help! i'm looking for a lightweight sewing machine

I am looking for a very basic lightweight sewing machine. I don’t need many fancy stitches, but I do need one that will easily sew layers of denim. I recycle old jeans! Do you have a not-too-expensive suggestion? — Peggy N., Columbus, OH.

Hi Peggy! Thanks for writing. We covered this very subject back in April with this post. At the time, the machine that garnered the most recommendations was the Kenmore Mini Ultra Light. It’s only $90 and does stitch denim. But there was some debate — some swore by Singer, while others love a Brother (this one is cute and recommended). This one, from Huskystar, also has fans and is very cute (and not pink). Does anyone else have a sewing machine they’d swear by for Peggy? Let her know!

P.S. Peggy, send us photos of your recycled jeans handiwork! We’d love to see.

From our partners

I am a semi-beginner with sewing machines but wanted to offer this, which I didn’t know before. I recently had my machine looked at and was told never to sew heavy-weight fabrics like denim because the casing is made of plastic, much like many starter machines under $200. The repair person said the machine would just go kaput. So, when looking for a machine, make sure the mechanics can actually handle the fabric. I think the manufacturers bluff about the variety of weights the machine can hold. I would try to get one specifically made for the fabric you plan to use most.


I really recommend going to a sewing machine store and bringing scrap denim with you and asking the salespeople. Yes, they want to sell you a machine, but if they see exactly what you are sewing on a regular basisi they will be able to make a well-informed decision. Above all, you should most defnitely try a machine before you buy it.


I don’t know about lightweight, but I’ve heard good things about buying factory-reconditioned sewing machines. You can get quite a bargain!

Here’s a query for sewers: Where do you store your machine when not in use? I don’t have room for a craft room, and I’ve been putting off buying a machine cuz i have no where to put it! What do you do?


I have a dedicated sewing table now, but when I didn’t, I kept my machine in a hard plastic sewing machine case, and stashed it in the closet. You can get one for about $20. That, plus a nice plastic storage bin with a tray for all of your bobbins and seam rippers and other bits will let you set up and take down your sewing area in a snap.

I have big clear plastic bins for my fabric stash, and a smaller handled plastic tote bin with a tray for my current project, so I have all of the related bits all together and can pull it out and work when I get a spare minute, then toss it all back in when I have to move on. It means more wrinkles, but it’s cat- and baby-proof, so it all evens out.

If you’re working in a small area, I really recommend the June Tailor Cut & Press board – it’s about the size of a poster board with a rotary cutting board on one side, and a padding pressing area on the other (there’s a smaller one, too). I throw mine down on the bed when I only need a small pressing surface for doing seams and don’t want to commit to the the ironing board. I’m not a big rotary cutter, but that side is good for the little I do; mostly I use the rotary side if I just need another hard surface for gluing or whatever.


I keep mine in the bottom shelf of our book case. It is shoved back, and is beige, so no one really notices it. I stick my sleeve board in front of it. With sewing stuff in various baskets above it, so it doesn’t look so sloppy. But I am past the baby stage, when I had them roaming around, it was all in plastic bins with lids. I still keep my bigger fabric stash and patterns in the basement in plastic bins. Clear so I can see what is in them without too much rummaging.
If you have room, you could get one of those ottomans that has room in it for storage and lower the machine in. Or get one of those big “Spanish” style side tables from the 70’s, you could fit a ton of stuff in one of those. It depends upon if you want to pull it out from the side or the top.


And on the sewing machine front, I have a 40 year old lightweight portable Kenmore. Model 158-10400. It is made of metal. Sometimes I have to help it when I am going over a denim seam with 4 layers, but mostly it can handle everything I have thrown at in the 20 years it was mine. My mother used it before me, and she did upholstery on it, as well as silk. It can not do anything fancy. But it has not broken yet. And it is light.


I have a Janome Jem, which weighs somewhere around 11-12 lbs. It sews through 4-5 layers of denim *really* easily. There are several diferent versions around, with more or less stitches (you probably want the 20 stitch version). I also have a quilting machine (Janome 6600), and while I can’t maneuver the quilts as easily under my little machine, it definitely handles quilting with no problem. I know of several people who sew denim projects on their Jems all the time. Maybe do a seplace on yahoo for a group–somewhere I remember hearing there was a group dedicated to this machine. Definitely worth a look. I won’t give my Jem up!