The Best Sewing Machines of 2017

After evaluating over 65 different sewing machines, we selected the 10 best models currently available and put them through an extensive period of head-to-head testing, totaling over 200 hours. It can be extraordinarily difficult to sift through the multitude of models available today to find the perfect sewing machine — akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. That's where we come in. We made dozens of different sample stitch swatches on an enormous range of fabrics, testing each machine on everything from corduroy to chiffon. In addition, we also looked at how difficult each machine was to set up and operate and assessed the quality of the buttonhole created with each machine. Check out the full review below to find the perfect sewing machine for you, whether you are a complete beginner or a seasoned expert.

Read the full review below ≫

Test Results and Ratings

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Product
The 9960 has an enormous library of built-in stitches to choose from.
Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
Singer 7258
Singer 7258 Stylist
Brother XR9500PRW
Brother XR9500PRW
Brother SE400
Brother CS6000i
Brother CS6000i
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award     
Price $700 List
$325.39 at Amazon
$300 List
$208.39 at Amazon
$200 List
$160.00 at Amazon
$400 List
$319.99 at Amazon
$190 List
$153.99 at Amazon
Overall Score 
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0
70
100
0
69
100
0
68
100
0
67
100
0
62
Star Rating
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Pros Large library of stitches, tied for best sewing performanceGreat sewing performance, easy to useEconomical, easy to set up, easy to useEasy to use, combination machineEconomical, easy to use
Cons Intimidating for new users, can be expensive if not on saleA bit harder to set upSewing performance is above average rather than amazingExpensive, steeper learning curve with embroidery functionsAverage sewing performance
Ratings by Category Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist Singer 7258 Stylist Brother XR9500PRW Brother SE400 Brother CS6000i
Sewing - 40%
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
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6
10
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5
Ease Of Use - 30%
10
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8
10
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7
10
0
8
10
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7
10
0
8
Ease Of Set Up - 20%
10
0
6
10
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6
10
0
7
10
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8
10
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6
Buttonholes - 10%
10
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6
10
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8
10
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6
10
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6
10
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6
Specs Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist Singer 7258 Stylist Brother XR9500PRW Brother SE400 Brother CS6000i
Sewing Speed 850 750 800 710 850
Built in Stitches 600 100 100 67 60
Buttonhole Styles 13 7 8 10 7

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
David Wise and Austin Palmer

Last Updated:
Thursday
August 17, 2017

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Updated August 2017
Throughout the summer, we've been keeping a constant watch for any new and noteworthy sewing machines that would be a worthy contender for our current award winners. However, we came up short, with our current recommendations remaining unchallenged for the top spots. We will continue to keep an eye out for something new, but for now, at least, the products below are the best that you can get today.

Best Overall Sewing Machine


Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist


The 9960 has an enormous library of built-in stitches to choose from. Editors' Choice Award

$325.39
at Amazon
See It

Great stitch quality
Tons of stitches
Easy to use
Pricey

Taking home the top spot and the Editors' Choice award, the 9960 by Singer is the undisputed champion of our tests and the reigning holder of the title of Best Overall Sewing Machine. This product has an expansive library of built-in stitches, totaling over 600. This model produced some of the highest-quality stitches of the entire group. Packed with features and functionality, the 9960 has everything that an expert would want while retaining enough simplicity and ease of use for a novice to use. This model can handle practically any sewing task that you throw at it without difficulties, making this machine a great choice for those that want the best of the best.

Read full review: Singer 9960

Best Bang for the Buck


Singer 7258 Stylist


Singer 7258 Best Buy Award

$208.39
at Amazon
See It

Awesome sewing performance
No hassle at all
Great value
A little more works to set up

Just barely bested by the 9960, the 7258 only missed out on the top score by a single point. Even better, it usually can be found for at least $200 less than the 9960, earning it a Best Buy award and the title of Best Bang for the Buck. This model matched our top performer in terms of stitch quality, though it does have a substantially smaller library of stitches to choose from. It's extremely easy to use and set up, even producing buttonholes that rivaled the 9960 in terms of quality. The 7258 also has a superior zigzag stitch — an absolute must for sewing stretchy fabrics. The 7258 is an all-around, fantastic sewing machine that performs like a premium model at a budget price. It would be an excellent option for an introductory machine or for an advanced user that doesn't need a ton of decorative stitches.

