The 5 Best Small & Portable Sewing Machines

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Portable sewing machines include everything from hand sewing machines that weigh less than a pound to small full-size sewing machines with a built-in handle for travel. 

And I like to travel with my machine–from my sewing room, to in front of the TV in the living room, to the kitchen table, and even to my mom’s house to help her mend stuff. 

Picking the best small sewing machine for your needs depends on many factors like your available sewing area, how much you can carry, and what you need to sew. 

Whether you’re looking for a smaller full-size sewing machine or a truly miniature sewing machine, check out my thoughts on the best portable sewing machine for your craft corner!

best portable sewing machine

Hand Sewing Machine vs. Mini Sewing Machine vs. Small Full-Size Sewing Machine

There are three types of small, portable sewing machines: handheld, miniature, and full-sized.

singer handheld sewing machine

Handheld sewing machines are super tiny, are held in one hand, only use one thread wound on a small bobbin, and are one of the cheapest sewing machines you can purchase.

While the Singer handheld sewing machine is one of the most popular and best handheld sewing machines, my experience with it has not been great, and quite simply, the only person I’d recommend this sewing machine to is someone with a budget less than $20 who just needs something to carry in their purse. 

Sewing straight is difficult, and it doesn’t work well on delicate, sheer fabrics, thin knits, or thicker fabrics AT ALL. 

I’d honestly just prefer to carry a needle and thread in my purse rather than use this thing. 

mini sewing machine

Next up are miniature sewing machines which are also extremely portable and very small, but they will not perform more than basic sewing tasks. 

Mini sewing machines are great if you need to sew on AA battery power rather than electricity and travel well, but they usually have only a straight stitch and severely lack heavy-duty capabilities. 

If you have the budget and grand sewing aspirations, I don’t recommend this type as a first sewing machine, as it won’t grow with your needs. 

standard-sized sewing machine

Meanwhile, full-sized sewing machines are less portable, but there are many machines that are still very lightweight (around 10 lbs) and don’t take up much of a footprint. 

Full-size machines have more features and often cost more, and the smallest of full-size machines are mechanical rather than computerized machines with an LCD screen.

You can sew a wider variety of fabrics with them, do free-motion quilting or sewing, and find a machine that’s comparable to a more advanced skill level. 

However, don’t expect a metal frame on a lightweight sewing machine–these machines have plastic parts, which makes them easier to pick up and transport. 

Best Small Sewing Machines Reviewed

The first three options are small, full-size sewing machines. The next two options are miniature sewing machines. I’m leaving out all handheld sewing machine options because none of them are worth the purchase, in my opinion. 

1. Brother XM2701 Lightweight Portable Machine

Brother XM2701 Lightweight Sewing Machine, WhiteShop on Amazon!

  • Stitches: 27
  • Presser Feet: 6 (zigzag, buttonhole, zipper, button sewing, blind stitch, and narrow hem)
  • Size: 12.1 x 5.9 x 15.3 inches
  • Weight: 12.6 lbs
  • Auto Needle Threader: Yes
  • Buttonhole: Automatic one-step

The Brother XM2701 sewing machine is a mechanical sewing machine that makes the list of best Brother sewing machines and best Brother sewing machines for beginners

It’s an affordable sewing machine that offers a lot of great functions for beginners and more experienced sewists alike.

It also comes in a nice, compact size, and the work area can be made smaller by removing the accessories compartment to reveal the free arm. 

There are several reasons I love this small machine:

  • The inclusion of an automatic needle threader. While it takes time to master, it helps users with decreased dexterity or eyesight thread the sewing machine.
  • An automatic one-step buttonhole is included, which is REALLY helpful if you plan to make garments and are a beginner user.
  • The maximum sewing speed is 800 spm, which is impressive for a small machine!

Brother sewing machines also come with jam-resistant drop-in bobbins, meaning you don’t have to worry about drawing the bobbin thread up by yourself–the machine does it for you as soon as you start sewing. 

Threading this Brother sewing machine is so easy also. There are diagrams for threading both the top and bottom threads on the machine body itself.

Read more in my complete review of the Brother XM2701 sewing machine.

(NOTE: This sewing machine now also has a newer version, the Brother GX37, which is roughly the same size but with more stitches.)

2. Singer Start 1304 Sewing Machine

singer start 1304 review

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  • Stitches: 6 (straight, satin, zigzag, buttonhole, scallop, blind hem)
  • Presser Feet: 3 (zigzag, buttonhole, zipper)
  • Size: 13 x 7 x 11.5 inches
  • Weight: 11.5 lbs
  • Auto Needle Threader: No
  • Buttonhole: 4-step manual

For Singer sewing enthusiasts, the Singer Start 1304 sewing machine is an entry-level sewing machine that will travel easily with you. 

It isn’t as fully functioning as the Brother XM2701, but some argue this may be a plus for users who are looking for a simple, basic sewing machine. 

As such, it’s one of the best Singer sewing machines for children. (It’s the one my daughter uses–read my Singer 1304 review for more information!)

It’s easy to set up and use, and the limited choices increase ease of use for novice users.

And, if it turns out sewing is your new favorite hobby after a while, you can always upgrade to a more fully-featured Singer sewing machine later.

Each of the 6 built-in stitches comes with preset lengths and widths, making for a larger number of stitch functions. 

This isn’t much variety, but I’d say 80% of the sewing I do involves only a straight stitch, and before modern sewing machines, only straight stitches were available on many sewing machines.

Recently, the Singer M1500 was introduced as the newer model of the Singer 1304. It’s gotten a facelift but is operationally identical. (Read my Singer M1500 sewing machine review to learn everything you need to know!)

3. New Home Janome Basic Sewing Machine

Janome Lady Lilac Basic, Easy-to-Use, 10-Stitch Portable, Compact Sewing Machine with Free Arm only 5 pounds

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  • Stitches: 4 stitches (straight, zigzag, multi-stitch zigzag, and crescent) with 6 different length, width, or needle position variations
  • Presser Feet: 1 all-purpose
  • Size: 10.5 x 5 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 5 lbs
  • Auto Needle Threader: No
  • Buttonhole: None

The Janome Basic Sewing machine is one of the most portable sewing machines that still offers users a decent number of options. 

At around 5 pounds, you can pick this tiny sewing machine up and cart it with you to sewing classes or put it in the top of your closet if you don’t have a dedicated sewing space.

The Janome Basic features 4 stitches with different options for needle position and length or width.

While it’s way more advanced than a toy sewing machine, it doesn’t have everything that a full-size sewing machine does. It is GREAT for kids and users not looking for anything snazzy. 

For instance, it has one speed only, which is fairly slow. It also does not have a buttonhole stitch, so you must know how to make your own. 

There is no on/off switch, and it just turns on when the machine is plugged in and the foot pedal is pressed. 

It also doesn’t have a built-in LED light over the workspace, so you may need to add an auxiliary sewing light if you have poorer near vision.

I love how this sewing machine comes in 10+ colors. For users looking to add personality to their sewing room or just like the thought of smiling while sewing on a bright pink machine, it’s perfect.

4. NEX Portable Sewing Machine

NEX Sewing Machine, Crafting Mending Machine, Children Present Portable with 12 Built-in StitchesShop on Amazon!

  • Stitches: 12
  • Presser Feet: 1 all-purpose
  • Size: 10.8×4.8×10.2 inches
  • Weight: 5.5 lbs
  • Auto Needle Threader: No
  • Buttonhole: 4-step manual

The NEX portable sewing machine features slightly more than the Janome Basic sewing machine and is in the same price range.

If you don’t mind an independently branded sewing machine, the NEX machine offers a lot of functions in its compact area. 

With 12 stitches, there’s an included buttonhole stitch and an overlocking stitch. While only one presser foot is included, it comes off and can be replaced with most other generic presser feet.

