The 4 Best Sewing Machines in 2022


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Jun 29, 2023

The 4 Best Sewing Machines in 2022

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If you want to make clothes that fit you perfectly, repair clothes or upholstery, or sew anything you want, you'll need a good sewing machine.

I've been sewing for 30 years and one of the reasons I love it is because of my sewing machine. As a theatrical costume maker, I've made everything from heavy corsets and hoop skirts to whisper-thin chiffon dresses and elegantly tailored suits.

I tried a lot of machines before I landed on a second-hand mechanical model that I bought 20 years ago and still use today. If you're just starting out, it's important to find an easy-to-use machine that does the kind of sewing you want, whether it's quilting or simple repairs. No matter how much you might like to sew, struggling with an unresponsive or frustrating machine can turn it into a terrible chore.

That's why I used my own experience, consulted three experts, and tested four machines to evaluate the performance and ease of use for each one. You can check out my full testing methodology below, along with tips on how to shop for a machine.

Best sewing machine overall: Brother CS7000X, available at Amazon, $199.99

Best mechanical sewing machine: Singer Heavy Duty 4452, available at Amazon, $219.99

Best high-end sewing machine: Bernina 535, available at Bernina, $3,799

Best budget-friendly sewing machine: Brother CS5055, available at Amazon, $159.99

The Brother CS7000X is a beginner-friendly computerized machine that makes it easy to sew at the touch of a button.

If you wanted to start a project right away, you could do it without looking at anything besides the Brother CS7000X's Quick Start Guide. This is a great, easy-to-use, beginner-friendly machine with a lot of features that advanced and tech-adverse sewers will appreciate too.

For most sewing projects, you'll just need a straight stitch, zig-zag stitch, and a buttonhole. This machine did an excellent job with all three of them — and quietly too. It also handled fabrics like lightweight cotton muslin, cotton jersey, and layers of heavy upholstery fabric very well.

It also has a lot of extra features that make sewing easier for beginners and advanced sewers like the needle up/down button, which allows you to move the needle in a single step. The machine can also be programmed to your preference, so you can set the needle to default to the left or center while sewing, or have the needle stop in the up or down position, which is a great feature to sew sharp corners more easily.

Beginners will especially appreciate that the machine gives a small beep if they're about to commit a user error, like forgetting to push the buttonhole lever down before trying to sew a buttonhole. I also liked the speed control, which tells the machine how fast or slow you want it to go, so you can use slower speeds for more careful work or faster speeds for zipping along straight lines.

The brand lists the machine at around 18 pounds, which makes it easy to carry around. It comes with a hard plastic case, which is good for protection. The flatbed attachment on the front of the machine doesn't have a hinged compartment for storage though — any accessories in the storage compartment have to be kept in a plastic bag. It's not convenient, but not a dealbreaker either.

This machine is great for its price, which I had to stop to double-check. Most good machines start around $200, but with all these features, I expected to pay a lot more. It's a great general-purpose machine for garments, crafts, and quilts, and it comes with a lot of stitch options and useful accessories too.

Pros: Quiet, reasonably priced, 70 utility and decorative stitches, seven buttonholes, has a wide variety of useful features such as needle up/down and automatic backstitch

Cons: Computerized controls can be intimidating, inconvenient storage compartment

The Singer Heavy Duty 4452 is a powerful, low-maintenance mechanical sewing machine that will power through any fabric.

This machine is so easy to use that a time-traveler from 1963 could probably thread and start sewing without ever having to look at a manual. In fact, a manual wasn't even included in the box, just a Quick Start Guide for how to fill a bobbin and thread the machine. Everything on the machine is controlled via knobs, levers, and dials, so you can pick things up quickly.

The Singer Heavy Duty is loud, powerful, and fast. In testing, it handled lightweight cotton muslin, stretch jersey, and several layers of heavy upholstery fabric very well. All the fabric went through the machine evenly, and the stitches were even and straight, though the backstitch didn't look very neat. At first, the zig-zag stitch on the stretch jersey also looked too tight on the bobbin-thread side, but after I adjusted the top thread tension a bit, I was able to make it look even on both sides.

