My Four Must Have Sewing Machine Features (Plus My New Sewing Machine Buying Guide!)

In 2015 I was employed by a sewing machine dealer, ever since then I have spent most of my days talking with sewists of all types about sewing machines. We have talked about the machines they want, the features they dream of having, how to utilize their machine to the fullest, how to fix the funny thing it's doing, we have talked about it all.

Most of the time when I'm getting asked about features or machine specs or what I love about my machine or whatever it is, people are actually asking because they're curious about what machine they should get. Some people come right out and ask "What do you think about this machine for me?" or "What machine do you think I should be test driving?" but regardless of how we end up talking about it, I love helping sewists find the machine that is absolutely and totally perfect for them.

I love this old BERNINA ad but I think her eyes say "Help Me"

I have been getting asked more and more about sewing machine buying; do I need this feature? Do I have to have this for quilting? Do you really think I can learn that machine? It's hard to impart all the help I would love to give via a quick Instagram DM or email, as I board an airplane or on my way to the next event. This is where the idea for this machine buying guide started to take form and once I realized there wasn't anything out there that was like what I was picturing, I knew I had to dive right in and write something that sewists of all kinds would find helpful.

This sewing machine guide is written objectively and no matter if you have a preferred machine brand, are new to sewing, are buying your 10th machine or have no idea what you are looking for it's made to help you through the whole process. I am incredibly excited to present this guide to you!

You can download your Undisputed, Unequivocal, Ultimate Machine Buying Guide right here! I can't wait for you to use your new guide and find the absolute perfect machine for you.

I love this guide and put a lot of work into it. I truly worked my butt off to keep it rooted in fact and free from my own personal sewing opinions and preferences. This buying guide was not the place for me to spout off the things I personally love about sewing machines.....but this blog is! So here we go!

I'd like to share with you my three favorite features of my sewing machines!

These are features I would strongly suggest you look into or start freaking using on your own machine.

Four Must Have Machine Features

Dual Feed

Dual feed engages right into the back of your presser foot for even feeding

My first project at the quilt shop, and third quilt top ever, was made of 60 degree triangles. 72 triangles to be exact. For my quilters, you know this is terrifying because pretty much every seam is on the bias, meaning there are so many chances to stretch and pull that fabric out of shape. I told one of the women I worked with that I was nervous I didn't have the skill to sew this quilt and have it actually lay flat. Jenny's advice was not to sew it on the machine I had at home but to sew it at work on a machine with Dual Feed. That advice saved my brain and my quilt top!

Dual Feed is a part of your machine, back behind the presser foot, that helps facilitate the even feeding of the fabric as you sew; it's like a walking foot light. BERNINA's Dual feed is awesome cause it easily engages with one hand, disengages, hides totally away when disengaged and it SAVES my piecing! I'm not a great piecer so dual feed as helped me become much more accurate since the very first time I sewed with it.

Free Hand System

Hi knee lift! I love you! I appreciate you so much!

If you are a BERNINA owner who is thinking "Oh yeah I never use that" then this message is for you:

OMG WHY!!!! It's without a doubt my favorite thing about my machine!!

See that fantastic rod jutting out of the front of the machine? That's the hands free system or knee lift. Using your thigh/knee you can push that rod to the left and it will lift up your presser foot for you while your hands stay on your project. You get more control over how high you are lifting your foot and can even have it hover fractions of an inch above your project while you ensure everything is correct.

I love my knee lift so much, I am evangelical about them. I use my knee lift anytime I want my hands to stay with the project and don't want to have to reach up to lift the presser foot (which is all the time). Knee lifts are particularly helpful with bulky fabrics, applique or delicate projects.

Adjustable Presser Foot Pressure

Thanks to for this perfect pic.

One of the things I say in my classes that REALLY gets a reaction is this: I change my pressure foot pressure for pretty much every single project! I do all of my piecing with a presser foot pressure of 25, and my piecing has become so much better as a result. How do you know how much to adjust it? Sew a test piece of fabric and loosen the tension until you stop getting piling in front of the needle, once the fabric lies flat and stitches perfectly you have a winner! If you are having a hard time controlling your fabric as you stitch, increasing the presser foot pressure could help!

You can't adjust presser foot on all machines and on a lot of machines it's a dial or a key you turn to change it. At this point I love the feature and use it so frequently, I could never have a machine where I couldn't change it at the touch of a button right on the screen.

Machine Embroidery

I was obsessed with machine embroidery from the minute I sat down to do a project. If you're looking to get started with machine embroidery then you can go here to see my tips for getting started.

I have brought a lot of people over to the machine embroidery dark side. It is so much fun once you get started and discover the right projects and designs for you. I love it for personalization, adding texture to a project and of course for free standing lace projects. You wouldn't believe the amount of people that tell me machine embroidery isn't for them, and then sheepishly walk up to me after class and confess their new found love. I get it! It's addictive!

Are you in the market for a new machine? Know a friend who is?

Send them this blog post so they can get their free ebook!

The Undisputed, Unequivocal, Ultimate Machine Buying Guide, is a free download that will help walk any weary sewist through the process of buying the perfect machine for them!

What are your must have sewing machine features?

What advice do you have for a sewist looking for a machine?

Comment below and let me know.

xoxo Kate