The 2 Best Sewing Machines of 2023


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May 05, 2023

The 2 Best Sewing Machines of 2023

After a new round of testing, we’ve made the computerized Brother CS7000X our

After a new round of testing, we’ve made the computerized Brother CS7000X our top pick and the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 our upgrade pick.

Sewing is one of those magical hobbies that are both endlessly creative and especially practical. With relatively little effort—and a good sewing machine—you can make a quilt, whip up some curtains, hem pants, or even make pants out of things that weren't pants at all before. But there are as many sewing machines to choose from as there are things you can do with them, which can make finding the perfect starter setup more stressful than it ought to be. After interviewing a diverse panel of experts and spending more than 40 hours sewing with 12 machines on a variety of projects, we’re sure that the Brother CS7000X is the best option for most beginner sewists thanks to its accessible price, its wealth of helpful features, and its versatile functions and accessories.

This compact, computerized sewing machine offers more features and accessories than others in its price range.

The Brother CS7000X is a surprisingly affordable, computerized sewing machine that's intuitive enough to allow beginners to gain confidence and skill but also versatile enough to handle more advanced projects as the sewist's skills grow. It isn't an heirloom machine you’re likely to pass down to future generations—you can expect a lifespan in years rather than decades—but it is an impressively sophisticated machine for its price. It comes with a wealth of presser feet, which will help even beginner sewists produce professional-looking work, and it even includes a wide table extension and a walking foot, which are rarities on a machine in this price range. The CS7000X comes with a huge variety of programmed stitches, both utilitarian and whimsical, and the included manual is thorough and helpful.


This quiet, versatile machine does it all, and it comes with almost all the accessories you’re ever likely to need. It's about twice the price of our top pick, but it's still a relative bargain for a dedicated sewist.

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $430.

The Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 is more solidly built than the Brother CS7000X, more stylish, and more flexible in the size of the sewing surface. It's also, simply put, really fun to use. It has a ton of features, stitches, and accessories, and it includes some extras usually found on much higher-end machines, such as an automatic thread cutter. (If you think that sounds goofy, try using it once and see how you yearn for it on every machine after.) In looks and use, the Quantum Stylist feels like a premium machine, but its usability and relative affordability also make it a viable choice for someone just beginning to sew.

This compact, computerized sewing machine offers more features and accessories than others in its price range.

This quiet, versatile machine does it all, and it comes with almost all the accessories you’re ever likely to need. It's about twice the price of our top pick, but it's still a relative bargain for a dedicated sewist.

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $430.

I learned how to use a sewing machine as a kid in a "Here, earn your Girl Scout badge" kind of way, but it wasn't until early 2020 that I took a six-week beginner sewing class at SewLeana in Maplewood, New Jersey, and got hooked. Less than three years later, I’m an avid sewist, and I’ve made clothes, quilts, bags, home-decor items—even a pair of jeans. (And yes, my butt looks great in them.) Fun fact: My first sewing machine, a holiday gift in 2019, was this guide's previous top pick.

In preparation for writing this guide, I spoke to several sewing professionals to get their advice and personal requirements for a good machine. This group included sewing teacher Léana Lu of SewLeana, professional tailor and jeans-making queen Lauren Taylor, tailor and workwear designer Kelly Hogaboom, sewist and accessibility advocate Samantha Waude, and sewing-ergonomics expert Rose Parr.

If you’re seeking a reliable, versatile sewing machine that can bang out projects from quilting to garment making, as well as handle heavier fabrics like denim or the kind used in home decor (especially if you don't think you’ll want or need to upgrade to a pro-level machine in the next few years), this guide is for you.

If you’ve never touched a sewing machine before, we recommend trying one out at a dealer and purchasing in person.

The pandemic brought with it a more widespread interest in sewing, whether because it's a creative, practical hobby that can be carried out at home, or because people finally found the time for those "I’d love to learn if I ever had the time" activities, or perhaps as a side effect of the "homesteading" mindset. For many people, sewing face masks for themselves or others was a gateway.

But regardless of the impetus for learning, the benefits of knowing your way around a sewing machine are manifold. It's undeniably useful—not to mention particularly satisfying—to be able to hem, repair, or even entirely design and create your own fabric goods. Sewing can be a great way to make new friends, since there's an active and generally friendly online sewing community to connect with. And the health benefits of having a hobby, regardless of what it is, have been documented time and time again.

If you’ve never touched a sewing machine before, we recommend trying one out at a dealer and purchasing in person. Although sewing machines are relatively simple to operate, the mechanics of even basic manual machines can seem a little intimidating to the novice. A good dealer can show you the ropes—stuff like winding the bobbin, replacing the needle, threading the machine, and adjusting stitches—which will probably save you hours of frustration trying to learn on your own. Plus, dealers often throw in complimentary sewing classes or other perks like servicing if you purchase through them.

A person can spend anywhere from about $100 to over $15,000 on a sewing machine, but more expensive doesn't always equal better. There is no one-size-fits-all "best machine"; the ideal option for an expert quilter doesn't necessarily have the right features for a DIYer who wants to make curtains or repair fraying cuffs and dragging hems. You don't need to go all-out for your first machine, either, but it should have enough features so that you can continue to use it as your skill set grows.

To assemble an initial list of models for potential testing, I consulted recommendations from publications such as Good Housekeeping and The Strategist, scoured Reddit and the forums on, looked at reviews from Amazon and Joann customers, and polled sewing friends near and far, in person, over email, and on Instagram, where the modern sewing community is alive and well. I also asked sewing machine manufacturers about their best sellers and fan favorites.

For this guide, we focused on machines that cost $500 or less and were simple enough for beginners to use but had features and options that more advanced sewists might be able to take advantage of. We also prioritized versatility, seeking out flexible machines that could work well on a variety of fabric and project types.

Sewing-ergonomics expert Rose Parr told me, "A big mistake a lot of people make is buying [a first machine that's] too simple," since they’ll end up needing to upgrade too soon. But at the same time, it's important that beginners not buy a machine that's so complicated, it's intimidating or confusing to use. To strike that crucial balance, here's what we looked for in a good starter sewing machine:

Easy to use: First and foremost, the controls should be simple and intuitive. It should be easy to set up the machine to sew—winding the bobbin and threading the needle—and straightforward to select and customize the stitches you want. Workwear designer Kelly Hogaboom told me that more than once they have encountered beginner sewists who wanted to give up because of a frustrating machine but were too inexperienced to know that it was the machine's fault things weren't turning out how they wanted, not their own. It's important that your machine makes you feel empowered and is easy to get good outcomes from. Lauren Taylor, a sewing teacher and tailor, said, "Tools are not going to make or break your skill level. I can sew on anything. I can make anything work at this point. But starting out, if I’d had [bad] tools, I would have given up."

Smooth stitching: The machine should produce even stitches and seams that don't wander. It should pull the fabric along at an even pace without the sewist feeling like they have to force it, and the machine should smoothly sew through a range of fabrics without jamming or damaging the material.

Variety of presser feet: A presser foot is a small, flat attachment that holds your fabric in place as the needle pierces it, and presser feet come in many varieties to suit different tasks. Some of the most useful feet include a clear-plastic foot, an edge-stitching foot, a buttonhole foot, a zipper foot, an invisible-zipper foot, and a blind-stitch foot for creating blind hems. Some machines work only with presser feet from the same specific brand, whereas others work with generic feet. It's a bonus if a machine takes generic feet or comes with a good variety in the box, because additional feet (such as walking feet) can be expensive.

Automatic buttonholer: Buttonholes are difficult to sew cleanly on your own even once, not to mention seven times in a row, as on a button-up shirt. This is one area in which modern technology can really help out. Some machines sew buttonholes in four steps, while others do a one-step buttonhole or even offer multiple types of buttonholes that are suitable for different purposes. Typically, manual machines feature a four-step configuration, while computerized models usually have automatic (one-step) buttonholes. It's possible to sew a buttonhole using a bar-tack (essentially a very dense zigzag), but for a uniform buttonhole that's the exact right size for your button of choice, a clean automatic buttonhole function is a lifesaver, sparing you the time and frustration that you might spend with a more manual application.

Good light: Sewing is close work, and having a good light built into your machine is essential to saving your eyes and your posture. None of the machines we tested offer the ability to adjust the light, and many sewists choose to add a desk lamp or an LED strip of lights to further brighten their sewing space, but a machine shouldn't have you squinting from the get-go.

Adjustable needle position: This feature allows you to move the needle off-center (to the left or right) while straight-stitching, which is helpful to get professional-looking edge stitching and essential for precise stitch placement on tiny surfaces as in lingerie sewing or detail work.

Needle up/down: With this feature, you can choose whether the sewing needle rises or stays embedded in the fabric when you stop sewing. Most computerized machines have a button to automatically raise or lower the needle, and often you can change settings to always have the needle stop in the down position. That's extremely handy when you’re pivoting around a corner or curve, or when you want to make adjustments without accidentally jarring your line of stitching.

Adjustable feed-dog height: The feed dogs are the small metal teeth, just below the needle, that help pull the fabric across the sewing surface. If you can adjust the height of the feed dogs, you can more easily sew a variety of fabrics, or you can even put the feed dogs all the way down for something like free-motion quilting or darning. If you’re interested in sustainability, you may want to learn to darn garments on your machine. Hogaboom mentioned that "the mending movement is getting bigger all the time," and advised that sustainability-minded sewists should make sure they have a darning foot (sometimes labeled as an embroidery foot) and the ability to drop the feed dogs to more easily focus on areas that need reinforcement.

Variety of stitches: More stitches on your machine doesn't always equal better—who's going to use 600 separate stitches, really?—but the right stitch can make the difference between a cringing "Is that homemade?" and an awestruck "You made that?" Ultimately, what matters is that the stitches you need (straight stitch, stretch stitches, and triple-stitch are all versatile options) are included. "Unless you are making embroidered items for your Etsy shop, you’ll never have a need for all those stitches," sewing instructor Léana Lu said. But decorative and specialty stitches can be fun and can add a special touch to projects.

Sewing surface: The most versatile machines can also transform the size of their sewing surfaces to be both bigger and smaller, depending on the project. For larger projects like garments or quilts, an attachable extension table is helpful to keep the fabric from slipping around. For something like the cuffs of a pair of jeans or a similarly tight squeeze, being able to remove part of the machine's surface to expose a free arm—a much smaller surface that helps you get to that part without accidentally sewing your pants leg (or any other tubular piece) closed—on the machine is especially useful. Most machines we tested had a free arm, but not all came with an extension table.

