I am looking for a machine which would help me do basic stitches and
hems on clothing and other thin materials.
Stay away from too much stitch variety. When looking for the basics in a machine, too many stitches mean more complicated electronics, which means more things can go wrong with the machine. The absolute basics of a machine:
- straight stitch
- zig zag stitch
These two stitches will do a majority of the work especially when starting out.
Any particular things I need to be looking for or testing?
Test the zig zag at the widest setting to see that the needle is always picking up the bobbin thread.
Tension should be adjustable, functioning and no parts are rusty.
Bring fabric samples with you to test the machine, as well as the proper needle size and point for the fabrics. Tension issues always start with the proper needle.
Is it clean? Look for build up of lint in the bobbin area - there should be none. Also ask if the machine was routinely oiled. When was the last time the owner brought it to the shop for a tune up?
What are the parts made from: metal or plastic and are they replaceable? This will help you negotiate price, metal parts would be more valuable as they are more durable. Name brand recognition can help you find out if the parts are replaceable and whether there is a local machine repair shop.
Can the flywheel move smoothly by hand and foot pedal?
Are you comfortable with the speed? Can you control the needle action using the pedal at both at top speed and slowest speed?