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- 1 Before we begin this sewing machine buying guide, do you know your budget?
- 2 Questions to ask before buying a new sewing machine
- 2.1 Who will be using the machine?
- 2.2 What skill level? Best sewing machine for beginners or…?
- 2.3 What type of projects is it required for?
- 2.4 What fabrics will your machine be Sewing? leather? denim?
- 2.5 Do you intend to broaden your sewing skill set?
- 2.6 How often will it be used?
- 2.7 Will it need to be moved around?
- 3 Selecting the right type of sewing machine
- 4 What about more specialized sewing machines?
- 5 The best sewing machine features and parts explained
- 5.1 Accessories
- 5.2 Adjustable Presser Foot Pressure
- 5.3 Auto Lock Stitch
- 5.4 Auto Tension
- 5.5 Automatic Buttonholer
- 5.6 Bobbin Winder
- 5.7 Bobbin: Front-Loading
- 5.8 Bobbin: Top-Loading Drop-In
- 5.9 Build Quality
- 5.10 Built-In Lighting
- 5.11 Carry Case
- 5.12 Controllable Stitch Length And Width
- 5.13 Droppable Feed Dogs
- 5.14 Ergonomics
- 5.15 Feed System
- 5.16 Foot Pedal
- 5.17 Free Arm
- 5.18 Integrated Dual Feed
- 5.19 Lock Stitching
- 5.20 Needle Plate
- 5.21 Needle Positioning (Programmable Needle)
- 5.22 Needle Threader
- 5.23 Presser Feet
- 5.24 Presser Foot Lever (Knee Lifter)
- 5.25 Reverse Sewing Button / Lever
- 5.26 Sewing Bed
- 5.27 Sewing Machine Oil
- 5.28 Speed Control
- 5.29 Spool Holder
- 5.30 Start / Stop Button
- 5.31 Stitch Library
- 5.32 Stitch Memory
- 5.33 Stitch Selection
- 5.34 Stitch Speed
- 5.35 Stretch Stitches
- 5.36 Tension Adjustment
- 5.37 Thread Cutter
- 5.38 Threading Guides
- 5.39 Torque
- 5.40 Twin Needle
- 6 Which features are absolutely essential?
- 7 Choosing a good sewing machine: Further Advice
- 8 How to compare sewing machines
- 9 Where to buy your sewing machine
- 10 Best Sewing Machine Reviews
- 10.1 Janome 2212
- 10.2 EverSewn Charlotte
- 10.3 Brother ST150HDH
- 10.4 Janome Memory Craft Horizon 8200QCP
- 10.5 Brother XR3774
- 10.6 Bernette 38
- 10.7 Janome JW8100
- 10.8 SINGER 7258
- 10.9 JUKI TL-2010Q
- 10.10 Brother CS6000i
- 10.11 Janome 7330 Magnolia
- 10.12 JUKI HZL-G220
- 10.13 SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960
- 10.14 Janome Easy-To-Use Range
- 10.15 Spiegel SP3201
- 10.16 EverSewn Sparrow QE
- 10.17 SINGER Heavy Duty 4432
- 10.18 Brother XR9550PRW
- 10.19 JUKI HZL-LB5100
- 10.20 Janome Memory Craft 6600P
- 10.21 Bernette 35
- 11 best sewing machine reviews…Done!
Let’s face it, buying a new sewing machine can be a headache. With so many top-rated devices on the market these days, making a final decision over which one is best suited to your needs can be tough.
That’s why we decided to do the heavy lifting for you by putting together a comprehensive buying guide and best sewing machine reviews page. Throughout this post we’ll be looking at everything you’ll need to know in order to make a well informed purchase, from features to keep an eye out for through to a few individual product reviews.
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Before we begin this sewing machine buying guide, do you know your budget?
Personal question, I know, but don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me what it is!
Knowing what your budget is before you buy your sewing machine is vital. If, like me, you have a tendency to impulse shop from time to time it’s even more important.
Do not start to compare sewing machines until you’ve worked out how much you have to spend.
Once you’ve worked out what your ballpark spending limit is, the next thing that should be foremost in your mind is sticking to it. Reading through sales literature and marketing gumph can easily sway you towards something out of your price range, so be mindful of that when you’re shopping.
Failing to do so could result in a purchase you’ll regret.
I can remember the feeling of buyer’s remorse all too well, as it’s taken me a while to heed my own advice. Believe me, it doesn’t endear you to the object you’ve just purchased, and that can be the death knell for a burgeoning hobby or even an established one.
Don’t do it!
Setting a budget, doing your research, ignoring the salesy spiel, forgetting about FOMO, saving up for something you really want, and even walking away from deals can all help prevent buyer’s remorse. [1, 2]
There is good news, though. You can pick up a very capable device on pretty much any budget these days. Sure, you may still have to save for a while, but the best things come to those who wait, right?
One thing to bear in mind…
When it comes to sewing machines, cheap is not necessarily best
True, there are some absolute bargains to be had in today’s sewing machine market, but you should be wary of anything too cheap.
As I covered in my best cheap sewing machine reviews, you should always think inexpensive rather than cheap. While both words are often used interchangeably, they really mean quite different things and even have distinctly separate connotations.
In short, cheap conjures up thoughts of poor quality, whereas inexpensive brings to mind value for money. Value is what you want from your new sewing machine.
There’s an old saying, “I’m too poor to buy cheap things”, and we’d all do well to heed it, regardless of our disposable income levels.
Don’t contribute to the ever-growing pile of landfill, buy a good sewing machine that will last. Even if you outgrow it in terms of skill, you’ll be able to donate or pass it on to someone else when you’re done.
Questions to ask before buying a new sewing machine
Another fine way to ensure you’ll fall in love with your new appliance is to ask yourself the following questions before you buy.
Grab a pen and pad (or use the notes app on your phone or desktop) and work your way through the following sewing machine buyer’s questionnaire. It may seem tedious, and even unnecessary, but believe me it’s worth it.
The more you know now, the less likely it will be that you’ll waste your money.
Who will be using the machine?
Let’s start with an easy one, shall we?
If you’re going to be the only person using the new device, cool. You can skip straight to the next question.
However, many of you will be buying a household machine or may even be researching sewing machines to buy as a gift. If that’s the case, you might need to do a little extra digging in order to correctly answer the following questions.
This is especially important for those buying for others, but shouldn’t be neglected by anyone buying an appliance they’re looking to share with others. Go through the questions below yourself, then try to get a handle on how the other users will see their sewing journey unfolding.
What skill level? Best sewing machine for beginners or…?
It stands to reason that different skill levels will want different things from their machines. The best sewing machine for beginners will obviously be different to what advanced users would choose.
Those new to sewing may want to test the water with a very basic mechanical appliance that intermediate users might find a little too simple. Those who have already been using sewing machines for years will likely want something different again, opting for more advanced options still.
As a broad rule of thumb, here’s basic overview of skill levels and what they will likely want from their sewing machines:
- Straightforward setup and operation
- Top loading bobbin
- Speed control
- Decent accessory pack
- Clear and concise user manual and / or instructional DVD
- Broader stitch library
- Greater number of features
- Higher SPM (Stitches Per Minute)
- More flexibility
- Greater precision
- Advanced feed system
- Project memory feature
- USB or WiFi connectivity
- Larger work space
One caveat I’d like to add to the above is that beginners should, if their budget allows, think about “buying up” as much as possible. By this, I mean they should consider opting for a more intermediate machine from the get-go.
Well, while very basic devices have a place, if you are confident that sewing will be a hobby you’ll take to, it doesn’t take too long to outgrow them. Anyone willing to practice a few times a week will likely find themselves restricted fairly quickly, and you don’t want to lay out another considerable chunk of change within six months, do you?
What type of projects is it required for?
Obvious as it may sound, buying the right tool for the job is something that can easily be missed when shopping for a new sewing machine. Appliances are so feature-rich these days that it’s easy to be bamboozled into purchasing an item that will do a million things, but not the one thing you need it to!
Outline exactly what you plan to use your new device for now, but also consider the future, too. Sewing machines aren’t the cheapest things in the world to buy, but if you can incorporate features you’ll likely use further down the line you could end up getting more value in the long run.
Some things will be obvious, such as intending to quilt or embroider, but others may be a little more nuanced, such as dressmaking or creating soft goods. These won’t necessarily require a different type of sewing machine, but you will need certain features (see “Which features are absolutely essential?” below).
What fabrics will your machine be Sewing? leather? denim?
Equally important is the type of fabric you’ll be working with most. For those who intend to stick to light and medium-weight materials, the sewing machine world is, pretty much, your oyster. For anyone who wishes to work with heavier fabrics, though, things get a little more complex.
Frequently working with thicker, more stubborn materials, like denim, canvas, leather, and vinyl, requires specialist tools. Run-of-the-mill sewing machines invariably won’t cut it, and pushing them too far will result in a stack of broken needles at best…or a burnt out motor at worst.
Don’t get me wrong, hemming the occasional pair of jeans won’t necessitate a need to purchase the best denim sewing machine on the market, but regularly punching through this material will.
Cowhide is a different proposition again. Very few regular appliances have the required torque needed to repeatedly push the needle through cleanly, and the lack of a compound feed walking foot creates further hassles.
A true leather sewing machine will be built for the job, and you’d be well advised to seek them out if this is your material of choice.
Do you intend to broaden your sewing skill set?
Some of you will be buying a sewing machine for the sole purpose of making repairs and alterations and have little desire to go beyond that. Others will want to learn more about the craft and expand their repertoire, going on to try different projects or skills along the way.
Both are, of course, perfectly fine, but you do need to clearly define which camp you fall into before you compare sewing machines and commit to purchase one. As we’ve already seen, some are perfectly suited to basic jobs and not much else, whereas others are jam-packed with features waiting to be explored.
I don’t need to tell you which type you’ll need to satisfy your requirements, but it’s a good idea to know in advance what you want from your machine before you buy.
How often will it be used?
Another equally important question is how often will the appliance be used. This will probably align with the answer you’ve given above, but it’s worth reiterating nonetheless.
Knowing how much you intend to use your sewing machine will determine the value for money of your prospective purchase. A feature-rich device costing $500 that gets used every day could be deemed better value than a sewing machine under $50 that never gets used at all.
The amount you intend to use your machine will also bring the question of build quality and durability into play. Naturally, if you’re going to be regularly putting your new tool through its paces, you’re going to need something that’s up to the task, so seeking out a solid device moves up the priority list.
Will it need to be moved around?
Very few of us are lucky enough to have a designated sewing room, so there’s a high probability your new machine may need to be moved about a fair bit.
Whether this is an occasional move into a different room or frequent trips to and from the storage cupboard under the stairs will vary from individual to individual. One thing, however, remains the same: it needs to be light enough to not become a chore to do.
This becomes all the more imperative if you intend to travel with it. Sewing classes and circles are just two instances where this might be the case. Some sewists even insist on travelling with their machines, which is another reason for seeking out the best portable sewing machine.
Whether the distance is short or far, if you intend to move your new device around, make sure you can comfortably lift it.
Selecting the right type of sewing machine
With the above questionnaire out of the way, it’s time to decide what type of sewing machine you should consider.
