Handheld sewing machines look like nifty little gadgets that are perfect for those on-the-go fixes, letting you stitch up a storm without the hassle of setting up your big sewing machine. But are they really that great? As with any tool, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons before jumping on the handheld sewing machine bandwagon. These petite powerhouses can be lifesavers for quick fixes and small projects, but they do have limitations when it comes to more complex tasks. So, let’s dive deeper to help you decide if handheld sewing machines are the right fit for your sewing needs.

What are handheld sewing machines?

Handheld sewing machines, in a nutshell, are compact, portable, and battery-operated devices that can be used for simple sewing tasks. Think of them as mini sewing machines that fit right in the palm of your hand – like a magical sewing wand ready to fix your fabric woes!

handheld mending machine

How do they work?

Handheld sewing machines use a single-thread chain stitch mechanism to create stitches. The absence of a bobbin and the shuttle assembly (which are key components in a full-sized sewing machine, and some mini sewing machines) makes these compact machines possible.

The chain stitch process in handheld sewing machines involves a needle and a looper working together. As the needle pierces the fabric and creates a loop on the underside, the looper slides into the loop and holds it in place. The rising needle and the looper’s grip on the loop form the chain stitch through interlocking loops. The feed dog moves the fabric along, creating a seam with the continuous chain stitch.

It’s important to remember that chain stitches aren’t as secure as lockstitches produced by full-sized machines, which use a top thread and a bobbin thread to create interlocking stitches. Chain stitches can unravel more easily, so they’re best suited for temporary fixes or simple projects.

What are they used for?

There are situations when a handheld sewing machine shines and when it’s best to stick with a full-sized machine. Let’s break it down into what you can and can’t use a handheld sewing machine for:

What you CAN use a handheld sewing machine for:

  • Quick repairs: Fixing small tears, reattaching loose buttons, or mending seams.
  • Hemming: Adjusting the length of skirts, pants, or curtains with a simple hem.
  • Attaching patches: Sewing on patches to clothing, bags, or other fabric items.
  • Small projects: Crafting simple fabric accessories like scrunchies, napkins, or basic doll clothes.
  • Basting: Temporarily joining fabric pieces together before final stitching on a full-sized machine.

What you CAN’T use a handheld sewing machine for:

  • Heavy-duty materials: Sewing thick fabrics like leather, denim, or canvas, as handheld machines lack the power and sturdiness to handle them.
  • Intricate designs: Creating detailed embroidery, appliqué, or decorative stitches, as handheld machines typically only produce a single-thread chain stitch.
  • Large or complex projects: Constructing garments, quilts, or upholstery that require precise stitching, advanced techniques, or multiple stitch types.
  • Stretchy fabrics: Sewing materials like knit or spandex, as handheld machines don’t produce a stretch stitch, which is necessary to maintain fabric elasticity.
  • Consistently strong seams: Achieving durable, professional-quality seams, as the chain stitch produced by handheld machines is less secure than a lockstitch from a full-sized machine.

While handheld sewing machines are great for quick fixes and small tasks, they’re not designed to tackle more complex or heavy-duty projects. By understanding their capabilities and limitations, you’ll know when it’s best to use a handheld machine or opt for your trusty full-sized sewing machine.

Top 5 Handheld sewing machines

1. SINGER 01663 Stitch Sew Quick

The SINGER 01663 Stitch Sew Quick is a portable and user-friendly handheld sewing machine, perfect for quick fixes and small tasks. Hailing from the reputable SINGER brand, it handles a variety of fabrics with ease. However, it’s not built for heavy-duty or frequent use, and its single chain stitch may be less secure than a lockstitch. Additionally, the machine lacks a reverse function, and its power limitations may struggle with thicker fabrics. In summary, the Stitch Sew Quick is a fantastic companion for on-the-go sewing or simple repairs, but it won’t replace a full-sized machine for complex projects.

