Best Sewing Machines of 2018

The newest sewing machines can do it all—quilting, button holes, decorative stitches and much more. Use our shopping guide to find out what sewing machine is right for you!

Best Sewing Machines for Beginners and Quilters

Sewing machines were invented more than a century ago, but today's machines don't resemble the early designs. And that's a good thing, as modern units have plenty of innovative features that make sewing fun and satisfying.

Figuring out which machine to spend your money on is the tricky part. Fortunately, we at BestReviews are well-versed in this area. We pride ourselves on the detailed research we perform in each product category, and that includes sewing machines. We spent dozens of hours researching the market in order to identify the top five sewing machines available. To avoid any potential bias, we decline all "free" samples from manufacturers. Please see the product matrix above for a descriptive list of our favorite five sewing machines.

Beyond the product matrix, we've also compiled the following shopping guide for your information. Whether you're just starting out or an experienced quilter, you're sure to find a sewing machine that works best for you. So sit back, relax, and prepare to learn everything you need to know about buying your next great sewing machine.

The first sewing machines appeared in the 1790s.

Types of Sewing Machines

As with many household appliances, sewing machines have undergone significant upgrades in the past few decades. But even though computer chips have found their way into sewing machines, you can still buy simple mechanical models, too.

Here's a look at the different types of sewing machines you can buy.

Mechanical Sewing Machines

With a mechanical sewing machine, you perform all sewing tasks by turning knobs and dials. As such, it may take a bit longer to complete a job than it would with an electric machine. However, you don't have to worry about mechanical units breaking down as often as other machine types.

Mechanical sewing machines weigh less than electrical machines and require less maintenance, too.

Electric Sewing Machines

Nearly all sewing machines sold today plug into a standard electrical outlet. The machine drives the sewing needle and accommodates many different fabrics.

Electric sewing machines without some sort of computerized function are a rarity these days. However, if you need only basic sewing features, an electric model is a good option, as it will cost less than a computerized version.

Computerized Sewing Machines

As mentioned above, many of today's electric sewing machines contain microchips that lend themselves to computerized functions. For example, a computerized sewing machine might include automatic programming for certain stitch types. Often, you can make selections for the computerized machine by touching buttons on a screen.

Although computerized machines are fairly easy to use, consumers who don't like tech devices may grow a bit frustrated from time to time. Basic knowledge of how a sewing machine works is required to make the most of a computerized model.

If you plan on working at your machine for hours at a time, a quieter sewing machine is a good idea.

Key Sewing Machine Features

Depending on the type of work you plan to do, there may be a few must-have features you want in your sewing machine. We advise you to look closely at the specs for any sewing machine you're considering to ensure it has the key features you need.

Buttonholer

An automatic buttonholer is a handy feature for people who sew clothing. It automates the process of adding a buttonhole, ensuring exact placement. Some machines will even sew a buttonhole to match the size of the button that you attach to a piece of clothing.

Free Arm

Machines with a free arm can move the part of the machine containing the bobbin and feed dog outward, making it easier for you to sew oddly shaped pieces of fabric. Without a free arm, you may not be able to sew some items, like sleeves.

Needle Positioning

With this automated feature, the sewing machine helps you successfully complete what would otherwise be a tough sewing process. For example, you can use the needle positioning feature to turn a corner with your stitching.

Needle Threader

If you've ever struggled to run thread through the eye of a needle, you understand the importance of a needle threader. This feature automatically pulls the thread through the eye of the needle attached to your machine.

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Needle Sharpness

Check the sharpness of your sewing machine's needle regularly. A dull needle will cause problems with your projects.

Additional Sewing Machine Features

Presser Foot

Sewing machines include a presser foot that's detachable, allowing you to easily swap it out for a different foot (and different features). The various presser foot options enable a variety of functions, including adding zippers and buttonholes. You can also use the presser foot to create different stitches of different widths.

Many machines ship with at least a few different presser feet. You should also be able to purchase additional presser feet separately. Just make sure any presser foot you buy is compatible with your machine model.

Thread Cutter

The thread cutter is a simple device on the sewing machine that automatically cuts the thread for you.

Top-Loading Bobbin

Unlike older sewing machines, newer machines often offer a top-loading bobbin. This greatly simplifies the process of loading the bobbin into the machine. Older machines require you to load the bobbin into a recessed compartment, which can be tricky.

Types of Stitches

Some machines offer only a few basic stitches; these are typically the cheapest sewing machines on the market. Others, especially computerized sewing machines, can create hundreds of different stitch types. These include straight, zigzag, and decorative stitches.

Sewing Terms to Know

When shopping for a sewing machine, you may encounter some manufacturer jargon. It helps to understand these terms, as that knowledge gives you the best chance of finding the right machine for your needs.

