When you first start out making your own clothes, working out exactly how to choose a sewing machine can be an exciting yet daunting task. It’s tempting to snap up the first machine you see on offer, but with a little advice and research first, you can shop smartly for the machine that fits your needs.
Many of us start out wondering which machine is the right one for us and end up confused about which brands and models to start with. We’ve researched the best sewing machines for beginners to learn the ropes on for you below. We share our tips for how to choose a sewing machine and recommend some of the best starter sewing machines based on the types of sewing you might want to do early on, and as your experience develops. When you first start shopping for a machine, if you don’t have any sewing experience at all you really need a basic sewing machine that won’t break and offers you a few starter options but not a thousand different stitch options or feet that will end up overwhelming you.
For example you might need to start out with basic stitches but if you’re interested in dressmaking, you’ll find it useful later to be able to play around with stitching on stretch fabrics. Or if you’re keen on making quilts, picking a machine which can fit universal quilting foots and be adjusted to sew larger items will make your life a lot easier when you’re grappling with a queen size quilt sandwich further down the line.
Whether you’ve never put foot to sewing machine pedal in your life or you’ve been sewing for a while and are looking to invest in a next stage machine, read on to discover 10 of the best sewing machines for beginners. If you’re a sewing bee fan, you might also like our guide to What sewing machines are used on the Sewing Bee? or if you’re ready to invest in your next step machine, check out our guide to the Best Overlockers for 2021. If you’re just starting out, we’ve also added some starter guides to help you get to know your new machine. Head to our beginner tutorials for How to use a sewing machine or stock up on threads with our Beginner’s guide to sewing machine threads.
Best sewing machine for beginners: our favourites for 2021
- Liheya Portable Household Sewing Machine
- Silver 12 Stitch mini machine
- Brother XN1700 Sewing Machine
- Singer Start 1306
- Brother L14S
- Brother Innovis
- Singer 4411 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine
- Janome 725s
- Brother FS70WT
- Pfaff Passport 3.0
Best rated sewing machines for beginners, under £100
Due to the surge in demands in sewing machines last year, it’s hard to find a machine from one of the big brands in the budget price range, but if all you’re looking for is a starter machine to practise your skills then you can still pick up some handy starter models for less than £100. Try these cheap sewing machines for beginners if you just want to dip your toe in the water but aren’t fully sure you’re ready to commit to a bigger budget model yet.
Liheya Portable Household Sewing Machine
• Buy now from Amazon (£59.99)
This handheld sewing machine will still offer you a fair few features for the price – choose between two speeds and 12 built-in stitches. At 2.7kg it’s lightweight, portable and space-saving. It comes with 4 needles, 1 needle threader, 4 bobbins, a foot pedal, and a buttonhole presser.
Silver 12 Stitch Mini Sewing Machine
- Buy now from John Lewis (£59)
Completely new to sewing and want to have a dabble without committing major funds? Go for a mini machine! This this one from Silver is a nifty little starter machine and comes with a couple of thread spools, bobbins, needle threader and needle to get you started. At this price it’s not suitable for heavyweight dressmaking but you can use it to sew lightweight fabrics and it comes with 12 stitch options (including embroidery), a reverse button for strengthening your stitches, electric foot speed control and an automatic buttonhole function – so it’s got enough to show you the ropes and more. Plus it’s small size and light weight mean you can keep it on as a travel machine if you catch the bug and decide to treat yourself to a more heavyweight model!
Best rated sewing machines for beginners, under £200
Brother XN1700 Sewing Machine
- Buy now from John Lewis (£119)
This nifty beginner machine from trusted brand Brother is the perfect starter sewing machine for dressmaking, basic alterations and lightweight fabrics. It offers you 17 stitches including utility and decorative options alongside a 4-step automatic buttonhole. We like the drop in bobbin with automatic thread tension to make getting started simple and the LED light to brighten up your work space. This beginner-friendly model comes with a twin needle, 3 needle set, 3 bobbins, an extra spool, buttonhole foot, zipper foot, button-attaching foot and foot control.
Singer Start 1306
- Buy now from Very (£110)
The Singer 1306 has been designed for beginners. It is very simple, and has the basic features you need to begin sewing. It comes with 6 built in stitches plus a four-step buttonhole. This machine is a good choice if you want to dabble with some simple sewing, and have a tight budget. The controls are clear and simple so it’s a welcoming option if you’re not confident about where to begin.
- Buy now from Amazon (£147.50)
Beginner machines are proving hard to come by after the perfect storm of lockdown and The Great British Sewing Bee hit UK shoppers looking to take up sewing last Spring, so in the face of a nationwide sewing machine shortage, we’re excited to find this great bargain. Aimed at beginners, it’s really easy to use and has just the one dial so you’re not overwhelmed with options. The L14s is perfect for beginners and is the perfect choice for basic alterations and repairs. It’s lightweight and portable for easy storage with a strong metal chassis, easy operation and smooth quiet sewing (so handy if you’re working in a room with family members in lockdown who want to watch the TV!). It comes with 14 Stitches, an LED Sewing light, top loading bobbin and a 3 year warranty
Best rated sewing machines for beginners, under £300
Brother Innovis Electronic Sewing Machine
• Buy now from Amazon (£245)
This beginner-friendly computerised sewing machine won’t overwhelm you with options but also introduces you to home sewing with a few chances to level up once you’ve gained your confidence. It comes with 16 stitches, an LCD screen so you can see your stitch length and width, easy automatic threading and lots of extra functionality. Enjoy the chance to practise 3 different eyelets for professional results, speedy project work with the automatic threader and automatic reinforcement stitch.
