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10 best sewing machines perfect for beginners and professionals

Make your own clothes, stitch a quilt or simply discover a new hobby – it seams these sewing machines can do it all

Sophie Tarrant
Monday 23 January 2023 17:27 GMT
Finding a machine you love can make the difference between giving up on your new hobby at the first hurdle, or nurturing it into a lifelong passion
Finding a machine you love can make the difference between giving up on your new hobby at the first hurdle, or nurturing it into a lifelong passion (iStock/The Independent)
Our Top Picks

Dressmaking and needlework became popular hobbies during the pandemic, and it looks like they’re here to stay.

A survey conducted by Brother Sewing discovered one in five Britons took up stitching or embroidery in 2020, with sales of sewing machines going through the roof.  Several retailers actually sold out of their most popular machines, and had to implement waiting lists for those looking to treat themselves to a new model.

The rush to buy the perfect sewing companion has now calmed down a little but for absolute beginners, picking the right one can still feel somewhat daunting. There’s a huge variety of different models to choose from, and finding one you love can make the difference between giving up on your new hobby at the first hurdle, or nurturing it into a lifelong passion.

Whether you’re looking for a machine to fix tears and shorten trousers, or are setting out to sew a whole new wardrobe, we’ve tried and tested a range of machines from across the board and picked our top ten favourites, all of which are suitable for beginners.

Some may feature more gadgets and gizmos than others, but all of them are easy to use, ergonomic, and offer something unique to the market.

How we tested

We put each of these machines through its paces, testing them out on a wide variety of different projects and fabrics to make sure that we can thoroughly recommend them to our readers. We’ve included machines at a range of different price points, from budget beginner’s models to high-end speciality machines.

Several of the sewing machines included in this list have additional accessories available (such as knee lifts, extension tables and extra presser feet), which can be added on to give the device extra functionality – if these were included as standard, we’ve mentioned them in our review, but if they’re an optional extra we haven’t tried and tested them, so haven’t included them in our write-up.

The best beginner-friendly sewing machines for 2023 are:

Brother innov-is F420 sewing machine

  • Best: Sewing machine overall
  • Stitch options: 140
  • Buttonhole styles: 10
  • Sewing machine type: Computerised

With 140 built-in stitches and a wide range of additional functions, features, and accessories to choose from, Brother’s Innov-is F420 was an absolute joy to use. The machine has been designed to take on almost any project and is packed with handy time and trouble-saving features such as an adjustable presser foot pressure, automatic needle threader, thread cutter, start/stop function and a handy knee lift, for hands-free sewing.

The F420 also makes the most of Brother’s exclusive square feed drive system, which uses a specially-designed longer presser foot and improved feed mechanism to guide fabric under the needle smoothly and evenly, whatever the thickness. The machine breezed through every project we used it on, and having such a wide variety of both utility and decorative stitches to choose from (plus five styles of lettering and ten automatic buttonholes) meant that we could always find the perfect one, whatever we were making.

For those who get the hang of the hobby and want to take things further, the F420 comes supplied with seven extra presser feet and is pre-loaded with Brother’s my custom stitch software, which gives users the option to create and save their own stitch designs for a truly bespoke experience.

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Singer M2105

Singer M2105.png
  • Best: For absolute beginners
  • Stitch options: Eight
  • Buttonhole styles: One
  • Sewing machine type: Mechanical

If you’re completely new to sewing, you don’t necessarily need to jump in with an over-powered machine that will leave you feeling lost and overwhelmed. The Singer M2105 is ideal for new starters, with eight built-in stitches to choose from and an easy-to-master, no nonsense mechanical operation. The machine feels comfortable, sturdy and steady to use and performed well on a wide variety of different fabrics and projects, proving that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get reliable results.

At only 6.5kg in weight and with a comfy handle built into the top of the machine, the M2105 is fully portable and therefore the perfect companion for visits to workshops and classes. As an added bonus for those who haven’t quite found their sewing groove yet, the machine comes supplied with a range of different presser feet and tools as standard, meaning it’s ideal for dabbling in a range of different styles from the very start.

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Husqvarna opal 650

  • Best: For a computerised machine
  • Stitch options: 160
  • Buttonhole styles: Seven
  • Sewing machine type: Computerised

If you’re looking for a high-tech machine that ticks all the boxes, the Opal 650 might just be the one for you. It’s an incredibly intuitive machine, featuring a handy graphic screen with touch-button selection and Husqvarna’s exclusive sewing advisor software – this evaluates the fabric you’re using and the technique you wish to work and automatically selects the best stitch style, width and length for you to ensure the best results.

