When you’re researching your first sewing machine, a lot of the basic models can look the same. But there are differences, and those differences can have a big impact on your sewing. The SINGER Sew Mate 5400 is a computerized sewing machine that’s well suited for learners and everyday sewists. Our SINGER 5400 review can help you decide if this model is right for you.
The SINGER 5400: Review and Specs
For over 170 years, SINGER has been America’s sewing machine company. SINGER designed and produced the first practical home sewing machine, a lockstitch machine, in the mid-1800s. By 1860, SINGER was the largest sewing machine manufacturer in the world.
Today their tradition of innovative, user-friendly home sewing machines continues with a range that runs the gamut from simple to sophisticated. Their lines include sturdy heavy-duty mechanical machines, do-it-all multipurpose computerized models, and sleek semi-professional craft-specific machines.
All of their machines however, demonstrate the company’s dedication to ease of use and value for money.
What’s in the box?
Accessories that come with the SINGER Sew Mate 5400, include:
- General purpose foot
- Zipper foot
- Buttonhole foot
- Sewing machine needles
- Pack of class 15 metal bobbins
- Thread spool cap
- Auxiliary spool pin with spool pin felts
- Darning plate
- Seam ripper with lint brush
- SINGER Sew Mate 5400 manual
- 25-year limited warranty
About the SINGER Sew Mate 5400
SINGER has several lines of simple mechanical and computerized sewing machines. The SINGER 5400 is an entry-level computerized machine.
The SINGER 5400 sewing machine is designed to let users start sewing right out of the box. It has an easy-to-read stitch map, a simple push-button interface, an automatic needle threader, and a decent, though not extravagant selection of built-in stitches and buttonholes.
This sort of machine makes an excellent first sewing machine. It’s light and portable, which means that you can pack it up easily and take it to meetups and classes. It comes with a soft dust cover, which offers some protection, though not as much as a hard shell cover. And it allows you to do quite a bit of exploration while still remaining approachable.
The SINGER 5400 would also be a good all-purpose machine for occasional household projects, such as mending or whipping up a quick tablecloth.
And, importantly for people thinking about dipping their toe into sewing, it’s not super-expensive.
- Clear, intuitive interface
- Ready to go right out of the box
- Free online instructional videos
- Respectable selection of stitches
- Generous selection of one-step automatic buttonholes
- Automatic stitch adjustments
- Automatic pressure foot pressure
- Heavy-duty metal frame
- No speed control
- No start/stop button
- Somewhat pokey stitch speed
- Numerous customer complaints about tension and bobbin thread issues
Are You Considering an Entry-Level Computerized Sewing Machine?
This particular class of machine has a lot of representatives on the market at a surprisingly wide range of prices. They are, on the whole, easy to use and suitable for a variety of crafts. But how do you choose? Here are a few features to watch for.
Stitch and Buttonhole Designs
The most visible difference between mechanical and computerized sewing machines is the number of stitch designs. The number of designs a mechanical machine can offer is limited by the space on the stitch selection dial. A computerized sewing machine, though, can store a vast number of built-in designs. The SINGER Quantum Stylist 9985 has 960, for example.
It’s fun to pore over a large stitch library, but ultimately, how many will you actually end up using regularly? The SINGER Sew Mate 5400 has 60 built-ins, which include functional, stretch, and decorative stitches. It also has four one-step buttonhole designs, which is enough for most people’s needs.
One-Step Automatic Buttonhole
Speaking of buttonholes, do you know the difference between a one-step buttonhole and a four-stepper? If your project calls for multiple buttonholes, this difference can be significant indeed.
A four-step buttonhole requires you to make each of the four sides of the buttonhole separately, stopping after each side to adjust and change stitches. There are tools to make the process easier, but it can still be difficult to get consistent results.
A one-step automatic buttonhole is just what it sounds like. You select your buttonhole design, load your button onto the buttonhole foot, press a button, and done.
Not only is it simpler, but the automatic buttonhole foot allows you to customize every hole to the exact button that will go through it.
The SINGER Sew Mate 5400 has four automatic one-step buttonhole designs, and that’s a great feature.
Another difference between mechanical and computerized sewing machines is the controls. Mechanical sewing machines use levers, dials, and sliders to adjust things like stitch length, stitch width, thread tension, and so on. Computerized machines like the SINGER Sew Mate 5400 allow you to make these adjustments with the push of a button.
On one hand, buttons make things easier, as you don’t have to think too hard about stitch and other parameters. The machine will choose what it believes to be the optimal settings for any given stitch. You can then alter the stitches using other button controls.
On the other hand, mechanical sewing machine enthusiasts will probably miss the ability to fine-tune and customize stitches to the degree that manual controls allow.
