

JUKI TL-2020 PE Platinum Edition Special Limited Collector's Edition...
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Presser foot pressure adjustment

The presser foot holds your fabric against the feed dogs, while the feed dogs move it through the machine. For most types of sewing, a standard presser foot pressure is fine.

However, you might encounter other types of sewing where you need more or less than the standard pressure to keep your stitching even and regular.

In these cases, it’s useful to be able to adjust the pressure of your presser foot.

Heavy-duty construction

Many sewists use their straight stitch-only machine for sewing heavy fabrics, thick materials, and multiple layers.

Heavy-duty construction can give your machine greater stability and greater durability.

Look for a metal internal frame.

Alternately, you might find models made with materials like die-cast aluminum, which will help your machine to power through tough jobs for a long time to come.

Knee lifter

Since this type of machine is used for a lot of types of quilting, many of them come with a knee lifter.

A knee lifter is a metal lever that slots into a port built into the front of some sewing machine models. Not every model has this port, and if yours doesn’t, you won’t be able to use a knee lifter.

Once you’ve attached the knee lifter, however, you can move your presser foot up or down with your knee. This allows you to keep both hands on your work.

And anyone who has tried their hand at free motion work knows how important that can be.

Check out a knee lifter at work.

Cone thread accessories

For regular sewing, many of us buy thread on spools. But some types of sewing, like quilting, use a lot of thread. For this reason, you might want to buy thread cones instead.

Thread cones are enormous. While a spool may hold a couple hundred yards of thread, a thread cone holds thousands of yards. It’s a lot more economical and cost-effective.

Sergers are made to work with cone thread. Other types of sewing machines, unfortunately, may not be.

You can, however, purchase accessories so that you can use your cone thread with any type of machine. But it’s always nice if you don’t have to.

So, what do you need to work with cone thread?

Thread stand and splitter

First, you’ll need a thread stand to hold your cone while you sew.  Your stand may or may not come with a thread splitter, to separate and uphold thread from different cones.

Many straight stitch-only machines come with a built-in cone thread stand and telescoping thread splitter.

Light Weight Thread Stand - 3 Spools Holder for Domestic (Home-Base)...
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Cone thread adapters

Cone thread stands, whether attached to your machine or not, are made to work with spool thread, too. Thread spools have a much smaller hole than thread cones.

As a result, thread cones will rattle around on a small spool pin. And this can harm your stitching.

Cone thread adapters are inexpensive and easy to find. But it’s always a nice touch when a manufacturer includes a few in a machine’s accessories pack.

A cone thread adapter slips over the spool pin and allows your cone to sit securely on the thread stand.

Thread nets

Thread cones have a lot of thread. And when it comes loose, it can make a huge, wasteful mess.

Thread nets keep your cone thread tidy and together. Because so many straight stitch-only machine users use cone thread, some manufacturers will include thread nets in their machines’ accessories packs.

But if your machine didn’t come with any thread nets, don’t worry. They’re cheap and easy to find almost anywhere sewing supplies are sold.

Some straight stitch-only machines come with one or more of these accessories, so check carefully before buying separately.

And yes, by the way, you can transfer cone thread to an empty spool. In fact, it’s pretty easy. This video will show you how.

Extension table

An extension table can be a big help.

How?

First, if you’re doing free motion work, an extra-large workspace can help you to view the section you’re working on within the context of a larger section of your project.

Also, if you’re working on a big project, an extension table can support your work. This, in turn, can prevent the weight of your project from pulling on your stitches and distorting them.

Fortunately, many straight stitch machines come with an extension table that attaches and detaches easily.

But if yours doesn’t, you can build your own easily and inexpensively. Check this out.

If you or a friend has some rudimentary woodworking skills, you can make an inexpensive wooden one from a cutting board and dowels from your local hardware store.

Do You Need a Straight Stitch Machine?

That really depends on you.

Do you do a lot of straight-line sewing? What about free-motion work? Do you have a passion for durability and a need for speed?

If this sounds like you, there may be a straight stitch machine in your future.

What’s the best straight stitch-only sewing machine in your opinion? What’s your favorite way to use it?

Tell us all about it in the comments!

How to Buy a Vintage Sewing Machine

vintage sewing machine

They are beautiful and nostalgic. They remind us of simpler times. You’ve probably seen a charming vintage sewing machine at a garage sale or thrift shop and wondered if you should buy it. We’ll walk you through everything you need to consider before you buy.

What Is a Vintage Sewing Machine?