The machine also includes several other efficient features including an automatic needle threader, a start/stop button and seven one-step buttonholes, as well as a large 200mm sewing space to the right of the needle, which meant that we had more than enough room to wrestle with large-scale projects such as quilts and throws. It proved itself to be a fantastic machine, especially for those who are a little more tech-savvy.

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Elna eXcellence 780+

  • Best: For quilting
  • Stitch options: 350
  • Buttonhole styles: 11
  • Sewing machine type: Computerised

If you like the idea of creating gorgeous custom quilts, you’ll benefit hugely from picking a machine that is built specifically for that purpose. The eXcellence 780+ is ideal for quilting and patchworks and comes with an extra-long arm and an extension table included as standard, giving you the all-important extra space needed for tackling large-scale makes.

The 780+ may be at the higher end of the budget but you certainly get a lot for your money. There’s 350 different stitches to choose from (including several different lettering styles), 91 different needle positions, a super-sized 9mm stitch width and a mega-fast maximum speed of 1,060 stitches per minute – another must-have for those long, bulky quilt seams. It also gives users the option to try freemotion quilting, with a drop feed and four specialised freemotion feet included in the box as part of its 21-piece accessory package. At £2,499, this model is the most expensive of all the sewing machines we trialled, but for those of you looking to really invest in your future hobbies, it is certainly worth looking into.

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Janome 6234XL

Janome 6234XL.png
  • Best: For an overlocker
  • Stitch options: Seven
  • Buttonhole styles: None
  • Sewing machine type: Overlocker (mechanical)

For those of you wishing to focus on making your own clothes, adding an overlocker to your sewing arsenal can be a great way to hack your makes and get really professional results, every time. This clever machine cuts and encloses your seams with a loop stitch, giving the same high-quality finish as shop-bought garments. Overlockers might seem scary, but with beginner’s models such as the Janome 6234XL, the concept doesn’t feel too daunting, even for those who have never used one before.

This model, which has been featured on the Great British Sewing Bee, arrived pre-threaded (a real time-saver when you’re dealing with up to four bobbins at a time) and includes a free DVD to guide users on their way. Once you’re up and running the operation is smooth and easy to follow, with handy colour-coding making everything easy to keep track of. As an overlocker the 6234XL doesn’t offer the same range of functions as some of the other models included in this list, but it’s certainly one to consider for those with a passion for fashion.

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John Lewis JL111 wildflower print

  • Best: Value
  • Stitch options: 14
  • Buttonhole styles: One
  • Sewing machine type: Mechanical

John Lewis’ collection of JL111 beginner sewing machines have long been considered a favourite amongst casual stitchers, and with a new range of colours and prints available to choose from, we couldn’t miss it from the list. At just £135, the retro-inspired machine is ideal for hobby sewing, plus you get the added bonus of a free two-year guarantee should anything go awry.

With just 14 stitches to choose from and a system of wheels and dials for making your selections, it isn’t the most high-tech machine on our list, but it’s always a pleasure to use and feels like a sturdy piece of kit you can really rely upon. We find it works best with light and medium-weight fabrics so is perfect for fixing, mending, and for making simple projects with easy, straightforward seams.

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Brother innov-is NV1800Q

  • Best: High-end machine
  • Stitch options: 232
  • Buttonhole styles: Ten
  • Sewing machine type: Computerised

On the opposite end of the scale we also trialled Brother’s innov-is NV1800Q, which packs a huge amount of functions, features, gadgets and gizmos into one big high-tech package. Considering how much this machine has to offer, we were thoroughly impressed at how intuitive and easy-to-use it was from the off, with a large LCD screen, touch keypad selection and clear, illustrated instructions included in the box.

As with the F420 (£699, this model allows users to create their own designs via the my custom stitch software. It also features an array of other functions that make it stand out in other areas such as a handy side cutter (perfect for trimming seams), several built-in fonts (great for embroidery) and a sidefeed mechanism, which allows for stitching in all four directions. If you’re looking for a sewing machine that hits all the bases and you have a little more to spend, you won’t be disappointed with this clever model.

