3 Sewing Machine Features You Didn’t Know You Wanted!
Here are 3 of my favorite sewing machine features so you can keep an eye out for them when you are shopping for a new sewing machine. When I turned 14 years old I received a new sewing machine for my birthday. It was beautiful to me – a mid-range Singer with a sturdy frame and lots of stitches, plus a few extra feet. I could hardly believe that my mother had saved up so much money and was willing to spend it on me.
Then I sewed that machine to death – literally! I used it all through my teenage years and even took it with me to college. Finally when I was sewing for my third child I wore it out.
I made do over the next few years with the best used sewing machines that I could afford but they didn’t have any features that were better than those on my first Singer.
Finally I was fortunate enough to be able to buy a used Bernina 1530. It might have been older than the machine I received for my birthday many years before, but it had some high end features that I had never seen before… and my life was changed!
Since then as I’ve visited quilt shows and different fabric shops, I’ve been able to test drive lots of different sewing machines and even take home a couple new ones.
So here are my 3 favorite sewing machine features. I think there’s nothing worse than shopping for a much anticipated (and much to be loved) appliance (or in this case sewing machine) without knowing why the more expensive ones cost so much more. And – more importantly – what features you could be looking for.
1. I LOVE a knee lift!
I can’t say enough about this.
The knee lift raises and lowers the presser foot so you don’t have to use your hand.
I once had a friend who owned this same Juki TL-2010Q that I do and she told me she never tried the knee lift.
I nearly did a forehead-palm slap – on her!
Imagine if you could use both hands to place your fabric (or elastic or ribbon or combination of all three) under the sewing machine foot and then not need to let go and use your hand to lower the foot – I hear a choir of angels!
That’s how good the knee lift is.
And that’s why I hope I never buy another sewing machine without one.
One clue that a sewing machine might use a knee lift (even if you don’t see it installed) is a little hole in the location you see above.
But don’t assume that the machine will come with a knee lift just because you see a hole or dark spot in that location – make sure you ask before you buy.
2. A thread cutter will change your life!
From the picture above, you see that this machine (again, the Juki TL2010Q) has a needle up/down feature, a thread cutter, and a speed control.
Those are all very nice sewing machine features, but the one that changed my life most was the thread cutter.
On the Juki, you can also activate it by rocking backward on the foot controller. Guests in my sewing studio have cried out when they accidentally activated it.
They were cries of joy, I’m sure.
Who wouldn’t love the top thread to be automatically pulled to the bottom and clipped after every finished seam?
My newer Janome 14000 sewing machine also has a thread cutter (along with a needle threader, needle up/down, foot up/down and tie off stitch), but I can’t activate the thread cutter with my foot. That was a real bummer!
3. Multiple dual-feed options will blow you away.
You already know that I consider a dual feed foot (or walking foot) a necessity for certain projects – read more about sewing machine walking feet here.
But some sewing machines take the dual-feed feature to a whole new level. A lot of Pfaff sewing machines and some Berninas have a built in dual feed option that can be used with any of the included feet.
The Janome 14000 doesn’t have built-in dual feed, but I do have two different walking feet – a wide one and a narrow one.
On top of that, both the wide and the narrow walking foot have interchangable soles.
For example, I can use a 1/4” piecing sole (that has a guide) when I am sewing with the wide dual feed foot. Or I can install the zipper-foot sole when I am using the narrow dual feed foot.
Being able to use dual feed in so many different situations makes my quilt piecing more accurate and my purses and bags more professional looking.
I’m spoiled, for sure.
These my 3 favorite sewing machine features… what are yours? Make sure you tell us in the comments. Maybe I’ll discover something new!
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂
Hmm, now you have me reconsidering my decision to not install the knee lift that came with my machine.
Please do it you will absolutely love it
Do you have suggestions for using the knee lift? Exercises I need to work on? I recently purchases the Juki 2010, but I find that I’m accidentally cutting the thread because I put down my heel in order to stabilize my leg when operating the knee lift. I grew up using an older White machine that had a knee activated motor (rather than a foot pedal) but I’m having a really hard time working these features together.
You could remove the knee lift until you are accustomed to using the cutter. Or, I have heard that some sewists turn the pedal 180 degrees and therefore never use the cutter at all.
Here is the thread that I learned that from: https://www.quiltingboard.com/main-f1/disconneact-thread-cutter-foot-pedal-t289420.html
FYI Janome offers a thread cutter option for the foot control. You might want to check it out.
Thanks for sharing that! I will look into it. 🙂
Question about your Juki TL2010Q – does it go through many layers with ease I.e., soft &stable, fabric, shape flex as in bag making? I own three Janomes and none of them can handle the multiple layers. I’ve heard the Juki machines can handle the layers – true?