By “vintage” we mean a machine that is no longer being made and was manufactured in the mid-twentieth century. Older sewing machines, those made before 1900, we refer to as antiques. Antique sewing machines are not electric. They are powered by a foot treadle or a hand crank. Vintage machines are the early electric models that made having a sewing machine at home popular and affordable.

There are many reasons you might want to buy a vintage sewing machine. One reason is that the early electric machines have a distinct style that reflects their era. The very early, black, cast-iron machines, with their ornate gold trim, evoke the hopefulness of the early industrial era and the time of western expansion in the US. The more modern, space-age design of the mid-century machines bring us back to the prosperity of the 1950s and the exhilaration of the space race.

Another reason to buy a vintage sewing machine is the quality of the construction. Before plastic, sewing machines were made of durable iron or aluminum. The gears and moving parts were created to take a lot of use. Many vintage machines still operate perfectly.

Yet another reason to have a vintage machine is because of the distinctive style of the stitch an older machine produces. Some clothing designers who create vintage looks turn to vintage machines for the specific stitch styles that give a sense of authenticity to their clothing. Many quilters, as well, like the look of the vintage stitches.

What to Consider When Buying a Vintage Sewing Machine

There are a number of things to consider before shopping around and making a purchase. With so many online and local opportunities to buy, here are some important things to think about before you dive in. Whether you are going to use the machine for your sewing projects, or you want to refurbish and restore a vintage model, or if you are just going to use it as a retro decoration, consider the following.

What Are You Going to Use It for?

Are you buying a vintage model because you like the way it looks or because of the kind of sewing you can do with it? If it looks you’re after, you can find a less expensive machine that may not have all the parts or may be slightly damaged. If you are going to use the machine for sewing, functionality is your first consideration.

Many people enjoy buying older sewing machines and restoring them. If you are handy and don’t mind rewiring, cleaning out the motor, or searching for specific replacement parts, you can also find a less expensive machine to restore.

Is It Working?

If you want a working machine, remember that a sewing machine has many moving parts. Older motors can get gummed up with oil, so you’ll want to be sure that all the parts move the way they are supposed to. Here are some ways to tell if your potential buy will perform with a little TLC:

  1. Does the hand wheel turn easily? The hand wheel will give you a good indication of the overall functioning of the machine.
  2. When you turn the hand wheel, does the needle move up and down? Do the feed dogs also move? You should also see motion in the bobbin case. All these parts need to move freely for the machine to stitch properly.
  3. Does the machine work in reverse? Reverse is an important function that allows you to finish off seams and prevent stitch raveling.
  4. Is the machine wired properly for your country? If you’re buying a machine made in Europe or Asia, it may be made to work with a higher voltage than the current that runs through your house. Look at the outlet plug and make sure it will work in your home.
  5. Look for obvious signs of wear. Check the power cord to make sure it’s not frayed or taped. 
  6. Look all around for any rust. 
  7. Are there any missing screws or other parts? 
  8. Is the foot pedal or knee pedal included? If not, can you find a replacement easily?

Does It Come With Any Extras?

Also, check to see about any optional parts. For example, if the machine uses cams, are they included with your purchase? Is the seller including extra bobbins or needles?

Does the seller have the manual that came with the machine? Some manuals and instruction books are available online. Singer, for example, is one company that has made it easy to get manuals for their vintage sewing machines.

And how about the table or cabinet that came with the machine when it was originally sold? Sometimes these need to be refinished even if the machine runs perfectly. Is that something you want to do?

Will It Do What You Want It to Do?

Are you going to be sewing heavy fabrics like denim or even leather? Some of the finest vintage machines were made for industrial use. Others were made with simple home use in mind and won’t be able to handle the heavier work.

Ask for a stitch sample that was made on the machine. This is especially important if you are going to sew with fancy stitches or do embroidery with the machine.

And speaking of embroidery, check to see that the feed dogs retract so you can do free embroidery with your new toy. Some vintage models won’t do this.

Are You Up for Any Restoration?

Are you willing to do what it takes to restore a worn machine? The perfect model may need new wiring, or the motor may be frozen with old oil and may need significant cleaning. Some fine sewing machines have lost a pedal along the way, or the cabinet may need to be stripped and refinished. Consider carefully what you might need to do to get the machine in top condition.

Another consideration is the availability of replacement parts. You will need new bobbins and needles eventually. Ask the seller if he or she knows where to get these parts. Many of the machines we’ve listed below use bobbins that are standard today, but some use different sizes. A few older machines used a kind of shuttle instead of a bobbin. These are notoriously hard to find if you need a replacement.

Who Made It?

Because you’re dealing with an old time machine, you’ll want to be sure that it was made by a reputable manufacturer. This will help ensure that you can find information and parts for your machine.