This part of the decision making process can be affected by personal preferences as much as your requirements. Some people are out-and-out technophobes, for example, so the thought of buying something with a microchip in it will have them running for the hills!
Let’s take a look at the most common types of sewing machine:
Pretty much every single sewing machine on the market today is electric. This can come as a shock (no pun intended) to some people…even though they’re plugging the thing into the wall every day!
The confusion likely comes from the two different types of electrical sewing machine available, namely computerized and mechanical. Because of their monikers, some erroneously assume that one is electric while the other one, err, isn’t.
Let’s take a look at those two now.
Computerized sewing machines
Computerized sewing machines are often referred to as electric sewing machines, which of course they are, but then so are their mechanical cousins.
Unsurprisingly, truly computerized devices have an onboard computer (I know, I know) that controls many of the features commonly found on modern sewing machines. The computer is able to precisely adjust different aspects of your appliance, including things like tension and needle position.
One of the biggest boons for many users, however, is the increase in stitches you can sew with a digital device. Some high-end sewing machines have libraries stretching into the thousands, and you may even be able to add even more by way of a USB stick or direct connection to your Mac or PC via WiFi.
Computerization also allows for specialist tasks such as embroidery and monogramming to be undertaken by the hobbyist at home. Not too long ago, the only way to complete such jobs would have been by hand, and the results were often less than stellar!
Now, thanks to the precision afforded to us by computers, these projects can be completed with little more than a touch of a button.
Mechanical sewing machines
Today, the best mechanical sewing machine on the market is a far cry from the treadle tables of old. As we already know, mechanical doesn’t mean manual, so electricity is still required to run these bad boys.
But, why would you choose a mechanical sewing machine over a computerized one? Well, there are a few reasons, but probably the most common is plain old familiarity.
Many sewers have been brought up with mechanical devices and feel comfortable using them, so never change. Others are either baffled by the additional technology or scared that they won’t be able to get to grips with such newfangled nonsense.
Another factor is cost. On the whole, mechanical machines are a lot cheaper than digital devices with dozens of bells and whistles. If you know for sure you won’t need them and simply want a basic machine to handle the occasional alteration or repair, a mechanical appliance will likely suffice.
Finally, mechanical machines are simple. They make a great starting point for many newbies, and some never move away from them.
Whichever type you choose, mechanical or computerized, rest assured there are some beauties on both sides of the fence, so you will be able to find one that matches your needs perfectly.
What about manual machines?
Ahh, now then, manual sewing machines are a different beast entirely.
If you’re a hipster with plenty of room at home, you may well be stroking your beard whilst contemplating the thought of restoring an old SINGER to its former glory…and good luck to you. For everyone else, however, manual sewing machines are, in my opinion, best left in the past.
Honestly, do you really want to have to pump away at a treadle or turn a machine by hand for hours on end?
What about more specialized sewing machines?
For those who want a little more from their sewing machines, there are further avenues of exploration to consider.
If you asked yourself the questions above, you’ll know by now what kind of projects you’ll be working both in the present and future. This also extends to growing your skill set as a sewer. If you’d like to try your hand at quilting, for example, you’re going to need an appliance that will handle that task as well as everything else.
Sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people get caught out!
Here are some of the more specialized sewing machines available:
As we mentioned above, if quilting is on your horizon, you’re going to need to buy accordingly. While you could quilt with pretty much any sewing machine, buying one that is built for the job is by far the best way to go.
This is especially true if you intend to work on larger projects. While you’ll be able to get away with creating things like pouches and placemats on a regular sewing machine, for the bigger stuff you’ll appreciate a device with a greater working area.
Purpose-built quilters will also ship with a number of handy accessories, too. Things like extension tables and quilting-specific presser feet will make your time in front of the machine more enjoyable and productive.
Unlike quilting, if you fancy giving embroidery a go, you’ll definitely need a machine that’s up to the task. There’s no winging it with a bog-standard sewing machine where this craft is concerned!
Embroidery is an attractive hobby to take up, and it can become quite addictive! From making personalized gifts to embellishing items around the home, the scope for creating is broad. However, many get put off before they begin as it looks like a pretty complicated craft to learn.
Thankfully, today’s modern machines make things simple, so there’s really no need to worry. Given a little time and patience, anyone can get to grips with this very rewarding pastime…proving they make the right choice when buying their device.
Standalone embroidery appliances are available for those who already have a sewing machine they love or anyone who wants to concentrate solely on embroidering. For the vast majority, however, combination sewing machines are the ideal solution…
Combination Sewing Machines
Combination sewing machines do exactly as one would expect them to – they combine two tasks together into one unit, namely sewing and embroidery. In truth, though, many strike a triple whammy, as you’ll often find that combination sewing and embroidery machines are perfect for quilting as well.
Now, if you’re raising an eyebrow whilst thinking, “Meh! A device that does two things will never match a purpose-built appliance”, I hear you. In fact, I was in 100% agreement with you up until recently.
Today’s combination machines are, quite simply, awesome. Providing you do your research and purchase one of the many brilliant models currently on the shelves, you’ll be in good shape. Neither task suffers, and you’ll be saving a heap of space (and a few dollars, too!)
Sergers (AKA Overlockers)
If you find yourself frequently sewing seams, a serger (also known as an overlocking stitch machine or overlocker) can be a handy tool to have in your arsenal. For most, however, a serger probably won’t be what you’re here for, so I’ll keep this short.
Basically, sergers seam, trim, and finish items, giving them a professional air that working with a basic sewing machine will never match. The seams they create will not only look aesthetically pleasing, they’ll also stand up to general wear and tear and frequent washing far better, too.
Despite what you may hear or read elsewhere, however, these machines are not going to magically improve your sewing experience, and you’ll still need a regular sewing machine to perform all the other tasks you’ll want to do.
So, sergers are essential for those who wish to make their work look more professional, but they are certainly not crucial for the hobbyist or occasional sewist to have in their homes.
Commercial sewing machines
Commercial sewing machines will, again, probably not apply to 99% of you who have landed on this page. However, for those in the rag trade or producing other items for sale, finding the best device for the work they do is absolutely vital.
These appliances are on another level entirely, with the vast majority completely unsuitable for home use (although there are a few outliers, of course…see the JUKI TL2010Q review below for a great example of a semi-industrial machine).
Naturally, there are sub-niches of this category, such as commercial embroidery machines, for example, but we’ll leave all that for another day.
The best sewing machine features and parts explained
We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty! Hopefully you should have a better idea of what you’re looking for by now in terms of sewing machine types and what you intend to use yours for.
Next up in this sewing machine buying guide, we’re going to do a bit of jargon-busting…and there’s a lot to get through!
Let’s crack on, shall we?
Many of the items discussed in this features list will also form part of your accessory pack when you buy a new sewing machine. Luckily, accessories came out on top in this alphabetical inventory, so we get to discuss their importance before we get down to the good stuff.
A decent accessory pack can act as a good decision making tool if you are stuck between two equally well-equipped appliances, but it shouldn’t be the first thing you look for. Having a great bundle is definitely beneficial, but not the be-all-and-end-all.
In most cases, all of the items found in accessory packs can be easily bought at any time, and they’re usually pretty cheap to purchase. Not only that, inevitably, many items that come in these packs rarely get used, so don’t be swayed too much by what may seem to be a bumper haul.
Treat accessory packs as a nice bonus, not an essential part of your final decision.
Adjustable Presser Foot Pressure
For those of you who wish to work with a range of fabric types, seeking out a sewing machine with adjustable presser foot pressure will be an essential part of your search. After all, the teeth found on the feed dogs can easily mark light materials if the pressure is too high, yet other fabrics may slip if it’s too low.
However, many modern machines don’t have this feature, which is unfortunate. Why something that used to be a standard part of any sewing machine has started to disappear is a bit of a mystery, but it has, so be sure to double check…especially if you know you’ll be working with the likes of silk and chiffon.
Auto Lock Stitch
Most new sewing machines will come with this handy feature, but not all. While performing a lock stitch on a machine without the auto capability is relatively easy, having the appliance take care of it for you is still preferable.
Basically, a lock stitch does precisely what you’d imagine it would: it locks the stitch in place so your work doesn’t unravel. Many sewers prefer this option to backstitching, which can be ugly if not done accurately. Lock stitching is generally considered to be a much neater option, especially if your device is doing all the hard work for you.
Unique to computerized devices, auto tension sounds like it should be one of the best sewing machine features to come out of the technological era. The truth, however, is a little different.
On most models, the automatic tension feature is little more than a gimmick. Ask a friendly sewing machine repair expert. They’ll probably tell you that it does little more than put the machine into mid-range tension and not much more.
To be able to truly adjust the tension correctly every time you sew, there would need to be sensors in various spots across the device…and that’s unlikely if you’re buying a sewing machine under $200!
In short, don’t make this feature a deal-breaker.
Another self-explanatory feature for you now, the auto buttonholer.
This one will likely split sewers down the middle: those who sew garments and those who don’t. Occasionally, the odd cushion or duvet cover might call for a decorative button or seven, but beyond that, this is really a clincher for those who make clothes.
The good news here is that you’ll likely get one regardless. Most decent sewing machines have an automatic buttonholer these days, so you won’t have to search high and low for one. Nor will you be paying more, as this feature is almost standard now.
One thing to look out for, though, is the steps it takes to produce the buttonhole. If you know you’re going to be sewing a lot of them, go out of your way for a one-step buttonhole machine. Four-step buttonhole can make the process painfully tedious.
Finding a sewing machine with a built-in bobbin winder isn’t too difficult these days, but some are better than others. As the name suggests, bobbin winders wind thread onto the bobbin.
The best ones do this in such a way that the thread is then able to be distributed evenly when called upon. Bad ones have tension issues that cause a mismatch between the top and bottom threads, which is obviously far from ideal.
Many sewists, including myself, will have a portable bobbin winder as well as the built-in feature on their sewing machine. The reason for this is that many devices do not allow you to sew and wind a bobbin simultaneously. Instead, you need to stop what you’re doing, unthread the machine, then wind the bobbin.
You then, of course, have to rethread the appliance before you can begin to sew again. Not good.
Thankfully, these little gadgets aren’t too expensive. However, if you’d rather keep everything all in one spot, look out for sewing machines with an independent bobbin winding motor. Be warned, though, these are likely going to be at the higher end of the price scale.
Bobbins largely fall into two categories: front-loading and top-loading drop-in (we’ll get to the latter next).
Front-loaders are seen as the traditional way to load the bottom thread of the machine, but they’re slowly becoming a thing of the past. To be honest, I don’t think too many people are shedding a tear over this transition to top-loading drop-in. They’re just better. Period.
The old-fashioned front-loading system required you to remove part of the arm, access the inner workings, fiddle with clips and cases…and then they often wouldn’t work! Out came the bobbin case again…
As with many things, you got used to this rigmarole and gained the necessary knack for your own individual machine, but it was still a pain. Beginners were frequently baffled by the process, so manufacturers came up with an alternative…the top-loading drop-in bobbin.
Thank goodness they did!
Bobbin: Top-Loading Drop-In
As you’ve gathered if you read the section above, top-loading drop-in bobbins are pretty much taking over…and for good reason. They are easier to load and, in most instances, you’ll be able to see when you’re running low on thread rather than relying on guesswork.
Don’t get me wrong, some drop-in bobbins are awful, but, on the whole, I’d always advise anyone buying a sewing machine to go down this route rather than a front-loader. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced users – drop-in is the way to go.
Easy one, this. Make sure your machine is well built.
Do your homework. Read some reputable reviews and check out what others are saying about durability. A solid machine will not only last longer, it’ll be nicer to use, too.
Lighting is a bit of a bugbear of mine. It’s absolutely vital to be able to see what you’re doing, yet so many machines ship with inadequate lighting; it’s rage inducing!
I have a separate lamp on my sewing table because of this and have even bought some clip on reading lights for when I’m away from home.
Now, my fading eyesight certainly doesn’t help matters, but the lights on many, if not most, sewing machines are subpar. Be sure to check what others are saying about them before you buy.
If you’re going to be moving around with your machine a lot or simply want to stow it safely away in a cupboard or closet, a hard-shelled carry case is essential. Not every machine will ship with one, but some do, so keep an eye out for that if you’re torn between two models.
Naturally, this is another one of those things that should in no way whatsoever stop you from buying an otherwise great machine, especially as you can pick up a good carry case post purchase, but it can sway you one way or the other.
Soft dust covers are okay for that purpose only, in my opinion. They’re fine if you just want to cover a machine in situ, but if you need to move yours around, get a hard carrying case for your sewing machine.
Controllable Stitch Length And Width
Unless you are buying in the budget range, it’s highly likely your new purchase will have controllable stitch length and width settings. This is a good thing, as it will give you great flexibility and enable you to vary your stitches according to the project you are working on.
Even those less expensive machines will have an element of controllability about them, but they may not have both length and width adjusters. Usually, cheaper machines will have either preset patterns that determine different lengths and widths, or there will be a dial that will enable you to change the length.
If you intend to go beyond the basic straight stitch, having separate width and length controls is definitely something you’ll want to keep an eye out for.
Droppable Feed Dogs
Droppable feed dogs allow you to try your hand at free motion sewing should you wish to do so. To be honest, most users will have little call to use this feature, but if you like to indulge in freehand quilting or embroidery, droppable feed dogs are considered to be essential.
However, some rebels out there don’t drop their dogs even if their machine allows them to, preferring instead to lower the stitch length so the dogs don’t feed forward at all. All this is beyond the scope of this sewing machine buying guide, but you get the picture.
Don’t put too much stock in droppable dogs.
Being comfortable when you sew is vital, but there’s very little mention of ergonomics when you read through the sales gumph. The obvious way round this is to read reviews, but even they can be somewhat subjective.
A lot will ride on your setup rather than the machine itself, but some sewing machines are still more comfortable to work on than others. Keep an eye out for any clues when you’re doing your research.
We’ve already spoken about droppable dogs, but what about when they are up and at ‘em? What’s the best feed system to look for?
For the most part, regular domestic appliances will operate a drop feed system. In fact, drop feed is also the major player in most industrial machines as well, so that’s what we’ll concentrate on here.
The drop feed mechanism basically refers to the serrated feed dogs found below the machine’s needle plate and how they operate. These toothy metal strips move the fabric forward underneath the needle, rising and falling as they do so, hence the name – drop feed.
However, when you’re shopping around, you’ll notice that not all drop feed systems are created equal. You’ll see differing amounts of feed dogs, often referred to as the feed point system, and even fancy trademarks belonging to some manufacturers.
That being said, it’s important not to get too caught up in the hype. Just because a sewing machine has a greater number of feed dogs doesn’t automatically make it a better appliance. Granted, a 7-piece feed system is preferred over, say, a 5-piece, but if the rest of the machine stinks it’s not going to make much difference.
This, unless you have variable speed control with a stop / start button and choose to use it, is the part that makes your sewing machine go. As one would imagine, you depress the pedal to get started and release pressure to slow down. Simple, right?
Yes, and no.
There are a couple of problems with foot pedals. For starters, some people can’t use them. It could be due to a disability, being a child, or simply not having the required foot, hand, eye coordination necessary to use them. They take a bit of getting used to.
Then there’s the fact that some pedals are downright horrible to use, regardless of how attuned you are to working with one.
You press. Nothing. So, you press a bit more. Still nothing. So, you press harder still…and your machine decides to rocket off at 100 miles per hour!
Hmmm, so much for control.
In short, add this to your checklist of things to keep an eye out for when you’re shopping. If there’s even a hint of an unresponsive foot pedal, it might be best to rethink your decision.
The free arm of your sewing machine is usually found by removing the accessory compartment in front of the needle plate. Doing so will reveal a narrower work space that also “floats” freely in the air with nothing beneath it, leaving a gap between the machine and the table it sits on.
Why is a free arm advantageous? If you’re sewing a tube-like piece of material, such as a shirt sleeve for example, you can slot it right onto the machine and get stitching. No bunching and, more importantly, no sewing through layers of material that aren’t supposed to be sewn!
As we’ve seen with other features, most good sewing machines will have a free arm, but not all. Be sure to check before you buy, especially if you’re intending to make clothes.
Integrated Dual Feed
Integrated Dual Feed was first introduced to the domestic sewing market by German sewing machine manufacturer, Pfaff. Their IDT™ System is still a huge draw for the company, but others have caught on and have created their own versions of the feed system.
Integrated dual feed is a more advanced feature. Commonly found on devices with eye-watering price tags, it’s not really for the masses. Not yet, anyway. As with all technological advances, I’m sure the price point will come down in future. For now, though, expect to shell out a tidy sum for a machine with integrated dual feed.
Is it worth the extra expense? Absolutely, but only if you really need it. An integrated dual feed system will help in a number of ways, and you’ll wonder how you did without it once you’ve got it.
Working with stretchy materials and knitwear is no problem, nor is silk and other ultra-fine fabric. Matching up plaid and creating perfect quilts becomes child’s play, and even heavier material becomes a whole lot easier to feed.
Integrated dual feed is, however, a luxury. Great if you can afford it and will make use of it, but not essential for most users.
See auto lock stitching above.
Every sewing machine will have a needle plate. They may look different, and may even be called different things, such as needle throat plate or needle stitch plate, but all will have one. This part of your sewing machine is inset into the bed where, unsurprisingly, the needle moves up and down.
Removing the needle plate exposes the bobbin, which gives you access when you need to clean your machine and, on some models, change the thread. This is usually done by removing two small screws, although some may be fastened by three or four.
Needle plates sit flush to the machine and have a smooth finish, which allows fabric to be fed easily by the feed dogs. There will also be guide markings on the plate that will help keep your stitches straight and some will have different guides measured out for creating specific seam widths.
Standard needle plates can be replaced with task-specific plates, such as a diagonal guide for quilts, but be sure to match them up correctly with your specific model.
Needle Positioning (Programmable Needle)
When looking through different sewing machine models, you might come across something called programmable needle or an up / down needle. The second description lets a little daylight in on what this feature actually does, but why would you need it?
Say, for instance, you are happily sewing along in a straight line and then need to alter the direction in which you are stitching. To do this, you’ll need to have the needle in a downward position to avoid losing your spot while you pivot. Having a programmable needle setting allows you to do this automatically, as opposed to manually turning the hand wheel.
Now, although all that sounds great, the programmable needle feature is one of the most divisive you’ll find in sewing circles. Some adore it, while others absolutely hate it. I’m talking spitting feathers hatred!
Which camp you fall into will largely be a matter of personal preference, but I wouldn’t worry too much about whether your new machine has this feature or not.
This is one feature I would struggle to do without (yep, my diminishing eyesight again); it’s such a timesaver.
Needle threaders can be listed as either manual or automatic, but be warned that automatic is usually anything but. That’s not to say they’re not fantastic additions to the sewing world, they are, but you’ll still have to do some work to achieve the end result of a perfectly threaded needle.
As with every feature, though, some models have better needle threaders than others. This is pretty easy to work out, as poor ones tend to get called out quickly in reviews. Keep an eye out for any negative comments.
Your sewing machine’s presser foot works in conjunction with the feed dogs, holding the material you are working with flat while the dogs move the fabric across the needle plate.
There are a dazzling array of different presser feet available these days, far too many to mention here. For a more in depth look, check out this post to get the lowdown on this integral part of any domestic machine.
One thing to look out for when buying a sewing machine is what feet ship with it. Each presser foot performs a different task, so, once again, a lot will depend upon the work you intend to do.
Presser Foot Lever (Knee Lifter)
Some top-rated sewing machine models come with an odd looking contraption called a knee lifter (AKA presser foot lever). This metal bar attaches to the main body of the device, usually bottom right beneath the control panel, and allows the user to, you guessed it, lift the presser foot with their knee, effectively giving you an extra hand.
Why would you want such a thing? Well, having both hands free allows you to keep them on your work, thus preventing any unwanted movement. This is especially handy (sorry!) when working with awkward jobs that require extreme precision.
Knee lifters do, however, take a bit of getting used to. Some never really get to grips with them, but they are definitely worth investigating if you work with clothing or quilts on a regular basis.
Reverse Sewing Button / Lever
No prizes for guessing what this does! Yep, pressing down on the reverse lever or depressing the button, some models differ, allows you to sew in reverse. So, instead of the fabric being fed away from you, it comes back towards you.
Why would that be beneficial? There are a number of reasons, but chief among them is the ability to backstitch. Backstitches, much like the lock stitches mentioned above, secure both the beginning and end of your seam so they don’t unravel when you’re done.
The bed of your sewing machine is where the fabric lays as you are sewing, so the part that runs from the left hand side right the way up to the upright arm.
There are different bed types, but far and away the most common is the flat bed when it comes to domestic machines. As we’ve already seen, though, most regular sewing machines will have a free arm feature that will enable them to become similar to a cylinder bed, but not quite.
A bigger concern for most home sewists will be the width of the bed, which is also known as the sewing area. The longer this part of the appliance is, the more comfortably you’ll be able to work with large projects like quilts. In fact, many of the best quilting machines will actually be referred to as long arm sewing machines.
Sewing Machine Oil
While sewing machine oil isn’t really either a part or a feature, every machine should have some nearby. Regardless of size, make, or model, regular maintenance will help keep your appliance running smoothly and prolong its lifespan considerably.
Pick some up when you get your machine.
Found only on computerized appliances, speed control is a relatively new feature and it’s one that I love. Again, the name says it all: it’s there to regulate the speed at which your machine will operate.
Sewing machine speed controls usually take the form of a sliding tab that is moved from left (slow) to right (fast). You then activate the machine via a Start / Stop button and the machine begins to do its thing. That’s right, no pedal required!
As you can imagine, variable speed control is especially handy for beginners, but it’s also brilliant for anyone who happens to have a disability or finds using a pedal awkward. Kids, too, love it, and it’s far safer than having them stretch to reach the floor with those little legs.
Unless you’ve got your heart set on a mechanical machine, buying a sewing machine with adjustable speed control is a no brainer, in my opinion.
Nothing too exciting about this, but it is an essential element of any good sewing machine.
As you can imagine, this sewing machine part holds the thread spool securely in place while you sew…and that’s about it!
Start / Stop Button
See Speed Control above.
A sewing machine’s stitch library is the term given to the pre-programmed patterns built into the appliance. Some will only have a few, while others will have hundreds, if not thousands, of built-in stitches just waiting to be explored.
How broad a stitch library you’ll need will depend on what you intend to sew and how adventurous you are. Some people see them as unnecessary, others essential.
Personally, I like having the option of switching things up on hand, especially as finding a great sewing machine with a large library isn’t too difficult these days. Nor will it affect the price too much.
This feature is found mainly on high-end sewing machines and is even more prevalent on sewing and embroidery combos. The memory function usually means the appliance in question has a small, built-in hard drive onto which you can store patterns, but it can also refer to USB storage, too.
Having the ability to do this is great for those who like to customize stitch patterns and reuse them frequently. A common example of this would be monograms or company logos. Get them how you want them, hit save, and you can then return to them whenever the need arises.
Very handy for some, but not everyone will make use of this feature.
Stitch selection does the same job regardless of the machine type, but you’ll go about selecting your stitches in a different way depending on what kind of appliance you have.
Put simply, mechanical machines will have dials, whereas computerized devices will have either buttons and a screen or a touchscreen. There will be slight differences as to how each of these operate, but the end result will be the same…a stitch selected.
Stitch speed is, predictably, how fast your machine will go when in operation. Commonly measured in Stitches Per Minute (SPM), stitch speed can vary greatly.
Most domestic sewing machines will operate at around the 850 SPM mark, but you’ll find outliers at both ends of the spectrum. Move into the factory market and you’ll see speeds of 5,000 SPM and above…scary stuff!
Unless you’re buying a single stitch machine, most domestic appliances will have at least one or two stretch stitches in their arsenal. Believe it or not, the good ol’ zigzag stitch can be used to sew stretch fabrics (and is often considered a “traditional” option), so you’ll get an idea of how popular these stitches are from that alone.
However, zigzag is far from the best option, even if many of us use it on autopilot, and plenty of machines offer snazzier alternatives that not only work better, they look great too. Look out for either a specific setting on your new machine or stitches such as the tricot (triple zigzag), knit stitch (AKA overcasting), or a straight stretch.
While some modern sewing machines sport auto tension, all will have manual tension adjustment.
Setting the correct tension, along with threading your machine properly, is vital if you want your stitches to come out balanced and even. Unfortunately, getting the tension right is something that many struggle with, yet it’s pretty easy once you know how and is definitely something you should take time to learn.
A built-in thread cutter is another one of those love / hate features, although I’d guess that more fall towards the love side on this one. There are also those who use it for some tasks, but not for others.
Personally, I like them, but only if they work properly. Some cut too close, others leave too much thread behind, while some just won’t cut cleanly enough. As ever, research is key.
I’d put a decent needle threader above a thread cutter all day long, but if you can find a machine within your budget that has both, and they work well, you’ll not regret having one.
Ever wondered what those slots are that run vertically down the machine’s casing towards the needle? If you have, I’m guessing you’ve never threaded a sewing machine before! These, friend, are your threading guides. Without them, life would be very tough indeed!
Talk of torque (see what I did there) is largely reserved for industrial machines, especially those that have to punch their way through very thick materials like leather and canvas. 
For most domestic users, torque will largely be irrelevant.
Some home sewing machines have the ability to stitch two rows of thread parallel to each other using a twin needle. This is a fantastic way to strengthen a seam and you can also use different thread colors, too, should you so wish.
Twin needle sewing gives a more professional look to clothing, yet it’s not quite as fancy a finish as a properly hemmed garment using a serger.
Which features are absolutely essential?
So, now that you know what all the features and parts are, how do you go about ensuring you’re buying the best sewing machine for the tasks you want to perform?
Below are a few suggestions relating to the most common reasons why people buy sewing machines:
Having a good sewing machine to hand for those infrequent alterations is definitely useful but, as you won’t be using it all that often, you probably won’t want to spend a fortune…regardless of how convenient having one would be.
In this instance, a fairly rudimentary mechanical device will probably serve you well, but you’ll still want something good enough not to cause you headaches whenever you pull it out of storage. Bear in mind, too, that computerized machines are becoming more inexpensive by the day, so you could consider a model like the SINGER 7258, for example.
If you’ve set your heart on a sewing machine under $100, be warned…there are actually very few that make the grade. What you save in cash, you’ll often pay for in frustration. There are, of course, outliers, such as the Spiegel SP3201, but there aren’t many.
As you’ll be using your appliance for basic alterations, key things to look out for would be a free arm and garment-friendly presser feet, such as blind hem, for example.
Sewing machines for making clothes
For full-on dressmaking and tailoring, your requirements will naturally be a little more expansive than those who are only doing an occasional alteration here and there. So, on top of the free arm and blind hem presser foot, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for things such as zipper feet and buttonholers, with one-step being the best option for the latter.
In terms of actual devices, a lot will depend upon budget and personal preferences, especially whether or not you decide to go down the mechanical or digital route. There’s also the amount of use you expect to get out of your machine to take into consideration as well. Our Best Sewing Machine For Making Clothes review post will help point you in the right direction.
Good sewing machines like the Janome Magnolia 7330 and the Bernette 38 spring to mind for regular dressmakers who don’t want to break the bank, with the inexpensive Brother XR9550PRW a great option for those who want to spend even less.
As one would expect, there’s a plethora of high-end sewing machines in the garment making realm. Two standout machines, in my opinion, are two Janomes, namely the Memory Craft Horizon 8200QCP and the Memory Craft 6600P. Both are fantastic, but far from cheap!
Crafting is a fairly broad term, but on the whole you’ll be looking for a machine with a broad stitch library and maybe even the capability to download more pre-programmed patterns. Sewing machines with Wi-Fi connectivity and USB ports will, however, tend to fall into the higher price ranges, so be prepared for some eye watering figures.
I really like the JUKI HZL-G220, but can appreciate that the price will be a bit prohibitive for many readers. The EverSewn Sparrow 25 is a more affordable option and will suit the home hobbyist well.
Naturally, embroidering falls under the crafting umbrella, too, so don’t forget to check out my best embroidery machine page if this an important element for you.
Heavy-Duty Home Decor & Upholstery sewing machines
If creating soft goods or restoring furniture is your main reason for comparing sewing machines, you’re going to need a machine capable of handling thicker fabrics. The term “soft”, is a bit misleading here, as stitching cushions and curtains can take its toll on regular sewing devices fairly quickly.
These will basically be split into two categories: the domestic heavy duty sewing machine and factory-style upholstery sewing machine. While they are obviously altogether different beasts, both categories will stand above regular appliances in terms of power and the ability to punch through thicker materials.
Alongside the additional punch, your new machine should have a track record of delivering extremely high quality stitches. By their very nature, soft furnishings and upholstery can take a bit of a beating, so you’ll want to know for sure they can withstand everyday wear and tear.
In terms of accessories, much will come down to the finishes you like to produce. Zipper feet are pretty much essential, but you may want to include a piping foot as well if this decorative feature is something you like. A walking foot, too, could come in handy if you intend to work with multiple layers.
Business owners who need to churn out stitches 24/7 could do a lot worse than purchase the Consew 206RB-5. It’s an absolute monster at a relatively affordable price for the commercial market.
For serious hobbyists, the JUKI TL-2010Q is hard to beat. It’s expensive, but it will repay you a million times over in terms of reliability and enjoyment. Be warned, though, that it is a single needle lockstitch machine, so no fancy stitch pattern to be found here.
At the other end of the price range, you have two pretty capable machines to choose from: the SINGER 4432 and the Brother ST150HDH. Both are decent, but the Brother is probably the better long-term investment. The 4432, despite the battleship gray exterior, isn’t the sturdiest sewing machine in the world, but it does have a fantastic motor.
Choosing a good sewing machine: Further Advice
Knowing what you know now, you’re well placed to make a great decision on which sewing machine is best for you and your requirements. There are, however, a couple more points that need to be taken into consideration:
Portable sewing machine Options
I touched on this above, but it’s worth reiterating…size and weight matters. Check out our portable sewing machine review post if you intend to travel with your new purchase.
Where you store your new gadget will need to be taken into consideration as much, if not more, than portability. Some home sewing machines can be hefty beasts, weighing in at well over 25lbs (11kg+) and their footprint can match their weight. If you’re pushed for space, this really is something you need to think about before you buy.
While the behemoths may be tempting, largely because of all the associated wizardry that often comes with them, buying a sewing machine that’s too big will likely lead to annoyance and frustration. I know, I’ve been there.
Even the best looking sewing machines aren’t exactly things you want to stare at all day long, so storing your sewing machine needs to be taken into account. If you’re sewing infrequently, you might even be better off with a good mini sewing machine rather than a full-sized appliance.
The handheld sewing machine market, though, is fraught with danger. Purchase only as a last resort!
While there’s no such thing as a silent sewing machine, some are definitely quieter than others. Opting for an appliance that causes less of a racket can be beneficial, even if it’s more for others than us who’ll be sitting in front of the thing!
It can be easy to zone out the noise while you’re concentrating on the project and every stitch, but for those you live with…not so much. Mums and dads looking to grab an hour or two of hobby time once the little ones are safely tucked up in bed need to scrutinize noise levels more than most.
Even neighbors should be thought of if you live in an apartment with paper-thin walls. Unless you don’t like them, of course!
What brands are best?
This question is pretty subjective and could potentially lead you down the wrong road. It’s far more important to take your own individual needs and requirements into consideration than the manufacturer, in my opinion.
Another thing to bear in mind here is that even the best sewing machine brands have the occasional rotten device on their books. Therefore, basing your decision solely on brand alone is a bit of a hit and miss way to make your selection.
Sewing machine prices: How much do they cost?
Yep, it’s time for the how-long-is-a-piece-of-string section of this post.
Sewing machine prices can vary tremendously, from bargain-basement affairs right the way up into five-figures (that’s without decimal points, in case you were wondering!) To give you a better idea of what your next sewing machine might cost, I’ve split the price range into three ranges: Entry-level, mid-range, and high end.
Probably the most competitive arena when it comes to sewing machine sales is the entry-level market. In terms of price, this means all sewing machines under $300.
While I’d love to be able to tell you about good sewing machines under $50, I can’t. Quite frankly, there are very few sewing machines under $100 that are worth investing in, so dropping below $50 is really stretching things.
Think more toy than tool in that price range.
While budget should always be paramount, I’d personally advise against buying cheap just for the sake of having something NOW. Even if it takes a while, saving up for something is by far the better option. You’ll get a greater sense of satisfaction and the best sewing machine for your money.
Win / win!
So, if entry-level means sewing machines under $300, it stands to reason that mid-range is going to be $300 plus. The question, then, is what’s the upper end?
For me, any sewing machine under $700 falls into the mid-range category. Some might say under $1,000, but that’s too high in my opinion. $700 is about right.
Spending between $300 and £700 will, potentially, get you a very good sewing machine indeed, but there are more than a few dodgy models to avoid. Just because the price tag has increased doesn’t automatically mean quality levels have gone up in equal measure, unfortunately.
As always, do your homework before you buy.
Now we’ve got the first two out of the way, this last one becomes a whole lot easier. High-end means anything above $700, in my book.
This price range takes you into the truly advanced appliances and there are some stunning sewing machine deals to be had at this level. Same rules apply, though: Always do your research.
What about warranties?
Pretty much every sewing machine on the market will come with a warranty of one description or another. The key here is to understand exactly what you’re getting and what you’re covered for should the worst happen.
The vast majority of sewing machine warranties will be classed as a Limited Warranty. Limited warranties are, as the name implies, limited to specific parts, not the machine as a whole. This is where consumer confusion can arise. [4, 5]
Despite being emblazoned with labels and promotional material boasting “25 YEAR WARRANTY”, you’ll often find that the reality is somewhat different. Sewing machine warranties are frequently broken down into three parts, often 25 – 5 – 1.
This means the least likely parts of your appliance to break or malfunction, such as the chassis for example, will be covered by a 25 year warranty. The 5 year part will look after things like wiring, switches, and electronic components, while the parts covered by just a single year will be items such as belts and bulbs.
Boring though it may be, I’d always advise anyone buying a new sewing machine to take the time to give the warranty more than just a cursory glance. While it may not ultimately change your mind, at least you’ll know exactly where you stand from the get-go…and you’ll avoid any nasty surprises further down the road.
How to compare sewing machines
Making sewing machine comparisons should be relatively straightforward by this point. You have a wealth of information to work with now, not least of which is an in depth knowledge of exactly what your requirements are and what you need to meet them.
That said, if you find yourself torn between two equally suitable appliances, having the ability to compare sewing machines side by side would clearly be beneficial, so what should you look for?
Here are some easily compared elements I suggest you check out:
- Speed (Stitches Per Minute)
- Stitch library
- Accessories included
Where to buy your sewing machine
What sewing machine buying guide would be complete without information on where to buy your sewing machine? Well, not this one, that’s for sure!
The truth is that where you buy your sewing machine is far less important than selecting the correct model in the first place. That’s not to say it’s unimportant, it’s not, but it’s nowhere near as vital as making the right choice of machine.
Granted, if you’re spending thousands on a machine with more bells and whistles than you know what to do with, buying from a reputable dealer who can give you a few lessons makes a lot of sense. However, for the vast majority of us who are buying far less sophisticated devices, this isn’t really necessary.
Providing you choose a well known retailer with a good track record of customer service, both before and after sales, you’ll be fine. This goes for both on and offline purchases.
Best Sewing Machine Reviews
Now that you’ve read through everything in our sewing machine buying guide, it’s time to review a few top-rated appliances for you.
Don’t forget, though, that there are more comprehensive analysis here on You Sew And Sew as well. Our in depth best sewing machine reviews look at all the different categories prospective purchasers may fall into, so if you feel as though they will serve you better, by all means feel free to dive straight into them.
For everyone else, here’s a selection of the top sewing machines we’ve reviewed whilst compiling these posts.
If you’re looking for a microchip-free device, then the Janome 2212 may well be on your radar…and for good reason; it’s a great machine.
However, it won’t suit everyone. For anyone new to the craft, there are much better options out there, but as an upgrade for an experienced sewer who doesn’t need too many frills, it’s a decent choice.
As one would expect from Janome, the 2212 feeds fabric beautifully. Because of this, users can get some stunning results across a number of tasks. Stitches really are wonderfully balanced and even.
The machine itself is solid and sturdy, given off an air of durability whenever you sit in front of it. It’ll also rock along at a decent enough lick, churning out a perfectly respectable 860 stitches per minute without missing a beat.
As a mechanical piece of kit, the Janome 2212 does lack when it comes to features, but I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who will actually be happy with such a striped down approach. Unfortunately, however, the price doesn’t reflect its basic nature.
For the money you’ll spend on a 2212, you can get a whole lot more elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely machine, but it does smack of being a little bit overpriced. If you can suffer that, you won’t be disappointed with its performance, but it’s sure to stick in the craw for many.
- Very solid machine
- Produces wonderfully balanced stitches
- Good speed (860SPM)
- Feed system is fantastic
- Reliable and durable
- Not the best choice for inexperienced sewers
- User manual is difficult to follow
- Accessories and stitch library lag behind competitors
- No needle threader
For those who like to see a bit more tech incorporated into the device, yet want to keep things simple, the EverSewn Charlotte could be the perfect fit.
Now, I know I banged on about the importance of size and weight in the sewing machine buying guide above, as no one wants to look at an ugly lump of plastic all day, but this could be the exception to the rule…it’s a stunner! It kind of reminds of the old iMac G3 (I’m showing my age somewhat here), but with a modern twist. 
Even if the look isn’t for you, it still ticks the necessary boxes in terms of portability anyway. Compact and weighing in at just 13lbs, the EverSewn Charlotte could easily be stowed away, but this is one machine I’d rather look at.
Aesthetics, however, is not what we’re here for. Does it perform as well as it looks? I’m happy to say that, yes, it does. Not only is it really easy to operate, it’s also surprisingly capable.
Speed comes in at a decent 850 SPM and you’ll find 80 stitches pre-programmed into the device ready to sew. While this falls short of many of the Charlotte’s competitors, the 80 that are included have been well thought out, so most are useful and very few superfluous.
The EverSewn Charlotte also has a sliding speed control and a one-step buttonhole feature, which will be welcomed by garment makers. The needle threader lets the side down a little, it’s not the best, and the lighting isn’t great either.
In terms of accessories, you’ll receive seven presser feet with your device, and, again, they are perfectly suited to those who intend to work with clothing more than anything else.
On the whole, the EverSewn Charlotte is well worth shortlisting.
- Looks incredible
- Control panel is distraction free
- Feels solid when in use
- Decent stitch library
- Stitches beautifully
- Nice accessory pack
- Suitable for different projects
- Easy to use
- Needle threader could be better
- Slightly more expensive than other similar models
Looking for something capable of handling more than average-weight fabric? The Brother ST150HDH is a relative newcomer, but it’s rapidly gaining popularity in sewing circles…and it’s easy to see why.
First off, let’s address the elephant in the room.
Despite being part of Brother’s “Strong and Tough” range, the ST150HDH is not going to cope with industrial-style processing of leather and the like. Yes, it will handle denim and soft garment leather, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a true workhorse. It isn’t, and nor should you expect it to be at this price.
With that out of the way, let’s concentrate on what this new model from Brother can do.
Probably the easiest way to describe its capabilities would be to say that it’s built for the heavier side of the domestic market. So, if your projects are centered around home furnishings or thicker items of clothing, the ST150HDH is a decent choice.
Computerized, yet simple and far from overwhelming, the ST150HDH will appeal to a broad range of users. Beginners could easily pick this machine up and be stitching in no time at all, as it’s very intuitive and user-friendly. The LCD screen is no-frills, but it works. Bright and easy to read.
Sliding speed control will help slow things down if required, but the ST150HDH will happily trot along at 850 stitches per minute should you need to go fast. There are only 50 stitches built-in, which is a little disappointing, but the quality of the stitches produced is excellent.
Brother has included a 7-point feed dog system and it does an admirable job of getting a range of fabrics through the business end of the machine. You feel like you’re in complete control when using the ST150HDH and the feed plays a huge role in that regard.
The accessory pack is pretty good, too. As well as all the usual bits and bobs, you’ll get nine presser feet – walking, quarter inch piecing, zipper, spring action zigzag, blind stitch, button sewing, buttonhole, overcasting, and monogramming – all of which help make the ST150HDH pretty versatile.
Probably the most impressive thing about this appliance, though, is how Brother have managed to build a device capable of handling medium-weight fabrics, yet kept it so light. Coming in at under 11lbs, the ST150HDH is one of the lightest machines around, but it maintains stability and feels solid when in operation. It’s quite mind blowing, actually.
So, despite it being a fairly new kid on the sewing machine block, I predict that this model from Brother will be around for a while to come.
- Extremely lightweight, yet very stable
- Simple navigation makes it easy to operate
- Great for beginners and intermediate users who wish to work with heavier material
- Accessory pack is decent
- Seven-point feed system is very good
- Good all-round performance
- Stitch library could be better
- Strong and Tough might be slightly misleading
Janome Memory Craft Horizon 8200QCP
On to a different beast entirely now, the mouthful that is the Janome Memory Craft Horizon 8200QCP.
For those who are looking to take their sewing game to a new level, the 8200QCP is certainly one to consider. Let’s be clear here, this is a true dream machine, and you’ll be paying handsomely for it, but if you’re serious about your hobby or sew for a living, this model from Janome should definitely be on your shortlist.
So, what do those who are lucky enough to be able to afford such a machine get for their money? Well, for starters, there are 170 built-in stitches to choose from and it will buzz its way through projects at a very nice 1,000 stitches per minute.
In amongst those stitches, you’ll find 10 one-step buttonhole designs and three alphabets. Stitch length and width can be played around with as well, with width adjustable to an impressive maximum of 9mm.
The Memory Craft Horizon 8200QCP features Janome’s brilliant AcuFeed Flex™ system, which is the top level of an already outstanding feed management range. To say they have nailed it would be an understatement; it’s phenomenally accurate and makes working on plaid projects effortless.
Unsurprisingly, the MCH-8200QCP can handle a broad range of fabrics, thanks in no small part to the very good presser foot pressure adjustment. Basic in operation – an old school dial, no less – it does the job perfectly and stitches remain true across all thicknesses.
If you are upping the fabric thickness, or simply working on larger projects involving swathes of material, you’ll appreciate the expansive sewing area. At 11” (28 cm), there’s plenty of room to play around with, but you’ll have to find somewhere for it to live comfortably as the overall footprint is naturally larger as a result. Oh, and it weighs 26.5lbs…just so you know!
Janome have done a great job with lighting the Memory Craft Horizon 8200QCP, which is just as well given the size of the sewing area. There are five LED lights shining down on the bed and, unlike so many other devices on the market, these actually work.
While this is undoubtedly an advanced appliance, operating it is a breeze. Sure, you’ll have to make friends with the manual to get the most out of it (which you should do with all sewing machines), but getting going on it couldn’t be easier.
Don’t be put off by all those buttons…this is a fantastic sewing machine.
- Very easy to use, despite being advanced
- Will handle a wide range of fabrics
- Excellent stitch quality
- Feed system is magnificent
- Large workspace is ideal for big projects
- Lighting is superb
- The price!
From top of the range to something a lot more accessible now…the Brother XR3774.
At first glance, this looks like a very basic machine and your initial assumptions would be correct. This is about as simple as it gets, and that will be a good thing in many people’s books.
Not only is this device easy to set up and operate, it’s also very affordable as well. So, what’s the catch? To be honest, I’m hard pushed to find one.
Of course, this isn’t going to match up to the big boys, but for what you pay for the Brother XR3774 it truly is an absolute steal. You get eight presser feet – blindstitch, narrow hemmer, walking, quilting, buttonhole, button sewing, zigzag, and zipper – and 37 pre-programmed stitch patterns.
