Quilting is an ancient art dating back to the Egyptian First Dynasty. Several years ago I decided I would learn to make quilts. I started with simple patchwork squares and made three quilts -- one for each of my children. I made all of those on a sewing machine with very few features. At that time, I didn't know which was the best sewing machine for quilting nor the best features.
Quilting is a practice for which you’re constantly learning. So while some features may not be of importance in the beginning, as your skill grows, so will the features you use on your sewing machine. Hence, it is a good practice to buy as much machine as you can afford so you can “grow” into it. With trial and error, I soon learned which features make the best sewing machine for quilting.
First of all, sewing machines are personal. In other words, what one quilter likes, another may hate. So, it's best to research and then go to a studio or retailer and take the machine for a test drive before purchasing it
Namely, here are a few highlights for the best sewing machine for quilting.
First, modern machines are not our grandmother's sewing machine. They didn't have 800 adjustable stitches. Try to find the most stitch options for the price. On the other hand, if you're free-motion quilting, a simple straight stitch on a powerful machine may be an option for you.
Second is the harp space. The harp is the area on the sewing machine behind the needle. The larger the harp, the better for quilting, considering a quilt can become quite large and cumbersome. More space is a plus!
Next, feed dogs, which are the little metal teeth that pop up through the plate of the machine and keep your fabrics moving evenly under the foot. For some types of quilting, namely free motion quilting, you need to be able to drop these feed dogs or cover them, so they are deactivated. Conversely, this is not of that much importance if you plan to do stitch-in-the-ditch style quilting.
In a single quilt, you may use five or six different feet. In other words, the more foot options, the better for the best sewing machine for quilting. Most machines will come with quite a few presser feet, while others will have those as accessories for an additional charge.
Above all, quilts are sizable, and as they move under the foot, your machine should evenly feed the fabric as it sews. If there is any pulling from one direction or the other, you will see puckering of materials which isn't what any quilter likes to see. Consequently, having a large extension table for a workspace is a necessity.
Next, a built-in light is an absolute necessity for the best sewing machine for quilting. Without adequate lighting, you will not be able to see your beautiful stitches.
Importantly, the needle-down function is a feature that allows you to set the machine to always stop with the needle down which keeps your place in the stitches as you pivot or move your quilt. Having this feature will save you from ripping seams, and you don't want to have to cut seams.
The knee lifter gives the quilter an opportunity to pivot their fabric without having to take their hands off the quilt. Rather than having to reach up and pop your presser foot up, you'll be able to do so with the slide of your knee. While not all machines have this as a standard option, the best sewing machine for quilting should have it.
Adjustable speed control can be especially helpful. For example, when you're using a walking foot, you need only to use about half the power of your machine. With the speed control setting, you can prevent yourself from sewing too fast and causing uneven stitches, or worst, breaking your thread, while using a walking foot. Therefore, while speed control is one of those "nice-to-have" features, it's one to consider when selecting the best sewing machine for quilting.
As previously mentioned, it is advised to buy as much sewing machine as you can afford. If you are serious about a sewing hobby, you'll be using those features in no time. Soon, you'll have a stash of fabric that takes up half of a wall shelving unit.
In no particular order, here are our picks for the best sewing machine for quilting.
First is the Brother Sewing and Quilting Machine CS6000i, which is an extremely popular machine. Considering it is an affordable unit loaded with plenty of options, it deserves its place on this list for the best sewing machine for quilting.
In addition to the standard sewing feet, it includes a walking foot, spring action quilting foot, overcasting foot, monogramming foot, zipper foot, blind stitch foot, buttonhole foot, and button sewing foot. But, that is just the beginning when it comes to features for this machine:
This sewing machine has over 7,500 reviews on Amazon with 4.5 out of 5 stars. An overwhelming 88 percent of the reviewers gave the Brother CS6000i a positive rating.
Reviewers had a lot of positives to say about this sewing machine. Here are a few of the pros:
While there were tons of positive things to say about this machine, there are still a few drawbacks. Reviewers were less than thrilled about these things:
The Brother CS6000i ranges in price from $$ to $$ and is available on Amazon, at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, and Michael's, to name a few.
