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Small apartment? Need a simple second machine? Want to have a gadget to-go? The reasons why people seek out the best mini sewing machine are too numerous to cover, but I can certainly tell you which ones you should buy…and which ones you should avoid!
In this article, I aim to do just that. First, though, what exactly makes a sewing machine mini?
What size and weight are we talking about?
When it comes to selecting the best mini sewing machine, size and weight are somewhat subjective dimensions. Some people will demand the teeny-weeny, while others will happily cart around something the size of a cooler fridge!
For the purpose of this best mini sewing machine review, I’ve kept things simple and reasonable (at least I think I have, let me know if you disagree!). Here are the two basic markers I’ve stuck to:
- No bigger than 15 inches long
- No heavier than 10lbs
While you can certainly go smaller than this, as some of the mini sewing machines in this review prove, you’d be filtering out some of the better appliances in the process. Obviously, size matters here, but I believe quality is equally important.
Regardless of what size it may be, a sewing machine that doesn’t work well isn’t worth spending money on, in my opinion.
Why opt for a small sewing machine?
As I touched on in my intro, the reasons for purchasing a mini sewing machine are endless and beyond the scope of this article. What you’ll generally find people saying about this type of appliance is that they are looking for a mixture of the following:
- Easy to carry
- Easy to store
- Basic, non-complicated operation
- Just enough for small sewing jobs
- A second machine to accompany their full-size one
- An introductory machine for their children
The key component should, however, be size.
As we’ll see below, while mini sewing machines definitely have their place and serve a purpose, they can lack in some areas.
Get yourself a better quality machine if you’re starting out; it’s worth it. Check out our best portable sewing machine reviews for some more substantial devices that are still on the small side.
Features to look out for on a mini sewing machine
Naturally, size and weight are important, but so are the features and accessories that ship with the best mini sewing machines. Many will be extremely basic, while others will come with a healthy amount of bits and bobs to get you going.
More important than the extras, however, is the quality of the stitch itself. A good bundle supplied with the machine can be a welcome addition, but only if you can sew nice, balanced stitches on it. A few more presser feet on a machine that doesn’t work isn’t what we’re looking for here!
Are handheld sewers mini sewing machines?
This is a common misconception: handheld sewing machines are NOT the same as mini sewing machines. As the name suggests, handhelds are much smaller and designed to be, well, held in the hand!
In contrast, mini sewing machines are essentially the same design as standard sewing machines, just a bit smaller.
Best mini sewing machine? Manage your expectations
Before we jump into our best mini sewing machine reviews, it’s important to realise just what you’ll be getting if you decide to buy one of these miniatures. While their size can indeed be handy, if you’re already an experienced sewist, you might find them lacking in several departments.
Stitch speed is generally slower, and the quality of stitch can also leave a lot to be desired. On the whole, even the best mini sewing machines will not stack up well against their bigger brothers, so it’s important to manage expectations.
Small sewing machines are often aimed at children and beginners, which I think is a little condescending and unfair. There are literally dozens of mini sewing machines out there, are the vast majority of them are, quite frankly, awful.
Naturally, I’ve selected the best small sewing machines currently available to review and left the real rubbish out, but even the ones that made the grade aren’t exactly going to set the sewing world on fire.
Newbies of all ages can handle far better and bigger machines with the right supervision and guidance, so my advice would be to only buy one of these small sewing machines if the primary reason for doing so is size. For everyone else, a bigger machine will serve you better.
Best small sewing machine reviews
Now we’ve got all that out of the way, it’s time to dive into our reviews!
Let’s get started with this one from SINGER:
SINGER Start 1304
What better place to start than with the SINGER Start 1304! A mini sewing machine from a big name.
This is a very solid machine that just about scraped into my best mini sewing machine criteria, weighing in at 9.8lbs. Although it’s the heaviest of the bunch, it’s a worthy contender that had to be included.
Stitches are balanced, and the six built-in stitch patterns are easily selected with the dial at the front of the machine. Three presser feet are included – general purpose, zipper, and buttonhole – so most basic tasks can be accomplished without issue, but heavier duty work is best kept to a minimum.
The SINGER Start 1304 is pretty easy to get to grips with from the moment you unbox it. If you have experience with other sewing machines, you should find little here that will throw you off course; it’s pretty straightforward. For anyone who isn’t entirely up to speed with sewing, there’s a decent manual included. No DVD, unfortunately, but you can find a few online instructional videos featuring this machine without too much bother.
