Travel sewing machine reviews: what’s the best portable out there?

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OUR FAVORITE
SINGER 7258 100-Stitch Computerized 76 Decorative Stitches, Automatic Needle...
BEST BUDGET PICK
Spiegel Sewing Machine
BEST MECHANICAL
Bernette 35 Swiss Design Sewing Machine
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine Includes Exclusive Bonus Bundle
SINGER | Simple 3232 Sewing Machine with Built-In Needle Threader, & 110 Stitch...
Janome Magnolia 7318 Sewing Machine with Exclusive Bundle
SINGER 7258 100-Stitch Computerized 76 Decorative Stitches, Automatic Needle...
Spiegel Sewing Machine
Bernette 35 Swiss Design Sewing Machine
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine Includes Exclusive Bonus Bundle
SINGER | Simple 3232 Sewing Machine with Built-In Needle Threader, & 110 Stitch...
Janome Magnolia 7318 Sewing Machine with Exclusive Bundle
OUR FAVORITE
SINGER 7258 100-Stitch Computerized 76 Decorative Stitches, Automatic Needle...
SINGER 7258 100-Stitch Computerized 76 Decorative Stitches, Automatic Needle...
BEST BUDGET PICK
Spiegel Sewing Machine
Spiegel Sewing Machine
BEST MECHANICAL
Bernette 35 Swiss Design Sewing Machine
Bernette 35 Swiss Design Sewing Machine
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine Includes Exclusive Bonus Bundle
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine Includes Exclusive Bonus Bundle
SINGER | Simple 3232 Sewing Machine with Built-In Needle Threader, & 110 Stitch...
SINGER | Simple 3232 Sewing Machine with Built-In Needle Threader, & 110 Stitch...
Janome Magnolia 7318 Sewing Machine with Exclusive Bundle
Janome Magnolia 7318 Sewing Machine with Exclusive Bundle

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As you’ve landed here, it’s a fair bet to assume you’ve been searching for the best portable sewing machine available today.

It’s also a fair bet that you’ve felt a little bit of overwhelm during your search.

Believe me, I can sympathize! 

The portable sewing machine market is huge these days, and finding a tool that fits your needs perfectly can feel like searching for that proverbial (sewing) needle in a haystack.

My aim with this post is to make your search simpler, more pleasant, and ultimately result in you selecting the very best portable sewing machine. One that will be with you for many years to come.

What a portable isn’t: a mini & handheld Sewing Machine debate

a handheld stitcher with a red cross over the top

Before we go any further, I think it’s important to clarify exactly what a portable sewing machine is.

Many are confused by what is a seemingly simple definition because there are quite a few variations of “small” sewing devices on the market – namely mini sewing machines and the somewhat controversial hand sewing machine contraptions available seemingly everywhere these days.

While both of these classes are indeed portable, they do fall under separate categories.

Minis are really only for situations where space dictates the type of tool you can comfortably work with. These devices are suitable for minor repairs and other minor sewing tasks, but not much more. If you’re not constrained by space, then these miniatures should really be avoided.

Handhelds are a different beast entirely. These devices more closely resemble an office stapler than a conventional sewing appliance and are often packed in suitcases to handle on-the-spot repairs one may encounter whilst away from home. 

Oddly, however, the term travel sewing machine is often associated more with the portable devices we are talking about here today than those stapler shaped imposters. This is probably due to the fact that true handhelds are relatively new to the sewing scene.

Okay, so what defines a portable sewing machine?

Now that we’ve got that little lot out of the way, we’re free to discuss what we’re actually here for – portable sewing machines. 

The true definition of a portable sewing machine is simple: a full-sized sewing device that is not fixed or fastened to a table, cabinet, or workbench. This harks back to the days where old SINGER machines were connected to a table and driven with belts operated by the feet…not very portable at all!

old table mounted singer sewing machine

For my reviews, however, I’ve narrowed the category further. Pretty much all the non-commercial sewing apparatus available to buy these days could be deemed as portable when compared to those contraptions of yore, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be easy to carry.

So, to make things clearer, I’ve reviewed portable sewing machines that meet two sets of criteria:

  1. The machine has a built in carry handle or comes with a handled case
  2. Weighs under 20lbs

I hear the gasps…20lbs sounds heavy!

But, it’s not really that heavy. Think the weight of the average Dachshund or three bricks. [1]

Sure, you wouldn’t want to carry it with you all day, but you could certainly get one of these beauties to your local sewing circle without too much trouble.

Besides, 20lb is the upper limit. Many of the portable sewing machines reviewed here come in way lighter than that.

Why would you need a portable sewing machine?

There are a number of great reasons why you’d want to ensure portability when you buy a sewing machine. Maybe you want to attend a regular sewing circle or improve your skills by visiting a class or tutor. 

Some like to take their machines away on holiday, while others just want to be able to comfortably move them around the house.

You may sew for work, as a costumière, say, and need to take your machine on location from time to time.

The possibilities are endless when you can sew on the go!

What must A good portable sewing machine have?

As with most sewing tools, there are a few things you need to keep an eye out for when selecting the best portable sewing machine. Two of these have already been addressed, the presence of a carry handle and a manageable weight, so what else do we need to be mindful of?

Well, it’s important to keep in mind that, despite its portability, this may well be your primary machine, too. Mobile sewing machines these days aren’t just as good as other tools, they really are the main event, unless you’re looking at a commercial piece of apparatus. 

