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What's The Best Sewing Machine For Quilting? 6 Reviews & How To's
Sewing With A Good Quilting Machine: Begin An Addictive Pleasure!
Quilting is an enjoyable - not to mention addicting - hobby. But sewing on an unsuitable or outdated machine can be frustrating to say the least. Whether you’re a beginner interested in learning how to quilt on a sewing machine, or an experienced quilter looking to upgrade, there are certain features to look for that will make quilting that much easier and more pleasant. In this article I’ll explain the key things to look for in a quilting sewing machine, plus review and recommend some of the best options for various needs.
The Essentials: What To Look For In A Good Quilting Sewing Machine
Here are some of the essential qualities to look for in a top quilting sewing machine:
Will you use this machine exclusively for quilting, or for home and/or garment sewing as well? Some machines are designed to handle many types of sewing, while some are geared specifically towards making quilts;
Do you want your quilting machine to be portable - will you take it to classes or quilting groups? Or will it have a permanent home in your sewing room?
If you want to quilt your projects at home - as opposed to piecing at home, then sending out for quilting - you’ll want to look for a large ‘throat’ or ‘harp’ - the space between the needle arm and the body of the machine. An extension table is also helpful - offering a larger, flat workspace.
Does the machine automatically regulate tension (appealing for a beginner) or can you control it manually (appealing for more experienced stitchers)? Can you lower or cover the feed dogs? Does the machine offer an extra-high presser foot setting - to accommodate multiple layers of fabric? Does it promise straight seams and even stitches?
Which Stitches Do You Really Need When Machine Quilting?
Some sewing quilting machines offer a basic selection of stitches, while others top options offer hundreds to choose from. For most machine quilting, the basics are enough. A straight stitch will cover all piecing and most quilting; if you want to do applique, you’ll also need a zigzag stitch and/or a blind hem stitch. Beyond that, extra stitches come into play when designing quilts with more decorative designs, when making crazy quilts, or when you want to mimic heritage patterns. They aren’t essential, but nice if this type of quilting is your thing.
If you are serious about quilting with top sewing machines, there are a few additional, premium features to look for; these are usually available on more expensive models, and if you make a lot of quilts, they are huge time-savers.
This allows you to program the machine to automatically stop in the up or the down position; when doing a lot of pivoting or repeated piecing, this feature is a huge time-saver and eliminates a lot of fiddling; it also leaves both hands free to adjust your material.
This allows you to lift the presser foot using a lever controlled by your knee; again, this becomes a huge time-saver when doing a lot of pivots or piecing
Janome Jem Gold 660 Compact
Janome Gem Gold 660
Good Portable, Petite, Affordable Quilting Sewing Machine: Janome Jem Gold Review
If you’re looking a good basic sewing and quilting machine that you can learn on, or you’re a quilter already and looking for a capable, lightweight backup to take along to classes or quilting gatherings, look no further than the Janome Jem Gold.
This machine, though basic, offers ample features: eight stitches, a buttonhole setting, free arm sewing, and even an automatic needle threader. It gets rave reviews from home sewers - quilters and novices alike - and is easy to operate and sturdy enough for everyday use.
The Jem Gold doesn’t have a handle but it weighs only eleven pounds, so it is easy to tuck into a carry bag and be on your way. If you need an affordable sewing machine for quilting, this one will serve you best.
For The Exploring Quilter: Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
Where to begin with the Singer 9960? It’s a top rated, computerized sewing machine, fully capable of meeting all your sewing needs - from décor to clothing to quilting. It features a large extension table yet also offers free-arm sewing. There are so many pros to the 9960:
Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
- Convenient drop-in bobbin and fast bobbin winding
- Top speed of 850 stitches per minute means you’ll be quilting faster than ever
- Fully digital interface let you select your stitch, then extend it, mirror it, and tweak it the way you like - to make your machine quilting unique
- Ships with 18 different feet - each of which snaps on easily, for easy switching
- Sew with the foot pedal or with the press of a button - and easily control your speed
- Automatic threading and cutting makes quick work of piecing
- Presser foot lifts extra-high for stitching multiple layers more easily
- Automatic locking stitch option finishes your stitching to prevent unraveling
- Metal parts and gears inside mean fewer trips to the repair shop
Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist Demo
I could go on, but there’s no need to; clearly, this machine offers the whole package for a new quilter looking to explore. The cons? Well, this does not offer needle up and down memory; nor does it come with a knee bar to lift the presser foot. And 600 stitches is likely far more than you’ll ever use. But, for this price, it does offer a lot - and is backed up by many, many awesome reviews. This sewing machine is a great recommendation to any quilter.