Thorough manual: A great manual is clearly written, offering general use instructions, troubleshooting tips, maintenance guidelines, and advice regarding what stitches to use when. Be wary of machines with skimpy or poorly written manuals, since they probably portend other issues with support down the road.

Warranty: We found that most machines designed for beginners come with a similar warranty: one year on labor (for things like calibration or other issues that occur right out of the box) and two to five years on electronics. Although all of these machines have what is called a limited 25-year warranty, it's usually not all that helpful since it only applies to the head, which is essentially the frame. Under normal operating circumstances, it will never break, and if it breaks due to a drop or other accident, the repair won't be covered.

Built-in needle threader: Most machines come with a built-in needle-threading mechanism to save sewists the often frustrating work of grappling with the tiny eye. However, in practice, some of these mechanisms are fussier to use than just doing it yourself. Still, if you have poor eyesight, a good needle threader can be a huge help, no matter how finicky it is.

Adjustable presser-foot pressure: A machine with this feature allows you to adjust the pressure of the presser foot to make it easier to sew a variety of fabrics or projects of varying thickness. This is a rare feature at this price range—available on just a few of the machines we tested—but it's nice to have for the occasional instance when you need it.

The 2017 update to this guide included testing of seven models. In 2022, we tested 12 machines, including our former picks and new contenders. Six of the machines were mechanical and six were computerized, and they ranged in price from about $150 to $500.

In updating this guide, I put our 12 candidate machines through their paces and came out the other side with a dress, a jumpsuit, an athleisure ensemble, a backpack, a tote with many useful pockets, a pair of overalls, a quilt, and a pile of finished mending and alterations that had been staring at me pleadingly from their basket of shame for far too long.

I logged over 40 hours of total sewing with the test group, read every machine's included manual, and frowned at tangled birds’ nests in bobbin casings more than a dozen times. A few of the machines even came on a beachside vacation with me, as I put their portability to the test. I began testing with a straight stitch on plain quilting cotton, and then I tested each of the machines with a stable fabric like linen, a fussier fabric like cupro, a knit athleisure fabric, heavy waxed canvas paired with thick cotton webbing, and an assembled quilt stack to see how they would handle different situations. I also sewed buttonholes according to each machine's instructions, with varying degrees of success.

I didn't use formal metrics to measure stitch quality, instead going by feel and visual cues: How easy was it to feed fabric through? How did the stitches look? I also kept an eye out for different things depending on the fabric: Did the stretch stitches make a ripply mess on knit fabrics? How did the look and ease of use change when I used a walking foot? Did it feel like I was having to muscle a quilt sandwich or a multilayered bag or bottomweight project through a machine, or did it slide through easily? Did the presser foot leave marks on delicate fabric?

Rather than just sewing test stitches, I found it helpful to use the machines for actual projects. This approach revealed both pain points and delightful surprises in everyday sewing tasks such as swapping presser feet, changing needles, switching between stitch patterns, and beginning and ending seams. When I inevitably jammed the thread (some things never change, no matter how experienced you become), I had the opportunity to test how easy or difficult it was to remove the machine's needle plate and clean out the ruins of the bobbin casing. Lucky me!

Extensive testing in such practical applications helps reveal quirks that might not present themselves in quick run-throughs of comparison tests, as in the case of the machine that started stitching just fine on a quilt sandwich (not a snack, but actually the term for batting between layers of quilting cotton) but soon began making a horrible banging sound as it stitched. (It could quilt, yes, but it was absolutely making its complaints known to the management. It would rather not.)

As I evaluated each model, I also considered ongoing availability, price, owner reviews, features, and included accessories. The last two points are especially important since this guide is for the beginner to advanced beginner sewist, who might not specialize in any one type of project yet. In other words, versatility is key.

After my controlled testing weeded out the less promising machines, I tested the top contenders repeatedly on different projects to discover even more of their secrets.

If you buy your machine through a big-box retailer, you’re largely on your own if your box gets banged up in shipping or a similar mishap. It's a different story if you find a local sewing machine dealer to buy from.

If you purchase your machine through a dealer, you may miss out on some discounts or extra-fast shipping and convenience, but dealer machines often come with classes, tune-ups and other servicing, or other perks in exchange for buying directly. Plus, by visiting your local dealer, you support local businesses and have the opportunity to try a machine out before you buy it.

"If you buy from a dealer, then you know that you’re going to have a local resource where you can buy accessories you know for a fact will fit your machine," Lauren Taylor said. "I know for a fact that there is someone who can repair your machine or replace parts."

This compact, computerized sewing machine offers more features and accessories than others in its price range.

The Brother CS7000X seems almost too good to be true thanks to its combination of a reasonable asking price, a wide variety of computerized stitches, reliably excellent performance, an impressive range of accessories, and a surprisingly compact footprint (just 16 by 8 inches, in its included hard cover). All together, these things make it an easy recommendation for anyone looking to pick up their first sewing machine.

The CS7000X costs less than many of the other sewing machines we tested but comes with more features and delivers better all-around performance. It offers more preprogrammed stitches (70) than you can find in the Janome C30 (30) and any of the mechanical machines we tried, and it includes more presser feet (10) than the Brother HC1850 (eight) and the Bernette 37 (five). It's equipped with eight different automatic buttonholes, and the included manual is a great resource for making the most of these options, letting you know when you might choose to use a keyhole buttonhole versus, say, a stretch buttonhole. Less necessary stitches include options such as little daisy-chained rows of hearts—not as practical as, for example, a lightning stretch stitch but fun to play with and cute for decorative use or quilting.

