If you are joining me on the #mmaw2015 challenge, to sew an item of clothing a month, then you may well already have your own sewing machine. But if you don’t (and whether you are doing the challenge or not) then you will probably be on the look-out for one, unless your hand sewing skills are better than mine (not hard!)
Buying a new (or new to you) sewing machine is a Big Thing.
It could cost a lot of money, depending on what you choose.
But more than that.
You want to love your sewing machine.
You want to enjoy sewing on it, and not spend your whole time time cursing it and crying loudly (just me..?!).
I’m going to focus this post on where to look for a second-hand machine, and what to look for when you find one.
Most of the advice in the 2 posts above, about what to look for in new sewing machines, also follows for secondhand machines, so do take a minute to have a read!
Where to find a second-hand sewing machine:
- Friends and family
If you ask around, you may well find that someone you know has a machine sat in their spare room/garage/loft gathering dust, and that they are only too happy to have someone take it off their hands. This has the added bonus that they hopefully remember how it works, so can show you how to get it set up etc. I’m a big fan of posting on my personal Facebook page-I’ve done this with some success for quite a few things I’ve been looking for!
- Charity Shops
If you are lucky, you will sometimes see them for sale in charity shops-one of my local ones had the most gorgeous old-fashioned Singer for sale, and I was sooo tempted! If they are newer electric models, they may well have been PAT tested by the charity, and they should at least know if it’s working, so if you see one for not much money, snap it up!
- Car boots/Jumble Sales
This is quite a good place to have a mooch around on a Sunday morning, and I have seen several machines offered for sale, for about £5.
The disadvantage is that you have to decide whether the seller looks trustworthy if they tell you it’s working….!
If you are a member of your local group, you will have undoubtedly seen sewing machines being offered from time to time. And if there’s nothing in your group, you could always post a WANTED to see if anyone has one they are looking to gift. My advice would be to post a little back story, about wanting to learn to sew etc-I think people are more likely to want to give you stuff if you let them know why!
- Online-sites like E-bay/Pre-loved/Gumtree are all great places to look-with the bonus that you can do a search to try and find what you are looking for. If you are really sneaky, you could try some new ones in a sewing machine shop, so you have an idea of what make you might like.
A word of warning though-if you are looking on E-bay, make sure you check the ‘Used’ box on the left hand side, so that you are only shown secondhand machines, and don’t get caught out looking at all the shiny new ones!
Also, as sewing machines tend to be pretty heavy, you might want to limit your search to areas that you are able to collect from…!
- Refurbished machines-I just did a very quick Google for re-furbished machines and found this site here. But I think it would be worth checking with your local dealer, or sewing machine repairer, to see if they ever have any second hand machines to sell. The Sewing Directory lists local sewing machine servicing places
Top tips for buying a second-hand sewing machine
- As I mentioned before, it might be bit sneaky, but it is worth going to a sewing machine dealer to get an idea of brands you like, and features you would find useful
- It is quite important to have an idea of what you are going to be doing with the machine, both immediately and in the longer term. If your aim is to make a handmade wardrobe, then you should be ok with a fairly basic machine, but if want to have a go at quilting, or soft furnishings, you may need one with a bit more ‘oomph’! And if you want one to machine embroidery, then that’s a whole other thing…!
- Have a budget in mind, but bear in mind that as with most things (unless you hit lucky!) you get what you pay for-I would rather pay a bit more for a good quality brand, than get a really cheap one that someone else has picked up in Lidl. Having said that, I started off with a machine from Lidl and it was entirely functional, and allowed me to figure out that I actually wanted to have a real go at sewing
- If you are lucky enough to be given a machine, or pick one up and there is no manual, you can often find them to download online. Just do a Google search for (e.g.) Bernina minimatic sewing machine manual and you should find one. If not, contact the manufacturer, and give them as much detail about the machine as you can (or send a picture) and they may be able to help. My machine has a serial number on the back, so have a good look all over (and underneath) to see if you can find one
- If you buy or are given an older machine, do try and check 1st if it takes regular needles, and if parts are still readily available. Some machines will only take their own brand needles and bobbins, and if these are no longer made, it may prove tricky to find new ones
- I would always recommend getting your new machine serviced, so at least then you know it is running smoothly, and any issues you have with it are probably down to you 😉 As I said above, the Sewing Directory lists sewing machine servicing places on there, or good old Google is handy for finding somewhere local
- If you buy a secondhand Singer, I found this whole site dedicated to helping you refurbish your own if you fancy a challenge!
- For complete beginners, it can be useful to sign up for a Learn to Love your Sewing Machine type class, that allows you to take your own machine along. It’s all very well learning to sew on a machine in a class, but when you get home and are confronted by your own, entirely different machine, it can be quite frustrating! Again, the best place to search for local classes is The Sewing Directory (I promise I’m not being paid for all these mentions! It’s just a VERY useful site 🙂 )
- If you have a local Repair Cafe, they may have a textile repairer who might be happy to have a look at your machine for you, and to help get you going. Or if there is a local sewing group near you, they are normally very helpful and friendly!
- For a more in depth look at buying second-hand machines (including embroidery ones) this article here is great
I hope this helps anyone thinking of taking the plunge and buying themselves a ‘new’ sewing machine. You really don’t have to buy new-as with many things, some of the older machines are actually better made than more modern cheaper ones, so for the same money, you could buy a good reputable branded machine, that will last you years of happy sewing!