2. Handy Stitch Handheld Machine

You may have seen a TV ad for this compact and lightweight machine that is a perfect sewing sidekick for those on-the-go repairs and emergency situations. It comes packed with a generous set of sewing accessories, ensuring you’re well-equipped to tackle a variety of tasks. It’s designed to handle fabrics with thickness up to 1.8mm, and you can even sew without undressing the fabric. But remember, it requires 4 AA batteries or a DC 6V power adapter (neither included), so make sure you have your power source sorted. Also, note that this monofilament sewing machine needs to be tied manually, or the string might come off easily.

3. Ausarox Handheld machine + kit

Ausarox Handheld Sewing Machine comes with an impressive 153-piece sewing kit to satisfy all your sewing needs. It supports multiple power supply methods, with the power adapter providing the fastest working frequency for denser, stronger stitches. The machine is upgraded with new technology, boasting increased power and reduced noise, while remaining lightweight and easy to store. As for the sewing kit, it’s a treasure trove of goodies, including scissors, a seam ripper, needle threaders, and more. In my opinion, this machine is a fantastic investment, if for nothing else, for the fantastic wooden box that it comes in.

4. Sew Mighty Battery Operated Machine

Sew Mighty Handheld Sewing Machine is a handy little gadget with some interesting features to make your sewing projects easier. It’s is a decent choice for those who need a portable, easy-to-use sewing solution for quick fixes and travel. It’s compact enough to fit in your suitcase or overnight bag, making it a useful companion for travel or on-the-go sewing emergencies. It’s also helpful for those quick fixes, like repairing drapes without the hassle of taking them down.

The Sew Mighty Handheld Sewing Machine is user-friendly, and with proper supervision, even kids can use it to learn sewing, tailoring, quilting, and crafting. Threading the machine is relatively simple, which adds to its appeal. The design includes practical features such as a needle set-screw, fastening plate, thread tensioner, thread guides, thread bobbin, needle arm thumbwheel, power switch, battery compartment, and a 6V AC port.

sewmighty handheld machine

5. Jeanoko Handheld Machine with ergonomic handle

Ok, so I have not used this machine, and don’t know anyone who has, but I wanted to include it in this list, because of its design that is different from all the other handheld sewing machines out there. It’s designed with an ergonomic handle for easy control and powered by 4 AA batteries (not included) or direct current. Its simple operation allows you to get started by just pressing the power button after installing the batteries or plugging it in. But, as I said, I have not had personal experience with it, so if you have any information beyond what the manufacturer states about it, please give me the low-down.

How to use a handheld sewing machine

Handheld sewing machines have a simple design that makes them easy to use, even for sewing newbies. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how these machines work their magic:

  1. Thread it up: Start by threading your handheld sewing machine. Each model may have slightly different threading instructions, but in general, you’ll pass the thread through a series of guides and tension controllers before threading the needle.
  2. Power on: Most handheld sewing machines are battery-operated, so make sure you’ve got fresh batteries installed. Some models might also come with a power adapter for plugging into an electrical outlet.
  3. Position your fabric: Place the fabric you want to sew between the presser foot and the feed dog (the little teeth that help move the fabric through the machine). Make sure you’re holding the fabric taut, but not too tight.
  4. Start sewing: Press the power button or sewing trigger (depending on your machine’s design) to start creating stitches. The feed dog will move the fabric through the machine while the needle sews a chain stitch. As you sew, gently guide the fabric along the desired seam line.
  5. Finish up: When you’ve reached the end of your seam, release the power button or sewing trigger. Carefully pull the fabric out of the machine, leaving a few extra inches of thread. To secure the stitches, you’ll need to create a knot manually since handheld sewing machines typically don’t have a reverse function.

As you can see, using these little devices is pretty straightforward. While they may not be suitable for heavy-duty projects or intricate designs, these portable pals are perfect for quick fixes and small sewing tasks on the go.

