Machine Review: John Lewis ‘JL Mini’

JL Mini sewing machine

Aaah, it’s lovely to be on holiday!  The weather has been great so far – we’ve spent today fossil-hunting on the Jurassic Coast – Amy found an ammonite, which I think excited me way more than her…

All the same, it’s not all ice-cream and sunburn, you know…  Although there has been quite a lot of both – when I was little, the equivalent of the Bounty pack was the Red Cross Book of First Aid for Babies and Children, whose advice on children and the sun was thus:

Children can burn easily, so it is a good idea to make sure your toddler has a good tan before allowing him to spend long periods in the sun.

Much as this amuses me, it does actually pretty accurately describe my attitude to sun protection…  But anyway, on to the subject!

Having made a pledge for Made-Up, I felt I couldn’t let the grass grow under my feet even while we are away, so I brought my half-done quilt-top down to Devon, as I knew I could borrow my Mum’s machine for couple of evenings.  She does have a ‘proper’ old Jones, but got this one recently for small projects.  I’m quite impressed with it actually, and could think of plenty situations where it would be an ideal machine, so I thought I’d give you the run-down here:

John Lewis sewing machine

Make and Model:  John Lewis ‘JL Mini’

Price:  £49

They say:

This retro-inspired John Lewis Mini sewing machine is a perfect sewing machine for beginners. It has enough functions to let you experiment and have fun, but not so many that it’s overwhelming.

Features include: 10 stitch options, drop-in bobbin, and free arm (great for adjusting cuffs or trousers). It also has a double presser foot and push lever reverse for when you want to reinforce a stitch. It’s suitable for light to medium fabrics, so you can mend and make things as you wish.

I say:


  • Extremely lightweight – it’s 2.6kg.  My vintage Brother is 14kg with the lid on.
  • Very simple and straightforward to use – the manual is very beginner-friendly.
  • Well-thought-out stitch options.  Often on ‘budget’ or dinky versions, you end up missing some really important feature, and wish you’d just bought the proper thing anyway, but you can see they’ve really thought about which stitches are useful and which probably won’t be missed.  It has a really good stitch-length range, several zig-zag options, a decorative scallop-stitch and, impressively, a 3-step zig-zag.  I would maybe have switched one of the zig-zags for a satin-stitch, but that’s about it.
  • It’s cute, and comes in loads of colours.  I’m shallow.
  • It really is mini – you don’t need much space to set this up.


  • It’s quite whirry.  Although, I’m not sure if this is because I use a vintage all-metal belt-drive machine for nearly all my sewing, which is really quiet.  Maybe all newer cheapish machines are noisy in comparison?  I know when I get out my plastic Brother for buttonholes it seems really loud now…
  • NO LIGHT.  There’s NO LIGHT.  This isn’t so much of an issue in daylight, but if you’re sewing by artificial light, then the top of the machine casts a shadow onto the throat-plate.
  • No seam guide.  I can eyeball the curved seams on my quilt, but you can’t always do that.  There are solutions, such as these stickers, or using a 1/4″ quilting foot, if you want 1/4″ seams.

In Summary:

I’m actually pleasantly surprised by the functionality of this little machine, although obviously it’s missing a few features which you might usually take for granted.  It feels pretty solid when going, despite sounding like an asthmatic hamster down a Tannoy system.  Its real selling point is its size and weight (or lack thereof).  In my view, you’d get this if you specifically needed a tiny, portable machine, rather than if you thought you could do without some features to save money.  You can get a full-size machine with a light for around £90 – 100 for a basic model – these will also usually do you a 4-step buttonhole.

I wouldn’t say it’s ‘perfect for beginners’, as I think a beginner would need a seam guide, light and probably buttonhole-stitch to make any progress, and would get pretty frustrated without these.  For my money, it’s a machine for a more experienced sewist, who can judge whether it might suit them for certain uses, eg taking to a patchwork class.


 For me, it’s been perfect to add a few more clamshells to my quilt-top – I’m nearly there now, and should soon be able to move on to piecing the back!

Don’t think I’ll be doing any more tonight though, it’s been a long day, plus I brought along a cushion kit which Paul bought me *ahem* beforewehadchildren *ahem*, so I’m doing a bit of that when I get the chance as well.  I’m working really hard at the minute to finish up all the projects hanging around half-done before I start anything new and shiny.

Have you tried out any new equipment recently?  How does it compare to the tried-and-tested?

So long, take care!


PS:  No sponsorship or anything – just thought I’d give this machine a write-up as I think it fills a completely different position in the market to most domestic machines!


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