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Sewing Beginner? Start Out with a Small Sewing Machine

If you’ve never sewn before, the first encounter with a sewing machine can be quite intimidating. However, learning how to master a sewing machine, even if it’s a process that takes time, it’s one that you will eventually get used to and end up feeling very rewarded with how much you can accomplish.

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However, there are certain sewing machines that are better for people that are just learning how to use one, so let’s explore the world of small sewing machines and see just what they can do.

Top 3 Picks

Best for Beginners: Black Janome Aluminum Mechanical Sewing Machine

This Janome sewing machine is really simple to use even if you are a beginner, as it comes with plenty of user-oriented features, including an instructional guide for feet and stitch settings.

Best for Price: SINGER Start 1304

With a compact size and the basic features that are most needed in a small sewing machine, the SINGER Start 1304 will give a lot of other mini sewing machines a run for their money.

Most Versatile: Janome Computerized Electronic Sewing Machine

“I have sewed for decades & this is my favorite sewing machine ever. It sews so smoothly and quietly. Manages multiple layers of fabric.” (Customer review)

How to Choose a Small Sewing Machine

If you’re choosing to purchase a small sewing machine, you’re most likely a beginner, want one for your children, or you’re looking to get used to what a sewing machine does before investing in a more expensive and professional product. In most of these scenarios, you’re probably not familiar with the must-haves of a small sewing machine, so let’s shed some light on that situation:

Automatic needle threader

When you’re first learning how to use a sewing machine, probably one of the most complicated things will be threading it. With an automatic needle threader, you can eliminate this hassle and have the machine do the entire job for you. However, at some point, you are still going to have to learn how to thread a needle, as this is an important skill to acquire if you’re passionate about sewing.

Related: What Should You Consider When You Choose A Sewing Cutting Table

Top loading bobbin

If you are a beginner sewer, you should know that drop-in (or top loading) systems are the easiest ones to work with. They are easier to re-thread and can help save a lot of time during your sewing projects.

Portability

This is another important aspect that might serve those of you looking to buy a small sewing machine provided that the reason you need it is because you want to be able to carry it around. Lightweight machines are easier to carry compared to their heavy-duty counterparts, but they should also be compact in size and maybe have a carrying case or handle that makes transportation easier.

Number of stitches

Small sewing machines usually come with a limited number of stitches. While there are plenty of beginners that might be tempted to think they need as many stitches as possible, know that even advanced sewers only use a handful of stitches for most of their projects. A small sewing machine should have straight, top, backstitch, and zig zag stitches.

What a Small Sewing Machine Won’t Do

While there are plenty of things you can get done with a miniature sewing machine, there are also things that such a piece of equipment won’t be able to handle, and it’s really important to know about this before hand, to avoid any potential post-shopping frustrations:

  • It won’t be able to sew very fast. Larger sewing machines have more powerful motors that can operate at higher speeds, so if you’re looking to work on a large project fast, then a small sewing machine isn’t your best option.
  • It can’t sew through thick fabric. That’s usually because small sewing machines aren’t compatible with needles that are thick enough to penetrate fabrics such as denim. So, if you were planning on sewing winter quilts, you might want to opt for a larger machine.
  • It might not have fancy stitches. Small sewing machines are usually designed for beginners or for those interested in portability. That usually means their design will sacrifice many built-in stitches that heavy-duty machines are equipped with.
  • They will be less automated. Another thing that usually sets apart heavy-duty machines from portable ones is the number of automated processes the device can see through. It is very likely for a small sewing machine to lack automated zipper or buttonhole features.

DIY Ideas & Tips

Even with a smaller sewing machine, there are plenty of projects for you to consider when you want to learn how to operate such a device. At first, you might be intimidated by the features found on even the most basic machines, but we wanted to show you just a few project ideas that will help you get the hang of what you’re doing.

