Review Of Sewing Machines For Quilting
Choosing the best sewing machine for quilting under $500 is never easy. It doesn’t matter whether you are a novice or experienced sewer, you will probably get lost searching and comparing all sewing machines online. But here’s some early advice: Narrow your search: are you looking for a professional machine or amateur? Maybe something in between? There are many top rated sewing machines for quilting out there, and every model has something to offer. Depending on your budget and needs, get informed before purchasing your machine. Compare characteristics and price, quality and endurance. We chose five models and made a comparison to make it easier for you.
Quilting is the art of making quilts. Most quilts are made from 3 layers that are sandwiched together, the two outer layers are a light to medium weight fabric such as cotton or polyester (or a blend) and the center layer is a batting material or filler that is usually also cotton or polyester.
|There are several operations that are done in traditional quiltmaking as follows:|
|Quilting||Sewing through all three layers to secure the layers together. This can be done in straight lines or in a pattern.|
|Edging (or binding)||Terminating the edges of the quilt is usually done by folding the outer layers at the edge and securing them with a straight stitch. Edging is also done by sewing in a strip of bias cut fabric to cover the edges.|
|Piecing||Piecing is when the top or bottom layer is formed by joining many small pieces of fabric of different colors or patterns into squares (blocks). The blocks are then joined to form the layers. Popular block sizes are 9, 10 and 12.|
|Free motion quilting||This is quilting that is done by manually controlling the feed of the fabric through the machine (similar to darning). With free motion quilting many complex and artistic patterns can be made because the fabric can be moved in any direction while sewing. To do free motion quilting the feed dogs of the machine must be disengaged (or covered with a feed dog cover plate) or a special quilting machine with no feed dogs must be used.|
Types Of Quilting Machines
- Straight stitch machines – Most quilters prefer a heavy duty straight stitch machine. Heavy duty straight stitch machines have less play (extra movement) in the needle bar (because there is no zigzag mechanism). This means that these machines are able to tolerate more pull on the needle from the fabric without miss-stitching or causing the needle to hit the needle plate. Sewing over seams and doing free motion work can pull the needle and these machines have a noticeable advantage in maintaining a consistent stitch under these conditions. Some quilters will also have a second machine to do zigzag stitching and decorative stitches.
- Zigzag machines – Beginning quilters and quilters on a budget can use a basic zigzag machine for everything. Actually, you can do most quilting on any type of machine, you just have to go slower and pay attention to make sure that you are not bending the needle.
- Extended harp space – Machines with extended harp space and long beds are preferable for quilting because quilts are large and the extra space means you have more room to maneuver the quilt on the machine.
- Long arm machines and quilting frames – Specialized long arm quilting machines have no feed dogs and are made specifically for free motion quilting use in a quilting frame. A quilting frame is a large table-like rack that holds the quilt and has tracks for a long arm machine to mount on. Instead of the machine sitting stationary and the fabric moving like normal, with a quilting frame, the quilt stays stationary and the long arm sewing machine rolls on the tracks (with wheels) to move around the fabric. Some setups even have handlebars so that the machine can be driven around the fabric like a motorcycle!
- Stitch regulators – A stitch regulator is an electronic device used in free motion quilting to control the machine speed in response to the fabric movement. This allows the operator to freely move the fabric through the machine and the stitch regulator will speed up and slow down the machine as needed to make stitches of the desired length. Not all machines can be used with a stitch regulator. Some quilters prefer to control the machine speed themselves and do not like to use a stitch regulator, but other quilters really like them.
- Industrial machines – Some quilters prefer to use a straight stitch drop-feed industrial machine for quilting. The advantage is that these machines are available in long arm versions for a very reasonable price. If you are interested in using an industrial machine for quilting make sure to get a servo motor that has good low-speed characteristics (see the chapter on Industrial Machines).
- Embroidery machines – Some quilters use embroidery machines to make designs for their quilting squares or top layers (see the chapter on Embroidery machines).
