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Difference Between Manual And Automatic Sewing Machine

Manual Vs Automatic Sewing Machines – Which Is Better?

If you’re looking at buying a sewing machine for the first time, you might be wondering if a manual or automatic machine is right for you and the type of work you want to do. 

Manual sewing machines allow you to have more control over the variety of stitches, allowing you to set them with a dial while computerized machines have stitches already preset, allowing you to just click a button when you want to change settings.

To help you figure out whether a mechanical or a manual type of machine is right for you, we’ve composed an informative guide below, taking you through the types of sewing machines, the pros and cons of manual and automatic sewing machines, factors affecting your choice, what to look for and some tips.

What Are The Different Types Of Sewing Machines? 

Before we can dive into comparing both manual and automatic advanced machines, we should first understand the different type of machine on the market and their basic machine features to see how they work. 

Manual Sewing Machines 

Mechanical sewing machines do not have the modern technology of a computerised sewing machine, instead, their sewing technology consists of dials which have to be set manually unlike an electronic machine in order to change stitch size and type. 

This basic model is often used for simple home projects nowadays due to the slower sewing speed.

Computerised Machines

Computerised sewing machines are also known as electric sewing machine thanks to their digital software inside, allowing you to select perfect machine embroidery designs, built-in stitch patterns, buttonhole stitch and automatic threading via the electronic threading button.

For a complete beginner, electronic sewing machines can help with complex sewing tasks and settings can be changed via the LCD on the machine, they also tend to have USB ports so that you can transfer designs at a faster speed. 

Industrial Machines 

Industrial sewing machines are often reserved for the extreme type of projects at a factory level, these types of sewing machine move at a fast sewing speed and can do many types of tasks that manual and automatic machines can’t, with extras included such as quilting tables and more. 

Not only do industrial sewing machines have millions of designs and touch screens but they also can handle heavy-weight fabric and types of projects which are more heavy-duty.

Manual Vs Automatic Sewing Machines – How Do They Compare?

Now we know the basic features of each kind of sewing machine, let’s compare the pros and cons of both a mechanical sewing machine and an electronic sewing machine below to see how they match up. 

Mechanical Sewing Machines

Mechanical sewing machines are the type of machine which are also known as domestic machines and are much more affordable than computerised machines, so are great for beginner sewers. 

These basic level machines are often the more ideal choice for people who are not tech-savvy and are not complicated to use once you get a hang of the basic settings, since they are regular machine, they are also easier to maintain. 

The disadvantage to using a regular machine when sewing is that they are slower since you have to manually adjust settings, some beginners might also find it hard to thread the deal and drop-in bobbin, when it can all be done automatically on a electronic machine.


  • Good choice for beginners.
  • Affordable. 
  • Easier to maintain. 
  • Simple to use for basic projects.


  • Limited types of stitches. 
  • No automatic features. 
  • Longer sewing time.

Electronic Sewing Machines

Computerized machines are an excellent choice if you are looking for a wide variety of stitch options, decorative stitches and beautiful machine embroidery thanks to their built-in designs. 

These digital sewing machines tend to have a faster stitching speed and are better for workflow professionally due to the automatic features and LCD screen which allows you to see and change settings easily. Some people may find these advanced machines easier to use because of this.

Downfalls to this type of machine are the price, these computerized machines can be very expensive, and the more stitches and designs you want, the higher the price. The same goes for fixing the machine, with electronic problems being much harder to troubleshoot. 

We would also argue that computerized machines can have limitations when it comes to adjusting and setting different stitches which can’t be replicated with a dial.


  • Faster speed than mechanical sewing machines.
  • Automatic needle threader and other automated features.
  • Better for professional use.


  • Very expensive. 
  • Harder to maintain than a basic machine.
  • Can have limitations for particular stitches. 

Conclusion – Which Type Of Machine Is Better?

Overall, if you are a beginner sewer who is buying your first sewing machine, we would suggest sticking with a cheap second-hand machine manual model for your first ever buy, this will help you learn settings and get familiar with stitching before jumping into the digital world, they are also more affordable!

On the other hand, if you are more experienced in sewing and you already have owned mechanical machines, choosing electronic sewing machines might be a better option since they can allow you to speed up your sewing time and give you many more design options. 

Electronic sewing machines are more professional level machines, therefore if you are looking to turn sewing into a career, we would suggest spending the extra money on them.

What To Consider Before Buying A Sewing Machine 

Before choosing the kind of sewing machine you want, it’s a good idea to take note of the main factors that will influence your buying decision.

We’ve listed the main factors to consider before choosing a machine down below.

What You Make

When deciding whether you want domestic machines are electronic ones, consider the type of projects you will be making the most. For example, simple home projects with basic stitches indicate you don’t need to splash out on a fancy automatic machine, but if you want to create amazing embroidery designs, computerized machines are the better choice.

