If you want to start sewing so you can make a quilt, DIY project, or fashionable shirt for yourself, you need an easy-to-use sewing machine that can create an array of even stitches, bind fabric in a flash, and handle thick material. The good news is that there are a lot of sewing machines that check those boxes. The bad news is that there are a lot of machines that check those boxes, making it quite hard to figure out which machine is right for you and your upcoming projects.
When it comes to finding the perfect beginner sewing machine, Kristine Frailing says you don’t need all the bells and whistles. “You need the basics,” says Frailing, a fashion designer and founder of The New York Sewing Center. “[That means] stitch length options and a straight stitch and a zigzag stitch.” She also suggests looking for a durable machine—not only in terms of how long it will last but how well it can handle thicker fabrics. In addition to the basic functions, Callie Marsch, a representative for JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores, says you want a machine that has a zipper foot, buttonhole foot, and reverse stitch function.
From there, which machine you pick comes down to personal preference and how you plan to use the machine. If you plan on learning the craft through classes, you’ll want a machine that’s easy to carry. If you have big project ambitions, like a handmade quilt or an endless supply of face masks, you might want a machine with a few more features.
We tested and researched top options, considering durability, features, and stitch options—among other things—and found the Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine is our favorite for beginners. It's both lightweight and portable, so you can take it to a class with ease, and has 27 stitches for kickstarting your new hobby and then seeing where it takes you.
Here, the best beginner sewing machines.
Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine
27 basic stitch options
Automatic needle threader
Lightweight and portable
Has a free arm
Not great with heavy-duty fabrics
Accessories fall out of drawer easily
Brother is known for making beginner-friendly sewing machines, but even more skilled sewers are a fan of this model. Our product tester, an avid sewer, wrote: “The simplicity of the controls is ideal for beginners and allows even advanced crafters to practice their skills.” The machine features 27 basic stitch options—including zigzag, which Frailing notes is essential for beginners. It has an automatic needle threading system and jam-resistant bobbin as well, making it easier to set up ahead of a project and operate.
Before starting your project, just make sure you’re using a thinner fabric. The Brother XM2701 can easily stitch through cotton and fleece but won’t make a dent in heavy-duty fabric like denim or leather. For that reason, it is best for beginners who are putting together a quilt, tablecloth, or dress, but maybe not altering jeans. A free arm does allow you to easily access small openings, like a shirt cuff, and sew where needed.
Notably, this machine also includes six feet options, including a zipper foot. While it doesn't have an automatic thread cutter—a newer feature in more advanced and computerized machines—the mechanical machine does create even, tight stitches, according to our product tester. Plus, changing settings is easy, thanks to the front dial and stitch chart. If you’re hoping to take some beginner sewing classes, the Brother XM2701 is additionally light enough to tote from your home to a studio at 12.6 pounds. Though, consider storing your accessories in a separate bag rather than the included drawer, as it tends to loosen easily.
Price at time of publish: $130
Type: Mechanical | Dimensions: 12.1 x 5.9 x 15.3 inches | Weight: 12.6 pounds | Stitch Options: 27 | Buttonhole Options: 1 | Feet Included: 6 | Bobbin Type: Drop-in
Baby Lock Zest Sewing Machine
Free online classes
Built-in thread cutter
15 basic stitch options
Fewer features than other machines
If you want a quality machine but are hesitant to spend hundreds on a new hobby, the Baby Lock’s Zest is your best bet. The machine offers 15 basic stitches and four feet options. A free arm allows you to access tight spots in your projects, and your purchase includes a seam ripper and built-in accessory storage. Ultimately, the Baby Lock is a very simple, mechanical machine. You'll manually select your stitches and settings using the two front dials and load your bobbins through the front of the machine. You can use the built-in thread cutter as you put the finishing touches on your project.
Looking for some guidance as you take on your new hobby? You will receive two months of free access to Baby Lock's library of online sewing classes with your new machine purchase. If you prefer to take in-person classes, Baby Lock Zest's handle and lightweight design also make it easy to carry the machine from your home, to the studio, and back. All in all, as you start to master the craft, you may find the Zest has limited features and want to upgrade. But until that day, Baby Lock’s affordable sewing machine will check all the boxes.
Price at time of publish: $169
Type: Mechanical | Dimensions: 12.5 x 15.5 x 5.75 inches | Weight: 13 pounds | Stitch Options: 15 | Buttonhole Options: 1 | Feet Included: 4 | Bobbin Type: Front-loading
Janome 4120QDC Computerized Sewing Machine
Comes with instructional DVD
Built-in thread cutter
Easy-to-use control panel
Manual thread tension control
The price tag on Janome’s computerized sewing machine may make your jaw drop. But, when you consider the features that help you cope with any beginner (or expert-level) sewing challenges, you will quickly realize it’s a worthwhile investment. The jam-proof bobbin makes threading easy and prevents your stitches from running off the edge of your project. Meanwhile, the easy-to-use control panel and LCD screen allow you to easily pivot on corners, control the sewing speed, and make fine adjustments. The only negative of this machine is the fact that it doesn't automatically adjust tension.
With 120 stitch options and seven buttonhole options, the machine will last as your skillset grows. It's also outfitted with a reverse button, built-in thread cutter, hard case, and instructional DVD so you can get to know the machine more and more, and even take it on quilting retreats. Hoping to tackle some larger projects in the future? An extension table is included in your purchase, so you have a space to work with and rest your fabrics. Ultimately, the Janome is flexible, versatile, and ready for anything.
Price at time of publish: $1,200
Type: Computerized | Dimensions: 15 x 8.4 x 6.9 inches | Weight: 14.3 pounds | Stitch Options: 120 | Buttonhole Options: 7 | Feet Included: 7 | Bobbin Type: Drop-in
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine
Has a free arm
Storage for accessories
Two vertical spool pins
Lacks newer, advanced features
Computerized (also known as electronic) sewing machines typically feature an LCD screen with options and settings you can select with a dial or even with your finger. Mechanical (also known as manual) machines are equipped with just a straightforward dial or two that make completing your DIY project less of a technological task. If you're looking for simplicity or just tired of looking at screens all day (your phone, the television, and so on), you'll appreciate the basic and manual Janome 2212 Sewing Machine.
Easy to use directly out of the box, the machine will help you master the core techniques required for sewing—no YouTube tutorials required. (Though, there is an instruction manual you can reference if you get stumped or need some guidance.) And just because the Janome lacks the high-tech, digital display of a computerized and more advanced machine, doesn’t mean it lacks features. It includes a free arm, two vertical spool pins, 12 basic stitches, and a seam ripper. It's a good middle-of-the-road size and weight, and there’s also a convenient storage area underneath the sewing workspace (handy for storing odds and ends). As a result, the machine will grow with you as you become more experienced in the craft.
The only real downside to this machine? You may be tempted later on to splurge on more advanced, standout features that manual machines don't always have. However, if you're just starting out, it's absolutely enough.
Price at time of publish: $249
Type: Mechanical | Dimensions: 11.6 x 15.2 x 6 inches | Weight: 13 pounds | Stitch Options: 12 | Buttonhole Options: 1 | Feet Included: 4 | Bobbin Type: Front-loading
SINGER 4452 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine
Designed for thick fabrics
Can stitch 1,100 stitches per minute
110 stitch options
Only compatible with Singer plastic bobbins
This SINGER sewing machine has rightfully earned the heavy-duty descriptor. Structurally, the metal frame and stainless steel bed plate ensure the machine will last for years and even withstand the occasional bump in the road. Yet, somehow, the machine is still light enough to easily carry around the house or to classes. There's also the machine's powerful motor, which can stitch 1,100 stitches per minute and help you speed through your DIY projects. The powerful motor is also up to the task of sewing thick fabrics, like denim, canvas, and leather. It's a great option for any beginner who wants to make their clothes or put together thick layers for quilts.
Essentially, there is nothing the SINGER 4452 can’t handle. However, if you plan on purchasing the heavy-duty, mechanical machine, consider stocking up on plastic bobbins by SINGER. The sewing machine is not compatible with those from other brands, which is a little inconvenient. However, it does come with 110 stitch options, a seam ripper, a soft dust cover, and four feet options.
Price at time of publish: $220
Type: Mechanical | Dimensions: 15.2 x 6.25 x 12 inches | Weight: 14.5 pounds | Stitch Options: 110 | Buttonhole Options: 1 | Feet Included: 4 | Bobbin Type: Drop-in
Magicfly Mini Sewing Machine
Can be powered with AA batteries
Adjustable speed button
Bobbin occasionally gets stuck
Looking for a sewing machine that doesn’t take up too much space? Or perhaps you want something that’s easy to carry from your craft room to a friend’s craft night? Weighing less than 4 pounds and therefore very portable, Magicfly's Mini Sewing Machine checks both of those boxes. But don’t let the size fool you: It has a ton of features, including a display light, a small collection of accessories, and an extension table for a bigger project. You can plug it in or power it with AA batteries, which is handy if you’re in a location—such as a cozy retreat in the mountains—that doesn’t have outlets available.
Of course, a small machine can only do so much. The Magicfly Mini is limited compared to other machines in terms of stitch options and feet options. Sometimes, the bobbin gets stuck, too. For someone just starting to learn the techniques of sewing, though, it has the basics to get you through, including an adjustable speed button. It comes already tested by the brand as well, so you should notice that it's already threaded and has a bit of fabric sitting under the presser foot.
Price at time of publish: $42
Type: Mechanical | Dimensions: 9.5 x 11 x 12 inches | Weight: 3.65 pounds | Stitch Options: 1 | Buttonhole Options: Not listed | Feet Included: Not listed | Bobbin Type: Drop-in
Best for Quilting
Brother HC1850 Sewing and Quilting Machine
Can immediately stop the machine
Easy threading system
One monogramming font
Offers many features you may not use
Once you've tackled nine patches, quilting can quickly exceed the beginner level. But if you want to advance to a higher and more detailed level of crafting, then you’ll want a machine that can handle thick fabrics and offers plenty of stitch options. Enter: the Brother HC1850. Sewers are able to adjust the speed to avoid going too fast when learning and press a button to immediately stop the machine if they make a mistake. Threading is also a breeze, thanks to the machine's more advanced system that pushes thread through the needle with the press of a lever.
And if you get stuck on a project and need some help, simply utilize Brother At Your Side, the company’s free technical support system, which is available (for life) via live chat or phone. Once you have mastered the basic mechanics, take advantage of the machine’s 185 stitch options, eight buttonhole options, and expandable table to create the quilt of your dreams. Notably, the computerized machine also has a monogramming font, but this may be one of the many features you find that you don't use regularly, depending on the projects you have in your queue.
Price at time of publish: $260
Type: Computerized | Dimensions: 15.2 x 12.5 x 19.2 inches | Weight: 10.14 pounds | Stitch Options: 185 | Buttonhole Options: 8 | Feet Included: 8 | Bobbin Type: Drop-in
Best for Young Sewers
SINGER MX231 Sewing Machine
Adjustable stitch width and length
93 stitch options
Automatic needle threader
The SINGER MX231 is the ideal sewing machine for tweens and teens, whose hobbies change by the minute. At a budget-friendly price, the machine comes with all the features needed by a first-time sewer but doesn’t offer so many that it becomes overwhelming and turns them off from the craft.
Automated and adjustable are the key traits of a great beginner machine, and the SINGER delivers both. It has an automatic needle threader that eliminates eye strain, while the automatic buttonhole feature removes any guesswork. As far as adjustments, any can be made on this compact machine that's easy for a young sewer to set up in their room or bring to a friend's house. Adjustable presser foot pressure makes it so easy to alternate between heavy and fine fabrics, and with the twist of a knob, you can adjust the stitch length and width to add variety to your piece.
