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Here’s my review of the Brother Ls14s (Amazon link) after 6 months of testing. Note: it’s called different things around the world, like the L14s, Sm1400, Sm1704, Lx3817, Xm1010, RLX3817A, and Js1400.
I think it’s best for beginners who need a cheap sewing machine for occasional use. It suits everyday projects and light/medium weight fabrics. It’s one of the simplest sewing machines on the market. There are only a few important stitches to choose from, and the stitch length and width settings are pre-set. So there’s less for you to learn. However, this also means you have very little control over the stitches, so a hobby sewist would find it limiting. I like that it has a top-loading bobbin. It’s more reliable than front-loading bobbins which jam a lot. I think it sews jersey OK, it’s presser foot doesn’t stretch out the fabric thankfully.
Now onto the main limitations… It’s not very powerful, so it doesn’t suit thick fabrics. Expect it to sound loud and thumpy with fleece, denim, and canvas, and for the stitches to be uneven. It can’t sew as slowly as computerized machines. There’s no needle threader. It doesn’t have many stitch options. And it’s one of the cheapest sewing machines on the market, so build quality isn’t great.
Overall, this is my favorite machine if you’re on a tight budget, but it’s not my favorite one for beginners who love sewing (go here to see my best sewing machine for beginners review). The Ls14s is good enough for occasional use and everyday projects. I think you’ll love how simple it is to use.
I would buy this as a first sewing machine for kids too, but again it wouldn’t be my first choice, it’s my budget choice. It doesn’t have speed control, or the ability to sew without the foot pedal (using the start/stop button).
I’ll talk more about the machine below and show you my stitch samples.
- Does the Ls14s sew all fabrics well?
- Are the stitches & buttonholes good?
- Is it noisy?
- Is it easy to thread?
- Is it easy to use?
- Is it good for making clothes?
- Is it good for quilting?
- Is it good for travelling with?
- What accessories does it come with?
- Is the storage good?
- Is it a good quality sewing machine?
- How does it compare to other sewing machines?
Does the Ls14s sew all fabrics well?
It sews light to medium weight fabrics well. And it doesn’t stretch out jerseys. However, it’s not good at sewing thick fabrics. The motor and feed dogs aren’t powerful enough. You’ll struggle to create neat, consistent stitches on the seam allowance humps. And the machine becomes very loud and thumpy. You’ll need to experiment with the tension for thin jersey, silk, and chiffon, but you can create (mostly) smooth and flat seams.
It sewed it well and only had a small amount of puckering (at tension 4). The puckering is subtle and between the stitches. I’m hoping a lower tension like 3 will fix that.
It sewed it well but there was some puckering at tensions 3 and 4. I think 2 would be better.
8 layers of denim
The Ls14s could sew this, surprisingly. I just went really slowly and it got through all the layers. However, I don’t think this test has any real-world use. You’ll probably never sew 8 flat layers of denim, but you will sew 6 layer seam allowance humps, and that’s when machines often struggle.
It sewed the denim hem OK, but there were a few issues. It struggled to feed the fabric when going over the seam allowance humps. It did manage it, but the stitches got smaller.
In a matching thread you wouldn’t notice this, but if you use a contrasting thread it would look messy. For comparison, all of the budget machines I tested had this issue.
If it’s a big deal for you to have really neat-looking, consistent stitches, go for a mid-range machine instead. Their feed dogs and motors are more powerful. My Brother innov-is a150, for example, has a consistent stitch length no matter what speed you’re going.
It did join the fabric together strongly, but the Ls14s hated sewing this. It sounded very loud and thumpy. It also slowed down when going over the seam allowance humps. This created uneven stitch lengths and a skipped stitch. The motor isn’t powerful enough for this fabric.
Faux leather & cotton canvas zipper pouch
I had to sew through multiple layers of thick fabric which made the Ls14s unhappy. It sounded loud and thumpy, and the backstitch lever would sometimes rattle. The motor sounded like it was struggling.
It got stuck occasionally (meaning it stopped moving forward and just sewed in the same spot). When I topstitched the “sticky” faux leather, the standard foot struggled to sew. It created tiny stitches and wrinkled the fabric. You would need to buy a non-stick foot for “sticky” materials.
Thin polyester jersey
The Ls14s did not stretch out the fabric, which I was happy about. Many of the other budget machines I tested did.
The stitches were consistent, but when I look at them up close, there’s a weird pucker between them. I need to experiment more with the tension to achieve a smooth and flat seam. Maybe the standard tension of 4 was a little tight?
I also had problems with the top layer shifting. To be fair, all the other beginner machines had this issue too.
Are the stitches & buttonholes good?
It sews light to medium weight fabrics like cotton well. Expect the stitches to look bad when sewing thick fabrics. The stitches become small and uneven when I go over bulky seam allowances. Your stitches will also become uneven if your sewing speed changes. The buttonholes look OK, but you’ll need to adjust the screw to make the left and right bars look the same. Sewing a blind hem is so hard without the blind hem foot. This is not included with the machine.
Sews well on cotton
Sewing all the stitches on 2 layers of cotton was fine. I didn’t have any problems, and I think the stitches look good.
Normally a tension of 4 is the standard, but on this machine, I preferred tension 5 for cotton. It makes the straight stitches look straighter on both sides. On tension 4, the stitching on one side was a bit loose, creating a slight zig-zag look.
Large zig zag stitch = tunnelling
The largest zig zag stitch was a bit hard to balance the tension on. It pulls the fabric into a tunnel with the standard tension of 4, so more experimenting is needed with that.
Messy stitches when sewing thick fabrics
It can sew thick fabrics and manage big seam allowance humps, like the ones found on denim hems. It’s just not happy about it.
I noticed the machine sounded loud and thumpy when going over humps, sometimes the backstitch lever would even rattle. Other times it got stuck on the humps and needed a push. But it will sew them.
Expect the stitch length to become small and uneven over the humps. To be fair, all the beginner machines I tested did this too. As long as your thread matches the fabric, you won’t be able to tell.
Inconsistent stitch length
The stitch length is affected by how fast or slow you sew. So if you start fast and then slow down, your stitches will be different lengths. For comparison, all of the beginner machines I tested also have this problem.
I don’t think you’ll notice this issue if you’re sewing with matching thread. But if you’re topstitching with a contrasting thread, it will stand out and look messy.
More expensive machines have a better feeding system which solves this, like my Brother innov-is a150. It doesn’t matter how much you change the speed during a line of stitching, the stitches are consistent.
Very little control over stitch settings
Another challenge with this machine is that you have almost no control over the stitch length, width, and needle position. I actually prefer this for complete beginners because it makes the machine simpler to use. But for hobby sewists, I think the lack of control will be frustrating.
Blind hem stitch
There’s nothing wrong with the blind hem stitch itself, but in practice, it’s really hard to use without a blind hem foot.
I couldn’t sew perfectly straight with the standard foot, so many of my blind hem stitches didn’t catch the hem! If you’re going to use this stitch, I highly recommend buying the blind hem foot too. Or get a different machine that includes it (here are my recommendations).
I don’t love the buttonholes it makes, but they’re acceptable.
The first time I sewed buttonholes, the left and right bars were uneven. Brother obviously knows about this because they designed a “buttonhole screw” to fix it. It’s a bit of work the first time, but then you don’t need to do it again.
I prefer the buttonholes that computerized machines make. They look neater, they have more styles, and the machines automatically “tie-off” the ends to stop them unraveling.
Is the Brother Ls14s noisy?
Yes, it’s quite noisy in general. It sounds worse when sewing thick fabrics like fleece. There’s a real thumping sound then. If sound is important to you, I recommend getting a computerized machine instead. They’re normally quieter.
I measured how loud the Ls14s was at slow, medium, and high speeds. I used the Sound Level Meter (Android) app. For comparison, I also measured how noisy my personal machine was, the computerized Brother a150.
Noise level (db)
Noise level (db)
For context, the noise level of my quiet room during the test was 26.1 db.
Overall, I found mechanical machines were louder than computerized ones. If sound is important to you, I recommend buying a computerized sewing machine instead. They’re not silent, but they sound quieter and smoother than mechanical ones. Here’s my top pick for beginners.
Is the Brother Ls14s easy to thread?
Overall it’s quite easy to thread. There’s no needle threader, but I like the threading instructions printed on the machine.
There’s a good distinction between the instructions for winding the bobbin and threading the top half, so you don’t get them confused.
I wish the hook came out more so it was easier to thread, but it’s manageable.
I also wish it came with a needle threader, but it’s normal for budget machines not to have one.
I do think a complete beginner would struggle the first time, but with the manual and a few practice attempts, I think you’ll be fine.
Is it easy to use?
Choosing stitches is really easy, and the bobbin system is more reliable. It doesn’t get jammed like front-loading machines do. Here’s what I found annoying: the stiff backstitch lever, bad lighting, the thread jumping out of the needle, and the lack of a “normal” manual.
Stitch selection is really easy. You just turn the dial to the stitch you want and sew. You don’t need to make lots of decisions about stitch length and width settings. It’s all pre-set.
I like the clear top-loading bobbin (also known as a drop-in bobbin). It lets you see when you’re almost out of thread. And most importantly, it doesn’t get jammed like front-loading systems do.
I think its slowest speed is manageable, but it’s still faster than computerized machines. If you want something that can go really slowly, here’s what I recommend instead. Slow speeds are useful for careful tasks like topstitching.
The lighting is quite bad. The bulb is positioned at the back and left, rather than the front and right. This means the seam allowance guides on the right have distracting shadows on them.
The thread often jumps out of the needle when you’re about to sew. It’s so annoying. You need to make your thread tails really long to avoid this, which wastes a lot of thread.
The backstitch lever is quite stiff. It’s fine for most people, but if you have arthritis in your hands I don’t recommend it. I think you’d prefer a computerized machine with buttons for everything. Here’s the machine I recommend instead.
My machine didn’t come with a normal manual, so I wasn’t happy about that. I just received a giant sheet with basic instructions (you can find it on Brother’s website. It’s called the “basic operation manual”). And the paper’s quite thin, so I’m worried about it tearing. There is a detailed booklet version though, so maybe you’ll get that instead? If not, you can find it on Brother’s website.
Is it good for making clothes?
It’s OK, but not amazing. You’ll get the most important stitches, but very few stretch, overcasting (=stops fraying), and embroidery ones. The blind hem stitch is really hard to use without the blind hem foot. This is not included with the machine. You have almost no control over the stitch length, width, or needle position. And the free arm is too big for small tubes.
It has the most important stitches: straight, zig zag, blind hem, rectangle buttonhole, and a few extras. You can sew most things with these.
The 4-step buttonhole looks OK, but you need to adjust a screw to get both sides to look even.
And the blind hem stitch is really hard to use without a blind hem foot. I couldn’t sew perfectly straight with the standard foot, so many of my blind hem stitches didn’t catch the hem!
I’m also glad this sewing machine doesn’t stretch out thin jersey.
The cons are: you have almost no control over the stitch length, width, and needle position. Its free arm is too big, so you’ll need to sew small tubes without it. And you don’t have many options for stretch, overcasting (= stops fraying), or embroidery stitches.
If you’re passionate about sewing clothes, I think you’ll prefer this machine.
Is it good for quilting?
Yes, I think the Brother Ls14s is good enough for basic quilting. Its throat space is big enough for large quilts and quilting feet are available to buy separately. It can quilt straight lines OK, but the machine does wander slightly to the left/right, so it’s hard to sew perfectly straight. You can’t drop the feed dogs for free-motion quilting, and it doesn’t come with a “darning plate” to cover the feed dogs either. You’ll need to buy that separately.
Its throat space is big enough to make large quilts. I could easily fit my 100″ king-size quilt inside, which was a happy surprise!
When I sewed a 3 layer quilting sample using the standard foot, it didn’t cause any puckering. However, I was sewing a thin 2mm (1/8″) batting / wadding. I think I’d have puckering issues if I used thick batting, making the walking foot a necessity. (A walking foot feeds multiple layers of fabric through a machine evenly. It reduces the risk of shifting and pleating).
The Ls14s also struggled to sew perfectly straight, even when I drew straight lines on the fabric. The foot doesn’t grip the fabric enough when you’re sewing multiple layers, so it does wander slightly to the left or right by 1/8″ (3mm). You can’t adjust the foot pressure to improve this. If you don’t care about sewing really precisely, then it’s not a big deal.
This machine does not come with any quilting feet, but you can buy them separately. You’ll need the walking foot, quilting guide, 1/4″ foot, and free-motion foot.
You can’t lower the feed dogs for free-motion quilting. Basic sewing machines normally come with a “darning plate” instead which covers the feed dogs. But this machine makes you buy it separately, so that’s another expense.
Is it good for travelling with?
Yes, it’s lightweight and has a handle. You need to buy your own storage bag though because it doesn’t come with one. Most budget machines don’t.
Here’s what the “handle” looks like. It’s the hole type.
It weighs 4.7kg with accessories inside. I found sewing machines under 6kg easy to hold in one hand, so this was one of those easy machines.
What accessories does it come with?
- Standard / zig-zag foot
- Zipper foot
- 4-step buttonhole foot. It’s the basic type, so it can’t measure your button.
Is the storage good?
It’s very small, but manageable. You need to keep your accessories in the plastic bag provided, or they’ll fall out every time you open the cover.
The storage space is in the free arm cover, so you need to slide the cover off to access it.
It’s very small compared to other machines. You can fit all the accessories the machine came with though.
You need to store all your accessories in the plastic bag provided. You can’t leave your accessories in there loose or they’ll fall out every time you remove the front cover.
Is it a good quality sewing machine?
Not really. It’s one of the cheapest sewing machines on the market, so build quality isn’t great. I think it’s best suited for light use.
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. A sewing machine service in the UK typically costs £50-60 plus parts. If something goes wrong, you may not want to spend that much to repair an £80-ish sewing machine. It’s not very cost-effective.
But if you only sew occasionally, it will probably be a long time before your machine wears out. I wouldn’t worry about it then.
If you sew a lot, I have a better recommendation in my best sewing machine for beginners review.
How does it compare to other sewing machines?
I prefer it over the other mechanical machines I’ve tested. It’s really simple to use. But I recommend computerized machines for hobby sewists, they have more features that you can grow with. Here’s my blog post where I compared lots of beginner sewing machines, including mechanical and computerized ones.
This post was originally published on 2 December 2021. It has since been updated.