Determining which of the many sewing machines and sergers that I reviewed in 2015 would be included in the list of the best sewing machines of the year 2015/2016 was quite a bit of fun, yet a bit of a challenge as well. I sincerely hope you find this listing helpful.
2015 was one of the most interesting years in the sewing world that I have witnessed in a long, long time. So many innovations in home sewing were introduced and/or expanded that it was extremely difficult to simply keep up with all the changes. Home machine embroidery took giant strides in both affordability and functionality.
The same goes for the machines that are used for machine quilting in the home. Beginners and students were not left out either, as practically every sewing machine manufacturer recognized the need for machines of all types at the introductory level. What’s more, most of these introductory machines are also more affordably priced.
Choosing the best machines in each category and ranking them has been a monumental task, one that I relished, yet was a bit overwhelmed by at the same time . This year, I have decided to break the categories down as follows:
- Sewing Machines for Children [younger than 12 years of age]
- Sewing Machines for Beginners Age 12 and Up
- Sewing Machines for People with Physical Challenges
- Combination Sewing and Quilting Machines
- Combination Sewing and Embroidery Machines* [includes machines with quilting capabilities]
- Quilting Only Machines
- Embroidery Only Machines
- Sergers and Coverstitch Machines
- Industrial Sewing Machines
In addition to the many different types of sewing machines mentioned above, I have also been exploring the influx of new cutting machines as well as other machines designed with the home sewer in mind. For the purposes of this listing, however, I will limit the discussion to actual sewing machines, sergers and coverstitch machines only.
So… Let’s get started. Shall we?
THE YEAR’S BEST
Sewing Machines for Children:
Little fingers and hands require special attention, especially when manipulating machinery. While lots of sewing machines may be suitable for use by children, my experience has taught me that true child friendly sewing machines are few and far between.
Although I didn’t review any machines bearing the Hello Kitty brand and logo in 2015, I continue to favor Hello Kitty as the best source for sewing machines for little ones. This doesn’t mean that all Hello Kitty machines are created equally, however. The Hello Kitty models that I am particularly fond of for the youngest of our crop of budding home sewers are:
Janome Hello Kitty 18750 – a basic computerized sewing machine designed with the littlest of hands and fingers in mind. The design and functionality of this machine is ideal for the young sewing enthusiast as well as the older child who is learning the art of sewing.
Janome Hello Kitty 15822 – a mechanical sewing machine that is, in my opinion, ideal for the very young child… as young as five. The colorful easy to operate dials are large and clearly labeled, making it a cinch for young children to learn and master.
One other sewing machine recommended for use by children:
Juki HZL 355ZW-A – large buttons and dials paired with a magnifying window that displays the stitch selection are ideal for the little ones.
Sewing Machines for Beginners 12 and up:
Machines in this category are ideal not only for beginners, but I believe that most of them are also good choices for anyone who has intermediate to advanced sewing skills, but wants to keep it simple. These machines are generally easy to operate, user friendly and uncomplicated in every way.
Janome Memory Craft 6500 P – This is not a new machine. In fact, it has been on the market for several years. Any sewing machine that a dealer declares is their personal favorite certainly earns a place of honor. In addition, this sewing and quilting machine is exceptional when it comes to user friendliness. Any beginner would be lucky to be able to learn the art of sewing on this one.
Brother Project Runway Limited Edition NO 700 PRW – Part of the long awaited and very much anticipated Q Series from Brother, this simple sewing machine is capable of rendering 180 decorative and utility stitches. While I have seen and reviewed sewing machines with slightly better stitch quality, I am quite excited by the workmanship and performance of this one.
Janome New Home DC 2015 – This is the only machine on the ‘best of’ list that I did not personally review. The only difference from its many predecessors in what I call the Janome ‘annual’ line is the red colored accents and a slight difference in the shape of the outer body.
Like all of its predecessor machines in this series, the Janome New Home DC 2015 is not only user friendly with its push button stitch selection, on board needle threader, free arm, extra high presser foot lift and other easy to navigate features, but the $699 MSRP puts it within reach of many budgets. After reviewing the 2012 model in this series.
With the knowledge that after so many years, Janome continues to produce these machines with only cosmetic changes, I am confident that the 2015 model is every bit as good as all of the machines that came before it.
Sewing Machines for People with Physical Challenges:
When we think of people who like to sew but are faced with physical challenges, we often think of senior citizens who suffer from arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or low vision. However, if we look around, we will see people of all ages who are living with these and other physical challenges.
Sewing is one of those activities that not only keeps the creative juices flowing, takes one’s mind off their physical limitations, and generates feelings of accomplishment as sewing projects are transformed from tiny scraps of fabric into beautiful finished products.
The machines in this category are not only user friendly, but also feature ergonomically designed controls that make machine sewing a painless, fun-filled experience.