The only real cause for concern is the bobbin mechanism. There a quite a few complaints online stating that the bobbin is both difficult to load and can cause jams and tangles, which is obviously far from ideal. That said, the positive reviews far outweigh the negatives, so this could be user error as much as it could be a problem with the machine itself.
All in all, the SINGER Start 1304 is a decent sewing machine that just about creeps into the “small” category.
- Easy to use
- Nice, even stitches
- Great instruction manual
- Solid construction
- Well known brand name
- Bobbin system isn’t great
- Slightly on the heavy side for a mini machine
Suteck mini sewing machine
Next up, we have the Suteck mini sewing machine.
Suteck are a brand I’m not at all familiar with, but this isn’t all that surprising in the mini sewing machine market. For whatever reason – possibly because of the low barrier to entry re: production costs and lack of enthusiasm from the major companies – small, unknown brands seem to be quite prolific.
So, how does this unfamiliar name’s mini sewing machine stack up? Not too badly, all things considered. We’re not talking world beating here, but for the bargain basement price, it’s pretty good!
Don’t expect any bells and whistles with the Suteck, it is an extremely basic tool that only comes with the bare minimum in terms of accessories. It also has no reverse and only one stitch built-in. However, if you’re looking for a very little sewing machine (it only weighs just over three pounds!) that will handle lightweight tasks such as minor repair jobs, it could be just the ticket.
The above needs to be reiterated, though. Lightweight, small jobs only for this machine. It’s something of a wobbler and the shape and size of the tool means that anything too large would cause way too much frustration. It does ship with an extendable table for larger jobs, but that’s being a bit too hopeful, if you ask me.
The good news is that the basic nature of this machine makes it incredibly easy to use. For the money, it’s a decent little tool.
- Great value for money
- Very lightweight
- Simple and straightforward operation
- Comes with extendable table (although its usefulness is questionable)
- For very basic tasks only
- Can be a bit wobbly
- No reverse stitch
Michley LSS-505 Lil’ Sew & Sew
Our next contender for the best mini sewing machine crown is the Michley LSS-505 Lil’ Sew & Sew.
First impressions, as a bit of a minimalist, I love the all-white casing and the design is pretty cute, too. However, we’re not here for looks, so how does the Lil’ Sew & Sew perform? Hmm, it’s quite a mixed bag, to be honest.
While it manages to pack in eight built-in stitch patterns and include a reverse gear that the above Suteck was missing, the Michley LSS-505 is not without its problems.
First up, anyone new to sewing would do well to avoid this particular device. Setup isn’t straightforward and the accessories that ship with the Lil’ Sew & Sew are of a very low standard. These items aren’t overly expensive to buy yourself, but if you’re going to supply stuff with a machine, they should at least be of use. The bits and bobs you receive with this tool are essentially landfill waiting to happen. It’s user manual leaves a lot to be desired, too.
Threading the machine is something of an ordeal and is something I can see getting old pretty quickly. The LSS-505 comes pre-threaded, but if this snaps or you run out, be ready for a bit of a mission. Don’t get me wrong, it’s doable, but easy it isn’t. Adjusting the tension also requires a fair amount of fiddling, which isn’t great if you’re not familiar with making such alterations.
Once you get things set up, the Michley Lil’ Sew & Sew does a reasonable job with small sewing tasks and its miniature size means it can easily be stowed away when not in use.
- Nice design
- Eight stitch patterns
- Reverse stitch
- Not the easiest to operate
- Poor quality accessories
- Manual is difficult to follow
- Threading is painful
- Tension setup could be better
Varmax mini sewing machine
I have another budget option for you now, this time it’s this mini sewing machine from Varmax…and at only 6.9” long, 8.6” high, and a mere 2.75lbs in weight, it is indeed a tiny little gadget.
Do Varmax manage to fit enough into such a small package? Let’s take a look!
Probably most surprising to me was that the Varmax actually has a speed control function, which is great if you’re a part-time sewer who likes to go slow at the beginning of each sewing session.
Admittedly, this is only a two-speed variation (low and high speed), but this sort of feature is usually the preserve of far more expensive appliances, so it’s great to see on such an affordable little sewing machine. Unfortunately, there’s no reverse on the Varmax, which is a pity as many of these mini sewing machines listed here do come with that feature.
The Varmax does, however, have a drop in bobbin and is pretty easy to thread considering its size. That being said, be prepared for quite a bit of rethreading, as the top thread does have a tendency to skip and become disengaged with the needle, which is a pain.
Nothing much in the way of accessories to talk about here. One foot, one stitch is all you get with this device. It does come with an extension table, but I wouldn’t fancy trying anything to large with this teeny machine.
