If you click a link on this page and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Oh boy! This was quite a research project…trying to work out which was the best handheld sewing machine led to some very interesting findings indeed.
If you’ve got your heart set on owning a hand sewing machine, you’re definitely going to want to read this.
are mini & portable sewing machine the same as handheld?
I agree, this sounds like the dumbest question in the world, but many seem to be confused by the term “handheld”…not least of which are sewing machine review sites.
You may have seen them, jam packed to the gunnels with dozens of supposedly handheld sewing machines that are, at best, mini appliances or, at worst, portable devices.
Here, I’m keeping things strictly handheld, which means, erm, you can sew with them while you hold them in your hand…funny that! If you’re actually looking for portable or mini, rather than a hand sewing machine, I’ve got you covered with these articles:
Are handheld sewing machines any good?
I’m being serious. They’re really not.
Listen, I’m not here to sell you something just for the sake of a commission. All of the reviews I do here on You Sew and Sew are 100% independent and I have absolutely no affiliation with any sewing machine brand, handheld or not. Zero.
Yes, I do earn a small fee if you choose to buy a product after clicking some of the links on this site (this doesn’t affect the price you pay, by the way), but I’m certainly not going to tell you something is AWESOME when it patently isn’t…that’s really not my style.
Handheld sewing machines are, for the most part, terrible
If you think about it, they’re really not going to get much of a job done simply for the reason of size alone.
A sewing machine that fits in your hand isn’t going to pack much of a punch or have a whole lot going on inside of it; it’s just not logistically possible when you’re dealing with cogs and levers.
Sure, your iPhone may now have more computational power than the space program that put man on the moon, but mechanical parts can only be shrunk so far before things start to get really expensive. Which brings me to another point…
Handheld sewing machines are cheap
You’ve all heard the saying, “You get what you pay for”, well, with handheld sewing machines, you don’t pay much. In fact, you’ll struggle to find one that goes above the $20 mark.
While no one wants to pay over the odds for anything, paying this little can pretty much guarantee the quality isn’t going to be up to much.
What about all those great handheld sewing machine reviews?
This is a little less obvious, and a bit more shocking.
At first glance, many of these handheld sewing machines appear to have dozens of fantastic reviews…until you dig a little deeper.
Some of these machines are actually listed with other, often totally unrelated items. This means that product page will receive reviews for all the items on sale under that particular ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number), not just the item you’re looking at.
Not good…especially if the product you want to buy happens to be useless.
I deliberated over making a video to show you exactly what’s happening with handheld sewing machines, but I’m not here to name names or point the finger at any one particular seller. Besides, there’s more than one company doing this, so to single someone out would be unfair (even if what they are doing isn’t exactly fair to their customers).
I do, however, want you to know that this is happening, and show you how you can avoid falling foul of it in the future.
Here’s what to look for:
First of all, check to see if the seller has more than one option available on that page. Below you’ll see an example I’ve found to illustrate this:
To be clear, this is just to show you what to look for, not an example of shady handheld sewing machine reviews. I’ve chosen lip balms to illustrate the point as they are so far removed from hand sewing no confusion can be made…but, just in case, PURE+SIMPLE ARE A 100% LEGITIMATE COMPANY – THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE OF A PRODUCT LISTING WITH MULTIPLE ITEMS.
Glad we’ve got that out of the way!
Next, look for items within that range of choices that doesn’t fit with the rest. To use the lip balm example once again, you can see that all they have listed are different flavors: nothing untoward there.
But, what about if they had included something like, say, a handy stitch sewing machine as one of the options? That would be a little weird, right?
Well, that’s what’s happening!
Sellers are hiding junk behind items that sell well and get great reviews. I don’t know how this is allowed (or even if it actually is…I very much doubt retailers want these shenanigans going on), but it is happening, so buyer beware!
What makes matters worse, is that sellers can actually REMOVE the product that received all the brilliant 5 star reviews and leave the poor quality product behind…with all the excellent star ratings still intact!
Thankfully, there’s a way to spot this…and I’m going to show you how in step 3.
Below is a quick video showing you how to spot weirdness in reviews on Amazon, something that seems to be particularly prevalent in the handheld sewing machine market.
Again, I’ve used PURE+SIMPLE’s product page to illustrate this (read the disclaimer above, please. PURE+SIMPLE are a great brand and are in no way involved in this practice, this is for illustrative purposes only).
