The best sewing machine: A stitch in time for every skill level

Best sewing machine overall The Janome MC6650 Sewing and Quilting Machine is our pick for best overall. Janome MC6650 Sewing and Quilting Machine

This high-end model with LCD screen is professional-level.

Best beginner sewing machine The Singer Start 1304 6 is the best sewing machine for beginners. SINGER Start 1304 Best Sewing Machine for Beginners

A free-arm machine with 57 stitch applications, it’s mid-priced, mid-weight, and feature-packed without being overwhelming.

Best budget sewing machine The HAITRAL Portable Sewing Machine is our pick for best budget model. HAITRAL Portable Sewing Machine

At just two pounds, this cutie can go wherever you do and has everything you need to execute simple jobs.

By Carla Sosenko

Making your own clothes and quilts is sew cool. Truly, there’s no better feeling than the accomplishment of a DIY garment or throw, especially as gifts for people you love. Plus, having the ability to repair rips and tears yourself instead of schlepping all your stuff to the seamstress or tailor is not only convenient but cost-efficient. Finding the best sewing machine for depends on your level of comfort with sewing: If you’re a beginner and don’t know how to use a sewing machine, it’s crucial to pick a machine specifically made for new needleworkers. If you’re already a pro, you can go for something a bit more high-tech and complex, with fun features to try. If you’re somewhere in the middle, there’s a model for you too!

You can spend as little as 25 bucks on a machine, and it could be the best sewing machine for you. (Maybe you’re a beginner who’s looking for something portable and lightweight.) On the other end of the spectrum, you could easily lay down a few thousand bucks for the machine of your dreams. But an investment like that only makes sense if you’re already something of a pro and want every bell and whistle. Figuring out what you need (and what you don’t) in a sewing machine comes down to your skill level, budget, and how you plan to use it.

Do you want a mechanical sewing machine or something electronic/computerized?

If you’re someone who gets easily intimidated by high-tech gear and likes to stick to the analog basics, consider a manual machine. (To be clear, a mechanical or manual model still runs on electricity; you just won’t be using a foot tread to power the machine-like in the olden days.) With a mechanical device, you make all your adjustments manually, with knobs. A computerized option offers loads more versatility and features (like tension adjustment, bobbin winder, thread cutter, locking straight-stitch function for reinforcing seams, and auto-tying to secure the ends of the seam). That said, it will require you to contend with a computer screen and/or lots of buttons. If you find that overwhelming, consider something mechanical.

Are you partial to a particular brand?

Singer is the name most synonymous with American sewing machines, but others dependable brands to look out for are Brother, Juki, Bernina, and Janome. Some specific popular models include the Singer Heavy Duty 4423, Singer Stylist 7258, Singer 1304, Singer Quantum Stylist 9960, Singer 4411, Brother CS6000i, and the Janome HD1000.

Will you primarily be using your machine for clothing, embroidery, quilting, or something else?

Different tasks require different features (but not necessarily different machines). If you plan to embroider, for example, some features to look for include an automatic threader and a multi-needle option (so you can easily switch colors). Quilting—which is inherently more laborious because of the thickness of the fabric—is made easier with an extended table, high-speed straight-stitch capability, and major power. Loads of machines can pull double- (or triple- or quadruple-) duty on clothing, embroidery, quilts, and more. Just make sure to consider your needs and read the specs of the machine before you buy. (For example, if you plan to use your machine for quilting or repairing jeans, which are made of thick denim, you would not choose the HAITRAL Portable Sewing Machine.)

Related: Discover how to teach a child about electronics through sewing

The best sewing machines:

Best sewing machine overall: Janome MC6650 Sewing and Quilting Machine

For the Serious Sewer

Perfect for projects large and small, this device provides a professional-level experience for advanced practitioners. Janome

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If you’re ready for a fancy machine that pulls out all the stops, look no further. Designed for sewers and quilters, the Janome MC6650 comes with last-stitch recall capability even after you’ve turned it off, an LCD screen, and customizable features such as a Start/Stop button that allows for better fingertip control.

