The 9 Best Sewing Machines of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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For everyday sewing, quilting, embroidery, and more.

<p>Real Simple / Henry Wortock</p>

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

Are you an aspiring fashion designer? Creator of colorful quilts? Even if you simply wish to expand your tailoring skills past basic needle and thread, the right sewing machine will enhance your craft. But with so many models available on the market, how do you choose what’s right for your at-home sewing needs?

Good mechanics are everything when purchasing a sewing machine, says Shae Haning, owner of the Oklahoma-based Tallgrass Tailor and the host of the “Sew Show with Shae” on YouTube. “I'm looking for a machine that feeds well, sews well, and has a couple of main primary functions,” she explains. “All of that extra quilting and embroidery and 50 different stitches on the inside lid of the machine—that's all great, but it's not very important. It's important to have a good machine.”

To select the best sewing machines, we tested 24 models of sewing machines and sergers, evaluating each on their ease of setup, performance, design and features, and overall value. Using cotton and denim, we observed how well they could execute basic stitches like straight and zigzag, and we explored special features like buttonholes and decorative and embroidery stitches. For expert insight on what to look for when purchasing a sewing machine, we consulted with Haning and Elise Chase-Sinclair, costumer and sewing blogger.

Best Overall Sewing Machine: Brother XR9550 Sewing and Quilting Machine

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What Stands Out

  • It creates clean, straight stitches with ease, and is great for beginners.

What Could Be Improved

  • Advanced users may find it too basic.

The Brother XR9550 is very easy to set up, even compared to another Brother model we had tried. There's a quick guide to help you set it up, and we liked having the paper manual to take down notes and keep track of key settings for later sewing sessions.

This Brother model has features that include a light, buttonhole capability (which was quite effective), a needle threader, and a twin needle feature. We also liked how easy it was to thread the bobbin. The machine comes with several different feet suitable for both quilting and decorative sewing needs, as well as accessories like a seam ripper and extra needles.

The stitching was straight, clean, and easy. Though the tension needs to be tweaked a bit for some of the features, for basic sewing, it's a breeze to use straight out of the box. We tried two different sewing designs and found them to be both sleek and simple. The stitching was also very even, demonstrated through the five decorative designs we tested on this machine. We found this Brother to be one of the easiest to sew on out of the other machines.

For straight, simple sewing, the Brother XR9550 is perfect; you’ll also have enough options to take your sewing to the next level—a good option for both novice and intermediate sewers. All told, this machine performed better than equivalent models from other brands, and stands out even more for being an absolute steal.

Price at time of publish: $230

Type: Computerized | Dimensions: 16.26 x 7.01 x 12.48 inches | Weight: 10.14 pounds | Number of Built-In Stitches: 110 built-in utility, 55 alphanumeric stitches, and 8 buttonholes | Speed: Not listed

Best Budget Sewing Machine: Baby Lock Zest Sewing Machine

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What Stands Out

  • Sewing novices won’t have to break the bank for a good machine.

What Could Be Improved

  • It doesn’t have an auto threader.

Is it possible to get a great sewing machine on a budget? It is with the Baby Lock Zest. It took about two minutes to get it out of the box and ready to load the bobbin. The instructions were easy to understand and the illustrations are quite helpful, especially when transitioning between stitches and making other adjustments to tension and thread length.

At first, this machine looked a little too basic, but we quickly realized it had all the features we could possibly need for at-home sewing. Special features include buttonhole capability, a light, multiple speeds controlled by the foot pedal, a free arm, and a removable extension table. It even has accessory storage for three clear plastic bobbins, a seam ripper, a needle set, a sliding buttonhole foot, various feet, and a darning plate. Even though the seam ripper was a bit small, it’s definitely not a deal breaker.

The zigzag stitches came out nicely, but the straight stitches were exceptional—particularly on cotton. It also has four decorative stitches. We found everything very easy to maneuver. In fact, by the time we were done with testing this machine, we felt more confident in our sewing skills. Overall, this machine is simple and intuitive to use. It’s a great choice for novices who don’t want to break the bank or more advanced sewers who might want something to complement a serger or other more heavy-duty machines.