Just like the Suteck above, this gadget from Varmax is pretty amazing considering the price tag. It’s not going to compete with the big boys, but for that money you’d be crazy to expect it to. If you’re in the market for an extremely compact sewing machine that will only be used for run of the mill stitching on light fabrics, the Varmax is a decent option.
- Very compact
- Speed control
- Straightforward operation
- Top thread is prone to skipping
- No reverse stitch
NEX 12-Stitch Small Sewing machine
Next up…the NEX 12-Stitch mini sewing machine, a slightly bigger tool than the Varmax…but not by much. Whilst maintaining the look of a conventional sewing machine, the NEX still only weighs in at just over 5lbs and 10.8” long!
Rather astonishingly for its size, this little device has 12 built-in stitches to choose from and can be powered by battery (4xAA) as well as from the mains. Relatively easy to operate and, like the Varmax above, this appliance has a two-speed setting (high and low), which will help new and inexperienced users get to grips with the machine without having it run away with them.
Unlike the Varmax, however, the NEX also has the handy addition of a reverse stitch mode, which works well. Other nice features include a thread cutter and a printed measuring tape along the bottom of the machine itself. This will undoubtedly be a handy feature for those small, quick checks you need to frequently make when undertaking certain sewing tasks.
The marketing material states that the NEX can handle five thin layers of denim, but I wouldn’t fancy putting two through it, if I’m honest. This isn’t a heavy-duty machine by any stretch of the imagination, so I think this statement is somewhat misleading.
For light work, though, the NEX is pretty capable. Bigger versions are available (16 and 30 stitch models), but the extra cost puts them in competition with the SINGER Start 1304, which is a better machine, in my opinion.
- Conventional look will appeal to many
- Comes with 12 built-in stitches
- Good size: not too big, not too small
- Can be run on batteries
- Reverse stitch
- Marketing is a little misleading
Need more color in your life? If you do, put some shades on…it’s time for the Janome Fastlane. Available in 10 different colorways, this mini sewing machine is a funky addition to the reviews, but will it take top spot?
This is a prime example of what I spoke about earlier: a machine aimed at kids that really doesn’t do itself justice. Surprisingly for a company the size of Janome, one with a reputation to uphold and an obvious interest in capturing the hearts of tomorrows sewers, this machine is of very poor quality.
It does come with 10 built-in stitches, but there are no guides for seamwork and some of the stitches aren’t the best. On the plus side, the poor quality parts used to create this contraption make it very lightweight…but that’s obviously not really a plus at all. It’s slow, it’s loud, and it easily becomes unthreaded. Add to that the fact that it doesn’t have a light and “grrrr” factor grows.
Don’t be drawn in by the colorful exterior. Even if your kids fall in love with its looks, they’ll hate the way it performs. This is a quick way to fall out of love with sewing for good. Sorry, Janome.
- Incredible range of colors
- Not the standard you’d expect from Janome
- Stitch quality is haphazard
- No light
- Poor introduction into the world of sewing for kids
So, which one’s the best mini sewing machine?
It was actually pretty difficult to come up with a shortlist to review in the first place, such is the lack of quality in the mini sewing machine market. Many of the products out there are little more than toys, and pretty poor ones at that.
However, there are, thankfully, a few diamonds in the rough.
If you are looking for a machine that will handle regular use and have a bit of extra cash to spare, the SINGER Start 1304 would be my pick. It’s definitely not the smallest of the mini sewing machines but, because of that, it is able to cope with more rigorous use and will probably last longer than the others reviewed here.
The price, however, isn’t at the low end of the mini sewing machine spectrum, but luckily there are two others on our list that will do the job if you’re working with a tighter budget, namely the Varmax and the Suteck mini sewing machines.
Both are ridiculously good value if all you want is a mini tool that will do basic stitches to a reasonable level. We’re not, by any means, talking seamstress standards here, but for the price they’re asking, you can’t really expect the earth.
The NEX 12 Stitch deserves a mention, too. This could easily have taken the top spot where it not for the SINGER creeping into the sub-10lb weight category. Unfortunately, it doesn’t compete with the Start 1304 and it costs double what you’ll pay for the Varmax or the Suteck.
That said, if your budget falls between these two and the SINGER, the NEX is a decent option that is well worth considering.
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check out our other sewing machine reviews
If these mini devices didn’t tick all the right boxes, we’ve got loads of other categories that may suit you better. With dozens of reviews looking at the top-rated sewing machines on the market today, you’re sure to find what you want there. If not, reach out and tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll do our best to help.