Because of the limited features, you will likely outgrow the machine as your skills grow, but it will last as long as it takes you to get there. Notably, the machine also features 93 stitch options that make it a bit more versatile.
Price at time of publish: $170
Type: Mechanical | Dimensions: 10.9 x 7.4 x 15.2 inches | Weight: 12 pounds | Stitch Options: 93 | Buttonhole Options: 1 | Feet Included: 1 | Bobbin Type: Front-loading
Our top pick is the Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine, which our tester praises for the simplicity of its controls, ease of use, and ability to grow with your skillset. It offers plenty of stitch options and feet to get you started. Not to mention, it’s easy to carry from your craft station to a sewing class and back. If you're looking to spend less, the Baby Lock Zest Sewing Machine is another great pick. Although it has fewer features than other machines, it has plenty of stitch options and access to a library of classes to get you started.
What to Look for in a Beginner Sewing Machine
Both Frailing and Marsch emphasize the importance of stitch options in a beginner sewing machine, with Marsch saying a beginner machine should have straight and zigzag stitches. Almost all sewing machines should have these two options, but it doesn’t hurt to do your research since some options that are particularly portable—like Magicfly's Mini Sewing Machine—only have one basic stitch.
If sewing is a hobby you'd like to grow, then consider machines with more stitch options, specifically those that add a decorative element or lend themselves well to bigger projects like quilting. If you're looking to make your own clothes, look for monogramming options. More advanced machines (They also tend to be computerized.) can have close to 200 stitch options for you to choose from.
Feet options are not an indicator of how much fabric a sewing machine can handle. Presser feet are a changeable element of the sewing machine that allows you to tackle different tasks with ease—like adding a hem or zipper onto your garment.
Marsch says a good beginner sewing machine will include a zipper foot that inserts zippers, piping, or cording, and a buttonhole foot. Some machines may come with more options, but you can always purchase them as add-ons if not. This is ideal for sewers who are still learning the basics and want to expand later. Just remember: If you're purchasing additional feet, make sure you are buying from the same brand as your sewing machine to ensure compatibility.
Before purchasing a sewing machine, consider where you will be using it. If you have a designated sewing station in your house and plan on learning through online tutorials, you can opt for a heavier machine. But, if you plan on taking classes at a studio or want a machine that can come with you on crafting retreats, then you’ll want something that’s a little lighter. In addition, you may want to find a machine with a handle or that comes with a hard or soft case for easy transportation.
Durability doesn’t equate to how well your machine will hold up if it falls, though that is something worth looking into. Rather, it means how well your machine will hold up against various fabrics like denim or leather.
Consider the projects you want to pursue before making your purchase. Will you be working mostly with cotton, silk, and linen? If so, most machines can handle the job. If you want to upholster fabric or make something made of leather, design your own denim jeans, or create a thick quilt, then you’ll need a machine that can handle thicker fabrics or comes with the foot options to make that possible.
If your sewing machine needs a little maintenance or a major repair, you want to be able to drop it off rather than shipping it away. Local servicing allows you to learn more about your new machine from a local pro—from how to fix minor issues to how to maintain it over time. As an added bonus, local quilt shops and dealers may offer classes and retreats to help you meet fellow crafters and improve your skills.
Since very few brands, if any, have storefronts, you will want to see what brand of sewing machines your local quilt, sewing, and craft stores sell. Though they may be able to fix a jammed bobbin on any machine, large problems may require more knowledge of the brand and be a bigger lift than they can take on.
Automatic Needle Threader
One of the most essential steps of sewing is getting the thread to pass through the eye of the needle. This often requires using a needle threader, which is a tool that looks like a coin attached to a very thin paper clip, as well as a lot of patience and precision. It can take some time, especially if you are new to sewing, and threading the needle incorrectly can result in messy stitches. Fortunately, many machines sold today come with an automatic needle threader that couldn’t be easier to use. On most machines, this means pulling down a lever that reveals a tiny hook, which you then wrap your thread around. Then with a pull and push, you’re ready to stitch.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of sewing, you may want to tackle projects that require more skills and more space. This is where a detachable table comes in handy. Also known as an extension table, this add-on feature gives you room to work with larger, bulkier fabrics. This addition is rarely sold with the machine and is specifically designed for your machine, meaning you can’t purchase any detachable table. Make sure to check your machine’s manual to find out which table to get.
Built-In Thread Cutter
Similar to the automatic needle threader, a built-in thread cutter takes some of the stress and strain out of sewing. As the name implies, it cuts the thread when you’re done with a stitch, saving you the hassle of having to stop, cut, and re-thread.
This is different from a manual thread cutter or, as noted on some machines, a thread cutter. With these features, there is a special knife edge cutter built into the machine, but you have to pull the thread above that cutter to cut it yourself. It’s still better than having to pull out scissors, but it does take time.
Unfortunately, built-in thread cutters aren’t included on most entry-level sewing machines, so make sure to inquire about it before purchasing if this feature feels important to you.
Even if you purchase a portable machine, you’ll want to invest in a case for carrying. After all, you want to protect your machine from any potential impact and keep all your accessories in one place. But, a case isn’t just good for toting your machine from craft corner to craft class. Putting a case over your machine when you’re not using it protects it from dust and other air particles that could affect function.
A free arm is not a necessary feature, but it’s great to have if you’ll be doing a lot of work on or with clothes. Essentially, it is a work surface that is suspended in the air when other parts of the bed are removed. You then slide a tub of fabric, like a shirt sleeve or pant leg, over the arm, which makes it easier to guide the fabric under the needle and reduces the chances of catching other parts of the garment. This is a great feature for hemming, adding cuffs, or mending smaller articles of clothing.
How do I thread a sewing machine?
To get started with your sewing project, you’ll need to first thread your sewing machine. While your machine’s manual should guide you in the specific sequence for your make and model, the basic process starts by placing the presser foot in the up position.
Next, put your thread spool on the spool holder and bring the thread across the top of the machine through the thread guide. Insert the thread through the tension mechanism, sliding it between the metal disks before pulling it back upwards. Find the take-up lever and place the thread into the hole. Pull the thread towards the sewing machine needle, using available thread guides as you go.
Finally, bring the needle into an accessible position by adjusting the hand wheel. Insert the thread. Your sewing machine should be threaded and ready to go, but it’s always a good idea to make a test run on a sample swatch to check your work.
What should I know about manual versus electric sewing machines?
Manual sewing machines (also known as mechanical) were the mainstay of the crafting world, but in recent years, electric (also known as computerized) machines have been increasing in popularity for their easy operation and advanced functions, such as embroidery.
If you’re looking for a simple sewing experience without frills, a mechanical machine gives you straightforward functionality. Without electronic components, some feel that these machines prove more reliable in the long term, too. However, computerized machines may shorten the learning curve for some new sewers since choosing stitches and settings only require the push of a button.
What type of maintenance do sewing machines need?
Today’s sewing machines usually require just a few basic steps to keep them in good working order. While the manual included with your machine will spell out the details, it’s important to regularly remove the throat plate and use a small, soft brush to remove thread, lint, and debris that might have become lodged inside the machine. Your machine may also require oiling to keep everything lubricated and running smoothly.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Leah Rocketto, who's been a lifestyle writer and editor for a decade, and has written for other publications like INSIDER, Romper, Bustle, WomansDay.com, and POPSUGAR. To select the best picks for your consideration, she sorted through dozens of customer and third-party website reviews and firsthand testing experiences from our product testers. She considered stitch options, durability, and features when selecting the final picks and also consulted Kristine Frailing and Callie Marsch for more insight on what you need to look for in a beginner sewing machine.
A womenswear fashion designer and sewing instructor, Frailing is the founder and creative director of The New York Sewing Center, which teaches sewing to people of all levels. Marsch represents JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores and has become knowledgeable on all sewing products available at the retailer.