  • Bobbin: Made of plastic or metal, a bobbin is a spindle that holds thread. This thread intertwines with the thread from the machine's needle. Together, the bobbin and needle work to create a bottom and top stitch. (The bobbin's thread creates the bottom stitch.)
If your sewing machine ships with plastic bobbins, do not assume you can use metal bobbins with it. Some machines can only accept certain bobbins.

More Sewing Terms to Know

  • Feed Dog: The feed dog is a piece of metal that pushes the fabric along, allowing the unit to work at a continuous speed.Foot Pedal: This is a pedal that sits on the floor beneath the sewing machine. You can use it to start and stop the machine.
  • Hand Wheel: The hand wheel on the side of the sewing machine allows you to adjust the height of the machine's needle.
  • Presser Foot: The presser foot sits atop the fabric, holding it in place as you work. Most machines allow you to swap out one presser foot for another; different designs give your machine different features.
  • Spool Pin: The spool pin sits atop the sewing machine and holds a spool of thread for the needle. The thread is fed through the sewing machine to the needle to create the top stitch. (Some machines have a horizontal spool holder rather than a vertical spool pin.)

Computerized sewing machines can pose a bit of a learning curve for people with limited computer experience.

Sewing Machine Prices

Sewing machine prices run the gamut from less than $100 to several thousand dollars.

Less than $100

The cheapest sewing machines cost less than $100. These units are aimed squarely at beginners. Most are electric machines without computerized capabilities. You're unlikely to find more than a few different stitch types or other advanced features on a low-priced sewing machine. But if you're someone who rarely sews, a machine in this ballpark might work for you.

$100 to $400

Most mainstream sewing machines cost between $100 and $400. These machines can handle common sewing jobs and would satisfy most hobbyists. You'll even find some computerized units in this price range.

$400+

You could spend $400 or more on a sewing machine. These pricier units are often designed for specialty sewing jobs and/or heavy-duty usage. Nearly all sewing machines in this price range have computerized features.

If you need to perform specialized sewing jobs such as quilting or working on denim, you may find more success in this price range.

Best Sewing Machine Brands

Sewing machines require repairs from time to time, and it's easiest to find support—as well as software updates—for the top brands.

These are the best on the market:

  • Brother
  • Easy Stitcher
  • Husqvarna
  • Viking
  • Janome
  • Kenmore
  • Michley
  • Singer

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Repair

When seeking a local repair shop, make sure the business you select is authorized to handle your brand and model of machine.

Sewing Machine FAQ

Q. What size sewing machine is best for me?

A. Smaller sewing machines are somewhat limited in the types of fabrics they can accommodate. Larger machines tend to have more power and can work on thicker fabrics. However, you should also consider the amount of space you have available for a sewing machine. If you'll be sewing in a cramped room with limited workspace, a smaller machine might work better for you.

  • Larger machines for at-home use tend to measure roughly 18x14x10 inches.
  • Smaller machines could measure as little as 10x10x5 inches.

If you plan to transport your sewing machine to different locations, weight is another key consideration. The lightest machines weigh five pounds or less. Larger machines weigh 10 to 15 pounds on average.

Q. How do I know when my sewing machine needs a tune-up?

A. Beyond oiling and cleaning lint, which you can do yourself, it's a good idea to have your sewing machine tuned up every two to three years. Those who sew for several hours per week will want tune-ups more often. Check the user manual for recommendations on tune-ups for your machine.

Sewing machine tune-ups cost anywhere from $40 to $100, depending on the model you're using. Local repair shops can do the tune-ups for you. Ask for a tune-up price estimate upfront so there are no surprises.

With some computerized sewing machines, you may receive a message on the display screen when the unit needs work. For example, if you must oil the machine every 250,000 stitches, the computerized model will track the stitches for you and alert you when it's time to oil the machine.

Q. With a computerized sewing machine, do I have to go to a repair shop for software updates?

A. You can perform some software and firmware upgrades at home, but it certainly helps if you're comfortable working with computers, as it can be tricky to do this work.

Each sewing machine brand and model is a little different in terms of installing upgrades. Check with your brand's website and user guide to see what steps are involved in performing an upgrade. And if you don't want to do this work yourself, any sewing machine repair center could handle it for you.

Q. I'm ready to buy a sewing machine, but how do I get started when it arrives?

A. The sewing machine that you buy should have quite a few automatic features built into it. You'll probably get the hang of those features rather quickly, but as you move forward, consider taking a class; many sewing machine repair shops offer classes for a small fee. Instructional online videos can help you learn some new techniques, too.

Q. What do I need to know about sewing machine motors?A. Unfortunately, residential sewing machine makers don't tend to list the size of their motors in the specifications. Larger, heavier at-home machines tend to have larger motors and, therefore, more power. And a larger motor is important if you plan to sew thicker, tougher fabrics like denim.

A. machine with a lightweight motor will have quite a few plastic parts in the frame, whereas a machine with a larger motor will have more metal in the frame to support the heavier workload.

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