Singer is the most well-known name in sewing machines in the US. Singer rose to the top of the market in the early 1900s. Singer machines were so popular that the replacement needles and bobbins they designed became the industry standard.

Most modern sewing machines, and several of the vintage machines below, use model 15 or 66 bobbins. These are easily available in any craft or sewing store. The standard needles are known as 2020, or HA-1 or 12X. 1. Check to see if the vintage machine you are buying can use these needles. They are also available anywhere.

There are so many vintage Singer machines out there that you can probably find an instruction booklet for your vintage Singer if you need one. There are even online communities dedicated to caring for and using popular Singer models, for example, the popular Featherweight machine.

Other manufacturers made good machines too. Some of them we have listed below. Do some research and make sure that you will be able to find replacement parts, bobbins, and needles that will fit your new machine.

When Was It Made?

The best vintage machines were made between about 1910 and 1950. Sewing machines of that era were built to endure lots of use and to last for a long time. Up until the 1960s sewing machines were built with metal gears. After the 60s, manufacturers began using plastic. It was lighter and cheaper, but plastic gears wear out much sooner than metal ones.

It is harder to take care of older, antique sewing machines because it is more difficult to get parts.

Cost

Consider that older machines may need more in the way of maintenance. Most old machines need to be oiled more frequently. Also, consider that replacement parts may be more expensive for some less common machines.

Other than those considerations, a vintage sewing machine is worth whatever you are willing to pay for it. In an ideal world, you will be able to find a well-running vintage sewing machine at a rock bottom price at an estate sale or in a thrift shop. Keep hunting until you find your deal.

Intangibles

Of course, cost and functionality are not the only considerations in buying a vintage sewing machine. Vintage items are collectible and have an emotional value as well. Does the vintage machine you are considering have a good story that goes with it? Sometimes it’s more fun to use a machine that has some interesting history behind it.

You’ll also want to consider aesthetics. Maybe design is more important than function to you. Do the older, cast-iron treadle machines have the vintage look you want? Or does a more space-age look from the 1960s appeal to you?

Where to Buy Your Vintage Sewing Machine

Online

One online option is Ebay. One advantage of Ebay is the large selection of vintage products available. Another is that on Ebay you have the ability to bid to your comfort level. You might be able to score a fantastic deal.

But Ebay has disadvantages too. One is that you will probably end up paying for shipping. Some older sewing machines weigh 20 pound or more. This could add significantly to your cost.

Another disadvantage is not being able to try the machine out before you buy. There are some inexperienced sellers on Ebay who have simply plugged the machine in and when they see the light go on, they declare that the machine is working. A more experienced seller will list many details of the machine’s condition and may even have videos that show the machine in action. They may also provide photos of stitch samples. 

In Person

You might get lucky with Craigslist and find a local seller. This will give you the opportunity to go see and feel the machine in action before you buy. You might also find a good buy at a local thrift store or second-hand store. You can also look for estate sales in your local area. Many private sellers will give you a really good deal for a vintage machine.

If you shop flea markets, you might find a great machine for a reasonable price. Just be sure that you find a place to plug it in and try it out before you buy. You want to be sure it is working.

Another hidden gem of a possibility is a local sewing machine repair shop. If you are lucky enough to find one at one of these retail shops, you can be reasonably certain that it has been tuned up and cared for by a professional.

Recommended Vintage Sewing Machine Models

Singer 15 Series

The Singer 15 Series were very popular when they first hit the market. There were many sold, so they are not as expensively rare as other vintage models. The 15s only do straight stitching but can accommodate an attachment that allows for zig-zag stitches as well.

Singer 66

The 66 is a full-sized machine with a straight stitch. Like the 15 Series, it can accommodate a zig-zag attachment. This also applies to the later improvement of the 66, the Singer 210.

Singer 99 and 185

These popular models were made ¾ sized, so they are lighter weight and more portable. They use the same zig-zag attachment as the previous models. Beware when you are buying to check the model numbers. The 185 is a great little machine, but the 285, which was a later attempt to re-design the 185 has many glitches.

Singer 221-1 Featherweight

The Featherweight is one of the most popular sewing machines of all time. It is still favored by quilters and vintage enthusiasts. This machine was the first that was marketed as a portable. It is made of lightweight aluminum instead of the old cast iron. The Featherweight uses a non-standard bobbin, which might be a cause for concern, but there are so many people still using their 221s there is even an online community, so finding parts and bobbins isn’t too much of an issue.

Singer 331

The 331 is also made of aluminum. It is the first Singer model to have a slant shank. This was an innovation developed to make it easier to see what you are sewing. The 331 uses the same non-standard bobbin as the 221.

Singer 400 Series

The 400 series feature a retro-modern design. For the first time, Singer made sewing machines that were beige instead of metallic black or green. This was also the first Singer machine that had a built-in zig zag capacity. It also introduced the use of separate cams that the sewer inserts to customize the stitches. The cam system was an important innovation in decorative sewing. With the 400 series, Singer developed the 66 bobbin that has become the industry standard.

Singer 500 Series

With the 500 series Singer introduced precision needle plates to accommodate different stitches. It also features a two-needle capacity and continued the use of inserted cams for decorative sewing.

Beyond the Singer 500 Series

In more modern times, Singer moved to using plastic gears. In the 500 series, they also went back—for some reason—to using non-standard bobbins. Though these machines have a retro look, they are not the best choices if you want a hardworking vintage machine.

Singer Athena 2000

The Athena 2000 is worth mentioning because it was the first Singer electronic sewing machine. You could program it to create stitch designs. It debuted in 1975, but the electronic components had so many glitches that they discontinued it soon after. If you get your hands on an Athena, you’ll have a historic find, but you may not be able to find anyone who can repair it if something goes wrong.

Union Special 43200G

The Union Special is famous with denim clothing designers because of its industrial capability and because of a peculiar design “flaw” that creates a distinctive chain-like stitch. These machines were made from 1939 to 1989 and are still in such demand that it is hard to find one to buy. When they were discontinued buyers in Japan and other parts of Asia were quick to see that this classic was still going to be in demand. They began to snap them up. Today, on eBay, the Union Special goes for between $3000 and $5000 — if you can find one!

New Home Parlor Cabinet Treadle and #4

New Home sewing machines were popular around 1906. They are non-electric, vintage models, operated by a hand crank. We include them here because of their beautiful ornate, gold-on-black design that was typical of the time. If you’re looking for a non-electric machine, this one is durable and will do the job.

White Family Rotary

White was the second most popular sewing machine manufacturer, after Singer. They produced the Family Rotary from the 1890s until 1950. It is a classic vintage sewing machine that was popular enough that you can still find parts for it today.

Necci BU

The Necci was an Italian brand that was first sold in the US after World War II. Necci was the first manufacturer to include zig-zag functionality without a cumbersome attachment. If you are looking at a Necci, make sure you are buying a model that was built to work with US electrical currency.

Conclusion

Vintage sewing machines are beautiful and functional. Whether you are buying one because you love the way it looks, or if you are more interested in the style of stitching only available on a vintage, you’re going to love looking into all the possibilities. Like many other vintage enthusiasts, you may find that you would like to own more than one!

Your Quilting Machine Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know

quilt

Buying a quilting machine can be more complicated than it sounds. Our quilting machine buying guide can help.

Your Guide to Buying a First Quilting Machine

So you’ve put your sewing machine through its paces and you want to try your hand at quilting. The question is, do you need a new machine?

Well, duh. The answer to that question is always yes. Well, almost always.

But rushing out to buy the first model that catches your eye can be a costly mistake. It’s important to know what’s out there, and, most importantly, what you need.

Can You Use a Regular Sewing Machine?

Can you use a regular sewing machine for quilting?

Short answer: yes.

Longer answer: yes, of course.

There are several types of quilting machines, and most of them double as regular sewing machines.

Lockstitch machines and longarm quilting machines are two entirely different kettles of fish, though, and we’ll discuss them in a bit.

Most hobby-level quilters can do just fine with even a simple mechanical sewing machine.

After a certain point, however, you may find that you want a machine with some specific features just for quilters.

Quilting Materials
Photo by Dinh Pham on Unsplash

What Do You Need for Machine Quilting?

That depends on the type of quilting that you anticipate doing. Straight-line quilting and free motion quilting both require a few specific things.

And crazy quilting? We’ll talk about that, too.

Types of machine quilting

Quilting means stitching together a sandwich of fabric and batting. Historically, quilters assembled the sandwich by hand. But today many people use their sewing machine.

Three types of machine quilting are straight line quilting, free motion quilting, and crazy quilting.

Recommended Read: Cheap Sewing Machines to Check Out

Straight-line quilting

Straight line quilting means securing the layers of fabric and batting together using straight lines of stitching. Straight line quilting is fast, easy, and makes an attractive quilt.

You might stitch parallel lines over the entire quilt. Or you might “stitch in the ditch.” That is, you might sew along the seams of your quilt design.

Either way, this is how it’s done.