Price at time of publish: $179 

Type: Portable mechanical | Dimensions: 15.5 x 5.75 x 12.5 inches | Weight: 13 pounds | Number of Built-In Stitches: 15 built-in stitches, one buttonhole | Speed: Not listed

Best Splurge Sewing Machine: Baby Lock Jazz II Sewing and Quilting Machine

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What Stands Out

  • It’s got plenty of room to work with more voluminous fabric.

What Could Be Improved

  • The dials can be cumbersome when switching between stitches.

Are you an intermediate or advanced sewer looking to treat yourself to a new machine? We think the Baby Lock Jazz II is totally worth the price tag. If you’re coming from a more basic machine, give yourself some time to get used to some of the more automatic features like the one-step buttonhole. The lengthy instruction booklet also makes it easy to understand how to do everything.

If you're not used to an automatic threader, be prepared to be amazed by the one on this machine. The arm room is also expansive; we felt that we could have worked on a full-length taffeta dress with tulle and would have had no problem pushing all that fabric through. It’s worth noting that switching between stitches requires you to manually turn a dial, which made it slightly cumbersome to go through all 27 stitches to get the one we wanted.

We were impressed with the quiet performance of the machine, as well as the number of feet and accessories. Surprisingly though, some basic ones like scissors, nippers, or a walking foot were not included. While it took us a moment to get used to the movement of the feed dogs, it was only a small learning curve. In general, we felt that all of the skills we had learned in sewing over the years came to fruition with this machine. So if you're thinking it's time to upgrade your machine, you'll be pleasantly surprised with this one.

Price at time of publish: $799 

Type: Mechanical | Dimensions: 25.2 x 9.45 x 12.2 inches | Weight: 27.5 pounds | Number of Built-In Stitches: 28 built-in stitches including a one-step buttonhole | Speed: 1,000 stitches per minute

Best Serger Machine: Brother Serger 1034D Heavy-Duty Metal Frame Overlock Machine

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What Stands Out

  • Stitches are neat and thread tension is consistent.

What Could Be Improved

  • Threading it requires a bit of patience.

This Brother serger comes preassembled and threaded and goes straight to creating neat overlock stitches. Manually rethreading the machine to switch stitches is a bit intricate, especially if you’re used to a bobbin on a sewing machine, but the diagrams and the owner's manual walked us through the process.

A serger differs from a sewing machine in that it is mostly used to edge finished fabric to prevent fraying. If you want your machine to have other stitching capabilities, this particular model wouldn’t be well-suited for your needs. Still, we were impressed by how responsive the machine was when adjusting thread tension, stitch length, and width. We thought the size of the machine was perfect—it can easily fit into just about any sewing space. There is also plenty of arm room to feed fabric.

Overall, this serger is an excellent value at under $300. The tension is consistent and stitches come out evenly spaced. While this machine can’t do everything a sewing machine does, it is very effective at what it is built to do.

Price at time of publish: $280 

Type: Mechanical | Dimensions: 11.73 x 10.98 x 13.19 inches | Weight: 13.45 pounds | Number of Built-In Stitches: 3/4 thread functions | Speed: 1,300 stitches per minute

Best Sewing Machine for Beginners: Brother CS7000X Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine

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What Stands Out

  • The features are clear and easy to use.

What Could Be Improved

  • The light isn’t very bright.

If you're a sewing newbie in the market for your first machine, the Brother CS7000X is an excellent choice that requires very little assembly. All we had to do was plug in the presser foot, and the illustrated guide walked us through threading the machine. We liked that there was a sticker on the machine indicating the dos and don'ts for installing the bobbin, which was quite easy to do anyway.

Despite this machine being appropriate for beginners, it does have advanced features like the built-in thread cutter, automatic needle threader, buttonhole function, and decorative stitches. We loved the buttonhole feature; if you are not used to this get ready to transform your sewing. The quality of straight stitching was also excellent—we even tried it out on chiffon! Quilters might prefer the machine to be a bit wider, but overall we found the machine to be quite comfortable to use. The machine also comes with a light, but we still needed additional light for better illumination.

If you're really new to sewing, this is certainly an upgrade from hand sewing, but it is still very easy to get accustomed to. We think this machine is an excellent value for a beginner’s machine, but there’s still enough for even intermediate sewers to appreciate without the expense of overwhelming novice sewers.