Because this falls in the realm of miniature sewing machines rather than full-size, there are some other nifty features. Such as, you can use batteries to run the machine! While you can use the included power adapter, if you want to sew on a camping trip, for instance, there’s no need to find a power source.

Unlike other true miniature machines, this NEX machine has a more stable base and also a reverse stitch function.

5. Mini Sewing Machine (With Extender Table)

mini sewing machine

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  • Stitches: 1 (straight only, no reverse)
  • Presser Feet: 1 all-purpose
  • Size: 8.6 x 3.5 x 6.8 inches
  • Weight: Less than 3 lbs
  • Auto Needle Threader: No
  • Buttonhole: None

Miniature sewing machines are exactly that: miniature. Mini machines weigh less than 3 pounds and can fit in a small space. 

The extension, which will come with most versions, is detachable, meaning the machine itself takes up even less space. Even with the extension table, you can’t sew larger projects, though. 

It’s not a full-featured sewing machine but finds its place in the sewing machine community as a small sewing machine that costs very little and functions for people looking for a simple sewing machine to do basic sewing tasks. For example, mending clothes or making uncomplicated alterations.

There’s no zigzag stitch or reverse stitch, so just keep this in mind before purchasing. Also, setting up and threading a mini sewing machine is more difficult because the included instruction manual leaves something to be desired. 

Many brands like KPCB, Varmax, and Magicfly sell very similar miniature sewing machines.

Check out my mini sewing machine review if you want to learn more!

Best Small & Lightweight Sewing Machines

Sewing Features & Considerations

Which is best depends on what you want to sew. 

Only mending clothes? A miniature sewing machine can do just that. 

Want to create Pinterest-worthy DIY projects? Try a full-sized sewing machine, which offers many more options.

Here is a list of things to consider when choosing the best portable sewing machine.

1. Weight and Size

The dimensions of your workspace and the maximum weight you can lift are important factors to compare to the weight and size of the sewing machine. 

However, if you want to travel with a larger sewing machine, a sewing machine rolling tote can make transportation easier. 

2. Carrying Handle

carrying handle

Full-sized sewing machines have different types of carrying handles. For example, my Brother CS6000i sewing machine has a molded handle on the back, whereas my Brother SE625 embroidery machine has a folding handle on the top.

3. Stitch Options

All sewing machines include straight stitch (or more of a single-thread chainstitch in the case of a handheld machine.)

Other basic stitches like a zigzag stitch, blind hem stitch, overcasting stitch, or satin stitch may be important to consider. As with a few decorative stitches.

For example, when sewing knits, a narrow zigzag stitch allows more stretch, and it can also be used to create buttonholes on machines without a buttonhole stitch. 

4. Presser Feet

brother cx7000x presser feet

Presser feet hold the fabric in place as you sew.

All sewing machines include an all-purpose zigzag foot, which you can use for most projects. 

However, if you want more sewing options, a buttonhole foot, button sewing foot, zipper foot, blind hem foot, or even overcasting foot would be helpful for beginner sewers looking to do more than mending. 

5. Buttonholes

making buttonholes on velvet

If you are sewing garments, choose a sewing machine that can sew buttonholes. I love having a one-step automatic buttonhole function, but you’ll have to decide if that’s a big deal compared to a manual 4-step buttonhole or no buttonhole stitch. 

6. Automatic Needle Threader

how to use the brother cp60x automatic needle threader

Once you start getting into more sophisticated small full-size sewing machines, you’ll find several sewing machines that come with an automatic needle threader

A lever and hook apparatus on the side of the machine helps you thread the needle “automatically” rather than doing it yourself. 

While these devices have a small learning curve, they are very helpful once you get the hang of them!

 

I hope these compact sewing machine reviews have given you food for thought when it comes to choosing your next sewing companion! 

2 Comments

  1. I’m looking for a small but quality machine that i can pack in luggage and travel with (checked bag). I have a lot of travel coming up and want to use my hotel time piecing quilt blocks. Do you think the NEX would be a good choice?

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