Free motion quilting

Free motion quilting uses decorative patterns to sew your layers together. It’s similar to free motion embroidery, but you don’t have to have an embroidery machine.

Here’s how to do free motion quilting on your regular sewing machine.

Crazy quilting

Crazy quilting developed in the United States in the late 1800s.

Rather than fabric pieces arranged in geometric designs, crazy quilts are a collection of irregularly shaped fabric pieces connected by decorative stitching.

The original crazy quilts were proper quilts, with a face, a backing, and batting in the middle. Today, some crazy quilts consist of the quilt face only.

Some quilters will use fabrics with different textures and weights. Others may even add beads, ribbons, and other embellishments.

It’s a decorative, expressive, free-form style. To make the most of this style, you’ll want a sewing machine with lots and lots of decorative stitches.

Quilting accessories

There are a few accessories that can help you with these three types of quilting. Fortunately, most are inexpensive and easy to find.

You might already have some of them, in fact, as manufacturers often include them in the accessories packs that come with their machines.

If you buy them separately, always make sure to buy the part that goes with your exact machine brand and model number.

Walking foot

Your feed dogs move the fabric through the machine as you sew. But fabric layers may move around, causing all sorts of chaos.

A walking foot is a special kind of presser foot that helps to keep your layers together while you sew.

Free-motion foot

A free-motion foot is a different type of presser foot. A free-motion foot is spring-loaded and moves up and down with your needle.

This helps you to avoid skipping stitches while free motion quilting.

Quilting guide

A quilting guide is a small, L-shaped piece of metal that attaches to your walking foot. It helps you to keep your quilting lines parallel during straight line quilting.

Quilting Machine Buying Guide

When it comes to quilting, you have a variety of options. Which one do you think would best fit your needs?

Sewing machine with quilting features

As we said, for most hobby-level quilting, a regular sewing machine will do just fine. But some machines come with specific features that make quilting easier.

If you’re interested in a sewing machine that can help you on your quilting journey, here are a few things to look for.

Heavy-duty frame

All sewing machines used to be made from metal. But bit by bit, manufacturers have started substituting plastic parts for metal ones.

On one hand, this makes sewing machines lighter and more portable. On the other hand, it makes them less stable and less fit for heavy work.

Some sewing machine models come with a heavy-duty metal frame. This provides additional stability. It also makes a machine better able to handle heavy work like multiple layers of fabric and batting.

Singer and Brother frequently equip their machines with a heavy-duty metal frame.

Extra high presser foot lift

The presser foot holds the fabric down so that the feed dogs can move it through the machine. Most machines allow you to lift the presser foot only so far.

But sometimes you may need to lift that presser foot higher to accommodate thick stacks of fabric and batting.

Many Janome machines come with an extra high presser foot lift.

Extension table

An extension table helps to support larger pieces of work. Also, it helps you to see your stitching in the context of a larger part of your project.

Because quilting stitches are decorative as well as functional, this is a very helpful feature. Some manufacturers, like Brother,  will include an extension table with certain models in order to attract quilters.

You can also buy extension tables separately. You can even make your own, quickly and cheaply, like in this video.

Decorative stitches

Do you actually need decorative stitches for quilting?

Not really. In fact, for straight line quilting and free-motion quilting, your old friend the straight stitch is still the best.

But crazy quilting is all about the decorative stitches. So if you want to try your hand at crazy quilting, then look for a machine with a good selection.

The Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 has 600 built-in stitches, for example. And an extension table, too!

High-speed stitching

The average speed of a home sewing machine is around 850 stitches per minute. However, some machines can go faster.

A higher stitching speed can help you to make quick work of straight line quilting.

Higher-end quilting features

At some point, you may want to upgrade to a machine with specific quilting features. These features generally only come with premium machines. For the right user, however, the bump in price may be worth it.

Knee lifter

A knee lifter is a metal bar that attaches to a special port in some sewing machines. It allows you to lift and lower the presser foot by moving your knee.

This is a very useful thing to have if you do a lot of free-motion quilting. Why? Because free-motion quilting involves a lot of turning and moving of your project.

A knee lifter allows you to move and turn your work without having to constantly stop to lift the presser foot with the hand lever.

Here’s how it works.

Not every sewing machine comes with a knee lifter. And you shouldn’t buy one separately unless you’re certain that your sewing machine has a port for it to attach to.

Extra throat space

Most home sewing machines have a throat space (or harp space) of nine inches or less.

When you’re working with larger quilts, however, this makes it difficult to maneuver your work.

Mid-arm sewing machines have between 12 and 18 inches of throat space. This can be a happy medium between a cramped short-arm machine and an extremely expensive longarm quilter.