This machine can sew lightweight fabrics like silk chiffon and charmeuse, but it's more difficult because the powerful feed yanked the delicate fabric too quickly, causing the fabric to shift and the seam to pucker. To make the seam look nice, I had to test several different thread tensions and baste, or roughly hand sew, the seam to keep the layers from moving. If you plan to use this machine for light fabrics, you'll want to remember to use a sharp, fine needle for delicate fabrics.

There's also no speed control other than changing how much pressure you put on the foot pedal. If you push too hard, the fabric might fly through so quickly that you can't control it. This machine has a maximum speed of 1,100 stitches per minute, so it's very fast when you want it to be but it takes some time to figure out speed control.

The flatbed attachment at the front of the machine has a convenient hinged compartment for storing accessories. It comes with five presser feet, including a walking foot, which is good for dealing with very thick fabric. It also comes with a light cloth cover to protect it from dust.

While this is a simple and straightforward machine, it won't hold your hand the way a lot of computerized machines do. This machine expects you to do all the work, and when something goes wrong, it expects you to troubleshoot it, making it a good option for an experienced sewer who just wants something inexpensive, powerful, and portable without having to learn a whole new sewing machine.

Pros: Fast, powerful, simple to use, easy to care for

Cons: Only has 32 stitches, doesn't have many decorative stitches, doesn't have an attractive buttonhole, loud

The Bernina 535 is an expensive computerized machine for people who know how to sew and want to take advantage of its huge array of special stitches.

Using this machine is the next best thing to having elves come into my house at night and sew all my projects while I'm asleep. It's solidly built and feels sturdy and well-made.

The stitches were perfect and precise on every fabric I tested without having to make any adjustments. The fabric glided through evenly with no pulling or puckering — even the chiffon that was so difficult with the other machines. The stretch zig-zag stitch was so even and balanced that it looked like it came from a store, and made me feel like a better sewer.

A machine that costs nearly $4,000 will definitely have more of everything. Where an entry-level machine might come with a simple operating manual, the Bernina 535 has a 180-page spiral-bound user manual and a digital version too. It explains all the features of the machine clearly and offers tips and project ideas. There are also classes online or at various Bernina Creative Centers around the US.

This machine is available online, but if you pick it up from a dealer, you can get personal instruction about how to set it up and take advantage of its features. Be warned though — it weighs around 35 pounds, so bring a hand truck.

With so many features, it can be overwhelming, so it's not a machine for beginners. With a bit of practice and instruction though, it becomes clearer how to select different functions and operate special features. It has a brightly lit, 3- by 2-inch touch-screen control panel which you can operate with your finger or the included stylus.

Overall, this machine helps users avoid a lot of the petty annoyances of sewing. A lot of typical sewing problems are caused by incorrectly putting in a bobbin, but it's physically impossible here because there's only one way to fit it into the case. The machine even alerts you when the bobbin is running low, so you won't have to worry about sewing long channels, only to discover you've been sewing with air the whole time. It also has an automatic thread cutter, which can neatly finish your stitch and snip threads whenever you stop sewing.

The Bernina 535 comes with five presser feet, a dust cover, a box for accessories, a slide-on table to increase the sewing surface, and a free-hand system so you can raise and lower the presser foot with your knee without having to let go of the fabric.

Pros: Handles lightweight and heavyweight fabric well, easy to control, makes beautiful stitches, has embroidery capability, includes slide-on sewing table

Cons: Requires a lot of practice to learn how to use for beginners

If you're looking for a powerful sewing machine without a ton of accessories, the Brother CS5055 is an easy-to-use machine for clothes, crafts, masks, and more.

It's as powerful as our top pick, the Brother CS7000X, but has 10 fewer stitches and three fewer presser feet, though none of the missing ones are truly useful for most projects.

Due to the minimal price difference, we think the CS7000X is a better value and will serve most people's needs perfectly. But if the CS5055 is on sale or the CS7000X is out of stock, this is a great machine that we're happy to recommend.

