Sewing machines are flying off the shelves these days as people take up making face masks and return to the hobby of sewing in the age of spending more time at home.

Are you ready to learn—or relearn? Ask yourself two questions as you start your search for the best sewing machine for your needs…

What kind of sewing do you want to do? A mechanical machine that does straight and zigzag stitches is fine for simple projects such as making face masks and tote bags, although many ­entry-level machines today offer as many as 30 stitch types, including ­buttonhole, stretch stitches, blind hems and beautiful decorative stitches. Best entry-level machines: Baby Lock Zest ($199)…Bernina Bernette 35 ($299). 

How much do you want to spend on a sewing machine?You can expect to pay at least $200 to $500 for a new entry-level sewing machine. Yes, you could buy a $100 machine, but it will likely not work as well and will not offer many helpful features. Advanced computerized machines can cost thousands of dollars.

A local sewing store is the best place to buy a new machine. Sewing machine dealers can answer questions to help you choose your machine, offer classes and make repairs. 

You also can buy sewing machines online and at “big box” stores such as Costco and Walmart and at craft stores such as JOANN and Michaels. But these places may not offer services such as maintenance tune-ups—particularly important for higher-end machines—and repair. 

Consider a used machine. If you’re looking to maximize your investment, it’s better to purchase a gently used, well-maintained older model of an expensive machine than an expensive new machine. Many avid sewers regularly trade up for new models, so it’s not difficult to find used machines on eBay, Facebook Marketplace and within local sewing guilds and dealers. 

Online tutorials. The American Sewing Guild (ASG) website has learn-to-sew tutorials along with many sewing education opportunities and members-only discounts on sewing products and services. Membership: $50 to join. YouTube has beginner sewing videos and instructions on how to operate almost every type of sewing machine. 

Basic sewing supplies. In addition to fabric, machine needles and thread, you also will need straight pins, high-quality fabric scissors, disappearing ink or chalk marker, extra bobbins, a measuring tape, seam ripper and an iron. You can purchase supplies at a local fabric store or anyplace you find them online, such as CuttingLineDesigns.com, SewingWorkshop.com, JOANN.com and Michaels.com, as well as at Amazon.com

Worthwhile projects beyond face masks. The public section of the ASG website under “Resources/Giving Back” has directions for making many community service projects such as the Anti-Ouch pouch for breast cancer patients and World Wish Pillows for sick children. Being part of a sewing community such as ASG or other guilds offers sewing friends to mentor new sewing enthusiasts!

Bottom Line Personal interviewed Margo Martin, executive director of the American Sewing Guild, Inc., a nonprofit national membership group organization for sewing enthusiasts, headquartered in Houston. ASG.org