With the economy still in the doldrums, sewing is a great, inexpensive hobby that can actually save money in the long run. Simple enough for even the most inexperienced beginners, sewing is a useful skill that is easy to pick up, but provides enough variety for years of fun, thriftiness and learning. If you've been considering giving the art of sewing a try, but aren't sure what type of machine to get, this definitive guide for how to buy a sewing machine will walk you through the process from start to finish. From identifying the right brand for your needs (whether it be Singer, Brother, or any of the lesser known manufacturers) to finding the best model for even the most modest budget, figuring out how to buy an inexpensive sewing machine while still getting great value for beginner to advanced sewers will be a breeze.

First, determine your price range.

Sewing machines can range in price anywhere from $50 for the most basic, no frills model to upwards of $1,000 for a machine with enough bells and whistles to last the average crafter a lifetime. Of course, price will ultimately depend on the individual, but if you're just starting out, look for a sewing machine model in the $100-$200 range. (Spend any less and it may well fall apart on you, but any more may be too much machine for the average sewer)

What type of sewing are you planning to do?

Are you planing on making intricate patterns? If so, look for a computerized machine, such as the Brother HS-2000. Retailing at approximately $200, this machine is capable of producing over 70 stitches and comes with an easy to read LCD display. This type of machine is probably best for an advanced beginner to intermediate level.

Are you a complete newbie? If so, try a sewing machine like the Simplicity S07 Deco Mate. At approximately $170, its a little less expensive than the Brother machine, and comes with less frills also. A bonus – it comes with an instructional video, carry handle and 7 of the most commonly used stitches.

Will you be traveling with your sewing machine? If you'll be on the move, whether it be to a sewing group or friends house, the Brother LS590 is a great choice. Weighing in at only 16.5 pounds, it comes with its own carrying case and a 25 year limited warranty, in case of bumps or scuffles. At $99, this sewing machine is a great value, coming with 29 built in stitches and 59 stitch functions.

Will you sewing heavy duty materials? If you're a quilter, or plan on sewing heavy fabrics, consider the Brother LX3125 Sewing/Quilting machine. Able to handle many different materials, this machine is bargain priced at approximately $129, and comes with 14 different stitches and also an instructional video.

Looking to advance your skills? For the sewer who's already mastered the basics, the Kenmore Drop-In Bobbin sewing machine provides quality at a price that doesn't break the bank. At approximately $219, this 22 pound powerhouse comes with 74 built in stitches, and, like the Brother LX3125, is also great for quilting.

Alternative Sewing Machine Options

For the value-minded, there are many other great places to find quality sewing machines on a budget. Don't forget to check out your local Goodwill, tag sales, Craigslist, Ebay, and especially family member's attics! (You'd be surprised what you may find!) There are a few things, though, to consider when buying a used sewing machine. Many older machines are not designed to handle new, synthetic fabrics, but depending on your plans, this may not be a problem. If you can, use a new needle to check to make sure the stitches are not bunched or uneven on either side of the fabric.(If they turn out to be, though, don't fret – its possible to have the machine adjusted, but it may be more of a hassle to a beginner than its worth) Finally, try to purchase a machine manufactured by a company that is still around – if the company has gone out of business, repairs may be that much harder. The most important thing is just to do a test of the machine if possible, but, barring that, make sure you are aware of the risks and benefits of buying used.

You may not find a machine that fits your needs or budget right away – that's ok! For many people, sewing becomes a lifelong passion, so don't be afraid to shop around, to make sure you purchase a sewing machine that feels comfortable to you. In the meantime, best of luck and happy sewing!