Quilting is a wonderful art form that can create beautiful, functional pieces of art. Quilting is an in-depth process that has been done for centuries. The history of quilting can be traced back to at least medieval times when each piece had to be intricately sewn together by hand. Nowadays, modern technology like sewing machines makes quilting a lot easier. But which machines are best for quilting? What features does your machine need to have? In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about purchasing a sewing machine and recommend our favorite machines for quilting.
How to Buy a Sewing Machine
Buying a sewing machine can be a daunting process, especially since there are so many great ones on the market today. Purchasing a sewing machine can be even more difficult when you’re buying one for a specific purpose, such as quilting.
For traditional patchwork and quilting, the only real requirement is the ability to sew a straight stitch, which any machine should be able to do. If you’re working with machine appliqué, a machine with zigzag capabilities and utility stitches like satin, blind hem, and blanket or buttonhole stitches is helpful. While these are the only specific requirements to look for, there are a few other things to keep in mind when shopping for a sewing machine.
Basic Sewing Machine Features
The first thing to look for in a sewing machine is one with a metal full rotary hook. This is the hook that rotates in a full circle around the stationary bobbin. This helps avoid jams, as the hook goes around in a circle instead of spinning back and forth.
You also want a machine that opens, so you can clean out the lint that accumulates from regular use. Regular cleaning is vital for a sewing machine. If sewing machines aren’t cleaned regularly, lint can cause them to jam and eventually break. See our full tutorial on how to clean and oil your sewing machine here.
Machines that have universal pressure are really handy because they allow your machine to adjust to materials of varying thickness automatically. This is really handy when sewing quilts with complex blocks, as their thicknesses can vary greatly.
Most sewing machines will be able to perform basic stitches, but for quilting, you’ll definitely want a machine that can perform straight stitch, zig-zag, stretch stitch, tri-motion, blind hem, and buttonhole stitches.
It’s a good idea to get a machine that is easy to thread, especially for quilting, since you may be switching out your threads for different colors often. If possible, try out threading the machine in the store, and see how long it takes. For our full guide on how to easily thread a sewing machine, see here.
Important Questions to Ask
Ask the following questions specifically for quilting:
- Does the machine offer a ¼" foot for accurate piecing?
- How about an even-feed or dual-feed foot?
- Can the feed dogs be lowered easily for free-motion stitching?
- Does the machine have a stitch regulator so that all your free-motion stitches are of even size?
- Does the machine offer special quilting stitches?
- How large is the machine bed workspace under the curved arm to quilt large items?
Mechanical vs. Electronic
Nowadays, most sewing machines on the market are electronic, meaning the machine automatically adjusts based on the type of stitch you select. However, there are a variety of mechanical machines available. Mechanical machines require you to turn dials to get the stitches you want.
Electronic machines allow you to work with several layers of material, which is vital when quilting. They are also easier to use in general, especially for beginners. Mechanical machines are much less expensive, but we recommend investing in an electronic machine if you’re serious about quilting.
Weight and Size
Sewing machines come in a huge variety of weights and sizes. Some are designed to be small and portable, while others are large and sturdy, with huge motors designed to give you lots of power. You’ll need to assess how you’ll be using your machine and if you plan to travel with it.
If you’re a newer quilter, a smaller machine may be easier to manage. If you plan on taking your machine on the go, you definitely want one that’s light and portable. However, if you’re working with heavy-duty materials or want to make an investment in a long-lasting, sturdy machine, you may want something larger.
Obviously, budget is a big consideration when shopping for anything. Sewing machines come at a variety of price points. Usually, more expensive machines will last longer. However, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a high-quality machine. Determine how much you’d like to spend ahead of time, then do research on the best quality machines in that price range.
Service and Warranty
An important factor to consider when purchasing a sewing machine is the length of the warranty and what it includes. Like all machines, sewing machines require regular maintenance and sometimes need repair. Find out the length of the warranty, what it covers, and where you can get this type of machine serviced in your area.
Best Machines for Quilting
We’ve compiled a few of our favorite sewing machines specifically for quilting below.
Brother XR3774 Sewing and Quilting Machine
This is the best machine for those looking to purchase a machine for quilting on a budget. Searching for a sewing machine on a budget usually means you have to skip out on some of the bells and whistles. However, the Brother XR3774 offers everything you need to have a quality quilting experience, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced quilter.
This machine is easy to operate and has an extended table for quilting. It also comes with 37 programmed stitches and eight sewing feet, including walking and quilting feet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have retractable feed dogs like some machines; however, it does come with a darning plate to cover them. Other great features for quilting include a see-through top bobbin loader and a lightweight design. This machine retails for around $169, which is an excellent price for a sewing machine.
Brother CS6000i Computerized Sewing Machine
Another Brother machine, the Brother CS6000i is extremely portable and great for quilters on the go. This machine is extremely compact, but it can still tackle any project. It’s super lightweight and comes with 60 built-in stitches. It comes with a molded, two-piece case for protection and convenient carrying. This is ideal for taking your machine back and forth to quilting classes or groups.
This machine comes with both a walking foot and a quilting guide, which make it easy to produce beautiful, evenly-spaced stitches. It’s great for everything from small baby blankets to full, king-sized quilts. The Brother CS6000i proves that a machine can be both portable and powerful.
Brother CS5055PRW Project Runway Limited Edition Computerized Sewing Machine
This machine is incredibly versatile and great for someone who wants to sew garments in addition to quilts. The Brother CS5055PRW Project Runway Limited Edition Machine transitions very easily from sewing clothing to quilting, making it an ideal choice for jack-of-all-trades seamstresses. It has 100 pre-programmed stitches, which come in handy for a wide variety of purposes. Some are for function, some are for decoration, and some will give an heirloom look to a quilting project.
The Brother CS5055PRW comes with an oversized table, which is amazing for managing fabric when quilting. While this machine isn’t made specifically for quilting, it can handle pretty much any quilting project, in addition to a wide variety of other clothes-making tasks.
JUKI TL-2000Qi Sewing and Quilting Machine
If you’re a serious quilter, and you want to invest in a high-quality machine that’s really going to last, we recommend the JUKI TL-2000Qi Sewing and Quilting Machine. This machine is a bit pricier, retailing at around $730, but it’s incredibly durable and well-loved by seamstresses and quilters alike. This is a machine that will last for decades and will save you time and money in the long run.
The TL-2000Qi offers lightning-fast stitching speeds of over 1500 stitches per minute and comes with both a free motion foot and a quilting foot. The throat is nearly nine inches, allowing for easy sewing of large, king-sized quilts. This machine operates quietly and smoothly and can quilt through many layers of fabric with ease. If you’re a serious quilter looking to tackle big projects, this is the machine for you.
Shopping for a sewing machine can be tricky. There are so many different brands and models out there; it can be difficult to narrow down which ones can tackle the projects you want to accomplish. Hopefully, this guide provided you with a good place to start and gave you some things to consider when shopping for your next machine.
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