We’ve home-tested a lot of sewing machines for beginners this year, and the Pfaff 160S is probably the most stylish design and is simple to get to grips with if you’re an entry level sewist. It also sews quietly, which is a benefit if, like me, you do most of your sewing at a dining table in a communal space while others are watching the TV. It’s not the cheapest entry level machine on the market but it’s a quality machine which will last for years.
The attention to design detail doesn’t stop at the hot pink exterior. It offers other thoughtful touches to make your sewing life easier. For example the seam ripper that is included comes encased in the brush for keeping your machine dust free – this is appreciated by me as I’m always losing my seam ripper so this makes it harder to misplace, though not impossible, I’m sure.
It comes with an array of accessories, feet and needles to get you started, including
- 3 x bobbins
- Screwdriver for maintence
- 2 x spool caps (large and small)
- Seam ripper
- Edge guide
- Auxiliary spool pin
- 5 x spare needles (70, 80, 90 plus 2 x 90 for stretch and jeans)
- Standard presser foot
- Clear presser foot
- Blindhem foot
- Zipper foot
- One-step buttonhole Foot 5B
- Hard cover carry case
What is the Smarter by Pfaff 160S?
The Smarter by Pfaff 160S is a beginner-level sewing machine with eye-catching design, sturdy body and a hard carry case to take it out and about to sewing groups and friends’ houses. It’s a manual machine with lots to build your sewing skills, although it’s unlikely to compete with the full range of functions of computerized sewing machines, with their higher price point. If you’re just starting out sewing, or are rediscovering it after a break, you like a snazzy design and you’ve got a bit of money to spend on a manual machine for a mid-level price, this could be the one for you.
What does the Pfaff Smarter 160S do?
We tried out the Pfaff Smarter 160S on a variety of home sewing tasks, from the basics (setting it up and sewing the core utility stitches), it will also comfortably tackle most home sewing tasks – most of which we tested in this review, including:
- Quilting a quilt sandwich with wadding
- Sewing on a patch
- Making and mending clothes
- Free-motion embroidery
- Sewing a roman blind or curtain
- Taking up a pair of jeans.
- Inserting buttonholes and zips
It has a built in free arm for sewing skirts, sleeves and other items that need to be slipped over the machine to sew. To use this, simply slide off the accessory tray and get sewing.
How much is Pfaff Smarter 160S ?
The Pfaff Smarter retails for somewhere around £260 at most retailers in 2022 .
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Is the Pfaff Smarter 160S good value for money?
For its mid-level price point in the manual sewing machines market, the Smarter by Pfaff does offer a good quality of design and the hard cover case it comes with is a valuable addition for your money.
To be fully balanced, there are quite a few cheaper machines on the market for beginners for less money which are also good quality machines from trusted brands, or you could get a beginner computerized machine for the same price. So if you’re looking solely for budget you probably could spend a little less.
That said we really did like this machine and would happily use it in our own sewing projects more often. It offers a lovely smooth sewing experience, and some nice design touches, so if you’re looking for a trustworthy manual machine with a built in needle threader, it’s worth the money.
Is the Pfaff Smarter 160S sewing machine easy to use?
Let’s start with setup! I managed to get the machine set up and running pretty quickly for my first attempt. It has 2 spool pins – a main and auxiliary pin. You can use the horizontal spool for normal threads and the vertical one for large spools or speciality threads. The horizontal spool comes with a spool cap which is really useful when sewing at speed or winding the bobbin as your thread won’t jump off the machine with the motion – I do find this happens a lot with other beginner machines that don’t have a cap.
Threading the bobbin is easy and the spool pin’s spool cap is a huge help in keeping the thread on the spool pin. We did manage to pop the spool pin cap off at one point but in generally we love this feature as it’s a long term bug bear when winding bobbins that the thread wants to leap off the machine. The bobbin winder automatically slows and stops once your bobbin is full.
Threading the top thread was easy with the manual to guide me, as was inserting the top-loading bobbin – even though I’ve never used this style of bobbin before, so you shouldn’t have any major difficulties here. There’s no need to bring the bobbin thread up, as with other manual machines. The machine will do this for you as you start to sew.
I tried changing needles, feet, threading and testing out its wide variety of stitches and all these essential beginner functions were easy to pick up quickly – even if I did need a little guidance the first time around from the manual.
When I was quilting and making some curtains, I found it useful that you can raise the presser foot a little bit extra by hand to fit all the fabric layers under the foot. This is handy if you regularly sew bulky projects.