Best beginner sewing machine: SINGER Start 1304

Simple to Use

Fifty-seven applications with preset widths and lengths make this ideal for the sewer who’s just starting out—there’s practically no thinking required! SINGER

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At just 9.8 pounds, this little powerhouse is portable and travel-friendly. The SINGER Start 1304 features an automatic bobbin wind, includes multiple feet (all-purpose zipper, and buttonhole), to keep the fabric in place, a seam ripper, lint brush, and more. At just 13 inches by 7 inches by 11.5 inches, this model won’t take up much room. 

Best manual sewing machine: Janome 2212

Just the Basics

If the idea of a touchscreen makes you cringe, opt instead for a model with an easy-turn dial and 12 built-in stitches. Stitch-width and length adjustment ensure ease of use. Janome

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Features in the mechanical model of the Janome 2212 include a front-loading bobbin and free arm, manual tension control, stitch-length adjustment, and automatic bobbin winding.

Best heavy-duty sewing machine:

  • SINGER | Heavy Duty 4423
  • Major Power

    This one achieves a maximum sewing speed of 1,100 stitches-per-minute with a motor that’s 60 percent stronger than others, to easily pierce thick materials. SINGER

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    A favorite among pros, this SINGER | Heavy Duty 4423 machine gets the job done even on thick fabrics thanks to a heavy-duty metal interior frame, stainless-steel bed frame, extra-high sewing speed, and a powerful motor. The needle position can be changed to accommodate zippers, cording, and topstitching.

    Best budget sewing machine: HAITRAL Portable Sewing Machine

    Tiny but Mighty

    At just 7 inches by 8.5 inches by 3.5 inches and two pounds, this adorable battery-powered mini can go anywhere you do. HAITRAL

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    Just because you can easily take the HAITRAL Portable Sewing Machine with you doesn’t mean it’s lightweight in the features department. This affordable pick features dual speeds, a lit sewing area, and the choice between a foot pedal and a push-button hand switch. Because of some of its limitations—no reverse mode, inability to sew thick fabrics like denim—it’s the perfect starter for a kiddo or newbie. 


    Q: What is the best all-around sewing machine?

    A: According to Amazon reviewers, you can’t go wrong with the Brother CS6000i. The device features 60 unique built-in stitches, seven auto-size buttonholes, three bobbins, an LCD screen, and more. Many users like that it’s not too advanced and not too simple: If you were Goldilocks, this is the machine you would choose. 

    Q: Is Janome better than Singer?

    A: It truly depends on what you’re looking for and the specific models you’re comparing. Singer is the OG of American sewing machines; Janome was founded in Japan in the 1920s. Both are respected sewing machine makers. In the end, you need to figure out what features are important to you—affordability, number of stitches, needle positions, included accessories—and assess from there. Brand to brand, it’s impossible to say which is “better.”

    Q: What is the best Singer sewing machine for home use?

    A: If you’re a heavy-duty sewer with experience, you can’t go wrong with the SINGER | Quantum Stylist 9960. With an average 4.5-star rating on Amazon (with more than 6,800 ratings), users appreciate not the automatic needle threader, high speed (850 stitches per minute), 13 built-in one-step buttonholes, needle-up/down feature for easy pivoting, and loads of different feet. (The foot is the mechanism that holds the fabric in place—including all-purpose, zipper, buttonhole, blind hem, and more.)

    The final word on shopping for the best sewing machine

    Finding the best sewing machine depends completely on your skill level and the specific features you seek. You could plunk down thousands and get a fully loaded Janome with a computerized touch-screen, and that could be perfect if you’re already a skilled seamstress or tailor. But if you’re just starting out and are easily overwhelmed, you can easily find a simple machine that will get you comfortable with your new hobby without the distraction of features you don’t know what to do with. And remember: You can always upgrade! Best to start small, get a handle on sewing, and then move up to a more complex option than invest in a super-complicated device that ends up going unused (except as a footrest).