One of the most common questions I get is 'Which sewing machine to choose?' and while there isn't a 'one-fits-all' answer, there are a few questions that will help you select the right sewing machine for you.
While the market is filled with a variety of different sewing machines, it might be tricky to start selection process, so one of the first questions to consider is whether to choose a computerized or mechanical sewing machine. In this article, we will be discussing the main differences between these types of sewing machines and hopefully, it will add clarity to which types is most suitable for you.
This article is created in partnership with Brother - experts of home sewing, embroidery, quilting, and crafting machines for more than 100 years.
To analyze and deep-dive into the differences between mechanical and computerized sewing machines, I tested Brother J17s (mechanical sewing machine) and Brother CS10s (computerized sewing machine). Both these machines are beginner machines in their categories, which means we will be able to compare the core differences and benefits of these two types of sewing machines.
To test these machines and their functions, I made a skirt from heavy-weight cotton, using lots of techniques: topstitching; pivoting on pocket corners; sewing around the zipper; hemming thick fabrics; sewing through bulky seams; creating pintucks using twin needle. Half of the skirt is made using mechanical Brother J17s, and the other half is made using Brother CS10s.
Now let's dive into the differences and benefits of computerized and mechanical sewing machines! Click below to watch in-depth video, or scroll down to read key differences/benefits:
Computerized vs mechanical sewing machine
What is mechanical and computerized sewing machine?
To put it simply, mechanical sewing machine has dials to select stitch, adjust stitch width, length and thread tension.
Computerized sewing machine has computer inside and is controlled via button or touch screen, and has a screen. Thanks to the computer inside the machine, computerized sewing machines have a lot more features, allows customization and automates sewing process.
How easy it is to start using the sewing machine?
Thanks to control dials, mechanical sewing machine is very easy to start using: you simply take it out of the box, plug it in and markings on the dials will intuitively guide you how to select stitch, length, width.
With a computerized sewing machine - depending on its complexity - there is a bit of a learning curve and it will take an hour (or few) to read through the manual and learn how to use it's advanced features. However, the time you invest into learning about your machine will be rewarded, as utilizing all features of computerized sewing machine will make it feel as if you're sewing with a helpful assistant.
Custom stitch settings
One of the benefits of computerized sewing machine is possibility of customize stitch preference. For example, in Brother CS10S sewing machine, the starting stitch is 2.5mm length and needle is in left position, but it allows to set and memorize your preference (in my case, I like to use 3mm stitch and use needle in center position). It also allows to choose whether to start seam with backstitches or not, and determine needle position when seam is finished (needle up or down).
In mechanical sewing machine, you cannot customize the stitch and all the adjustments (needle position, stitch length, backstitches) will have to be made manually.
Computerized sewing machines are known for the amount of available stitches - even a beginner computerized machine has 39 different stitches, while more advanced models can have 600 stitches or more. While not all of the stitches will be used often, a few stitches are worth paying attention: if you plan on sewing knits, you may benefit from elastic stitches (my favourite being mock-overlock stitch, which works great even with chunkier knit fabrics and helps control fraying); also, having a variety of different 1-step buttonholes to choose from is a big plus.
Mechanical sewing machines have far less stitch options available, but even a beginner machine will have all necessary stitches: straight stitch, zig-zag stitch and 1 type of buttonhole stitch (depending on the model, the buttonhole stitch may be 4-step or 1-step).
Foot controller and start/stop function
Both mechanical and computerized sewing machines are controlled via foot controlled, but it is worth mentioning that more advanced computerized sewing machines will also have start/stop button, which will allow to sew without having to constantly press foot controller.
For those who are also looking into machine embroidery, you might benefit from combination computerized machines, that combine embroidery and sewing machines into one. These machines are usually more advanced, but are cheaper than buying two separate machines and also storing one machine instead of two will take up less space.
While mechanical sewing machines do not come with automatic embroidery function, you still can get creative and do embroidery using free motion embroidery technique.
While amount of included accessories is not the defining factor when choosing a sewing machine, this is something worth to look at, especially when choosing between similar machines. Usually manufacturers include more accessories, such as different presser feet, extra bobbins, covers, etc. to computerized sewing machines, so that you're able to take full advantage for computerized sewing machine features.
Straight stitch quality
The KEY factor you should pay attention when choosing sewing machine is the quality of the straight stitch, as this is a stitch you'll be using the most. While testing Brother CS50S and JS17S sewing machines, I was sewing through multiple layers of thick cotton and both machines handled the task well, creating consistent, quality stitches.
I hope you enjoyed reading these core differences between computerized and mechanical sewing machines. Sewing is a joyful activity and a right partner (aka right sewing machine) can make it easier, faster and even more fun!