We Review the Best Sewing Machines for Beginners, Pros and Quilting
There are literally hundreds of models of sewing machines out there. But that doesn't mean choosing the right one for your needs has to be a daunting task. Whether you are just learning to sew or have been sewing for many years, we can help you find the best sewing machine for your needs and budget.
Here are a few important questions to get you started:
- Are you just learning to sew or are you purchasing a gift for someone that is learning?
- Do you plan on quilting?
- Are you planning to expand your hobby clothes-making into a small business?
- How frequently will you use your sewing machine?
- If your sewing machine suddenly stops working, how will you be impacted? What is your budget?
Our Top Rated Pick Overall
We encourage you to read through the common features below to get an idea of what is available on the market. Then you can jump to the section with machines in your budget. But in case you want to jump ahead, here's a menu of what we'll be covering.
Below we have listed our favorite, top-rated home sewing machines, broken down into different price ranges. As with anything you get what you pay for. The more expensive models have more options, and the cheaper models are more basic, but excellent for beginners.
Our Top Rated Sewing Machines
Max Stitch Width
Auto Thread Cutter
up to 23"
* SPM (stitches per minute)
Our Sewing Machine Buyer's Guide
Before we dive into our favorite models, let's take a look at some of the terminology we'll be throwing around. Having a clear understanding of what you want to do and what each machine is capable of will help you pick a model that not only serves your needs now, but will allow you to grow into future sewing projects.
Common Features of Sewing Machines
Let's define some of the features from the chart above to help you choose which model makes the most sense for your specific needs. This makes the decision making process much simpler.
Speed (Stitches per Minute)
This is the maximum speed at which a sewing machine will sew. Faster is always better, right?
If you are experienced and accustomed to working quickly, extra speed is wonderful! If you are a beginner, and are not used to using a foot pedal, your project might “run away” from you if you push the pedal too hard. Some machines have a speed control slide, so that no matter how hard your press the pedal, the machine will only go as fast as the setting you have chosen.
Maximum Stitch Width
This applies to sewing machines that will perform more than just a straight stitch. If a machine is straight stitch only, this part will say “N/A.” If you are planning to do embroidery or applique, a wider maximum stitch width with help you enjoy more flexibility and creativity.
This refers to the area to the right of the needle. The larger the working space, the easier it will be to maneuver your projects. A sewing machine with a larger working space is particularly useful for quilts and bulky clothing items.
Automatic Thread Cutter
This is a luxury feature that experienced seamstresses may find useful. The thread cutter is operated by either a button on the machine or by the foot pedal, which cuts both the bobbin thread and the top thread, close to the project. This saves time spent cutting tails, and money otherwise spent on wasted thread.
Built in Needle Threader
This is another feature that is nice to have, but is not necessary. A lever threads the needle for you, eliminating a lot of squinting and frustration when trying to manually thread the needle.
Thread Tension Manual vs. Automatic
Thread tension management can be incredibly frustrating for beginners and experienced seamstresses alike. Automatic thread tension helps to reduce the frustration. The user simply “tells” the sewing machine what fabric is being used, ensures that the correct needle is inserted, and the sewing machine does the rest.
Ajustable Stitch Length
One option that comes in very handy is an adjustable stitch length. This allows you to give the stitch a slightly different look to a finished hem. You won't typically find this on lower priced sewing machines, but it's worth having if you're going to be sewing a great deal.
Number of Stitches
Sewing machines will offer, at minimum, a straight stitch. Most machines will offer a zig zag stitch as well, and then you get into stretch stitches, blind hems, etc. When a machine has hundreds of stitches, there are often a host of decorative stitches including alphabet letters, numbers, flowers, and much more. Some seamstresses find these to be worthless, others find them to be fun and an additional way to express their creativity.
Knowing the type of materials you'll be working with can help you determine how strong of a motor you'll need. Denim, leather, and quilting materials are tough and can take a toll on a machine that utilizes plastic parts instead of metal. A stronger motor will also operate on heavy duty materials more quickly.
The downside to a strong motor is that they tend to weigh more. If you're not planning on moving your sewing machine very often this isn't a big deal, but if you need it to be portable keep this in mind.
Weight and Size
Who is this sewing machine for? Do you want your machine to be portable? Will it need to be stowed away when not in use? If portability is important, make sure you choose a machine that will not be burdensome to the user.
The Three Types of Sewing Machines
There are three basic types of sewing machine: mechanical, electronic, and computer-based. Let's take a look at some of the features of each.
Mechanical Sewing Machines
Remember your grandmother's sewing machine? Most likely it was a mechanical model.
They run on electricity (of course), but most adjustments must be made by the seamstress. Using a mechanical sewing machine can be a bit more laborious, but they offer a great way to learn since they don't incorporate all of the "done for you" capabilities of the more advanced models. They also happen to be the cheapest way to get started with sewing.
Electronic Sewing Machines
The next step up from mechanical, electronic sewing machines offer more functions and require less manual operation from the sewer. Some features include stitch length adjustment, tension adjustment, and automatic thread cutting. They even have certain stitches pre-programmed so that all you have to do is enter the stitch and it takes care of the rest.
Computer Based Sewing Machines
For experienced sewers a computer based machine can be a great time saver. They incorporate a database of stitches that can be chosen and the machine will make all the necessary adjustments for needle position and thread tension.
Our Sewing Machine Reviews
We have included details such as the number of stitches per minute; the amount of space to the right of the needle, which is important when working with bulky materials; where the bobbin is located, which can make a difference when working on a project that will require frequent changes or reloading of the bobbin.
We will also discuss automated vs manual thread tension adjustment, manufacturer’s warranties, and included/standard accessories.
While some of these machines could be used for quilting, you'll save time and frustration by purchasing one of the models we cover in our best sewing machine for quilting article.
Most of the units we'll be focusing on are for sewing clothing and home décor applications. Either way, before you invest in a new sewing machine, make sure that you have an understanding of how you will use your machine.
For certain applications a serger is more effective and efficient than a sewing machine. To find out more check out our article in which we review the best sergers on the market.
Models Over $1,000 (Intermediate - Advanced Users)
The sewing machines listed in this category are top-of-the-line, as far as home sewing machines are concerned. Believe it or not, sewing machines can get far more expensive than the models listed here.
Industrial-grade sewing machines have generally stronger engines, allowing them to pierce through thicker materials, such as multiple layers of leather. They also operate at much faster speeds, allowing an experienced user to turn out bulk quantities of product in less time.
Who Are Theses Sewing Machines For?
We are not covering the industrial grade sewing machines in this article, because most home and hobby sewers, and even small cottage business owners, simply don’t need that level of performance.
The machines below are great machines for serious hobbyists and small cottage business owners who know how to use a sewing machine and/or are serious about learning to sew, and who plan to turn out new projects on a fairly regular basis.
These sewing machines will feature more power and speed than the lower-price models. They will have larger working areas, and many variables, such as tension adjustment and thread cutting, will be automated.
If you are just exploring the world of sewing and aren’t sure what you want to sew, or if you just want to have a tool around the house for basic repair and clothing alterations, we suggest that you explore some of the lower-priced options.
The machines below can all be used for basic hemming, repairing, and easy home décor sewing, but as we said above, will offer more power, speed, and automated functions than some of the lower priced models. Some are ideal for quilting applications as well, offering extra working space to the right of the needle, with some offering an extension table to the left of the needle.
#1. Juki HZL-F600 Review: Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine
The Juki HZL-F600 is our top pick for models in this price range. This sewing machine is an all-around dream machine for quilters and seamstresses alike. It has the largest under-arm working space, and with 600 built-in stitches. This makes it great for sewing anything from simple clothing to more advanced quilts and dresses.
Great for home use, it is a quiet machine with an impressive feature set.
Features of the HZL-F600
The Juki sewing machine comes with an extra wide work area at 8.5”x12”. This is 4” larger than what you get with most machines. It also comes with an extension table, further expanding the work area.
Like the models above, a knee bar for hands-free presser foot lifting makes English-paper piecing much smoother. The automatic thread trimmer can be activated using the foot pedal or a button on the face of the machine.
Box feed technology has been applied to this machine, increasing the stitch quality and eliminating stitch shrinkage and shifting.
For sewing clothes, the machine contains16 types of built-in buttonholes and 600 different stitch patterns, including numbers and letters. A large LCD display makes pattern selection easy as pie. The automatic buttonholer makes buttonholing a breeze- the button is placed on the foot, and the machine makes the proper sized buttonhole.
This particular model comes with a bevy of feet to get you off on the right “foot,” including a walking foot, quilt pressing foot, edge sewing presser foot, and patchwork presser foot.
#2. Janome 1600P-QC Review: High Speed Sewing and Quilting Machine
This is a great all-in one sewing machine! The reason for it's second place finish was simply because it has less working space than our top pick.
The Janome 1600P-QC is a heavy-duty sewing machine for the home, combining the speed and strength of an industrial machine with the ease and quiet of a home sewing machine. It is a workhorse and is ideal for the seamstress that values speed, power, and simplicity.
It is important to note that this Janome model uses a straight stitch only. If you are planning to sew clothing with buttonholes, or enjoy finishing projects with specialty stitches, this machine may not be your best option.
What it lacks in fancy stitches and functions, it makes up in speed and power. This machine will sew through several layers of thick material, including canvas and some lightweight leathers, without slowing down. This makes it a great investment for those that enjoy quilting!
The max speed is 1600 stitches per minute, and the speed control slider makes it easy to adjust to a speed at which you are comfortable working.
Features of the Janome 1600P-QC
It includes a number of features can greatly increase your overall efficiency:
- Automatic thread cutter feature that saves time and money from wasted thread tails.
- Built-in needle threader saves time and hassle.
- Knee-lifter attachment can be used to control the presser foot, allowing you to keep both hands on your project.
- Up/down needle position button allows you to determine where the machine will stop- with the needle in the up position, or in the down position.
Though specialty stitches can be useful (and fun!), there are still plenty of sewing projects that can be completed with a straight-stitch, such as free motion quilting and rolled hemming (A darning plate is included for free motion quilting).
If you do not require zig-zag or other specialty stitches, this more basic sewing machine might be a good option for you. (Machines with lots of additional features are great, but the fewer the features, the less that can potentially break!)
Janome MC-6300P Review: Professional Heavy Duty Sewing Machine
The Janome MC-6300P is a great all-in one machine! Buttonholes, zippers, zig zag, free motion quilting; this machine makes it all possible. With speeds up to 1,000 stitches per minute, the Janome 6300P combines speeds up to 1000 stitches per minute with loads of additional features that an advanced or beginner-advanced quilter or seamstress will truly appreciate.
Specialty sewing stitches are nothing new- my Grandmother’s 1950’s-era Singer machine had a number of specialty stitches, accessed using an assortment of “cams” that were inserted into the machine.
Features of the MC-6300P
The Janome 6300P allows stitches to be selected easily and painlessly, with the push of a few simple buttons. 66 stitches and 3 different buttonholes are easily accessible, and an LED display provides easy-to-read information. The low-bobbin indicator light eliminates the nasty surprise of an empty bobbin.
Thread tension guesswork will become a thing of the past with automatic thread tension. The automatic thread cutter saves time and money. The machine will not sew when the presser foot is up, reducing mistakes and eliminating a major cause of tangled threads.
Great for quilting!
The larger the work space of the MC-6300 makes it much easier to work with bulky materials including quilted place mats, table-runners, and bedspreads.
In addition to a large working area of 8.8”x4.7”, a clear extension table is included with this machine along with the free-motion foot.
The free motion foot allows for lots of creativity. You can "doodle" your own free hand designs into the fabric. For those looking for a bit more flexibility, the Janome MC-6300P is a great choice.