Read full review: Singer 7258

Best Easy to Use Option on a Budget


Brother XR9500PRW


Brother XR9500PRW Best Buy Award

$160.00
at Amazon
See It

Easy to use
Easy to set up
Fantastic value
Good, not great sewing performance
Another top contender, the Brother XR9500PRW is another excellent machine for those shopping on a budget. Earning 3rd place overall in our test, it's very easy to use and thread — making it a particularly awesome choice for beginners just starting out. This model isn't just for beginners, with an expansive stitch library and a set of buttonhole styles — including a set of alphabet stitches to add some flair and personalization to your projects. However, the stitch quality was slightly lower than our previous two award winners.

Read full review: Brother XR9500PRW

Best Combination Machine for Beginners


Brother SE400



$319.99
at Amazon
See It

Exceptionally easy to use
Combination sewing/embroidery machine
Pricey
Steep embroidery learning curve
While the SE400 by Brother stood out from the competition, it wasn't quite enough to merit an award. This machine is very to easy to use and one of the easiest models to set up of the entire group. In addition, this model had a solid performance in our stitch quality tests. However, the versatility of this machine is what truly sets this model apart. While this model is a competent sewing machine in its own right, it also includes an embroidery foot, allowing the SE400 to swap between a sewing machine and a computerized embroidery machine, allowing you to add an unlimited number of embellishments and personalization to all of your projects. This is a great pick for those that will take advantage of those functions or for a beginner that wants a machine to grow with their skill — having all the capabilities an advanced user would want while remaining easy to use.

Read full review: Brother SE400

Great Pick for a Tight Budget


Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW


The Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW.
$115.99
at Amazon
See It

Economical
Easy to use
Smaller stitch library

The Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW is essentially an identical machine to our Best Buy award winner, the Brother XR9500PRW in terms of specifications, with one exception. The CS5055PRW has a reduced set of available stitches — about half the number of the XR9500PRW and retails for about $50 less. This makes it a great option for someone who only needs the basic stitches for their projects, or for someone who is shopping on a bit of a threadbare budget.

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
70
$700
Editors' Choice Award
May have excessive features for newbies, but a solid machine
69
$300
Best Buy Award
Great price, great machine for just about everyone
68
$200
Best Buy Award
Good for beginners looking to add a little more complexity of stitches or names to clothing
67
$400
For the adventurer seamst(er)ress who likes a variety of stitches as well as embroidery
62
$190
Good for those starting out, but advanced users will get better performance out of other machines
61
$650
Very expensive, a machine to consider if seriously marked down
52
$300
Costly for what it is and how it performs
50
$150
Inexpensive mechanical machine for that not so often sewing project
49
$200
There are better performing models at this price range
49
$340
Expensive for what you get, but you have more freedom with your 4-step buttonholes

Analysis and Test Results


We took the top ten sewing machines and put them through a series of head to head tests to determine which one is really the best product.

Some of the machines ready for testing!
Some of the machines ready for testing!

To determine the overall score and our award winners, we tested each machine on 4 separate metrics: Sewing, Ease of Use, Ease of Setup and Button Work. We detail how each model did in the different metrics in the sections below.

Some of our sewing test swatches to compare the stitches produced bv each machine side by side.
Some of our sewing test swatches to compare the stitches produced bv each machine side by side.

Sewing


The sole purpose of these products is to use them for sewing, and as such, sewing performance makes up the largest portion of our overall scores. This is such a crucial metric that it merited 40% of the final scores. Sewing quality can vary depending on the fabric type, as well as on the stitch type. To really find out which sewing machine sews the best, we had our experienced seamstress make a handful of swatches using an assortment of fabrics with different stitches. You can see how the different models ranked in the chart below.


We then had a panel of experienced users, as well as some novices, evaluate the stitches on their consistency, tension, and overall aesthetic appearance. 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.