Juki HZL 355ZW-A – Large buttons, an easy to use on board needle threader and dials as well as a magnifying window that displays the stitch selection make it possible for home sewers with low vision, joint and muscle issues to enjoy the art of home sewing with ease.
Brother Project Runway Limited Edition NQ 700 PRW – This uncomplicated basic sewing machine is ideal for the home sewer who is challenged with vision and mobility issues. The bright light, easy to use function buttons and user friendly LCD screen combine for a comfortable, ergonomically sound sewing experience. An added benefit is that this sewing machine also has limited quilting capabilities.
Juki Exceed 300, 400, 600 Series – The machines in this series are not new. In fact, they have been on the market for at least three years. Each of the machines in the Juki Exceed 300, 400, 600 series is ergonomically designed and so user friendly that home sewers with mild to moderate wrist, neck, shoulder and finger pain will be able to enjoy sewing once again.
Combination Sewing and Quilting Machines:
Nearly every electronic or computerized sewing machine is equipped with quilting stitches and sometimes even other capabilities such as an adjustable presser foot lifter. However, not all of these machines could be strictly categorized as a sewing AND quilting machine. the genuine sewing and quilting machines that I reviewed in 2015 which I believe are eligible for listing as one of the ‘best of’ in that category include:
Juki HZL K85 – With 150 on board decorative, utility and quilting stitch options, 15 needle positions and loads of on board helps, this machine is not only an excellent basic combination sewing and quilting machine, its ergonomic design and affordable MSRP make it an attractive choice for anyone who is adept at the basics of sewing machine operation and not certain if they want to concentrate on straight sewing or on machine quilting.
Brother Innov-Is Project Runway Limited Edition NQ 1300 PRW – This is one of the machines in the much awaited, highly anticipated Brother Q Series. It comes with a total of 290 stitches – 58 of them combinable – five fonts and is capable of sideways sewing. The Brother Innov-is Project Runway Limited Edition NQ 1300 PRW also comes with a pivot function as well as a standard extension table.
Baby Lock Soprano: Very much like the Brother Innov-is Project Runway Limited Edition NQ 1300 PRW, the Baby Lock Soprano has the look and feel of a user-friendly, solidly built sewing and quilting machine that is capable of sewing as many as 300 on board utility, decorative and quilting stitches along with five fonts along with all the sewing and quilting features any home sewer would need.
Combination Sewing, Quilting and Embroidery Machines :
The crop of multi-function combination sewing, quilting and embroidery machines expanded quite a bit in 2015. These machines include some scaled down versions which are more affordable than the machines that made big news in 2014 – the Baby Lock Destiny and the Brother Dream Machine. The watchword in 2015 seemed to have been accessibility. With the exception of the Husqvarna/Viking Designer Epic, The combination sewing, quilting and embroidery machines that drew a great deal of attention in 2015 are smaller, and more affordable yet capable of producing excellent stitch quality.
Husqvarna/Viking Designer Epic – I seldom include Husqvarna/Viking machines on this list because I am not overly fond of what I consider to be unnecessary steps required before sewing. This is the only sewing machine brand that requires users to identify the type of fabric they are working with in order to achieve proper tension and stitch formation [light, medium or heave woven or knit, leather, etc.].
The Epic, however, simplifies that process at least a little bit with a full color touch screen that functions like a tablet. It was introduced as SVP’s answer to the Destiny and Dream Machine. During my review of this oversized sewing and embroidery machine, I observed it to be an excellent alternative.
The large embroidery area is a major advantage for those who enjoy working on oversized embroidery projects. The cloud technology is something that is also a plus – as well as the extra bright LED lighting.
With so many on board stitch options from which to choose [1200 decorative, utility and quilting stitches and 650 embroidery designs], I find it hard to believe that anyone who purchases this machine would ever really need to take advantage of the optional downloadable designs.
Brother Innov-is NQ 3500D – If you have Disney fans in your life and enjoy creating sewing projects that feature Disney themes, this is could very well be the combination sewing, embroidery, quilting machine for you. It is loaded with 290 on board utility, decorative and quilting stitches along with 10 one step buttonholes and five alphanumeric fonts.
On the embroidery side, there are more than 170 on board embroidery designs, 35 of which feature Disney characters and 11 embroidery lettering fonts. Anyone who invests in this machine also has the option of 140 frame pattern combinations.
Baby Lock Aventura – A scaled down, affordable alternative to the Baby Lock Destiny, the Aventura brings all of the essential sewing and embroidery features to the budget minded machine embroidery enthusiast. The Aventura has 300 built in utility, decorative and quilting stitches as well as 141 on board embroidery designs, including 99 exclusive Baby Lock designs and five built in fonts.