DIY Polka Dot Napkins

When you want to create a fancy dinner table setup but you also want to put your new small sewing machine to good use, this project will basically help you get both things done. The project focuses on teaching you the step-by-step process in making adorable polka dot napkins with only a few items and a little patience. The project requires acquiring some fabric for the napkins, gold acrylic paint to make the dots, matching thread for the fabric, and a small foam pouncer.

Sewing a Lightweight Quilt

Sewing a Lightweight Quilt

Making a lightweight quilt is way easier and way less intimidating than it sounds. It also shows you that making a good quilt doesn’t necessarily require a huge investment in materials, as you’re going to need a couple of different types of cotton quilt fabric, some batting, a couple of wide strips, coordinating thread, and a bunch of sewing accessories aside from the actual sewing machine, such as scissors, safety pins, and regular pins.

DIY Duvet Cover

Sure, duvet covers can be quite inexpensive, but what if you learned how to make your own? Not only does this help you save money, but it’s a great opportunity to learn to wield the sewing machine until you get used to its most basic functions. This specific project will teach you how to turn an old duvet into a fresh and fancy-looking one. You’re going to need two flat sheets of the same size as the old duvet, matching thread, a few strips of fabric tape, sew-on velcro, and your sewing machine.

DIY Cable Knit Throw Pillows

One of the best parts about having a sewing machine is that you get to repurpose old clothes or pieces of fabric that you would otherwise have thrown away. For instance, this project teaches you how to turn old sweaters into throw pillows by turning to a tutorial that takes less than one hour to complete. The project uses two old throw pillow or pillow forms, two cable knit sweaters, your sewing machine, matching thread, pins, and a pair of scissors.

DIY Denim and Faux Fur Throw Blanket

The last project we wanted to suggest and one that can be totally seen through with a small sewing machine is this one. It will teach you how to make a cozy throw blanket made from faux fur and denim. This is an excellent use for old denim items that are too torn apart or too out of style to further be worn. You can easily find faux fur to use in this project. Aside from these two main items, you are also going to need your small sewing machine, straight and safety pins, scissors, and thread.

Best Small Sewing Machines

SINGER Start 1304 6 Built-in Stitches

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One of the best sewing machine brands is Singer. With years of experience in the industry and making machines that serve all kinds of expertise levels, Singer is a brand that plenty of people turn to when they want a quality product. The Start 1304 is a small sewing machine that’s perfect for beginners and that comes with all the basic features you want to see in a product in this category.

Some of the features that are worthy of mentioning include the integration of six stitches for essential sewing techniques, three presser feet, a rotary dial that help you select the desired stitch in a second, a metal frame that translates into durability, a threading guide for easy threading, an integrated light that will illuminate the sewing area for situations with low visibility, and a reverse lever for better-securing seams.

Pros:

  • Durable metal frame construction.
  • Variety of accessories included.
  • Automatic bobbin winding system.

Cons:

  • Suitable only for lightweight fabrics.

Janome Aluminum Mechanical Sewing Machine

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If you are a beginner sewer or if you want a sewing machine that’s small but able to help you with most of your sewing project needs, then you have to check out this Janome model. With a gorgeous black casing (well, if you ignore the fact that it’s a fingerprint magnet), this sewing machine comes with all the features you want to see in a small sewing machine, with a little something extra on top.

It includes 18 different stitches that cover more than just the basic ones needed for sewing, a package of accessories that includes a bunch of different feet needed for sewing, a removable storage compartment that can easily be turned into a free arm, and a drop-in bobbin that makes it easier to use this machine if you are a beginner. The machine measures 11.3” H x 16” W x 7.2” D and weighs 18.7 pounds.

Pros:

  • Includes 18 different stitches.
  • Comes with a wide range of presser feet.
  • Storage compartment can double as a free arm.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have automatic threading.