The Singer 4411 is a heavy duty sewing machine which is capable of sewing through multiple layers of fabrics, or thicker fabrics like denim or even leather. This is thanks to its strong motor and extra foot height option. It has 11 stitch patterns plus a 4-step buttonhole, and with a potential stitch speed of over 1100 stitches per minute, this should help you speed up your sewing and avoid those 2am sewing sessions!
This is a great beginner machine if you have plans of doing a lot of garment sewing and have dreams of making your own jeans or bags. It is also suitable mending or altering clothes you already have. So if you are trying to buy less and make the most of what you already have, this could be the sewing machine for you.
Best rated sewing machines for beginners, under £400
- Buy now from Amazon (£359)
Stretch your skills with this trusted Janome sewing machine with some extra options to take your skills up a notch. The Janome J423-S comes with 24 Built-In stitch choices, automatic 1-step buttonhole, variable stitch width & length and a robust metal body and hard cover. When you’re ready to try new things, you can play around with the drop feed for freehand embroidery.
- Buy now from Very (£300)
This is a feature-packed electronic sewing and quilting machine, which has way more functionality than you need as a beginner, but will give you lots of options as you tackle different sewing projects. It’s particularly suited for quilters as it comes with an extension table, which makes sewing larger projects like quilts easier as the fabric sits flatter on the larger surface area.
There are a whopping 70 different stitches that can be changed at the touch of a button using the electronic controls (no need to turn dials like on the mechanical sewing machines). As an added bonus, it has an integrated needle threader.
This machine has a speed control, which is perfect for beginners as you can set it to go slower, then increase the speed as you become more confident.
Best rated sewing machines for beginners, treat yourself
Pfaff Passport 3.0
- Buy it now from Amazon (£559)
This compact machine is perfect if you only have a small sewing space or like to take your machine out and about with you to classes, groups or weekend sewing retreats. What it lacks in size it makes up for with features – including 100 stitches from the basics to buttonholes, decorative, quilt and and needlework stitches.
Press the start/stop button to sew without foot control, making sewing long seams, free-motion and buttonholes easy. The feed dog drop has been especially created for ease of stippling, free-motion embroidery or darning, while snazzy lighting means your sewing will be shadow-free all year round. If you’re a quilter you can get an optional extension table to support larger projects and it comes with a zipper foot too.
If you’re also in the market for some fabric markers check out our guide which will tell you which markers to use on which fabrics.
Best second hand and vintage sewing machines
There are lots of second hand sewing machines on websites like eBay and Gumtree. They can be very cheap, or even free in some cases so it is worth having a look. You do need to be cautious as sewing machines need to be maintained and serviced to keep them sewing well, so you could end up with a machine riddled with issues. If you do buy a second hand sewing machine, be prepared to have it serviced before you start using it, and ask to see it working before committing to buying.
Although they can be incredibly beautiful, vintage sewing machines often have problems that are expensive and difficult to fix. They also don’t have the same easy-to-use features as modern machines, for example: changing a bobbin can be quite fiddly, and the range of stitches they do can be limited. Getting parts like feet can also be difficult for older models so you might have a better time buying a new machine that comes with a manual, a guarantee and after sales support.
How to choose a sewing machine
The sewing machine you opt for should give you the tools to make the projects you want to. Plus, it must support you as your skills grow and your projects become more ambitious. However there’s a huge range of basic sewing machines machines out there that will serve you well, and you may not need an all-singing-all-dancing machine – a simple one will help you learn the basic skills you need.
“What sewing machine features should I look out for?”
- Pick a brand you trust
There are lots of cheap sewing machines out there made by brands you’ve never heard of. Choosing one from an unknown brand could make it harder for you to get started. Not only are they unlikely to give the best online support, they may also be unable to offer you advice if you have any problems with your new machine. Most sewing machines made by well known manufacturers have YouTube videos and guides available which can help massively when you get stuck! Another advantage to choosing a machine from a big brand is that you’ll be able to get accessories to extend its functionality. These are guaranteed to fit without any guesswork or fiddling. There are also a range of universal accessories (for example needles and specialist feet) which are created to fit all the big main brands. Brands to look out for are Singer, Janome, Brother, Bernina, Pfaff and Toyota.
- Does it have a top loading drop-in bobbin?
This makes it easy to load and see how much thread you have left on your bobbin reel.
- Does it have snap-on feet?
You’ll need to change the ‘foot’ you sew with depending on what you are doing. So if you’re sewing a zip you will usually use a zipper foot, or if you’re making a quilt you’d use a quilting foot. Having snap on feet makes it quick to change between them, and you won’t need to fiddle around with a screwdriver.
- Does it offer stretch stitches?
If you want to make clothes, at some point you’ll probably want to try sewing with jersey and fabrics that have some stretch to them. A simple zig zag stitch will let you do this as the stitches can stretch when the fabric does.
- Can you adjust the base to reveal the free arm?
You might be asking what this means? On many machines, you can remove part of the base of the sewing machine so you can fit items like sleeves and cuffs under the needle more easily.
- How heavy is it?
If you are planning on taking your new sewing machine to sewing classes, you might benefit from choosing a lighter machine.
- How loud is it?
Cheaper sewing machines tend to be more noisy which might be something to consider if you are going to be sewing in a shared space. Our Sewing and Quilting Editor Zoe, for example, often sews in her living room while her husband watches Netflix, not always harmoniously! So see if you can try out a couple of friends’ machines before you buy or read the online reviews to find out what other makers say about your chosen machine.