Which sewing machine should you buy? It helps to know what each kind of sewing machine does.
Hey y’all, this is the time of year that I always start getting questions in my email about the best sewing machine to buy. They come from both beginners looking for their first sewing machine and more seasoned sewing people who want to add a new serger or cover stitch or embroidery machine. So today I’m going to explain (and show!) what each of those machines does and give you my list of sewing machine reviews.
I made a video so that I could demonstrate what each kind of sewing machine does. You can watch it below or on YouTube here if it won’t load below.
Below are some pictures of each sewing machine type and examples of stitches that each machine can do.
So, what is the best sewing machine to buy? Well, as I said in the video, it depends on what you want to sew. The only one of these sewing machines you NEED to have is the regular sewing machine. The serger, cover stitch, and embroidery machines are all optional.
The Best Sewing Machines
There are a lot of good sewing machines out there. The best one for you depends on your budget and what you want to sew. Here is a list of machines I have personally sewn on and liked, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
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- Singer 503b This is a vintage machine from the 1960s that is the one I learned to sew on. You can still find working vintage models, but make sure you can sew on it before purchasing.
- Brother XM2071 (affiliate link) This is an extremely inexpensive machine I used to buy for my theatre classes when I had no budget. It works, but it does not have a one step buttonhole which is pretty frustrating if you want to sew clothing. I used to take my 503 up to school for costumes that needed buttonholes. Also, when it breaks, it is more expensive to fix than buying a new machine.
- Brother CS600i (affiliate link) There’s a reason so many people have this machine. It is affordable (though twice the price of the model above) it has multiple one step buttonholes, and is a pretty good all around machine for beginners.
- Baby Lock Elizabeth This is my current machine, however this model has been discontinued so you can’t buy it new any longer. It has a been a workhorse for me, and I particularly like having a knee bar, which is not a feature that any of these other machines have.
- Baby Lock Aria. This is an expensive machine, though not the most expensive that Baby Lock sells, and you can only buy it at a dealer’s shop, not online. It is a combination sewing/embroidery machine, so you do get a lot of features.
- Brother 1034d (affiliate link) This is a good, basic, workhouse serger, though it can be finicky to thread (make sure you go in the right order) and the tension can also be touchy. But it’s very affordable for a serger
- Baby Lock Imagine This is my current serger and has air threading for the loopers and automatic tension, which are both luxury features that I love. It is much easier to use than the Brother (threading order doesn’t matter, for example, and converting to a rolled hem stitch is easier) but it is also much more expensive and you can only buy it at a dealer’s shop, not online.
Updated to add: I believe the Imagine has been discontinued and the Victory seems to be the equivalent model.
- Brother PE 770 (affiliate link) This is the embroidery machine I have and demonstrated in the video. I bought mine years ago, so this one has been updated; at the time of this writing the current model is the Brother PE 800 (affiliate link). I have not used this machine in a heavy duty manner, but I have had it for almost 10 years without any major issue. I only have the 5 x 7″ hoop, but you can purchase and use a smaller hoop.
- Baby Lock Cover Stitch This is the cover stitch I have. It is very similar to the Imagine, with air threading for the looper, but it does not have automatic tension.
- Baby Lock Triumph This is Baby Lock’s top of the line combination serger/cover stitch machine. It has automatic tension and does do a nicer cover stitch than the machine I have. It is also top dollar, and ultimately I decided I preferred the two smaller machines to having to convert this one large one. You can only buy it at a dealer’s shop, not online.
Some Sewing Machines I Won’t Buy:
Just because a machine isn’t on the list above doesn’t mean I hate it. It likely just means I haven’t sewn on it long enough to have an opinion. But below I’m sharing some machines I actually do hate and don’t recommend (mostly vintage models). Please know that it you have one of these machines and it works well for you, I think that’s great! I wish I had better experiences with them personally but I have not.
I don’t buy Singer machines manufactured between the 1970s-early 2000s. There was a run of machines that worked well at the time, but their plastic gears wear out. I’ve been given some of these models for free (particularly Touch ‘n Sew models from the 1970s/80s) and decided they weren’t worth repairing. Later, in the 1990s/early 2000s the Singer machines I used just weren’t even good quality for the time period. The more recent Singer models seem comparable to the Brother models and I know there are some fans, so I wouldn’t rule them out.
I also will not buy White machines from the early 2000s and I probably wouldn’t buy one now because the one I got in 2002 was such a horrible and finicky machine that I think it turned some of my students off of sewing forever.
I will not buy the hand held, mini or toy sewing machines. Every one I’ve seen has been difficult or impossible to use or broke very quickly. Honestly, if it’s a new machine that is less than about $100.00, it’s probably not a good machine. At the $100.00 price point you can get an OK basic machine for straight stitch and zig-zag. If your budget is less than that I’d suggest shopping for a used machine instead of a new one (with my vintage caveats above).
I am not recommending sewing machines from new brands I’ve never heard of, meaning if it is new and it is not Baby Lock, Bernina, Brother, Elna, Husqvarna-Viking, Janome, Juki, Pfaff or Singer I’m not paying for it. With the advent of Amazon and other online shopping sites, there are dozens of imported machines. I’m skeptical of all of them until proven otherwise.
Finally, technology grew by leaps and bounds this century, so I don’t like sergers or cover stitch machines older than the year 2000, and I don’t like embroidery machines much more than 10 years old. If an embroidery machine doesn’t have a USB port, it is a no-go for me. Without that it’s very hard to get any designs from your computer to your machine, and there are soooooooo many digital embroidery designs you can purchase and download now.