The 4 best sewing machines we tested for every skill level, from beginner to pro

26 Oct.,2022


Box Stitching Machine

How to shop for a sewing machine

It's important to have a walking foot for many projects, especially for quilting.

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Here are some tips for sewing machine shopping from our experts:

Shop in person if you can

Our experts suggest going to a dealer for hands-on guidance and support, as well as for future classes, repairs and maintenance, and potential trade-ins — here's how to find a dealer for Brother and Bernina. Singer sewing machines are more readily available at craft stores and big-box retailers around the US, and you can register your machine for warranty and repairs.

A good dealer will help you develop your sewing skills, learn to use all the features of your machine, and help troubleshoot if things go wrong. But we realize that some people don't live near reputable dealers. That's why all of our picks can be purchased online, meet criteria based on the experts I spoke with, and performed well in our tests.

Know your brands

King said he likes Bernina machines, but also said Brother and Janome are both reputable brands with good machines."What I like about Bernina machines is that the quality is consistent throughout the line," he said. "You can get a lower-end Bernina machine with fewer features for less money, but you're still going to get a quality machine."

Brands like Husqvarna Viking, Pfaff, Juki, and Babylock are also well-regarded and known for making very good machines. 

Decide what kind of sewing you want to do, but give yourself room to grow

According to Shields, for garment sewers, a straight stitch, zig-zag stitch for stretch fabrics, and a buttonhole are going to take care of all your basic needs.

For quilting, one of the most useful attachments is a walking foot. This moves the presser foot so both the presser foot and the feed dogs move the fabric, which keeps the layers from shifting while you sew. White says one of her favorite features for quilting is a knee lift, which raises and lowers the presser foot, so you don't need to use your hand. 

White also likes a machine that warns you when the bobbin is about to run out — this is especially helpful for beginners. 

Of the machines we tested, the Brother CS7000X and the Singer Heavy Duty both come with walking feet, and the Brother CS7000X and the Bernina 535 both alert you when the bobbin is low, but only the Bernina 535 has a knee lift. 

White also suggests a machine that you can grow into. "You're going to learn to do other things, and you should have a machine that will push you to explore some creative avenues," White said. 

Test the machine on different kinds of fabric

Shields says garment sewers should think about what kinds of fabrics they want to sew and bring samples with them to the store, if possible, so they can test the machine on different fabrics. 

"Some people like to sew kids' clothes, so they'll be sewing with a lot of lightweight cottons and you can pretty much use any machine for that," Shields said. "If they plan to sew a lot of outerwear or work in heavy fabrics like wool and denim, they'll want to make sure that they have a workhorse machine that can handle those types of fabric." 

Of the machines we looked at, the Singer Heavy Duty is a great option for anybody looking to sew heavy outerwear fabric. 

Look for good customer service

White emphasizes the need for good customer service, which all of the brands we recommend have. "If I call with a question, they're more than happy to answer it," White said of her Bernina dealer.

A dealer can be more helpful than videos or online tutorials and can answer questions about what to expect in terms of service, repairs, and more. 

Read reviews from people who have tried the machine

If you can't shop in person, Shields says to make sure you read a lot of reviews to learn about the experiences of people who have actually been sewing with the machine.