Embroidery Only Machines:
Any single purpose sewing machine is considered by some to be a luxury. The advantage of any single purpose machine, however, is the fact that when a machine does only one thing, it does that one thing better than any machine that is capable of performing more than one task. The embroidery only machine is no exception. With any one of the embroidery only machines on this list in your sewing room, you can be assured of creating flawless embroidery designs with ease.
Baby Lock Flourish – This compact embroidery only machine is ideal for the budget conscious home machine embroidery enthusiast for whom space is a consideration. With 114 on board embroidery designs, 13 embroidery and monogram fonts, and a full color LCD touch screen, this economically accessible embroidery machine is not only user friendly, it brings state of art machine embroidery technology within reach of a greater number of people.
Janome Memory Craft 500E – When a dealer admits that she has ‘waited a long time for this one’, you know it’s a good machine. My only reservation about this machine is the fact that designs cannot be enlarged or reduced in size by more than 20%.
There are, however, so many other plusses that this is, in my opinion, a minor distraction. There a so many things that this machine can do, I don’t think owners would have a problem with the design size issue. The possibilities are endless when you consider the many combination options and other advantages that come with this one.
Brother Persona PR 100 – This embroidery only machine is designed for industrial use, but I believe it would be an excellent addition to any home sewing room where machine embroidery is a major focus. It is user friendly and very easy to learn to operate.
In fact, during my review of this particular machine, I was extremely comfortable creating my own embroidery design after watching a sales associate give a potential buyer a demonstration. It has a footprint that is larger than a home sewing and/or embroidery machine, but for the avid machine embroidery enthusiast, this just might be a perfect fit.
Quilting Only Machines:
Bernina Q20 – Bernina’s first ever sit down quilting machine is surprisingly user friendly. It takes a little bit to learn to thread it properly, but from there, operating this super-fast quilting machine is quite simple. Be ready to get your quilting tasks done in record time. With a maximum sewing speed of 2200 stitches per minute and stitch lengths that vary from 1.5 to 25.4 stitches per inch, you will have plenty of time to sew lots and lots of quilts.
Juki HZL Exceed 600 Quilt and Pro Special: This is not necessarily a quilt only machine, but it is definitely an excellent option for people who consider themselves to be machine quilters. It is ergonomically designed which makes it an excellent option for the machine quilting enthusiast who prefers a solid, user friendly sewing and quilting experience. It is equipped with bright LED lighting, a monochromatic LCD screen and more than 600 stitches, including 16 one step buttonholes and four alphanumeric fonts.
Juki TL 2010Q – This straight stitch only quilting machine is one of the most outstanding home quilting machines I have experienced thus far. I actually reviewed it in 2014, but since last year’s ‘best of’ list did not include quilting only machines, it was not considered for inclusion. It does not have a large quilting frame; nor is it very large when compared with other quilting machines.
However, rather than being a drawback, this makes it an ideal choice for the home quilter who doesn’t have a lot of space in which to work. This machine is super-fast and surprisingly sturdy. It definitely has all of the earmarks of Juki’s tradition of superior workmanship and reliability.
Sergers and Coverstitch Machines:
When they were first introduced for home use, sergers and coverstitch machines were so complicated that the most seasoned of home sewers – myself included – shied away from them. Since then, however, sergers and coverstitch machines have come a very long way. Not only are they much easier to thread, they are also much more user friendly. This, however, does not mean that every serger and coverstitch machine out there is user friendly or produces comparable stitch quality.
Machines for Beginners:
The machines described in this section are not for people who have no sewing experience at all, but for those people who are adept at using sewing machines and are ready to add sergers and/or coverstitch machines to their sewing repertoire.
Juki MO 51E – This is one of the most user friendly basic sergers I have had the pleasure of reviewing this past year. It is easy to thread and quite reliable. After all, it has the same workmanship that and reputation for excellence that Juki’s extensive line of industrial sewing machines has become known for over the years.
Janome CoverPro 2000 CPX – While nearly every single serger and coverstitch machine on the market nowadays has a differential feed, the lay in threading system, stitch tightening feature and large work area make this on a good choice for the person with intermediate sewing skills who is venturing into the notion of working with a coverstitch machine.
Baby Lock Imagine – This is not a brand new machine. In fact, it’s been on the market for several years now. Nevertheless, the Baby Lock Imagine is one of those machines that has continued to be a favorite among home sewers of all skill levels. It is user friendly, easy to learn and easy to maintain. The lay in threading, on board storage and quick reference card with clearly written directions are all added advantages that anyone would appreciate.
Machines for Intermediate to Advanced Home Sewers:
The sergers and coverstitch machines in this category are a bit more complicated when it comes to threading and operation, but not much so that they could truly be classified as challenging. Even though they are not necessarily for beginners, they are nonetheless user friendly and produce great stitch quality.
