Some would say sewing machines got their start as early as 1755 when German immigrant Charles Weisentha, took out a patent in London on a needle intended for use with mechanical sewing. There is no record of any machine to go along with this needle. It was not until 1789 that Englishman Thomas Saint is said to have invented the first real sewing machine. From there the machines became more sophisticated with each new inventor making improvements upon previous inventors’ designs.
Mechanical sewing machines actually run on electricity but require manual control of the levers, switches and dials that control the various settings, such as the stitch length, stitch style and needle position. With the manual controls on a mechanical machine there is an increased chance the stitching will be less precise or unevenly spaced. Typically mechanical sewing machines come equipped with 4 to 16 different stitch designs, depending on the model.
Mechanical machines are perfect for those who only plan to use their sewing machine occasionally for repairs, hemming or other simple projects. Mechanical machines are also well-suited to beginners who wish to learn basic sewing skills without being intimidated or making a large financial investment in a more complicated machine. Most mechanical sewing machines also offer additional accessories that can be attached to the machine to customize its functions, such as special presser feet (presses cloth down) for creating buttonholes or zigzag stitching.
Computerized sewing machines are generally some of the most expensive machines available. A computerized machine contains a microprocessor that allows the machine to receive new information, typically in a card form. The sewing machine can then create patterns that have been loaded onto the card. Computerized machines typically have 150 to 250 different stitch styles--everything from embroidery stitches to alphabet stitches for monogramming. They can also be connected to your computer for downloading custom stitches and patterns.
A computerized sewing machine is a veritable workhorse, suitable for individuals who make their living by quilting, sewing or embroidering. Computerized machines are equipped with the highest quality feed mechanisms capable of handling difficult or multilayer fabrics. Other features may include several buttonhole styles and mirror stitching. With this type of sewing machine, you need only to decide where you want the pattern placed, and the machine does the rest. They can be programmed to create designs that are automatically produced without any assistance from you in guiding the material, or setting stitch length or needle position.
Since there are thousands of sewing machine styles and types to choose from, it is important for shoppers to assess their needs and skill level before making a buying decision. Sewing machines can range in price from $100 for a basic machine all the way up to $6,000 for an industrial machine. Experts agree that “test-driving” a sewing machine is an absolute must. Most retailers who sell sewing machines have test machines for customers to try. At ConsumerReports.org you can find helpful reviews of different types and brands of sewing machines, along with the average price for each.