However, the most vital question to ask before handing over your cash is, “What am I going to use this for?” It’s an obvious one, but you wouldn’t be the first to get caught out. 

Are you going to be making clothes? Stitching upholstery? Dealing with thick fabrics? Or, maybe, slippery silks? Cushions or curtains? All of the above?

Knowing what purpose your device is going to serve will form the foundation of your research. All in all, shopping for a transportable sewing machine shouldn’t differ from buying one that isn’t. 

The key things you’ll need remain the same, including:

Stitch Speed

A high stitch speed will be an important factor for those who prize efficiency and use their machines frequently. For the more infrequent sewist, power isn’t everything, but it’s still nice to have for those instances where a little extra oomph is required.

As stitch speed is dictated by the motor driving the device, it will often correlate to pricing – the higher the speed, the greater the price. As a general rule, you’ll want to get as much power as your budget allows, but the machine must sew well, too. 

A high-powered machine that doesn’t produce nicely balanced, even stitches is as useful as a chocolate teapot!

Stitch library

The amount of built-in stitches can vary from one all the way up to three figures. Again, knowing what you’ll be using your new sewing machine for will help inform your decision here.

That said, most sewists like the flexibility of a good stitch library to fall back on. This is true for beginners, too, who will appreciate the variety as their skillset and confidence grows. 

There’s not much worse than shelling out a decent chunk of change on a contraption you’ll outgrow in six months, so make sure your machine of choice has enough stitches to allow for experimentation and growth. 

Features

Features, features, features. Personally, I’m all for anything that makes my life easier or saves me time.

Key features I’d look out for include:

  • Automatic needle threader – An absolute essential in my book, yet some devices still ship without one
  • A decent built-in light – While almost all machines will have a built-in light, few actually illuminate the sewing area properly 
  • Drop feed – Vital if you want to get adventurous with free-motion sewing and dislike darning plates
  • Top drop-in bobbin – This natty feature can be quite a time-saver, and the ability to keep track of the amount of thread left is very handy if your machine also has a see-through cover
  • One-step buttonhole – Are your buttonholes still costing you time and trying your patience? Make sure your next machine has the ability to sew one-step buttonholes, if so
  • Auto-tension – This is largely for those who are new to sewing, but the lazy among us can enjoy the benefits from time to time, too! Most machines allow manual adjustment as well, so why not have it? A word of caution, though. Sometimes this feature isn’t that great. Don’t make it a deal-breaker.
  • Programmable needle – This feature can divide people, as some prefer to perform the task manually. Personally, I love automating the task, but can understand why others hate it
  • Foot-free sewing – Not a deal-breaker for me, but for many it would be. Look for adjustable speed settings with a start/stop button
  • Integrated dual feed – Perfect for when you need to sew layers, especially when quilting
  • Auto lock stitch – Finishes off seams by using a reverse stitch so you don’t have to. Sometimes referred to as auto tie-off

Accessories

The accessories included with your machine can provide you with additional sewing options, which allow you to explore different techniques, and keep on top of maintenance.

The amount of accessories will, of course, vary from machine to machine, and pretty much all can be bought separately as and when they’re needed.

That said, when you’re laying out a lot of money, having to then go and buy extras just to do the basics like sew on a zipper or make a buttonhole can leave you feeling a little bit miffed, so do look out for what comes with your machine.

Presser feet, spare bobbins, extra spool pins, needles, lint brushes, seam rippers, and specialised screwdrivers for plate removal are all common accessories found in the best portable sewing machines.

Noise

This is going to be somewhat subjective: some of you will be able to cope with more noise than others.

Personally, I prefer quieter machines, but some get excited by the heavy clack-clack as the motor drives the needle home repeatedly. I’m not against noise, but some do rub me up the wrong way. 

In fact, the type of noise a machine makes can be as big a factor as the actual volume. Smooth machines make smooth sounds and can even be somewhat therapeutic, you just have to find your groove…especially if you intend to sew for hours. 

Price

Last, but definitely not least, is price. 

Knowing your budget (and sticking to it!) is important as the best portable sewing machines can run into hundreds of dollars (or the equivalent in pounds, yen, euros, rupees…fill in the blank). 

Thankfully, each price bracket has a machine worthy of your hard-earned cash, and I’ve tried to include a good variation in my reviews below to suit every pocket. 

Who makes the best portable sewing machine? 

Naturally, we’re going to get deep into the weeds with our upcoming reviews, but you might be wondering if a specific manufacturer stands out as the best portable sewing machine brand.

The answer is, not really.

Obviously, the big guns are out in force throughout our list – Brother, Janome, SINGER, Bernette – but to pick one as the standout brand would be unfair. Much will depend upon your own personal preference, circumstances, and requirements.

How much am I likely to pay for A good portable sewing machine?

woman holding a handful of dollars

Following on from the point above, if you’re completely fresh in your search, you might be wondering what sort of numbers I’m talking about here.

Well, you can certainly pick up a decent portable sewing machine for under $100 (I’ve included a few in my reviews), but the sweet spot seems to be somewhere between $100 and $300. This is where the competition mounts and choice grows, giving us consumers a wider range to select from.

Naturally, higher-end models are in existence, too, but most of the best portable sewing machines are under $300 in our list.

Are portable sewing machines worth the money?

In short, yes. 

These transportable devices are now no different from any other sewing machine bar their portability. Providing you choose wisely and buy the right one for your requirements and budget, you’ll end up with a fantastic tool that will serve you well for many years to come.

The best portable sewing machine reviews

Enough jibber-jabber, it’s time to get into the best portable sewing machine reviews!

Janome 2212

Janome 2212

Let’s kick things off with the Janome 2212.

Billed as an entry-level machine, this model from Janome is, in my opinion, a little misleading. While it’s certainly a great low to mid-price option for those who are comfortable around sewing machines, or have at least some experience with them, for the complete novice I think there are better options out there.

That gripe aside, the Janome 2212 is very capable indeed. It’ll handle basic tasks with real class and a surprising degree of finesse. Stitching comes out straight and nicely balanced without too much effort on the user’s part, thanks largely to the smooth feed system and excellent tension controls. 

Although I wouldn’t put my trust in it to handle heavy-duty work continuously, it can zoom through thick fabrics with relative ease if you need to use it for such tasks every now and then. The powerful motor isn’t the concern here (at 860 stitches per minute, it’s up there in that regard), it’s the presence of a few cheap plastic parts that raises an eyebrow.

The 2212 does come with a few accessories, but not as many as some of its direct competitors. Three extra presser feet are in the box – zipper, blind, and buttonhole – along with a needle set, seam ripper, bobbin, screwdriver, and vinyl dust cover. Only 12 built-in stitches may not be enough for some.

Possibly the most annoying thing about the Janome 2212 is the lack of an automatic needle threader but, overall, you could do a lot worse than spend your money on this little machine.

LIKES
  • Stitch quality is excellent
  • Well constructed
  • Pretty quick (860SPM)
  • Feed system is fantastic
  • Reliable
DISLIKES
  • No needle threader
  • Manual is pretty tough to follow
  • Stitch library and accessories are limited

Brother XR3774

Brother XR3774

To the Brother XR3774, a little belter of a machine at a frankly astonishing price.

This offering from Brother is perfect for those who need a basic machine that’s easy to set up and fun to use. Surprisingly sturdy and efficient, this is one of those rare occasions where you feel the item has been wrongly priced up…in your favor!

Threading is easy, thanks to the inclusion of an automatic needle threader and the drop-in bobbin works very well indeed, as does the automatic bobbin winding system. Presser feet are changed without any drama and the stitch selector has a satisfying feel to it when turned.

As one would expect from a machine built for quilting, the XR3774 comes with a wide table so you can easily handle and maneuver large swathes of fabric and an impressive 37 built-in stitches…enough to keep the beginner going well into intermediacy. 

Accessories are plentiful, too. Eight presser feet – blindstitch, buttonhole, button sewing, narrow hemmer, walking, quilting, zigzag, and zipper – are shipped with the item as well as a 3-piece needle set, twin needle, four bobbins, darning plate, extra spool pin, quilt guide, and a screwdriver. The included instructional DVD and manual are well presented and simple enough to follow.

If quilting is your thing, then the Brother XR3774 is worthy of your attention…especially if you aren’t looking to break the bank. Is it the best portable sewing machine for quilting? I guess that’s up for debate, but for the money it’s certainly a steal.

LIKES
  • Fantastic value for money
  • Very nice accessory pack
  • Decent stitch library
  • Easy to use
  • Surprisingly solid
  • Good range of features
DISLIKES
  • Nothing much!

SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960

SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960

Next up is the mouthful that is the SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960 Computerized Portable Sewing Machine.

First things first, this is a bit of a beast. Weighing in at a hefty 18.2lbs, the 9960 is one of the heaviest machines on our list, but boy does it pack a lot into that frame.

If you can lift it, you’ll love it!

Despite its complicated, professional look, the SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960 is actually surprisingly easy to operate. It may appear daunting at first glance, but it’s well laid out and intuitive to use. You’ll be flying through the settings in no time and they’ll actually help rather than hinder your sewing experience, which is exactly what they should do.

SINGER have included 600 (yes, six hundred!) different stitch types and 19 different presser feet, so you’d better have a fair bit of spare time on your hands if this is the model you choose to buy after reading our reviews! 

Whether this amount of patterns and variety of feet is necessary will ultimately be up to you to decide, but it’s great to have them at your disposal nonetheless. Operation is smooth and the motor runs quietly. Foot tension is superb with very little fabric movement, even with the lightest touches.

The LED is nice and bright, which is a definite bonus for squinters like me and the thread cutter is great as well. For those who look out for programmable needles, the 9960 has one of those, too.

Speed is good at 850 stitches per minute and the adjustable speed makes it less intimidating for less experienced sewers and the “autopilot” start/stop works well. The nicely illuminated button for this feature is great, as sometimes you’ll be “eyes down” and need to find it fast.

Any downsides? A couple, but they are minor irritations rather than serious concerns. 

The auto threader isn’t the best. At times you’ll find yourself having to do this more than once, which is annoying for something that is supposed to save you time. The reverse button, too, is oddly positioned and can easily result in you hitting the slow setting above. Funnily enough, the reverse stitch is a little on the slow side, too…maybe there’s a joke from SINGER in there somewhere!

All in all, this is a lovely sewing machine. Whether or not it’s portable enough for you, only you can decide that, but it works beautifully and looks great, too.

LIKES
  • Feeds fabric wonderfully
  • Nicely lit
  • Very good stitch library (600 preprogrammed patterns!)
  • Comes with a great range of accessories
  • Clean, minimalistic design
  • Fantastic value
DISLIKES
  • Can wobble a bit at full pelt
  • Auto threader can be frustrating
  • One of the heavier models on our list

Janome Magnolia 7318

Janome Magnolia 7318

Another mid-priced machine for you now – the Janome Magnolia 7318.

