An experienced sewer might have figured out whether he needs a mechanical or a computerized sewing machine. Most probably it is the beginner who gets confused with the two types.
Mechanical or computerized sewing machine, which one do I really need ? It is a typical question in the mind of a person who is looking to take his or her first steps into the wonderful world of sewing. If you are an experienced sewer, you probably would know the answer yourself by this time, it is those inexperienced sewers who need an answer. When you look over the internet for an answer, you only get a comparison between the two, no one really tells you which one to buy. Most online resources end the topic with ‘Both are good, it comes down to personal preferences’ kind of note. That is not what the beginners will be looking for, he/she needs a clear cut answer whether he/she needs a mechanical or a computerized sewing machine. I hope this post will help you make a decision. There are hundreds of mechanical and computerized sewing machines available in US. Let us have a closer look at both.
Difference Between Mechanical And Computerized Sewing Machines
Mechanical sewing machines are operated manually. It has gears, levers and dials. The basic operation is done by means of a foot controller. We also need to guide the fabric manually. In the case of a computerized sewing machine, there will be a start/stop button to start or stop sewing and a speed control slider to control the sewing speed. The quality of a project on a mechanical sewing machine depends entirely on the expertise of the operator. Every small adjustment you make to the tension or foot pedal reflects on the end result. It can be for the best or the worse. Normally mechanical sewing machines will have 20 odd built-in stitches which will be just about enough for basic works.
Tasks like making a buttonhole will be a headache on mechanical sewing machines. Computerized sewing machines on the other hand normally have 6-7 automatic 1-step buttonholes which can be made by just pressing a button. Another feature that makes a huge difference is the needle up/down button that comes with computerized sewing machines. On a mechanical sewing machine, you need to adjust the needle position by carefully pressing the foot pedal. You need to position the needle in down position in order to secure the stitches while moving the fabric around. If the needle is in the up position, the stitches will get loosened when you move the fabric. All these tasks are done with just a press of the button on computerized sewing machines. You can tell the machine to stop in needle up/down position. This prevents a lot of errors and loose stitches.
Thread tension on mechanical sewing machines are adjusted manually. So there is a chance of operator error. On a computerized machine, thread tension is automatically adjusted preventing bunching or stretching. Computerized machines are controlled by microprocessors, this enables the user to store their customized designs in the device memory for later use. Some high end computerized machines will also have PC or USB connectivity with which you can import unlimited designs from the internet and also update the machine software (Like Brother SE400).
The automatic needle threader on a computerized machine will thread the needle for you, saving eyestrain. Some machines will also have a button to cut the thread, so that you don’t need to search for scissors. Computerized machines will have an LCD screen, some even have a touch screen to eliminate the number of buttons on the machine. The LCD screen is where you have all the settings and controls like stitch width, length etc. Some high end machines will also have built-in help tutorials so that you don’t have to reach out for the user manual every time you have a doubt. The LCD screen will also suggest you the type of feet to use, for a particular type of stitch. One such machine is the Brother SE400. It has all these features and that is the reason why it features in our list of ‘Sewing Machines You Can Buy With Your Shut’.
Mechanical machines tend to be a lot heavier than computerized ones as they use more metal parts. So if portability is a factor for you, go with computerized machines. A mechanical sewing machine will suit those people who don’t sew a lot. It is good for hemming and small repairs. Whereas complex works including quilting and embroidery are much more easier on computerized machines. Features like automatic needle threader and thread cutter saves a lot of time for users who want to get things done quickly.
Price & Maintenance
Regarding the price, there isn’t much of a difference between the two. You can find a lot of mechanical and computerized sewing machines under $300 (Have a look at our ultimate list of 35 Best Beginners Sewing Machines). While looking for a mechanical sewing machine, go for heavy duty machines as they tend to last longer (Like the Janome HD1000). Generally the life expectancy of mechanical sewing machines are much better than computerized machines. There are very little things to go wrong on a mechanical machine. They don’t have a motherboard or a sensor to go wrong. Sometimes you can even repair a mechanical sewing machine at home. The maintenance cost of computerized sewing machines are much higher and you cannot expect a computerized machine to serve you more than 5 years. To me, the maintenance cost is the only area where a mechanical sewing machine scores better.
Which One To Buy ?
The perfection achieved on a mechanical sewing machine directly depends upon how good a sewer you are. So mechanical sewing machines are not highly recommended for beginners. If you work on a sewing machine 5 days a week (or is planning to work), go for a computerized one. No mechanical sewing machine can match the ease of use of a computerized sewing machine. Computerized machines will give you a lot of options for creativity.
People who are against computerized machines always say that it is very difficult to figure out the advanced settings and options. Which century are they living in ? We are living in an era dominated by technology. Even a one year old child knows how to operate an iPhone, so figuring out the controls of a computerized machine will be a piece of cake. The learning curve required is very less and you can start doing fun projects straight away. For a beginner, I will always recommend a computerized sewing machine. Go for a mechanical sewing machine only if you are an experienced and confident sewer and you know exactly what you are doing,
If you ask me, I will always recommend a computerized sewing machine irrespective of your level of expertise. I don’t want to buy a typewriter when you can get a laptop at the same price. The decision is yours. There is another category called electronic sewing machine, which is a hybrid version of a mechanical and computerized sewing machine. You will be better of avoiding such machines as they really don’t add much value at all.
For more information you can read our list of 35 Best Beginners Sewing Machines. It is a very long list, but it will give you an idea about the best sewing machines in the US market. It includes both computerized and mechanical machines.