Sewing Machine & Overlocker Advice

At Sew In Brighton we like and use Janome 525S Sewist & now the 725S which has superseded it. Both machines are used on the BBC's The Great British Sewing Bee! We do recommend going to one of the local sewing machine & overlocker suppliers locally (below) to try out a few different brands and types. Buying locally rather than online also means you can go back for help and advice - even if it's years later I've found! Read our blog article by Ian at Varneys in Portslade for more reasons for buying local. Read our article about Overlockers here

What functions do I need on my sewing machine? (by Kat - Sew In Brighton owner)

There are some sewing machine functions we find essential! I'd recommend getting a machine with these functions below. I would also suggest buying a machine once you've been to a couple of our classes and tried our Janome 525S/725S class machines (free to use, no need to book inadvance). That way you'll have had a bit of experience and feel better informed. You'll also understand the functions I've listed below a little better if you're new to sewing machines!

  • Adjustable stitch length - some cheaper machines have 3 or 4 set stitch lengths. Choosing your own gives a greater range of stitch types
  • Adjustable zig zag width rather than set stitch length and zig-zag stitches - similar to the length reason above - good have options
  • 3-step zig-zag as it's much easier to edge stitch with this, it doesn't 'tunnel' the fabric (roll it up). It's also pretty, for hemming stretch fabrics or applying swimwear elastic
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure is handy for quilting, darning jeans with a ordinary foot (though a darning foot will do with normal pressure), thick fabrics, some stretch fabrics. 
  • Adjustable needle position - it's also very useful to be able to adjust the needle position while doing straight stitch manually for doing your own choice of topstitch/understitch width on straps, seams etc.
  • Presser feet we use: you can buy all sorts of extra feet -  we mainly use these:
    • transparent square-ish shaped sewing foot (B manual buttonhole foot on the Janome machines) - we use this instead of the metal foot that comes on the machine as the squared off sections and centre groove are fab for lining things up for topstitching, seams etc, plus you can see what's going on underneath
    • zip foot  (usually comes with the machine in the little accessories section)
    • invisible zip foot
    • automatic or 4 step buttonhole foot (also comes with machine)
    • walking foot - great for fabrics with pile, or fine fabrics. Many sewers use it for all their sewing
    • teflon or ultra glide foot is great for sewing pvc, leather etc. You can buy these cheaply on Ebay, although it can be hit and miss as to whether you have bought the right one for your machine, so might be less hassle to spend the extra £5-10 and get from a local sewing machine shop. A cheap way to get an ordinary foot gliding across pvc is to stick some masking or magic tape on the bottom! Rub it down well so it doesn't peel off when sewing. Use a pin to tear a little hole for where the needle goes
  • Stretch stitches - it should also have the range of stretch stitches (most do these days I think though). Use stretch or jersey needle for sewing stretch fabrics (easy to buy in most sewing machines shops or on Ebay) 
  • I also am not overly keen on computerised machines! Many people love them, but a few of us teachers don't - maybe we are old fashioned! Plus I expect they get better all the time. I have found on many computerised models, the foot pedal and the needle position function is slow to respond. Whereas a machine like the Janome 525s/725s does what you want it to do as soon as you put your foot down or move the needle. Note that we don't sell them so have no reason to promote them! Some of our students who own them prefer our Janome 525S/725S, but others like computerised models best for the extra functions like ending with the needle up or down and other functions that make them less manual than traditional electric models like ours. So try them out in the shop and see what you think suits you

Teacher and student comments about sewing machines & overlockers

Comments about sewing machines that may help you with choosing your own sewing machine to buy:

  • Much loved machines:
    • Our teacher Deborah had this to say about the Janome 525S/725S machines we use in class: ''It's a great machine for covering a wide range of fabrics from heavy to lightweight and can carry out a range of techniques. This machine however, is a great choice for covering a wide range of techniques and skills. It's a machine you can grow into and will serve well for many years. I would choose this machine if I was looking to buy.'' 
    • If you are curious to find out more about overlockers, Deborah also wrote our overlocker article here
    • Regular student Hannah has this to say about her lovely Janome QXL605.  "I think it's probably meant to be a quilting machine as it comes with one of those extra large tables. It's normally quite expensive (think around the £400 mark) but I was just lucky in that Varneys had an ex demo one on special for less than £300.  It does really amazing button holes!"
  • Beware of certain shops when buying machines!:
    • Avoid the Hobbycraft sewing machine. Every time a student brings one to a lesson the thread breaks every 10cm! The manual actually advised to file parts of the machine down inside to solve issues - to us this is worrying! Visit a local stockist and buy a good brand.
    • Our teacher Laura made this comment about an inexpensive Tesco sewing machine: "One student brought a Tesco's sewing machine to the sewing workshop I was teaching today, and it kept going wrong! I wouldn't advise anybody buys that one!" Beware of supermarket sewing machines and overlockers - there's a reason they are so cheap. keep the receipt!
    • Ian from Varneys Sewing Machines (details below) advises not to buy Lidl or other cheap sewing machines as you cannot get the parts to repair them and you will have to throw them away if they go wrong
    • Richard Mouland (who runs a local sewing machine repair service - above) warns that John Lewis sewing machines, whilst being good cheap and cheerful, can be problematic as there are no parts available for them. So should they break all that can can be done for them is to try putting parts on from other makes of machine, which can be very time consuming and not cost effective. As such if you do decide to buy a John Lewis machine and something does go wrong then you might have to be prepared to throw it away. Buying a brand like Janome, Singer, Brother ensures you will be able to get parts

