Best Sewing Machines on a Budget
Are you wanting to try out the art of sewing? Or, do you have a child that you would like to teach to sew? Either way, the need to shop for a sewing machine can be intimidating.
This machine round-up was created to help you get on your way WITHOUT the intimidation (or the large price tag)! The ranking criteria for these machines are:
- Price. You don't want to spend an arm and a leg just to start learning. If you begin sewing a ton in the future, you can always upgrade. Everything on this list is under $300, and the first on the list is only about $85!
- Simple vs. Complex. Simple machines are perfect for an entry-level set-up--they come with a shorter learning-curve and less intimidation. Some of these machines do not have all the bells and whistles that a more high-end machine would have, BUT... that makes it easier to learn and less likely for a beginner to get confused or overwhelmed.
- Quality. Even entry-level, low-cost machines can be built with quality! Ranking for the quality of the machine will help beginners from becoming frustrated with a misbehaving machine.
This is not an advertisement. We have not been paid by any of these companies. This is simply a list of top beginner machines that we have found through years of experience sewing and teaching sewing students. Typically, the Brother brand machines make very high-quality lesson machines, so many of this list are of that brand.
- The Brother LX3817. This machine, available at Walmart (click here), is my personal go-to for large lesson classes. I currently own 6 of these machines and have been using them for light sewing for about 2 years. I have not run into any issues with them and have not needed to take them in for a service. I also have one that I have used for heavy-duty sewing (horse blanket repairs) and 85% of the time, it does an AMAZING job.
- Pro-tip: If you get into a situation where this machine needs to be taken to a repair shop, just purchase a new one. Servicing of machines usually runs $80-120, which is more than the replacement cost of this machine.
- The drawbacks of this machine: There is no option to get the needle placement near the right side of the presser foot. Only center and left. The top-load bobbin makes adjusting the bobbin tension difficult (as a beginner to sewing, I recommend not even thinking about tension). The pressure of the presser foot is not adjustable; this only matters if you are trying to sew very heavy-duty items and the needle has a hard time coming back up through the fabric. This is the machine that I personally use 90% of the time in my tailoring business, when videoing how-to sewing videos, and recommend to new students.
- The Brother XM2701. This machine is one step up from the LX3817, and is available at Walmart (here). More expensive than the LX3817, you get more stitch options with this machine; this is a mainly unimportant extra feature. The important upgrades to this machine are that you now have the ability to: 1. Get the needle into a left, center, AND right position, 2. Manually adjust the length and width of each stitch.
- The Brother CS5055prw. This is the lowest price-point level that Brother has for a digital machine. You can check it out at Walmart (here); it has all the positives of the XM2701 and has the same functionality, except with a digital screen selector.
- The Singer 2250. The least expensive of the Singer models, find it here, it is comparable to the Brother LX3817. However, this machine has a few less stitch options than the Brother equivalent; every stitch that a beginner (or even an intermediate seamstress) could need ARE available on this machine. One point of difference is that this machine allows you to have the needle position in either center or to the right side of the presser foot which is much better than the Brother's option of center or left! The big point of difference here (if you are a more advanced sewist) is that the bobbin is not a top-load. The bobbin in this machine actually goes inside a case and then is loaded into the front of the machine. This enables easier bobbin tension adjustments. I also think that front-load set-ups are able to be more of a work-horse type machine than a top-load is (because of the different way that the thread and needle interacts with the bobbin case and placement).
- The Singer 3223. Check it out here. This machine is comparable to the Brother XM2701, but is slightly more expensive than the first 2 Brother machines listed here. With this machine you can 1. Get the needle into a left, center, and right position, 2. Manually adjust the length and width of each stitch. This machine also has a front-loading bobbin (see my commentary on this under the previous bullet-point).
- The Singer 4452 Heavy Duty. This sewing machine is definitely the most expensive on this list. However, I am including it incase you are thinking that you may want to learn to sew through some heavier projects like heavy window curtains, hemming jeans, or sewing tarps. Most of these tasks can be some with any of the machines on this list, but not when you start getting into 5 or so layers of jean material--at that point, you want a heavier machine. This sewing machine is made with a 60% stronger motor than the typical home-use machine; this will allow the machine to push and pull the needle through thick and tough materials without powering out. This machine has the ability to 1. Get the needle into a left, center, and right position, 2. Manually adjust the length and width of each stitch. However, it does have a top-load bobbin. This is most likely not a big deal, but can make it harder to work with the bobbin thread tension if needed.
As you are shopping around, steer away from anything labeled "portable sewing machine" or any kids-sized machines. These are actually harder to use than a normal home sewing machine because they are so light-weight that they easily fall over or bounce around the sewing table while in use. Also, they tend to break easier, as well.