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By Annabelle Short on 06/12/2019

The Best Sewing Machines for Quilting

The Best Sewing Machines for Quilting

We've put together both a list of features to look for, and a list of the machines that combine them.

If you're an experienced quilter, you probably know that there are a few features you want in your sewing machine that are an absolute must, and a few more that make things a whole lot easier. If you're just getting started with basic projects, on the other hand, you can save a lot of time and trouble by picking a machine that meets your needs. We've put together both a list of features to look for, and a list of the machines that combine them. Check them out!

Must-Have Features

  • Easily swappable feet: Most of your quilting will probably be done using a darning, open toe, or free-motion foot, so when you do need to switch to another foot for a bit, you want to be able to do so quickly and easily.
  • Drop feed function: This one is critical. The feed dogs only drive your fabric in one direction, so unless you're doing straight-line quilting only, you'll need to be able to lower the feed dogs. Alternatively, you can cover the feed dogs with a darning plate, or another type of cover, but this can be bulky and tough to work around, so a drop feed function is ideal.
  • Adjustable foot pressure: There's a considerable size difference between quilting a heavy winter bedspread and a lightweight summer quilt. The pressure from a foot set for a thick quilt won't work well for a thinner quilt, and vice versa. You'll need to be able to adjust it to suit your current project.
  • Easy bobbin access: There's nothing worse than running out of bobbin thread in the middle of quilting! Make sure your machine gives you easy access to swapping in full bobbins when necessary.
  • Large throat space: This is the space to the right of the needle, and if it's not big enough to let your project move easily, it can really mess with your quilting patterns, especially if you're working on elaborate or intricate designs. Go as big as you can, unless you're sure you don't want to work on bigger quilts (and really, who isn't tempted to make that gorgeous, Pinterest-worthy bedspread?).
  • Needle up/down function: Pivoting on your needle is the best way to make sharp, crisp turns in your designs, but if you have to keep hand-cranking the needle into place, it's going to be slow going. With a needle up/down function, you can decide whether your needle automatically stops in the up or down position when you let off the pedal. You can also add a knee-lifter to many machines, which will let you raise your needle without winding it up when your machine is set to an automatic down position.
  • Automatic thread cutter: When you're piecing lots of blocks, you don't want to have to grab your scissors between every tiny seam. An automatic thread cutter will save lots of time and hassle.

Must Have Machines

So now that you know what features you're looking for, what are the sewing machines that best combine them? It depends a little bit on what you're planning to make. Experienced quilters might want all the features they can get, while novices might prefer a simpler machine to practice with. No matter what you're looking for, our research turned up machines to suit your sewing style and abilities. Here are a few of the top sewing machines for quilting!

Juki TL-2000Qi

This one combines almost all of a quilter's dream features. A wide work table paired with extra throat space, a knee lift feature, drop feed function, and more makes it a jam-packed sewing machine. It even has a one-touch foot pedal that lets you control the speed of stitching as well as the automatic cutting feature. Of course, all those features can sometimes make it tricky for beginners to learn to use. It's also not ideal for budget-conscious sewists, but with so many of a quilter's favorite features, it's definitely worth the investment.

Singer Modern Quilter8500Q

Designed specifically for quilting, it's no surprise this is a top option. It comes with an oversized extension table and knee lifter, plus lots of extra stitch options for doing fancy decorative quilting. It's not the least expensive option on the market, but it's also not the priciest, especially for quilt-focused machines. If you want a machine designed to suit your quilting habit, but aren't quite ready to break the bank, it's a great machine to consider.

Brother Sewing and Quilting Machine CS6000i

If you're a quilter with other sewing interests as well, this Brother machine has lots of features you'll love. Sure, it's got the basics, like a big work table, drop feed, and needle down feature, but it also comes with a spring action quilting foot and plenty of options that will come in handy for your non-quilting projects as well. It doesn't quite check all the boxes—for example, it doesn't have a knee lift option—but at this price, it's definitely one of the better options for the budget-conscious.

Singer Heavy Duty 4423

Though not designed specifically for quilting, this machine can be a great choice for sewists. It offers drop feed functionality, so no darning plate required, and its extra sturdy frame minimizes the vibration and wobble that can make it tough to do intricate work on other machines. The throat space isn't as big as quilt-specific machines, so keep in mind that this may not be the best choice for those looking to do a lot of work on large quilts.

Brother XR3774

This is a budget-friendly option that doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but is a solid place to start. There's no drop-feed option, but it does come with a darning plate and quilting foot for doing free-motion quilting, and with an oversized worktable and throat space, it should work for even large quilting projects. Though it's designed to be quilter-friendly, it's not limited to only quilting functionalities. It's also got handy features that are great for all kinds of projects, like automatic buttonholes, and comes with accessories like a narrow hemmer foot, a walking foot, and more.

Brother Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine HC1850

Another budget-friendly Brother machine, this one offers computerized features as well as the basic options that you'll need for your quilting projects. Again, it doesn't have some of the options that more high-end machines offer, including a knee lift option or an automatic thread cutter, and the throat depth is fairly narrow. On the other hand, though, it's got tons of decorative stitch options, so it might be perfect if you want to add some small quilting projects to your other sewing. 

Juki HZL-F600 Computerized Sewing and Quilting Machine

Like many of Juki's machines, this one offers some of the highest-quality features available. This includes both the types of features that come in handy for quilters (like needle up/down, knee lift lever, drop feed, and automatic thread cutter), but also some features that give it other advantages, like a box feed system. This means the feed dogs provide even pressure all the way through each pass instead of easing up as they reach the back of the presser foot. It also has a multi-function foot pedal that lets you control not only stitch speed but also the thread cutting mechanism.

Janome 2212 Sewing Machine

This is a very basic machine, but with Janome's reputation as sturdy, long-lasting machines, it might be just the thing for a novice quilter. It doesn't have the features that make it easy to do lots of quilting at a shot, like drop-in bobbins, automatic thread cutters, or needle up/down functionality, but if you're just getting started and don't want to mess with learning to use lots of features all at once, it's perfect. The drop feed option makes it possible to do free-motion quilting, but you'll need to pick up a free motion foot separately, as this machine only comes with basics like zipper and blind hem feet.

Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing and Embroidery Machine

This machine offers a lot of functionality for the price, from garment sewing to computerized embroidery patterns to, of course, quilting. Its versatility is a bit of a downside in that it doesn't offer some quilting-specific features—like a knee lift option—though it does have most of the things you might want, including needle up/down, automatic thread cutter, a sizeable throat depth, and more. Plus there's all the extra functionality to enjoy, like adding custom monograms and other designs to your quilts and other sewing projects. Of course, all the extra features do cost more than a plain machine, but most of the equipment on the market with this many bells and whistles also has a higher price tag, so if you want all the options it offers, this should definitely be high on your list of machines to consider.

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