Skip Navigation Website Accessibility
Questions? 925-937-7575  |

SMS Home Page Logo

1661 Botelho Drive, Ste 180
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

Open Tuesday - Saturday 9-5
Questions? 925-937-7575

Dan & Marty's Sewing Machine Review for 2021

2020's Best Sewing, Quilting, Embroidery, Long-arm  Machines, and Sergers 

     Dear Confused Sewing Machine Shopper,
The last sewing machine review we did was back in 2017, I didn't realize how popular it would be. I literally still get emails and phone calls every day in reference to the 2017 review and am happy that so many sewers were helped by our review. Now the emails and phone calls are to ask when I will update the sewing machine reviews So here it finally is. I will be updating my list as models change or new models get introduced. 


One of the most common questions I get asked is, "Dan, what is your favorite machine?" Before I tell you what my favorite machines are I should clarify that the machines we sell range from $200 to over $10,000, so I will give you my top picks based on price range categories. Remember that we can carry any make or model machine available. I have carried a few brands in the past that I don’t carry now. I am not going to give you my opinion on the machines that I don’t carry. Just know that if I don’t handle a particular line or model of machine, it is because I believe there is something a little or a lot better.
My dad, Ramon, who was a Chief Design Engineer educated in Switzerland, was a super technical and analytical guy. Not a day went by without him pointing out everyday products that were beautifully designed and manufactured with high-quality materials. He also never hesitated to express his displeasure with cheap and poorly designed products. Following in his footsteps, I majored in Engineering, and now, not a day goes by without me pointing out, to anyone that will listen, the very same observations that Ramon made. With 32 years in the sewing machine business, having sold over 15,000 sewing machines and repaired over 40,000 machines, I think my words will ring true.
Our reputation for customer service, technical know-how, and longevity within our industry allows us the ability to represent any sewing machine line of our choosing. There are many brands that we do not carry that range from poor to fairly good. I would like to carry machines that are very good to exceptional. I have chosen the following brands based on Quality, Innovation, Value, and Reliability. In addition, the following companies support us in a way necessary to take care of our valued customers.
Bernina: This Swiss company is the only family-owned sewing machine manufacturing company left in our industry. They still produce a limited number of machines in Switzerland, but most of their machines are now manufactured in their solely owned and operated factories in Thailand. What is important to remember is that their machines are very unique compared to all other manufacturers in that their machines still use an all-steel front loading bobbin system. Two distinct front-loading designs (B9 Rotary Motion and CB Oscillating Motion) give the Bernina owner a very unique sewing experience and feel. The machines are very sturdy with an almost industrial/commercial experience. They combine this traditional old-world feel with incredible innovation- such as their Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR) for free motion quilting, Built-In dual feed, oversized bobbins, and more. Bernina owners are among the most loyal and I can see why but Bernina machines are not for everyone.
Virtually all other quality household machines without the Bernina nameplate are top-loading drop-in bobbin machines, also referred to as horizontal axis rotary hook machines.
Janome: Janome is a Japanese company with a long and rich history. For many years their machines were branded New Home in the U.S. market. You will also find Janome built machines branded under the Necchi, Elna, and Juki nameplates. We are now stocking and recommending some Necchi and Elna models in select categories. Simply put, they make the most trouble-free sewing machines in the world. Their electronics, including circuit boards, display panels, etc. are the most reliable. Some might say this is my opinion, but I say it is a fact-based on 27 years as a chief technician.
Baby Lock: We LOVE their sergers and their embroidery machines. Their sewing machines are also very nice and reliable. Their sergers are amazing; featuring jet-air automatic threading and thread delivery which eliminates tensions all together. Ninety percent of all the sergers we sell, and we sell a lot of sergers, are Baby Lock models. These sergers are built-in Baby Lock's own Japanese factory. Their quality is "off the chart"!