Local Sewing machine & Overlocker stockists/servicing & repairs

(Please contact these shops before heading over there. Let us know if details are out of date!)

    Richard Mouland.
     Richard was the sewing machine technician at Jaeger for years - there isn't anything about sewing machines and overlockers this man doesn't know! He does reasonably priced repairs & servicing (£45 for a standard sewing machine, £55 for an overlocker - plus parts - price updated May 2019).  He's based in Bear Road, Brighton (off Lewes Rd near the big Sainsburys) - you can drop off to him and collect from there - free parking I believe.
    01273 624725 / 07931 963185

    Brighton Sewing Centre
    - - sell Brother and Janome sewing machines and overlockers plus do repairs
    Brighton Sewing Centre based in Hove.

    Unit 2, 83a Montgomery street, Hove, East Sussex UK | Phone: 01273 621 653 | Email: [email protected]
    Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for appointments. Open Friday and Saturday 10.30am - 5pm

    Varneys Sewing Machines, Portslade
     - sell JANOME and other brands of sewing machine and overlocker
    A family run business - established since 1940. Offers excellent advice when choosing your new sewing machine or overlocker. Also have an onsite workroom which provides FREE estimates for repairs/servicing of machines, just bring your machine (complete) to them & leave it for a few days.
    56 Station Road (carries on down to the sea from Boundary Rd, the main street in Portslade), Portslade BN41 1DF.  01273 418777. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9.15 am to 5pm
  • LEWES 
    Brian Watts
    . 01323657766. You drop your machine off at The Stitchery in the Riverside Mall by the Cliff High St. foot bridge and pick it up when done. We've been told he is knowledgeable, speedy and reliable. cost £69 for a service.
    Cotton On
     - Industrial and domestic sales and repairs.  Cotton On will always try to give friendly help advise for any make of sewing machine. Domestic/ Industrial. All of Sussex covered.  Address: 6 Arundel Road, Worthing Sussex BN13 3EG. 01903 264733 / 07810 123 733 Website -
    RE Burrows Ltd
     - Specialist sewing machine repairer. Tel: 07947 017075  All Makes & Models. Domestic & Commercial. On-Site Repairs.Company Established In 1946.  87, Leylands Road, Burgess Hill, West Sussex RH15 8AA
    Stow Sewing Machines
     - Sewing Machines & Accessories. St. Olaves, Hampers Lane, Storrington, Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 3HZ. Tel: 01903 744704
    Sewing Machine Services Sussex
    - Over 30 years  experience and trained by Pfaff  I service all makes  of domestic and industrial sewing machines and overlockers and sell and back up the TEXI brand of domestic and industrial sewing machines and manufacturing equipment.  Contact Paul Dougherty 07906623164, [email protected] or visit the website
  • Please contact us if you repair or sell sewing machines and overlockers in Sussex and would like to be added to this page

Try before you buy?

Many people looking to buy themselves a sewing machine do a few of our sewing classes In Brighton and Hove first. This can be especially helpful if you are a complete beginner to machine sewing or overlocking - and unsure yet what you want in a sewing machine or overlocker. Using our Janome 725s/525s sewing machines in class is a great way to see which functions you like. Then when you try out machines in a sewing machines sales shop, you'll have some experience already and be more able to choose.

We have Janome 725s and 525s domestic sewing machines available to use free of charge in any of our sewing classes (no need to reserve a machine, just book a class and turn up without a machine) that teach sewing and/or clothes making (i.e. any except Replicate Your Clothes, Knitting, Crochet and crafts which don't use sewing machines)

We also have Janome overlockers available to use in our general all levels all-projects sewing and clothes making classes. Our in-class overlockers can be used for finishing raw edges in stead of zig zagging on a domestic sewing machine, This is great intro to overlocking if you've not used one before. (Want to know what an overlocker is? Read our article here)
Then if you want to learn more detail and skill including how to re-thread, set tension, stitch length/width and more, come to our Love Your Overlocker (or Ours!) workshop.

Browse all courses and classes here and get in touch if you have any questions.
Find out where our classroom is here