Last Updated On November 12th, 2018
Sewing is a rewarding hobby for millions. It’s a daily or weekly task for many more, who make their own outfits or must constantly stitch up rips or holes in their kids’ clothes. The work can naturally be done by hand, but the vast majority of women (and men) who sew prefer to use a sewing machine.
Using a sewing machine means buying a sewing machine. And that’s a job far more difficult than hemming a pair of jeans or fixing a buttonhole. The wide variety of models you can choose from is confusing at best, and frustrating at worst. How many types of fabrics can they handle? Drop-in or front-loading bobbin? How important is the machine’s speed? Is an automatic needle threader a real convenience or just something else to break down? And most of all, why in the world do so many sewing machines have so many built-in stitches? Who in the world needs a machine with 500 stitches?
In this compilation of sewing machine reviews for the UK, we’ll usually mention how many stitches a machine has. But we’re much more concerned with each model’s brand, its key features, its versatility, how easy it is to use and the quality of stitching it produces. Our goals are to bring those new to sewing up to speed – and to help more experienced readers smartly choose the best sewimg machine for them.
Best Sewing Machines At a Glance
Finding the Right Sewing Machine
We’ll start this discussion with the last question we asked: who in the world needs a machine with 500 stitches? We think it’s an important question, because manufacturers often make the number of stitches on their machines a key selling point.
There are certainly some seamstresses or hobbyists who use obscure decorative stitches. But the enormous number of stitches you see listed for many models is simply intended to impress potential buyers: “With that many stitches, it has to be better than the others!” Once you’ve been sewing for a while, though you know that the number has very little to do with the quality or utility of a sewing machine. There are more important factors.
Before narrowing down your choices the first step should be to get a firm handle on exactly how you’ll be using your machine, because that will determine “how much” of a sewing machine you’ll need. There’s no sense in choosing a model which has the power to push through denim or other heavy fabrics if you’ll primarily be using it to make summer dresses, and a lightweight starter machine isn’t going to do the trick if you’ll be working with leather or denim or sewing eight hours a day. Speed does matter, though; your machine should be able to do at least 700-800 stitches per minute, and better machines will let you adjust the speed to your project and the material you’re working with. Adjustable tension is also important, whether the machine makes the change automatically or you do it manually.
Next, consider some of the features you’d find most helpful. The flexibility to vary the length and width of stitches is a major advantage, as is the ability to move the needle to a variety of positions to put stitching exactly where you want it (instead of having to using the pressure foot as your guide.
You probably don’t need the hundreds of decorative stitches many sewing machines include (beyond the basics like straight and zigzag, of course) but you should make sure that a good number of the types of stitches you’d use regularly are available, particularly if you’re a quilter or embroiderer. A question that’s just important to ask is how many presser feet are included with the machine; it’s hard, for example, to buttonhole without a buttonhole foot.
Twin-needle capability is desirable for hemming, as is an adjustable feed dog that lets you sew free-style. If you’re an accomplished sewer or accustomed to using an older machine you may not want a machine with a front-loading bobbin or automatic needle threading, but most who are just starting out are relieved to avoid dealing with drop-in bobbins and threading needles.
A sewing machine’s ergonomics and controls also make a huge difference. Controls should be easily within arm’s reach, there should be sufficient room for your hands in the space around the needle, indicators should be easy to read and the machine should respond quickly and properly to changes in speed or tension. Computerised machines should have intuitive controls so you don’t have to put aside your project to find the user’s manual. The weight and portability of a sewing machine will also be a factor if you plan on moving or storing it regularly.
Finally, there are several manufacturers which have a long and impressive tradition of producing high-quality sewing machines like Singer, Janome and Brother. That doesn’t mean you should ignore other models, naturally, but a history of making quality products should definitely be considered.
We’ve taken all of those factors into account in compiling these sewing machine reviews. We’ll make mention of the number of stitches a machine has, when appropriate. But remember that a machine with 10 or 15 buttonhole styles will mean a lot more to most sewers than one that features 500 decorative stitches they’re unlikely to ever use.
Here’s what we’ve found.
Top 10 Best Sewing Machine Reviews
1. Janome 525S
Many devoted sewers swear by Janome machines, and the 525S is a perfect example why. This is a fabulous basic machine with assured quality, designed for beginning to intermediate sewers. It doesn’t have tons of stitches, but does include just about everything you’d need for everyday work – and then some. There are 24 built-in stitches with length and width adjustment, a completely automatic one-step buttonholer, a built-in needle threader, six presser feet, a top-loading bobbin with an auto-declutch winder and drop-feed capability. The 525S is somewhat heavy, and the controls are a bit sensitive so it will take a bit of time to properly control speed with the foot pedal. It’s a terrific machine, though, and that’s the reason it was the sewing machine regularly used on the TV series “Sewing Bee.” You will find more Janome sewing machine reviews later in this list.
2. Brother FS100WT
While the Janome we just looked at is basic, this Brother machine certainly is not. It’s a wonderful sewing machine for those with experience, while also perhaps the best sewing machine for quilting you can find in its price range. The computerised FS100WT features foot or hand speed control, automatic stitch selection, a drop-in bobbin with automatic winder, automatic stitch selection and length/width control, and much more (including 100 stitches). There are seven included feet and the reverse sewing button works perfectly for locking stitches off. For quilters, there’s an extra-wide table giving you lots of room to work, a free-motion embroidery foot and built-in lettering. The LED light is a great touch, too.