Models from $500 - $999 (Beginner - Intermediate)
Many of the sewing machines in this price range will have the same features as the more expensive models. Features such as auto thread trimming and feeding, knee-lever foot control, and needle up/down buttons are found in both price tiers.
However, where it may seem like all of the bells and whistles are present, you may compromise on speed and power versus the more expensive versions. And vice versa- the faster machines may not have as much functionality as the slower machines.
For a beginner seamstress, high speed is not going to be as important as functionality, or even desired. It takes time and practice to become comfortable speed-feeding fabric through a machine. If you are a beginner with a budget, there are some machines in this price range that will be suitable for you. The lower price tier will also have some machines for beginners.
Most of the machines in this tier are geared toward experienced seamstresses, or those who plan to devote themselves. If you are beginner looking to purchase a machine that will grow with you and offer more functionality, make sure to get a machine with a speed-control option. This way, you are able to limit the machine to a comfortable speed.
Juki TL-2000 Qi Review: Sewing and Quilting Machine
Did we say that machines in this price range might compromise on speed? Well, this machine is the exception.
Geared toward quilters, the Juki TL-2000Qi can pack a whopping 1500 SPM, which is the fastest of all of the sewing machines we have reviewed. But be advised. Like the Janome 1600P-QC, this machine will only sew a straight stitch. If you plan to sew drapes, pillows, or other basic items, this machine will help you to get the job done fast.
Please be aware that at 1500 SPM, this machine is really not recommended for those who are just learning to sew. A slower machine with more stitch options, such as a zig zag, satin, or blind hem, is recommended for beginners.
Like the more expensive options, this machine comes with an automatic needle-threader and a trimmer than can be activated with the foot pedal. It also includes a knee lever to lift the presser foot while using both hands to hold the fabric in place.
One potential downside to this sewing machine is the thread tension adjustment. This machine has manual tension adjustment, where the more expensive machines will have automatic tension adjustment.
It comes with a standard presser foot, 1/5 inch quilt foot, even-feed foot, auxiliary extension table, knee lift lever, plus basic maintenance tools.
Singer S18 Studio Computerized High Performance Quilting and Sewing Machine
The Singer S-18 is a sturdy, powerful machine at a great price. This machine has a heavy-duty metal frame and produces even, impeccable stitches. It is intuitive and user-friendly straight out of the box.
The added convenience of a knee-lever for lifting or dropping the presser foot, the programmable needle up/down function, and the extra large sewing space make this a great machine for quilters. The extension table adds space for larger projects.
For sewing clothing , the 400 built-in stitches, seven automatic buttonholes, and abundant included feet are wonderful. Sleeves could be difficult t sew on this machine, as the base does not adjust to a smaller size.
All manner of sewists, whether primarily quilting or making clothing, will appreciate the automatic needle threader and thread cutter. A backlit LCD screen alerts the user to any malfunctions, such as an incorrectly-wound bobbin
At 1,000 stitches per minute, this machine will get an experienced seamstress through large projects quickly. The variable speed control will allow a beginner to work their way up to higher speeds. So this machine is an excellent choice for a beginner seamstress, or an experienced seamstress looking to upgrade.
This machine comes with everything you need to get started sewing, including an all-purpose foot, button sewing foot, overedge foot, narrow rolled hem foot, zipper foot, satin stitch foot, blind hem foot, cording foot, overcasting foot, buttonhole foot, darning and freehand foot, quarter inch foot, walking foot, and open toe foot.
It also comes with screwdrivers, lint brush, thread spool caps, needles, seam ripper, bobbins, edge / quilting bars, knee lifter, adjustable seam guide, instruction manual, quick start guide, power cord, foot controller, accessory storage box.
Models Under $500
These sewing machines are a great upgrade from the more basic, lower budget machines on the market. If you purchase a machine in this price range, you can expect quality basic stitching and sturdy machine construction.