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Singer 4423

SINGER 4423.png
  • Best: For heavy-duty projects
  • Stitch options: 23
  • Buttonhole styles: One
  • Sewing machine type: Mechanical

If you know you’re really going to be putting your machine through the ringer, you’ll need to choose a model you can rely on – a true workhorse that won’t break down, snarl up, or otherwise give up the ghost mid-project. The Singer 4423 is designed to roll with the punches, with a heavy duty metal interior frame, a stainless steel bedplate, an extra-high sewing speed of 1,100 stitches per minute, and an impressive motor that can power through anything you throw at it.

During our trials, the machine sailed through everything we created with ease and speed, from lightweight silks to heavy denims. Perhaps the most impressive was how well it handled a thick leather purse project, stitching through it without any issues at all. For those who feel a little more adventurous, the 4423 also includes a range of add-on accessories in the box as standard, including a selection of different presser feet, tools, and a handy quilting guide.

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Bernette B79

  • Best: For embroidery
  • Stitch options: 500
  • Buttonhole styles: 17
  • Sewing machine type: Computerised

The Bernette B79 is a two-in-one machine, taking the most popular elements of the brand’s B77 sewing model and combining them with the embroidery perks of the B70 deco. The result is this clever, one-stop-shop device that brings the best of both worlds together. As soon as we turned this machine on, we fell in love – tutorials for both sewing and embroidering are pre-loaded and displayed via the large LCD display, which is a real bonus for beginners. We were also offered stitch suggestions from the clever creative consultant software, which assesses your make and gives you tips and tricks for getting the best results before you begin.

There’s an array of sewing stitches and buttonholes to choose from, alongside hundreds of pre-loaded embroidery motifs and seven alphabets. Extra crafty folk can even upload their own embroidery designs via USB, elevating the creative possibilities of this machine to another level. We spent days experimenting with this model and never ran out of things to try – it’ll definitely be on our wishlist for a while to come.

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Cool Maker sew cool sewing machine

  • Best: For kids
  • Stitch options: One
  • Buttonhole styles: None
  • Sewing machine type: Mechanical

Giving your little ones their very own kid-friendly machine is a great way to spark their creative side without overwhelming them with adult tech. It also means they’re less likely to break your regular sewing machine, saving costly headaches in the long run. There’s several options on the market to choose from but we found this sew cool model was the easiest to use for smaller kids; it actually uses a no-thread system to join pieces of fabric together, getting them used to the action of sewing without the risk of tangles and knots. Our mini testers loved the five free projects that were included within the box, and the instructions given were simple enough that they got stuck in straight away.

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Sewing machine FAQs

How do I choose the best machine for me?

Choosing a sewing machine can feel like a big deal – not only is it often a large financial commitment, but it’s a tool that you’ll (hopefully) use over and over again for years to come, so picking one that gels well with your personal sewing style is vital for getting great results and a smooth stitching experience.

Before you choose your dream machine, have a think about the sort of projects you’re most likely to make. Do you want to create your own garments, or is quilting more your thing? Perhaps you want to dabble in embroidery? Whatever it is, look for machines that specialise in your favourite sewing styles to really make the most of their functions and features.

Don’t feel that you need to choose a machine at the absolute top of your price bracket, or the one with the most bells and whistles – sometimes keeping it simple is better, and if you’re only planning to use a handful of basic stitches, you might not need to invest in that top-of-the-range showstopper. We’ve included a variety of different machines below, to give you a good idea of the sorts of specialisations you can look out for.

Which sewing machine is best for home use?

All of the machines included in our round-up are suitable for beginners and can be used from the comfort of your own home. If you’re short on storage space, you might want to pass on the chunkier machines and opt for a more compact design.

Or perhaps you don’t plan on storing it away at all and want a sewing machine that’s also an eye-catching piece to keep on display, in which case the retro design of the John Lewis machine might be right up your alley.

Can you use a heavy-duty sewing machine for normal sewing?

The short answer is yes, it can handle basically any type of material. We’ve tested the Singer heavy duty machine in this round-up, which held up perfectly fine with any material we tried it on – from lightweight silks to heavy denims and even leather.

The verdict: Sewing machines for beginners

We had a tough time picking our favourite out of all the machines we tested – they were all good in their own way and whilst many had a full roster of incredible features, their high price points set them just out of reach of the everyday sewist.

It was a close contest between the innov-is F420, the Bernette B79, and the Opal 650, but the F420 won out in the end due to its lower price, beginner-friendly features and all round usability. It’s an informative digital machine that is simple enough for a complete beginner to pick up, but still offers enough functionality to let stitchers grow and expand their skills as they learn.

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