Unlike the sergers, many,  but not all of Baby Lock's premium sewing and embroidery
machines are manufactured by the Japanese company Brother. Janome and Baby Lock represent the best in top-loading bobbin design. They are like Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura of car companies. Both manufacturers are constantly competing, which keeps raising the bar for innovation and quality. Because of the similarities between the two brands, it is hard to choose which is best. Generally speaking, I prefer Janome quality a little more (not in sergers), but it is certainly not enough to take me away from my preferred embroidery machines, which is the Baby Lock.
Juki: Juki is primarily an industrial sewing machine company that has recently introduced household machines into the US. They are not widely known, but I like them and they represent very good value and are worth considering. We currently carry four Juki home machines (1 sewing machine, 2 sergers, 1 semi-commercial straight stitch machine, and 2 long-arm quilting machines). We are also an authorized Juki industrial sewing machine dealer and stock many common machines for the professional sewer.
Before We Look at Dan's 2020 Picks: Please realize that no machine is any good if you do not have a dealer that you can trust. Make sure that they value your business and have the technical know-how to support the machine you just purchased. Do they include classes? Do they do their repairs themselves on-site? Will they be around next year when you need them? Have they invested in factory training from the manufacturer? I do not recommend that you buy your machine on-line UNLESS: You have no dealer close to you, you do not trust your dealer, or they do not carry the machine you want. If you are unsure of any of these things, please email me at, or call me at 925-937-7575. I will be happy to share my experience and opinions.
     On-Line machines vs. In-Store Only models
This is a very important concept to understand. Not all sewing machines are sold on-line. In fact, the most premium models and top-line models are only available at your local retailer. This does not mean you cannot get a very high-quality sewing machine via on-line retailers including ourselves. You absolutely can. The problem I see over and over again, are shoppers choosing poor quality models. In fact, the most popular online models, especially in the entry-level category are certain Brother and Singer branded machines. A lot of these models are designed to be more like a toy than a tool and I mean this literally.
     Toy vs. Tool (Plastic Housing vs. Metal Alloy Housing)   Click here to see Dan explain "Toy vs. Tool"
Have you ever split open a toy? I have many times when my kids were little when they broke. It usually has 2 plastic halves with a seam split down the middle. Inside, all the components (shafts, gears, electrical etc...are screwed into the plastic. This makes the toy inexpensive to make. You also know that toys are not made to last because they don't have to. The child will most likely grow out of it or is on to the next one. Look at the toys you still have around or hand on down to your children. They are usually very well made and built with quality materials and simplicity. Unfortunately, the average toy design is not good for a tool and that is exactly what a sewing machine is. The most popular entry-level sewing machines sold on-line commonly have a toy design. In fact, I see these same machines getting 4 and 5 stars from consumers. I guarantee you that if they sew a lot or have sewn on a machine with a 1 piece metal alloy casting that 4-5 star rating would be a 1 or 2. You cannot build a precision tool that has a 20-year life without a solid platform or foundation. A metal alloy housing is a must.
Here are Dan's sewing, embroidery, quilting, long-arm, and serger sewing machine picks for 2020

     ENTRY LEVEL TO MID-LINE $200-$1000

     Best machine for under $200

Best machine for under $400
Best Machine under $500

Best Machine under $750
·         Baby Lock Presto 2  
Best Machine under $1000
·         Janome 5300QDC-T
·         Baby Lock Brilliant  
·         Bernina 325


·         Janome M7
·         Bernina 770QE
(Many but not all Brother and Baby Lock machines are built in the same factory)
·         Baby Lock Aventura 2
·         Baby Lock Altair
·         Baby Lock Solaris
·         Janome S9
·         Bernina 790E Plus
·         Baby Lock Flourish II
·         Baby Lock Meridian
·         Anything Juki under $1000
My absolute favorite line of Baby Lock sergers have Thread Delivery instead of conventional tensions and Jet Air/Extrordinair automatic threading.
Remember that whether you choose to buy from us, online, or from your local dealer, I am happy to consult with you to give you my honest opinion.