Janome Computerized Electronic Sewing Machine

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As one of the most versatile small sewing machines, this Janome computerized model seems to be a regular beast in spite of the category it pertains to. It comes with 120 built-in stitches which should be more than enough for different types of projects. We also love the fact that it can sew through multiple layers of fabric without giving you any trouble. The needle can be moved into 71 unique positions, which further underlines the idea that this is truly a versatile sewing machine.

The LCD screen will display the different settings and choices as you navigate through them, making sure that you always know what you’re doing even if you’ve never used a sewing machine before. It comes with a bunch of accessories (including a variety of presser feet), such as needle sets, a screwdriver and a lint brush, extra spool spin, and others.

Pros:

  • Includes a wide range of accessories.
  • Integrated LCD for easier settings navigation.
  • 120 built-in stitches.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have a large opening.

Magicfly Mini Sewing Machine for Beginner

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If you’re looking for a budget-friendly mini sewing machine that can help you get the job done but is most suitable for beginners and children, the Magicfly might just meet your requirements. It is a miniature-size sewing machine that comes with basic stitch and a few added features that make it quite easy for a newbie to get the jist of it.

The kit includes 42 different accessories, such as 32 bobbins, needles, an extension table, a portable bag, needles, and others. The machine works with a power supply or batteries (which are not included with the purchase), so you can pretty much pack this baby and take it with you wherever needed. It’s compact size and lightweight surely contribute to its portability.

Pros:

  • Integrated light.
  • Includes 42 accessories.
  • Power supply and battery operation.

Cons:

  • Only has one stitch.

Portable Sewing Machine

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If portability is the main reason why you want to buy a mini sewing machine, the Buyfitcase is one of your best options. It has a pretty compact and straightforward construction, including features and components such as the top-placed power switch, a rotary wheel, a battery compartment, needle arm and tension control. It can be powered by four AA batteries or a 6V power supply, but either of these need to be purchased separately.

It is suitable for stitching a wide range of lightweight fabrics that measure less than 1.8 mm in thickness. It has a user-friendly design that makes it pretty intuitive to use, but also easy to hold, promising that you can fix clothing even without taking them off.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Power supply and battery operation.
  • Intuitive and easy to figure out.

Cons:

  • Power supply and batteries are not included.

Handheld Sewing Machine

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Another great option for people interested in portability is the W-Dragon mini sewing machine. Designed to be easy to hold with just one hand and measuring just enough to make it easy to carry around, this miniature sewing machine is very similar in design to the Buyfitcase model we showed you earlier. It can draw its power from two different sources: either four AA batteries or a 6V power source, which have to be purchased separately.

Other similarities between these two models include the maximum fabric thickness accepted, which is 1.8 mm, the component distribution and the overall construction of the machine.

Pros:

  • Two power sources.
  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver.
  • Easy to figure out.

Cons:

  • Both power sources are sold separately.

FAQ

What is the best small sewing machine?

There are plenty of models that can be considered excellent mini sewing machines, products from brands just as Janome, Singer, Brother, and others.

Is a mini sewing machine worth it?

It really depends on what you need a sewing machine for. A mini sewing machine can be useful for a wide range of users, including those interested in portable machines or those who have recently taken up on sewing and want to learn how to use the basic functions of a sewing machine before investing in a more expensive model.

What is a good cheap sewing machine to buy?

Luckily, you can find sewing machines regardless of your budget and even the biggest brands on the market sell some affordable models, such as the Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW or the Singer 7258.

What’s a good sewing machine for beginners?

A good sewing machine for beginners needs to have two basic qualities: it has to be easy to use and rather inexpensive, at least until you get the hang of operating such a machine and can invest in a more expensive product. If you check out our section on “How to Choose a Small Sewing Machine” to see what the must-have features on a machine are designed for beginners.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are different types of small sewing machines that you can invest in, depending on how you prioritize your needs and focus on the ones with features that deliver. Some machines are so portable, they can be manipulated with a single hand, but aren’t powerful enough to sew through large pieces of fabric. Others are heavier and not as compact, but are capable of dealing with tougher fabrics and have more stitching options included.