If you’re in the market for an easy to use portable sewing machine that can handle a wide range of tasks, the Janome Magnolia 7318 is a solid choice, especially for those who’d rather not deal with anything too high-tech.

This particular model from the Japanese giant is great for both the beginner and experienced sewers alike, although the price may, understandably, put those new to sewing off until they know it’ll be a hobby that sticks. Buyers will appreciate the sturdiness of its construction, but this does mean that it weighs in at a not inconsiderable 17.6lbs. 

Sewing with the Magnolia 7318 is straightforward on light fabrics. Heavier fabrics and working with layers is accommodated for by the presence of a high presser foot setting. The Janome Magnolia 7318 actually handles the thicker stuff pretty well, with denim and upholstery materials posing no real issues. That said, I wouldn’t want to go too heavy. Leather, for example, could be a bridge too far for what really is a pretty basic sewing machine, albeit one with a mid-range price tag.

What comes with this appliance? The usual, but not much more. As mentioned above, this is regarded widely as a fairly rudimentary machine, and the accessories that ship with it further emphasis this point. Don’t get me wrong, this is a brilliant sewing device…just don’t expect a whole heap of extras.

Three additional feet – zipper, blind stitch, and buttonhole – are supplied, along with the fairly ubiquitous seam ripper, bobbin, needle set, spool pins, lint brush, and screwdriver. Naturally, there’s a manual in there, too, and it’s easy to follow, with instructions going beyond the usual setup routine into how to adjust wayward stitches. Handy for those who may find their sewing to be a little off when they first start with the Janome 7318 Magnolia.

Built-in stitch patterns are fairly limited at 18, but they’ll be enough for basic work. Some users of this machine have reported problems with the feed dogs, but not many and they are mainly to do with lowering them rather than the guidance of the fabric. One thing to bear in mind here, though, is that the feed dog system is actually a five-piece affair, not seven as stated on some parts of the Web. Just so you know!

If you don’t mind spending a bit more for a basic machine, the Janome Magnolia 7318 is a fairly robust portable sewing machine that will meet and exceed most home-sewers expectations. Well worth shortlisting.

LIKES
  • Feels solid when in operation
  • Stitches brilliantly
DISLIKES
  • Feed dogs have a tendency to get stuck
  • Stitch library could be better
  • A little overpriced for what you get

EverSewn Charlotte

Eversewn Charlotte

Back to the tech now with the EverSewn Charlotte.

This mobile sewing machine from EverSewn is a rather snazzy looking piece of kit. If it wasn’t for the company logo being present upper left, I’d say the design had something Jony Ive about it. Beautifully simple, clean, and clear. Even the font used for the Charlotte is very much “of the times”.

The design also brings with it the added bonus of not being too overwhelming for those who might long for the extras that come with a computerized device, yet may be a little fearful of actually owning one. It’s very inviting when in front of you and at just over 13lbs, those looking for an easy to maneuver sewing machine will be pleased, too.

So, does the simple layout stack up in terms of usability? I’m happy to report that even the biggest technophobe will have no issues getting to grips with the EverSewn Charlotte. Changing settings and stitch patterns is a cinch and the sewing is smooth and true, producing lovely balanced stitches effortlessly.

Infrequent sewers and beginners will also welcome the speed control settings as this is a pretty quick machine at 850 stitches per minute. Stitch width is good, too, at 7mm max, and the 1-step buttonhole feature will save time for anyone intent on frequent tailoring. It’s also quite quiet, which is always a good thing in my book!

The EverSewn Charlotte ships with an impressive 80 stitch patterns included on that almost hidden away computer. I also appreciate the fact that the designers have stowed away the stitch library’s key, placing it on a card that neatly slots underneath rather than being printed on the machine’s body. Some will no doubt hate having to pull it out every time, but the minimalist in me loves it!

Seven presser feet ship with this device – all-purpose, zipper, buttonhole, overcasting, blind hem, satin stitch, button sewing – and you’ll also get a decent range of accessories with it, too, including: bobbins, brush/seam ripper, edge/quilting guide, a large spool holder, small spool holder, second spool pin, spool pin felt, large and screwdriver set, and three machine needles.

Cons? There are a couple, but not really enough to cause too much concern when you look at everything else that is good about the Charlotte. One is the auto needle threader…it’s not great, which is a pity as this can be such a timesaver. 

The other is the LED light; it’s almost as if it’s misaligned. This isn’t a big thing, as I usually sew with a desk lamp at home, but if you are using this on the go I’d suggest buying one of those handy clip on reading lights and keeping it with the rest of your kit.

Overall, the EverSewn Charlotte is a great machine and fairly reasonably priced for a computerized model.

Recommended.

LIKES
  • Looks great
  • Sliding speed control works well
  • Stitch library is well thought out
  • Decent range of accessories
  • Solid and sturdy
DISLIKES
  • Needle threader isn’t the best
  • There are better value machines out there

SINGER | Simple 3232

SINGER Simple 3232

Next up in our list of best portable sewing machine reviews is the SINGER Simple 3232.

Anything that includes the word “Simple” in name had better live up to it otherwise consumers will vociferously voice their concerns. Thankfully, for the most part, the SINGER 3232 really is fairly easy to use.