Advantages of handheld machines

Handheld sewing machines come with several advantages that make them a valuable addition to any sewing enthusiast’s collection. Here’s a closer look at some of their key benefits:

You can take them anywhere

Handheld sewing machines are unmatched for their compact size and lightweight design. They are roughly the size of an office stapler. This makes them perfect for toting around, saving the day in sewing emergencies, or accompanying you on your travels.

They are easy to use

No need to stress over complicated controls or fussy features—handheld sewing machines are as user-friendly as they come! They have a very straightforward design with minimal controls, making them easy to operate even for beginners.

They are cheap

Who doesn’t love saving a few bucks? Handheld sewing machines are way more affordable than their full-sized counterparts, making them an attractive option for those on a budget or for those who feel that their needs don’t require a more advanced sewing machine.

They are great for quick repairs and alterations

Whether you’re patching up a tear or adjusting a hem in a flash, handheld sewing machines are your go-to for quick repairs and alterations. They’re perfect for situations where breaking out the ‘big guns’ would be overkill or just plain inconvenient.

They are the ultimate space-saver

If you’re short on storage or prefer a minimalist sewing setup, handheld sewing machines are the ultimate space-savers. Their compact size means they’ll tuck away in a drawer without cluttering up your creative space.

And few disadvantages

While these mini wonders have their advantages, there are a few drawbacks to consider. Let’s dive into the downsides of handheld sewing machines:

Limited functionality

Handheld sewing machines are best suited for small, simple tasks. They lack the power and versatility of full-sized machines, which means they’re not ideal for heavy-duty or complex sewing projects.

Durability concerns

Due to their compact size and generally lower cost, handheld sewing machines might not be as sturdy or long-lasting as their full-sized counterparts. They may not hold up well under frequent or prolonged use.

Stitch quality

Handheld sewing machines typically produce a single-thread chain stitch, which is less secure than the lockstitch created by most full-sized machines. Chain stitches can unravel more easily, making them less suitable for projects that require strong, durable seams.

handheld machine stitch

No reverse function

Handheld sewing machines don’t usually have a reverse function, meaning you’ll need to manually knot the thread at the beginning and end of a seam to prevent it from unraveling.

Inconsistent fabric feeding

Unlike full-sized machines, handheld sewing machines don’t always provide a smooth, even feed of fabric. This can result in uneven stitching and may require additional effort to keep the fabric taut and aligned.

Less control and precision

Due to their small size and basic design, handheld sewing machines can be less precise and harder to control than full-sized machines. This may make it difficult to achieve professional-quality results, especially on intricate or detailed projects.

Mini Sewing Machines vs. Handheld Sewing Machines

mini vs handheld sewing machine

Both mini sewing machines and handheld sewing machines are designed for convenience and portability, but they have some key differences that set them apart.

A mini sewing machine is a small, compact, and lightweight version of a regular sewing machine. It typically sits on a table or flat surface, just like its larger counterpart, and features a needle, a bobbin system, and sometimes a foot pedal. Mini sewing machines are great for small projects, beginners, or those with limited space. While they may not have all the features and capabilities of a full-sized machine, and look like a toy version of it, they can handle basic sewing tasks quite well.

On the other hand, a handheld sewing machine is even smaller and more portable than a mini sewing machine. It’s designed to be held in one hand, with no need for a table or a foot pedal. Handheld sewing machines usually create a chain stitch instead of the more common lockstitch found in regular and mini sewing machines. They are best suited for quick repairs, mending, or simple sewing tasks, but they lack the precision and versatility of both mini and full-sized sewing machines.

Just remember, none of these machines are designed to replace your trusty full-sized sewing machine for more complex projects or heavy-duty stitching. However, handheld sewing machines can be a great addition to your sewing toolkit for quick fixes, simple alterations, and on-the-go repairs. They’re perfect for those moments when you need a speedy solution or don’t have access to your regular sewing setup. While these nifty gadgets may have their limitations, they can certainly come in handy in a pinch, making them a worthwhile investment for any sewing enthusiast. So, go ahead and give one a try – you might just find yourself wondering how you ever lived without it!