Next, let's look at the Juki HZL-F300, which is a quality machine for the beginner who takes sewing very seriously. Aspiring quilters will be busy for years with this well-equipped sewing machine. This machine has many features, and you will see, it's just a touch higher quality than the previous listings:
The Juki HZL-F300 has 38 customer reviews on Amazon where it has 4.1 out of 5 stars. Nearly 75 percent of the reviews are positive.
Here are just a few of the positive things reviewers had to say:
There were a few negatives, mostly regarding standard accessories included.
The Juki HZL-F300 is available on Amazon as well as other online retailers. It sells in a range from $$ to $$.
Then we have the Brother XR9500PRW, which is a fantastic starter machine that made our list -- with all of its bells and whistles. Here are just a few features that motivated us to add this to the list:
Reviewers had a lot to say about the Brother Project Runway Limited Edition Sewing Machine. Amazon reviewers were mostly positive with 90 percent giving it either four or five stars - making the average rating for this machine 4.4 out of 5 stars.
There was a lot of good stuff said about this machine. Here are just a few of the pros.
There are a few notable disadvantages though.
The Brother Project Runway Limited Edition Sewing Machine is available on Amazon, at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores and several other online and retail stores. Its price range is between $$ and $$.
Next, let's look at the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960. I own this machine and have been using it for about six months. It's a dream machine but does lack a few of the fancier bells and whistles. Here are some of its features:
With over 2,400 reviews, this machine is extremely popular. It currently has 4.1 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 81 percent being positive.
There were a few favorite things that stood out.
All machines have positives and negatives. Here are some of the most noteworthy cons.
The Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 is available at Walmart, Amazon, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores and several other online and local retailers. It ranges in price from $$ to $$ making it an extremely affordable choice.
Next, we have the Husqvarna Sapphire 965Q which could be considered the Cadillac of sewing machines. It features a full-color touch screen display for complete control of all the options at your fingertips. This machine has so many features we can't possibly list them all here. Consequently, we will just list a few of the most notable:
Admittedly, consumer reviews are difficult to find on this machine as Husqvarna sewing machines are only sold from licensed retailers and not available online. With this in mind, we reviewed several quilting forums, and the Sapphire had positive reviews and quite the quilter fan following.
Based on feedback on quilting forums, here are some pros for this machine.
And, a few of the cons:
You must purchase Husqvarna machines at an official Viking retailer. Notably, Viking Sewing Galleries are inside Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts. The price range for this machine is $$$ to $$$.
On the subject of free motion quilting, it has a slightly different set of features to look for in the best sewing machine for quilting.
First and foremost, you're looking for some power. It's recommended to look for a machine that sews 1,500 stitches per minute. Also, harp space is critical -- the larger, the better. Also, you need adjustable feed dogs. For most free motion quilting you will drop the feed dogs completely. Additionally, a machine that allows you to adjust the thread tension mechanically is ideal for this type of quilting. You will not need a lot of bells and whistles or stitch choices on a machine dedicated to free motion quilting.
So, if you happen to be looking for a sewing machine to only use for free motion quilting, this machine deserves your consideration.
For this type of work, the best sewing machine for quilting - free motion quilting specifically - is the Brother PQ1500SL. It does the job and then some. Now, this machine is more fundamental in functions, as free-motion quilting doesn't require a lot of fancy stitches. Specifically, the focus is far more on power, harp size and having a machine as close to a long arm quilting machine as possible.
Here are a few positives reviewers had to say:
Now, just a few cons:
The Brother PQ1500SL ranges in price from $$ to $$ and is available at numerous online and brick and mortar retailers. It's scored a high 4.4 out of 5 stars from Amazon reviewers with 93 percent positive.
Anyway, this list should get you started on a few machines to test drive. Check out your local sewing studio and take a few pieces of fabric or a small project you're working on. Given these points, remember, your sewing machine is a very personal tool and the one you choose as the best sewing machine for quilting will depend on your preferences.
With all of that said, do have a suggestion for the best sewing machine for quilting? If so, tell us in the comments.