Your Budget

If you don’t have a high budget, it’s best not to stretch and buy a brand new electronic machine, you can instead find mechanical machines which are more budget-friendly or pre-owned machines on the sewing machine market for a cheaper price.

Top Features To Look For In A Sewing Machines 

We are sure by now you have a good idea of which kind of sewing machine is right for you, so to help you out with picking machine, we’ve listed some tops features to watch out for in both manual and automatic sewing machines down below.

  • LCD screen – If you have decided to choose computerized machines then it’s ideal if your sewing machine has an LCD screen, this will help you see and set essential options on your machine like stitch length and pattern.
  • Motor power – Having a stronger motor power on your machine allows it to sew faster and also through tougher fabrics. You should expect high-quality machines to have anything from 900 stitches per minute and above.
  • One-step buttonhole – No matter the heavy-duty sewing machine you choose, it should have a one-step buttonhole function, avoid old manual machine types which have a four-step hole button function since they make the process longer.
  • Free arm – If you want to be able to sew anything circular you should ensure that your machine comes with a free arm so as you can wrap the fabric around and sew properly, you also try to ensure it has a drop in feed. 
  • Twin needle option – Twin needles are very useful when sewing, they can be used for sewing cuffs and necklines as a professional and strong stitch, if you have the right machine for this you will need to make sure that there is an extra hole on the sewing machine for the second spool pin.
  • Built-in stitches – The majority of sewing machines come with basic stitches, but more modern machines can have a better variety, allowing you to be more creative with your sewing.
  • Auto needle threader – An automatic needle threader does the job it says and threads through the needle eye for you, saving time when sewing, it should be noted that some sewing machines can still come without this, so double-check.
  • The weight – Checking the weight of your sewing machine is more important than you think, the weight should be light enough to carry around, but at the same time not too light that the machine might vibrate and ruin the accuracy of your stitch when sewing.
  • Top drop in bobbin – Try to avoid machines which have a front-loading bobbin, this is because it slows down your work speed since every time you reload the thread you will have to remove the storage compartment. Look for a top drop-in bobbin instead.
  • Warranty – Always make sure your sewing machine comes with a decent warranty for buyers protection, sewing machines can be very expensive and digital machines they can sometimes become faulty due to manufacturing issues.

Essential Tips For Using A Sewing Machine 

If you’re buying your first beginner mechanical sewing machine or computerized machines then we’ve got a great list of tips for getting the most out of your sewing below.

  • Practice – We know you’ve probably heard it before, but practice does make perfect when sewing on a machine, don’t expect yourself to be an expert as you are getting used to your new machine, we suggest always practising on a spare piece of fabric first before going straight in on your material.
  • Flatten fabrics before sewing – Flatten your fabric with your hands or iron before sewing, this stops the fabric from scrunching while sewing and ruining your stitch.
  • Clean it – Although it does take time, cleaning your machine is very important to keep it working properly. Make sure to dust out any fluff inside of the mechanisms and use a dust cover when the machine is not in use.
  • Use the same threads – Make sure the threads on the top and bottom of your sewing machine match in terms of weight and size to avoid tension problems when sewing.
  • Hold thread tails – Hold the thread tails with your left hand while making the first stitch, this stops it from getting caught up in the mechanisms of the machine.
  • Go slow – Slowing down helps with the accuracy and quality of your stitches, you can set the speed when using computerized machines to be slower or try using the sewing foot of your machine barefoot for better control.

Frequently Asked Questions About Manual & Automatic Sewing Machines 

How much do a mechanic and automatic sewing machine cost?

Mechanical sewing machines often have more reasonable prices than automatic sewing machines, costing between £120-£1000, computerised sewing machines start from a price of £250 going all the way up to £10,000.

Does a regular sewing machine have built-in stitch patterns?

Regular sewing machines will not have built-in stitch patterns since they need to be set manually on the machine with a dial.

What is the best sewing machine retailer?

There is no single best retailer for sewing machines, but some reputable ones to name are; Bernina, Brother, Singer and Janome.

Final Words

Overall, manual and automatic sewing machines both have their advantages and disadvantages, if your looking to upgrade your sewing machine, sew often, want a variety of stitches and are ready to take your hobby to a professional level, then a computerised machine is the better choice.

For beginners who are starting and are on a budget, regular sewing machines will teach you everything you need to know without complications of a digital system and are much easier to maintain.

Kirsten Carter

Kirsten Carter

Kirsten Carter is a freelance content writer who specialises in writing about travel, technology and health. When she's not traveling between her home of Tanzania and England, she writes for her blog Rightminded Travelling and features on a variety of different travel and technology sites.View Author posts

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