Now, for those who have been paying attention, 37 may not sound like a lot, but this is a mechanical device, so anything above 32 is perfectly acceptable. Not only that, you’re not breaking the bank to get them!
The Brother XR3774 is billed as a sewing / quilting combo and comes with an extension table to help accommodate the latter. To be honest, calling this a quilting machine might be stretching it a bit, but if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to give the craft a go it might fit the bill.
As a basic sewing machine, though, the Brother XR3774 is excellent value for money.
- Really good value for money
- Broad accessory pack
- Decent enough stitch library
- Easy to operate and setup
- Surprisingly solid
- Nice features, given the price
- For the money, not much!
Next up, we have the Swiss designed Bernette 38 for you…and what a beautiful thing it is!
The b38 is currently the top dog in Bernette’s 30 series range, and it shows. This is a really good sewing machine from the domestic arm of sewing legends, Bernina.
Like the EverSewn Charlotte, the whole of Bernette 30 series are easy on the eye, with the contrasting white and dark gray casing accentuated by small hints of red here and there. I’m a fan!
Looks mean nothing if the sew machine can’t sew, though, so how does the b38 stack up? Superbly is the only answer I can give.
At 820 stitches per minute, the Bernette 38 is slightly slower than the average domestic device, but what it lacks in speed it makes up for in smoothness. Fabric glides through this machine and it sews relatively quietly, too, which makes sitting in front of one all the more enjoyable.
The range of fabric that the Bernette 38 sails through is equally impressive, with pretty much everything bar the real heavyweights posing no issues. What is particularly pleasing is the b38’s ability to sew with finesse when confronted with very lightweight materials; it just works beautifully well, even with the most delicate items.
In terms of built-in stitches, it will take you a while to get bored of what the Bernette 38 has to offer. With 394 pre-programmed patterns set into the machine, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever catch yourself wishing for more. In amongst that lot you’ll find eight one-step buttonholes and a nice range of stretch stitches, too.
Oh, and there’s the memory feature as well. If you create a pattern you want to replicate time after time, no problem. Simply save it to the machine and call upon it whenever needed.
It’s solid and sturdy, too, with little to no wobble when pushed to its maximum. I’ve no reason to question its durability and I’m sure that, with a little care and attention, you’ll be getting the same enjoyment out of your b38 for many years to come. The supplied hard dust cover will help keep it in tip-top condition, even if you intend to travel with it.
The b38 also ships with eight presser feet – satin stitch, zig-zag, blindstitch, zipper, button sew on, buttonhole (with slider), overlock, and open toe – and an extension table, which further extends its versatility. There are, of course, all the other odds and ends you’d expect to see included there as well.
In short, then, while you’ll be paying at the upper end of mid-range for the Bernette 38, you really do get incredible value for money from this machine. If you’re looking to upgrade, this is a fantastic option and definitely one that you should give serious consideration to.
- Very enjoyable to use
- Beautiful to look at
- Solid and robust
- Good for a number of tasks
- Any skill level could pick this up
- Ships with a hard dust cover & extension table
- Incredible value for money
- Nothing at all!
To another Janome, then. This time it’s the turn of the much-loved JW8100.
As with the stable-mate 2212 reviewed above, the Janome JW8100 is a very good sewing machine, but not the best for anyone who is entering into the sewing arena for the first time. If you’ve never sat in front of a sewing machine before, getting to grips with the JW8100 could prove frustrating, as the learning curve with this device is on the steep side.
That’s not to say all beginners won’t be able to cope, far from it, but there are much better machines on the market for those who are starting out.
Take, for example, the tension settings on the JW8100, which need frequent minor tweaks to get consistently balanced stitches. Not a problem for the seasoned sewist, but for a newbie? I can see that causing issues and the likelihood is that this constant fiddling would get old pretty quickly.
Then there’s the needle threader. Again, it’s not terrible, but it is awkward and takes a certain knack to save the time it’s meant to. Another minor quirk for someone who knows their way around a sewing machine, but a potential headache for the less initiated.
So, this machine is one you should pass over if you’ve never sewed before…but what about for everyone else? Surprisingly, the aforementioned foibles wouldn’t stop me from recommending the Janome JW8100 to those who are upgrading. It’s a pretty decent machine.
There are 100 built-in stitches and, as with most of Janome’s machines, the feed system is fantastic. The end result is great as well, with clean stitches produced even when working with layered material.
The foot pedal is lovely to use and responds well throughout the pressure arc, but there’s also a sliding speed control should you prefer to use the start / stop button and go pedal-free. Either way, the JW8100 always gives you the feeling of being in control, which breeds confidence and adds to the enjoyment of using it.
Accessory wise, there are six presser feet in the box when you take delivery of your JW8100. These include the general purpose foot, so in effect you’re only really getting five extra feet, but they’re all useful and work as they should.
Like the Bernette 38, the Janome JW8100 ships with an extension table that will help for those large projects. It also ships with a hard dust cover, although its usefulness is often debated due to the handle opening allowing dust to get in!
So, all in all, the JW8100 will suit some, but not others. It’s also competing in the fierce sub $300 market, which makes the likelihood of finding a better fit all the more probable. However, if you do happen to plump for this model, providing you are happy with a little bit of tweaking, you should still be satisfied with your purchase.
- Stitch quality is great
- Three figure stitch library
- Feeds fabric really well
- Nice presser foot clearance
- Comes with hard cover and extension table
- Slightly overpriced
- Learning curve may be too much for novices
- Tension needs frequent tweaks
- Needle threader is fiddly
The next device we’ve got for you in our best sewing machine review roundup is probably one of the most recognisable modern appliances on the market: the SINGER 7258.
This model has been a solid performer for the best part of a decade, and people are still buying this brilliant little machine in their thousands each and every year. You don’t have to look too closely to find out why, either. It’s extremely well priced, comes with a bumper accessory pack, performs brilliantly, and is produced by probably the biggest name in sewing.
The 7258 is so feature-rich it can leave you questioning whether or not they’ve stuck the correct price tag on it. Speed control, needle threader, programmable needle, auto-stop bobbin winder, and 100 pre-programmed stitches are all here, and it stitches brilliantly, too. It’s little wonder SINGER has sold so many units of this fabulous machine.
Unboxing is fun, as you have the delightful experience of going through all the extras that come with the 7258.
You get a frankly astonishing 10 (yes, TEN) presser feet – All-Purpose, Darning / Freehand Embroidery, Buttonhole, Blind Hem, Overcasting, Narrow Rolled Hem, Gathering, Quarter Inch, Satin Stitch, and Zipper – as well as the usual needles, bobbins, seam ripper, darning plate, thread spool caps, spool pin, screwdriver, and dust cover.
Setup is really straightforward and made even easier by the accompanying manual and instructional DVD, both of which do a brilliant job of walking through things in an easy to understand manner. It’s not an exaggeration to say that even a complete newbie will be up and sewing within an hour of taking the SINGER 7258 out of its box.
The only real downside, which probably won’t be a downside at all for those just starting out, is the speed. At 750 stitches per minute, the 7258 lags behind many of its competitors. However, the quality of stitches it produces more than makes up for the lack of speed, especially when you take its price into consideration.
This is a really good sewing machine that gets a big YSAS thumbs up.
- Very good value for money
- Stacks of features
- Suitable for both beginners and intermediates
- Stitch quality is brilliant
- Runs relatively quietly
- The 7258 has been a solid performer for years
- Quite slow (750 SPM)
Something slightly different for you now, the wonderful JUKI TL-2010Q.
Widely regarded as a semi-industrial device, this tabletop sewing machine from one of the most loved names in the industry is both simple and complex at the same time. The TL-2010Q (AKA as the Juki TL-2200QVP Mini in the UK) is a single needle lockstitch machine, but in the right hands this beauty can do wonderous things.
Capable of churning out 1,500 stitches per minute, this model is no slouch and it will also handle an array of fabrics that will surprise even the most experienced user. While this is no match for a true walking foot machine, the TL-2010Q does an admirable job with slippery customers like garment leather and layered material, keeping everything nicely in line.
The fact that this model does such a great job with layers should come as no surprise, though, as the Q actually stands for Quilting. Those who take this sewing niche seriously can’t speak highly enough of the JUKI, so that should give you a good steer on the kind of quality machine we’re dealing with here.
Despite being a bit of a rocket, in terms of domestic machines at least, the sliding speed control enables you to slow things down to almost a crawl should the project you’re working on call for greater finesse. You can go as low as 200 SPM, which gives you a range of speeds not found on too many other home appliances.
Ratchet things back up to full pelt and the JUKI TL-2010Q remains as stable as a mounted machine, with the big rubber feet absorbing the vibration wonderfully well. Stitch quality remains fantastic throughout the speed ranges, too, so you can sew with confidence knowing the JUKI won’t miss a beat.
You won’t find much in the box, with only three extra feet included – a ¼ quilting foot, even feed foot, and a zipper foot – as well as the usual bobbins, needles, cleaning brush, spool cap, screwdrivers, oiler, cover, and a knee lift lever.
However, what you do get is an absolutely fantastic machine, albeit a rather specialized one.
- Excellent motor with decent torque
- Speedy (1,500 SPM)
- Variable speed control is very good
- Almost entirely vibration-free
- Nice size working area
- Dependable, solid, and durable
- Needle threader is annoying
Time for another Brother, the CS6000i.
This model did very well in our best sewing machine for kids review post, so that should give you an idea on just how simple and straightforward this device is to operate and setup. Brother has done a fantastic job here, making the entire experience extremely user-friendly.
The good news doesn’t end there, the CS6000i performs great, too, and, considering the price tag, there are plenty of features present. Most importantly for the aforementioned kids (and lots of us adults as well), there’s a sliding speed control and start / stop button, making pedal-free sewing possible.
While the pedal itself is responsive and works well enough, having the option to go foot-free will be seen as a definite plus point for many. Even those who still use the pedal can make use of the limiter when working on jobs that require an extra level of care and attention.
The CS6000i has a top speed of 850 stitches per minute, so it’s certainly up there with the more expensive machines in terms of output. Stitch quality is high across all speed ranges and you’ll get 60 built-in stitches to play around with. Not a mind blowing amount, but enough for most tasks.
As I’ve already mentioned, this is a very easy sewing machine to use and the minimalist exterior helps keep things simple, reducing overwhelm. Stitch selection couldn’t be more effortless and operational buttons are well placed and clearly marked.
Weighing in at just 13lbs means the Brother CS6000i can be moved around without too much trouble and the accessory pack that ships with this model is decent.
Upon unboxing, you’ll find eight extra feet to go alongside the general-purpose foot already mounted on the machine: button fitting foot, overcasting foot, blindstich foot, walking foot, monogramming foot, zigzag foot, buttonhole foot, zipper foot, and a spring action quilting foot.
As well as the nine presser feet, there’s also an array of other goodies to get you started, including bobbins, a needle set and twin needle, eyelet punch, seam ripper, cleaning brush, spool pin, and the ever-handy screwdriver. You’ll also get a hard dust case, which is great, and an oversized table for quilting as well.
It’s here, though, that the only real gripe about the Brother CS6000i surfaces. Despite being billed as such, it doesn’t really do all that well as a quilting machine. Sure, it’ll turn out some acceptable small projects, but for bigger, and certainly thicker, jobs, this model struggles a little.