Here you can see the 4 stitches that made up most of our sewing: long straight  zigzag  scallop  and buttonholes.
Here you can see the 4 stitches that made up most of our sewing: long straight, zigzag, scallop, and buttonholes.

The top performers when it came to our overall sewing test were our Editors' Choice award winner, the Singer 9960, and our Best Buy award winner, the Singer 7258. The 7258 had the best zigzag stitch in our tests out of all the models that we tested, while the 9960 had an exemplary performance in our scallop stitch tests.

One of our side by side scallop stitch comparison swatches.
One of our side by side scallop stitch comparison swatches.

Almost every machine that we tested had decent stitching quality, with only one machine scoring below average for what we would expect out of a top end product. This machine was the Singer 4423 Heavy Duty, earning a 4 out of 10. This machine lagged slightly behind on long, straight stitches, and noticeably struggled with scallop stitches — earning the lowest score of the bunch.

The final two stitches that we looked at in determining our scores were the straight stitch on the longest length setting, as well as a zipper test-- what we called using the zipper presser foot to attach a standard zipper. Differences between each machine were much easier to discern with the maximum stitch length, as any flaws were magnified and much more evident. For example, the 9960 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. You can see this in the photo below, comparing stitch number 1(Brother CS6000i) to number 10(Singer 9960).

One of the long  straight stitch comparisons.
One of the long, straight stitch comparisons.

The zipper test was as much of an analysis of the presser foot, as the stitch quality itself. Each machine has a specific presser foot for attaching a zipper, though some were better than others. Some machines, like the Brother SE400, 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.

We tested the zipper presser foot with each machine.
We tested the zipper presser foot with each machine.

Ease of Use


These products are designed to make it easier and more convenient to accomplish your sewing projects. The best all-around sewing machine should have clear and convenient instructions on the machine, making it clear how to select stitches and change other settings. The best machine will also have features like automatic sewing, the ability to adjust the needle stop position, a thread cutter, and a built-in light to make it easier to see small details when sewing.This metric makes up 30% of our total score. You can see how the machines did in the following graphic.


While some of this may seem extremely nitpicky, we were surprised how much small conveniences stood out on the machines throughout our testing and really made them the go-to pick for us. As well as being easier for all users, some of these machines would be substantially easier for someone with reduced eyesight or dexterity to operate — an extremely important point if the primary user falls into either of those categories.

The tests in this metric highlighted a trio of high performing machines that all tied for the top score. The Brother CS6000i, Brother XR9500PRW, and the Singer 9960 all netted an 8 out of 10. These three machines all had clear and easy to understand instructions printed on the machine for commonly performed tasks.

The XR9500PRW had exceptionally clear instructions printed on body of the machine.
The XR9500PRW had exceptionally clear instructions printed on body of the machine.

This is an important aspect for all users, even the more experienced ones. Every machine threads similarly, but there are slight differences that vary from machine to machine and it's easy to forget the minutiae that accompany threading them or winding the bobbin.

Every machine that we looked at has a built-in work light, with some being substantially brighter than others. The majority of these will require the addition of a supplemental light in your work area, but a few machines shone above the rest. The 9960 and the Janome Magnolia 7318 by far had the brightest light, while the CS6000i had the dimmest, casting an irritating shadow across what you are sewing.

Every sewing machine we looked at has a built-in thread cutter, from a simple shrouded Razor blade on the side of the machine, to an automated cutter for both the top and bottom thread inside the machine. We found that we thoroughly appreciated the automatic thread cutter, as it substantially reduced wasted thread and the mess caused by all the small fragments of thread that always seemed to accumulate when we used a machine with a manual thread cutter. Both the Brother SE400 and the 9960 have an automatic cutter, while the rest have a manual one.

One final convenience is a set needle stop position. This can be very convenient for tasks like quilting, where one is frequently pivoting the fabric. Our favorite machines were ones that allowed you to adjust whether it always stopped with the needle in the up or in the down position, allowing you to adjust it to your sewing style and maximize your efficiency at sewing. These adjustable machines were the Janome 8077 and the Singer 7258, with the other computerized machines always stopping in the down position. This function is not available on mechanical machines, so those looking at the Brother ST371HD or either of the Singer Heavy-Duty machines are out of luck.

Ease of Setup


Setting up a sewing machine can take just as much time and effort as actual sewing. Between winding and installing the bobbin, threading the upper thread and needle, and setting up different presser feet, a significant portion of your time and effort is devoted to setup. Having a machine that is a breeze to set up can make the difference between actually starting a sewing project, or putting it off because it is too much of a hassle. You can see the differences between setting up each machine in the chart below.


Winding a bobbin, installing it, and using the needle threader make up the majority of the score for this metric, as these tasks highlighted the biggest differences between machines. We also looked at threading the upper thread on each machine, but this was extremely similar to all the machines. As mentioned above, this rating metric can be extremely important for whose eyesight might not be as good as it used to be, or someone who struggles with nimble tasks like threading the needle. Even for those who don't, the machines that excel in this metric will definitely alleviate frustration.

The Brother SE400 earned the highest marks in this metric, with an 8 out of 10. This machine did a great job at winding the bobbin evenly and consistently, and it was a snap to install, but its standout feature is the automatic needle threader. The needle threader on this machine is the only one out of the bunch that can honestly be considered automatic. You route the thread, pull the lever on the side of the machine, and the needle is magically threaded.

All the other machines have a drop-down hook that passes through the eye of the needle to catch the thread and pull it through and requires substantially more dexterity. The XR9500PRW earned the runner-up position, with a 7 out of 10, dropping to the second place spot due to its comparatively inferior needle threader.

However, the SE400 is substantially more expensive, and as a combination sewing/embroidery machine, is a little too much machine for the beginner/intermediate user.

The rest of the machines all clustered in the middle, with our biggest complaint being that the bobbin was wound unevenly, or that directions on installing it were not clear or lacking on the machine. For example, the 9960 lacks a diagram on how to install the bobbin and thread the lower part of the machine, and it was very hard to see the molded directions on how to wind the bobbin.

The 9960 had fewer directions printed on the machine than its competitors.
The 9960 had fewer directions printed on the machine than its competitors.


While this isn't a deal breaker, as you will rely less and less on the directions the more comfortable you become with the machine, it is still nice to have the directions available, especially for those who use the machine infrequently.

The presser foot for making buttonholes installed on the 7258.
The presser foot for making buttonholes installed on the 7258.

Buttonholes


Buttons are a commonly used in clothing, and anyone who is 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. You can see the scores in the chart below.


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 definitely preferred the former method. One of our Best Buy award winners, the Singer 7258 was the easiest to actually make the buttonhole, as well as our top scorer in this entire metric, earning an 8 out of 10. This was the only model that actually stood out in this test, with a 5-way tie for the runner-up spot. We liked that this model created a buttonhole that was not prone to unraveling, in direct contrast to other models, like the Brother ST371HD or either of the Singer Heavy-Duty Models.

A final aspect that the 7258 excelled at, that we didn't initially think would be a differentiating factor, was lining up the presser foot so the buttonhole ends up in the desired location. This proved to quite difficult on some machines, and could actually prove catastrophic on some sewing projects. Imagine spending hours and hours making a custom garment with expensive fabric, and having the buttonholes end up crooked and misaligned after all that work — it would be devastating! The 7258 excelled at this as well, with a visible set of marks on the presser foot to match to the marks on the fabric. Other machines — the Janome 8077, Singer 4423, and the Singer 4452 — were much harder to see, making it almost impossible to line up the finished product in the desired location, somewhat excluding these machines for those of you primarily focused on garment production or other users that will frequently be making buttonholes.

Conclusion


All of these machines are highly rated and regarded, and are all competent at sewing. Each of these machines can handle small projects, but the frequent user and committed sewer will definitely notice differences between our top scorers … and our not-so-top scorers. Hopefully, this review will aid you in selecting the perfect sewing machine for your needs, tackling every sewing project that you had hoped to.

David Wise and Austin Palmer

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