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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

17 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
110 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best Brother sewing machines

Last Updated July 2019

The art of sewing continues to be a valuable skill and a creative outlet. However, advances in technology have affected this traditional craft just as other areas of life. Today’s sewing machines can be bare-bones workhorses or complex pieces of computerized machinery. Your skill level and sewing needs will determine which type of Brother sewing machine is right for you.

Brother has been producing respected sewing machines for decades. These run the gamut from simple models to professional quilting machines with many automated features. We’ve prepared this shopping guide to take you through the ins and outs of Brother sewing machines so you can find the model that best suits your requirements. We’ve also included our top picks – models that we think stand out for their performance, durability, and reliability. 

Before jumping into your project, sew a small test piece to adjust stitch tension, width, and length.

Key considerations

Mechanical vs. computerized

This choice is not one to be taken lightly and is probably the most important decision you’ll make when choosing a Brother sewing machine.

Mechanical sewing machines use dial, levers, and buttons to control the functions. These models have all the basic stitches and then some, but to use one you have to make all the tension, width, and length adjustments yourself. Mechanical machines are great for beginners because they’re simple to use and maintain and significantly less expensive than computerized models.

Computerized sewing machines open the door a larger variety of stitches and functions. With the push of a button, the tension, length, and width are automatically adjusted for you. It still might take some trial and error to get the settings right for each project, but the process is generally quick once you know what you’re doing. These machines take some of the guesswork out of sewing, but they also come with a steeper learning curve that can throw beginners for a loop. These models cost more because they have more functions, stitches, and advanced technology.

Size and weight

Size and weight come into play in two ways: storing and carrying. You only have so much space, and a sewing machine can gobble up closet space in no time. And just wait until you start collecting fabrics! Unless you can keep the machine set up all the time, you’ll have to carry it from your storage area to wherever you plan to use it. Sewing machines can be heavy, especially models with a metal frame.

Frame

The interior frame of the sewing machine affects its durability and weight. Plastic is obviously lighter in weight, making it easier to move and carry. If you have move it to different rooms or travel to sew at a location outside your home, a model with a plastic frame might be the logical choice. However, a metal frame is more durable, and because it’s stronger it can usually sew heavier, bulkier fabrics more easily than a plastic frame machine.

Combination machines

Sewing machines can do far more than just sew. Brother makes several combination machines that also quilt and embroider. Some sewing machines come with a few embroidery or quilting stitches, but these combo machines have extra features like free-motion quilting or an extended table for these specialized uses. If you’re ready to splurge on a quilting and/or embroidery machine, a combo machine is a great place to put your money. You’ll get more use out of one machine and save space, too.

Advanced excellence

When Brother says high speed, it means high speed. At 1,500 stitches per minute, this machine moves through a seam in no time. Four feed dog settings create the control to fine-tune the settings for each fabric. The extension table is the perfect surface for the precise sewing needed for quality quilting. It’s a borderline industrial machine, so it’s meant for the serious quilter or someone looking to take their sewing to the professional level. 

Brother sewing machine features

Stitches

Everyone wants to know how many stitches a machine has, and while the number can be impressive, most people only use five basic stitches – straight, zigzag, three-step zigzag, blind hem, and overlock – and it’s possible to get by with only the first three. Knowing that these stitches can do most of your sewing, why would you want 100 or more different stitches?

The answer is decoration. The vast majority of your other options are purely decorative in nature. Keep in mind that the more stitches the machine can do, the higher the price tag. However, if you know you’ll use most of those stitches, it’s worth the extra money.

Presser foot

Certain stitches or skills like installing a zipper only work with a particular presser foot. Each Brother sewing machine comes with at least one, but most include a few extras like a zipper foot and blind hem foot. Some models come with an additional eight presser feet or even more. Each presser foot can be purchased separately, but the more that come with the machine, the more money you’ll save in the long run.

Free arm

Sewing cuffs, sleeves, and anything similarly shaped becomes easier with a free arm. The free arm is narrower than the normal table so that the fabric can encircle it as you sew. The built-in storage area on the machine’s table can be removed to reveal the free arm. A free arm can be found on both mechanical and computerized machines.

EXPERT TIP

Every sewing machine has a learning curve. Before you start sewing, read through the entire manual to familiarize yourself with the machine and all of its capabilities.


Staff  | BestReviews

LCD display and/or screen

LCD displays are found on computerized machines. Larger screens are easier to read and use. For some models, the display/screen is even more important because it provides touchscreen controls.

Needle position key

A needle position key allows you to change the needle’s stop position. This feature is helpful when turning corners while sewing. When the needle position is set to down, the needle stays down when your foot releases the pedal. The presser foot can then be raised and the fabric turned without losing your sewing position. But when you’re not working on curves and corners, you can set the needle position to stay up for quick removal once you’re done sewing.

Automatic features

Tension adjustment: Half the work of starting on a new fabric is getting the tension adjusted correctly. While automatic tension adjustment won’t solve all your problems, it gives you a head start. Many Brother models have this feature, and it’s one worth having.