3. Janome J3-24
This Janome model is quite similar to the 525S in terms of functionality. There is the same variable length and width, one-step buttonholer, automatic needle threader, drop-feed capability and 24 stitches. What’s different is the J3-24’s convertible free arm for circular sewing, which also makes this a better choice for free-hand embroidery work. There’s also twin-needle capability, an extra presser foot for heavy fabrics – and speaking of heavy, this machine is much lighter than the 525S. Two other versions of the are available with fewer stitches (the J3-18 with 18, and the JS-20 with 20) and four-step buttonholers.
4. Brother L14 (Best for Beginners)
Here’s a sewing machine for beginners that’s easy to use and easy to master. The L14 is meant for basic alterations or repairs, with 14 stitches, a four-step buttonholer and a top-loading bobbin. There’s are no fancy automatic features and only a single manual knob to choose stitches, but the L14 is just what you need for basic sewing. It is very well-built, yet the aluminum chassis makes it extremely lightweight at just 6kg. Its lower price makes it attractive as well.
5. Brother LS14
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that the name of this sewing machine is very similar to the one just above it in our sewing machine reviews – Brother LS14 vs Brother LS14. The machines are very similar as well; in fact they’re almost identical. The biggest difference is that the chassis on the LS14 is made from metal instead of lighter aluminum, although the metal only adds about 400 grams to its overall weight. The controls on the LS14 are set up a bit differently and it has a regular light instead of the LED on the LS14, but otherwise, they’re exactly the same: a very good basic machine that’s manufactured well.
6. Janome 2200XT
Want the reliability and fine engineering of a Janome, even though you’re in the market for a true beginner’s model? The 2200XT fits the bill as a very nice entry-level sewing machine. It’s a fully mechanical machine with no bells or whistles, so you (or your kids) can learn to use a proper machine before upgrading to computerised sewing and “automatic everything.” There are still 22 stitches available (including stretch and overlock), a four-step buttonhole function, twin-needle capability and six snap-on feet. The lightweight 2200XT is the way to get a trustworthy brand at a truly affordable price.
7. Brother AE1700
Whether you’re a professional seamstress or simply someone who wants to take your sewing hobby to the next level, this sewing machine is for you! The Brother AE1700 features 17 built-in stitches, a 4-step buttonhole, a drop-in bobbin, an automatic bobbin winder and a reverse sewing lever which allows you to close off your stitches with ease. It is also equipped with an LED light which you would never have to replace.
Out of the box, you’ll also receive an instructional DVD that not only discusses all the parts of the machine but also includes a couple of tutorials you could definitely benefit from.
8. Quilters Professional 404
There’s a good reason for the somewhat-odd name of this machine. It’s really the highly-regarded Frister and Rossman Professional Quilters Edition QE404, but a third-party is able to sell it for less – with extra accessories – as long as the Frister and Rossman name isn’t on it. This computerised beauty can easily handle every type of heavy material including denim, and it’s also an ideal sewing machine for quilting and embroidery with 20 dedicated stitches (there are 170 overall), a flatbed table extension and feed dogs that can be dropped. 13 different feet come with the Model 404, there are 13 styles of buttonholes available, an electronic speed limiter, stitch elongation and memory – the list goes on and on. As long as you don’t care about having the brand name on your sewing machine, this is a bargain.
9. Singer Model 1507
If there’s one brand name synonymous with sewing machines, it’s Singer. This is the company’s entry-level machine and it’s a great one for novices. There’s a heavy duty metal frame and a powerful motor, so the 1507 will stand up to abuse and heavy fabrics. However, you shouldn’t count on this being anything more than a really good mechanical machine (although you can make stitch width and length adjustments), since there are only seven stitches and no computerised or automatic functions. It comes with four feet, a dust cover – and a very low price. Not a bad deal.
10. Singer 4411 Heavy Duty
What this Singer doesn’t have in fancy features, it makes up for with heft and speed. It is, as its name says, a heavy-duty machine with a metal frame and a stainless steel bed plate, and can do 1100 stitches per minute (almost twice as fast as most competitors) even on heavyweight fabrics. There’s a top-load bobbin, a four-step buttonholer and a dial to select from the (only) 11 stitches, so you can tell this isn’t a high-end sewing machine. But a second dial lets you adjust the length and width, you can also adjust the presser foot pressure, and there’s drop feed capability. So this isn’t a machine for everyone, but it’s definitely a good choice for relatively simple but heavy-duty sewing.
Sew, That’s the Story
Sewing is one of the great skills anyone can have in their day-to-day life, and it’s a wonderful hobby that’s both fun and a terrific way to bring generations together. Without a high-quality sewing machine, however, there’s a good chance that mended clothing will rip and family sewing sessions will become an ordeal.
Entry-level machines can be frustrating for accomplished sewers and higher-level computerised ones can be confusing to beginners, so it’s crucial to define your needs and goals before narrowing down the many choices on the market. We’ve included a good variety of models from well-regarded manufacturers in our sewing machine reviews to help with that process, pointing out the pros and cons of each so you’re not forced to rely on price or “number of stitches” as benchmarks. We’ve also listed several machines which will work well for novice sewers as well as more experienced seamstresses, which will allow you to choose a sewing machine that will serve you in good stead as you become more advanced.
Just remember: hundreds of stitches won’t do you any good if you’re buying a machine just so you can hem trousers. Select a sewing machine based on what you plan to use it for and the features you’ll actually need – and you’ll be all set. This concludes our guide for the best sewing machine in the UK.