Best Sewing Machine 2019: Comparison Reviews of Small, Mini, and Compact Models for Portable Stitching

Mini sewing machines are ideal tools for teaching kids, taking to class, or keeping at a vacation home. They might be little, but a good mini sewing machine should cover all the basics well so that you can do mends and smaller projects without taking up lots of space.

Sadly, a lot of mini sewing machines are gimmicky little appliances with short lifespans and rickety builds. In our dedicated guide, we’ll help you find the gems, and avoid the crappy toy models. Our recommendations are simple, reliable, and highly portable!

Here’s a quick look at our favorite miniature options:

Best mini sewing machine reviews

    • Janome Arctic Crystal
    • Janome Hello Kitty
    • Janome Jem Gold 660

1. Janome Arctic Crystal

Janome Arctic Crystal

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Janome makes a lot of beginner-friendly sewing machines and the Janome Arctic Crystal is no exception. It is a cute compact sewing machine. Aside from the Crystal, which is a fun vintage mint green color, you can also choose from the Sorbet and the Couture – all visually attractive sewing machines that will make a statement in your sewing room. With its 15 built-in stitches, this is a good entry-level option for beginners to intermediate seamstresses and dressmakers.

Pros:

This is an affordable sewing machine that anyone looking for an entry-level machine can afford.

It is beginner-friendly. It is easy to set to the settings and stitch style that you prefer. It even has a built-in diagram for the bobbin that you can follow to avoid errors. Your purchase also comes with instructional videos. In just a short period of time, you should be able to start using it for simple projects.

It comes with an impressive 24-year limited warranty, longer than many of the warranties offered in the market today.

It might look like a toy but it is actually heavy-duty. It is made from metal interiors that can last for a long time.

It has a good weight to it. It feels more expensive and has a sturdy bottom that makes sure it doesn’t rock or move around when you are sewing.

You can use its 4-step button hole system easily.

It makes professional-looking and uniform stitches. It is also easy to change the length of the stitches as well as the tension, to get your desired results.

Loading the bobbin is easy with its front-loading bobbin feeding system. Unlike others where you have to remove the fabric under its presser foot first to load the bobbin, this one doesn’t have that kind of design. You can access the bobbin under the presser foot.

It comes with a lot of accessories including an arm attachment, 4 different types of presser feet, extra pins and needles, darning plate, extra bobbins and a seam ripper. You can get started in sewing right away.

Many dressmakers will find the height of the presser foot lift ideal for sewing thicker clothes or multiple layers of clothes. It’s also perfect for gathered stitches where fabric tends to bunch up. There were also those who said they used it to stitch up cardstock and it still performed well.

It is fast, but you can control the speed easily with its pedal.

This comes with a built-in LED light to make it easier to see what you are sewing at night.

Fabric feeds easily into the machine. There seems to be no instances of fabric snagging in the presser foot.

Cons:

The presser foot lever is placed in an area that is difficult for left-handed people to use.

There were occasional issues of the bobbin jamming but should be easy to fix.

The hand wheel can feel a little stiff, especially when using it for the first time. Others find that the wheel needs a little bit of help turning even when you press on the pedal. Although not a deal breaker, some more experienced seamstresses might find this a caveat.

The needle can only be positioned to the left and to the center. If you have projects that require the needle to be positioned to the right, this might not be a good choice for you.

Extra accessories for it might be a little bit more expensive.

There were those who are not satisfied with the warranty. Local dealers might charge extra for the labor. If you want to use the warranty, you might have to shoulder the shipping costs to Janome.

2. Janome Hello Kitty

manual sewing machine for kids

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The Janome Hello Kitty is technically a full-size sewing machine. It’s so compact and capable that we couldn’t leave it out of our miniature guide, though! The Hello Kitty is only slightly bigger than our other two recommendations, and while it looks like a toy, it’s anything but.

