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Last Updated: January 6, 2020

Best Portable Sewing Machine

EDITOR'S PICK

A photo of Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW against white background
4.7/5

BUDGET CHOICE

SINGER 1304 against a white wall
4.1/5

If you’re like me, you do most of your sewing at home. But sometimes, you’ve gotta get out of the house.

Do you think you could take your sewing machine to a friend’s house?

Would it be easy to bring out for a few days with the family?

If it is, you probably don’t need my recommendations on a portable sewing machine. But if it isn’t – and it probably isn’t – then you might want to consider picking one up. A portable sewing machine is a machine that you can take with you on a trip without much issue. You should be able to lift it, take it to the car, and get around with it.

It’s important to note that a portable sewing machine is not a handheld sewing machine. A handheld sewing machine is meant to be movable during the sewing process. If you are looking for something more along those lines, our review of the best handheld sewing machine can be found on our website.

Here I’ll review the best portable sewing machines. These are sewing machines that you can use at your home and someone else’s. If you want to be able to get together with your friends without having to hurt your back, these are the machines that you need.

A good portable sewing machine can unlock so many things for you. It allows you to take the love of sewing on the go. Most of us can afford to sacrifice a little bit of power or speed with our sewing. What we shouldn’t have to sacrifice is our time with friends. Not that I don’t love my alone time – but being able to share time with loved ones is very important.

These sewing machines sacrifice as little of that power and speed as possible, and add the option to take your sewing with you wherever you go. For beginners, you won’t even notice the difference between these sewing machines and their less portable counterparts. Add a few additional small things – like needles and foot options – and these machines can be just as good for everybody.

Product Quick Compare

A photo of SWNNE Z6 Series Portable Sewing Machine against white background

SWNNE Z6 Series Portable Sewing Machine

4.3/5

4.5 / 5

A photo of Singer Simple 3232 against white background

Singer Simple 3232

4.3/5

4.3 / 5

Singer 1304

Singer Start 1304

4.1/5

4.1 / 5

A photo of Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW against white background

Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW

4.7/5

4.7/ 5

A photo of Janome Arctic Crystal against white background

 Janome Arctic Crystal

4.3/5

4.3 / 5

A photo of SWNNE Z6 Series Portable Sewing Machine against white background

1. SWNNE Z6 Series Portable Sewing Machine

Best portable sewing machine for versatility
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
Brand: SWNNE
Model: Z6
Size: 18.2 x 14.3 x 10.3 inches
Type: Computerized

Offering more than enough options to keep you going, the SWNNE Z6 Series Portable Sewing Machine is a wonderful sewing machine to have with you. This computerized sewing machine starts with a mechanical button, and tries to keep the rest of it’s many features just as simple as that. A backlit LED display will let you know all of the information that you need when using the machine, while not being too difficult to look at. I love how much this machine offers without too much complication – whether that’s during sewing or during travel.

The SWNNE Z6 features an automatic needle piercing machine to ease the sewing process along, saving a lot of time and difficulty. The machine also makes up for some of the lost speed in comparison with strictly home machines with a double needle sewing function. This allows the machine to pack a bit more punch at a bit higher speed than other machines on this list. With quickness often going out the window for portable sewing machines, this really sets the SWNNE Z6 apart from the competition.

Other features do more than enough to help, as well. An automatic needle threader is almost a given with modern sewing machines, but they’re still very notable. A winding automatic clutch helps to keep things moving at a steady pace when bobbin winding, while a falling tooth mechanism serves to add a little oomph to your sewing experience. A snap-on presser foot allows you to control the machine, while an electronic controller for the foot adds some versatility in that area. Finally, a top loading hook system gives a bit more control – which experienced sewers love.

The machine also offers 200 built-in stitch options, and 8 styles of one step buttonhole stitches. For beginners, SWNNE have included a well-writen and cohesive instruction manual which can show you around the machine.

For portability, the first thing I love is that the machine has an automatic shut down. That means you don’t have to worry about anything getting messed up in transport, which can be a great safety net. Weighing in at just under 15 pounds, the machine is relatively light, as well. A handle on the top of the machine allows you to pick it up and go without any trouble.