Absolutely. The Juki Tl2010Q sews many layers like a dream. It is my favorite sewing machine for bag making. The only fabric that I have found it less favorable for is stretch knit.
Have you tried the walking foot on your Janome for sewing many layers? That might help.
I have a Janome HD-1000 and sews through multiple layers of leather. I love it. It’s a heavy duty machine..but has basic features.
My favourite feature on my 2 Janome machines is the needle up/down option. It is very helpful to have the needle stay down in the fabric when stitching stops. This makes pivoting and aligning stitches so easy.
I have a Viking and the "auto scissors" is absolutely wonderful! Talk about being spoiled using that!! Wouldn’t buy anything without it.
I live my brother 3000. It has all the features you love. I love them too. I also love the laser light on mine. I now never have to draw lines on half square triangles or other quilt pieces.
My favourite features are: Speed control, needle up/down, and extra-large work area.
I have a Baby Lock Destiny II, it has a laser beam that I love, when I am sewing diagonally (making half square triangles using the square on a square method) I no longer need to draw that diagonal line to get a perfect seam, just touch the laser tab, and that laser beam lays a perfect path for you to follow. I have also used it when stitching in the ditch, when you are watching that beam instead of you needle, better results are achieved. This machine has lots of other features that have spoiled me as well, love it!
My old Bernina 1130 – still my daily workhouse and my only machine – has a knee lift and I’d never, ever, EVER want to do without it! I used to do a LOT of free-motion embroidery and I can’t imagine doing that without a knee lift. I’d LOVE a thread cutter. I’ve watched and re-watched videos to see how you ladies were cutting those threads, and was never able to figure it out until you explained that it is done with your foot! I have a good walking foot but it is difficult to put on because it fits so tightly. If I was younger, I’d be looking for a newer Bernina that has all three of those features, plus at least a built-in alphabet. My Bernina will outlast me and go on to serve my granddaughter though! It is still a superb machine.
My first sewing machine was Singer, too. 🙂
I love my Pfaff for the walking foot, too! I would never buy another Machine without it, I live for my drop down needle threader, when I got the machine 30 some years ago I didn’t see the value of it, and I adore the drop in bobbin!
My favorite feature just now is that it runs. And the light over the sewing area is a real blessing. there were times when I sewed at night and the machine light was all I could have on to avoid disturbing my sisters. The fancy stuff would undoubtedly be great, but if I let myself be discontent with my current (more advanced than before) machine, I might never get any sewing done! I also learned on an old machine that had knee control instead of pedal power. . . and I was too short for it most of the learning time.
I can relate with your story too. My mom got me a Brother sewing machine that was not expensive but was light and I carried it with me every where. Most of my party clothes when I was in college came from that machine.
Fast forward 20 years and now I have a janome. Not the latest model but it’s great for me. Thought I didn’t need (or cared) for the thread cutter feature but boy I was wrong! I cannot sew without the thread cutter! Given I had knee surgery I bypass the knee lift but acknowledge it’s good benefit.
I still have faith to get a new machine. My next machine will have the dual feed options integrated because I hate to use my walking foot. The "clanking" noise drives me crazy…
Thank you for sharing your stories!
Another feature? Needle up/down.
I love,love and more love my knee lift. For those who have knee issues, I cut a length off of a pool noodle and threaded it up the the bar. Makes it so much more comfortable to use.
👏👏👏👏👏. Thank you for sharing this tip.
My favorite is long basting. It changed my sewing results dramatically (for the better).
I learned how to sew from watching my mother, but also from Home-Ec class in High School. That was DECADES ago. I’ve had the floor pedal, the knee pedal, but have never loved any machine more than my Janome 4120 QDC! I activate power at the touch of a button. I love the end knotting feature, auto threader, thread cutter, and six modes that provide 600 stitches, symbols, numbers and alphabet choices. I love it for making garments and quilts. 😊
I agree with every function you mentioned except I hate the knee lift. It just doesn’t seem to be in the right place for me to use it comfortably. My first sewing machine was a Singer Golden Touch and Sew. I bought it in 1973. It had a knee lift that actually ran the machine instead of lifting the foot. That knee lift worked for me and I loved being able to sew with it and not a foot pedal.
My previous machine a vino g. Had a prayer for up option that activated with the foot pedal. I miss that on my Janome
I guess I’m older than you are because I can no longer see well enough to thread the needle. My first love is the needle threader. It makes sewing possible for me.
I have a Janome with the thread cutter. I must not understand it’s use. When I’ve tried it, there is not enough thread left to keep the needle from unthreading. Any ideas?
very clear and good article easy to understand. Thank you