The Best Sewing Machines for Beginners *All Tested*

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I compared 56 sewing machines and picked 7 of the best options to try. After extensive testing, I think the best sewing machine for beginners is the Brother innov-is A16. It’s easy to use, powerful, and has enough features that you can grow with it for years.

Buy it from UK Amazon. If you’re from the US, this machine is identical but it has more stitches. If you’re from Canada, this machine is very similar, but it has more stitches and feet, a fiddly needle threader, and no ‘lockstitch’ ability.

If you just need a simple machine for occasional hemming and repair jobs, I recommend the Brother Ls14s. You won’t get confused choosing stitch length and width settings, they’re pre-set. Just pick the type of stitch you want (eg. straight stitch), and off you sew! It’s too limiting for hobby sewists though. And it has a top-loading bobbin which is more reliable. This bobbin system doesn’t really get jammed like front-loading bobbins do.

Buy the Ls14s (it has different names around the world) from UK Amazon, USA Amazon, USA Michaels, Canada Amazon, Australia Amazon, India Amazon.

I’ll talk more about each sewing machine below, the pros and cons, and what my testing process was like. Oh, and I made a video overview!

Disclaimer: nothing in this post is sponsored or gifted. I bought most of the machines myself, and drove to sewing machine stores to try the rest (thank you Discount Sewing for having me). I have no relationship with any sewing machine brands.

Brother Innov-is A16 (Best machine for hobby sewists)

white brother innov-is a16 sewing machine on a table

Buy it from UK Amazon. If you’re from the US, this machine is identical but it has more stitches. If you’re from Canada, this machine is very similar, but it has more stitches and feet, a fiddly needle threader, and no ‘lockstitch’ ability.

Best for: people who love sewing, but don’t want to buy an expensive premium machine. It suits dressmaking, quilting, and everyday jobs like hemming and repairs.

Pros

It’s really easy to thread. The needle threader is the best design I’ve seen, it has a “quick-set” bobbin design (so you don’t need to pull up the bobbin thread), and I like using the start/stop button to wind the bobbin (it means I don’t have to keep my foot on the pedal for ages!).

I also found it easy to use. I love that the settings are pre-set for each stitch, so you don’t have to guess stitch length and width combinations. You can override the settings for full control though.

It was more powerful than the other machines. It didn’t get stuck on humps like the others, and it struggled less on thick fabrics. I was impressed at how it glided over thick seam allowance humps during the zipper pouch test. It went through 8 layers of faux leather and cotton canvas!

It has the most important stitches, including overcasting ones to reduce fraying, and stretch stitches for stretchy fabrics. These are great stitches for making clothes. The buttonholes are also really nice, and you get 3 different styles.

Buttonhole stitches on fabric made using the Brother innovis a16
I reduced the stitch length for a fuller-looking stitch.

It can sew slower and quieter than other machines. It has speed control, so you can’t accidentally go too fast. And it has a ‘lockstitch’ button. This is a neater alternative to backstitching (a way to stop your stitches unraveling). Most budget machines don’t have this.

Cons

The main limitations are that it doesn’t have as many stitches as other machines. It has 16 stitches, but similarly-priced machines have 20 – 40. It lacks all those fun embroidery stitches, but I don’t think most people use those anyway.

Like all the other machines in the test, it found jersey a challenge. For example, it stretched out my thin and drapey polyester jersey. But the ’tissue paper’ technique solved most of the problems.

It was more powerful than the other machines, so it could handle thick layers better, but mid-range and premium sewing machines will still have more power.

I found machines over 6kg a little heavy to hold in 1 hand, and this was one of them. The Brother EU website says it weighs 6.6kg. If you travel a lot with your machine, or plan to move it often, it might be a bit annoying. But machines with better build quality are normally heavier, so I think it’s worth the trade-off.

Overall, I think it’s the best sewing machine for beginners who enjoy sewing, but don’t want to spend too much. It has enough features that you can grow with it for years.

Brother Ls14s (Best machine for simple everyday tasks)

brother ls14s beginner sewing machine on a table

Note: it’s called different things around the world, like the L14s, Sm1400, Sm1704, Lx3817, Xm1010, RLX3817A, and Js1400.

Buy it from UK Amazon, USA Amazon, USA Michaels, Canada Amazon, Australia Amazon, India Amazon.

Best for: people who need a cheap machine for repairing and hemming things a few times a year.

Pros

It’s really simple to use. All the settings are pre-set, so you just choose the type of stitch you want (eg. straight stitch) and start sewing!

It has the most important stitches: straight, zig zag, blind hem, rectangle buttonhole, and a few extras. You can sew most things with these.

I like that it has a top-loading bobbin. It’s more reliable than front-loading bobbins which jam a lot.

It’s presser foot doesn’t push down on the fabric too much, so it didn’t stretch out my thin jersey.

Cons

It’s not as powerful as some of the machines I tested. Expect it to sound loud and thumpy sewing thick fabrics. I could hear it struggling a lot with fleece, cotton canvas, and faux leather, but it did sew them OK.

You can’t change the stitch length or width, so it’s too limiting for hobby sewists.

There’s no needle threader, which is normal at this price point.

It doesn’t have many stitch options. If you need stretch, overcasting (stops fraying), and embroidery stitches, this machine will be too basic for you. And it’s 4-step buttonhole looks OK, not amazing. The computerized machines make neater buttonholes.

The lighting isn’t great. The bulb is positioned in the wrong place in my opinion, so it creates distracting shadows on the seam allowance guides.

The free arm is too big for small tubes, so you need to sew your tubes facing up, if that makes sense.

On-machine storage is small, but there’s enough space to fit the small number of accessories provided. (Tip: keep all your accessories in the clear bag they provide, otherwise your stuff will fall out every time you open the storage space).

The backstitch lever needs a lot of pressure to push down and hold. It’s fine for most people, but if you have arthritis in your hands, it might hurt after a while. I recommend computerized machines instead because pressing buttons will be gentler on your hands.

It’s one of the cheapest sewing machines on the market, so build quality isn’t great. Cheap machines have more plastic parts inside and weaker metals are used. Quality control isn’t as strict, so manufacturers don’t mind if things don’t fit together tightly, or the metals don’t meet a certain standard. I do consider this a disposable machine. Once it’s worn out, it’s probably not worth repairing.

Overall, if you’re not interested in sewing as a hobby, I think you’ll love how easy and budget-friendly it is. It’s good enough to get simple, everyday tasks done.

Here’s a more detailed review of the Brother Ls14s.

Video review: the best sewing machines for beginners

My testing process

  1. Threading test.
  2. Fabric tests (cotton, silk, chiffon, fleece, denim hem, 8 layers of denim, faux leather, canvas, jersey).
  3. Noise comparisons.
  4. Ease of use tests.
  5. Dressmaking tests (buttonholes, stitch variety, feet).
  6. Quilting tests (samples, throat space, quilting accessories).
  7. Travel tests (weight, handles, hard cover).
  8. Quality comparisons.