Our Top 5 Quilting Machines
1. Brother PC420PRW
With 294 built-in stitches and a speed of 850 stitches per minute, this sewing machine has speed and quality all in one combination. Brother PC420PRW is easy to use a sewing machine for beginners looking to sew their home décor and clothes and offers both large varieties of stitches for quilting, mending, sewing clothes and button-hole styles for custom clothing. An automatic needle threader, a thread cutter, and a bobbin winder make it is easy to use, although the tension has to be controlled manually.
One of the most striking features that beginners will find very helpful is the electronic variable speed control. The electronic variable speed control allows you to adjust the sewing speed to your preferences and abilities.
It is also the best sewing machine for beginners making clothes which has an LCD computer display with access to all stitch patterns as well as error messages. There is an option to memorize your stitch pattern for future use.
Relatively affordable, Brother PC420PRW sewing and quilting machine is great for larger projects. With removable features, it allows free-arm and sewing in all directions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with the extension table. However, comes with 13 presser feet for organizing your buttons, zippers, etc. Transportation case comes with the machine as well.
Brother PC420PRW has a built-in knee lifter, giving you the possibility to keep your hands free for fabric reposition while raising or lowering the presser foot.
2. Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing Machine
Are you are looking for the best sewing machine for quilting under $500 to fit your creative needs? Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing machine is the deal you need. Your creativity knows no limits with features of Brother SE400. Because 67 built-in stitches (utility, quilting, heirloom, and decorative stitches), 70 built-in embroidery designs, 120 frame pattern combinations and 5 embroidery fonts are just not enough, this machine has a USB port and can be connected to a computer. This way you can just import designs and update your sewing machine.
Sewing machine comes with an LCD touchscreen display on which you can read the manual and see the stitches, patterns, embroidery designs, etc. Brother SE400 offers easy threading and comes with automatic needle threader as well as with Quick-Set drop-in top bobbin and winding the bobbin is very easy. This is the best quilting machine for beginners which is easy and fun to use, and it has unlimited opportunities. It doesn’t come with extension table, but it is the best sewing machine for quilting and embroidery with a large 4″ x 4″embroidery area.
There’s over 2300 reviews on Amazon.com and 4.6 out of 5-star rating for this sewing machine.
3. SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist 600-Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine
SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist 600-Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine has fantastic reviews all thanks to amazing features. It is the best sewing machine for quilters with 600 different stitching patterns and what’s most amazing is the automatic sewing, meaning you just have to choose your stitch and let the machine do the work. It has 13 fully automatic one-step buttonholes. Stitches can even be elongated or mirror-imaged. With bright LCD screen and two LED bulbs, sewing in the night is much easier. Another great feature is sewing without using the foot pedal, which makes this sewing machine suitable for people with leg and arm problems.
With automatic threat cutter, it makes sewing faster and easier, along with top drop-in bobbin system and automatic needle threader.
Although it is the most expensive sewing machine, this machine offers high quality and has great reviews.
There’s over 2000 reviews on Amazon.com and 4.3 out of 5-star rating for this sewing machine.
4. Brother CS6000i Feature-Rich
Great value, small price. This Brother inexpensive sewing machine provides a variety of 60 stitches, and it is perfect for beginners. There is a start/stop sewing buttons, so you don’t have to use foot pedal at all which makes it entirely comfortable for novice sewers. It has a background lit LCD screen. LCD displays error messages and prevents mistakes, saving your project.
Although it has great features, this machine is not suitable for thicker materials (leather, canvas) and is quite light. Made of plastics, Brother CS6000i Feature-Rich Sewing Machine weighs 13 pounds and should be set on a heavier, fixed table, in order not to make noise.
The fact that this is the best cheap sewing machine for beginners comes with an extension table explains why quilters like it and give it good reviews.
There’s over 7000 reviews on Amazon.com and 4.6 out of 5-star rating for this #1 Best Seller sewing machine! It doesn’t get much better than that.