There is only one thing about this machine not to like: it can be very, very loud. The noise isn’t unbearable, but it’s certainly noticeable. If you prefer to keep your sewing quiet, you might want to look at other options. If a little whirring doesn’t bother you, this is a great machine.

 

What I liked

  • Good speed and needle control.
  • 200 built-in stitches, including drop-in bobbins.
  • Lightweight.
  • Automatically shuts down.

What I didn't like

  • Very loud while sewing.

Editor's Rating: 4.5 / 5

4.5/5
A photo of Singer Simple 3232 against white background

2. Singer Simple 3232

Best portable sewing machine for beginners
Our Rating: 4.3 / 5
Brand: Singer
Model: 3232
Size: 15 x 7.5 x 12 inches
Type: Mechanical

At a very light 12 pounds, the Singer Simple 3232 is a machine that’s very friendly for beginners. While it might not be the main focus, the lightweight and contained nature of this machine also makes it a great portable sewing machine. While to more experienced sewers the machine would stand out as simplified, this makes it perfect for taking your projects on the go. Singer is one of the best sewing machine companies out there, and the 3232 is no different.

With 32 built-in stitches and 1 step buttonhole, there are more than enough stitch options for you to get your projects completed. For beginners, the smaller selection of stitches provides variety without being overwhelming. The 3232 also includes a built-in needle threader, which adds an additional layer of simplicity. A high presser foot lifter allows for a good amount of control over how much fabric is being fed to the machine, so you can take things ar your own pace.

Beginners will love the simple controls on this machine. Most everything that you need to do can be done right on the side of the machine, with a few knobs for you to tweak. This removes mental clutter from the sewing process, allowing you to roll up your sleeves and get right into it. Experienced sewers will love the machine for it’s sneaky advanced features, though. A free arm allows for more range while sewing, while a reverse sewing option makes reverse sewing as easy as the flip of a switch.

As far as taking the Simple 3232 on the go, you should have no issue at all. At 12 pounds, the machine is so lightweight you could forget that you had it with you. Beneath the hard plastic shell, a heavy duty metal frame can take a lot of tumbles before you begin to see any wear and tear. And the mechanical nature of the knobs makes them difficult to break – do still be careful with it, though.

Unfortunately, the automatic needle threader is not so strong. You might find yourself in trouble with that portion of this machine, though usually you get your time out of it before there’s an issue. The machine also suffers from jams at times, although these are an easy fix for most people. Jams are often something we simply have to take on the chin with portable sewing machines.

What I liked

  • Very lightweight.
  • Heavy duty metal frame means this can take a beating.
  • Fast stitch speed and plenty of sewing options.

What I didn't like

  • Needle threader is prone to breaking.
  • Machine is prone to jamming.

Editor's Rating: 4.3 / 5

4.3/5
SINGER 1304 against a white wall

3. Singer Start 1304

Best portable sewing machine for the money
Our Rating: 4.1 / 5
Brand: Singer
Model: Start 1304
Size: 13 x 7 x 11.5 inches
Type: Mechanical

Another great Singer option, the Start 1304 is impressive because of how bare it is. With only 6 built in stitch options, there isn’t much going on here. I love the commitment to being a portable machine, though. This is the most basic that a sewing machine can get, and that’s perfect for our purposes.

I wouldn’t consider this machine one of the best because of how much it sacrifices for portability, though. Other machines on this list are capable of being your main machine, while this one would struggle there. However, if you’re looking for a commited travel machine – this is the one. It could also be great for beginners, who would love how stripped down it is. The only things this machine has are the bare necessities.

Let’s discuss what this machine does have.

While the machine lacks an automatic needle threader or bobbin winder, there are thread diagrams on the side of the machine that will aid you through the process. Dual spoon pins on the top of the machine make the process go much smoother, while adding a degree of versatility. You can select stitches on the side of the machine with a simple knob, which also includes diagrams as a reminder. A one step buttonhole system is also included.

