Best Portable Sewing Machine for 2020 – The Essential Buying Guide
Hand stitching, sergers, knitting, crochet, regular and portable sewing machines. When it comes to the art of modifying/creating apparel, there are many different tools used to the approach. However, there’s one particular tool that seems to be almost universally loathed; the portable or “mini” sewing machines. Their bad reputation comes from the fact that most are cheaply made and function poorly; they stop working after a few uses (or only one use), the thread jams easily, and sometimes newly bought machines will come with missing parts. The only other tool I can think of with a worse reputation are handheld sewing machines; but we can save that talk for another day.
Basically, portable sewing machines are actually a pretty useful, inexpensive thing to own alongside your main crafting/sewing tool. Instead of having to worry about rummaging through the endless amount of them on the market, I’ve compiled my own review list of what I think are the best portable sewing machines available at the moment for you to take a look at. Sadly there is some truth to the reputation, as it’s short; very few of them really held up to my standards. Personally though, I think that just makes it simpler for picking one to try out; I hope the list helps you in making a choice. I’ve listed the pros and cons for each one, as well as a little bit of info on the unique specifications of each machine. Here are our contenders below.
Portable Sewing Machine Comparison
Portable Sewing Machine Reviews
Yes, you read that correctly; it’s a Janome. Junior year of high school I had already begun to prepare for a future fashion design degree. I owned a portable machine which I did most of my work on (and yes, it was one of the terrible ones where the thread constantly jammed and the thing would sometimes just stop for no reason). For Christmas, to my absolute surprise, I ended up getting a $700+ computerized Janome.
While I was ecstatic, it was overwhelming since I was still very, very new to using sewing machines. It ended up collecting dust since I barely used it; if I would have known that Janome made this baby, I would have probably improved my skill much faster during that time.
The Memory Craft is made in the same factory as the larger machines; and as it says in the description, it is a “real sewing machine” and those looking for a toy one will be disappointed. It comes with 8 different stitches (which is a lot for a portable machine), free arm and back stitch included. It is sturdy, and operates at a steady pace; making it easy to get clean straight stitches. It’s lightweight, and absolutely adorable. This acts as a regular sewing machine, but the plum color outside gives it the cute appearance of a toy one.
Only downsides I can see to this little gem is that there’s no built in light, and it wobbles a tiny bit when sewing, a common problem to portable machines. The single speed option which is a somewhat slow pace will be appreciated by beginners, but probably irritate the more advanced users.
This is a good sewing machine that can be used either as a starting machine for beginners, or as a secondary/backup machine for the experienced. Highly advanced users will probably find the single speed a little frustrating, but its great features and smooth running nature should more than make up for that. It is reliable and its consistent performance makes it great for all skill levels, and hobbyists or professionals.
Honestly I’m not very familiar with the Michley brand, but this little sewing machine of theirs is impressive. True to classic portable sewing machines, it comes with a little carry handle at the top. It also boasts a wide range of capabilities in what it can do. Like the Janome, it has 8 different stitch patterns, and can also reverse sew. In addition, it comes with a built in LED light, two different speed settings, and sews with double thread. It also has the ability to automatically rewind thread.
Packed with all these great features, it is also the most affordable one on the list. It also comes with a secondary option of buying it in a bundle; which actually ends up making it a few bucks cheaper! The bundle has the sewing machine, a pair of electric fabric scissors, and a sewing kit containing a ton of different colored thread, a seam ripper, small thread scissors, hand sewing needles, threader, and measuring tape.
Out of all three of the sewing machines I picked out, this one definitely has the most extensive range of things it can do. Sadly it also has some rather disappointing (and possibly hefty) downsides. From my experience with it, as well as reading other reviews online, it can be quite temperamental in how it acts. Sometimes it will run smooth as butter, and other times when first fired up the thread will immediately tangle up.
The manual it came with was also vague and hard to decipher; thankfully though they do have videos online from the company on how to operate the machine. It also wobbled around when sewing, but compared to the Janome and Singer, the wobbling was probably the worst out of the three.
The Lil’ Sew has the typical common problems found in portable sewing machines, like the finicky nature of its performance. However, it has proven to be sturdy and not broken down. I think those who have the patience will be able to take full advantage of the Michley’s impressive range of features. Possibly not the best machine for the advanced or those in the business, but definitely good for the beginner to intermediate crowd.
Singer is another classic brand known for manufacturing some of the best sewing machines. This one also comes with the carry handle common to portable machines; like the Janome it has a really cute toy like look to it, yet runs as a real sewing machine. This one has true portability, as it can run on a power cord or on batteries. It comes packaged with a generous amount of bobbins in several colors; I remember counting a little over ten. It can reverse sew, has two different speed settings and also has a built in light. What makes it unique is that it can sew monofilament, which is quite a feat for a portable machine.
Coming with some great features, it is a little disappointing that this one only has the ability to do four different kinds of stitches. It also has some issues with picking up thread and occasional jamming. The price range is also honestly a little out there for just a portable sewing machine. Like the other two (I think it’s safe to assume this may just be a universal issue to mini machines) it wobbles when sewing, but thankfully it’s only a very mild wobbling similar to the Janome.