Machines in this price range are great for a serious home sewist that is planning to make not only basic home décor, but perhaps also clothing for the family. Clothing can be made with a basic, low-budget machine, but you will likely be more pleased with the outcome when using a higher-grade machine. Plus, your machine will last longer.
This is also the price range where we may start to see such automated features as needle threading, thread cutting, and the needle up/down option. Specialty stitches and embellishments make the machines in this price bracket a fun option, though not everyone needs or wants these features. Some users may see the additional features as unnecessary, with more parts.
Generally these machines will be of higher quality than the lowest-budget machines. This translates to a longer life and more consistent operation.
While a beginner could start out with a machine in this category, we would recommend one of the cheaper options further down the list. If you find you (or the person you're giving it to) enjoy sewing, then you can upgrade to a better machine at a later date.
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine
This machine is a great option for a beginner, as it performs all of the stitches required for basic home décor and clothing, including a straight stitch, blind hem, zig zag stitch, and it allows width and length adjustment. It also offers 12 built-in stitches and one four-step buttonhole.
A free arm allows sleeves and pant legs to be hemmed with ease. At just 13 pounds, this machine can be easily tucked away when not in use. Snap-on presser feet make switching feet quick and easy.
Like other lower-priced machines, the work space on this model is fairly small, at 6.5”x4.7”. This is a normal amount of working space for a machine in this price tier, but it is a bit small for bulky projects and large scale quilting.
Out of the box, this machine will come with a multi-purpose foot, blind-hem foot, a zig zag foot, and sliding buttonhole foot. It also comes with three extra bobbins, a screwdriver, seam ripper, and set of spare needles. You may also be able to find different bundle deals available, offering additional feet, needles, and bobbins.
Singer Quantum Stylist 9960
This Singer Quantum offers specialty stitches and features some of the bells and whistles of the fancier machines, including automatic needle threading, needle up/down control, and auto thread cutter.
Unlike some of the cheaper machines, the feed dogs can be disengaged to allow for free-motion sewing. A speed control slider lets you choose how fast you want the machine to go. Tension is controlled automatically, as is the stitch length and width. Comes with 600 built-in stitches and 13 automatic, 1-step buttonholes.
This machine will be useful for small quilting jobs, basic home décor sewing, personal clothing, and embellishments.
This machine comes with an assortment of presser feet, including an adjustable bias binder foot, single-welt cording foot, braiding foot and guide, stitch-in-the-ditch foot for seams and edges on quilts, fancy-trim foot, clear piping foot, clearance plate, all-purpose foot, zipper foot, button sewing foot, satin stitch foot, buttonhole foot with underplate, open toe foot, blind hem foot, overcasting foot, narrow hem foot, cording foot, 1/4-inch foot, darning & embroidery foot, even feed foot, and the basics: a pack of needles, bobbins, seam ripper, brush, auxiliary spool cap, spool pin felt, screwdrivers, thread spool caps, seam guide, and quilting bar.
You may also consider one of the newer models of this machine, the Singer Quantum Stylist 9970, which is the same basic machine but with more accessories and stitches.
Best Cheap/Budget Brands (under $150)
Is it possible to find a decent sewing machine for under $150? If your needs are simple and you plan to use the machine for personal, infrequent use, then yes!
The sewing machines in this price bracket are cheap, basic, and easy to use straight out of the box. The speeds of these machines will vary. To an experienced seamstress, they will likely seem slow. But for beginners, they will work well.
Inexpensive But Capable
The sewing machines in the cheaper category will perform the same basic tasks as the pricier machines. They don't offer as many bells and whistles, and there are fewer settings customization. Typically the work space will be smaller.
Though you CAN work a quilt through one of these machines, it will be much more difficult than on some of the larger models. Sewing clothes and dresses will be possible, but these machines may not have the power to push through multiple layers of thick material.
So what are these machines good for? Basic clothing repairs including patching and hemming. Making lightweight clothing. They will work well for basic home décor using normal weight fabrics, including drapes, pillow covers, and table linens. These are great machines to have around the house for the occasional seamstress.
