Cheap sewing machines

Finding a cheap sewing machine that meets your needs can be tricky, and finding a quality machine is genuinely hard. Nowadays we want something with a computer (though with all the AI movies will we be ruled by our quilt machines soon 🤪🤣)

You’re not going to find a computerised sewing machine under the R5000 mark. But the advantage of a mechanical sewing machine is that you can take it to any trusted service centre for repairs and an annual check-up.

These features are important for a quilter:

  1. Throat space (if you’re finishing your quilts and not sending them to a longarm quilter)
  2. Blanket stitch for appliqué
  3. Walking foot (also known as an even-feed foot)
  4. Darning foot
  5. Quarter inch foot

I’ve spoken a lot about these in another blog post Sewing machines a plenty, which one is right for you? Be sure to read this post becuase it gives you a lot more guidance on what to look for in a cheap sewing machine for quilting.

Picture from Janome
Even feed or walking foot

In South Africa, you can now buy a sewing machine on Takealot (much like Amazon internationally) and it’s not your average brand either. Brother and Bernette are available there. Personally, I have a baby Elna (as in 1996 it was a gift from my mom) and a Jemgold (also a gift from mamma). Since then I have expanded to an Elna Excellence 740.

Mechanical sewing machines are easy to maintain. A paintbrush (yes, I use a long bristled paint brush from Builders Warehouse!) to clean away the lint build-up, and a drop of oil in the bobbin area is generally all that these cheap sewing machines need. An annual visit to a good service centre to clean out the insides and add a dab of grease where necessary will keep these going for a long-long time.

They are ideal for starter sewists and quilters alike. The manufacturers don’t consider a quilter as the ideal market for entry-level machines, but they have made add-on accessories that will fill the gap.

The only thing that I couldn’t find amongst any of the under R5000 machines is a genuine blanket stitch.

Brother JA1400

Price: R3099 (Takealot) but the Brother website has recommended pricing at R2700 (this could simply be outdated)

This machine doesn’t have a blanket stitch.

A cover plate is also necessary to disengage the feed dogs. If you can’t disengaged the feed dogs you’re going to fight with your machine over the direction that you want the quilt to go in. This is only relevant if you plan on quilting your quilt yourself. If you’re sending your quilt to a longarm quilter to finish, the feed dogs, cover plate and darning foot isn’t necessary.

There is a list of available presser feet for quilting and it does include a quarter inch, walking foot and darning foot.

List of presser feet

What impressed me about Brother is that the presser feet are interchangeable between their machines. This means that if you later buy a computerised machine, you’ll still be able to use the presser feet that you invested in when you started sewing.


This darling machine (Yes, I do love it, can you tell?) is still available from Janome, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in South Africa any longer.

Picture from Janome

Price: $210 (at the time of writing), or around R3800 – putting it in the cheap sewing machine category. It doesn’t have quilting accessories as a standard nor the straight appliqué stitch. The throat space is also rather small, but I managed double bed quilts on it!

The quilt accessories can be purchased as an additional option:

  • Open Toe Even Feed foot with Guide (this is a walking foot)
  • Open Toe Satin Stitch Foot
  • Open Toe Darning Foot
  • ¼” Seam foot
  • Quilting Guide

A cover plate is also necessary to disengage the feed dogs.

Bernette 33

This is also a good little machine (from reviews, and the features advertised). Bernette is a good brand too – in South Africa you’ll get these from Bernina.

Picture from Takealot

Price: R5599

I couldn’t find a quilting attachment set, nor are there accessory feet specified for quilting in the add on options. However, the shank will take the same presser feet as a Singer or Janome (Elna).

Again, no blanket stitch for appliqué. I do like this model because you can set the needle position to the far left or stay in the centre. The far left position is great if you want to attach binding with your sewing machine.

You will also need a cover plate to quilt on this machine. The throat space is a little more generous than the other two sewing machines.

If you extend your price bracket over R6000 you’ll enter the field of computerised sewing machines. I don’t consider them cheap sewing machines and if you choose a computerized sewing machine you must make sure that you have a reliable dealer close by because these babies can’t be serviced by just anyone.

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