Sewing Machine Review
Why Buy a Sewing Machine?
The top performers in our review are the Singer 9960, the Gold Award winner; Brother PC420, the Silver Award winner; and Brother CS6000i, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a machine to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 sewing machines.
Whether cosplay is your passion or you just like to make your own curtains, a sewing machine can be a gateway to creativity and self-sufficiency. Making your own clothing or décor can breed a sense of accomplishment that isn't there with a shopping spree. There can be a feeling of finding the almost-right thing in the store. With a sewing machine you can alter clothes to become exactly the right thing, or just make your own. There are bragging rights that come with telling someone you made the throw pillow they admire, or the skirt or bag. Making all of the decisions about fabric and dimensions along the way can lead to a lot of satisfaction once you see the final product. And the entire process is a lot of fun.
There is also the very practical matter of saving money when you can handle sewing on your own rather than paying a professional. Hemming the pants that are just a little too long for your child's first day of school, or sewing their Halloween costume rather than buying, takes more time but can also save a significant amount of money along the way. You can let out the hem as they grow rather than buying a new pair of pants, and make a few of their shirts rather than paying retail. If your kids turn up their noses at homemade clothing, you can make your own and put the savings into their store-bought treasures. It can be lovely to have a dress, cooking apron or bathing suit cover-up that is tailored to fit you specifically.
How to Choose a Sewing Machine
Sewing machines come in a truly wide price range, and many are designed for specific sewing specialties. Quilting and embroidery machines, or sergers, add capabilities but also costs to your sewing machine investment. There is a different class of sewing machine that you will need for most professional level projects, including working with materials like leather or other heavy fabrics for furniture, shoes and handbags. Also, although many in our comparison come with a carry case, there is a whole class of compact sewing machines designed specifically to go anywhere, and some of those are even handheld. For our sewing machine reviews, we focused on affordable and basic units that offer a lot of versatility for everyday sewing. For more information, read our articles about sewing machines.
The units in our lineup are perfect sewing machines for beginner sewers. Advanced sewers will enjoy them too because they are versatile and relatively portable. Many of them have an impressive list of available stitch types and digital displays that make most projects easy and fun.
Sewing Machines: What to Look For
Every sewing machine is different. Whether it is mechanical or computerized, the way it runs and works with fabric is unique to the machine. What sets apart average units from the best home sewing machines are the features. Depending on what you are using your sewing machine for, the features determine how much you can do and how efficiently. The design also plays an important role in the capabilities of your machine. You will find that an adjustable machine allows you to complete more projects. Likewise, the included accessories and support options serve as an important factor in the purchasing process.
A strong set of features significantly impacts the performance and capabilities of your machine. A machine programmed with dozens of stitch patterns will allow for more elaborate and decorative stitching, which will in turn add more individuality to your projects. Likewise, adjustable stitch length and width not only adds style to your projects, but you can adjust them to fit the fabric you are using.
The machine’s stitches per minute (spm) indicates its maximum sewing speed. For larger projects, you will want at least 750 stitches per minute. Some machines feature adjustable speeds, which can be particularly helpful when you are first learning how to sew or if you are teaching your child. The tension control of the machine is equally important. Some machines automatically adjust the tension to fit the project you are working on while still allowing manual control. Other machines have a dial so that you can adjust the tension to fit your project.
If you plan to make garments, the number of buttonhole styles and the way the machine creates them is important. One-step buttonholes require only one operation on the machine and little involvement from you, whereas four-step buttonholes require several different steps and operations on the machine. You will want a variety of buttonhole styles so that you can attach any type of button to the clothing you create. Additionally, you will want a machine with twin needle capabilities so you can make uniform hemlines on your clothes.
Several sewing machines now feature automatic needle threaders, cutters and bobbin winders. These features help you complete projects more efficiently by including all the tools you need right on the machine. If you have trouble seeing, the automatic features help immensely.
While sewing machines come in a wide variety of designs, one of the main categories that separate them is computer capabilities. With mechanical machines, you change stitch selections with a dial, whereas with computerized sewing machines, you select the stitch selection using the LCD display. Sewing machines run by either a foot controller or a start and stop button, and sometimes both.
The dimensions of your machine greatly affect how you can use it. If you plan to transport it, you will want a lighter machine that either comes in a case or has a handle. You also will want a machine with compact dimensions if you have limited space for your sewing supplies. If you are looking to quilt, the throat space of the sewing machine will be particularly important.
The design of a machine can help or hinder your sewing projects. Most machines have adjustable feed dogs that lower so you can sew in any direction without restraint. The best machines have a drop-in bobbin, making it easier to load. Machines that allow free-arm sewing and that allow for extension tables help adapt the machine to fit any type of sewing project. Some sewing machines even feature a knee lifter that lifts the presser foot off your fabric so you don't have to use your hands. Most sewing machines include a light, which can be beneficial to help you perfect the details in your stitching.
Sewing requires several different tools and accessories to complete most projects. You want a machine that offers several accessories to offset the cost. One standard accessory for most sewing machines is presser feet, which help the machine adapt to different projects. With dozens of presser feet for different tasks and fabrics, any presser feet that come with the machine can be helpful. Machines that include needles, spool caps, screwdrivers, a seam ripper and a cleaning brush all help you maintain your machine and assist you with projects. If your machine will be inactive for periods of time, you will want either a case or dust cover to protect it.
With so many different parts, accessories and capabilities, sewing machines can be difficult to run and might require maintenance. Most machines come with a lengthy warranty; however, the electrical parts and accessories usually hold different and much shorter warranties. You will want to find a machine with a solid warranty in case you need to replace your machine or parts.
For the complicated maintenance tasks, you might need additional support. Most machines come with a manual that describes common procedures, and some even offer the manuals online, which makes it easy to search for specific tasks. Likewise, some company websites post how-to videos for specific machines so you can follow along, as well as community forums so you can help one another.
The sewing machine company websites also list information for technical support. You can contact most teams by phone or email. Most sewing machine sites also list FAQs for both their company and specific machines.
Sewing Machine: How We Evaluated, What We Found
As we settled on our list of easy-to-use sewing machines, we looked for the best combination of sewing capabilities, design and accessories. We also looked for products from companies with excellent customer support for any help you might need. We interviewed experts and poured over user reviews to narrow down the huge selection of machines on the market to the top 10 best. We found reliable sewing machines that offer a variety of stitches and allow you to have control over every aspect of your sewing – stitch size, buttonhole styles, tension control and speed control. They also have the combination of features that will make each project easier, including automatic threaders, drop-in bobbins and automatic bobbin winders.
Sewing Machine: Our Verdict and Recommendations
The Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist stands out for versatility and has an incredible selection of 600 built-in stitches. It also sews impressively fast at up to 850 stitches per minute so it will make bigger projects fly by. Lots of the things that used to be hard about sewing machines are easy on this one – there is automatic needle-threading, thread-cutting and bobbin-winding. The vast feature set is easily accessible on the digital display.
We also recommend the Brother PC420PRW, which cuts longer projects down to size with its capacity to sew 850 stitches per minute. This unit has hundreds of different stiches built in and automates most of the tasks that were stressful in the past, with the exception of adjusting thread tension, which you will need to adjust with a dial on this unit.
The Brother CS6000i is a great option for a computerized sewing machine in a very reasonable price range. It is portable and easy to use while having a lot of the sophisticated features of pricier units, including one-step buttonhole creation and the capacity to sew 850 stiches per minute.
Finding the perfect sewing machine can be a daunting task. With so many different types of sewing machines and each one offering different features, it is hard to know which machine will suit your needs. However, by focusing on specific features, design and accessories you know you want, the task becomes much more manageable.