These machines are not recommended for large-scale quilting or heavy-duty upholstery projects. They are not recommended for commercial use. They are not recommended for use with thick leather.
These low-budget machines are most recommended for beginner sewists and for children who want to learn to sew. Simple and practical, they will sew a straight line, straight out of the box!
Brother XL2600I Review: 25-Stitch Free-Arm Sewing Machine (Great for Beginners)
This super lightweight machine is perfect for beginners! It's great for sewing basic clothing and home décor, such as throw pillows, curtains, tablecloths, napkins, and more. For home clothing sewers, the free-arm design allows for quick access to collars, sleeves, and pant hems.
This machine is incredibly popular, and I can understand why- it performs all of the basic sewing functions, and at a bargain price. Consumer Digest even named it a “Best Buy” among non-computerized sewing machines!
This machine has 25 different stitches, which can be accessed via a dial on the front of the machine. For those who are intimidated by buttons, this machine also offers a 1-step buttonholer.
If you are interested in dabbling with quilting, the feed dogs will drop to allow for free motion sewing.
At just 11 pounds, this machine is ideal for the occasional or on-to-go seamstress. It is light enough to take anywhere, and easy to stow away when not in use.
A built-in accessory storage compartment contains a selection of accessory feet including a zig zag foot, buttonhole foot, button sewing foot, zipper foot, narrow hemmer foot, and blind stitch foot. Other accessories include a darning plate, accessory bag with needle pack, twin needle, extra spool pin, screwdriver, bobbins (3), power cord and operation manual.
Singer 1304 Review: Best Budget Sewing Machine
This is a great machine for beginners, even children. It comes with basic feet, including an all-purpose foot, zipper foot, and a buttonhole foot.
It also comes with a darning plate, pack of needles, bobbins, needle plate, screwdriver, spool pin felts, seam ripper, lint brush, foot control, and soft-sided dust cover.
This machine will perform a variety of basic stitches including straight, satin, zig zag, blind hem, scallop, and a 4-step buttonhole. A dial on the front allows for easy stitch selection.
Tension is regulated automatically, as is stitch length and stitch width. This is a good feature for beginners as it eliminates guesswork and the frustration involved with adjusting settings. Twin needle sewing is also possible with this machine, as it has dual spool pins.
The machine is free arm convertible, meaning the user will have an easier time working with sleeves, pant hems, collars, and cuffs. The machine has an internal metal frame for durability and stitch consistency.
This is not a great machine for quilters or aspiring quilters, as the working space is too small to comfortably work on a large, bulky project.
Singer is a trusted sewing machine manufacturer, with excellent customer service.
There is a newer version of this machine available, the Singer 1234 Sewing Machine. The newer version appears to be very much the same machine, but with a carrying bag, access to an online class, and decorative decals for personalizing the machine. The 1234 version is more expensive than the 1304; I would only consider buying this new version as a gift.
Best Sewing Machine for Beginners and Kids
As well as being our best budget sewing machine, the Brother XL2600I is also a one the best sewing machines for kids on the market. It is extremely easy to use and offers a handful of important features that will become more important as your child progresses in their sewing abilities.
It offers 25 different stitches that can be accessed using the dial on the front of the machine. It also offers a one step buttonholer for those that are not comfortable sewing buttons.
The unit is very lightweight and inexpensive enough that it makes a entry level machine.
This guide could easily cover a hundred or more wonderful sewing machines. The sewing machine market is huge, and as we said above, choosing the machine that is right for you can be a difficult task.
The machines that we reviewed are not brand-new to the market. These machines have been on the market long enough to allow any possible kinks or problems come to light. We chose these machines because of their quality and reliability, relative to their price points. We will continue to add machine reviews to this article as
We hope that this guide has helped you to pick the perfect sewing machine, and if not, we hope that it has at least helped you to think about what it is that you will need from your machine.
We welcome any additional comments, questions, or suggestions that you may have. If you have used one of the above sewing machines and can attest to the quality (or if you detest it!) please let us know! Your additional comments will help the other readers to make an informed decision!