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Long gone are the days of hemming pants and sewing buttonholes by hand. Modern sewing machines have made darning, stitching, patterning, and a plethora of other sewing tasks faster and easier than ever before. Indeed, today’s sewing machines include technologies for automatic pattern making, easy threading, multiple stitch types, and a host of other tasks. A beginner can use a modern sewing machine almost as easily as an experienced tailor can.
At BestReviews, we want to help you find a sewing machine you’ll love. We understand that the best sewing machines on the market are quality appliances with genius engineering and ample power. If you’re looking for advice on how to find a great new sewing machine, you’ve come to the right place.
In our quest to find the perfect products for consumers, we never accept free samples from manufacturers. We buy products on our own, test them in our labs, and donate them to charity when we’re done. We also interview experts and consumers to learn what it’s really like to own and operate these products.
To learn more about current sewing machine offerings, please continue reading this shopping guide. When you’re ready to make a purchase, you can click on any of our five chosen products above for even more information.
Note: The above top choices were updated June 2017. The products below were our original choices and have yet to be updated.
At its core, successful sewing requires only two basic stitches: straight and zigzag. You can do almost anything with these two stitches alone. However, many modern sewing machines offer a multitude of other creative stitching choices.
Machines that are easy to use help you sew more efficiently. How long does it take to change the needle and pressure foot? Does the machine come with an automatic needle threader? How large is the motor? Is it easy to thread/wind the bobbin? We provide ease-of-use details for each machine on our shortlist to help you make the right choice.
Most sewing machines come with an automatic needle threader. This time-saving tool isn't something to go without.
Knowing what you plan to sew, and how frequently you will sew, can help you determine what sewing machine features are most important to you. Machines with buttonhole, zipper, and blind hem feet simplify most clothing projects. A choice of feet widths is especially useful for beginners. We tell you what features you can expect from each product on our shortlist.
The cost of a sewing machine is influenced by its type (mechanical vs. computerized). Computerized sewing machines tend to cost more; mechanical machines, because they require less maintenance and servicing over time, tend to cost less. The number of features and attachments a machine offers can also drive its price up or down.
To prevent metal fatigue and keep your sewing machine running smoothly, experts recommend that you replace a needle after 16 hours of service.
The Brother Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine offers an impressive 130 built-in stitches, as well as 55 alphanumeric stitch styles for embroidery and monogramming. Buttonholes can be notoriously difficult to create, but this machine offers eight buttonhole size gradations. Quilters appreciate the ability to create free-motion quilting stitches, and crafters enjoy the flexibility of having so many decorative stitches available at the touch of a button. Nine specialized presser feet make all sorts of advanced stitching techniques possible.
The Singer Heavy Duty Extra-High Sewing Machine provides 23 stitch choices and adjustable stitch lengths. We predict that the majority of users will stick to the most basic stitches offered by this machine, including "essential," "stretch," and "decorative." If you're a beginner, you may appreciate the stitch guide that educates newbies on when and how to use Singer's stitches. Most of the owners we surveyed appreciate the larger stitch selection, but a few told us they were disappointed with the quality and performance of some of the Singer's decorative stitches.
The Michley Lil' Sew & Sew offers a eight built-in stitch patterns — a significantly smaller number than both the Brother and the Singer. While this smaller selection of stitches suits beginners and covers most basic sewing tasks, some owners told us they wish the machine provided a more generous selection of choices. Another drawback: the Michley does not offer an adjustable stitch length; owners must choose from the two available stitch lengths on the machine.
If your needles break frequently, you have several options. You could purchase a new set from a different manufacturer to see if it’s a quality issue. If the new needles also break prematurely, it may be a size issue. For example, a thinner size 9 needle is not designed to handle heavy materials like denim.
The Janome Sewing Machine comes with 12 built-in stitches, including a handy "reverse" option. Like most sewing machines on the market today, it offers easy stitch width and length adjustments as well. That being said, it's important for potential buyers to note that not every stitch on this machine is adjustable. For example, you can't adjust the straight stretch, rickrack, decorative, smocking, and blanket stitches because of their preset length and width.
The Easy Stitcher Table Top Sewing Machine caters to beginners. Most users opt for the straight stitch setting, which moves forward but can also reverse with the push of a button. Two distinct length options make it easy to go from big to small stitches. Several owners told us that the stitch settings aren't too precise, but they work well for basic tasks.
Every sewing machine model offers its own variety of standard, decorative, and advanced stitches, but there are some basic stitches every machine should offer. Look for these essential stitches when shopping for an entry-level or mid-range sewing machine.
The straight stitch is the workhorse of the sewing world. The needle and thread move forward in a straight line while the machine feeds material toward the user. The result: two pieces of fabric joined by a seam. Virtually every sewing machine sold today offers a basic straight stitch.
The straight stitch was one of the first stitch patterns used in hand sewing.