5. Janome 2212 – Best Janome Sewing Machine For Quilting
All you need to get started with sewing. Janome machine has basics and is very easy to use. It has 12 stitches, 1 four-step buttonhole, drop feed, manual tension adjustment and offers free arm sewing. Drop feed is, however, quite inaccessible and is time-consuming when working on a project involving freehand sewing or attaching buttons.
This machine is not for thicker material sewing; it’s more likely for fine fabrics, natural fibers, knits, fur etc. Janome is quite noisy as well, but it doesn’t vibrate while engaged.
It has no LCD screen but is still simple to use with two wheels for stitch length and type. Janome 2212 comes with an amazing 25-year warranty.
Choosing the best sewing machine for quilting under $500: features to look out for
Deciding on which machine to go for is quite a task, given the so many options available in the market.
Nevertheless, here’s what you need to take into consideration:
- Workspace- if you are planning big projects and quilting, you might choose a machine with the extension table.
- Quality and the number of stitches machine has- how many do you actually need?
- For what kind of fabrics machine can be used? Are you planning to do canvas, silk, embroidery? Choose a machine that best suits or works best with your materials.
- Does it have sewing speed control? This specifically important for beginners
- How big is the motor? Bigger is better. The bigger the motor, stronger the machine
- Plastic or metal? Plastic can never be endurable as metal
- Mechanical or Computerized? Computerized machines have more precise stitches and fewer errors
The motor power is related to the strength of the motor. The strength is needed as it provides the machine the ability to sew through different materials. More power allows you sew through thicker materials. All of our chosen sewing machines have satisfying, strong and powerful motors, except for Janine 2212 for which is decidedly for “fine fabrics”, meaning the motor is not as powerful as in other the machines.
Stitching speed varies, and all our listed sewing machines have adjustable sewing speed, except for Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing (700spm). Adjustable sewing speed is very important if you are a beginner, so keep this in mind when choosing your best-rated sewing machines for quilting.
- Brother Project Runway PC420PRW has a very powerful motor UL/CSA: 110 volts has adjustable speed of sewing (max 850 spm)
- Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing Machine is quiet, quick, powerful (motor ability), highly efficient, 110-volt machine. Sewing speed is 700 stitches per minute and embroidery speed of 400spm
- SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist 600-Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine – has a speed control slider, powerful, quiet motor
- Brother CS6000i Feature-Rich Sewing Machine, just like others, has a strong motor for thicker fabrics as well as for fine materials; it also has adjustable sewing speed.
- Janome 2212 Sewing Machine has an adjustable speed (up to 860 spm), 110-volt machine but a weaker motor compared to other sewing machines we listed.
The Looks Compared
Brother Project Runway PC420PRW weighs around 17 lbs. The size of this sewing machine is perfect; not too big neither is too small, and is fairly light. This model has a sophisticated head that is in perfect proportions with the rest of the machine. Brother Project Runway PC420PRW has a modern design with curvy edges. With a small LCD on the right side and buttons under the display it has a neat and well-organized look, although working space is not very wide, the dimensions are 4.1 x 7.4, and it doesn’t come with an extension table. That may mean it’s NOT a quilting sewing machine recommendation or a sewing machine for big projects.
Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing Machine weights around 14lbs and has exactly the same looks. This is one of the best sewing machines under 500 dollars that would make you want to sit down and be creative. It has bigger LCD than Brother Project Runway PC420PRW, and it’s a touchscreen display as well. What makes this machine special is large 4×4 inches embroidery area. A large part on the right side of this machine shows built-in stitches.
SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist 600-Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine boasts of a professional and modern look. This Singer model has an easy-to-Load Top Drop-In Bobbin System with Clear Cover. The bobbin loads from the top making it easy to insert the bobbin, and the clear cover makes sure you can monitor the bobbin thread supply. SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist 600-Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine has extra-large sewing space (comes with an extension table).
Brother CS6000i Feature-Rich Sewing Machine – the anatomy of this sewing machine makes it suitable for quilting as well as for larger project, thanks to the oversized table. The looks may not be so modern, but this machine is great value for the price. The head is a little bit bigger than usual heads of sewing machines, and the white plastics might seem to repel, but inside is a great machine that does a good job.
Janome 2212 Sewing Machine has an anatomy of a basic sewing machine. Non-digital model as it is, Janome 2212 looks simple to use – no LCD, no large number of stitches; just two wheels and basic functions. Although pretty basic, this machine has a metal body built to last.
Cheap Quilting Machines
For quilting on a budget, any basic zigzag machine can be used. If you are buying a new machine get a machine with a vertical oscillating hook and HA-1 type bobbin case. If you want to do free motion work then make sure that the machine you are considering has drop feed dogs or that a feed dog cover plate is available for the machine. There are many models that will work fine, some examples are as follows:
Small Quilting Frames
The above machines have about 7 inches of harp space. You can get small quilting frames for these machines and they are quite inexpensive compared to the big frames, but you will be limited to sewing smaller amounts of fabric at a time because of the limited harp space. If you want to work on larger areas of fabric you will have to get a long arm machine that has more harp space.
For small work and for sewing designs on quilting squares you can also use an embroidery hoop with one of the above machines set up for free motion work (feed dogs disengaged and using a darning or embroidery foot).
Medium Price Machines For Quilting
Additional harp space, high speed, and a thread cutter really are nice features to have for quilting. The following machines have these features and are excellent for quilting. These machines are powerful, fast and very smooth. They have excellent low-speed control and sew through thick materials with ease. They have needle up/down controls, knee lifters, automatic thread cutters and long beds with 8.5-inch harp space. There is a good selection of reasonably priced free motion quilting frames made for these machines.
Industrial Machines Are Sometimes Used for Quilting
The following industrial machines are popular with some quilters. They do not have drop feed capability so they cannot be used for free motion work unless you use a feed dog cover plate or are willing to modify the machine by removing the feed dogs.
The Juki DDL-5550 sells for about $950 on Amazon for the head only. This straight stitch machine is for lightweight to medium weight materials using a size 14 needle and can run at up to 5500 SPM. Uses L-type bobbins. It also has a 11oV industrial clutch motor.
The Brother S-7200B sells for about $1500 on eBay. It is a direct drive electronic machine with drop feed, thread cutter, needle position control, etc. The maximum speed of 5000 SPM.
Best Long Arm Quilting Machines
If you want a long arm machine designed for free motion quilting such as the one from Baby Lock pictured below you should check out one of the specialty long arm quilting machine suppliers. These machines range from about $2500 (on sale) to over $10,000 depending on the model and features. A few brands that are popular in the US are as follows:
- Handi Quilter
- Baby Lock
Most long arm quilting machines function in basically the same way. Some models have features that others do not such as built-in stitch regulation. It is a good idea to go to a dealer that is able to let you test out different models because some models are great for one style of sewing, but may not be so good for another style.
You should not buy an expensive long arm machine and quilting frame before you spend some time free motion quilting on a small machine or using a rental machine to gain experience and to know what features you need. I have seen many expensive long arm quilting machines sitting in houses for years with dust collecting on them because the purchase seemed like a good idea at the time, but the machine did not end up working as originally envisioned. Beautiful freestyle and pattern work can be done with a long arm machine, but there are many top quilters that make patchwork quilts and do not need or use a long arm machine.
Have We Helped?
Your budget and focus are two main things you should define. If you are looking for the best sewing machine for quilting under $500, our recommendation is SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist 600-Stitch Computerized Sewing Machine, if you will focus on embroidery, Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing Machine is the best sewing machine for embroidery and quilting. On the other side, if you are a beginner looking for an affordable machine to learn the craft, choose Janome 2212.