When researching sewing machines, there are a lot of factors to consider. Since my specialty is quilting, I’ll give you the deets on what I’ve found to be the best quilting sewing machines.
It’s time. You’ve sewn a couple quilts, become totally addicted (I mean, it’s hard not to), and now realize the old hand-me-down Singer just isn’t cutting it. The tension keeps getting off, the light doesn’t work, and every so often, the bobbin comes unthreaded leaving you oblivious and happily humming along until you pick up your chain piecing only to have it all fall apart.
AHHH! The frustration is there, but what about the money? Quilting ain't cheap - especially if you have a tendency to hoard fabric...which inevitably becomes second nature to all quilters. Below is a list of great quilting sewing machines for every type of budget.
Before jumping in, I do have one stand-alone piece of advice: test drive. Go to a few different dealers and jump onto a few different machines. Each brand has its own quirks and before assuming that “I’m get’n a Singer cause I’ve always had a Singer.” Each machine will have a different feel, a different sound, even a different stitch. This machine is going to become an extension of you, so make sure that it FEELS right.
I would also remind you that a lot has changed in the sewing machine world over the past 5-10 years. And since you will be servicing your machine every couple years like a good little quilter, you want to be fairly close to your sewing machine dealer.
ahum. Now to the list. (And note, that prices may vary based on your dealer and as new machines are released)
- Singer 8500Q, $650: This is the least expensive machine on this list, but don’t let that deter you from reading more about it. The extra large sewing space and extension table measures 22” x 14”. Few other more expensive machines can compare to that! A few more features include: 215 built-in stitches, knee lifter (that means that you can lift your foot with your knee, rather than reaching around the side of your machine) and an automatic needle threader.
Husqvarna Viking Opal 650, $700: This computerized sewing machine has all of the bells and whistles a quilter needs, without a ton of extra features to drive up the price. The generous 8” sewing surface and long arm makes it a breeze for machine quilting larger quilts. This machine also won the “Best Buy” award by Consumers Digest.
Brother PC660LA Laura Ashley Sewing Machine, $700: This machine is making the list for a few key reasons - you can buy it at Joann Fabrics (which means no matter where you live, you’re never very far from a Joann Fabrics), it comes with a wide table and extra quilting accessories, 138 different stitches, free-motion stitching and an easy-to-view back-lit LCD screen display.
Pfaff Passport 2.0, $700: Don’t let the small size of this machine fool you - it’s got a lot of features. With 70 different built-in stitches, an automatic needle threader and an option for free motion quilting, this is a great machine for a newbie.
Juki HZL-F400, $900: For the price of this machine, it really does have it all! It has a built-in knee lifting lever, free-motion sewing AND an automatic thread cutter. Another cool feature about Juki is that the tension system handles invisible thread so well, you're hand-look quilt stitches look perfect every time.
- Janome 3160QDC, $1,000: This is a full-featured machine made with a quilter’s needs in mind - 60 built-in stitches, a one handed needle threader and needle up/down. Weighing in at only 12lb., this pint-sized machine is a bona fide quilting Mighty Mouse!
- Juki HZL-F600, $1,200: This machine has a large LCD display with easy pattern selection. With a wide 8” sewing surface and 255 different stitches, you’ll easily be able to crank out quilts at an alarming rate. Some other features include an automatic needle threader, an extra high foot lift and a built-in knee lift. This is a sturdy machine that gets great reviews from its owners.
- Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0, $1,400: This machine’s high resolution touch screen and large 8” sewing surface can really get you excited to quilt the night away. You also get features like: 201 built-in stitches, automatic thread tie-off, free-motion sewing and a bobbin sensor (that means NO MORE oblivious sewing of non-existent stitches!).
- Janome Skyline S5, $1,500: This computerized machine has top of the line features at a mid-level price. It has 170 built-in stitches, an advanced start/stop button AND an automatic thread cutter (one of the best features a quilter can ask for).
- BERNINA 330, $1,500: If you talk to any quilter off the street, they will usually have a strong opinion about which brand of sewing machine is best, BUT, be warned, that if you buy into the BERNINA family, you are buying into it for life. My BERNINA friends won’t even consider a different brand. Would I use the word cult? maybe 😉 OK, but now to the features: a color LCD touch screen, 97 different stitches, a built-in needle threader, the ability to wind a bobbin while sewing (pretty cool) and a lifelong bond with every other BERNINA owner.
- Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2, $2,600: Aside from the beautiful design of this machine, it's also the cream of the crop when it comes to features. Basically, dream up any feature you would want, and YES, this machine has that. Some of them are: an extra large sewing surface, automatic thread cutter, 47 different quilt stitches with over 200 other decorative stitches, electronic knee-lift and a PFAFF exclusive - Integrated Dual Feed (absolutely even fabric feed from both the top and the bottom).
- Brother Laura Ashley Innov-is NX-2000, $2,800: In addition to winning the “Best Buy” Consumers Digest award, this machine has 1,000 spm (stitches per minute) forward, reverse and side to side. Some other features include a built-in needle threader, automatic thread cutter, 460 different stitches and a wide 8.25” sewing surface to the right of the needle.
- Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q, $2,800: This machine is pretty much the FUBU for quilters. On top of the color touchscreen, free-motion sewing can be done with any stitch! There are over 300 stitches, side-motion sewing, an automatic thread cutter, built-in needle threader and the Exclusive Sensor System automatically and continuously senses any thickness of fabric for perfect fabric feed.
- Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900QCP, $3,200: If you are a serious enough quilter, and want a strong, sturdy and long-necked machine, I encourage you to look into some of the older used models too. Dealers of all brands usually have some refurbished machines you can test drive. Now for the bells and whistles, and ooohhh are there a lot: a high resolution LCD touchscreen, 270 different stitches, a locking stitch button, automatic thread cutter, 1,000 spm sewing speed and an extra long 11” sewing surface.
- BERNINA 770 Quilters Edition, $6,000: This sewing MONSTER has all of bells and whistles your quilty brain can imagine, so I’m just going to skip over that and get to the really exciting part. If you are a dedicated free-motion quilter, this is the machine for you. A special stitch-regulating foot provides high-speed free-motion stitching assistance with both straight and zigzag sewing speeds. So say goodby to janky stitches and crazy tension problems!
I hope this list helps in your search for the perfect sewing machine. If you have any questions OR reviews on any of the machines mentioned, feel free to leave a comment or email me.
If you have really specific questions, please reach out to your local sewing machine dealers. Just remember that they want to sell you THEIR machines, so call a couple different peeps before settling in on one brand. Quilting sewing machines are not a one size fits all type of thing. If you sit down at a $700 machine and feel good, that’s great! And if you sit down at the Bernina 710 and realize that it’s the love of your life, well, start saving your pennies! 😉