Cone thread stand

Quilting uses a lot of thread.

Many quilters prefer cone thread to spool thread, as giant cones of thread are more cost-efficient than tiny spools.

You can use cone thread with a regular sewing machine if you buy a separate cone thread stand.

However, it’s very convenient if your sewing machine comes already equipped to deal with both cones and spools.

Lockstitch quilting machines

Lockstitch quilting machines like the Juki TL-2010qi are a semi-professional level quilting machine.

Their quilting features often include:

  • Extended throat space
  • High-speed stitching
  • A knee lifter
  • An extension table
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Special thread stands for cone thread

And more.

The downside of a lockstitch machine is that it generally only does one stitch: the straight stitch.

Lockstitch quilting machines can make fast and efficient work of straight-line quilting.

You can also use them for garments, housewares, and other regular sewing tasks. Though general sewists may find a straight stitch only machine limiting.

Lockstitch machines also tend to be expensive. But if you’re doing a lot of quilting, this could be a good option.

Longarm quilting machines

Unless you’re quilting professionally or competitively, you probably won’t need a longarm quilting machine.

These machines are prohibitively expensive. They also take up a lot of space.

But when you’re making lots and lots of large quilts, there’s nothing like it.

Have a look.

Quilting Machine Buying Guide: Choosing the Best

So, how can you choose the quilting machine that best fits your needs?

First, ask yourself if you really need a new machine

It’s always fun to go shopping for a new piece of tech. But most of us have a limited amount of money to spend on hobbies.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Are my current machine’s limitations holding me back?
  • Is my present machine nearing retirement age?
  • Will I use a new machine enough to justify the purchase?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be due for an upgrade!

Next, calculate your budget

We’d all love to say that money is no object. But for most of us, that’s not the case.

One quick way to figure out a reasonable equipment budget is to do a bit of quick math.

How many hours per month do you spend with your sewing machine? 10? 20? Let’s say 20.

At the time of this writing, sewing machine rentals average around $20 per hour.

So if you were to purchase a $400 sewing machine — and $400 could get you a very decent one — it will pay for itself in a month’s time.

Recommended Read: The Best Heavy Duty Sewing Machine Models in the Market

Now, choose your machine type

To review, aspiring quilters have several options when it comes to equipment.

First, you could jazz up your current sewing machine with quilting accessories like different presser feet, a quilting guide, and an extension table.

Also, you could  upgrade to a sewing machine with built-in quilting features, like:

  • A knee lifter
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • An extra-high presser foot lift
  • Extended throat space
  • High-speed stitching
  • A cone thread stand

Finally, certain buyers may want to go all the way and buy either a lockstitch quilting machine or a longarm quilter.

Now, go shopping!

Now that you’ve examined your needs, you know which features are your must-haves.

And now that you understand the market, you probably have an idea of what type of machine will make your quilting dreams come true.

Finally, you should also have a realistic picture of your budget.

Now, all that’s left is the fun part.

Quilting
Photo by Jeff Wade on Unsplash

Quilting Machine Buying Guide: Final Thoughts

Do you want to buy a quilting machine? Is that even a question?

Do you need one? That’s an entirely different question.

If the answer to that question is yes, you have quite a few options, ranging from inexpensive accessories to top-of-the-range professional equipment.

And now you have the knowledge to make the best decision.

Did you enjoy our quilting machine buying guide? Do you have any other advice for our readers?

We’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Featured Image by Nathan Bang on Unsplash

What Is a Coverstitch Machine and Do You Need One?

coverstitch machine

What is a coverstitch machine? Some people call them coverstitch sergers, but that’s a misnomer. It’s not a serger at all, but the two types of machines share a few features.

The truth is, a coverstitch machine is a specialized piece of equipment available for very specific sewing tasks. Before you buy one, you need to ensure that you require such a specialized machine.

What Is a Coverstitch Machine?

It’s easy to mistake a coverstitch machine for a serger. They both sew with multiple needles and threads, and some models look a lot alike on the outside, but they’re different within.

A serger’s main function is creating overlocked seams. This kind of sewing machine works strictly on the edges of seams and fabric.

A coverstitcher, on the other hand, doesn’t sew on fabric edges. Its main job is topstitching.

There is a bit of overlap in function. For example, both types of machines can hem garments. But even when they do perform the same kinds of tasks, the two machines perform them differently. And the results look quite different, too.

Serger vs. Coverstitch Machine: Similarities

There are some similarities, both in features and functions, so it’s understandable that one might mistake one for the other.

Multiple needles and threads

Both machines use multiple needles and multiple threads. As a result, both are capable of producing strong, stretchy, stress-bearing seams.