Start/Stop, Programmable Needles, Speed Control, and Lockstitch
Some controls that you’ll commonly find with computerized sewing machines — though not on mechanical ones — are a start/stop button, a speed control slider, a programmable needle position, and a push-button locking stitch.
We’re all used to starting and stopping using the foot pedal. The start/stop button is a different way to start and stop your machine. Why might you want this?
Well, it allows people to run a sewing machine even if they, for some reason, can’t use the foot pedal. It’s also a great way to make a super-precise one-step buttonhole. Finally, it can help you to get more even and consistent results with decorative stitches.
A needle up/down button allows you to program the default needle position to either “up” or “down.” This can come in handy during fiddly bits of your project where you’re stopping repeatedly to turn and adjust your work.
Speed control is another thing for which many of us use the foot pedal. A speed control mechanism allows you to set a maximum speed, sort of like cruise control on your car. Maintaining a uniform stitching speed can help you to make consistent stitches.
Making a lockstitch at the beginning and end of a row of stitches “locks” the ends of that row in place. It’s a lot easier and neater than tying off the ends. You can lock your stitches by reverse-stitching over the last stitches in a row, then sewing forward back over them. If your sewing machine has a lockstitch button, it will do that motion for you.
Unfortunately and mysteriously, SINGER opted not to include any of these handy features on the Sew Mate 5400.
What are the Features of the SINGER Sew Mate 5400?
So, what does the SINGER 5400 sewing machine have going for it? Quite a bit, actually. Here are a few of the things we love.
Stitches and Buttonholes
The SINGER 5400 has 60 built-in stitches and four one-step buttonhole designs. It’s not a huge number, but it’s enough to have some fun. The stitches include all of the functional stitches that sewists use most, such as zigzag and straight stitch. There are also stitches especially for stretch fabrics, and dozens of decorative stitches.
In addition to this machine’s four one-step buttonhole designs, SINGER includes an automatic buttonhole foot for perfect, customized buttonholes every time.
Automatic Needle Threader
Have you ever tried to jam a fuzzy thread-end through the tiny eye of a sewing machine needle? If so, then you’ll appreciate the convenience of an automatic needle threader. For me, in fact, this is a dealbreaker.
Here’s how it works.
The first sewing machines came onto the market before plastic was in widespread use. They had all-metal construction, inside and out. This made them extremely heavy. It also made them super-durable and excellent for heavy work.
Little by little, plastic parts have started to replace metal ones. It would be difficult to tell what the frame of any given sewing machine was made from. However, many of SINGER’s machines, including the Sew Mate 5400, advertise all-metal frames. This bodes well for both durability and suitability for heavier sewing jobs.
Alternatives to the SINGER Sew Mate 5400
You have a lot of choices when it comes to an entry-level computerized sewing machine. Some combinations of features may suit your needs better than others. Here are a few competing sewing machines that we think might be worth your time.
The SINGER 7258 is another entry-to-intermediate level computerized sewing machine. It’s slightly more expensive than the Sew Mate 5400, but that money buys some definite advantages in terms of features, including:
- Larger selection of stitches (100) and buttonholes (6)
- Programmable needle
- Start/Stop button
- Speed control slider
The interface is almost identical to that of the Sew Mate 5400, so if you like the ease of use of the 5400, but want a few more features, then this model could be a good choice for you.
The Janome 6050 is similar to the Sew Mate 5400 in its ease of use and number of stitches. It costs slightly more than the Sew Mate 5400, however, it, too, has a few more features. These include:
- Programmable needle
- Start/stop button
- Speed control slider
- Locking stitch button
- Hard cover
It’s worth noting that Janome typically makes very reliable, rather pricey machines. If you’re a dedicated hobbyist, this alone might make the slightly higher price tag worth it.
Brother SE600 Sewing and Embroidery Machine
An embroidery machine might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a first sewing machine. But the Brother SE600, in addition to having a decent selection of built-in embroidery patterns, is also a feature-rich general purpose sewing machine. Check this out:
- 80 built-in embroidery designs
- 103 built-in sewing stitches
- 6 lettering fonts
- 10 automatic one-step buttonholes
- Large color touch screen
We included this one because it’s roughly the same price as the SINGER Sew Mate 5400, but a pleasant surprise in terms of additional features. It’s a good example of the value for money that a lot of Brother sewing machines provide.
If you’re looking for a good, all-purpose sewing machine, and think you might want to try your hand at machine embroidery, then you might have a lot of fun with this model.
An entry-level computerized sewing machine like the SINGER Sew Mate 5400 can be just the thing for a learner sewist or for general home sewing. At the same time, there are other, more feature-rich sewing machines on the market at a similar price.
Which combination of features will work best for you? Only you can decide that.
As for the SINGER Sew Mate 5400, we think It’s easy to use, lightweight, and suitable for a variety of different projects. Given the overall positive consumer feedback, we would happily recommend the SINGER 5400 for these purposes.
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