Buying a sewing machine is a big decision, especially if you’re a beginner looking for your first one. With hundreds of machines to choose from, it can be a challenge finding a reliable piece of equipment that can get you started.
In this review, we’ll be exploring John Lewis’s recent addition to their beginner line, the JL110 sewing machine.
What is the John Lewis JL110?
The JL110 is an entry-level sewing machine with a bold design, an affordable price tag, and an easy-to-use interface.
The John Lewis JL110 is aimed squarely at beginners, with enough features to help you make a solid start in sewing without making things too complicated. Overall, the quality is superb for the price and it provides excellent value for money.
Who should buy the John Lewis JL110 sewing machine?
The John Lewis JL110 sewing machine is really an introductory sewing machine, so it’s best for new sewers or anyone who wants to make simple projects for their home. It can be used to sew lightweight fabrics with ease, but struggles with bulkier materials.
As you gain experience, you may find yourself yearning for more advanced features and a greater number of stitch settings. This is especially true if you want to become a skilled dressmaker.
Overall, this sewing machine is sturdy, beautifully designed and easy to use. It’s a brilliant choice for anyone who wants to take up sewing as a hobby.
This would also be a brilliant buy for anyone looking for a portable machine to take to a sewing class. Read on to discover the pros and cons of the JL110 and decide whether it’s the right machine for you.
Discover more models, and top buying tips in our guide to the best sewing machines.
John Lewis JL110 review: Summary
● Good quality machine for beginners and seasoned sewists alike
● Price: £135
● Key features: 14 stitch options, a twin needle option (not supplied), front-loading bobbin, free arm, LED lamp, 4-step buttonhole function
What does John Lewis JL100 do?
- 14 stitch options
- Twin-needle compatible (needle sold separately)
- Front-loading bobbin
- Free arm
- LED lamp
- Four-step buttonhole function
The machine has a good selection of stitches to get you started. The majority of dressmaking and home sewing can be done with one or two types of stitches. Machines that come with 100+ stitches can be needlessly intimidating for beginners, so it’s great to see John Lewis and Janome cut back to the bare essentials for the JL110.
In an ideal world, I’m looking for my sewing machine to have a one-step buttonhole. The reason is that buttonholes produced with a one-step setting are cleaner and neater than the more traditional four-step buttonhole. That said, it’s not too difficult a process to master, you’ll just need a bit of practice with your sewing machine.
The JL110 comes with a buttonhole foot which is a plus, and the manual shows you how to go about stitching a buttonhole with the foot. Remember: it’s always a good idea to sew multiple samples on a scrap of fabric before diving into your finished project. You don’t want to spoil a beautiful project in the final stages!
In terms of accessories, the JL110 is fairly standard, coming with the basics you’d need to get up and running, but not much more than that.
How much is the John Lewis JL110 sewing machine?
At the time of writing, this machine costs £135 on the John Lewis website. That’s a pretty reasonable price for an entry-level machine, as typical basic machines start at around £100.
Is the John Lewis JL110 sewing machine good value for money?
Yes! In my opinion, this is a great machine for £135, it has all the basic stitch functions you would need to get up and running. The John Lewis JL110 also has a modern design that other companies have yet to catch up with. The outer plastic shell is durable enough to survive light knocks and scrapes.
If you’re trying to decide whether to spend a little extra to upgrade from a basic model, bear in mind that the JL110 is manufactured by Janome. This is worth considering if you are comparing this machine to an unbranded model.
What replacement parts will I need?
The foot pedal and the plug are connected via the same cord, which can be a plus or not, depending on your preferences. True, it’s one less cord to misplace, but it also means that you’ll need to sit reasonably close to a power source or use an extension cable.
If either the plug or pedal breaks, you’ll need to replace both, which is a massive inconvenience.
How much are the replacement parts?
A replacement foot pedal and plug costs around £40 at the time of writing.
Are replacement parts easy to get hold of?
Yes! Janome parts are widely available and are compatible with the JL110.