Two locking stitch types exist. One type will automatically back up (backstitch) at the start and finish of a sewing line. The other creates a nearly invisible knot at the beginning and end of the line. Not all machines offer a true locking stitch, but the effect can also be accomplished manually with a short backstitch at each end of the line.
Sewing buttonholes into clothing is considered to be one of the most difficult stitches for traditional hand sewers. The top, bottom, and sides must be reinforced to prevent rips and tears. Accurate placement is also a consideration. A buttonhole option on a sewing machine removes much of the guesswork from the process by performing a pre-programmed series of reinforced stitches.
Do you dread sewing buttonholes? They’re truly one of the hardest stitches to master. But if you buy a sewing machine with a buttonhole stitch, the machine’s automated process can alleviate much of your burden.
Overlock stitching may be a little advanced for beginners, but it’s a useful stitch to have. Some stitch patterns create obvious seams with exposed edges that can fray over time. An overlock stitch secures these loose seams and creates a more professional finish.
One of the joys of machine sewing is the ability to create decorative as well as functional stitches. Many sewing machines — even those in the entry-level price range — offer a selection of freehand and embroidery stitches for creative projects. Adding a personalized initial to a sweater or putting a floral pattern on a pillow case is easy to do with the right sewing machine and some practice.
The Brother Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine surpasses all others on our shortlist in terms of ease of use. A bright LCD lighting system provides strong illumination in the workspace, making it easier to perform intricate stitching patterns. An automatic threader removes the guesswork and frustration from the needle-threading process. If a wider table is needed for quilt-making and other large projects, one is provided with the original package. The large LCD menu screen is backlit for improved readability. A variable-speed control allows users to work at the right pace for a particular project, and an onboard flip chart makes simplifies stitch selection.
If you're searching for an easy-to-use sewing machine of the highest quality, consider the Singer Heavy Duty Extra-High Sewing Machine. This machine boasts an automatic needle threader — touted as sewing's biggest time-saver — and an easy-load bobbin system with a clear cover for faster threading. The process for threading and loading the Singer's bobbin may be a bit confusing at first, but users love it once they get the hang of it. If you need to make buttonholes, you'll also appreciate this machine's automatic, four-step buttonhole function.
Unlike most of the other machines on our list, the Michley Lil' Sew & Sew does not provide threading or bobbin assistance (although the instructional pamphlet does explain how to use the bobbin winder). It's a very basic model, and its simplicity requires users to start a project with the hand switch or foot pedal. The extra effort this requires will most certainly be a deal-breaker for some consumers.
Some users prefer heavier machines because they equate them with durability. But we found that even though the Brother is light, it's also sturdy.
The Janome Sewing Machine is relatively easy to use, thanks in large part to its dial pattern selection, manual tension control, and drop feed which enables free motion (great for both sewing AND quilting). Users reduce their setup and sewing time considerably when they take advantage of the Janome's push-pull bobbin winder. This machine is particularly appealing to beginners who want a straightforward, no-frills machine.
The Easy Stitcher caters to beginners and even comes pre-threaded — it can't get much easier than that! This model's horizontal drop-in bobbin is purported to reduce setup time, but a few owners note that the bobbin does not always stay in place. Based on our extensive research of this product, we recommend that you hold the threads when you start stitching to avoid pulling them out of the needle.
The Brother Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine has all of the standard features home sewers have come to expect, plus a few surprises. Instead of spending precious time re-threading a standard bobbin, users only need a few seconds to install a quick-set bobbin. A built-in monogramming font makes it a breeze to create standard letters, numbers, and symbols on clothing and craft projects. The original package also includes an English/Spanish DVD and print instructional manual.
The Singer's extra-fast sewing speed of 1,100 stitches per minute is one of the features that makes this machine shine. The free arm storage tray includes numerous practical accessories, including an all-purpose foot, zipper foot, and buttonhole foot. Sewing projects move smoothly thanks to this machine's stainless steel bed plate/fabric feed and heavy-duty, interior metal frame. The metal frame, which helps encourage skip-free motion, is conducive to creative topstitching as well.
Unlike its pricier counterparts, the Michley Lil' Sew & Sew doesn't boast a long list of features. However, it does a fine job of satisfying consumers who require basic features for everyday sewing projects. Delighted customers tell us it's it easy to sew sleeves with this product, and the double-thread and double-speed stitch patterns come in handy for beginners and experienced seamstresses/tailors alike.
The Singer boasts an automatic needle threader – a major time-saver when you're in a hurry to finish a project.
Most entry-level units don't have as many features as the Janome. This machine includes a front-loading bobbin, free arm and drop feed, and folding handle for easy transportation. Other notable features include manual tension control, snap-on presser feet, and a convenient dial pattern selector. The Janome's incandescent lamp brightens up your work space. Customers tell us they really like this machine's basic and useful features, especially the adjustable thread tension and length.
The Easy Stitcher Table Top Sewing Machine doesn't have many features, making it appealing to beginners who want a simple, effective teaching machine to help them master the basics. Step- by-step instructions guide beginners through the sewing process, from setting up the machine to using it for the first time. A foot pedal gives users more control over their projects. The standout feature is the horizontal drop-in bobbin, although a few users told us that the bobbin doesn't stay in place.
Sewing with patterns allows you to create items you might not find in a regular store, such as period costumes, doll clothes, and cute little coats for your dog.
Most sewing machines require a balancing act between tension and release, along with careful attention to detail and a mastery of complex gears and controls. It’s not an easy process to learn, and mistakes are part of the journey toward becoming a skilled sewer.
Here are some common mistakes both beginners and experts have made —
To avoid damage to your needle, remove pins from your fabric before you begin sewing.
Taking on larger projects too soon: Sometimes the owner of a new sewing machine can become the “seamstress for the band” (or school or theater group) before he or she is fully prepared to take on the responsibility. Creating one costume for a young dance team member is completely different from agreeing to finish 30 identical costumes by Friday. While many beginners are eager to take on “real world” projects for worthy causes, taking on an advanced sewing projects with a strict deadline can be stressful.
Disregarding or reworking sewing pattern instructions: Some beginning sewers decide to “improvise” or rework existing instructions in a sewing pattern. More often than not, this ends in disaster. Try not to make the mistake of second-guessing the pattern creators or looking for shortcuts.
Pulling the material too hard: Some new users pull firmly on the material in order to ensure a straight seam. This tension actually creates more problems, because the metal teeth that pull the material through the machine cannot grip it properly. It’s better to let the machine do most of the work with minimal interference.
The Brother's retail price of $190 may seem high compared to the other machines on our shortlist, but as they say in the movie industry, every penny is up on the screen. Finding this many additional features in a consumer-grade sewing machine is not easy, but Brother has managed to do it. Instead of one or two buttonhole settings, this model packs eight. Instead of a few dozen built-in stitch patterns, the Brother has 130, plus monogramming fonts and free-motion quilting ability. For many consumers, investing a little more upfront in a quality sewing machine like the Brother Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine makes good economic sense in the long run.
At a cost of $230, the Singer Heavy Duty Sewing Machine brings a well-rounded mix of quality features and performance to your sewing table. While this machine is one of the costlier appliances on our shortlist, its durable construction, ease of use, and beginner-friendly styling compensate for the higher price tag. Heavy-duty raw materials make this product a solid, stable choice for your sewing room and allow the Singer to stand out among the sea of plastic machines on the market today. A total of 23 built-in stitches are available to satisfy your creativity, although most users find they won't ever use the full range.
A price of $44 makes the Michley Lil' Sew & Sew one of our most affordable options. It's a great choice for beginners who just need the basics for everyday sewing projects. The Michley's eight built-in stitch patterns pale in comparison to the number of stitch offerings on pricier machines. However, most users indicate that they feel this is an adequate range to choose from. One drawback, though it may be an infrequent occurrence: quality and dependability issues have plagued a few owners who experienced product breakage shortly after purchasing.
At this price, the Brother is a steal. In fact, you get MORE than what you pay for when you purchase this product.
The Janome Sewing Machine has a price tag of $189, making it one of the most expensive options on our shortlist. Does it live up to its higher price tag? We think so. Customers particularly like this model's twelve built-in stitches and four-step buttonhole function. Beginners are helped through their learning process by the Janome's easy-turn dial pattern selection and stitch width/length adjustments. The biggest complaint we encountered when researching this product is that it's quite noisy, even when compared to less expensive products. If you can live with the noise and don't mind paying the higher price, the Janome is quite a nice package for seamstresses and tailors of all abilities.
A price tag of $29 makes the Easy Stitcher Table Top Sewing Machine quite an affordable option. Its beginner-oriented design and lack of features is typical for machines in this price range. As expected, customers tell us that the Easy Stitcher is a great value for the money, emphasizing its solid performance on simple items. We did uncover a few quality issues during our research, including the fact that some consumers experienced product breakage shortly after making their purchase. The Easy Stitcher is an inexpensive machine that some view as "flimsy" and not worth the few dollars it costs. However, it's a reasonable solution for people who want to learn to sew on a budget.
In the sewing world, a “notion” is any small item that you buy to help you with a project. This may include decorative buttons or zippers, but it also includes basic tools like seam rippers and pin cushions.
Beginning sewers often start with straightforward tasks, such as hemming or repairing clothes. But it’s not unusual for a beginner to blossom into a hobbyist. In this case, the consumer would need a machine that can grow with them as they explore techniques such as doll-making, quilting, and monogramming. The sewing machine that best supplies this type of versatility and craftsmanship is the Brother Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine.
