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Best sewing machines on the market

Keen to craft your own homeware? Check out our round-up of seven of the best beginner-friendly sewing machines

Are you a fan of the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee and eager to begin your stitching journey, but don’t have the know-how when it comes to zipper foots, bobbins and free arms? Worry not, as all will become clear with our guide to the best beginner-friendly sewing machines.

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We break down a range of models, from cheap sewing machines to investment buys, each with its own unique selling point and to make things less complicated, we’ve also included a handy guide to sewing terminology.

How do sewing machines work?

With a first sewing machine, it’s important to choose a model that has the right built-in features. To help you find one that caters to your needs, expert sewer Deborah Shepherd, Creative Director at Janome UK, explains what to keep an eye out for.

‘An automatic adjustable stitch length is useful as it will take the faff out of trying to find the right setting for the fabric. A drop feed facility is helpful if you’re planning on practising free-motion embroidery, and it’s also worth checking to see what types of feet come with the model. For instance, if you think you’ll need to add zips to your projects, ensure it comes with a zipper foot.

‘A drop-in bobbin with a full rotary hook will also help to avoid fabric jams, especially when you’re learning to sew.’

Sewing terms explained

There are a lot of technical terms out there for sewing machines, but here’s what you need to know if you’re a beginner.

Automatic thread cutter This means that you don’t need to cut any of the threads by hand, simply press the button and it will cut the bobbin and needle threads for you.

Advanced needle threader Threading a needle can be fiddly, so save yourself the trouble with this mechanism.

Drop-in bobbin Also known as a top-loading bobbin, this means that there’s a sliding plate underneath the needle that you can remove to literally ‘drop in’ the bobbin. The alternative is a front-loading bobbin, but neither feature is generally better than the other – it’s up to your preference.

Presser foot This is an attachment that is used to keep the fabric flat when sewing. However, there are several types of attachments that are suitable, depending on what you’re sewing. For example, a zipper foot is great because it allows the needle to get closer to the zip teeth.

Square feed drive system This has a longer sewing foot, which allows most materials to be fed through the machine smoothly for a neat finish.

Free arm A free arm is a section that can be pulled out at the base of the machine – it comes in handy when sewing tube-like items, such as trouser legs, sleeves and cuffs.

Knee lift Instead of controlling the start, stop and speed of the sewing machine with a foot pedal, you may prefer a knee lift.

Automatic buttonholes This simply means that the machine will stitch a buttonhole in a certain number of steps. You’ll find instructions on how to set this up in your sewing machine manual. 

Storage is a top priority in Emily’s craft room. ‘I don’t want to hide everything away in boxes, so things like ribbons and twine need to be seen. Displaying them in this fabric basket from H&M Home is ideal – pretty and practical’

Best sewing machines in 2021

Brother INNOV-IS F420 Sewing Machine

f420_front_cutout

At a glance

  • £599
  • Knee lift
  • Automatic thread cutter
  • Advanced needle threader
  • Lock stitch

This Brother sewing machine may be at the higher end of the budget, but if you want the potential to take your sewing to the next level then it’s a smart investment. Its Square Feed Drive System can cope with any type of fabric, plus it’s super easy to use with its advanced needle threader.

Singer Heavy Duty 4423

4423 Heavy Duty 360 Degree Machine View

At a glance

  • £299
  • 23 built-in stitches
  • Advanced needle threader
  • Automatic one-step buttonhole
  • Drop-in bobbin
  • Heavy duty metal frame

For thick fabrics, choose the 4423 machine. This model has a 60 per cent stronger motor than most standard sewing machines, which means it can stitch through leather and upholstery materials with ease.

Top tip

Sewing machine prices vary massively in the craft world, but Deborah is here to steer you in the right direction. ‘Usually, the number of features included increases in line with the price point. Mechanical machines range from around £99 to £350, whereas computerised models tend to be more expensive, but they have easy-to-use functions. For example, a machine that can do automatic one-step buttonholes is your easiest option; pop the button into the attachment, pull down the lever and you’re ready to go.’ For more information and advice, head over to gathered.how/sewing-and-quilting

 

Brother sewing machine

Janome 2200XT Sewing Machine

JANOME 2200XT Front

At a glance

  • £169
  • 22 built-in stitches
  • Free arm
  • Thread cutter
  • Automatic four-step buttonhole
  • Manual stitch width and length adjustment

If you’re looking to dabble in a spot of sewing and want to stick with basic projects, then this inexpensive model is for you. It’s a great all-rounder and has all the popular stitches, too.

Silver 12-Stitch Mini Sewing Machine

Silver 12 Stitch Mini Sewing Machine, White, £59

At a glance

  • £59
  • 12 built-in stitches
  • Mechanical machine
  • Automatic four-step buttonhole
  • Back stitch
  • Comes with two thread spools, two bobbins, a needle threader and a needle

Tight on space? Then this compact machine is your calling. It’s a great beginner model that is best suited to lightweight fabrics, plus, because of its size, it’s easily portable. At just £59, it’s a bargain sewing machine too!

Janome 230DC Sewing Machine

 

Janome 230DC - Front

At a glance

  • £379
  • 30 built-in stitches
  • LED light
  • Automatic one-step buttonhole
  • Drop-in bobbin
  • Lock stitch

This computerised machine has enough basic and advanced features to ensure it will grow with you as you progress from newbie stitcher to seasoned professional! It also features no-fuss threading and a quick-set bobbin.

John Lewis & Partners JL110 Sewing Machine

John Lewis & Partners JL110 Sewing Machine, Peppermint, £130

At a glance

  • £130
  • 14 built-in stitches
  • Free arm
  • LED light
  • Automatic four-step buttonhole
  • Front-loading bobbin

Perfect for complete beginners, this retro-looking model is capable of tackling light- to medium-weight fabrics and has plenty of useful features, such as an LED light, a free arm and a good selection of stitches.

Brother LS14s Sewing Machine

 

Brother LS14s Manual Stitch Sewing Machine - White

At a glance

  • £89
  • 14 built-in stitches
  • Four-step buttonhole
  • LED light
  • Free arm
  • Drop-in bobbin

Whether you’re stitching a new cushion cover or repairing a seam, the LS14s makes simple sewing a breeze. The lightweight machine is an ideal choice for newbie stitchers.

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