Whether you are a beginner or an old hand at machine quilting, we have the low down on the best sewing machines for quilting based on your experience and the features you're looking for.
Although there is an excellent range at affordable prices, some can be expensive and it is important that you choose the best one for your requirements. Our detailed reviews and recommendations which list features, good points as well as negatives, based on what past customers have said, will help you find the right one.
Read on to find out more about:
- What is Quilting?
- Important Features to Look for in a Quilting Sewing Machine
- Additional Sewing Machine Features that are Useful for Quilters
- Benefits of Quilting Are You a Beginner?
If you are just starting out and are keen to learn this craft, it is good to start with a basic sewing machine which that is fairly simple to use and not too expensive. However, even if you're looking at purchasing a very basic model, there are certain features that are required when making quilts and others that are very useful to have and make the job a lot easier.
If you begin with a machine that has too many functions it can be confusing. It is often best to learn the basics first, get up and running with your first quilt and take it from there.
Once you have got the hang of quilting and find that it is a hobby you'd like to take more seriously, you may then want to consider upgrading to a more professional sewing machine. However, if you are dedicated to learning this craft no matter what it takes and want to throw yourself in at the deep end, you may be better to start with a more advanced machine.
It is important for beginners to find a sewing machine that has a good instruction manual. You can often find youtube tutorials on how to use specific machines which are extremely helpful often being easier to follow than a reading through the instructions. Many sewers do experience problems with threading or feeding through their fabric without it getting stuck and this can be down to not having read the instructions properly. You need to make sure the settings are correct for the fabric you're using and that you're using the correct thread etc or you will find it frustrating.
Do You Have Quilting Experience?
If you are already a seasoned quilter and are looking to replace an old machine or simply switch from the laborious hand sewing of your quilts to the ease of a machine, we can help you compare features and prices to ensure you get the very best out of your sewing machine.
If you are new to quilting but competent at other sewing projects, you should have had plenty of experience with a sewing machine and will have a better idea of what to look for. In this case you will probably want a quilting machine that has more features and perhaps more decorative stitch options too.
What is Quilting?
Quilting involves sewing layers of fabric to create a quilt or quilted item of clothing.
This sewing technique usually has three layers of material:
- A fabric for the top which will usually be the must decorative part
- The bottom fabric which is usually one piece of fabric
- Batting or wadding for the middle of the "sandwich"
These fabrics are sewn together either with a machine or by hand.
The project is stitched at the hems and stitched across the fabric with straight stitches or wavy stitches (free motion) to make patterns and to give the quilting effect.
What to Look For in a Quilting Sewing Machine
There are certain features of a sewing machine that are important to have if you want to make your quilting projects a success. These are the things to look out for:
1. Is the workspace large enough? The throat of the sewing machine is the section between the needle and the main body of the machine on which you lay your fabric. Because quilting usually involves quite a large piece of fabric, you will need enough throat space for it to move without feeling cramped. Remember to consider the height as well as the width in this area.
2. Does the sewing machine have a Long Arm or Extension Table? As we discussed in point 1, you need plenty of workspace to make quilts due to the size of the project. Look for one that has a long arm or extension table to give yourself plenty of room when you're feeding the fabric through the machine.
3. Do the "Feed Dogs" Drop? The "feed dogs" are the metal bars that look a bit like teeth and are situated under the foot which guide the fabric as you sew. To do free motion stitching these feed dogs need to be able to retract into the machine so you can move your fabric freely.
4. Does it have a "Needle Up Down" Function? This function means you can set the machine to leave the needle in or out of the fabric when you stop sewing. Being able to keep the needle in the fabric each time helps prevent it from moving around and means you don't need to sew an extra stitch to make sure the needle is in the fabric.
5. Does it come with the Essential Quilting Feet?
There are 3 feet that you need to have when quilting. These are:
1. ¼" or 6mm foot which has a guide for straight line quilting. This will enable you to achieve perfect ¼ inch seams.
2. A walking foot. Because you're working with several layers of fabric, they can easily slide out of place. The walking foot has feed dogs underneath it meaning that the fabric is gripped by the feed dogs below and above which then moves them along in a smooth and even manner without ruching. This ensures you have even stitching. This is used for straight stitching. If you can find a machine with an "open toe" walking foot, this makes it much easier for you to see what you are sewing. You can find out more about the walking foot by clicking here.
3. A free motion foot (also known as a darning foot). This is essential if you wish to do free motion quilting. It is used with your feed dogs lowered and will help you manoevre the fabric in whichever direction you need. The foot should be made from a clear plastic for maximum visibility while sewing your quilt. Find out about free motion quilting here.
Good lighting. It is important to have good lighting so you can see clearly when sewing.
Larger bobbin size: If you're doing a lot of sewing, the machines with larger bobbins will save you a lot of time.
Automatic thread cutter: This is very useful and a great time-saver. Some will have extended functionality where they secure your stitches as well as cutting the thread.
Needle Threader: This can save a lot of frustration and time.
Knee Lifter: The knee lifter is a lever that you can move with your knee that allows you to lift and lower the presser foot on the sewing machine enabling your to keep your hands on your project while moving it into the correct position.
Monitor/Sensor for Upper or Lower Thread: A useful feature that tells you when your upper or lower thread has broken or run out.
Benefits of Quilting
Good for Wellbeing
Quilting is a fulfilling, enjoyable hobby. It has been shown to have a positive effect on wellbeing, releasing creativity and lifting spirits with the colourful fabrics.
It is a challenging pastime which demands concentration and the opportunity to learn new skills.
It also has a positive outcome, a product you can be truly proud of.
Rather than discarding the remnants of other sewing projects, these smaller pieces of fabric can be used in quilting giving it a "green" and environmentally friendly factor which is a great bonus!
A Unique Product
Each handmade quilt is different. In a world where so many items are made to look the same, using your crafting skills to create something beautiful and unique is a real pleasure and something that can be treasured.
Find the Best Sewing Machine for Quilting
We have explored the features, advantages and disadvantages of several sewing machines that are good for quilting. We have rated each of them, detailed their features and explained the pros and cons of each. This will help you make the right choice should you decide to buy one for your craft. Take a look at our quilting machine reviews.