Getting Your First Machine

If you want to get into sewing but don’t know where to start, finding a sewing machine should be top of your list! 

The launch of our online sewing course for absolute beginners – Winning Beginnings – has meant many people have been asking us for advice on great beginner machines. 

A sewing machine is essential for almost all W&W patterns but there are so many options out there – it’s easy to get overwhelmed. 

Here are a few tips and suggestions to help you get set up with your first machine. 

Working With a Budget

One of the main sticking points when people are looking for a first machine is cost. Many people will, understandably, feel nervous about spending a lot on a hobby they haven’t yet tried out. But don’t worry, there are lots of options available that work on a budget! 

  1. Ask family and friends to check their cupboards! You will be amazed at how many people have sewing machines sat on a shelf somewhere, just gathering dust. Borrowing a machine is a great way to try a machine out without committing to buying one. You will need an instruction manual. If the original is lost, you can find many manuals online for a very small cost.
  2. Shop the sales! January sales and Black Friday are times for great bargains! Some larger shops may have regular sales so it’s worth keeping an eye out for any price reductions.
  3. Go basic! You don’t need a fancy machine to get started. My first sewing machine was a reasonably basic Janome and I used it for over ten years! You need a straight stitch, a zigzag stitch and ideally a buttonhole function. Anything on top of that is lovely, but not essential.
  4. Second hand is twice as good! There are some amazing machines out there available to buy second hand. They may be older, but that doesn’t stop them being fabulous machines. You may, in fact, be able to buy a much higher quality machine for your budget compared to buying new. Just make sure to check that all the parts are there and ask the seller to demonstrate how it works. As long as it works and it has an instruction manual, you’re good to go! 

The main thing to remember is that, as a beginner, you DO NOT need an expensive or complicated machine. You need a machine that works and has an instruction manual. You need a straight stitch and zigzag stitch, and a button hole function is nice. That’s all you need. Just go for it!


If your budget stretches to something a little fancier, some other options that I like (but that certainly aren’t necessary!) are:

  • A one-step button hole function. This means that the machine will sew all 4 sides of your button hole automatically, rather than having to sew each side individually. 
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure. This allows you to adjust the pressure the presser foot places on your fabric as you sew. This can be useful when sewing more challenging fabrics. 
  • Needle threader – great for when your tired eyes can’t quite focus on the eye of the needle! 
  • Decorative stitches – not needed but lots of fun!  

Be warned though, it’s a slippery slope. Once you have one machine you’ll want more…

This one is my absolute favourite yet I never use it! She just sits on my desk looking beautiful.