In spite of that, this machine is one of the best in its price range and will suit those new to sewing perfectly.
- Exceptional value for money
- Fast, yet very controllable
- Good range of accessories
- Sixty built-in stitch patterns
- Auto threader is very good
- Nice and easy to operate
- Nothing much!
Janome 7330 Magnolia
Moving up a notch now, in terms of pricing, to the Janome 7330 Magnolia.
As I’ve mentioned before in other articles here on You Sew And Sew, this model from the extremely well respected sewing machine manufacturer can leave one feeling a little confused.
Why? Well, at first glance the Janome 7330 Magnolia appears to be a very basic machine with a pretty hefty price tag. For example, despite sitting firmly in the pricing mid-range, the 7330 comes with a paltry 30 built-in stitches, which is exceptionally low for a computerized device.
The standard accessory pack is equally disappointing. Just four additional presser feet ship with this model – satin stitch foot F, zipper foot, automatic buttonhole foot, and a zig-zag foot – and very little else.
So, why does the Janome 7330 Magnolia sit in the mid-range of the market? Doesn’t it seem a little overpriced?
It may seem that way…until you sit in front of one. Yes, this is a pretty basic appliance, but it’s a very good sewing machine nonetheless.
For anyone upgrading from an old mechanical device who is feeling a touch of trepidation about entering the world of microchip-led sewing, the Janome 7330 Magnolia is about as perfect as could be. It’s intuitive to use and has a no-nonsense air about it that technophobes will no doubt appreciate…and it stitches fantastically well.
Janome has clearly thought this one through superbly. Despite only having 30 stitches, every one that is included is valuable and brings something to the party. There are 6 one-step buttonholes included, so seamstresses and tailors are well looked after, too.
Selecting the stitch you want is about as straightforward as it could be and many of the best computerized features are present on the 7330. Sliding speed control, needle positioning, auto locking stitch, start / stop button, etc. are all here and will help make your sewing experience all the more enjoyable and productive.
This is also a very well built appliance, but it’s also rather hefty. At just over 18lbs, many of you out there probably won’t want to lug it around too often, but if you’re leaving it in situ or moving it infrequently, the extra weight could be seen as beneficial.
So, to wrap up the Janome 7330 Magnolia story, this machine may look like it’s been priced up by an overly ambitious sales rep, but what you get is well worth every cent.
- Will suit those who are anxious about tech
- Very easy to use and set up
- Solid construction
- Clear and easy to read screen
- Nice range of features
- Stitch quality is fantastic
- Stitch library could be better
- Might be a bit basic for some users
- Accessory pack is a bit sparse
Next up we have the JUKI HZL-G220.
As one would expect from this particular manufacturer, this is a very serious sewing machine indeed. Equipped with an excellent feed system and a wider than average sewing area, the
HZL-G220 edges close to the professional end of the market, whilst remaining simple enough for the hobbyist to enjoy as well.
It’s a wonderful bit of kit.
This is especially true if the majority of your work revolves around heavier fabrics and larger projects. Its box feed and improved presser foot construction work superbly together, though, so moving down to delicate materials proves no issue, making this a very versatile machine indeed.
Speed wise, the JUKI HZL-G220 comes in above average at 900 stitches per minute and it will happily run all day at this speed without a grumble. For a domestic machine, the HZL-G220 is a bit of a workhorse.
The stitch library is pretty decent as well, with 180 pre-programmed patterns available to you right out the box. In amongst that lot you’ll find eight automatic buttonholes, but only one alphabet, which is a little disappointing.
Other features include an excellent auto thread trimmer and needle threader, and the bobbin winder is reliable as well. Setting the bobbin, once wound, is a cinch, which makes the whole process a lot quicker and less frustrating.
Simple setup doesn’t stop there. In fact, for a machine that could easily take pride of place in a professional’s sewing room, the JUKI HZL-G220 is very easy to use. No clunky number pad to slow things down and the LCD screen is bright, clear, and easy to read.
The accessory pack that ships with the HZL-G220 isn’t quite as broad as some of the less expensive appliances on the market, but that’s often the case as what you do receive will invariably be of a better quality.
As you can probably tell, I’m a fan of this machine and firmly believe that all skill levels would love sitting in front of it. The price, however, may put off those who are just starting out.
- Nice size sewing area
- Broad stitch library
- Easy to setup
- Simple and intuitive to use
- Clear display screen
- Fast speed (900SPM)
- Solid and robust
- Suitable for all skill levels
- Good range of accessories, including a hard dust cover
- It’s a bit pricey
SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960
Another SINGER for you now, the snazzy looking Quantum Stylist 9960.
With its numerous buttons, the 9960 looks like a complicated and advanced machine, but that’s not really the case. In fact, this model from SINGER is actually deceptively easy to use, although you’d be forgiven for feeling a little daunted the first time you sat in front of one.
SINGER has done a great job of making the 9960 incredibly intuitive to use, largely because of the clever placement of its controls. While I’m definitely in the less is more camp when it comes to buttons, the Quantum Stylist 9960 both looks fantastic and keeps things simple, which is a very rare combination indeed.
The fact that the controls help rather than hinder your sewing experience is important here, as you have 600 stitch patterns to hand. Not a typo, six hundred built-in stitches! For the money you’ll pay for the Quantum Stylist 9960, that’s an incredible range of stitches.
There’s more. For those of you who put a lot of weight on receiving a bumper accessory pack with your machine, this one will blow you away. You get, wait for it, 19 presser feet. Nineteen! That’s an insane amount. Combine these with the stitch library and it’ll certainly take you a while to get bored, that’s for sure!
All of this stuff would be worthless if the actual machine turned out to be a heap of junk, though. So, how does the 9960 stack up in terms of performance?
Pretty well, actually.
In terms of stitches per minute, the SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960 comes in at 850, so all good there. You may, however, find that you get a little wobble every now and then at top speed, which is all the more surprising when you know that the machine weighs in at over 18lbs.
The feed system isn’t quite up to Janome standards, but it’s not too shabby and will take fabric through nicely, providing you’re working with medium-weight materials and below. This is not a heavyweight fabric machine by any stretch of the imagination.
Lighting is good and the machine runs relatively quietly, which is always a plus for me. There’s also variable speed control along with the pedal-free option of a start / stop button, as well as a very nice programmable needle feature that works exactly as it should.
The SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960 also comes with an automatic needle threader, although this is far from the best on the market. Needle threaders were invented to save the user time, yet this one can often leave you thinking you could have done it quicker manually. Not good.
Another gripe, albeit it a minor one, is the position of the reverse button; it’s just too easy to miss, which is a pity as the rest of the 9960’s layout is spot on.
Although it’s far from perfect, the SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960 is still a really good sewing machine and, for the money, well worth considering.
- Feeds fabric very well
- Excellent stitch library (600 preprogrammed patterns!)
- Amazing range of accessories
- Brilliantly lit
- Clean, minimalistic design
- Decent value for money
- Auto threader isn’t great
- Can wobble at full speed
Janome Easy-To-Use Range
Bored with the same old white shells? Ladies and gentleman, I give you Janome’s Easy-To-Use range!
Available in three different colors – Pink Sorbet, Blue Couture, and Arctic Crystal – these sewing machines are aimed directly at beginners, hence the Easy-To-Use moniker. To be honest with you, there are a number of things that could cause you to overlook these appliances, but you’d be missing out if you did.
Yes, they have garish colors. Yes, they’re inexpensive. Yes, they look incredibly basic. But, despite all that, these three sewing machines from Janome are actually really good appliances. No, they’re not for pros – they’re not even for intermediate users, really – but for who they are designed for, these are terrific machines.
Janome has done a great job of keeping things about as simple as they can be without compromising the quality of the end product. They are solid, weighing in at around 13lbs, yet they remain compact and don’t feel cumbersome in any way. Stability is good whilst sewing, which is something that can often be a concern with cheaper devices.
Those who have never sat in front of a sewing machine before will appreciate the accompanying video series that has been made for them. Both setup and operation can be grasped in no time.
As this is a non-computerized contraption, stitch library naturally suffers. Fifteen pre-programmed patterns come built into these machines, but there’s enough here to get you started on your sewing journey. The only concern is that you may grow out of it pretty quickly.
Accessories, too, are a little bit thin on the ground, with only three additional presser feet to be found in the box. Other odds and ends include the usual bobbins, needles, seam ripper and such, but don’t expect a bumper haul. This is, after all, an entry-level machine offered at a bargain price.
I’d happily recommend this range to anyone starting out.
- Perfect for newcomers
- Well built, solid construction
- Colors will delight children (big and small!)
- Surprisingly stable in use
- Accompanying video tutorials are brilliant
- Accessory pack is a bit stingy
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking…Spieg-who? However, this relative unknown deserves a place on this list.
Yep, the Spiegel SP3201 is, for the money, one of the best sewing machines on the market. I’m not kidding. At the time of writing, this little beauty is being offered at below $100, and that my friends is an astonishing price when you consider what you’re getting for your money.
Don’t get me wrong, the Spiegel SP3201 is most definitely a budget offering, but if you sew infrequently and want a basic, yet reliable machine, this could be the ideal solution. With things like automatic needle threader and thread cutter included, it’s not too basic, either.
The SP3201’s top loading bobbin works without issue, as does the bobbin winder, and the overall build quality is surprisingly good. It weighs in at a respectable 13lbs and feels pretty stable when in use.
Although the Spiegel is mechanical, you still get 32 built-in stitches to choose from and it couldn’t be more straightforward to use. Speedwise, it’s relatively slow (at 700 stitches per minute), but the quality of the stitches is perfectly acceptable given the price tag.
Beginners will benefit from the diagrams directly on the casing that help guide you through the threading process. It’s also pretty quiet, too.
If you’re in the market for a very affordable machine that is perfect for the occasional minor alteration, you could do a lot worse than opt for the Spiegel SP3201.
- Great value for money
- Ideal for occasional alterations and small repair jobs
- Very simple to operate
- Good range of features, given it’s such a budget option
- Not the best accessory pack
EverSewn Sparrow QE
Next we swing back up the price scale to the much more advanced machine that is the EverSewn Sparrow QE (Quilters Edition).
The name probably gives away what this appliance is all about, and if that’s your area of choice then this model from EverSewn’s Sparrow range will not disappoint. Featured in our roundup of the best heavy-duty sewing machines, the QE is a very capable machine indeed.
Although this is far from a novice machine, it’s easy enough to use that anyone could pick it up and get sewing in no time at all. EverSewn has a knack of making machines that feel natural to use, and this model is no different.
Everything about it is kept simple, from the automatic needle threader through to the drop-in bobbin. Where other manufacturers overcomplicate their advanced models, EverSewn have kept things straightforward, which allows you to concentrate on creating rather than worrying anything else.
The quality of the stitches produced by the EverSewn Sparrow QE is very good and it’ll steam its way through them at a reasonable enough 850 SPM. While this may be a bit slower than other high-end models available, for domestic usage 850 stitches per minute is enough for most.