Buttonhole: Many beautiful fabrics have been destroyed in the quest to create the perfect buttonhole. Brother sewing machines with an automatic buttonhole feature make most of the adjustments for you. Though you still could go through some trial and error to get everything right, the automation really does take most of the work out of your hands. Some machines also have several different styles of buttonholes, which you might find useful if you sew a lot of different types of clothing.

Needle threader: Like automatic tension adjustment, an automatic needle threader does some of the work for you. Lack of this feature isn’t a deal breaker, but it can be nice to have if you have less than perfect eyesight or limited hand mobility.

Adjustable speed control

The sewing speed of traditional sewing machines was controlled by a foot pedal. While Brother machines still function this way, adjustable speed control allows you to set the maximum speed using a switch. That way, no matter how far down you press the pedal, the machine will not go past the set maximum speed. This feature is especially helpful for beginners who haven’t yet mastered the art of creating straight stitches while sewing at a higher speed.

DID YOU KNOW?

Have you ever heard the term “the whole nine yards”? One theory about its origin is that it stems from the nine yards of fabric needed to make a three-piece suit in the 1800s.

Brother sewing machine prices

Inexpensive: HIgh-quality beginner Brother sewing machines start at less than $100. Even at this introductory price, the sewing machines have more than 25 stitches, automatic buttonhole adjustment, and a free arm.

Mid-range: Between $100 and $300, the frames are metal, the number of stitches vastly increases, and you see a mix of mechanical and computerized options. If you want a machine that balances features and price, the machines in this range are where you’ll want to start your search.

Expensive: In the $300 to $500 range is where the embroidery or quilting combo machines enter the market. You’re looking at hundreds of stitches and touchscreen LCD displays. Some Brother machines cost over $1,000. These machines are high speed, do quilting or embroidery, download custom patterns, and have wide tables and customizable stitch options.

Long before the invention of sewing machines, needles were made of bone and thread was made of leather, grass, or animal gut.

Tips

  • Start with an inexpensive machine. If you’ve never sewn before, you can buy an inexpensive mechanical machine and try the craft. After using the sewing machine for a while, you’ll probably have a better idea if sewing is really for you. At that point, you can invest in a more expensive model.
  • Think about the kind of sewing you do to determine which machine will work best. You can get away with the five basic stitches for most craft and garment sewing projects, but if you’ll be sewing heavy fabrics like denim or cotton duck, you might need a machine with more heft than average. If you’d like to add monogramming to your list of skills, a machine with preset letters can save you from buying a separate embroidery machine down the road.
  • Remember regular maintenance. It will keep your machine in good working order. Every time you use it, clean out any lint from around the bobbin and needle and replace the needle after each project.

Power in simplicity

All the fancy stitches in the world can’t beat a mechanical machine that performs well every time, and that’s exactly what the XM2701 does. It beautifully sews the basic stitches plus a few extras for when you’re feeling adventurous. Once you’ve got the basics down, it has 27 built-in stitches you can use to explore more possibilities.

Other products we considered

Brother produces some excellent machines, but they all couldn’t make our top five list. Here are a couple of models with some specialty features you might enjoy. The Brother HC1850 Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine is an affordable combo machine with a detachable extension table. The extra width and stability of the table help keep stitches aligned when doing precision sewing. It includes eight presser feet, which provides some great sewing options right out of the box. While the HC1850 is combo machine that leans toward quilting, the  Brother Designio Series DZ2400 is another sewing/quilting combo that has features that lean toward the sewing side of the spectrum. The 185 stitches and free arm are ideal for craft or garment sewing because they provide more decorative options and the ability to create tight corners and sleek curves.

The right needle and thread can make all the difference to the success of your sewing projects. A rounded jersey needle prevents snags in knit fabrics, while heavy fabrics need a denim needle to withstand the forces needed for pierce multiple thick layers. Cotton thread works well for most woven fabrics, while 100% polyester or polyester-coated thread works better for knits.

FAQ

Q. Do I need a machine that makes decorative stitches?
A.
Most people don’t need more than the basic straight, zigzag, three-step zigzag, blind hem, and overlock. You might never venture past the zigzag or three-step zigzag if you don’t sew very often. However, even if you only do basic sewing, you might want to try out a decorative stitch or two to add some variety to your projects. A hem with a scalloped edge or hearts adds style and a personal touch.

Q. Does the machine need any special features to sew fabrics like denim and canvas?
A.
Machines with a metal frame tend to be more durable and heavy-duty, which makes them more suitable for these heavy fabrics. That doesn’t mean a model with a plastic frame won’t be able to sew them, but it might not sew them as quickly. No matter what type of machine you have, it helps to use the right kind of thread and needle for heavy fabrics. Denim needles are larger and thicker, and denim thread is heavier and thicker than average thread.

Q. Does Brother make any sewing/quilting combo machines that include free-motion quilting?
A.
Free-motion quilting brings a whole new level of sewing options to the table. Brother does make machines with the ability to drop the feed dogs, which lets you free-motion quilt to your heart’s content.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Stacey
    Stacey
    Writer

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