I often get asked about which sewing machine I recommend to people wanting to buy either a new sewing machine or upgrading one they already have so I have made a list of the things I look for in a machine. SORRY ITS A LONG POST!
Ask yourself "What do you want your machine to do?"
Do you want your machine for dressmaking, making home furnishings or quilting?
You can buy a machine that will do all of these but unless you have an unlimited budget and buy a top of the range machine then you will be limited so let's take each category at a time.
All machines will allow you to make clothing but what specialist things might you need it to do?
Good clear markings: ensure the markings on your needle plate are clear and easy to see, this will make sure you keep those 5/8th seams accurate.
Lights: make sure your machine has good lighting, this will help when using dark fabrics or sewing tricky curves and corners.
Speed control: again this will enable you to sew those curves at a slower speed ensuring accuracy at all times.
Buttonholes: Look for a machine with a one step buttonhole foot, this enables you to stitch numerous buttonholes exactly the size you need them.
Decorative stitches: the more you pay for a machine the more stitches you will get but don't necessarily buy a machine just because it has lots of stitches, ask yourself how often you will realistically use them
Home furnishings: there isn't any special things you will need to make soft furnishing on a domestic scale, good lighting, clear makings. Most soft furnishings are quite easy to make on a basic machine you will just need a larger sized needle.
Quilting: now this is where the specialist bits DO come into there own.
Needle down button: I always start my work with my needle down, this allows me to reposition my work without loosing the tension on my work, it also helps to pivot on corners and it's good for appliqué work.
Lock stitch: this is a great way to keep your work tidy without the need to backstitch which can be messy if it doesn't sit row on row of stitching.
Speed control: great for appliqué work and piecing work together especially small pieces.
Throat size: if you have ever tried to quilt a full sized quilt on a machine that isn't a quilting machine you will understand how difficult it can be. Most machines have a throats size of roughly 8" but a quilting machine will have a much bigger threat allowing your quilt to pass through whilst quilting it a lot easier.
Decorative stitches: these are great on quilts, they add detail and can also be used when quilting as well.
If I have missed anything or if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask and I will do my best to answer them.