One area where it does let itself down a little is the stitch library. At only 70 pre-programmed patterns, you might feel a bit shortchanged. Equally, it would have been nice if EverSewn had thrown in their fantastic Deluxe 8-piece Quilting Foot Kit as part of the accessory kit. I’d definitely recommend picking a set up if you decide to buy the QE; it’s well worth the money.
All in all, the EverSewn Sparrow QE is a belting buy for anyone who is serious about their craft, be they hobbyist or professional.
- Good looking machine
- Simple to use
- Good all-rounder
- Excellent stitch quality
- Suitable for all skill levels
- The fantastic Deluxe 8-piece Quilting Foot Kit isn’t included
SINGER Heavy Duty 4432
To the battleship gray beauty that is the SINGER HD4432 now. Does it live up to powerhouse claims?
In some ways it does, but in others it falls short. Allow me to explain.
The SINGER Heavy Duty 4432 is built around an absolutely phenomenal motor, one that allows this particular model to rack up an awesome 1,100 stitches per minute! That extra power gives the 4432 a fighting chance against thicker materials, despite being priced so competitively.
SINGER actually claim that it is an astonishing 60% stronger than the motors found in their standard sewing machines, and I’ve no reason to doubt their claims. It’s a monster.
There are lots of other good things about this machine, too. From the easy to adjust presser foot pressure to the top drop-in bobbin through to the automatic needle threader and presser foot lift, all work well.
The problem with the 4432, despite its heavy duty billing, is that it just doesn’t really feel as though it’s built to last. Sure, it’ll work its way through heavier fabrics than many domestic machines at this price point, but it’s no tank. Many of the parts feel downright flimsy.
That’s not to say that this isn’t a good machine. Nor am I suggesting you shouldn’t buy one. It really is a fine bit of kit for the money and I wouldn’t hesitate buying one myself. However, don’t expect the SINGER 4432 to last you a lifetime, as it probably won’t.
- Good value
- Solid motor
- Very quick (1,100SPM)
- Can handle a range of materials
- A bit plasticky in places
One for Project Runway fans now. It’s the turn of the Brother XR9550PRW.
Celebrity / reality show tie-ins and collaborations leave me a little cold, so the XR9550PRW probably had a tougher task of convincing me of its inclusion on this list than some of the other models. I don’t know about you, but this kind of thing always feels a bit scammy.
However, I was wrong on this occasion. This entrant is a winner!
While this is very much a basic machine for very lightweight dressmaking jobs only, the Brother XR9550PRW does what it does remarkably well. It comes with a very nice selection of 110 stitches built-in and will hit a top speed of 850 stitches per minute. As we’ve already seen, these are very respectable numbers when compared to the competition.
The XR9550PRW is also extraordinarily lightweight, which will no doubt please those who need to cart their appliance backwards and forwards to class. At just over 10lb, there was a concern over stability, but thankfully they proved to be unfounded. It stays put nicely throughout the speed range, which is always a good thing!
Another plus point is the accessory pack, which ships with a decent amount of presser feet and other odds and ends to get you up and running.
Feet include zigzag, monogramming, overcasting, buttonhole, button sewing, zipper, quilting, and blind stitch and they are accompanied by an accessory pouch with 4 bobbins, needle set, ball point needle, twin needle, a seam ripper, cleaning brush, spool caps (3), extra spool pin, screwdriver, eyelet punch, wide table, and a hard dust case.
As we’ve seen with other devices of this ilk, the inclusion of quilting accessories stretches the XR9550PRW’s range somewhat: it’s really not very good with layered fabrics past light / medium thickness. It’ll cope, but it won’t produce swoon-worthy results.
For the market it’s aimed at, though, the Brother XR9550PRW is a very nice device…and it won’t break the bank either.
- A breeze to operate
- Decent enough stitch library
- Nice and lightweight
- Accessory pack is good
- Well priced
- For basic tasks only
Our next machine is the JUKI HZL-LB5100, and it’s a bit of an all-rounder this one.
Anyone looking to step into the mid-range without going too far up the price chart will want to know about the JUKI HZL-LB5100. While it’s entirely flawless, it does offer absolutely fantastic value for money and is a perfectly reasonable option for every skill level.
Although computerized, the HZL-LB5100 is incredibly easy to navigate and operate. Setup is simple, too, which makes it ideal for novices…and lazy people, like me! There are 100 built-in stitches to explore and they are easy to select and use.
Stitch quality, as one would expect from this manufacturer, is excellent, but the JUKI HZL-LB5100 is left wanting somewhat in terms of speed. Racking up only 700 stitches per minute at full pelt, this is one of the slowest devices in our roundup, which may disappoint intermediates and above.
For those who don’t mind a slower pace, however, this model really does offer a lot. It’s just a joy to use. Everything works wonderfully well and you get a sense that JUKI have gone above and beyond in order to bring consumers a very good sewing machine at an affordable price.
Alongside the all-purpose presser foot comes an additional six feet to cover plenty of bases: buttonhole, zipper, overcasting, applique, zig-zag, and blind hem. The accessory pack is further bolstered by the usual suspects, bobbins, needles, spool caps, felt, seam ripper, screwdriver, etc. It also ships with a decent DVD to get you up to speed quickly.
The only thing that I’m not 100% certain of is the HZL-LB5100’s ability to work with really heavy fabric. JUKI claim that it’s capable of regularly punching through denim and leather, but I’m not so sure.
If these aren’t your materials of choice, or if you only sew with them infrequently, then this shouldn’t put you off what is otherwise a wonderful appliance.
- Solid and sturdy
- Lightweight, but stable
- Controls are very straightforward
- Precise and enjoyable to use
- Suitable for all
- Slow (700 SPM)
Janome Memory Craft 6600P
As we get towards the end of this roundup, it’s time to look at one of the big boys: the Janome Memory Craft 6600P.
This is one of those machines that gets people wishing and hoping. You know the kind of thing…
One day I’ll have one. One day.
And then they let out a big sigh and get back to reality.
Well, let me tell you, those dreamers are onto something. This is a sublime machine. Albeit a pretty expensive one.
The Janome Memory Craft 6600P is absolutely jammed packed with features and functionality. Luckily, it’s built to last, too, because it’ll take you a while to work your way through what this beauty can do!
Auto de-clutch bobbin, automatic thread tension, and a lightning fast top speed of 1,000 stitches per minute are just a few highlights of many, but the star of the show is the feed system: AcuFeed.
As we’ve already seen, if Janome know one thing, it’s how to feed fabric through the business end of a sewing machine. Their AcuFeed system is sublime, making layered work about as simple as it gets on the domestic market. It’s breathtaking.
Layered fabric is not the only thing made easy by the 6600P’s wonderful 7-point feed. This beast even makes light work of garment leather and denim, feeling more like a compound feed walking foot machine than a tabletop home sewing machine. Astonishing.
The stitch library comes with 163 pre programmed patterns included, which isn’t as broad as many of its competitors but still plentiful enough to keep most users happy.
It’s just a shame it’s so pricey.
- Quick (1,000 SPM)
- Good range of features
- Will stitch almost anything
- Brilliant feed
- You can feel the quality as you sew
- Auto tension is actually beneficial
- Four figure price tag!
Let’s round off this roundup with another Bernette, shall we? The b35.
Like it’s big sister, the b38, the Bernette 35 is incredibly easy on the eye. Thankfully, it also performs just as well, too.
Why the inclusion of another Bernette from their 30 series range? Well, those of you who have been paying attention will remember that the b38 was a computerized device. This, my friends, is their top-rated mechanical effort. And it’s a beauty.
Smooth and effortless is how I described it elsewhere on this site, and I’m sticking to that here. It really is a lovely machine to use, and for those who do not want to go computerized, the b35 is the perfect choice.
It’s solid and stable, which immediately breeds confidence when you sit in front of it, and it’s incredibly easy to use. Yes, there are only 23 built-in stitches, but I could forgive this machine a lot more than that!
The Bernette 35 will suit every skill level and will appeal to crafters, dressmakers, and quilters alike. Top speed is 860 stitches per minute and it has enough torque to punch through denim without issue. Even webbing is easily stitched with the b35.
Accessories included in the box aren’t exactly going to set the world alight, but you’ll receive enough to get started. Seven presser feet are in there, which is pretty decent, but other than that there’s just bobbins, needles, a seam ripper, and a couple of screwdrivers.
If there’s any real downside to the Bernette 35 it would be the price. It’s a million miles away from being prohibitively expensive, but for a non-computerized machine you might feel as though it’s a little high in the range.
Don’t be put off, though. If you’re looking for a really good mechanical sewing machine, this is it.
- Beautifully thought out machine
- Suitable for a broad customer base
- Decent speed (860SPM)
- Excellent build quality, solid and sturdy
- Easy to set up and operate
- Very enjoyable to use
- Nothing much!
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best sewing machine reviews…Done!
Well, kind of!
Our aim here at You Sew And Sew is to bring you, our readers, the very finest sewing resources available anywhere on the ‘Net…and that includes our in depth product reviews.
We’ve gone above and beyond, reviewing sewing machines big and small so that you can get a definitive answer as to which one will best suit your needs.
In the posts below, we’ll keep things simple, too, even when discussing complex features. We want you to be well informed before you hand over your money, armed with knowledge that could ultimately affect your buying decision.
After all, good sewing machine deals are only worthwhile if the model in question actually meets your requirements when you come to use it!
our latest In Depth Sewing machine Review Posts
Individual sewing machines reviewed
As well as all the roundup reviews of sewing machine types, we’ve also conducted many deep dive sewing machine reviews, too.
The table below will give you an overview of the key features each machine has and there’s a hyperlink to each review in the “Model” column, so you can read our full take on each appliance. It’s also fully searchable and sortable using the dropdown arrows on each column and the customizable fields at the bottom, so play around with it to find a sewing machine that meets your requirements.
TIP: If you’re reading this page on a smartphone, rotate the screen so you can view the table in landscape rather than portrait (it gets all squished up and unreadable in portrait!)
|wdt_ID||MODEL||SPEED (SPM)||BUILT-IN STITCHES||NEEDLE THREADER?||WEIGHT||DIMENSIONS||WARRANTY|
|MODEL||SPEED (SPM)||BUILT-IN STITCHES||NEEDLE THREADER?||WEIGHT||DIMENSIONS||WARRANTY|
- Jacqueline Curtis | 7 Ways to Prevent Buyer’s Remorse and Make Smarter Purchases | https://www.moneycrashers.com/prevent-buyers-remorse-definition/
- Elizabeth Scott, MS | How to Deal With FOMO in Your Life | https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-cope-with-fomo-4174664
- Author Unknown | What Is Torque? | http://www3.physics.uoguelph.ca/tutorials/torque/Q.torque.intro.html
- FTC | Warranties | https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0252-warranties
- FindLaw | What is the Difference Between a Full Warranty and a Limited Warranty? | https://consumer.findlaw.com/consumer-transactions/difference-between-a-full-warranty-and-a-limited-warranty.html
- Dan Grabham | 20 years of the iMac: looking back at Apple’s legendary iMac G3 | https://www.pocket-lint.com/laptops/news/apple/144413-20-years-of-the-imac-looking-back-at-apple-s-legendary-imac-g3