Quite impressively, considering the price, yet unsurprisingly, given the name, the 3232 comes with, you guessed it, 32 built-in stitches. While this is a long way off many of the computerized contraptions I review here, it’s certainly enough to cover most basic sewing applications.

Basic, is, in fact, the selling point here. This competitively priced tool from one of the industry’s biggest names will be ideal for those who are either looking for an every-now-and-then machine or one they can happily cart about to classes whilst leaving their more expensive machine at home. 

It’s light, too, at 12.6lbs, although this can work against it, as there’s a bit of movement in the body when sewing, which can obviously be off putting. 

Most of the important feet are included – buttonhole, button sewing, zipper, and, of course, an all-purpose one already attached – and other basics like bobbins, needles, spool caps, seam ripper, lint brush, and screwdriver are all present, too. Enough to set you on your way, for sure.

As we’ve seen before when looking at machines in this budget price bracket, bobbin and tension issues seem to occur more frequently. Jamming and nesting are not uncommon complaints, so if you’re looking for an ultra-reliable machine and have a few dollars more to invest, it’d probably be wise to do so.

LIKES
  • Affordable
  • Stitch library is well-thought through
DISLIKES
  • Can be a bit wobbly
  • Performance can vary
  • Only really suited to very basic sewing tasks

Janome MOD-200

Janome MOD-200

Towards the other end of the pricing spectrum now, with the Janome MOD-200 review.

So, you want bells and whistles, do you? Well, you might be interested in taking a look at this model from Janome. 

Two-hundred stitch library, 12 buttonhole styles, a 7-piece feed system complete with drop feed, retrievable stitch memory, adjustable needle positioning, built-in needle threader, locking stitches at the press of a button, speed control with start/stop facility, auto-declutch bobbin winder, backlit LCD…I could go on. 

Oh, and it weighs in at less than 13lbs, too!

Impressed? Janome certainly hope you are, and they’re likely not going to be disappointed, as pretty much everyone who gets their hands on this bad boy seems to fall in love with it. This machine ticks so many boxes your pen will run out of ink! 

However, the price will most likely make most baulk at the thought of pressing the “Checkout Now” button. This is not a cheap machine, and Janome biggest problem is that there are other portable sewing machines out there that, whilst lacking some of the MOD-200’s features, actually sew just as well.

It is beautifully quiet and very smooth, but others are, too. Somewhat surprisingly, it’s top speed is only 750 stitches per minute, which is slower than the EverSewn Charlotte, for example.

The accessory pack is okay, but not mind-blowing…only six presser feet ship with the MOD-200 (General Purpose, Zipper, Overedge, Automatic Buttonhole, Satin Stitch, and Blind Hemming) and, bar the hard dust cover, everything else relatively standard. Basically, you’d expect a little more from a premium package.

If you are one of those people who absolutely must have all the additional features money can buy, you’ll love the Janome MOD-200. If, on the other hand, you’re just looking for a great quality, reliable machine that’ll handle most sewing task – without the need for fancy-dan frills like upper and lowercase alphabet patterns – you’ll probably be better off looking elsewhere.

LIKES
  • Quiet and smooth
  • Feature-rich
  • Lightweight
  • Extraordinary stitch library
DISLIKES
  • Expensive
  • Quite slow (750 SPM)

Spiegel SP3201

Spiegel SP3201

From one extreme to the other: Ladies and gentlemen, the Spiegel SP3201.

While there aren’t many bells and whistles to this machine, if you’re looking for a budget option to travel with you without fear of loss or damage, the Spiegel SP3201 is a surprisingly delightful piece of machinery.

Listen, this isn’t going to blow a pro-seamstress away and make her give up her Memory Craft 6600P (a machine that would have definitely made this list if it wasn’t so massive!) anytime soon, but for well under $100, this is a brilliant little machine.

For beginners, there are step-by-step diagrams printed directly onto the machine to show you exactly how to get your needle and bobbin threaded correctly, and with 32 built-in stitches, the Spiegel SP3201 holds its own against a lot of the higher-end mechanical sewing machines out there.

Accessories are few and far between, with only two extra presser feet – button and zipper – included and a few other bits like bobbins and needles thrown in, but for the money you can’t really expect much more than the basics, I guess. 

The supplied manual is good and will guide those new to the art through the early stages of their machine-led sewing journey. The SP3201 is very easy to use and the sewing experience is pleasant enough, although obviously not as smooth as the more expensive models on this list it still performs well enough for the occasional user.

Nice bonuses include a pretty decent automatic needle threader and a one-step buttonhole, both of which are sorely missed on some of the more glamorous models from the big name brands.

With everything said and done, the Spiegel SP3201 is a brilliant entry-point into the sewing machine world at a price you simply can’t argue with. Don’t buy one if you are looking for something higher-spec, but for those who just want a machine to do a few basic tasks the Spiegel SP3201 is an ideal tool.

LIKES
  • Excellent value for money
  • Ideal for minor repair jobs
  • Very easy to operate
  • Decent features, given it’s such a budget option
DISLIKES
  • Accessories could be better

Bernette 35

bernette 35

Time to bounce back up the price scale a little with the Bernette 35 Swiss Design Sewing Machine…or b35, for short.

If you’re on the lookout for an entirely mechanical machine that doesn’t compromise the versatility afforded to you by computerized models, then the Bernette 35 could be where your search ends.

Not only does this simple looking sewing machine look fantastic with its clean dark gray and white design supported by red accents, its performance stands up, too. It really is a heavenly experience, without being too exorbitant.

