We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
Whether you want to mend or make clothes and soft furnishings, you can rely on these tried and tested sewing machines Heavy Duty Eyelet Machine
If you enjoy getting crafty at home, a good sewing machine is a must-have. From mending beloved clothes and making cushions to refresh your living room, to simply learning a new hobby, they unlock endless possibilities.
It can be tricky for beginners to know which sewing machine to buy, so the Good Housekeeping Institute’s resident sewing expert put seven machines from leading brands to the test.
We also know the right machine can be an investment (especially during the cost of living crisis), so we've flagged the best Black Friday deals so you can pick up a bargain.
These are our best sewing machines for beginner to intermediate sewers:
For making clothes and soft furnishings, there are two main types of sewing machines:
The traditional style of sewing machine, mechanical models are manually controlled by a range of dials that allow you to select your stitch, alter its length and width, and adjust the tension.
Most mechanical machines will be suitable for any sewing project, but they don’t tend to have as many functions as their computerised counterparts. Though more affordable, the more stitches a model offers, the more expensive it will be.
These innovative sewing machines have built-in computers programmed with the stitches and their recommended sizes. They can even run without a foot pedal via a stop and start button.
If you’re just getting started and want to keep your sewing slow and steady, a feature called ‘speed control’ lets you limit how quickly the machine can run.
Computerised sewing machines cost more than mechanical models, but their higher prices are easily justified by functions such as automatic stitch reinforcement – as opposed to manually pressing a reverse stitch button at the beginning and end of a row of stitching – and a wider array of stitch patterns, including decorative options and sometimes letters of the alphabet.
Firstly, decide whether a mechanical or computerised model is the best sewing machine for you. Then, consider how important the following factors are to you:
Sewing machines can vary when it comes to needle threading and bobbin loading.
For a more accessible machine, look for an automatic needle threader. These speed up the often fiddly process of feeding thread through the eye of the needle, instead hooking onto the thread and pulling it through themselves.
Turning to bobbins (the part on which the lower thread is wound), you’ll have to choose between a front-loading and top-loading design.
Top-loading bobbins sit on the free arm just beneath the needle. They can simply be dropped in, and their bobbin cases tend to be clear so you can see how much thread remains. Front-loading bobbins are fiddly to fit and concealed within the machine when in use.
The machines on our list offer between 14 and 97 stitches, so you’ll need to decide how many of them you’d like. Even the most basic models come with standard straight, zig-zag and stretch stitches, and 20 stitches should be plenty for most home sewing projects.
More advanced stitches, such as quilting ones, add more functionality but cost more.
Presser feet – the parts that sit above the fabric and hold it in place as you sew – are essential accessories. Every machine below comes with at least a standard zigzag foot.
Other options include a zipper foot – useful for making clothes or cushions – and an overedge (or overcasting) foot to help you finish the edges of your fabric to prevent fraying.
Finally, consider which type of buttonhole foot you’d like; a one-step buttonhole foot is the easiest to use, as you simply fit the button into one end of the foot, sew, and the machine automatically works to the correct sizing.
If you fancy trying quilting, look for a quilting guide. Most machines come with a seam ripper, additional bobbins and spool extensions for threading two reels of cotton, should you wish to use a double needle.
Note that most of these accessories (and many more) can also be purchased separately.
The best sewing machines should last you many years with proper care.
Look for a machine with a cover – either hard or soft – to protect it when not in use and stop it getting dusty.
Regularly changing your sewing machine needle is also important; try to do this after every eight hours of sewing. Make sure you use the right type of needle for your fabric, too.
Check the manufacturer’s instructions, but some machines require regular cleaning to stop lint build-up in the feed dogs, and many will come with a brush for this purpose. If you have a front-loading bobbin, that may require occasional oiling, too.
Ideally, take your machine for an annual service, especially if you’re a regular sewer. Local sewing machine shops and some fabric shops should have specialists who offer this.
The GHI finds the best sewing machines by testing how they sew across four different fabrics: cotton, viscose, jersey and denim. They run long test strips of each material through the machine to check consistency, tension and how it handles it.
Next, they trial a selection of stitches on each fabric, including a straight, zigzag and buttonhole stitch, plus stretch stitches on jersey.
Finally, they award each sewing machine an overall score for its ease of use, design and functionality.
These are our seven best sewing machines for beginners and intermediate sewers:
Our top scorer hugely impressed our tester. Its quick-start guide and on-machine markings make getting started straightforward. There’s more to get used to than on a mechanical machine, but it comes with detailed instructions, including guidance on stitch selection, and error codes appear on its screen for easy troubleshooting.
Its computerised design simplifies processes, including choosing stitch lengths and widths, reinforcing lines of stitching and even sewing a buttonhole; thanks to its one-step foot, you simply select your stitch, press start and watch it sew.
It produced outstanding results across every fabric and stitch type, and it offers plenty of decorative and quilting stitches. Quiet and stable in use, it’s a machine that’ll please for almost any project.
Key specifications Type: Computerised Weight: 6.5kg No. of stitches: 60 Accessories included: Zigzag foot, zipper foot, button foot, buttonhole foot, overedge foot, blind hem foot, monogramming foot, needles, twin needle, four bobbins, seam ripper, cleaning brush, eyelet punch, screwdrivers, extra spool pin, three spool caps, accessory bag Automatic needle threader: Yes Bobbin style: Top loading Cover: Hard
This mechanical sewing machine proved a trusty buy that will serve both beginners and more experienced sewers alike. Its seam allowance guides (including one for corner-turning) and threading markings are clear and easy to follow, the bobbin is simple to wind and its one-step buttonhole foot is efficient.
The tension dial felt stiff initially, but it barely needed adjusting for neat sewing on any fabric. Only the zigzag stitch required a bit of trial and error with its size settings, as it caused some slight puckering on lighter materials like cotton and viscose. If you experience any gathering when finishing your fabric edge, consult the comprehensive instructions for the best alternative overcasting stitches to use.
Overall, this reasonably priced model boasts a good array of stitches – including the capability to smock – which aspiring dressmakers will enjoy.
Key specifications Type: Mechanical Weight: 6.71kg No. of stitches: 25 Accessories included: Zigzag foot, zipper foot, button foot, buttonhole foot, overedge foot, blind hem foot, lint brush, quilting guide, screwdriver, seam ripper, two spool caps, spool pin, four bobbins, needles Automatic needle threader: Yes Bobbin style: Top loading Cover: Hard
Keen to cultivate a more sustainable wardrobe? This make do and mend machine comes with a detailed guide to darning and repairing tears. It also scored full marks for ease of use, so if you’re shopping for your first sewing machine, it’s a great beginner-friendly buy.
Clear instructions and machine markings help you get going quickly, and 23 stitch settings (including a reliable one-step buttonhole) offer plenty of scope for expanding your sewing horizons.
It consistently stitched neatly, and adjusting the settings and tension proved easy. It felt robust, too, only slightly wobbling when operating at the highest speed on denim. Just be careful on delicate fabric; the presser foot marked ours slightly when tackling stretch stitches.
Bright pink detailing means this machine looks great on display, but it also comes with a sturdy hard case to keep it safe between projects.
Key specifications Type: Mechanical Weight: 6.3kg No. of stitches: 23 Accessories included: Zigzag foot, zipper foot, buttonhole foot, blind hem foot, clear view foot, three bobbins, screwdriver, two spool caps, seam ripper and brush, edge guide, extra spool pin, needles Automatic needle threader: Yes Bobbin style: Top loading Cover: Hard
If you're after a machine that can stitch words (a grandchild’s name, for example), look to this clever computerised model that allows you to program letters. It also offers plenty of decorative and quilting stitches, plus a darning program, stop start button and speed control.
On test, its performance reflected its premium price tag, with close to perfect stitching. There was some wobbling at high speeds and the buttonhole process is manual (albeit impeccably neat), but its foot pedal’s pleasing design allows you to roll the cord away and its large extension tray could be useful if you turn your hand to quilting.
Though compact, its accessories are stored in a separate case, so it requires more room than some. It also doesn't come with a cover.
Key specifications Type: Computerised Weight: 8kg No. of stitches: 97 Accessories included: Zigzag foot, zipper foot, buttonhole foot, blind hem foot, overlock foot, three bobbins, stitch pattern card, needles, accessory bag, height compensation tool, seam ripper, screwdriver, brush, three spool caps Automatic needle threader: Yes Bobbin style: Front loading Cover: None
Singer is an iconic brand, and this sewing machine lived up to its reputation. It sewed brilliantly across the board, competently handling all our test fabrics. The instructions lacked detail, but its trustworthy design would make a savvy choice if you’re not a total beginner.
It boasts many features for developing your dressmaking skills, but its buttonhole functionality stood out; as well as the standard one-step buttonhole foot, it features a dial for adjusting the density of stitching on either side of the hole for maximum consistency.
The threading markings are helpful – including a needle changing reminder – and our tester found the pedal responsive and the machine sturdy. It also comes with a quilting guide.
Key specifications Type: Mechanical Weight: 6.4kg No. of stitches: 23 Accessories included: Zigzag foot, zipper foot, buttonhole foot, button foot, seam ripper and lint brush, quilting guide, needles, bobbins, screwdriver, extra spool pin Automatic needle threader: Yes Bobbin style: Top loading Cover: Soft
This isn’t quite the cheapest model on our list, but it’s our top pick for how much bang it offers for under £200. Reliable and intuitive, it features an automatic needle threader and a four-step buttonhole (though not as fast as a one-step design, this ensures your stitching stops where you started for consistent results).
Our tester found the bobbin easy to wind, but it’s front-loading, so you won’t know when you’re nearly out of thread. It took a while for oil from the bobbin to stop appearing on our fabric, so be sure to run a long test strip through the machine after unboxing.
It did wobble on occasion, but it stitched neatly across all materials and felt like great value for money.
Key specifications Type: Mechanical Weight: 5.9kg No. of stitches: 15 Accessories included: Zigzag foot, zipper foot, buttonhole foot, button foot, blind hem foot, bobbins, needles, screwdriver and seam ripper Automatic needle threader: Yes Bobbin style: Front loading Cover: Soft
Costing the least, if you’re after a sewing machine for the occasional project, be that cushions or a skirt, then John Lewis has just the thing. This entry model's 14 stitches cover all the essentials and our tester found it largely reliable and stable.
It’s designed for light to midweight fabrics, but it handled our midweight denim just fine during testing. If you’re planning to make curtains, for example, then test a swatch of your chosen material first to ensure that it isn’t too heavy.
The feed dogs can't be dropped, but the included darning plate means you can still use it to mend or sew on buttons. You'll need to buy a zipper foot separately (it’s compatible with Janome accessories) if you want to tackle zip fastenings, and its buttonhole foot is entirely manual, but it comes with a soft cover for safe storage. It’s not got the bells and whistles of the pricier models above, but this is still an excellent little sewer.
Industrial Grommet Machine Key specifications Type: Mechanical Weight: 6kg No. of stitches: 14 Accessories included: Zigzag foot, buttonhole foot, button foot, blind hem foot, seam ripper, bobbins, needles Automatic needle threader: No Bobbin style: Front loading Cover: Soft