We went on a search for simple, straightforward and easy to use machines for people who are new to sewing. We looked for reliability, usability, and most importantly–cost! We’ve come up with our picks for the top three on the market. We made sure they’re simple enough to get you started, but versatile enough to help you grow. Our in-depth reviews will take you through all the important features on our favorite models, and give you a sense of which is the best for you!
First, take a quick look at our favorites:
Our Rating: 4.3
Popularity: Very High
Our Rating: 4.6
Our Rating: 4.4
Popularity: Very High
Learning to sew can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the world. You’ll unleash your creativity, and learn how to make and repair all the garments and fabric goods you can imagine.
However, with the wrong machine, you could end up discouraged. Even the nicest sewing machine on the market can be difficult to use when you’re first starting out.
That’s why it’s so important to find the best sewing machine for beginners. With such a wide variety on the market, it can be hard to know where to start. Novices probably don’t know anything about them to begin with, and expert seamstresses might have a hard time finding something that isn’t overkill for a newcomer.
That’s where we come in!
- Singer 7258 Stylist: for those who want a computer to help out
- Janome Magnolia 7318: for those who want to learn the old-fashioned way
- Brother XM2701: for those starting with a small budget
1. SINGER 7258 Stylist
Computerized machines like this Singer offer beginners the full range of features, without as much of a learning curve. Thanks to push-button controls and computer assistance, you’ll be able to make lots of fine adjustments and fancy stitches without needing so much expertise up front.
This Stylist is very reasonably priced, and made Consumer’s Digest’s Best Buy award–twice! We suggest it for anyone who wants a leg up when they’re starting out.
It comes with lots of feet to get you started. You get 10 right out of the box, with plenty of options to suit the task at hand. There’s a general foot, for use with utility stitches, plus 9 custom feet for more sophisticated tasks.
We love the feet set because they help you tackle fine work without so much handiwork required:
- The zipper foot makes it easy to add zippers to garments and bags.
- The satin stitch foot has an open-toe design to help you see fine embroidery details as you work.
- The button hole foot makes buttons easy–something that can be a real pain for newbies to learn!
- The overcasting foot helps you get those edges straight every time, and there’s a gathering foot to help you create even bunches on edges of skirts and curtains.
- You’ll also have a rolled hem foot to help finish off edges quickly.
Each foot serves to make a tricky task that much easier for a beginner!
The onboard computer system is pre-loaded with 100 different stitches to choose from. That makes it super easy to make decorative patterns for dresses, curtains, or other fancier pieces. All you’ll have to do is press a button, and the machine will do all the jumping around so you don’t have to!
There’s also 6 one-step button-hole options to help you get started with one of the trickiest tasks in all of sewing.
It’s easy to get up and running. The bobbin loads from the top, and has a clear door plate so you can check your thread level. There’s also an automatic needle-threading feature, which eliminates one of the trickiest parts of the whole operation.
There’s an overhead LED worklight built into the body, to help you see what you’re doing. The LED bulb is terrific because it’ll last up to 100,000 hours–far longer than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.
It features all of the automated functions that make sewing simpler:
- The automatic thread tension selector senses the thickness of your fabric, and makes adjustments accordingly.
- There’s an electronic auto-pilot feature for longer stitches. You can set a maximum speed so nothing gets out of hand. It’s good for helping beginners with long straight edges, which can get wonky in a hurry if you’ve got a fidgety foot.
This one also has a button that tells it to end with the needle in the up or down position. This is great for stitches that require changes of direction. You can use an automatic tying feature with the straight stitch, or the reverse button to finish off decorative and zigzag stitches.
The machine comes with everything you need in the box: five needles, four bobbins, an auxiliary spool pin, two felt disks, three spool caps, a seam ripper, finishing brush, screwdriver, and a darning plate.
Singer offers this machine with: a 25 year limited warranty on the machine head; 5 year limited warranty for its motor, light, assembly, wires, switches, speed control functionality, and electrical systems; and a 1 year limited warranty for the adjustment functions, belts, rings, bulbs, and all of the attachments.
You can’t adjust the foot pressure settings on the pedal. That’s true of anything else at this price, though.
The stitch width is limited to 5mm. That might not be suitable for some larger projects.
There are some reliability issues with this one, and we’ve found Singer’s customer service department pretty poor in the past. This probably won’t be your last sewing machine. Having said that, it’s a solid place to start.
2. Janome Magnolia 7318 Sewing Machine
This is a great manual machine for beginners who want something a bit lower-tech than the Singer. Janome manufacture simple, sturdy machines that last for years! Manual machines are always a good choice for beginners because they force users to learn proper technique, and put more thought into how and why they choose certain settings.