Price at time of publish: $220 

Type: Computerized | Dimensions: 12.2 x 6.65 x 16.26 inches | Weight: 10.5 pounds | Number of Built-In Stitches: 70 built-in stitches and 7 one-step buttonholes | Speed: 750 stitches per minute

Best Sewing Machine for Embroidery: Brother SE600 Sewing and Embroidery Machine

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What Stands Out

  • Decorative stitching is a dream on this machine.

What Could Be Improved

  • It can be difficult to clean some of the parts.

If you're used to mechanical machines, the Brother SE600 might take a bit of getting used to because it has a digital touch screen. But the machine has a quick reference guide and an illustrated reference guide that are quite helpful in walking users through features. Among our favorites are the automated threader, automatic thread cutter, and top-loading bobbin, which we loved using after being so accustomed to bottom-loading bobbins. The one-step buttonhole feature is quite amazing—just press a button, and the work is done.

This machine is comfortable to operate. Though it’s not very compact, we appreciated having the larger workspace. It performed exceptionally well on decorative stitches, and we especially liked the decorative chain stitch and the adorable alligator cartoon stitch. During testing, we did get jammed up at one point and discovered that the top stainless steel plate wasn't the easiest to take off and clean. The feed dog that guided the fabric straight was impressive, but straight stitching required a little bit of adjusting. When we switched to zigzag, though, the machine performed very well, even on denim fabric. If you prefer more traditional accessories, it does come with accessories like a pair of scissors and a seam ripper.

Price at time of publish: $499 

Type: Computerized | Dimensions: 15.51 x 21.18 x 16.54 inches | Weight: 26.24 pounds | Number of Built-In Stitches: 103 built-in stitches, 10 buttonholes | Speed: 710 stitches per minute

Best Sewing Machine for Quilting: Juki TL-2000Qi Sewing and Quilting Machine

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What Stands Out

  • It’s a high-quality industrial machine that's built for quilting.

What Could Be Improved

  • It can’t do much more than straight stitching, but it’s exceptional at what it does.

Quilters need a heavier-duty machine to handle large pieces of fabric. This model from Juki, an industrial brand, fits the bill beautifully. We felt comfortable operating the machine and found there's plenty of space for fabric that you'll need while quilting. The illustrated instruction manual was helpful as a guide, though the overall setup was simple and only required us to attach the foot pedal and plug in the power cord. Installing the bobbin was also quite easy.

The machine can reach impressive speeds, but we were even more impressed when the walking foot slowed it down to a near-perfect speed. The tension seemed on point right out of the box. In fact, there was nothing difficult about using this machine at all. Straight stitches are superb with this machine, though it can’t do zigzag stitches. Again, this machine is made for quilters, so if you fit that category, you’ll only want it for straight stitches.

Features include an automatic thread cutter—which we loved—and a reverse press-down lever. There’s also an automatic threader, but experienced sewers might find it easier to skip this feature. The Juki is one of the pricier products on our list, but for the quality of craftsmanship and performance, we expected it to be even more. It’s also one of the heavier models on our list, but it is indeed primed for heavier, more industrial sewing.

Price at time of publish: $675 

Type: Mechanical | Dimensions: 17.8 x 8.6 x 13.8 inches | Weight: 25.4 pounds | Number of Built-In Stitches: 1 | Speed: 1500 stitches per minute

Best Portable Sewing Machine: Brother HC1850 Sewing and Quilting Machine

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What Stands Out

  • It might be light, but it’s heavy on useful features.

What Could Be Improved

  • It can be difficult to thread from a seated position.

If you’re more of an occasional sewer, you might not want a dedicated spot in your space for a hefty sewing machine. A lightweight machine like the Brother HC1850 provides the quality sewing experience you want with the portability you need. At just a little over 10 pounds, you can store this in a closet or on a shelf without too much of an arm workout.

This machine is fairly simple to set up, thanks to clear diagrams that show how to insert and thread the bobbin and needle. The machine has an accessory tray that raises the machine to a suitable height to work at while sitting down, but we found it was easier to thread it from a standing position. Even with its smaller size, there was sufficient room to sew—though we were working on small sample fabrics.

For such a small machine, we were impressed with the included features: buttonhole capabilities, multiple speeds, thread cutters, and free arm. The buttonhole function is ultimately easy to use despite the instructions not being very clear. If you’re not used to having a wide selection of stitches, you might be overwhelmed with the offerings on this machine. However, for basic basting and zigzag stitching, the machine performed well.

Price at time of publish: $260 

Type: Computerized | Dimensions: 19.25 x 12.5 x 15.25 inches | Weight: 13.2 pounds | Number of Built-In Stitches: 185 built-in stitches, including 55 alphanumeric monograms, and 8 one-step buttonholes | Speed: 850 stitches per minute

Best Colorful Sewing Machine: Janome Easy-to-Use Sewing Machine

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What Stands Out

  • It’s as effective as it is aesthetically pleasing.

What Could Be Improved

  • The light only illuminates when the machine is on.

Sewing machines are known for creating beautiful things, but they’re not exactly touted for their own design aesthetic. They’re usually plain white and better off stored in a sewing room or corner or maybe even a closet—that is, if they’re even portable. But this cute blue machine from Janome might encourage you to put your sewing on full display in your home.

This Janome is pretty much ready to go right out of the box, but we appreciated having the illustrated instructions to guide us through the dials and functions. Threading the machine was simple, but we found the front-loading bobbin to be challenging at first. Advanced sewers should have no problem, but novices will want to follow the instructions carefully. This machine has 15 stitch options, offering a good variety without being overwhelming.

We were impressed by the quality of the stitching, especially when we tried out a more decorative zigzag stitch on both cotton and denim. We liked that it had buttonhole capability, blind stitching, a free arm, and a multi-speed foot pedal. There’s also a light, but it only turns on when the machine is on; you’ll need another light when threading the machine, which should safely be done when the machine is off.

The machine is compact, so you’ll have plenty of table space to work with your fabric. The arm room was also ample enough to feed the fabric and make any necessary adjustments. We found most adjustments easy to make, except for the shuttle race unit assembly that proved to be a challenge.

To be clear, the color of the Janome will not improve your sewing skills. But if you’ve been putting off fixing the hem on a pair of pants, this vibrant blue machine will demand your attention. And if you don't love blue, it's also available in four other colors: Arctic Crystal (a sea foam green), Pink Sorbet, Purple Majesty, and Lovely Lilac.

Price at time of publish: $189 

Type: Mechanical | Dimensions: 7 inches x 16 inches x 12 inches | Weight: 12 pounds | Number of Built-In Stitches: 15 built-in stitches and 1 four-step buttonhole | Speed: 800 stitches per minute

Final Verdict

The Brother XR9550 Computerized Sewing & Quilting Machine is simple to use right out of the box. It’s a great model for beginners, but more advanced sewers will appreciate the even stitching and easy-to-use buttonhole function. Plus, it’s a great value at just $230.

Our Testing Process

We tested 24 sewing machines, evaluating them on setup, features, design, effectiveness, and overall value. First, we unpacked each sewing machine, noting how long it took from unboxing to threading the machine. Each machine’s capabilities and special features, such as buttonholes, walking feet, and programmable backstitching, were thoroughly tested and looked at. We also timed how long it took to thread the machine, then got to work.

Each machine’s performance was evaluated with straight and zigzag stitches (tension 4) on denim and woven cotton, adjusting tension and patterns as needed to create a hem on the fabric. Where applicable, we also tested the buttonhole feature and selected decorative stitch options. Our final selections for our best sewing machines were made based on ease of setup, performance, design and features, and overall value.

<p>Real Simple / Henry Wortock</p>

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

How to Shop for Sewing Machines Like a Pro

Computerized vs. Mechanical

“If you are looking for machines to do more decorative work, such as machine embroidery or monogramming, then look for a computerized machine with these options,” suggests Elise Chase-Sinclair, costumer and sewing blogger. “If you are just learning or only sewing basic items, a mechanical machine might be best for you.”

The type of machine you choose ultimately is a matter of personal preference, though Chase-Sinclair says “an absolute beginner might be overwhelmed by too many options in a computerized sewing machine.”

Chase-Sinclair notes that there are very good machines in both the computerized and mechanical categories, so if you’re an intermediate or advanced sewer, it’s fine to stick with the type of machine you know best.

Size and Weight

“Always keep your intended use in mind when you are buying a sewing machine,” says Chase-Sinclair. As a costumer, her machine of choice is a heavier mechanical machine whose original owner was a quilter, so she knows her machine is up to taking on heftier fabrics. A lightweight machine simply wouldn’t do as well for her needs.

“Lightweight machines don't do as well with heavy fabrics, but are okay for light use, such as mending clothes or making crafts,” Chase-Sinclair explains. “If you want to sew handbags, quilts, canvas, denim, sails, or tarps, you'll want a heavy-duty machine.”

In short, heavier machines are meant to handle heavier fabrics, so choose accordingly if that’s what you’ll be working with. “Lightweight beginner machines often struggle with heavier fabrics,” says Chase-Sinclair.

<p>Real Simple / Henry Wortock</p>

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

Number and Types of Stitches

"It's easy to assume that the more stitches a machine has, the better,” says Chase-Sinclair. “However, this is not true.” Again, she encourages at-home sewers to think about what they’ll be working on. “Most of those extra stitches are decorative stitches and aren't used for actually assembling a sewing project,” she explains.

If you like to quilt or do more “crafty sewing,” by all means get a machine that does a lot of decorative stitches, says Chase-Sinclair. But for someone who sews clothes like her, she pays more attention to stretch stitch options.

“Look at what those stitches are and if you think you will actually use them,” Chase-Sinclair advises, noting that a machine with many stitches will overwhelm beginning sewers. “Start with a more basic machine and then upgrade if you need to and once you have a better idea of what features you will use,” she says.

Accessories and Features

Generally, beginners will only require a machine that offers straight stitch, zig-zag, and button hole stitch for home sewing. If you like the idea of a needle threader, go for it, but even that “isn’t strictly necessary,” Chase-Sinclair explains.

More Sewing Machines to Consider

Juki MO-654DE Serger: We were very impressed with how beautifully the Juki created a rolled hem, even on delicate chiffon. Overall, we found this serger very easy to use and adjust. However, if you plan to use your sewing machine to quilt or do other types of sewing, you’ll likely want a sewing machine instead of a serger.

Janome HD-1000 Black Edition Sewing Machine: We liked the excellent quality of stitching and the buttonholes on this Janome model. However, we found it performed better on heftier fabrics like denim, while it puckered lightweight fabrics like cotton. The machine worked very well overall, though it would have been nice to have multiple-speed control as a feature.

Questions You Might Ask

What are the best sewing machine brands?

As you might have noticed, we are big fans of Brother sewing machines, and so is Shae Haning, owner of the Oklahoma-based Tallgrass Tailor and the host of the “Sew Show with Shae” on YouTube. “Brother is a company that makes machinery for a living, and it shows,” she says. “They have the best mechanics, the best feed, and they give you the option to be able to adjust things that actually matter for functional sewing, as opposed to 50 different embroidery stitches.”

We tested nine different brands, and Brother machines consistently performed the best. Two Baby Lock machines also snagged spots on our best sewing machines list. One is a splurge-worthy option and one is more budget-friendly, and we found both to work exceptionally well.

How long can I expect a sewing machine to last?

Haning says that the heavier machines that are made from mostly metal parts tend to hold up better than their lighter plastic counterparts. Regardless of what materials your machine is made of, frequent cleaning is important to keep it stitching for years to come.

“You think that the machine is dying, but it's just tiny, microscopic pieces of everything that you've been sewing that’s just getting flushed down into the machine,” she says. “So if you clean that machine, you could absolutely keep it for many, many years.”

Do I need to spend a lot of money on a sewing machine?

In short, no. Once again, it depends on what type of sewing you’ll be doing on it. If you’re simply trying to upgrade from the needle and thread you only use for occasional mending, then you’ll be fine with one of the lightweight machines on our list; the Baby Lock Zest Sewing Machine is the most budget-friendly at $179.

If you plan on doing a lot of quilting or working with heftier materials like denim or canvas, you’ll want a machine that’s built for it and has the price tag to prove it, like the Juki TL-2000Qi Sewing & Quilting Machine.

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Barbara Bellesi Zito, a freelance lifestyle writer based in Staten Island, NY. To compile this list of best sewing machines, we tested 24 models and evaluated them on their ease of setup, performance, design and features, and overall value. For expert advice on what at-home sewers should look for when purchasing sewing machines, she consulted Shae Haning, owner of the Oklahoma-based Tallgrass Tailor and the host of the “Sew Show with Shae” on YouTube, and Elise Chase-Sinclair, costumer and sewing blogger.

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