But the real beauty here is everything else that comes in the box. Reading through a pattern and realizing that you don't have the required presser foot to complete a step is especially frustrating, but it's not a problem you’re likely to have with this machine. It comes with the standard zigzag foot attached right out of the box but also includes a buttonhole foot, an overcasting foot, a monogramming foot, a zipper foot, a blind-stitch foot, a button-sewing foot, a quarter-inch piecing foot, a quilting foot, and, most impressively, a walking foot. Walking feet are rarely included with beginner-level machines but are particularly helpful for fabric that might be prone to shifting, whether that's a stretchy jersey, a multilayered quilt sandwich, or a slippery lightweight fabric. Both Brother models we tested came with a walking foot, as did the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 and the EverSewn Sparrow 30s, but none of the others in our testing pool did. A walking foot works with the feed dogs underneath to move fabric through the machine evenly, helping you get clean results on your project. (If this whole paragraph is Greek to you, see this handy overview of many kinds of presser feet.)

Another rare level-up the CS7000X offers is its included extension table, which widens the sewing area from harp to edge from 10 inches to 17 inches. None of the machines under $200 in our test group offered this accessory in the box, and even the Bernette 37, the most expensive machine at $500, didn't come with one. Extension tables are typically a separate accessory, and they’re quite useful because they give you room to work and to distribute the weight of your projects, making it easier to keep your fabric under control for larger projects like quilts. In another nice touch, the table snaps into grooves on the machine itself, so it remains stationary and steady. On some other machines we tried in this test round, the extension tables were entirely freestanding—they nestled up to the machine but didn't attach, which allowed them to sometimes move under the things I was trying to sew.

Using the machine is easy and, for the most part, intuitive. The stitch patterns are printed directly on the machine, saving you the trouble of digging through the manual to find a chart, and the LCD screen tells you which foot you should use for the stitch pattern you have selected. The stitches are even, the machine is quiet, and in my testing it handled all the varieties of fabric with aplomb—including multiple layers of heavy canvas layered with foam interfacing, during the construction of a particularly sturdy tote bag. As my notes read, "Like butter."

Although this machine is mostly plug-and-play, be sure to page through the manual to save yourself some frustration with a few of its quirks. The default needle position at startup, for one thing, is to the far left instead of in the center—a setting that you can easily change but leaves you wondering why it's like that to begin with. The manual also fills you in on the clever shortcuts the machine has to offer. For example, if you stop sewing in the middle of a seam, the needle stops in the down position by default, which is helpful for turning corners on projects or pausing to make adjustments without accidentally moving your fabric. This setting isn't the default on all computerized machines: The EverSewn Sparrow 30s, to name one prominent competitor, requires that you push the needle up/down button during each sewing run to trigger stopping with the needle in a down position. Finally, if you’re forever forgetting to backstitch at the beginning and end of your seams, you can turn on a feature on the CS7000X to automatically do it for you.

Winding and loading the bobbin and threading the machine are easy enough, and I quickly got the hang of the automatic needle threader. Because the machine features a quick-set bobbin, sewists don't need to grab onto the thread tails when they start sewing, nor do they even need to draw the bobbin thread up to begin sewing in the first place. This sew-and-go ability is one extremely convenient feature of computerized machines like the CS7000X that is nonexistent in mechanical machines.

You’ll find some nice accessibility features here, too, such as a sliding switch for adjusting the sewing speed. This is a trait that all six of the computerized machines in this round of testing share, and it is not available on manual machines. Other extras include the option to turn off the beeping sounds on startup (a feature that Samantha Waude called out as being a great option for people who have sensory-processing issues relating to sound), as well as a start/stop button that allows you to operate the machine without a foot pedal. Again, this last item is a feature that doesn't exist on mechanical machines, and it can be helpful to reduce muscle fatigue from using the foot pedal, or for those who can't use the foot pedal at all.

Overall, this sewing machine is easy to use and approachable, yet it also offers impressive longevity and features; some of the more serious sewists I know are still using their previous-generation computerized Brother machines with no complaints or plans to upgrade, even years after their purchase. I also recommended this machine to a very new sewist who recently caught the bug, and she has been thrilled with it so far, commenting that in quality and ease of use it's far superior to the machine she had borrowed to learn (a mechanical machine from Singer's Heavy Duty line).

That a sewing machine at this price would have a few drawbacks isn't surprising. But the good news is that they’re not insurmountable.

As previously mentioned, it's annoying that the CS7000X's default needle position is not in the center when you turn on the machine, and although you can move the needle to a custom position on a straight stitch for precise placement, the manual doesn't make it immediately obvious how to do so. (Spoiler: You use the stitch width adjustment buttons in straight-stitch mode to move the needle.) The presser foot's pressure isn't adjustable, either—an omission that might frustrate more experienced sewists in some cases but doesn't come into play often. The only computerized machine we tested that offered this feature was the EverSewn Sparrow 30s, and the Singer Heavy Duty and Bernette 05 manual machines we tried have the feature, as well.

The CS7000X offers an impressive array of buttonholes, all of which are automatic and one-touch, but on default settings some of them came out a little scraggly looking (though still usable) in our tests. You can remedy these aesthetic flaws by fiddling with the stitch length, but we were surprised to see that the buttonholes were less than polished by default.

Brother keeps the CS7000X's price down by using a metal interior frame but wrapping it in plastic casing—a cheap-looking exterior that belies the machine's power and utility. Anecdotally, my machine arrived with one of the accessory storage compartment's tabs nearly snapped off; it hung on only until the first time I removed the storage compartment to use the machine's free-arm feature. The compartment still stays attached thanks to the surviving tabs, but for a high-stress component of the machine, we expected a sturdier connective piece.

This quiet, versatile machine does it all, and it comes with almost all the accessories you’re ever likely to need. It's about twice the price of our top pick, but it's still a relative bargain for a dedicated sewist.

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $430.

If you have a higher budget and want a versatile sewing machine that's easy to use but designed to last for years, we like the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960. It's a sleek little computerized machine packed with extras and upgrades, but what really makes it stand out is how much of a joy it is to use. Hang around the online sewing community for more than a few minutes, and you’ll undoubtedly hear the term "sewjo"—that's "sewing mojo," also known as inspiration to sit down at the machine and make stuff. A good machine can't make you a good sewist, but a bad machine, one that makes you feel like you have to fight to get it to do what you want or is just plain unpleasant to use, can hold you back from developing. After all, how can you improve and grow in confidence without actually sewing?

The Quantum Stylist was a thrill to use, thanks to its smooth, powerful sewing, its wealth of features, and its intuitive controls. It's a little quieter than the Brother CS7000X, and it has a few features that our main pick lacks, such as an automatic thread-cutter button. And although looks aren't everything, this machine looks sleek, modern, and inviting on a table, whereas many other models look childish or old-fashioned. It comes with a hard storage case so you can tuck it away if you don't have the table space to keep it out all the time, and the case even has a clever little storage compartment for the machine's very thorough manual. In my testing, I quilted the majority of a throw-sized quilt with this machine—that's how much I loved sewing with it.

Like the CS7000X, the Quantum Stylist comes with lots of extras in the box, including 13 presser feet (one of them the coveted walking foot) and an extension table. It offers 600 stitches, including five separate alphabets (should you ever need to stitch a ransom note into a quilt) and 13 automatic buttonhole styles, all of which allows the maker to customize their projects even further.

It's the little extras that set this machine apart. Take the automatic thread-cutter button. It may seem unnecessary—how hard is it, really, to pick up a pair of scissors and make two quick snips? But in our testing, it proved to be a game-changer in terms of time and convenience. No more blindly groping around under your fabric to try to find the bobbin thread to cut it. No more littering your workspace with lengths of wasted thread from pulling your project away from the machine, cutting the threads, and then trimming them off. With this feature, you just push the button, and the machine automatically ties off and slices the thread, easy as that. Only one other machine in our test group, the EverSewn Sparrow 30s, offers this feature.

Other little details also make this Singer machine feel more luxurious than our main pick. Though its casing is still plastic over a metal skeleton, as on the Brother model, its shape is sleek and modern, and its construction feels more thoughtful than on the CS7000X and other machines we tested. For example, on the CS7000X you have to entirely remove the accessory compartment to access its contents, and you must keep the small feet and bobbins inside a bag in the compartment, lest they fall out. On the Quantum Stylist, you can simply open a door on the front of the accessory compartment to access your tools, and it has a dedicated groove to fit the buttonhole foot into—a nice detail.

The default depth of the Quantum Stylist's sewing surface is much larger (8 inches to the CS7000X's 6 inches), and the free-arm option is smaller (3.5 inches to the CS7000X's 4 inches), which makes it that much easier to fit fiddly little projects. The included extension table allows this Singer machine to morph again, to an impressive 10 total inches of depth and an additional 6 inches of space off the side—again, a larger area than on the Brother model and on the other machines we tested that came with tables.

This machine also has several failsafe features that could prove helpful for both beginners and more experienced sewists. For example, the Quantum Stylist won't let you start sewing with the presser foot up—a careless mistake that's easy for anyone to make, no matter their experience level. In testing, I made this mistake with both the Brother computerized machines and the EverSewn model. Manual machines also lack this feature. On this Singer model, as with most computerized machines, there's no need to hold on to the thread tails when you start sewing, unlike with mechanical machines, where the threads can tangle or the machine can come unthreaded if you don't hold tight at the start of sewing. One drawback is the lack of presser-foot pressure adjustment, but again, that isn't a feature that most sewists need often (though it's nice to have in the rare cases that you do need it).

Like the CS7000X, the Quantum Stylist offers several helpful accessibility features, including a speed-control sliding switch, the ability to turn off beeping sounds, adjustable contrast for the LCD screen, and a start/stop sewing button, which allows sewists to use the machine without a foot pedal.

This machine is flexible and powerful, and I sewed on it happily for hours more than I really needed to in order to confirm that it was a winner. The one maddening flaw that I found is that its backstitch function is agonizingly slow if you (like myself and almost every other sewist I’ve ever seen) tend to take your foot off the pedal and stop your needle before going into reverse mode. It simply plods if you pause before hitting the reverse-stitch button, but it maintains speed if you live on the edge and push the button while still sewing forward. If you can sigh your way through that—and you’ll need to, since you typically have to backstitch a few stitches at the beginning and the end of every seam to secure it—you should be all set with the Quantum Stylist for years to come.

Note that the Quantum Stylist 9960 is virtually identical to another Singer machine, the Singer 8060. According to Singer, the only differences lie in a few accessories that come with one machine but not the other. Specifically, the Quantum Stylist comes with a straight-stitch/patchwork foot and seam guide, while the 8060 does not. And the 8060 comes with a quarter-inch foot and spool pin felt pads, which the Quantum Stylist does not. If you care deeply about one or more of those accessories, your choice should be simple; if not, buy whichever model is cheaper.

If you prefer the simplicity of a mechanical sewing machine: The Janome HD1000 is a worthy alternative to our computerized picks, though it comes with a few caveats. It's a powerful machine that handles heavy fabrics and multilayered projects with ease, and it breezes through lighter materials just fine, too. Unlike the Brother CS7000X and the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960, it has an all-metal base, which lends it a sturdy, upscale feel. The presser foot can also lift extra high to make room for thick materials. But even though the HD1000 can handle, for example, jersey fabrics without making sloppy-looking ripples, its options for stretch stitches are limited. Your best choices with this machine are the stretch triple-stitch, which looks nice but uses a massive amount of thread, or a zigzag stitch, which is serviceable but looks amateurish on hemlines. My preferred stretch stitch, the lightning stitch, isn't an option on the HD1000 or other mechanical machines due to its shape. Also, technically the HD1000 has a four-step buttonhole function, but, tellingly, a buttonhole foot is not among the included accessories. It's the same four-step buttonhole as on Janome's MOD-19, this guide's previous top pick; the sewist is in control of the length of the buttonhole, and my inability to consistently nail a polished-looking buttonhole on that machine was a major factor in my eventual decision to upgrade my machine entirely, as a newer sewist. This machine also has a front-loading bobbin, in contrast with our other picks’ top-loading bobbins, a design that is not only more fiddly and prone to jamming but also requires you to take off the storage compartment to access the bobbin holder. But if you’re planning projects involving miles of straight stitching, or if you frequently use heavy fabrics for bags, curtains, or jeans, the HD1000 is a great, straightforward pick. If you’re looking for frills, you won't find them here—just function.

If you don't mind potentially divisive looks and occasionally finicky winding: The EverSewn Sparrow 30s is a good alternative to our upgrade pick. It's a computerized machine that comes with a wealth of accessories and don't-know-how-you-lived-without-them features including a walking foot, an extension table, and a built-in thread-cutting button, as well as nine presser feet in total. This is one of the few machines we tested with adjustable presser-foot pressure, a nice option to have in the rare situations you need it. As for its looks, you’ll either think this aqua blue and copper machine looks childish or find it delightful on your sewing table. The Sparrow's performance is solid, and it has 310 stitches built in, including multiple alphabets. In my testing, winding the bobbin and threading the machine with the built-in threader were straightforward, though the bobbin inexplicably wound unevenly at times, filling the bottom of the spool much more than the top. I encountered a rat's nest when I first tried to sew a knit fabric, a dramatic jam that required me to break out the scissors to free my project, but I was able to solve the problem by changing to a stretch needle. (Other machines, in contrast, sewed knits with a universal needle just fine.) This EverSewn model is an all-around solid machine, and it's not a bad choice if you like how it looks and can find it in stock. Its availability can be spotty, but the manufacturer (Bernina) confirmed that the machine is still in production.

At its core, a sewing machine is a relatively simple device—little more than a small motor with a casing around it. The motor powers a shaft connected to the sewing needle, which makes stitches to sew fabric. On most machines, a spool of thread sits on top, and the thread is passed down through the needle and into a smaller spool called a bobbin, which sits under the needle. The threaded needle is pushed through the fabric by the motor, hooks the bobbin thread on the underside, and pulls it back up. This process forms a stitch.

Modern sewing machines—especially computerized models like the ones we recommend—can automate a huge number of different stitches (our upgrade pick, for instance, offers a total of 600). Straight stitches are most common, and most useful; these are used for many sewing jobs, including seams, basting, and topstitching, which serves purposes both decorative and functional by reinforcing thicker sections. Zigzag stitches provide more stretch and strength, making them ideal for piecing together stretchy knits or finishing raw seam edges. Here's a good visual guide to several basic stitches.

There are a few other popular stitches, including the lightning bolt stitch (great for sewing knits in a more subtle line than a zigzag stitch) and the triple stitch (which is often used for seams that bear heavy loads). Less commonly used stitches include decorative shapes (like flowers and leaves) and alphabets, which can be handy for quilting or pieces where you want to mimic embroidery.

Some other important terms to know:

First of all, make friends with your machine's owner manual. Read it all the way through to learn about your machine and what it can do. Most manufacturers, including Brother and Singer, also have videos specific to their machines on their sites, walking newbies through basics like threading the machine. YouTube is an excellent free resource for questions about specific machines and demonstrations of sewing techniques, with channels like Sew Sew Live offering an impressive catalog of patterns sewn through from beginning to end.

If you’re willing to pay to learn more, Seamwork is a membership-based resource for garment sewists, with a huge library of patterns, discount codes for online fabric shops, informative blog posts and videos, a member forum, and more. Craftsy offers video classes for sewing and a variety of crafts taught by experts on a paid membership and à la carte basis, with frequent promotional deals. Kelly Hogaboom also has a donation-based community for ethical creatives on Discord where classes are often live-streamed and members offer one another advice.

For inspiration, you can't do much better than Instagram, where sewists frequently use hashtags for sewing challenges like #memademay (a celebration of handmade clothing), hold quiltalongs for new and existing quilt patterns, or spotlight specific garment patterns to show off different interpretations and modifications. If you were wondering about different ways that people have made a certain dress, for example, you could click its hashtag and see others’ designs.

Samantha Waude emphasized the approachability of Instagram sewists and said that she spends at least half an hour each day answering questions from others. "It's so much fun," she told me. "I feel like [sewing is] one of those things that's best learned by sharing knowledge and sharing your best tips and tricks, and that's why social media has got such a wonderful place in the sewing community."

It doesn't end there: If you’re an auditory learner, the Love to Sew podcast has a vast archive where you can learn more than you ever knew there was to know about topics like invisible zippers, vintage sewing patterns, and sewing ergonomics. Since sewing is an inherently creative hobby, it's no surprise that its enthusiasts have come up with no shortage of podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, and other ways to share their knowledge and enthusiasm, with new resources popping up every day.

Of course, some people learn best in person. Check around and see if there's a local sewing studio that offers lessons, or a course at a nearby college. Fabric shops often offer workshops and classes, as well. Sewing machine dealers are an excellent place to learn the ins and outs of a machine you bought there. You can also, as Hogaboom suggested, "borrow a friend's machine and offer to pay for it to be tuned up as the rental fee" if you’re not sure you’re ready to commit to a machine of your own.

Although previous versions of this guide called out more affordable computerized machines as "sacrificing quality for features," technology has advanced in the years since our last round of testing. This change has made feature-rich yet beginner-friendly machines more available, at lower prices, hitting the sweet spot of utility and budget. The benefit to beginner sewists is clear: These days, it's a lot easier to find a reliable machine that you won't immediately grow out of as you level up. It's no coincidence that in this round a computerized machine, the Brother CS7000X, has unseated the mechanical Janome MOD-19 as our overall recommendation.

Most expert sewists I spoke to prefer computerized machines. "I just think computerized is easier to use in general," Lauren Taylor said. Waude agreed, adding that computerized machines are especially good for beginners who may stand to reap a greater benefit from the assistance such models offer over mechanical options. "What I often find with beginners is that they get frustrated that they’re struggling to make the sewing look good," she said. "Quite often that's because they’re fighting with the machine, but I sometimes feel that computerized just makes it that little bit easier."

Although most sewing machines are good to go out of the box, you do need to wind the bobbin and learn how to thread the machine—things the manual should explain. These days you can also find tons of great online videos that can teach you about your machine. (This is a good video overview that walks through setting up our top pick, the Brother CS7000X).

Most machines come with a small brush that you should use to clean lint from the bobbin case, around the feed dogs, and anywhere else you see fuzz collecting. Keeping these areas clean will help the machine run smoothly. Don't use a can of compressed air, as doing so can blow the lint back inside the machine. A cotton swab or a tiny vacuum can also be helpful to remove lint or stray bits of thread from your machine's innards.

Our picks do not need to be oiled regularly, and their manuals recommend that professionals perform any servicing beyond regular de-linting. You should also bring your machine to a professional for service and maintenance once a year to make sure you’re catching any problems before they become major issues.

If you are encountering tension or stitch-quality problems, you can do some things to troubleshoot. First, make sure the sewing needle is inserted correctly; the flat part of the shaft should face toward the back (rounded part toward the front). Second, taking the bobbin out and rethreading it can solve many problems. Think of it as the sewing equivalent of taking out a video game cartridge and blowing on it. Last, it's not a bad idea to replace the needle, as a slight warp can cause a wandering stitch or other issues. You should change your needle regularly, after about every eight hours of sewing, to avoid using a dull needle. (I like to keep a small jar with a lid in my sewing area to safely discard the used ones, and I put discarded rotary blades in there, too.)

Adjusting the top-thread tension on most machines is simple, but if you find that the bobbin thread is tangling or gathering on the bottom of the stitches, the bobbin tension might not be tight enough. If you’re mechanically inclined, you can increase the tension by tightening the screw on the bobbin case. We like this how-to video for a top-loading machine and this video for a front-loading machine.

A serger (also called an overlocker) is a specialized machine that uses three or more threads to enclose the edges of seams so that they don't fray—a stitch that traditional sewing machines can't replicate. A serger also uses a knife to cut the edge of the fabric it's enclosing, creating a clean, uniform edge. If you take a look at a T-shirt, for example, the side seams are likely serged.

Using a serger to finish your seams offers certain advantages, but you probably don't need one. Sergers are especially useful in constructing stretchy garments out of knit fabrics, or in reinforcing and finishing seams like those inside of jeans, but seam finishes such as French seams, flat felled seams, bias bound seams, or others can be elegant options, and a zigzag stitch or faux overlock on your main sewing machine can achieve the same result and prevent fraying, though with a less professional look.

If you do eventually decide to add a serger to complement your primary machine, I’ve personally found the Juki MO-654DE to be reliable, and you can find tons of YouTube videos explaining how to use it.

The Janome MOD-19 was our top pick in previous versions of this guide. It's a solid machine for basic tasks, but its functions and included accessory pack limit the sewist's ability to execute things like buttonholes, quilting projects, and more. It also tends to cost about the same as our current top pick, the Brother CS7000X, which offers far more features and accessories. The MOD-19 requires you to attach its presser feet by snapping them into a groove, rather than using a more sophisticated and sturdy switch mechanism as on higher-end machines, including our Brother and Singer picks. Only tension holds the presser foot on this machine, so it can vibrate off in some cases and will also wear down over time. On the whole, I found this machine to be fine for occasional, simple sewing tasks (it's the machine I learned to sew on), but it doesn't stack up to the newer, affordably priced, and more feature-rich computerized machines we now recommend.

The Singer Heavy Duty 4423 is a former runner-up pick, but although it offers a powerful motor and impressive speed, punching easily through layers of foam interfacing and tough waxed canvas, it lacks the fine control that you can get from our picks. In addition, the buttonhole function is so lacking that after multiple tries, I couldn't even complete one acceptable buttonhole. The one-sheet instructions are a poor excuse for a proper manual, too. (A more complete manual is online.) What this machine does, it does well, but those functions are extremely limited. Note too that this machine is louder than most others we’ve tested, and it's the subject of controversy in sewing forums like Reddit's r/sewing, where some people accuse Singer of simply slapping its recognizable name on a subpar machine.

The Swiss-designed Bernette 05 Academy, produced by premium manufacturer Bernina, is an intriguing manual machine with a robust accessory pack including an extension table, but in our testing the bobbin jammed repeatedly. The machine didn't come with a full manual in the box (though it is available online), which made using functions like the buttonhole absolutely inscrutable. Although this model came with lots of goodies (and looked sharp on the sewing table to boot), these drawbacks made its high price hard to justify.

The Bernette 37 has a high price and comes with minimal accessories. It offers only five presser feet, including the standard zigzag foot, and one is designed to attach buttons—a job I’ve always done by hand. However, it produces a beautiful straight stitch and has a powerful, fast motor, which make it undeniably fun to use. Even without a walking foot, it zipped through an assembled quilt sandwich with ease, and I quilted a good portion of a throw-sized blanket with it. That's where the fun ended, though: It didn't handle knits well at all, producing wavy seams and in one case jamming so badly that I had to cut my project out of the machine to free it, before I could even unscrew the needle plate to untangle the threads. Bernette's walking foot—an accessory that I consider to be a must-have—is a $60 add-on, or available as part of a quilting feet set for $120. Additional feet are also available in a set for another $125. Companies like Madam Sew offer affordable sets of specialty presser feet that fit machines like this Bernette, but you void your machine's warranty if you damage it while using them, and it's always recommended that you use feet made specifically for your model of machine for the best results (and to minimize mishaps like broken needles). Alas, the Bernette 37 just can't justify the cost for its base package in comparison with the more robustly equipped competition.

The Brother HC1850 performed well in testing and came with a suite of accessories including an extension table, but it paled in comparison with our top pick, the Brother CS7000X. For example, on heavier fabrics such as waxed canvas, it skipped stitches, whereas the CS7000X produced consistent work, and the HC1850's performance went steeply downhill when working with heavy-duty webbing. It quilted well, but it was notably louder than the CS7000X, the banging soundtrack betraying its effort on multilayered projects.

The Janome Arctic Crystal and the Singer 3337, which their respective manufacturers advertise as great entry-level options, are too simple for the purposes of this guide—to us, they felt like toys that sewists would grow out of quickly. Among other oversimplifications, the stitch width on both machines isn't adjustable; as a result, they limit the sewist to just one size of zigzag stitch, for example. The 3337 doesn't even have a manual thread cutter, a small razor embedded into the side of the machine, which seems like the ultimate corner-cutting move.

The Janome C30 is another basic machine that failed to stand up to the competition, but what it can do, it does nicely. It's a computerized machine with 30 stitches, including one buttonhole. That's one feature that feels like a missed opportunity: The sewist still has to make the buttonhole to the length of their choice, instead of using the button itself to let the machine size it. If you’re going for a computerized machine over a mechanical model, it should have some of the basic conveniences, including an automatic buttonhole.

This article was edited by Ben Keough and Erica Ogg.

Susan Khalje, couture sewing teacher, email interview, November 17, 2017

Sarai Mitnick, owner and designer of Colette Patterns, email interview, November 17, 2017

Harvey Federman, sewing machine repairperson and owner of Sew Right, phone interview, November 17, 2017

Lauren Taylor, tailor and sewing teacher, Zoom interview, August 5, 2022

Léana Lu, SewLeana owner/sewing teacher, email interview, July 30, 2022

Kelly Hogaboom, tailor and creative business advisor, Zoom interview, August 3, 2022

Samantha Waude, home sewist and accessibility consultant, Zoom interview, July 28, 2022

Rose Parr, sewing-ergonomics expert, phone interview, July 27, 2022

Kase Wickman

Kase Wickman is a freelance journalist and hobby enthusiast. She has never met a craft she didn't want to try, and she especially loves sewing. She is the author of Bring It On: The Complete Story of the Cheerleading Movie That Changed, Like, Everything (No, Seriously), and her work has appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, and more.

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Easy to use: Smooth stitching: Variety of presser feet Automatic buttonholer: Good light: Adjustable needle position: Needle up/down: Adjustable feed-dog height: Variety of stitches: Sewing surface: Thorough manual: Warranty Built-in needle threader: Adjustable presser-foot pressure: If you prefer the simplicity of a mechanical sewing machine: If you don't mind potentially divisive looks and occasionally finicky winding: Presser foot Throat plate Feed dogs