Now, I’m not saying the b35 is cheap, it’s not, but it is a fantastically well built and designed mechanical offering from the domestic arm of the critically-acclaimed Bernina stable – a name even the most scathing seamstresses usually swoons over! So, what do you get when you unbox this sleek sewing device?

Well, in terms of feet and accessories, you’ll receive the following: a zigzag foot, hemmer foot, zipper foot, satin stitch foot, button-sew-on foot, blindstitch foot, and a buttonhole foot with slide. Along with the seven feet comes four bobbins, two screwdrivers, a seam ripper, and an assortment of needles. All fairly standard stuff, but everything is of good quality here.

Although you’d be forgiven for guessing that the Bernette 35 would ship with 35 built-in stitches, it actually comes with just 23. I say “just”, 23 is likely to suit most tasks faced by a frequent sewer who doesn’t need to get overly elaborate. Max stitch width is limited to 5mm, which is a little disappointing for those who want to get fancy with their zig-zagging or have even greater control over needle position. For most, though, 5mm will be fine. 

As I’ve already mentioned, from a performance standpoint, the b35 excels. An admirable 860 stitches per minute means you can zip through tasks in no time and even heavy-duty fabrics are dealt with marvellously. It could even be placed in the “workhorse” category. 

Thankfully, it’s also pretty easy to use, although I would definitely recommend you give the manual a thorough read through before you begin (as I would for any new machine). Operation is quiet and the resulting stitches are even and clean. You’ll be searching for things to sew if you opt for one of these!

So, as much as I love a good gadget and a bit of tech, this mechanical machine is up there with the best. If you’re in any way worried by the presence of LCD screens and the mention of USB ports, the Bernette 35 will be your savior.

LIKES
  • Stunning design
  • Will suite a wide range of users
  • Good speed (860SPM)
  • Well built
  • Very nice to use
DISLIKES
  • A bit pricey

Brother XM1010

brother XM1010

Another mechanical entrant now, this time it’s the turn of the Brother XM1010.

This entry-level machine from the Brother camp is a budget-friendly option for those who are looking for something that can handle the basics without breaking the bank. 

Ten built-in stitches are accompanied by four additional presser feet – zipper, buttonhole, button sewing, and zigzag – with a few accessories like a three-piece needle set, four bobbins, and a screwdriver thrown in.

Using the XM1010 is relatively straightforward and beginners are helped along by handy threading illustrations printed directly onto the machine itself. Brother’s quick-set drop-in top bobbin system is present and poses little to no problems during setup, which is excellent for those who struggle with getting this right.

Tension is relatively simple when compared to many of the XM1010’s competitors in this price bracket and it sews nicely enough without setting the world on fire. Speed is what you’d expect for the money (750 stitches per minute) and the stitch selector couldn’t be more straightforward.

It’s important to remember, however, that this is a very basic machine. I reckon it would do the job as a second machine that’s easily transportable (weighing only 10.8lbs), but if you’re looking for a main machine to handle all tasks, this isn’t it. 

Add to the fact that the Spiegel SP3201 reviewed above is almost half the price, and yet does more, you have a couple of good reasons to pass the XM1010 by.

LIKES
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to operate
  • Nice and light
DISLIKES
  • For very basic tasks only
  • Not many built-in stitches

SINGER Stylist 7258

SINGER 7258

Another SINGER Stylist machine for you now, this time it’s the turn of the extraordinarily popular 7258.

Selecting a sewing machine from the sub $200 category isn’t difficult when the Stylist 7258 happens to be one of the products vying for your attention. This, my friends, is a standout machine for the money.

This particular model from the company everyone has heard of is one of the most popular sewing machines out there, portable or not. Able to handle crafty projects just as well as basic dressmaking, the 7258 is well equipped and comes with a wealth of features and accessories.

In the box you get 10 (yep, TEN) presser feet – All-Purpose, Buttonhole, Blind Hem, Darning / Freehand Embroidery, Gathering, Satin Stitch, Overcasting, Narrow Rolled Hem, Quarter Inch, Zipper – and a bundle of accessories. All of the usual suspects are here, such as needles, bobbins, thread spool caps, spool pin, seam ripper, darning plate, screwdriver, dust cover, etc. as well as a decent enough instructional DVD.

On top of all that goodness, you also get 100 built-in stitches, which is plenty for anyone. Combine that with your 10 presser feet and you’re in for a treat if you’re the sort who loves to play around and experiment with new techniques and styles.

Stitch speed could be faster at 750 per minute, but the quality of the sewing experience lends itself to taking your time. It truly is enjoyable. For those who still feel that 750 stitches per minute whizz by in a blur, there’s the handy speed control slider we’ve seen on more expensive machines to slow things down when you need to. 

Foot-free sewing is on offer, too, thanks to the stop/start button. If I was being ultra-picky, I’d say that the stop/start button could be better positioned and maybe even illuminated, as hitting the needle position button above it is a relatively easy mistake to make when you’re engrossed in your sewing. It is, however, a very minor complaint, and one that you’ll no doubt get used to if you use this feature regularly.

Other nice features like the automatic needle threader and a bobbin winder with auto-stop are welcome, as is the programmable needle. The LCD screen could do with being a bit bigger, but it’s easy enough to navigate once you get used to it.

Stitch quality is fantastic for a product in this price range and the auto tension works well enough, too. It even copes with the heavier fabrics pretty well, although I wouldn’t want to push it too far in this regard. 

The SINGER Stylist 7258 is also pretty quiet and doesn’t look too shabby, either!