The machine also includes three open presser foot options. Singer includes the usual presser foot, a buttonhole foot, and a zipper foot. These aren’t overwhelming in terms of options, but cover most things.

The sewing experience is basic and a bit slow, but not terrible overall. There are no frequent or notable issues with the machine outside of it’s slow pace. The lack of options can be a bit frustrating, as you can’t adjust the stitch length or width. Because of the simplicity of the machine, a little bit of skill is required for more intricate projects. For beginners, keep to simple projects – it’s what the machine is built for anyway.

As far as being able to move the machine around, there shouldn’t be any issue with the machine. Not only is it small in size, but it’s incredibly lightweight. At 10 pounds, the machine is about as lightweight as it can get. You should be able to pick up the machine without issue, and it should surely fit in most bags.

Like other Singer options, the machine is built with a heavy duty metal frame that allows it to withstand nearly anything that you could put it through. The plastic shell is no lightweight either, and rarely weathers with time. The machine can take almost anything that you throw at it, and you could easily pick up the machine and throw it back.

 

What I liked

  • Very lightweight and easy to move.
  • Durable.
  • Simplified.

What I didn't like

  • Limits options.
  • A bit slow.

Editor's Rating: 4.1 / 5

4.1/5
A photo of Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW against white background

4. Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW

Best portable sewing machine for most people
Our Rating: 4.7 / 5
Brand: Brother
Model: CS5055PRW
Size: 19.5 x 10.8 x 16 inches
Type: Computerized

This computerized sewing machine strikes the perfect balance between focusing on sewing and focusing on being portable. It’s 50 built in stitches offer more than enough for most sewers, and 6 additional button holes make it easy to complete almost any project. A stitch chart on the side of the machine will remind you which stitch is which, while the dim LED screen allows you to select which stitch you want.

A drop in bobbin begins the list of things that make this machine great to have in your arsenal. An automatic needle threader is also included, so you will have no trouble getting the machine going. A vertical spool pin – usually found on machines much more expensive than this, allows for more consistent threading while also making it easier to transport this machine while it’s ready to go. Sewing with the machine can be a nonstop process from your home to a sewing class.

I also love the work area on this machine – it’s the absolute best. The work area is lit by a bright LED for when working in the dark, or when you need a better view, which is very convenient. The work area can be collapsed, so it doesn’t add any additional size to the machine.

Finally, the stitches included with this machine run the full gamut. From decorative stitches to quilting functions, you can do everything with this machine.

At 15 pounds, it’s hard to consider this machine lightweight in comparison to others on this list. However, sewing with the machine is worth a bit more hassle. Included sleeves also make storing the machine easy, while a handle allows you to ease some of the load. It might not be the best at sewing or the best at being portable, but it is the best at being both.

 

What I liked

  • LED work area.
  • Many quality of life features.
  • Fast, steady sewing experience.

What I didn't like

  • A bit heavy.

Editor's Rating: 4.7 / 5

4.7/5
A photo of Janome Arctic Crystal against white background

5. Janome Arctic Crystal

Best portable sewing machine for your eyes
Our Rating: 4.3 / 5
Brand: Janome
Model: Arctic Crystal
Size: 16 x 7 x 12 inches
Type: Mechanical

The best looking machine on this list, the Janome Arctic Crystal is more than meets the eye. With 15 built in stitches and a 4 step buttonhole, the Arctic Crystal can handle most sewing projects without much of an issue. At 15 pounds, as well, it’s lightweight for a sewing machine – but not a portable sewing machine. However, it’s a very good sewing machine once you get it from point A to point B.

A 3 piece feed dog system makes the Arctic Crystal the most consistent sewing experience on this list, as threading is almost always simple. Adjustable stitch length allows for more control while you’re sewing, as well. A front loading bobbin system also helps with that, as the bobbin works seamlessly. In addition to the bobbin, sewing is made easier by a removable free arm and dual spool pin system.

Beyond sewing, the machine’s hard shell case makes it easy to store by itself. A very heavy duty metal interior is what adds to the weight of this sewing machine, but it also means the machine can survive a brake check. If you value durability – or maybe have someone to carry your machine for you – then this machine can be a great portable sewing machine.