The Hello Kitty is a basic, all-manual sewing machine. It’s a lot more durable, though. This one has a metal frame, more metal internal components, and a great reliability record!

If you don’t absolutely need a 3/4 format, and can make do with a compact full-size machine, this is a much more affordable alternative to the Jem!

Pros:

It is as rugged as the Arctic Crystal. The Hello Kitty might look like more of a toy than the Arctic Crystal, but it actually has metal parts throughout the design just like the first sewing machine.

It has an internal aluminum frame, too! That makes a big difference in the rigidity of the whole machine. It feels much sturdier, and has less of a chance of the internals coming out of alignment.

It’s more powerful, too. This one sews up to 800 stitches per minute. While most people won’t buy something this simple as a workhorse, the Hello Kitty does perform like one!

It’s neat and consistent with nearly all materials. We wouldn’t try super thick layered pieces on this one, but you’d be surprised at how easily it sews through denim! Most users won’t be limited at all by the Hello Kitty. It feeds smoothly, and sews cleanly.

It also has more stitches built in. There are 12 on the Hello Kitty, and they’re all displayed on the face of the unit. As with the Arctic Crystal, you can select different options via a dial.

It has both left and center needle positions.

It has a reversing lever to go back and lock a stitch. That’s a feature you don’t get on other sewing machines.

There’s also a free arm! That allows you to work on cylindrical pieces such as sleeves far more easily. It’s one of several features which make this one more versatile.

You get measurements on the needle plate, as well as a work light overhead. It’s a good alternative to the Arctic Crystal.

Like the Arctic Crystal, the Hello Kitty has manual tension control. It stays pretty consistent by itself, and you can easily tweak it to perfect the settings.

It’s nearly as portable, without cutting down your workspace so drastically. At less than 14 pounds, the Hello Kitty is easy to haul around, if not as lightweight or compact as the Arctic Crystal.

It also has a fold-out handle built into the top to help you out!

It’s only slightly more expensive than the Arctic Crystal, and less than half the price of the Jem! We suggest the Hello Kitty as a midrange pick for people who want solid build quality without spending a premium.

It has a superb reliability record. The Hello Kitty can take much more of a beating. It’s not a heavy-duty machine, but you can comfortably use it on a daily basis without worrying that it’ll wear out or break. Quality control is better on this model, too.

Cons:

It has a tough bobbin compartment just like the Arctic Crystal. The Hello Kitty’s is a traditional-style side-loading format. It’s perfectly good, but not as effortless as a more modern top-loading compartment.

It’s all-manual, and while it has a few more amenities than other compact sewing machines, you’ll still have to do your threading and winding manually.

This isn’t technically a mini sewing machine. It’s full-size, but we think it’s compact enough to earn a place in this guide. The downside is that it may simply be too large for young children. If you know you want a 3/4 size model, rather than something that’s simply compact, look at our other picks.

Although it is just as sturdy as the Arctic Crystal, it’s not as rock solid as the Jem. This one still has a lot of plastic components, despite the superior reliability record.

The Hello Kitty packaging is definitely aimed at kids. This is a perfectly suitable machine for adults under the hood, but some grown-ups may want something more understated.

3. Janome Jem Gold 660

best mini sewing machine

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The Janome Jem Gold 660 is our absolute favorite mini sewing machine. It’s simply a pleasure to use, and is by far the most capable model we’ve found in a 3/4 size package. The Jem is reliable, well-equipped, and highly portable.

We recommend this one to experienced and advanced sewists who want a secondary machine for travel or group sewing. It’s also a good choice for newcomers who know they’ll be sticking with sewing and want a compact machine.

Pros:

It has the best bobbin setup of the three! The Jem has a drop-in, jam-proof bobbin compartment. There’s a clear window on the top, so you can see how much thread you have left while you work. It’s by far the most user-friendly setup we’ve seen on a 3/4 machine.

It has a built-in needle threader, so it’s the easiest of the three to get up and running. It’s a convenience that you don’t get on either of our cheaper recommendations.