Loopers

A regular sewing machine uses a needle-guided top thread and a bottom thread that comes from a bobbin.

But overlockers and coverstitchers don’t have a bobbin. Instead, they have loopers. Looper threads interact with needle threads to create each machine’s stitches.

You can see loopers in action below.

Differential feed

A regular sewing machine has one set of feed dogs, which guide the fabric under the needle and through the machine.

Sergers and coverstitch sergers have two sets of feed dogs.

The differential feed mechanism allows you to adjust each set of feed dogs’ speed relative to the other.

Adjusting the relative feed dog speed creates different stretching or compression amounts in the fabric while you’re sewing. That’s particularly helpful when you’re working with knits and stretchy fabrics.

Recommended Read: How to Choose a Serger – Your Quick Guide to These Machines

Serger vs. Coverstitch Machine: Differences

How can two such similar-looking pieces of equipment be so different?

Three needles

Most modern sergers have two needles. But most coverstitch machines have three needles.

One looper

A serger has two loopers that loop thread around the fabric edges, but a coverstitch machine has one looper.

Plus, the looper of a coverstitch machine doesn’t overcast. Instead, it creates a chain stitch on the wrong side of the fabric.

No cutting knife

A serger has a knife, sometimes two, which trims the fabric edges while you sew.

Because a coverstitch machine is a topstitching tool rather than an edging tool, you won’t need to trim your seam edges.

So, a coverstitch machine has no cutting blade.

Workspace dimensions

A coverstitch machine sews on top of the fabric rather than on the edges. That means you will often need more room on the right side of the needles to accommodate fabric. Not only that, but a coverstitch machine has more workspace to the right of the needles.

Chain stitch

Thread

A coverstitch machine can make a chain stitch, but a serger can’t. Keep in mind; a chain stitch is the key ingredient of a coverstitch. And you can use a chain stitch for basting, making seams, and for decoration.

What Can You Do with a Coverstitch Machine?

Although there is some overlap between sergers, coverstitchers, and regular sewing machines, they’re not interchangeable.

A cover stitch machine can do a lot of things that neither a serger nor a regular sewing machine can do. And even when the different machines can do the same task, they each do it a bit differently.

Topstitching

A cover stitch consists of two or three straight sewing lines on the right side of the fabric, connected by a chain stitch on the back.

You can use topstitching for hemming, attaching collars, and decorations.

Hemming

You can use both a serger and a coverstitch machine for hemming, but the hems are a bit different.

A coverstitch machine makes a hem by topstitching over the right side of the fabric with the raw edge turned up against the wrong side.

The right side of the article will show one or more lines of straight stitching. On the reverse, the connecting chain stitches will bind off the raw fabric edge.

Working with knits and stretchy fabrics

It can be difficult to create flat, even seams and hems with knit and stretchy fabrics. This type of fabric is prone to bunching and puckering around the stitches, and the resulting seams can be wavy or warped.

Adjusting the differential feed can help you prevent bunching and puckering. And if you want to gather or stretch your fabric — for example, if you’re making ruffles — then the differential feed can help you do that, too.

Decorative sewing

You can do decorative sewing with a coverstitch machine, a serger, or a regular sewing machine. But each type of machine will create different decorations using different techniques.

You won’t use a coverstitcher for embroidery stitches, decorative edgings, or making your own lace. However, you can use it to:

  • Make a decorative chain stitch
  • Create ruffles
  • Make pleats
  • Create decorative parallel stitching rows

Chain stitch

The chain stitch is one of the things that makes a coverstitch machine what it is.

In fact, a chain stitch is an essential part of a cover stitch, but you can use it by itself, much like a straight stitch. You can use a chain stitch alone to:

  • Baste seams
  • Make construction seams
  • Decorate the top of fabric

What Can’t a Coverstitch Machine Do?

No tool can do it all, though some come close. Here are a few things you won’t be doing with a coverstitcher.

Overlocking

A serger sews one or two parallel lines of straight stitches then casts thread around the seam edges to seal them.

Coverstitch machines do not overcast, and they cannot produce overlock stitches.

Decorative edges

Coverstitch machines sew on top of the fabric, not on the edges. So, you won’t make lettuce edges with your coverstitch machine.

Making your own lace

It’s really easy to make a lace edge trim using your serger.

But because a coverstitch machine doesn’t sew on fabric edges, you can’t use it for this purpose.

Do You Need a Coverstitch Machine?

If you’re a hobbyist or general home sewist, probably not.

It’s always fun to buy new equipment, but coverstitchers can be on the pricey side. And the truth is that you can often perform the same tasks with a regular sewing machine.