As you can probably tell, I’m a fan!

LIKES
  • Exceptional value for money
  • Loads of features
  • Perfect for both beginners and intermediates
  • Stitch quality is great
  • Pretty quiet
  • The 7258 has been around for ages, so you know it’s a good bet!
DISLIKES
  • Not the fastest (750 SPM)

Janome JW8100

Janome JW8100

Our final offering from Janome is the highly-regarded JW8100…let’s see how it stacks up, shall we?

This computerized machine is another that comes with a great deal of features integrated into the device and a nice package of accessories to go along with it. Slightly more expensive than the SINGER Stylist 7258 reviewed above, this model also comes with an impressive 100 stitch patterns built-in and waiting to be explored.

The Janome JW8100 has a seven-piece feed dog system that helps draw fabric of all thicknesses through without too much user effort. You can drop those dogs, too, should you wish to go freehand and the supplied extra-wide extension table helps enormously for that task as well, especially when dealing with large swathes of material.

As one would expect from an appliance of this ilk, the Janome JW8100 has a built-in needle threader. This, however, takes a bit of getting used to and can seem finicky at first, but it’s fine once you get the hang of it. 

There are other points beside the needle threader that would make me cautious of recommending this device to a sewing newbie, not least of which is the tension. While those who have been sewing for a while will have no problem fiddling about with this to get it just so, anyone inexperienced will likely struggle to get their stitches right and give up…which is not what you want when you’re trying to fall in love with a new hobby!

Speed control is good, though, and the foot pedal is very responsive. Sewing starts when you press, which is how it should be, rather than dithering before getting going as some others do. Feet-free sewing is an option, too, thanks to the stop/start button, and I’m pleased to report that this is well placed and far enough away from the reverse stitch, so mistakes are unlikely.

Quilters will be happy to see that Janome have included an extra high presser foot lift and, as mentioned above, the JW8100 handles layers with aplomb. The even feed and quarter inch presser feet work well, too.

Speaking of which, the JW8100 ships with six presser feet – all-purpose, zipper, satin stitch, automatic buttonhole, even feed, 1/4″ seam – as well as the aforementioned extension table and an array of accessories such as a needle set, seam ripper, bobbins, lint brush, screwdriver, spool holders and spool pin. 

There’s also a handy pin cushion included that attaches to the machine and a hard-sided dust cover, which is, unfortunately, fairly useless thanks to the handle opening at the top…that lets the dust in!

If you know your way around a sewing machine and feel comfortable handling something a little more complicated than a basic “plug and sew” machine, the Janome JW8100 wouldn’t be the worst choice in the world.

LIKES
  • Stitch quality is fantastic
  • 100 pre-programmed patterns to choose from
  • Feeds fabric very nicely
  • Ships with an extra-wide extension table
  • Good presser foot clearance
DISLIKES
  • Learning curve is a bit steep
  • Tension needs regular attention
  • Needle threader is awkward
  • Bit more expensive than it should be

Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW

Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW

For fans of the long-running reality TV show, the Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW might seem like a no-brainer…let’s see if they’re right!

I’ll be honest, I’m always a little skeptical about this type of celebrity / TV Show tie-in. They invariably disappoint and can often seem a bit of a trap, so the Project Runway affiliated Brother CS5055PRW has a fair bit to overcome, but I’ll try my best to be fair…promise!

First off, let’s start off with exactly what this sewing machine is all about. It’s a budget computerized option that is aimed at those who watched the show and feel like they would like to try their hand at dressmaking. While Brother do not explicitly market this product as a beginner’s machine, that’s essentially what we’re working with here.

Does is stack up in this regard? I’d have to say that it does. It’s a decent enough machine that is easy to operate and has enough built-in stitches (50) to keep things interesting into the early intermediary stage. It’s also well-supplied with six additional presser feet – overcasting, monogramming, zipper, blind stitch, buttonhole, and button sewing – as well as the all-purpose one that’s fitted when you unbox. 

Accessories are plentiful, too, with a three-piece needle set, twin needle, extra bobbins and spool pin, seam ripper, cleaning brush, and screwdriver all present and ready to use when you take delivery of the CS5055PRW. All good thus far!

Onto the performance. Quite surprisingly, this Brother knocks out a decent 850 stitches per minute, yet users will tell you that it doesn’t feel as fast as others of the same spec. Stitch quality is okay, as well, but tension seems a little hit and miss. It’s not overtly bad, but it doesn’t wow you, either. The bobbin winder is, again, okay.

All in all, that just about sums this machine up. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, especially as an entry-point into the world of machine sewing. It’s totally fine…but that’s also what lets it down. It doesn’t make you want to sew; it just does a reasonable job and leaves you feeling a bit, well, meh.

So, the problem with the Brother CS5055PRW actually has nothing to do with the Brother CS5055PRW…it’s more that the competition out there for this particular demographic does a better job. If you want a portable sewing machine you’ll love, I’d recommend saving up the extra few bucks to buy the SINGER 7258.

LIKES
  • Affordable
  • Nice selection of stitches
DISLIKES
  • Tension can be temperamental
  • Better machines in this price bracket

SINGER 4432 Heavy Duty sewing machine

SINGER 4432

Last up, we have the SINGER 4432, a portable sewing machine capable of handling the heavier side of sewing.

If you’re looking for a machine that can specifically take on heavy-duty fabrics regularly, it’s always best to go for a tool that is built for the job – and the SINGER 4432 is just that. Another plus is that it won’t break the bank!

