Which sewing machine to buy can be a tricky decision, as there are a vast range of models available. The overriding factor in which model you choose should be your sewing experience and what the machine will be used for.
If you do not have much experience with sewing machines or you are unlikely to use them very often then a more basic model will probably suffice.
You will almost certainly need a machine that can handle a few basic stitches such as zigzag and differing lengths of straight stitch.
You may want to consider a sewing machine that has an automatic buttonhole function if you plan to make your own clothes. A zipper foot will allow you to insert zips into garments as well.
Paying extra for a machine that is capable of more creative flourishes is unnecessary if you are an amateur unless you are very confident that sewing is going to become a serious hobby.
However, if you do hope to graduate to more difficult projects then it may be worth focusing your search on sewing machines that have numerous accessories available for sale separately. This will allow you to increase the functionality of your chosen model, as and when you need to.
People who have prior experience of making their own clothes or soft furnishings should be prepared to pay a little more for their sewing machine.
Although a small zigzag stitch will create a secure seam, purchasing a machine that is capable of overlocking stitches can be very worthwhile for a more professional finish.
You may even want to invest in a computerized model which automatically selects the correct stitch if your sewing machine is likely to get a lot of use.
A computerized sewing machine is also a wise buy for anyone who is passionate about embroidery, as these specialist models come programmed with a large number of intricate patterns.
As long as you have access to a computer and a memory card you will be able to add further patterns to the machine's repertoire, and can even download software that allows you to create your own.
The downside of this type of model is that the cost can be prohibitive, but it is a very worthwhile buy for people who need a sewing machine for business purposes.
Maneuverability is another essential consideration for larger projects and any garment with pockets or sleeves. Make sure that the sewing machine has a free arm and that the build is sturdy enough to cope with heavier fabrics without them becoming stuck in the mechanism.
A small number of models are available with a knee lifter. This is lever operated by your knee which allows you to move the fabric and control certain functions more freely - essential for fiddly work and large projects where you feel like you need a third hand.
Which sewing machine you eventually buy should depend on your individual needs. It is very easy to be seduced by an array of complicated features, but these are unlikely to be necessary for amateurs.
On the other hand, sewing enthusiasts and professionals will benefit from a heavy-duty machine that offers a range of functions and accessories.