I tested sewing on cotton and denim, plus it made light work of sewing through layers of a quilt and wadding for quilting too. It sewed with ease on all these fabrics. For the ultimate test in how it fares with heavier duty fabrics, I gave it a whirl sewing the curtain top to some heavyweight curtains I was making with upholstery fabric and a thick layer of thermal interlining. It whipped through the fabric with no problems – not a snapped needle or tension issue in sight.
One thing I did notice that was a bit annoying was that my needle unthreaded itself a few times during this test. I’m not sure what caused this, and I strongly suspect this is just a quirk that you get used to and naturally learn to avoid by adjusting your tension the more you and the machine get to know each other.
Another feature I appreciated was that I took this machine for a full test ride and put my pedal to the metal (so to speak) and it sewed with impressive pace while being quieter than other machines I’ve used.
Integrated needle threader
This is an ingenious function – allowing you to thread the needle quickly and easily – great for those of us who find it hard to see and thread our needle regularly. The only problem was, I couldn’t get it to work the first time and the hook of the needle threader that goes through the eye kept snagging the thread. However after a few practise runs it was simple and a real feature for anyone who struggles with fiddly intricate needle threading.
I tried a few times and am sure this will get easier with practise and become second nature once you’ve mastered it.
We like that the hand wheel comes with a notch which you can align to a point on the machine to ensure your needle is at the highest point (handy for needle threading)
Pfaff Smarter 160S quality and durability
This is a well-made machine that feels sturdy and reliable to sew on. The fact that it sews with speed with low vibration and sound will mean it lasts longer as you’re putting less stress on the machine and needle as you sew. It’s a noticeably well made machine from the minute you get it out of the box and you do get some nice extra quality for the price.
Pfaff Smarter 160S functions and stitch options
This may be a small thing but it has a built-in thread cutter on the side – so when you’ve finished stitching you can simply pull your work over the thread cutter to snip the thread (rather than fumble around for our scissors). I really love little touches like this on sewing machines – not all beginner machines have this and I find it saves me a huge amount of time when sewing.
It comes with a handy clear presser foot for sewing decorative stitches or short zig zag and utility stitches too. We like that it comes with a Blindhem foot and zipper foot, plus handy buttonhole foot.
All in all the Pfaff Smarter 160S offers an impressive array of 22 stitches – including both utility stitches, specialist stitches for sewing with stretch fabrics and decorative stitches – so you’ll be able to build your skills and dressmaking (or home sewing) repertoire as you sew,
- 1 step buttonhole
- Straight stitch
- Zigzag stitch
- Triple zigzag stitch
- Blindhem stitch
- Elastic blindhem stitch
- Decor stitch
- Checker satin stitch
- Open scallop
- Bridging stitch – for overcasting, sewing on elastic, darning tears and inserting patches
- Greek stitch
- Shell edging stitch
- Reinforced straight stitch
- Honeycombe stitch
- Edge stitch narrow
- 2 x Decorative stitches
- Cross Stitches
- Feathre stitch
- Closed overlock stitch – for closing and serging seam for fraying materials
- Overlock stitch
It also comes with zipper foot to help you sew both sides of a zip. Check the manual for how to do it but, as with all the other functions, we gave it ta go and found this pretty simple to get the hang of – we attached a test zip with ease and no snags or issues.
The manual comes with a few trouble shooting tips at the back (we wish more sewing machines offered comprehensive trouble shooting as it’s pretty rare for new sewing converts not to come across the odd thing that they’re not sure how to resolve.
It’s easy to lower the feed dogs – simply remove the free arm and find hidden switch behind the bed of the machine, which you simply flick to the left. This is useful for free motion quilting and embroidery.
How portable is it?
Pretty portable. I am full of love for the hard carry case – honestly it’s the best one I’ve seen for a beginner-friendly machine and super practical for portability. There aren’t many beginner or entry level machines on the market that offer this accessory. It will protect your machine on the move. My machine is often in the boot of my car or being transported to friends houses for sewing nights or over to our photo studio for video filming, so the extra protection is welcome for me.
On the flip side, the case does lack a pocket or compartment for the lead and accessories (I use this quite extensively with my main machine at home), but you can always these inside the case to carry them securely when out and about – I tried it and it worked.
Our verdict: should you buy a Pfaff Smarter 160S?
In short, yes. We reckon this machine will be a trusted companion for many years of sewing projects and is one of the nicest designed machines on the market. It will cost you a little more than other beginner machines but if you’ve got the budget then you’ll be rewarded with a reliable machine that can tackle most home sewing and dressmaking projects with ease.