The surprising thing about this offering from SINGER is the fact that it still remains relatively portable, despite its key attribute and the commonly held thought that it’s an absolute beast when it comes to powering through even the heaviest of materials. At 17.4lbs, it’s not the lightest…but it’s not the heaviest, either.

The 4432 actually has looks to match its workhorse reputation – there’s nothing fancy about this appliance. It’s all about getting the job done. 

In the box you’ll find four feet – zipper, all-purpose, buttonhole, and button sewing – alongside a few accessories such as a quilting guide, seam ripper / lint brush, spare needles, bobbins, spool pin and felt, screwdriver, and a soft-sided dust cover. The supplied instruction manual is decent and, as always, worth consulting before you start your machine up for the first time.

The performance of the SINGER 4432 is great, especially for what it costs. Of course, it’s not to be regarded as the very best sewing machine for heavy fabrics that money can buy, but it performs admirably for a piece of apparatus that falls below the $200 mark. 

At 1100 stitches per minute, though, you’d better know what you’re doing, as some newcomers might not appreciate the extra oomph if they’re a little heavy-footed…no sliding speed control on this bad boy, unfortunately. For anyone who wants a machine with a bit more backbone, however, the 4432 won’t disappoint.

With all this said, this is still a relatively budget machine and you do get what you pay for. While it may be fashioned in battleship gray, it isn’t exactly made to military-grade standards…not by a long shot. It’s actually pretty cheaply made in places. Somehow, though, this SINGER does still get the job done.

The stitch quality passes the test, although some have mentioned that tensioning can become a bit of an issue once the machine hits a certain age. Everything has a lifespan, though, and some of this could even be down to poor maintenance…who knows? 

Noise can be a problem with all that extra power, so if this is an issue you might want to look elsewhere. All in all, though, the 4432 is a capable heavy-duty budget tool that you can happily transport around with you from class to circle.

LIKES
  • Excellent motor
  • Impressive speed (1,100 SPM)
  • Capable with a wide range of fabrics
  • Decent value for money
DISLIKES
  • A bit noisy
  • Might not be as durable as it should be

So, which is the best portable sewing machine?

As is so often with these things, there’s an overall favorite here and a few that deserve very honorable mentions.

So, to the winner, then!

SINGER 7258

My top pick for the best portable sewing machine is the SINGER 7258. It’s just great, especially when it comes to value for money. One-hundred stitches, decent accessories, sews wonderfully, quiet, easy to use…you get the idea. 

Other machines of note from these reviews were the Bernette 35 and the Spiegel. 

bernette 35
Spiegel SP3201

The Bernette 35 is an amazing piece of mechanical engineering that is a joy to use, so if you’re looking for an easily transportable sewing machine, yet don’t fancy the computerized 7258, go for the b35…you won’t regret it.

As for the Spiegel, well, this is truly about value for money. I know how hard it is for many of you and buying a sewing machine, especially one that’s going to be used as a hobbyist rather than to earn a living, is a luxury. However, with the bargain basement Spiegel you can have your proverbial cake and eat it, too.

That’s it for this one, I hope you’ve found it useful and informative. Remember, if you have any questions or comments, drop them in the box below.

OUR FAVORITE
SINGER 7258 100-Stitch Computerized 76 Decorative Stitches, Automatic Needle...
BEST BUDGET PICK
Spiegel Sewing Machine
BEST MECHANICAL
Bernette 35 Swiss Design Sewing Machine
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine Includes Exclusive Bonus Bundle
SINGER | Simple 3232 Sewing Machine with Built-In Needle Threader, & 110 Stitch...
Janome Magnolia 7318 Sewing Machine with Exclusive Bundle
SINGER 7258 100-Stitch Computerized 76 Decorative Stitches, Automatic Needle...
Spiegel Sewing Machine
Bernette 35 Swiss Design Sewing Machine
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine Includes Exclusive Bonus Bundle
SINGER | Simple 3232 Sewing Machine with Built-In Needle Threader, & 110 Stitch...
Janome Magnolia 7318 Sewing Machine with Exclusive Bundle
OUR FAVORITE
SINGER 7258 100-Stitch Computerized 76 Decorative Stitches, Automatic Needle...
SINGER 7258 100-Stitch Computerized 76 Decorative Stitches, Automatic Needle...
BEST BUDGET PICK
Spiegel Sewing Machine
Spiegel Sewing Machine
BEST MECHANICAL
Bernette 35 Swiss Design Sewing Machine
Bernette 35 Swiss Design Sewing Machine
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine Includes Exclusive Bonus Bundle
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine Includes Exclusive Bonus Bundle
SINGER | Simple 3232 Sewing Machine with Built-In Needle Threader, & 110 Stitch...
SINGER | Simple 3232 Sewing Machine with Built-In Needle Threader, & 110 Stitch...
Janome Magnolia 7318 Sewing Machine with Exclusive Bundle
Janome Magnolia 7318 Sewing Machine with Exclusive Bundle

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We’ve got other sewing machine reviews…

If portable really isn’t what you’re looking for, we’ve got lots of other sewing machine types covered in our various review posts. Go check them out now or bookmark them for later!

best portable sewing machine reviews

REFERENCES:

  1. Bluebulb Projects | How heavy is 20 pounds? | https://www.bluebulbprojects.com/MeasureOfThings/results.php?comp=weight&unit=lbs&amt=20&sort=pr&p=1

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