 

What I liked

  • Hard shell case and metal interior make this machine durable.
  • Sewing is smooth.
  • Sewing is consistent.

What I didn't like

  • A bit heavy.
  • Size is a bit of a concern.

Editor's Rating: 4.3 / 5

4.3/5

Buyer's Guide

When looking for a portable sewing machine, there isn’t much that you need to consider. Really, it boils down to two things: if the sewing machine itself is good, and if you’re going to be able to take it wherever you want to go. As long as you can say yes to both of those things, you can certainly consider whatever machine that you’re looking at an option. Here’s a quick breakdown of when something should be considered a yes for you:

A Good Sewing Machine

If you’re an experienced sewer, you should know what you find to be a good sewing machine. You want a stitch speed that you’re comfortable with, and you want control over the machine. Usually, the mark of a good sewing machine in this day and age is your ability to wrap your head around the machine. Beyond that, it comes down to time and experience with the machine that will allow you to take on whatever projects your heart desires.

Consider things like if you want a computerized or a mechanical machine, as these can be a good indicator of how well you will fare with a machine. Look for accessories to see if they’ll be helpful for what you’re trying to accomplish. You should also be looking at needle strength, if you want a drop-in bobbin, and automatic needle threading or bobbin winding.

 

Portability

Of course, another important factor for portable sewing machines is if the machine is – well – portable. For a sewing machine to be good as a portable sewing machine, it needs to be both lightweight and durable. If you can’t pick up a sewing machine, then it’s hard to consider it portable. Look for a machine that’s a comfortable weight.

You’ll also want your portable sewing machine to be able to withstand some damage. If you’re taking a car trip or a plane ride, there’s a good chance that your bag will get tossed around, even if only a little bit. The body of the machine should be metal, and designed for strength. You also need to protect the needle and the bobbin – ideally the machine itself will do this, but it might also require a hard shell.

 

Storage

Finally, storage is an important factor to consider. Really, this is nothing more than an extension of portability. If you can’t conveniently store the machine, then you can’t transport it, either. The first thing that you need to be able to store is the machine. Look for a machine who’s accessories include a bag or a hard shell case as a good way to take it on the go.

But you also need to be able to store and to transport the accessories. Some machines will offer methods of doing this, but you might have to get creative with some others. Having storage for accessories isn’t necessary in my opinion, but having accessories that are easily stored is. Many presser foot options can be nice for a regular sewing machine, but they can also eat up a lot of space. Space can be one issue, and sanity can be another. If you’re carrying a lot of thread, it’s destined to get tangled up at some point.

Size is a good indicator of whether or not you’ll be able to store and transport a sewing machine without an issue. If the machine can’t fit in your bag, then you’ll need to look for other storage options. If you don’t want to carry around extra boxes and worry about where to keep everything, you want a machine that can fit in your bag.

 

FAQ:

A good portable sewing machine should be light and easy to move. You want to be able to put it comfortably in a car seat or in your luggage. Of course, you also want it to be a good sewing machine. Ideally, you want to sacrifice as little function as possible.

A portable sewing machine is a machine that you can easily take on the go. When a sewing machine tells you that it’s portable, it means that you can easily transport it. Compare this to more heavy duty machines, which you might need to bolt down or are very heavy.

A hand held sewing machine is able to be picked up and moved around without issue during sewing. By comparison, a portable sewing machine is only meant to be moved between projects. A hand sewing machine

The verdict

When it comes to on the go sewing, hand machine sewing isn’t your only option. A good, portable sewing machine is a must have for people who love the craft. For most people, I would suggest the Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW, because it offers the best power for the portability. There are certainly many good options to consider, though.

When considering your options, remember the 3 criteria that we’ve been considering in this review. Storing the machine is very important, and sleeves and hard cases can be very important. The portability, of course, is incredibly important. The weight and size are very relevant. And finally, the ability of the machine is always important. That’s why we love all of these machines, but especially the Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW.