A sewing machine lets your creativity and craft pursuits flourish. That’s why we went through 9 yards of fabric and ten spools of thread to test some of the top computerized and mechanical sewing machines. Whatever you want to use it for, whether it’s embroidery or quilting, your sewing machine should be able to glide with ease. This guide includes sewing machines that have a range of stitches so you can find one that is best suited to your projects.
A smart stitching machine
The Singer Stylist 7258 is the best sewing machine for most people. It comes programmed with 100 different stitch patterns, including six different buttonhole styles. All the stitches are pre-set in the machine, but you can also alter the width and length manually on the LCD screen. This computerized model has integrated speed control along with a stop/start button, so you don’t have to use the pedal at all if you don’t want to. It can reach a maximum of 750 stitches per minute. This machine has a sewing light, thread cutter, instructional DVD, soft storage case, automatic needle threader, and a whopping nine extra sewing feet. Other sewing accessories, like a seam ripper and extra bobbins, are also included.
Powerful, fast, and affordable
The Singer 4423 has an incredible 1,100 stitches per minute speed, so it offers some serious muscle. During our tests, we tried sewing through four layers of denim on this machine, and it worked just as well as on two layers of cotton. It is ideal for your heavy-duty sewing projects. This sewing machine only has 23 stitch patterns, but if power is your priority, then you don’t need hundreds of frilly stitches.
Simple and easy display
The Brother ST150HDH is a computerized machine, and it has a great backlit LCD that will allow you to customize and control your stitch size and dimensions. The stitch key is hidden away at the top of the machine, which means the appearance of the Brother ST150HDH is uncluttered, but you may find it tricky to switch stitches in a hurry. The smooth dial has 50 stitch options. This sewing machine has a free arm, so you can use it to sew cuffs and collars easily and evenly. It also has five button options and a generous seven-point feed dogs display that will pull the fabric through the machine with minimal guidance.
Basic and easy-to-use
The Juki HZL-355ZW-A is an easy-to-use sewing machine with a simple design. It’s not computerized, but for those seeking a traditional mechanical model, it’s a good option. With a carrying case and a compact design, it is a great starter machine for teens and new sewers. The Juki HZL-355ZW-A has 26 stitch patterns and everything you need for most projects, including a buttonhole option and stitches for blind seams. If you work on garments, you’ll make good use of the free arm design, but it doesn’t have an extension table for large projects. The Juki HZL-355ZW-A goes up to 750 stitches per minute.
Stitches for days
The Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 has unbeatable 600 pre-set stitch patterns and includes decorative stitches that show on its clear LCD. It does have an attachable extension table to give a clearer view while working on large projects, plus an 850 stitch-per-minute capability. This model has a huge range of presser feet attachments with an all-purpose zipper, buttonhole, button sewing, blind hem, satin stitch, open toe, overcasting, darning and embroidery, and rolled hem.
Choosing a sewing machine
Computerized vs. Mechanical
Modern computerized sewing machines have a lot of perks, especially if you’re a newbie. Stitch settings change automatically rather than having to do so manually, as you would with most mechanical machines. On the other hand, mechanical sewing machines tend to feel sturdier and cost less, making them ideal if you deal with high-volume sewing on tough, thick fabrics. In general, you should always try to test a sewing machine before you buy it and ultimately purchase one that feels good to you.
Most modern computerized sewing machines with a moderate price tag come standard with a few features: a sewing light, automatic needle threader, thread cutter, a free arm for sewing around the cuffs of sleeves or pant legs, and a drop-in bobbin.
You’ll need to decide how you’ll use the sewing machine to prioritize what other features you want. If you’re going to quilt you’ll want an extension table but if you’re just going to be doing basic garment repair you could forgo most of the frills and get a less expensive mechanical machine. Read the packaging closely as well to see how many sewing feet come with the sewing machine because it will save you money.
How we tested sewing machines
We have been reviewing sewing machines since 2013, so we know our way around a bobbin. For our most recent tests, we bought 3 yards of white cotton, 3 yards of white denim, and 3 yards of white satin. Then we cut the fabrics into smaller pieces, some of which had curved edges, and divided them among four testers. Each tester used all 10 machines to sew at least one line of straight stitch and one line of decorative stitch along each type of fabric. Most testers did more than that though, with a couple even making buttonholes. All the testers had access to each machine’s instruction manual.
When sewing on denim, we switched the needle the machine came with for a heavy-duty one purchased at a fabric store. One thing we noticed in switching out needles repeatedly is a slick layer of clear oil. While it didn’t discolor any of our white fabric, it did leave our fingers quite slippery, so you’ll want to wipe your hands off before handling any delicate fabric just in case. We also sewed a straight stitch around the curved edge of a piece of fabric to see how easy it was to maneuver. In doing this, we tested each machine’s settings to see how intuitive the machine was and whether it struggled with any particular kind of stitch.
Noise comes from machine motor and needle mechanism going up and down, so we used a sound pressure level (decibel) meter to record how loud the machines are when going at full speed – the loudest operation. We were careful to hold the decibel meter in the same place for each sound reading.
What we learned during testing
We have been reviewing sewing machines since 2013, so we know our way around a bobbin. During testing and research, we evaluated machines that would work well for someone fairly new to the hobby or even someone who has been doing it for a while but is looking to upgrade their current model.
Brooke Johnsen lives in Utah and sews almost every day. She said it’s important to get a machine to meet your own needs whether it’s quilting, embroidery, or just repairing the occasional pair of pants.
“I would say less is more, to be honest,” she said. “The very first machine I had, had 150 decorative stitches. Some had good uses but most were just decorative. Like if I were to use that design across my whole quilt, it would take so long."
According to a representative for JOANN Fabric & Craft Stores, you should test drive any sewing machine before you buy it.
“The sewing machine needs to work for what the customer wants to do, and be easy for them to understand,” they said. “Metal inner parts are best as the machine is less likely to break and will run more smoothly. However, other factors should be based on personal preference.”
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