Although this machine isn’t quite as versatile as the Singer 7258, it offers all the most important, and commonly used features with superior reliability. We suggest it for those who want to start out on something simple and straightforward. You’ll learn impeccable technique, and be able to carry your skills with you when you move to something fancier!
It’s much sturdier than the Singer. The motor operates quietly, even through thick materials. Produces both even and straight stitches every time. The bobbin is jam-proof, and the whole machine is designed to stay tangle-free. As far as we’re concerned, this thing is rock-solid.
It weighs under 20 pounds. That makes it a bit easier to handle than the Singer. This one also has a heavy-duty handle for carrying it around. The fold-down handle is both sturdy and comfortable to carry for longer periods of time.
Overall, it’s more reliable than the Singer. That’s partially because there’s no computer onboard, so there’s nothing technical to fix. Plus, on the whole, the Janome seems a bit better made.
Even though it’s not computerized, it still has plenty of stitching options. There are 18 onboard, with a selector knob to switch between them. We also love the handy icons on the side of the machine, so you can choose the right one for the project.
There’s an onboard button-hole feature, with 4 easy steps to get the task done.
There’s a drop-feed feature, just like the Singer, for doing free-style stitches.
As with the Singer, there’s a clear bobbin plate so you can keep track of your thread. This one also has measurements marked out, to help you with hems and edges.
The Janome has several features for more advanced users, like: drop feed, adjustable needle position, and stretch stitches. You can also adjust the length and width of the stitch manually, via some side knobs. Since all the adjustments are manual, you’ll be learning technique as you go, instead of relying on a computer to do the thinking for you.
The pedal is responsive, but not jerky.
It has a reversing lever for finishing off stitches.
The feet are easy to change. Unlike a lot of other machines, they don’t snap or screw on. They release with a quick push button, and click back on easily.
The instruction manual clearly explains every single function, part, and care procedure. This is great for first-time sewers. By contrast, the Singer doesn’t actually ship with a manual. You have to go online to print one out.
The package includes:
- Three presser feet.
- General foot
- Zipper foot
- Blind hemming foot
- Sliding buttonhole foot
- Set of needles
- Extra bobbins
- Lint brush
- Stitch ripper
- Small and large spool holders.
- Extra spool pin
- Felt cushion
You can store most of the accessories in an arm compartment.
The lever for the drop feed is located on the side of the machine facing away from you. It makes it a little bit hard to reach, though it’s not a major concern.
It’s harder to find Janome add-on accessories in stores. You will probably have to order them online.
This one is than the Singer. Some people might find that hard to swallow, since it has fewer features.
Since all the adjustment features are manual, this one comes with a bit more of a learning curve. Remember-while it might be easier to get started on a computer model, you’ll be a better seamstress in the long haul if you learn on a manual!
3. Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine (new!)
Our third recommendation used to be the Brother XL2600i. It was super affordable, and the #1 best seller on Amazon. For a low price, it had a lot of the same great functions found in more expensive machines!
When Brother announced that they were going to be replacing it, we’ll admit we had a bit of trepidation. Once you find a great budget sewing machine, you’re nervous that something might be tweaked in the wrong way.
Well, we were thrilled to see that the XL2600i has been replaced by the XM2701, which keeps all our favorite features and adds some more! It has more stitches, more accessories, and even more user-friendly design tweaks.
This one is great for a beginner who does not want to spend a lot of money, but still wants to have a solidly-built machine with a reasonable amount of functions. It’s worth the extra few dollars over the XL2600i, and we think it’s an outstanding choice for value-minded sewists!
Like the Janome, the Brother machine has a solid number of preset stitch settings. This one comes with 27 stitches. There are icons on the front to help you choose the right one.
You get plenty of choices, including: one-step buttonhole stitch with stitch balance control, blind hem stitch, and two stretch blind hem stitches, shell tuck, elastic shell tuck stitch, elastic stitch, double action stitch, bridging stitch, rampart stitch, triangle stitch, triple stretch, triple zigzag, stretch overlook, elastic overlook, feather stitch, two arrowhead stitches, two decorative stitches, leaf stitch, tree stitch and legs stitch.
There are a few extra features on this one compared to the Janome. It has a few extra stitches, and a simpler button hole function. We’re very impressed with the latter, since the one-step buttonhole is not common in machines this cheap.
It has an automatic needle threading option. This helps beginners spend less time fussing with learning how to thread correctly. It’s also a bit more intuitive than the Janome.
The top-loading bobbin system is pretty similar to the systems on the more expensive models. It’s easy to wind, and drop in under the transparent cover.
It has a convenient thread cutter to save time, just like the more expensive options.
The Brother has a 25-year limited warranty, which is very impressive for a machine this cheap. We’re also pleased that they seem to have better customer service than Singer, who provide a similar warranty but not much support.
It has a bright workstation light.
It’s very compact.
It is a versatile enough machine for any first time user. It’ll teach you all the basics, without breaking the bank.
You get everything you need to start in the box. The kit includes:
- the usual general purpose, zigzag, buttonhole, and zipper presser feet, 6 in total
- useful narrow hemmer, and blind stitch feet,
- three bobbins,
- three HAX130 sewing needles,
- a twin needle,
- a screwdriver,
- a darning plate,
- and an extra spool pin.
It’s extremely affordable. This one’s less than half the price of the Janome. Even the most cash-strapped buyers should be able to make the Brother happen. The low cost makes it ideal for students, especially.
This new model has better build quality than the older Brother we recommended for budget buyers. That’s a major relief, and we’re confident that the XM model will last you a lot longer than the XL series!
You need to take your time. The Brother has a lower quality motor than more expensive machines, and it can be damaged if you work too quickly. Be careful, especially when working with thick materials, or multiple layers. That’s where some previous buyers ran into trouble.
The tension is factory set, and a bit tricky to adjust yourself. It’s one of the unpredictable things with this one from a quality control standpoint. Most people get machines that are tensioned correctly out of the box. If you get unlucky, try to just exchange yours rather than having to bring it in for service.
It’s fairly basic, especially compared to the Singer. If you want a sophisticated, automated, or computerized machine, the Brother is not for you.
Which of these is the best choice for you?
The Brother is the cheapest of the three by quite a bit. We’d recommend it to newcomers on a tight budget, especially people who are sewing for their schoolwork. The price point makes it a very appealing choice for people who haven’t sewed before, and aren’t 100% sure it’s going to be a lifetime pursuit. On the downside, it’s more lightly built than the other models, and doesn’t have quite as many features.
The Singer is the best choice for people who want to start working on real projects right off the bat, with the smallest possible learning curve. The onboard computer makes it very easy to to fancier stitches and custom settings without needing much expertise. If you want to start off on a machine with lots of bells and whistles, the Singer is for you. However, the computer does make it a bit less reliable than the Janome.
The Janome is our most expensive recommendation, and it’s our choice for people who are serious about learning to sew, and want to put in the time and effort to learn real technique. It has a lot of the same options as the Singer, but you’ll need to know how to adjust the settings yourself. It’s the sturdiest of the three models, and gives you the most room to grow as a learner. However, you’ll want to prepare yourself to learn patiently, and know that you’ll spend a bit more on this one up front.
How to Use Your Sewing Machine
Things for Beginning Sewers to Think About
Remember, as a beginner it’s ok to start slow and not know everything! Actually, that’s kind of the point. You’re in no hurry, and you don’t have to show anyone your results until you’re totally happy with them.
Be patient, and always ask someone for help if you’re not sure how to do something. Sewing is often a social event, and you’re sure to find a class near you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions online– there are some great forums out there to help beginners!
Start with a simple first project, so you can build confidence without getting overwhelmed! One common mistake newcomers make is to bit off more than they can chew. If you do that, you’ll just get discouraged, and you won’t discover how rewarding needlework can be.
You can start with something simple like a pillowcase or maybe even a drawstring bag! There are lots of helpful blogs and instructional videos online. The internet is also the best place to find fun ideas to try out at home. Check out the Martha Stewart website, or just go on YouTube and search “first sewing projects.” There are some great shows on PBS’s Create channel as well, for viewers at home.
You want a first project that’s simple enough to get done quickly, so you can feel satisfied and have a first achievement to look at proudly as you soldier through the next one! Try and find a project that lets you practice a couple of different techniques, so that you can get lots of learning out of the way up front.
Take some time to think about which of our recommendations is really right for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- What inspired me to want to sew?
- What do I want to create?
- What are my favorite fabrics?
- Which skills do I want to develop most?
- Do I want to jump right into making projects, or do I want to take the time to learn technique first?
- Am I interested in classic sewing techniques, or in the latest technological features to let me work automatically?
- Do I want to make all my adjustments manually, or rely on my machine to make them automatically?
- How much do I want to spend on my new machine?
- Am I going to be using it only at home, or will I be traveling to class?
Answering these questions will help you decide which features are necessary on your new machine, and which you can leave off. The more time you put into thinking about your decision up front, the more likely you are to be satisfied when you actually have your machine.
Remember that the key features that make a good novice machine are: a good learning experience, easy setup, and enough functionality and versatility to allow a beginner to grow with their machine.
Want to see more sewing machines that beginners love? Check out the best sellers on Amazon!