As you can see, what you need to do is click through to the product’s reviews by hitting the link next to the star ratings at the top of the listing. From there, you’ll need to click on the text that says “[number] Customer Reviews”.
This will lead you to the product’s standalone review page. Here you’ll see a series of dropdown boxes, one of which will have “All formats” as its descriptive text. Hit this and you’ll find an option to only show the product you are looking to buy.
You’ll notice in the video above that the amount of reviews available for PURE+SIMPLE’s “assorted flavors” is 79, which is down from the overall amount of customer reviews for that page (111 reviews, in this instance). This is because with that dropdown box selected, you are only seeing reviews from those who have bought that particular item and have left a review.
Neat trick, huh?
Try this with handheld sewing machines and you’ll find that the amount of reviews will either drop from an impressive three-figure review count down to low teens or even, in some instances, zero! If there are reviews still showing, have a read through them to find out what people are saying.
It’s not unusual to find that all the page’s 1-star reviews are actually associated with your handheld sewing machine.
Sometimes, you’ll find a product where the above doesn’t apply, but something still feels off. Maybe it’s the only handheld sewing machine with 20 perfect 5-ratings or something else that sets your alarm bells ringing.
If this is the case, check the dates of those ratings – are they all within a very small time frame? If they are, they could be fake. Again, it shouldn’t happen, but it does, unfortunately.
Another check is whether they say the same thing repeatedly and are very short. Although dodgy sellers are combating this by writing more in their fake reviews, you can often still see patterns or pick up on a similar tone being used a little too regularly.
A gazillion handheld sewing machine listings, same product
The last point I’ll make addresses the similarity of many of these devices.
Whilst searching for the best handheld sewing machine, I noticed that lots and lots of them all looked very similar…alarmingly so. Why is that?
Well, a lot of them look the same for one very simple reason – essentially, they are the same!
As these hand sewing machines are relatively cheap to manufacture and sell at wholesale, the barrier to entry is extremely low. Anyone can go and buy 100 of these, put them up for sale online at a healthy markup and wait for the sales bell to start ringing; it’s not that difficult a process these days.
A quick search on Alibaba.com, probably the largest wholesale platform in the world, proved the point:
As you can see from the listing, these handheld sewing machines are readily available and can even be shipped with the seller’s logo, or a choice of colors, to somewhat differentiate them from their competitors.
Underneath all that, however, is the same product.
Okay, so should I avoid handheld sewing machines altogether?
You’d think that, after what I’ve written thus far, the answer to this question would be as obvious as the answer to the “What is a handheld sewing machine?” query posed above…and in some regards, you’d be right.
If you can possibly avoid buying a handheld sewing machine, you should. Despite being super-inexpensive, they’re really not very good. Barring the fact that they are the ultimate in transportability, they really don’t have too much going for them.
That being said, the aforementioned transportability is often the key factor in people’s decision to buy one of these hand sewing machines, so they can’t be disregarded altogether.
Some might want to take a handheld stapler sewing machine on holiday to make minor repairs if they are needed or maybe keep one in their desk drawer at work for emergencies, and for these reasons, they serve a purpose.
Personally, I wouldn’t buy one, but I’m not that much of an egomaniac to categorically state that because I don’t have a use for a handheld sewing machine, nobody else should have one either!
What I will say, however, is everyone should be prepared for what they receive when the delivery hits the doormat. Do not have high expectations!
How to use a handheld sewing machine
If you do decide to go ahead and buy one of these devices, you’re going to want to know exactly how to use a handheld sewing machine to best effect.
As these are an extremely basic machine, there’s really only two steps to worry about: threading and sewing.
How to thread a handheld sewing machine
On the side of your handheld sewing machine you’ll see the bobbin housing. Place your bobbin on this housing so that the thread will be pulled away towards the front of the machine in a counter-clockwise fashion.
From there, you’ll need to run the thread through the first thread hole then across the tension control dial before threading the needle ready for sewing.
How to sew with a hand sewing machine
This is where things can get interesting!
Again, on the side of the device, you’ll see a wheel-like dial. This controls the needle arm, so rotate it until the needle is lifted and ready for your fabric to be inserted.
Next, manually lift the presser foot whilst simultaneously placing the material underneath. You’ll need to ensure the needle is correctly aligned with the area you want to begin stitching.
Once you’re happy with the setup, grasp the hand sewer firmly and flick the power switch to “ON” to set the machine in motion…be ready, as the mechanism will start as soon as that switch is activated.
