Best Sewing Machine of 2020
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 Quantum Stylist 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, then 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, has an automatic bobbin winder, and a built-in thread cutter that makes it very easy for a beginner to get up and running with their first sewing projects without major frustration. 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 — and are 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 are hoping to save some cash when looking for a new machine, the Brother CS6000i is our top recommendation. This machine 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 are 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 also didn't seem to be the best quality, with it almost completely failing on the more difficult to sew fabrics like charmeuse and looking less than desirable on easier fabrics, like cotton. The Brother XM2701 surely isn't the best 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 in the review here at TechGearLab 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 the past few years and has logged tons and tons 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 Brother CS6000i costs a bit more than the Brother XM2701 but also 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 XM2701. 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 a variety of different 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, as well as being 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 did very well, with its presser foot clearing all parts of the zipper and cleanly attaching it. Others collided with parts 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 with a score of 7 out of 10. It did very well with the long straight stitches but did create a zigzag stitch that was slightly inferior to some of the other products we have tested.
We did find that we were able to 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, the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist did an amazing job in our scallop stitch test, tying for the top score with the Janome 8077. It even performed quite well on fabrics like polyester, charmeuse, or silk, which tend to be more difficult to work with.
The Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist also did a great job at attaching a zipper with their respective specialized presser feet.
Following this duo of top-notch machines in our stitch quality assessments, the Brother XR9550PRW and the Janome 8077 both earned a 6 out of 10 for their 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.
Trailing slightly behind is the Janome 8077. When sewing on corduroy, satin, or charmeuse the fabric would also 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, as mentioned above. On every single type of fabric we used, the Janome 8077 delivered a stellar scallop stitch. Trailing right behind the Janome 8077 was the Brother XR9550PRW, which was mainly held back by 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.
Next, the Brother CS6000i, the Singer Simple 3232, the Singer 4452 Heavy Duty, and the Janome Magnolia 7318 all merited a 5 out of 10 for their middle-of-the-road performance. The long straight stitch on the Brother CS6000i was disappointing, and it did a relatively sloppy job at attaching the zipper, but was redeemed by a strong showing in our zigzag and scallop assessments. The Janome Magnolia 7318 and the Singer 4452 Heavy Duty delivered average performances in the straight stitch, zigzag, and zipper challenges, but both scored below average when using a scallop stitch — the Janome Magnolia 7318 more so than the Singer 4452 Heavy Duty. The Singer Simple 3232 did about the same as the Janome Magnolia 7318 and the Singer 4452 Heavy Duty at the long straight stitch across the different fabric types and also struggled a bit with the scallop stitch, but it did do better than the other two at the zigzag stitch and at attaching the zipper.
Next, all earning a 4 out of 10 were the Singer 4423 Heavy Duty, Brother HC1850, and the Brother ST371HD. The Singer 4423 Heavy Duty lagged slightly behind on long, straight stitches, and noticeably struggled with scallop stitches — earning the lowest score of the bunch. The Brother HC1850 did a decent job on the easier fabrics but faltered on the more difficult to sew ones, bunching up and becoming uneven. 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.
Last, the Brother XM2701 earned a 3 out of 10 for its disappointing performance in our stitch tests. This machine did manage to complete all of the tests without too many issues, but the stitches simply looked bad. The long straight stitch only looked good on charmeuse and satin. The stitching on the other fabrics was very uneven between the top and bottom threads, causing it to bunch up. The zigzag stitch had similar issues, with most of the different types of fabric ending up wrinkled.
The scallop stitch was by far the most disappointing for this machine, 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 the performance of each machine in this metric get into some fairly nuanced differences, we did find that they made quite a significant difference in terms of 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 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 earning an 8 out of 10, they all 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 easy to understand set of labels and directions that are 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 that we looked at 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 remainder of this group all has a manual thread cutter on the side. It is also extremely easy to select between different stitches on the Brother CS6000i, Brother XR9550PRW, and the Brother HC1850, but it is a little more difficult on the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist.
Next, after the top group came the Janome 8077, which earned a 7 out of 10. The labeling isn't as specific as the leaders, and it's not made as immediately clear what to do when selecting stitches or threading as other models. The Janome 8077 also has a solid built-in work light.
The Janome 8077 has automatic sewing and the bonus of an adjustable needle stop position. Unlike many of the other machines, you can configure it to always stop in either the down position or the up position to match your preference.
Next, the heavy-duty pair of sewing machines, the Singer 4452 Heavy Duty and the Singer 4423 Heavy Duty both earned a 6 out of 10, having performed identically. 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.
Next, the Brother ST371HD, the Singer Simple 3232, the Janome Magnolia 7318, and the Brother XM2701 each earned a 5 out of 10 for their mediocre ease of use. 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. However, the thread cutter is fairly easy to use.
The instructions on the Brother ST371HD are solid, but we found the work light to be mediocre and the stitch selection method was more difficult to use compared to the other machines in the group. 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. The Singer Simple 3232 scored almost identically to the Brother ST371HD, but we preferred the light on the Singer Simple 3232 a bit more, as it doesn't cast a shadow on your work.
We found the integrated work light on the Brother XM2701 to be even better than the Singer Simple 3232, providing even more illumination and no inconvenient shadows whatsoever. Unfortunately, not much else impressed us when it came to ease of use for this sewing machine. The thread cutter is fine, but 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 and the Brother XM2701 each earned a 7 out of 10, both tying for the top spot in this set of tests. 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 it easy to wind bobbins. Even better, the bobbins it winds are very consistent and uniformly wound.
The Brother XM2701 is almost identical to the Brother XR9550PRW when it comes to 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.
Following the top performers, the rest of the machines all clustered in the middle, with the Brother CS6000i, Janome 8077, Singer 4423 Heavy Duty, Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist, and the Brother HC1850 all receiving a 6 out of 10. These models are all about the same difficulty to thread the upper portion of the machine, but the Janome 8077 was slightly more difficult than the others. It was noticeably easier to install the bobbin on the Brother CS6000i and the Brother HC1850 than the rest, though it still wasn't too challenging on the other machines.
None of these have a fully-automatic needle threader, all having the standard style needle threader. However, there were varying degrees of difficulty in operating it depending on the machine, with the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist being much easier to use than the others.
When it came to winding a bobbin, the Singer 4423 Heavy Duty and the Janome 8077 are the easiest to thread and wound the most uniform bobbins. The Brother CS6000i and the Brother HC1850 are easy to wind, but both wound a bit unevenly. The Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist scored the worst of this group, being difficult to thread with directions that are very hard to see. On top of that, the bobbin wound was quite inconsistent.
Next, the Brother ST371HD, Singer 4452 Heavy Duty, and the Janome Magnolia 7318 earned a 5, 5, and a 4, respectively.
The Brother ST371HD has a needle threader that is very easy to use and is about average in difficulty to thread the machine and wind the bobbin. However, it is a little more difficult to install the bobbin than we would have liked.
The Singer 4452 Heavy Duty is about average across the board, though the needle threader did give us some slight issues. The Janome Magnolia 7318 needs to be manually threaded, increasing the difficulty, and is about average to thread. However, it is reasonably difficult to wind and install the bobbin, with the bobbin continually coming out bottom heavy.
Finishing at the very back of the group, the Singer Simple 3232 earned a 3 out of 10 for its poor performance. While it isn't too bad to thread or wind a bobbin, it is one of the worst when it comes to installing a bobbin and can 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 merited a 7 out of 10 for its 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.
The bulk of the machines came next, with the Brother CS6000i, the Janome Magnolia 7318, and the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist, all earning a 6 out of 10. These machines were all about the same difficulty to set up to sew a buttonhole and produced a finished product of comparable quality. It is the ease of aligning the buttonhole that is the key differentiating factor between these machines. It is the easiest on the Janome Magnolia 7318, with the remaining products requiring a little more effort.
The Brother ST371HD, the Janome 8077, the Singer 4423 Heavy Duty, the Singer Simple 3232, and the Singer 4452 Heavy Duty all followed, each receiving a 4 out of 10. It is much harder to see the alignment marks on the buttonhole presser foot on these machines, making it almost impossible to create the buttonhole in the desired location. The quality of the buttonholes produced is also wanting, with these machines tending to create buttonholes that are prone to unraveling.
Finally, the Brother XM2701 again finished at the back of the overall group in our buttonhole metric, meriting a 3 out of 10 for its weak performance. 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 buttonholes. 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 would 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