JL110 sewing machine functions
The JL110 sewing machine has 14 stitch functions:
- A – Straight stitch, needle in central position
- B – Straight stitch, needle in left-hand position
- C – Zigzag stitch
- D – Three-step zigzag stitch
- E – Blind hem stitch with zigzag stitches
- F – Blind hem stitch with straight stitches
- G – Shell tuck stitch (decorative edging)
Stretch stitches have shadowed letters on the side of the machine. Turn the dial to the ‘SS.’ position to use these stitches. These stitches are either for stretch fabrics or for use when smocking (D):
- A – Triple straight stitch, needle in central position
- B – Triple straight stitch, needle in left-hand position
- C – Triple zig-zag stitch
- D – Smocking stitch
- E – Blind hem stitch with zig-zag stitches
- F – Blind hem stitch with straight stitches
- G – Over-edge stitch
- Dust cover
- Standard and buttonhole presser feet
- Spare needle pack
- Spare bobbins
- Darning plate
- Seam ripper
The machine comes with a full-size manual, which is great as entry-level machines tend to include less practical DVD manuals or a fold-out sheet. There are also a range of unofficial videos on YouTube where you can see reviewers trying the machine out for themselves. This is a brilliant way to learn how to thread and set up your machine.
It’s easy to use and all of the functions are straightforward and self-explanatory for beginners, or those with a little sewing experience. Stitch functions may feel limited to more advanced crafters, but are perfect for basic dressmaking and homeware projects.
However, there are some limitations: for example, you can only adjust the stitch length, not the stitch width. The width can be altered for the zig-zag stitch by using the selection dial. This may cause problems for experienced stitchers, but it’s unlikely to trouble beginners.
The dials feel secure, and the needle moves up and down smoothly. If you find that your needle doesn’t turn smoothly, it’s probably an oiling issue rather than a machine problem – refer to your manual for instructions on how to oil the machine.
What’s the difference between the JL110 and the JL110SE?
The John Lewis JL110 was previously known as the JL110SE, but it is the same machine. The JL110 is ideal for modern sewists as it comes in a range of bold and pastel colours.
Is the John Lewis JL110 sewing machine easy to use?
Setting up the machine is very straightforward, with simple dials and buttons that are clearly labelled. The dials consist of a stitch selector dial on the left and a stitch length dial on the right.
There is a backstitch level on the front of the machine which (with practice) is handy to reach for without looking up while you sew. The other dial on the front is the tension dial, which is used to control the tension of the top thread. This is also nice and clear for beginners.
When you get to grips with the machine, you’ll find that the higher the number on the tension dial the looser the stitch will be. The dial on the side of the machine is used to raise and lower the needle.
The front of the machine clips off to reveal a little drop-down door which provides access to the front-loading bobbin. You will need to do this every time you need to replace the bobbin thread, which can be a nuisance.
I’ve used machines with drop-in bobbins and with front-loading bobbins in the past, and I prefer a drop-in bobbin. It’s much simpler to get up and running. There’s no fiddly bobbin case to worry about and you can see the bobbin moving around under the plate as you sew.
The JL110 doesn’t have a built-in needle threader, which isn’t a surprise at this price point. You can get hold of needle threaders without too much hassle separately, and they’re fairly inexpensive and easy to use.
The machine has handy clip-on feet which are very easy to change. This is much better for those with hand mobility issues as using a small screwdriver can be fiddly.
Sewing over bulky denim seams is a bit of a struggle and can lead to some skipped stitches. Likewise, lightweight fabrics such as chiffon and silk risk being sucked into the needle plate which can cause holes and/or oil stains to appear in your fabric.
As a beginner, you’re likely to be working with easy-to-manoeuvre fabrics and even more advanced sewists often steer away from chiffons and bulkier fabrics. If you want to learn to sew cushions, quilt tops, or light-medium weight garments then this is a great machine. However, if your sole aim is to turn up your heavy velvet curtains, make a winter coat, or alter your delicate wedding dress, this isn’t the machine for you.
Our verdict: Should you buy the John Lewis JL110 sewing machine?
The JL110 is a simple, affordable machine without any of the confusing extras that can slow down a beginner’s sewing journey.
It will see you through your first few years of sewing and it’s great to have on hand as a back-up machine if you decide to upgrade in the future.
John Lewis allows you to try out sewing machines in their stores, so if you’re unsure about taking the leap you can ask a staff member if you can have a go on one of the machines.
Deciding which sewing machine is right for you
Buying a sewing machine is a big decision, but there’s no need to rush into things. It’s always worth taking the time to weigh up the other options on the market before taking the plunge.
The good news is that there are lots of fabulous sewing machines on the market and many of them are designed with new stitchers in mind. Take a look at our pick of the best sewing machines for beginners to find the one that meets your needs.