Once you start stitching, slide the fabric under the moving needle with your free hand until the seam is complete, then hit the power switch again to stop the machine.
Now, tie off your stitch and, hopefully, admire your handiwork.
The best handheld sewing machine reviews
So, you’ve read all of the above and have decided, once and for all, that you definitely need a hand sewing device in your life. The only question that remains, therefore, is which one is best?
Before we get to that, I’m going to try and put you off one last time.
When I say, the best handheld sewing machine, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be any good. Sorry about that.
In a 100m sprint against a sloth, I’d be the best…but that doesn’t mean I’m good, know what I’m saying?!
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get to it!
SINGER 01663 Stitch Sew
This battery operated hand sewing machine manages to rack up a few 5-star ratings, but the vast majority, at almost half of all who left a review, are 1-star. Things don’t look good.
There are loads of reviews bemoaning how cheaply the SINGER 01663 is made and the poor quality of the parts used. Ease of use is also a major issue, with many stating they simply gave up. I found it amusing to read – apologies to those who have been exasperated enough to leave a review only to find out I’ve found it funny – that, more than once, people have said it would have been easier to simply use a needle and thread in the conventional fashion. I couldn’t agree more.
If ever you needed proof that these handheld sewing machines aren’t much use, it’s this effort from industry giant, SINGER. Let’s face it, if they can’t work out how to make one of these things, what hope is there for a small company who’s R&D budget runs to a few large coffees and a box of donuts?
Smartek USA RX-01 Handheld Sewing Machine
Smartek reckon this little device is, and I quote, “Great for all types of materials like silk, denim, leather, wool, crafts etc.”
This hand sewing machine has more 1-star reviews than all of the other ratings combined, which should tell you all you need to know. Same gripes arise, poor quality and hard to get to grips with. Some even complained about the machine damaging the fabric they were working on.
One to avoid if you want to maintain sanity by the sounds of things.
OlliOma Handheld Stapler Sewing Machine
Let’s try something a little bit different, shall we? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the OlliOma Handheld Stapler Sewing Machine.
No batteries are required with this gadget, as it is entirely operated by hand. That’s probably a good thing, as it cuts down on the amount of things that can break!
Actually, the OlliOma doesn’t fare too badly in the reviews (relatively speaking). People still complain about how difficult it is to operate, with some pointing you to YouTube for instruction, but a few have seemed to get on alright with it…which is an improvement in what we’ve seen thus far!
That said, I’d be prepared to buy another pretty soon, as I can’t see this lasting for too long.
Sunbeam Cordless handheld sewing machine
To the little ray of light that is the Sunbeam cordless handheld sewing machine, then…excuse the sarcasm.
Again, while you might just about be able to get away with sewing the lightest of light fabrics with the Sunbeam cordless handheld sewing machine, anything else can definitely be forgotten about.
Cheapness and difficulty are the culprits once more. Threading the needle is a nightmare, and actually using it once you do manage to achieve that monumental task requires more hands than any of us have.
The shine has been taken off of the Sunbeam, if user experience is anything to go by.
Avery Dennison Micro Stitch Starter Kit-642210
The final item on our list is a bit of a cheat, as it’s not really a handheld sewing machine per se…it’s the Avery Dennison Micro Stitch Starter Kit-642210!
I’ve included this for those who are thinking of buying a handheld sewing machine for the sole purpose of having something to hand that’ll cope with temporary fixes and won’t require a day’s worth of training to operate.
This is a straightforward enough gadget to use and it has the added bonus of actually being useful to sewists with full sized machines, too, as it’ll serve you nicely during those times when only a quick stitch is required.
Ideal for your sewing basket or for your travel bag, the Avery Dennison Micro Stitch Starter Kit-642210 is actually worth having.
Now there’s a first!
So, what’s the best handheld sewing machine?
Unsurprisingly, then, the best handheld sewing machine isn’t actually a sewing machine at all…it’s effectively a mini tagging gun.
I really can’t recommend any of the others, but I do suggest that you invest in the Avery Dennison Micro Stitch Starter Kit. It’s handy to have around, whether you’re at home or on the road.
If you really want a proper handheld sewing machine, go for the SINGER 01663 Stitch Sew. It’s pretty terrible, but at least it comes from a big brand that you can complain about on social media…you might even get your money back!
If you click a link on this page and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.