But there are circumstances under which a cover stitch machine can be exactly the right thing, including:

  • If you have a small business making garments or housewares
  • You sew primarily with knits
  • You have money, space in your shop, and a burning desire to learn a new technology

How to Choose a Coverstitch Machine

If you’ve decided that a cover stitch machine is in your future, here are a few things to look for.

Number of threads

Most coverstitch machines sew with two, three, and four threads, and some can sew with five or more. If you intend to work primarily with heavy fabrics, look for a machine that can sew with four or more threads.

Differential feed range

The differential feed range means the range of stretch and compression that your differential feed mechanism can deliver.

Most cover stitch machines and sergers have a differential feed range of 0.5 to 2.25. Some, however, have a greater range than that.

The larger the range, the more control you’ll have overstretch and compression.

Automatic tension adjustment

Adjusting the tension of the different threads is one way in which you can create different stitches. It sounds straightforward but can be complicated until you get used to it.

Some machines have automatic tension adjustment that takes the guesswork out of making the stitches you want to make.

Automatic tension release

Some users find it difficult to remove their work from a coverstitch machine when their stitching is complete. And automatic tension release makes it easy.

Janome Cover Pro 1000CPX Coverstitch Machine with Exclusive Bonus...

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Air threading

You’re only going to find this feature on premium machines, but it’s still worth mentioning.

Threading sergers is a royal pain in the neck. Threading a cover stitch machine is slightly easier, as it has half the number of loopers.

But there’s still a learning curve.

Machines with air threading thread themselves using a clever combination of tubes and compressed air.

And if you’ve ever torn your hair out trying to thread loopers, we don’t have to tell you the value of a self-threading machine.

Free arm

A coverstitch machine is primarily for hemming. But hemming includes small work like cuffs. You might also want to topstitch collars.

A free arm machine allows you to remove part of the machine’s base to access a smaller, circular workspace essential for this type of work.

Extended workspace

But what if you want a larger workspace?

A coverstitch machine is like a serger in some places and like a regular sewing machine in other places.

One of those places is the throat space.

Because a coverstitcher has no cutting blade, it can accommodate fabric on the needle’s right side. Look for as much space in this area as you can get.

Recommended Read: Buying an Embroidery Machine – The Ultimate Guide

Accessories

Manufacturers like to include packages of accessories that can help you get the most out of your sewing machine. Here are a few of our must-haves.

Threading tweezers

Unless you have a self-threading machine, a pair of tweezers is a lifesaver.

Even though a coverstitch machine has only one looper, the path the thread will take to get through that looper is tricky.

What’s more, the thread guides may be difficult to access. Threading tweezers can make it a lot easier.

Brother Coverstitch Serger, 2340CV, Sturdy Metal Frame, 1,100 Stitches...

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Specialized needles

Some coverstitch machines use special machine needles. Others may be able to use regular sewing machine needles.

For machines that need special needles, manufacturers will often include a few extras in the accessories package.

Thread nets

Thread cones have a lot of thread — thousands of yards instead of hundreds. And they can come unwound very easily.

Thread nets, or spool savers, hold the thread in place when you’re not sewing and can save you money as well as aggravation.

Cone adapters

Most people use cone thread with their coverstitch machines rather than spool thread. Yard for yard, it’s cheaper.

But some people still prefer spool thread. So a coverstitch machine’s thread stand can accommodate both spool and cone thread.

The spool pins are thin enough for spools. Of course, this means that they’re too thin to hold thread cones securely.

Cone adapters are inexpensive and easy to find. Still, it’s always a nice touch when a manufacturer includes a few with purchase.

What About Serger/Coverstitch Combos?

Sergers and coverstitchers are two different tools for two different kinds of sewing.

But what if you need both?

Most of us don’t have an unlimited equipment budget. And very few of us have unlimited space in our sewing rooms.

In these cases, a serger/coverstitch combo can provide a happy medium.

A combo machine (also called a coverlocker or hybrid machine) combines a coverstitcher and an overlocker elements.

The exact specifications can vary between models, but in general, hybrid machines include:

  • Differential feed
  • A cutting blade
  • Chain stitching capability
  • Overlocking capabilities
  • Separate modes for overlocking and coverstitching

Hybrids come at a variety of price points, and the available features can vary widely. It’s important to research features and specs before you start shopping.

Woman With Fabric

Are You Ready to Buy a Coverstitch Machine?

It’s wise to think hard about any large equipment purchase. But now you know what to look for.

Is there a coverstitch machine in your future? Tell us about your machine in the comments!