This is the model to consider if your sewing ambitions have surpassed basic repairs and occasional craft projects. With a stunning selection of 130+ stitching patterns, you’ll find a stitch to meet nearly every sewing or quilting need. Instead of defaulting to a few standard buttonhole sizes, you can choose from eight sizes and also perform the overstitching necessary for reinforcement. Other machines make it difficult for quilters to stitch freeform patterns, but the Brother provides a wide table and a freehand stitching option.
With strong illumination on the work area, users can easily see where the stitches are created. Add in a convenient automatic threader and quick set bobbin, and you have all of the ingredients for the ideal home sewing machine.
With options for quilting, monogramming, denim stitching and more, the Brother has it all for a great price, and makes it a suitable choice for novices as well as for those who plan to take on creative sewing projects.
The Singer Heavy Duty Extra-High Sewing Machine strikes the perfect balance between practical features and excellent performance. It's a fantastic sewing machine for both beginners and advanced seamstresses/tailors. For these reasons — and many more — we give the Singer Heavy Duty our rating of "Best Bang for your Buck."
An extra-fast speed of 1,100 stitches per minute and 23 built-in stitches provide just a foretaste of all this machine offers. For a cost of $230 (not too low, but not exceedingly high, either), the Singer provides a smooth, "seamless" sewing experience thanks to its heavy-duty infrastructure and stainless steel bed plate/fabric feed. You can count on this machine to be "skip-free," which makes for better sewing results and more creative license when it comes to topstitching. The free-arm storage tray comes loaded with helpful features, including an all-purpose foot, zipper foot, and buttonhole foot. In short, you can depend on this machine to provide everything you need for a fun, productive, stress-free sewing experience.
Some of the more basic models on our shortlist are cheaper, but for a few dollars more, the Singer Heavy Duty provides a satisfying, well-rounded sewing experience that owners feel is worth the extra money. And, if you intend on sewing thicker materials like denim or corduroy, you definitely want a sturdy machine like this that can power through these denser fabrics. Comments like "Great value for the money!" and "Sews like a champ!" are common among satisfied customers.
When turning a corner, use the wheel to keep the needle plunged through the material. This provides a pivot point for the turn without risk of separation.
Remember that various parts of the machine can be removed in order to perform a challenging stitch, like blind hemming. You do not have to force the material to fit the sewing machine.
Avoid using the needle itself as a guide for straight stitching. It will confuse your eyes and create unnecessary adjustments. Use another point of reference, such as a pattern in the material or a chalk line.
Make sure your sewing space has ample lighting. If the room doesn’t have great natural or ceiling lights, install a floor lamp or two near your machine.
The thread in the bobbin and the thread in the spool do not have to match color, but they should hail from the same family of materials. For example, you could pair a cotton thread with another cotton thread — but you should avoid combining polyester and cotton threads.
You can use small paper binder clips to hold materials together while sewing. This is a particularly useful hack for those who dread the idea of tacking with sharp needles.
Spraying the end of the thread with hairspray can make it easier to thread through the needle.
Inspect new sewing needles for any rough or unfinished spots in the eye. These imperfections can weaken the thread and cause unexpected breaks.
Keep a lint roller and a large magnet in your sewing kit. The lint roller will easily pick up any tiny threads created by the sewing process, and the magnet will pick up any needles before your bare foot does.
Q. I love my new sewing machine, but I don’t love buying replacement needles all the time. Why do my needles break so often?
A. There are a number of reasons why sewing needles fail.
Quality varies widely among brands. A cheap needle might not last as long as a high-grade needle. Buying needles from a reputable company may solve the problem.
Sometimes, the needle a user installs is not the right needle for the task. Size matters, as does the nature of the material to be sewn. A heavier material could cause a weaker needle to snap.
If you don’t replace your needle soon enough, it will fatigue and break. Some experts recommend replacing a sewing needle after 16 hours of service.
Q. My wife wants to make costumes for her theater group, but she’s a beginner. Should I buy the most expensive machine in the store or start out with a basic model?
A. It’s rarely a good idea for a beginner to start with the most advanced sewing machine available. These models are designed primarily for experienced sewers or commercial applications, and they arrive with a learning curve.
That said, your wife’s goal of making costumes for a group of people may necessitate a mid-level machine with some computerized features. Entry-level sewing machines do not always offer the kinds of stitch patterns and decorative options a costume designer needs.
Q. My son likes to watch me sew. Would it be safe for me to let him use a real sewing machine if I supervise?
A. The answer depends on the child’s age, maturity level, and respect for the machine. Some parents allow older children to use a sewing machine manually. The power cord is unplugged, and stitches are performed by turning the wheel. Supervision and training are always advised.
Other children may respond well to a toy sewing machine with safety features. Hand-sewing small craft projects may also be a safer alternative to using an adult-level machine.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.