Janome DC 2013: Top, All-Purpose Sewing Machine With Primo Quilting-Friendly Options:
The Janome DC 2013 receives excellent reviews; it’s an all-purpose sewing machine but excels at quilting as well, and is a top pick for someone who is learning to quilt and wants a few more options. This machine also offers more ‘premium’ options that will make sewing a quilt much easier for you, including:
Janome DC 2013 Demo
A memorized up/down needle setting
- The Janome-specific ‘Superior Feed System’ feeds fabric evenly - even while working with multiple layers of fabric
- Plenty of decorative stitches to play with
- Metal innards offer the best in quality
- Ships with a hard cover and the most commonly used quilting feet
- Speed control slider: adjust the speed to your liking, from very slow for detailed work, to fast for quickly knocking out straight lines
- 50 stitches to choose from via a digital interface
- Two halogen sewing lights
- At 22 pounds, still reasonably portable to take along to classes
The cons? For one, this machine doesn’t come with an extension table, although you can purchase one separately. And, it does not have a knee-lift. Still, it’s one of the best quality machines for sewing and quilting, and a solid favorite among many quilters.
Brother PQ 1500S Review: Great Sewing Machine For Serious Quilting Speed
If you’re serious about quilting and want a machine that works fast, Brother’s PQ1500 is probably your best option. This sewing machine is industrial calibre at an affordable price. It is a ‘straight stitch’ machine, designed to sew only one style of stitch - straight, and fast - up to a sizzling 1500 stitches per minute! Adjust the length of your stitches (1-7mm) via a dial on the front. A few other things this features:
- Push-button thread cutter
- Attachable presser foot lift (knee-operated)
- Retractable feed dogs, plus a unique ‘pin feed’ option for handling delicate or easily markable fabrics
- Automatic needle threader
- Needle can be set to stop in ‘down’ position
- Large extension table (12” x 18”)
- Bobbin on front
- Oil holes allow refills without dismantling - genius!
- Strong, durable motor and all-metal frame
- Differential feed - meaning that it can handle two fabrics of very different weights at the same time
The drawbacks to this machine? Well, at 24 pounds, it’s not the most portable - and while it will handle tasks like installing zippers, it doesn’t have a zigzag stitch and isn’t considered an ‘all-purpose’ machine. If the type of quilting you like to do is more appliqué or decorative in nature, this machine doesn’t offer the extra stitches you’ll need. However, if you want an affordable workhorse sewing machine for power quilting and piecing, this is a top option.
Good Sewing Machine For Mid-Range, Pro Quilting : Juki HZL-F600 Review
Now we are entering the zone of the professional-quality quilting machines. The Juki HZL-F600 is heavy-duty, premium quality machine, and may be the best answer to all your sewing dreams. This machine will perform well for any task, and gets incredible reviews. A few of its coveted features:
- Needle up/down memory
- Automatic threader
- Automatic thread cutter - controlled by your foot pedal for ultimate efficiency!
- Huge extension table (8” wide by 12” long)
- Box feed gives better control over the fabric as it feeds through
- Knee lift to control presser foot action, leaving both hands free
- 1000 stitches per minute
- Control sewing via foot pedal or manual control
- Metal innards for the best quality
- Powerful motor runs quietly
- Large harp space means more room for your large quilt projects
Juki HZL-F600 Demo
The cons? This machine is going to need a permanent home in your sewing room; it is too heavy to be portable. And beginners might face a steep learning curve - it’s designed for the advanced seamstress who knows what she’s doing and is comfortable adjusting thread tension and stitch lengths. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t consider it if you’re a beginner, just plan to spend some time mastering the machine to get the most out of it. If you love quilting and want to take it to the next level, this Juki is an investment in your sewing future.
Janome 7700 Buttonholes Demo
Janome 7700 Dual Feed
Top Machine For Your Sewing Career: Janome Horizon 7700
For many quilters, the Janome Horizon 7700 is the ‘forever’ sewing machine. This machine is built to last, solid and strong - and has so many of the best features:
- Knee lift presser foot control
- Free arm sewing capability
- Accurate and easy thread cutter
- Strong steel frame
- 250 stitch options and sophisticated stitch selection setup (fonts are included)
- Two bright LED sewing lights
- Integrated single stitch plate - allows you to switch between free motion quilting and straight stitching easily
- 1000 stitches per minute
- Independent bobbin winding system and top-loading bobbin
- 11 inches of harp space for your largest quilts
- Powerful 1 amp motor
- Accufeed system feeds thick materials easily
- Acrylic extension table
The features are too many to list, but what you need to know is that this is a professional-quality sewing and quilting machine that performs as well as top machines several times its price. If you’re serious about quilting, this machine will never disappoint.
What Are Your Needs with a sewing quilting machine?
Finding A Great Sewing Quilting Machine: A Worthwhile Quest
There’s nothing so satisfying as curling up under a quilt made with your own two hands - with the help of your sewing machine, of course. Whether you want to make a simple patchwork to gift a new baby, or a complex pattern with plenty of color, quilting is an enjoyable and addicting hobby - and having the best machine makes the difference.
I hope this information has been helpful to you as you search for the best sewing and quilting machine for you. Now I’m curious - what is most important to you in a quilting machine? Are you seeking a machine to learn on, or an upgrade from an older machine? Which features are most important to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments!