Best Sewing Machine of 2021
$429.99 at Amazon
|$220 List||$180 List|
$152.18 at Amazon
|$650 List||$190 List|
|Pros||Large library of stitches, tied for best sewing performance||Great value, excellent buttonholes, easy to use||Economical, easy to use||Easy to use, alright sewing skills||Easy to use, solid buttonholes|
|Cons||Intimidating for new users, can be expensive if not on sale||Stitches are slightly inferior to the top models, built-in light could be better||Average sewing performance||Can be expensive, subpar buttonholes||Lackluster stitching quality, pricey|
|Bottom Line||The best of the best, this is the model we'd recommend for experienced users||This user-friendly model is great for beginners and features above-average performance across the board||This is a great inexpensive machine for those just starting out, though more advanced users might require a higher-performing model||This is a machine to look at if it deeply discounted from its list price||This bare-bones computerized sewing machine failed to wow us, even though it is very easy to use|
|Rating Categories||Singer 9960 Quantum...||Brother XR9550PRW||Brother CS6000i||Janome 8077||Brother HC1850|
|Ease Of Use (30%)|
|Ease Of Set Up (20%)|
|Specs||Singer 9960 Quantum...||Brother XR9550PRW||Brother CS6000i||Janome 8077||Brother HC1850|
|Built in Stitches||600||110||60||30||130|
|Buttonhole Sewing (how many steps)||1-Step||1-Step||1-Step||1-Step||1-Step|
|Maximum Stitch Width||7mm||7mm||7mm||7mm||7mm|
|Maximum Stitch Length||5mm||5mm||5mm||5mm||5mm|
|Automatic Bobbin Winder||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Twin Needle Capability||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Weight||19.7 lbs.||10.3 lbs.||9.4 lbs.||16.6 lbs.||10.8 lbs.|
Best Performance Machine
Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
The Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist was our favorite overall sewing machine, earning the highest score of the entire group. Out of all the machines that we tested, this product has the largest library of preset stitches, totaling over 600! This machine is jam-packed with features and functions, making it perfect for an expert or advanced user. However, it is also relatively simple and easy to use for even the most inexperienced sewers. The Singer 9960 produces stitches that are of superb quality and above-average buttonholes with ease.
Unfortunately, all of this performance comes at a premium price. While it is easy enough for beginners to use, all of the additional features can be a bit daunting to keep track of. This makes the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist much more suitable for someone who frequently sews and is very dedicated to the craft. Occasional users looking to undertake small projects or the occasional patch would be much better served by some of the other machines below, which retail for considerably less.
Read review: Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
Best for Beginners
If you are new to sewing or are looking for a machine that is supremely easy to use, the Brother XR9550PRW is an excellent choice. Out of all the products we have seen, this machine is one of the easiest to use and set up. It also has a respectable library of stitches that should cover most projects. The buttonholes it produces have excellent stitch quality with a very intuitive 1-step process. It has a built-in thread cutter, and its automatic bobbin winder makes it very easy for a beginner to get up and running with their first sewing projects without major frustration. Amateur and veteran users alike will have no problem quickly and efficiently accomplishing their desired task.
While the stitch quality on this machine is quite high, it is still outmatched by the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist. This is something to consider if you need perfect stitches — but you'll need to be willing to deal with a more complex, expensive machine. However, the stitches produced by the Brother XR9550PRW are usually sufficient for most projects, and you should consider this model if you are shopping on a budget and want a hassle-free machine.
Read review: Brother XR9550PRW
If you're hoping to save some cash with your sewing machine purchase, the Brother CS6000i is our top recommendation. This model is very user-friendly and produced some high-quality stitches with most of our fabrics. The setup is not very complicated, with a straightforward threading process and a particularly easy to install bobbin. It has the standard needle threader and does a fair job at winding a bobbin. It also has more than enough stitches for most projects and produced a high-quality buttonhole.
We have to note that we weren't huge fans of the integrated light on this machine or the thread cutter. We also had some slight issues with the recommended tension settings on longer stitches, with this machine bunching up the fabric a bit in a few of our tests. However, most of these inconveniences should be fairly minor, especially if you are hoping to save some cash on your quest for a new sewing machine.
Read review: Brother CS6000i
Best for a Tight Budget
The Brother XM2701 is a great place to start if you're looking to try machine sewing as a hobby while spending as little as possible. This machine is one of the easier models to get threaded and set up. It's reasonably user-friendly, with a great built-in work light, and the stitch selection method wasn't too difficult to understand.
Regrettably, we did find that the stitch and buttonhole quality of this machine couldn't compare to the top-tier products in our test. We found the tension was somewhat uneven with the recommended settings, in some instances coming out too tight, and too loose in others. The buttonhole looked less than desirable on easy fabrics like cotton, but it was nearly impossible on difficult fabrics like charmeuse. The Brother XM2701 surely isn't the highest-quality machine, but it costs considerably less than its top competitors and will get the job done if you don't have unreasonably high expectations.
Read review: Brother XM2701
Why You Should Trust Us
We purchased all of the sewing machines reviewed here and won't ever accept any free units from manufacturers — we buy everything just the same as you would. We have been reviewing and testing these products for close to three years now, creating thousands and thousands of stitches along the way. Our in-house tester, Austin Palmer, has been extensively testing sewing machines for the past few years and has logged scores of hours doing everything from scallop stitches to machine embroidery.
He is joined by Sarah Werick, who has had a lifelong passion for sewing. She originally learned how to sew at age 12 from her mom and grandmother. She took sewing and home economics class in high school, which allowed her to earn money tailoring clothes upon graduation. She later took another advanced sewing class in college. Her extensive experience using and troubleshooting different machine issues throughout the years has also given her a wealth of understanding about sewing machines, sergers, and embroidery machines. Sewing has become an art medium for her, and she now prefers to create original pieces from her designs rather than using patterns or mending existing items.
In our quest to find the best, we enlisted the help of both expert sewing machine users and complete novices to try out each product and get a better feel of how easy they are to operate and set up for beginners and experts. We then made thousands of different stitches on tons of different fabric types, rating and judging their quality — both in appearance and consistency. Then, we used each machine's buttonhole-specific presser foot to make a series of buttonholes and compare both the process of creating a buttonhole and the quality of the finished stitches.
Related: How We Tested Sewing Machines
Analysis and Test Results
To determine the overall score and our award winners, we divided up our testing process into four weighted rating metrics: Sewing, Ease of Use, Ease of Setup, and Buttonholes. Each of these metrics is weighted based on its significance to these products.
Related: Buying Advice for Sewing Machines
Both the Brother CS6000i or the Brother XM2701 are good choices if you are shopping for a new machine on a budget. The CS6000i costs a bit more than the XM2701, but it scores better overall, making it a good upgrade pick if you are looking to save but don't mind paying a little more than. The Brother XR9550PRW is an even better machine and is our top recommendation for beginners that want the best, as it's very user-friendly and has plenty of features, so it will take a while to outgrow. However, its price tag is a bit on the higher side. If you are looking for the best of the best and willing to pay for it, your first choice should be the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist, as it earned the best overall score of the entire group.
First and foremost, we rated and compared the sewing performance and stitch quality of each sewing machine. Accounting for 40% of each machine's final score, this is the most significant of all of our testing metrics. We tested out various stitches on a wide spectrum of different fabrics then judged the results. We looked for visually appealing and consistent stitches with proper tension to keep the material from bunching. We used the manufacturer's recommended settings for each type of fabric and stitch.
We used a long straight stitch, a zigzag stitch, a scallop stitch, as well as using the zipper presser foot to sew on a zipper. These stitches offered the most variety and consistent trends in scores and are some of the most commonly used when sewing, making them a good basis for comparison.
Differences between each machine were much easier to discern with the maximum straight stitch length, as any flaws were magnified and much more evident. For example, the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist did well with this stitch on cotton, but other machines, like the Brother CS6000i, were prone to bunching up the fabric due to uneven stitch tension.
Each machine has a specific presser foot for attaching a zipper, though some were better than others. Some machines of the presser feet cleared all parts of the zipper and attached it cleanly. Others collided with components of the zipper, causing the stitches to become uneven and tangled on top of each other.
The top spot was earned by Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist. It did very well with the long straight stitches but created a zigzag stitch that was slightly inferior to some of the other products tested.
We found that we could create a comparable zigzag stitch with the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist by experimenting and tweaking the settings, but we scored based on the default instructions. However, this Singer machine did an amazing job stitching scallops, tying for the top score with the Janome 8077. The Singer 9960 even performed quite well on fabrics like polyester, charmeuse, or silk, which tend to be more difficult to work with. It also did a great job attaching a zipper with its specialized presser foot.
The Brother XR9550PRW and the Janome 8077 both had a solid showing. We tasked each machine with a long straight stitch on our set of testing fabric. These machines did quite well, creating passable stitches on almost every fabric — even though they did noticeably struggle a bit more than the top models did with difficult fabrics like charmeuse.
The scores began to deviate much more when we moved on to the zigzag and scallop stitches. There tended to be a bit more tension in the bottom thread than we would have liked with the Brother XR9550PRW. This inhibited the stretch of this stitch — particularly noticeable on the jersey knit woven cotton.
When sewing corduroy, satin, or charmeuse with the Janome 8077, the fabric would bunch up in an undesirable way. However, in the scallop stitch assessments, the tables turned, with the Janome 8077 tying for the top score of the entire group. On every single type of fabric we used, the Janome delivered a stellar scallop stitch. Trailing just behind the Janome was the Brother XR9550PRW, which was mainly docked points due to the lackluster zigzag stitch that it produced on polyester chiffon.
The Brother XR9550PRW and the Janome 8077 finished out our stitch quality metric with a solid performance in our zipper test. We used the zipper-specific presser foot for each of these machines to sew a zipper onto a test swatch of fabric, and both the machines did admirably.
Across the board, we found the performance of the Brother ST371HD to be uninspiring, although it did surprisingly well with the woven cotton, which is one of the more difficult fabrics to sew.
The Brother XM2701 exhibited a disappointing performance in our stitch tests. Though this machine managed to complete all of the tests without too many issues, the stitches simply looked bad, with bunching and causing wrinkled fabric. The long straight stitch only looked good on charmeuse and satin. The scallop stitch was by far the most disappointing for the Brother XM2701, with the scallops coming out in varying sizes and shapes.
Ease of Use
Next, we rated and compared how convenient and easy to operate each sewing machine is, which accounts for 30% of their final score. We judged the quality and clarity of the printed labels on each machine and the ease of selecting different stitches. We also looked at how clear and intuitive it is to change the stitch settings. Finally, we compared other convenience features like automatic or push-button sewing, how the needle threading mechanism and the thread cutter worked, needle stop position settings, and the quality of the integrated work light.
While some of our comments about each machine's performance in this metric get into some pretty nuanced differences, we found that these factors made quite a significant difference in overall convenience and ease of use. This can be especially true for users that might not have the most dexterity or the best visual acuity, and it could make the difference between being able to use one of these machines to effectively complete your sewing projects or giving up in frustration.
The Brother HC1850, Brother CS6000i, Brother XR9550PRW, and the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist all tied for the top score. Each of these individually distinguished themselves by being some of the easiest to use sewing machines that we have seen to date. A key factor that sets these four products apart from the rest is the intuitive and very straightforward set of labels and directions printed right on the machines themselves, though the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist had slightly less clear directions than the rest of the group.
This is an important aspect for all users, even the more experienced ones. Every machine threads similarly, but each machine has differences that slightly vary between them, and it's easy to forget the minor details that accompany threading them or winding the bobbin.
All the machines we tested have a built-in work light, with some being substantially brighter than others. Out of the group, the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist by far has the best work light, followed by the Brother HC1850. The Brother CS6000i and the Brother XR9550PRW both were mediocre in the light department and definitely would require the use of supplemental lighting.
All four of these machines have automatic sewing capabilities and have the needle set to always stop in the down position — unfortunately, this isn't adjustable. When it came to using the thread cutters, the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist is the easiest with its fully automatic one, activated by a simple press of a button.
The Janome 8077 was also above average in ease of use. The labeling isn't as specific as the top scorers, and it's not made as immediately clear what to do when selecting stitches or threading as it is on other models. The Janome 8077 has a solid built-in work light and automatic sewing, as well as the bonus of an adjustable needle stop position. Unlike many other machines, you can configure it to always stop in either the down position or the up position, depending on your preference.
Next, the heavy-duty pair of sewing machines, the Singer 4452 Heavy Duty and the Singer 4423 Heavy Duty both performed well. Each has a great set of printed instructions on the machine, a decent work light, and an average stitch selection method. Neither of these machines can sew automatically, and the needle stop position isn't regulated, so it won't stop wherever it is when you remove your foot from the pedal. Each offers a manual thread cutter.
We were somewhat let down in areas with the remainder of the machines. The work light on the Janome Magnolia 7318 was surprisingly good, but the instructions on the machine were relatively poor. It also isn't that easy to select different stitches and lacks automatic sewing or dedicated needle stop abilities.
The light on the Brother ST371HD was mediocre, and the stitch selection method was more complicated than the other machines. It also lacks automatic sewing and a dedicated needle stop position — expected, as it is a mechanical sewing machine. Its thread cutter is also a little more challenging to use than some of the competition.
We found the integrated work light on the Brother XM2701 to be even better than the Singer Simple 3232, providing more illumination and no inconvenient shadows whatsoever. Unfortunately, not much else impressed us when it came to ease of use on this Brother machine. This machine is not capable of automatic or push-button sewing. The needle stops wherever it is when you let off the pedal. It has a decent amount of printed instructions on the screen, though we did have to use the manual a few times to look things up, particularly the stitch selection process.
Ease of Setup
In this metric, we rated and compared the amount of effort it takes to get the machine set up each time you want to use it. Specifically, we looked at how hard it is to thread the machine and install the bobbin, as well as installing the various presser feet. We also graded the bobbin winding features of each machine and the quality of the wound bobbin.
The Brother XR9550PRW has tons of very clear and easy to understand directions printed on the outside of the machine. It has the typical semi-automatic needle threader and makes easy work of winding bobbins. Even better, the bobbins it winds are very consistent and uniformly wound.
The Brother XM2701 is almost identical to the Brother XR9550PRW regarding threading the machine but has an even better needle threader that makes it very easy to get the thread through the needle's eye without a lot of fuss. The bobbin setup process is also a breeze — both for installing and winding one — and it also winds very consistent and uniform bobbins.
The Singer 4423 Heavy Duty and the Janome 8077 are also relatively easy to thread and wound the most uniform bobbins. The Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist was difficult to thread with directions that are very hard to see. On top of that, the bobbin wound was quite inconsistent.
The Singer Simple 3232 had the poorest performance here. While it isn't too bad to thread or wind a bobbin, we found installing the bobbin to be quite a hassle.
Buttons are commonly used in clothing, and anyone interested in making garments will inevitably need to create buttonholes. In addition to garment construction, many other sewing projects will use buttons or buttonholes. Modern sewing machines can easily and quickly create buttonholes using either a one or four-step process. While each machine we tested successfully produced a buttonhole, there were significant differences between the ease of execution and the quality of the finished product.
Each machine has a presser foot specifically for buttonholes, with marks to align it in the right location, and an adjustable size that will match the button. As expected, it was much easier to execute a 1-step buttonhole compared to the 4-step buttonhole, and we preferred the former method.
The Brother XR9550PRW showed a stellar performance in our buttonhole tests. The 1-step process is quite easy and intuitive to execute, though our one gripe came from trying to align the buttonhole in a precise location, as it can be a little difficult to line up the marks on the presser foot with the marks on the fabric.
We liked that this machine seemed to thoroughly reinforce the stitches on the sides, making it one of the most securely made buttonholes of the entire group. The finished stitch looked very clean, though there was a minuscule amount of bunching on the top bar when we used a swatch of charmeuse.
It is hard to see the alignment marks on the buttonhole presser foot on the Brother ST371HD, the Janome 8077, the Singer 4423 Heavy Duty, the Singer Simple 3232, and the Singer 4452 Heavy Duty, making it almost impossible to create the buttonhole in the desired location with these machines. The quality of the buttonholes produced also left something to be desired, as these machines tended to create buttonholes prone to unraveling.
Again, the Brother XM2701 finished at the back of the pack in our buttonhole metric. While we will give it the fact that it does make it very easy to get set up to make buttonholes and line up the buttonholes in the correct position, it doesn't do that well at actually sewing them. The bar tacks are so-so, and the sides of the stitch bunched up the fabric and didn't seem to hold that well. The sides of the stitch are also very close together, which can make it a bit harrowing when you go to cut the slit in the fabric.
At this point, we hope that you have a fairly good idea of which sewing machine will be the best match for your needs and budget. All of these products are capable of sewing fabric together, but there is a marked difference between many of them when it comes to stitching quality and ease of use. Hopefully, this review has been beneficial and will help you accomplish all those sewing projects you have been meaning to do!
— Austin Palmer and David Wise