** This post was updated on: December 1, 2018 ***
When I first started my seamstress business it took me FOREVER to pick the right sewing machine for my needs. There are just TOO many to choose from!
Did you know that between all the major brands there are over 50 new sewing machines hitting the market every year? Some of them offer new and useful features.
And some are just the same old pigs with new lipstick.
As a consumer it can be really confusing trying to find the right model for your needs.
In this article I'm going to break down the best sewing machines on the market. I'll talk about the features you NEED and some features that are NICE, but not NECESSARY.
Table of Contents
We'll start by reviewing the top brands for those just dipping their toes into sewing. Then we'll cover models with more advanced features for intermediate and advanced sewers.
Trust me, there's something out there for everyone!
These products are a great upgrade from the more basic, lower budget machines on the market. If you purchase a product in this price range, you can expect quality basic stitching and sturdy construction.
Models in this price range are great for a serious home sewist that is planning to make not only basic home décor, but perhaps also making clothes 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 model. Plus, a better built product will last longer.
This Janome 2212 is the ideal sewing machine 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 budget models, 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 sewing 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.
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 models out there, the feed dogs on the 9960 can be disengaged to allow for free-motion sewing.
A speed control slider lets you choose you stitches per minute. 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.
It 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 unit, the Singer Quantum Stylist 9970, which is the same basic machine but with more accessories and stitches.
Many of the models in this mid range will have the same features as the more expensive models. They are great for aspiring seamstresses or just for home use. Features such as auto thread trimming and feeding, knee-lever foot control, and needle up/down buttons can be found in both price tiers.
Did we say the models in this price range might compromise on speed? Well, this machine is the exception. The Juki TL-2000 my pick for the best intermediate sewing machine.
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 is only a straight stitch sewing machine. If you plan to sew drapes, pillows, or other basic items, this unit will help you to get the job done fast.
Please be aware that at 1500 SPM, this product 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 those just starting out.
Like the more expensive options, the TL-2000Qi 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. It 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.
The Singer S-18 is a sturdy, powerful sewing machine at a great price. This unit 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.
At 1,000 stitches per minute, this sewing machine will get an experienced seamstress through large projects quickly. The variable speed control will allow a those just starting to work their way up to higher speeds. So this machine is an excellent choice for an aspiring seamstress, or an experienced seamstress looking to upgrade.
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
This unit 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.
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.
The Juki HZL-F600 is our my pick for a sewing machine for advanced sewers. The HZL-F600 is an all-around dream machine for quilters and seamstresses alike. It has the largest under-arm working space, and includes 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.
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.
The HZL-F600 also 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.
The extra wide work space of the HZL-F600 enables you to handle a wide variety of tasks. It has a handful of VERY useful features including the automatic thread trimmer, automatic needle threader, and the flexibility of auto or manual thread tension. Juki's solid build quality means you'll be able to count on this machine for YEARS to come.
In terms of top-of-the line machines, this one is tough to beat.
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 unit for the home. It combines the speed and strength of an industrial machine with the ease and quiet of a consumer-grade model.
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 model 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.
It includes a number of features can greatly increase your overall efficiency:
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. (Models with lots of additional features are great, but the fewer the features, the less that can potentially break!) It's also GREAT for quilting!
The Janome MC-6300P is a great all-in one machine! Buttonholes, zippers, zig zag, free motion quilting; this one does it all.
The 6300P combines speeds up to 1000 stitches per minute with loads of additional features that an 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.
Thread tension guesswork will become a thing of the past with automatic thread tension. The automatic thread cutter saves time and money. This model will not sew when the presser foot is up, reducing mistakes and eliminating a major cause of tangled threads.
One reason we chose to review this particular model is the larger the work space. 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 sewing machine is a great choice.
If you are planning on quilting then you'll want to look for a model with different options than many of those I've included here. Here is another article that specifically talks about the best sewing machines for quilting.
Is it possible to find a decent cheap sewing machine? If your needs are simple and you plan to use the machine for personal, infrequent use, then yes!
The models 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 those just starting, they will work well.
This super lightweight machine is perfect for someone just jumping into sewing! 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.
It has 25 different stitches, which can be accessed via a dial on the front panel. For those who are intimidated by buttons, this machine also offers a 1-step button-holer.
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.
This unit 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 computerized sewing machines!
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.
The simple controls and comprehensive functionality make this one of the best basic sewing machines out there.
This is entry level sewing machine. 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.
The 1304 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 as it eliminates guesswork and the frustration involved with adjusting settings. Twin needle sewing is also possible with this model as it has dual spool pins.
It 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 unit for quilters or aspiring quilters, as the working space is too small to comfortably work on a large, bulky project.
Singer is a trusted manufacturer, with excellent customer service. This unit is great for someone on a tight budget that only needs basic functionality.
There is a newer version of this model 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.
Who Should Use These Machines?
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.
They feature more power and speed than the lower-priced models. They will have larger working areas, and lots of features. These include tension adjustment, thread cutting, and other automated functions. They will often come with a variety of presser feet for all sorts of applications.
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 models listed 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.
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.
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.
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 just starting and are not used to using a foot pedal, your project might “run away” from you if you push the pedal too hard.
Some units have a speed control slide, so that no matter how hard your press the pedal, it will only go as fast as the setting you have chosen.
This applies to sewing machines that will perform more than just a straight stitch. If it offers a 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 and is also referred to as the throat.. The larger the working space, the easier it will be to maneuver your projects. A unit with a larger working space is particularly useful for quilts and bulky clothing items.
This is a luxury feature that experienced seamstresses may find useful. The thread cutter is operated by either a button on the chassis or by the foot pedal, which cuts both the bobbin thread and the top thread, close to the project. This can save a significant amount of time spent cutting tails. It can also save money that would otherwise be spent on wasted thread. This feature is usually found on mid to higher end models.
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 management can be incredibly frustrating for novice 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 unit does the rest.
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.
All models will offer, at minimum, a straight stitch. Most models will offer a zig zag stitch as well, and then you get into stretch stitches, blind hems, etc.
When a unit 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 sewing 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 machine very often this isn't a big deal, but if you need it to be portable keep this in mind.
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.
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.
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.
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. One example of an electric model is the Janome HD1000.
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.
Are you interested in monogramming or embroidery? Check out our Brother SE400 embroidery machine review.
This guide could easily cover a hundred or more wonderful models. The sewing machine market is huge, and as we said above, choosing the model that is right for you can be a difficult task.
The products 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 models because of their quality and reliability, relative to their price points. We will continue to add machine reviews to this article as we see fit.
We hope that this guide has helped you to pick the best sewing machines for your particular skill level and needs. And if not, we hope that it has at least helped you to think about what it is that you will need from whichever model you choose.
We welcome any additional comments, questions, or suggestions that you may have. If you have used one of the above products 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!
Are there additional models you'd like to see us review? Drop the model number in the comments below and we'll take a look.