There’s also a thread-cutter built in, and it’s the only one of the three to have that feature.

The 12 stitches on board include 2 stretch options and a buttonhole feature. You select your stitch via a dial, just like on the other models we’ve included here. All the stitches are charted along the arm of the machine.

It has a 4-piece feed dog, just like our other recommendations. The Jem does extremely well on all materials, and we’re impressed by how rarely it doesn’t perform perfectly.

It has extra-high presser foot lift, and an auto-declutch bobbin winder.

There’s a free arm for cylindrical sewing–something that’s rare in a 3/4 format!

You can adjust the stitch width up to 5mm, which is as much as most full-size models will do! Length is adjustable up to 4mm.

Like the Hello Kitty, the Jem has a reverse switch, so it’s easy to double back and lock off your stitches.

It comes with a few different feet:

    • overedge foot
    • buttonhole foot
    • sliding buttonhole foot
    • zigzag foot

It’s built extremely well. This is our top quality pick for a reason! While it might have fewer onboard options than 3/4 options from competing brands, no mini Singer or Brother can touch the Jem in terms of quality! It has a metal frame, mostly metal components and a rugged feel.

Between the build quality and design features like the feed dog and threader, it’s by far the most pleasant 3/4 machine to use that we’ve reviewed. You can do just about any light, small job on this one, and get great results. It’s perfectly suitable for quilting groups, sewing classes, or clothing repairs/craft projects at a vacation home.

It’s nicely in between the Arctic Crystal and the Hello Kitty in terms of size and weight. While it has some heft to it, it still keeps the compact 3/4 format. At less than 12 pounds, it’s easy for anyone to carry to class or group sews.

Cons:

It actually has the same number of stitches as the Hello Kitty, even though it costs 2-3x the price. That’s not a complete surprise, given that the Jem is a smaller machine. It’s still disappointing, though.

While the automatic needle-threader is a nice touch, it’s still pretty basic. That’s true of every 3/4 machine we’ve come across.

There’s no drop feed feature.

It is heavier than other compact sewing machines at nearly 12 pounds. We think that’s still super manageable, and we’ll take the extra weight in exchange for rugged construction (this is heavier than most full-size Brother’s).

It’s quite expensive. This costs more than twice the price of our other picks, so it’s not for anyone who’s not sure they’ll get a decent amount of use out of it. That’s one reason that we don’t suggest it for children, even though it’s a suitable size. You wouldn’t want to give this to a child unless you’re sure they’ll stick with sewing.

The best of our choices isn’t good for thick, layered pieces. That’s true of any mini sewing machine. So, be sure you know what to expect from one of these!

Conclusion

Which of our mini sewing machine recommendations is the best for you?

We recommend the Janome Arctic Crystal for anyone looking for an entry-level sewing machine that still has a lot of features good enough for intermediate to professional seamstresses. Its metal frame is what makes this a good option because it will surely last for a long time. For such an inexpensive price, you are getting a machine that is good enough for even more heavy-duty tasks and applications.

We also think this is easy enough for a beginner to understand. There are a lot of helpful guides that come with it.

The Hello Kitty is more expensive, but we think it offers better value to most buyers. It has nearly as many features as the Jem, and has the same solid build as the Arctic Crystal. This is our recommendation to the average buyer. It’s excellent for kids and adults alike.

The downside of the Hello Kitty is its larger size. This is technically a full-size model, even if it’s smaller than other full-size options out there. And while it has most of the features you get on the Jem, it’s lacking in amenities. The bobbin system is trickier to use, and you’ll have to do all your threading manually.

The Jem is our ultimate mini sewing machine pick. It doesn’t have the most features on the market for a 3/4 machine, but it’s the best-made we’ve come across to date. It’s rugged, reliable, and has enough features to be a dependable second sewing machine. If you only do light fixes and craft projects, it could also be your primary machine! Thanks to all its conveniences and smart design tweaks, the Jem is by far the most enjoyable of the three to use.