I really didn’t review a lot of machines in his category in 2015. In fact, the sergers and coverstitch that I truly like for home sewers whose skills are at the advanced and intermediate were actually reviewed in 2014.
Juki MO 1000 – They don’t call it ‘Easy Threader’ for nothing. This one came very close to being listed as one of the best sergers for beginners. Its lay in tension threading and air assisted looper threading systems certainly make it a worthy candidate.
This serger is one of my favorites because of its ability to perform so well. The fact that users are able to successfully and easily execute seven stitches is possibly the major advantage of having this particular model in their homes. An added advantage is the on board storage compartment just inside the looper door.
Janome 8002D – Although this one doesn’t have convenient on board accessory storage, it does have an on board thread cutter and an easily retractable blade which in my opinion somewhat compensate for the absence of a space to store needles, tweezers, lint brush and needle threader. Stitch quality is superb and changing from one stitch option to another is as quite user friendly.
Baby Lock Enlighten – This lightning fast multipurpose serger sews up to 1500 stitches per minute, which would likely be a major intimidation for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience in using a serger. The Enlighten has several different threading options to help users achieve the stitch options of their choice, but the threading guide is right inside the looper door, so it isn’t necessary to always refer to the owner’s manual or quick reference guide in order to get the job done. This is a major time saver. Coupled with the on board needle threader and easy to use threading system, this machine is possibly one of the most user friendly sergers on the market.
Industrial Sewing Machines:
Once thought of as machines for use in factories, tailor shops and home based sewing businesses only, the industrial sewing machine can be found in many homes where sewing is merely a passion and time is of the essence. I am receiving more and more inquiries about machines that can handle extremely thick fabrics and machines that can perform under all sorts of unusual circumstances.
In an effort to respond to this increasing number of queries, I have decided to add this category to my list of the best sewing machines and sergers I have observed in 2015. For starters, nearly all industrial sewing machines are mechanical single purpose, high speed sewing machines. They are often noisy and usually take up a lot of space.
When I was very young, my paternal grandmother and two of her sisters worked as a home based professional seamstresses specializing in custom-made slipcovers and drapes. One part of my grandmother’s house was dedicated to this business with two or three large industrial machines with very loud clutch motors and everything else they needed to get the job done.
There is an industrial sewing machine in my own sewing room. I seldom sew for clients, but I love it because it is capable of handling those really large jobs that are a challenge for my smaller sewing machine. It is also lightning fast, which makes it possible for me to complete any sewing project in less than half the time. In 2015, I reviewed a few really interesting industrial sewing machines, including a portable straight stitch only machine that gets extremely high marks.
Real FY361 – This powerful full sized straight stitch only industrial sewing machine comes with a clutch motor. People who are familiar with industrial sewing machines know that they come with two basic types of motors… clutch and electronic. Electronic motors are quiet, but not generally known to be as fast as clutch motors.
Clutch motors, on the other hand, emit a humming or whirring sound from the time the machine is turned on until the switch is turned off. This clutch motor, however, is noticeably quieter than most others I have seen. The convenient side mounted bobbin winder is an additional time saving feature because the large bobbins can be filled while you are sewing.
Unlike a lot of other industrial sewing machines, this one also has a very easy to follow thread path, making the set up process easier and faster – especially for home sewers who are not familiar with working on a truly industrial sewing machine. Home sewers who like making large bags, purses and working with extra heavy fabrics, including thick leather and denim, might be interested in this powerful machine. an added advantage is that this machine is American made.
Alphasew PW 200 – This walking foot machine is ideal for a typical sized home sewing room. It is small enough to be portable, although the all metal construction means it weighs a bit more than the average portable sewing machine. It sews up to 900 stitches per minute, which is considerably slower than full size industrial sewing machines.
It is, however, ideal for working on those extra thick fabrics. In fact, here in South Florida, this particular model is the favorite among sail boat owners and professional repair shops for carrying on board to repair sails. If you don’t have a sailboat, you can also use it to work on any project that involves extra thick heavy duty fabrics.
Consew 206RB-5 – This machine is truly for the person who is not faint of heart. With a sewing speed of up to 3300 stitches per minute, it flies through any sewing project you can imagine. The one thing anyone who attempts to use this machine to remember is that they cannot rely upon the users’ manual to help them if there is a question.
Every Consew machine that I have reviewed thus far comes with a manual that is written by people for whom English is definitely not a first language. I have been extremely disappointed by the phenomenal number of spelling and grammatical errors in the manuals produced by this company.
If, however, you are well versed in the operation of a basic straight stitch only industrial sewing machine, you just might be very happy with this one. Aside from the speed, the most endearing feature of this particular machine is that it has a head that is shorter than many other industrial sewing machines while This may be a hindrance for some, it is also a desirable feature for the home sewer who is concerned with space.