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8 best sewing machines for beginners

Whipping up a cushion? Making a quilt? Start with an easy-to-use sewing machine

A well-chosen sewing machine can last a lifetime ( iStockphoto )

With The Great British Sewing Bee set to return to our screens in early 2019, you may be inspired to dip your toe in the waters of home sewing or return to forgotten sewing skills from earlier in life. But before you can pick up those fabric shears how do you choose your all-important sewing machine?

The vast range of confusing features on offer can be overwhelming for a beginner. To decipher which will be useful to you it is important to think about the type of projects you want to sew and how often. To get started all you need from your machine is a straight stitch in a variety of lengths, a zigzag and the function to sew a buttonhole, which most machines offer in an easier single automatic step now rather than the manual four. All other features are additional extras that may be helpful depending on whether you can see yourself making the occasional cushion and quilt or sewing yourself a whole new wardrobe.

The ability to adjust the speed of the machine, a needle up/down function and a bobbin that loads from above with a clear cover so you can see when it’s running out will be particularly useful. Features such as memory options and a lever to lift the presser foot with your knee are probably only necessary if you’re sewing more often than part-time. Most machines have feed dogs to pull the fabric through from beneath but some offer a dual feed which grasps the fabric from above too. This is handy when using tricky fabrics but certainly not essential for a beginner and you can always add a walking foot to your kit in future that will do the same thing.

A well-chosen machine can last a lifetime and we recommend investing in a sturdy model that can handle some experimentation while you flex your creative muscles. Some stitchers may feel more comfortable on manual machines which are easy to understand but others will like to take advantage of the additional features of computerised machines which can save you time and hassle when starting out. Many of these modern machines can select the optimum length and width of particular stitches for you, removing the guesswork and limiting your mistakes.

I’ve tested a wide variety of machines at various price points while making my own pieces you can see those on my blog Diary of a Chain Stitcher and have enlisted the advice of some of the best home sewers in the business to bring you a shortlist of machines which should help you find your ideal match. 

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent

The verdict: Sewing machines for beginners

The Janome 725S stands out as a strong, straightforward all-rounder that strikes a good balance between overly complex and too basic to cope with more challenging projects as you improve. Great value for money for a machine which will last.

If you like the idea of a computerised machine, we were impressed with the Toyota Oekaki Renaissance. It has the versatility to satisfy a more advanced sewer but is intuitive enough for a beginner to use with ease.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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