While I personally don’t like the few stitch options, that may actually be an upside for those who are completely unfamiliar with any kind of sewing. It makes the machine very simple to operate and understand. The simplicity and cute appearance make it a good candidate for a machine to teach children on or to give as a gift to kids.
The sturdiness and only occasional hiccups with jamming make this sewing machine good for pretty much all kinds of experience levels; from the newbie to the seasoned veteran. The fact that it only comes with four different stitches is disappointing when compared to the other two that were reviewed; its high pricing also an issue. However, for those who seek true portability without sacrificing good sewing results, this machine would be invaluable. The simple operation also makes it great for kids or those completely unfamiliar with sewing.
I think that these three are the best portable sewing machines currently out there; picking any one of them would be a great choice. However, in going over all of them there was definitely a clear best of the best in terms of overall performance among the list. There was also a best in terms of affordability, which definitely can be a the main factor for many in choosing which one to purchase.
Best Portable Sewing Machine
In terms of which one is the best in general, I would have to go with the Janome. The story about my high school days might make me come off as biased-but I pinkie-swear that the brand was not the reason I picked it out as the best one of the three.
I will say, the lack of a built in light really sucks. It is a standard among even very low quality machines, so the choice not to add one in is definitely bizarre on Janome’s part. However, this is a very easy fix. One can sew in a well lit room; there’s also the option of purchasing packs of those cheap stick on LED lights out there that can solve the issue.
Besides the lack of light issue, there really was not much else to pick at in terms of flaws. Out of all three, the Memory Craft runs the smoothest. It’s sturdy, and has shown no issues with tangling or jamming like the other two have. The Michley might have outranked it in the amount of features it has, but it lacks the reliable, smooth performance of the Janome. The Memory Craft beats the Singer not just in amount of features, but also price point. The folks who work at Janome also offer great customer support, so if something goes wrong with the sewing machine they will be there to help out.
The fair price, decent amount of features, and reliable performance are what I think earns the Janome Memory Craft the title of best overall. Its well balanced nature is what makes it a portable sewing machine great for all skill levels.
Best Cheap Portable Sewing Machine
In terms of which one is the most affordable while still being one of the best portable sewing machines, that title would go to the Michley Lil’ Sew. If low pricing is what your top concern and driving force behind making a choice, this is your machine.
Not only is the Lil’ Sew the most affordable, but it also has the most built in features out of all three sewing machines. 8 stitch patterns, double threading, built in thread cutter, reverse sewing, 2 different speeds, auto thread rewinding, and a built in light. The second option to buy it as a bundle makes it even cheaper, and brings an additional 100 piece sewing kit and a pair of electric fabric scissors. All in all, quite a bang for your buck.
However, be wary that this feature packed machine also brings with it a temperamental nature. While it is sturdy and will not break, the performance can be a hit or miss. For me personally there were times when it ran smoothly, reminding me of the Janome. Other times it acted more like the stereotype of a portable sewing machine; where as soon as I turned it on the thread would immediately jam.
Usually I was able to un-jam it and keep on with my work. But if it was having a really bad day, sometimes it would just keep tangling up, and I would eventually give up; choosing to use it on another day. Reading reviews online for it, the reception was also just as mixed. Some said they had absolutely no issues with it, others had experiences similar to mine, and then there were some people whose experience was just flat out bad all the way.
I would not recommend this machine for those who are pro and would use it on the job. I also wouldn’t recommend (if you work in the industry) keeping it as a back up in case the big machine breaks down. You would want to keep something more reliable than the Lil’ Sew.
If you are someone who has patience and is doing this as a hobbyist, this machine can be a great asset because of its many abilities. It would be a great gift for someone younger who wishes to learn to sew. The low price point would be a boon; since kids tend to easily break their things, if they break this machine you’re not losing much of an investment as say breaking a full sized one. The hit or miss performance also won’t be a problem for those who only plan to use it every now and then to do some mending.
The affordable price and wide range of capabilities make it good choice for the beginner to intermediate hobbyist or for those who have to do mending every once in a while. Because of the unreliable nature, it is not recommended for pros or those who would need it for use on the job.
In conclusion, out of all the portable sewing machines out there on the market, I think these three are definitely the best. The Janome Memory Craft is the best out of the three overall because of its reliable nature and good performance; it works for any kind of sewing experience level and any type of work. The Michley Lil’ Sew is the most affordable out of the three; still a great machine with a ton of features, but the finicky nature of its performance limits the range of those who would find it useful.
I know this list of reviews for portable sewing machines is very short; I also know that these little guys don’t have the performance ability to go up against a full sized machine. They sure aren’t meant to- certain features have to be sacrificed to give way to portability. However, I do think those who sew should consider keeping a mini machine in their repertoire of tools. Doesn’t matter what skill level you are, or whether you are a hobbyist or a professional. Portable sewing machines are seriously underrated, and they have such a wide range of beneficial uses- all at an affordable price tag.