Now that we are all watching our pennies, there has been a huge surge in people making and mending their own clothes, curtains and home accessories. Here are some basic tips for anyone who is in the market for a sewing machine.

Getting started
Before you decide to spend any money, think about how often you plan to sew, realistically. If you are completely new to the craft don’t go for anything to advanced. It’s not worth paying for function and buttons you may never use.

What to look for
When selecting a sewing machine, the first thing to check is how many different stitches it can sew. There should be a minimum of six different options, which will allow for simple alterations and repairs, as well as working on lightweight curtains and soft furnishings.

Weight and storage
Keep in mind that sewing machines can be quite heavy. If you intend on hauling your machine around, opt for a lightweight model. Also if your space is limited at home, think about where you will be able to store it. And be sure you get a cover – a hard case is often more practical than a soft cover.

Getting help
If you’re a complete novice, it might be worth investing in sewing classes to help you pick up the basics. Finding your way around a sewing machine can be a daunting prospect for first timers.

Making your own clothes, even if it’s just children’s costumes, will be easier with a more sophisticated machine. More advanced designs are also suitable for embroidery. Look for a ‘free arm’ which is good for adjusting cuffs or trousers and sewing sleeves. Another essential is an automatic buttonhole option, while an integral needle threader will save hours of frustration!

Overlocker machines
These are used mainly to finish off hems and seams neatly but can also have decorative stitching options. The main benefit of this type of machine is its ability to sew a seam, finish the edge and trim off the excess fabric in one step, doing this faster than an ordinary machine. An overlocker can be useful for simple tasks like curtain-making or taking up hems but can’t insert buttonholes or zips.