The only real downside is the price. This one costs as much as a lot of full-size manual sewing machines. Unless it’s going to be your primary machine, it may be a hard purchase for most novice or intermediate sewists to justify.

We recommend the Jem to advanced, passionate needleworkers who want a capable sewing machine to take on the road. It’s also the best choice if you’re looking for a mini sewing machine to be your primary workstation. If you have an ample budget, it could even be a spectacular model for a child!

Comparison chart

*If you’ve read through this entire guide, you’ll have noticed by this point that we’ve only recommended Janome’s. That’s because we’ve found that they’re the only company currently making mini sewing machines that are actually worth the money.

Other brands like Brother and Singer have models on the market, but they’re flimsy and unreliable, to put it mildly. While no mini machine is going to be as rock solid or powerful as a full-size unit, we think these Janome models are far better than the competition.

Buying Guide

Here are a few pointers to help you as you shop:

Know what to expect

Mini sewing machines are a bit of a niche product. They’re super compact, which allows them to be portable and easy to pack up. That’s why we like them so much for traveling and taking group sewing events. Some people also choose a mini machine for a primary workstation at home.

As you start to visualize exactly what you want to do with your mini sewing machine, it’s important to be realistic about what these machines are. They’re small, so they tend to be less powerful than full-size sewing machines. They’re also lighter, which inevitably means they’re less rugged than their big siblings.

Mini sewing machines aren’t intended as primary workstations in most cases. If you’re a new needleworker, or buying for a child, a mini sewing machine can certainly serve as a primary workstation. That’s also true if you’re a very light, casual home user. However, for the vast majority of us, a mini sewing machine is a secondary workstation.

With that in mind, you should consider that while a few of the best mini sewing machines are capable of stitching through denim and layered pieces, most aren’t actually intended for tough tasks.

They’re for quilting in small pieces at a group meeting, or for working on crafts when you’re at a vacation house. These are not primary workhorses for canvas, layered denim, or leather. There are very few exceptions.

Be sure to keep your expectations realistic as you shop. In our reviews, we’ve been sure to mention specific tasks you can expect our recommendations to perform.

Decide how much to spend

As you’re considering your budget, think about whether your new mini sewing machine will be your primary or secondary machine. Obviously, if it’s going to be your main workstation, you should consider spending more.

You’ll also want to consider your skill level and the quality of work you want to achieve. If you’re a passionate quilter who goes to a group regularly, you’ll want to spend more for something compact that can give you the same quality of results as your larger sewing machine.

Most mini sewing machines cost between $75 and $300.

If you’re shopping for a child, you can easily find something good for less than $150.

If you’re looking for something sturdy and capable which will last for years, plan to spend between $100 and $250.

The more you spend on a mini sewing machine, the more features you’ll get. Things like automatic needle-threaders and free arms are available, but typically on the more expensive models. You’ll also find that you get better build quality as you go up in price. So, as you figure out how much to spend, ask yourself whether you need or want a more rugged model.

Think about features

As with any sewing machine, you should put some thought into which specific features you need on your new mini sewing machine. Consider the number of stitches you use on a regular basis. Think about whether having measurements on your needle plate is important. Do you need a free arm? Automatic threader? Hashing out all those specifics beforehand will help you narrow down your options.

Consider size

Finally, how portable do you need your new workstation to be? Do you want a true, 3/4 mini machine, or would it be more practical to go for a compact full-size? We consider both options mini.

What’s Next

Hopefully, you’ve seen at least one mini sewing machine here that could fit the bill. If so, click on one of the links in its review to check current prices and find all the pertinent specs.

Having second thoughts about whether a mini sewing machine is the best option for you? Head over to our homepage to see all our favorite all-purpose machines! Some of our picks are very portable. They can provide a more versatile alternative to a mini sewing machine without totally compromising on size and weight.