Pros: Affordable, easy to use, and works for basic sewing needs

Cons: Fewer stitch options and presser feet

With three decades of sewing experience, I know what stitches most people will or won't need. I also consulted quilt artist and educator Valerie C. White; couture designer, educator, and Threads contributing editor Kenneth D. King; CEO and designer of Style Sew Me Patterns Eryn Shields, and my own professional colleagues.

Basic stitches on different fabrics: When I spoke with Shields and King, they confirmed that you need three basic things from a sewing machine: a straight stitch, a zig-zag stitch, and a good buttonhole.

I tested how each machine performed those three tasks on four common fabrics I would use to make or repair clothes, quilts, or upholstery: plain-weave cotton muslin that has a similar weight to a basic quilting cotton, four-way stretch knit jersey that's 90% cotton and 10% Spandex, lightweight 100% silk chiffon, and heavy-weight upholstery fabric.

Every sample was also pressed and pinned before sewing for consistency. I sewed through two layers of cotton muslin, jersey, and silk chiffon to mimic a simple seam made of two pieces of fabric sewn together, and four layers of upholstery fabric to make sure the machine could handle a very thick, heavy project.

I tested each machine with Gutermann Sew-All Thread, an all-purpose polyester thread, as both the top thread and the bobbin thread. Due to the different fabric weights, I used the universal needle that came pre-installed on each machine to sew through the cotton muslin and upholstery fabric, a ball-point needle for jersey fabric, and a 70/10 needle for silk chiffon.

Decorative stitches: With the three computerized machines, I also tested a sampling of the decorative stitches on cotton muslin to see if the machine could stitch something like a cute row of stars or flowers.

Buttonholes: All four machines came with a buttonhole foot, so I used them to create a basic rectangular buttonhole. Because the cotton jersey has some stretch to it, I also tested a stretch buttonhole using the three computerized machines — it's not an option with the manual Singer Heavy Duty machine.

Ease of use: During my testing, I also evaluated the machines based on ease of use, taking into whether it was a computerized or mechanical unit.

Extra features: I tested each machine's extra features such as needle up/down buttons, noises or lights that notify you of a user error, knee lift, and more to see if they were helpful or novelties.

Here are some tips for sewing machine shopping from our experts:

Our experts suggest going to a dealer for hands-on guidance and support, as well as for future classes, repairs and maintenance, and potential trade-ins — here's how to find a dealer for Brother and Bernina. Singer sewing machines are more readily available at craft stores and big-box retailers around the US, and you can register your machine for warranty and repairs.

A good dealer will help you develop your sewing skills, learn to use all the features of your machine, and help troubleshoot if things go wrong. But we realize that some people don't live near reputable dealers. That's why all of our picks can be purchased online, meet criteria based on the experts I spoke with, and performed well in our tests.

King said he likes Bernina machines, but also said Brother and Janome are both reputable brands with good machines."What I like about Bernina machines is that the quality is consistent throughout the line," he said. "You can get a lower-end Bernina machine with fewer features for less money, but you're still going to get a quality machine."

Brands like Husqvarna Viking, Pfaff, Juki, and Babylock are also well-regarded and known for making very good machines.

According to Shields, for garment sewers, a straight stitch, zig-zag stitch for stretch fabrics, and a buttonhole are going to take care of all your basic needs.

For quilting, one of the most useful attachments is a walking foot. This moves the presser foot so both the presser foot and the feed dogs move the fabric, which keeps the layers from shifting while you sew. White says one of her favorite features for quilting is a knee lift, which raises and lowers the presser foot, so you don't need to use your hand.

White also likes a machine that warns you when the bobbin is about to run out — this is especially helpful for beginners.

Of the machines we tested, the Brother CS7000X and the Singer Heavy Duty both come with walking feet, and the Brother CS7000X and the Bernina 535 both alert you when the bobbin is low, but only the Bernina 535 has a knee lift.

White also suggests a machine that you can grow into. "You're going to learn to do other things, and you should have a machine that will push you to explore some creative avenues," White said.

Shields says garment sewers should think about what kinds of fabrics they want to sew and bring samples with them to the store, if possible, so they can test the machine on different fabrics.

"Some people like to sew kids' clothes, so they'll be sewing with a lot of lightweight cottons and you can pretty much use any machine for that," Shields said. "If they plan to sew a lot of outerwear or work in heavy fabrics like wool and denim, they'll want to make sure that they have a workhorse machine that can handle those types of fabric."

Of the machines we looked at, the Singer Heavy Duty is a great option for anybody looking to sew heavy outerwear fabric.

White emphasizes the need for good customer service, which all of the brands we recommend have. "If I call with a question, they're more than happy to answer it," White said of her Bernina dealer.

A dealer can be more helpful than videos or online tutorials and can answer questions about what to expect in terms of service, repairs, and more.

If you can't shop in person, Shields says to make sure you read a lot of reviews to learn about the experiences of people who have actually been sewing with the machine.

Sewing machines are available at a range of price points, but many of the good ones can start somewhere around $200 when they're not on sale.

While the price is a factor in any purchase, King advised against going for the very cheapest machine you can find, if you can help it. "There are a lot of machines that are very inexpensive, but they aren't very good," he explained. That's especially a problem for beginners, he said, because struggling with a difficult machine can be demoralizing and could put a beginner off sewing forever.

Most people will never need a $10,000 sewing machine, but spending $200 or $300 on a sewing machine can be a worthwhile investment, even for a beginner.

Durability: There are a lot of moving parts inside a sewing machine, and many of them are expected to move very quickly for long periods of time, often in the presence of large amounts of dust, threads, and fluff. Machines with metal parts cost a bit more but are much more durable than machines made with cheaper plastic parts. A good mechanical machine should last for decades with a bit of regular maintenance.

Reliability: The most annoying thing about sewing is the tiny day-to-day malfunctions that can happen to anybody. Any machine can jam, skip stitches, or have tension problems, but based on my experience, it tends to happen less often with higher-end machines.

Stability: The quality of the internal parts and engineering also affects the way it feels to sew with a machine. A small, inexpensive machine might be very portable, but it can be uncomfortable to sew if shakes or rattles while you sew with it.

Additional features: Higher-end machines have extra features that aren't essential, but are nice to have. They can cut the thread, add an automatic backstitch, adjust the presser foot pressure, and remember your preferences so the machine is always set up the way you like it.

Stitches: Computerized machines can come with tons of stitches, including alphabets and numbers. Some machines even have embroidery capabilities. Most people won't need all those stitches, but they can be fun to play with, especially for adding a bit of flourish to napkins, doll clothes, and masks.

Service: If you're spending a couple hundred dollars or more on a machine, there should be some guarantee that it will continue to work. If you buy the machine directly from the manufacturer, it should have a warranty of at least two years for a computerized machine or 20 years for a mechanical machine (Brother has a generous 25-year warranty).

Specialized technology: The most expensive sewing machines are designed for specific uses, like quilting or embroidery. A top-tier professional embroidery machine can embroider custom designs using 16 spools of embroidery thread. Special long-arm machines that can make enormous quilts are prized by quilters, but many of them cost well over $10,000.

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Best sewing machine overall: Best mechanical sewing machine: Best high-end sewing machine: Best budget-friendly sewing machine: The Brother CS7000X is a beginner-friendly computerized machine that makes it easy to sew at the touch of a button. Pros: Cons: The Singer Heavy Duty 4452 is a powerful, low-maintenance mechanical sewing machine that will power through any fabric. Pros: Cons: The Bernina 535 is an expensive computerized machine for people who know how to sew and want to take advantage of its huge array of special stitches. Pros: Cons: If you're looking for a powerful sewing machine without a ton of accessories, the Brother CS5055 is an easy-to-use machine for clothes, crafts, masks, and more. Pros: Cons: Basic stitches on different fabrics: Decorative stitches: Buttonholes: Ease of use: Extra features: Read reviews from people who have tried the machine Durability: Reliability: Stability: Additional features: Stitches: Service: Specialized technology: