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A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing Machines for Quilting

Sewing Machines for Quilters

Today we are going to talk about sewing machines.  There are SO many!  When starting out it’s easy to be overwhelmed with all your options. There’s also no right or wrong options, there’s only finding the one that works best FOR YOU!

If you are unsure if making quilts is going to be something you stick with, you may want to go a little cheaper in this department.  If you could borrow a sewing machine or find a used one you could definitely test the waters before shelling out a few hundred dollars.

I feel like the sewing machine is empowering.  Whatever you want, pillows, dresses, Halloween costume, curtains, quilts, you can make all that EXACTLY the way you want it with a sewing machine.  So naturally, I feel like you will want your own, but only you can really decide that.

I have owned a parade of sewing machines from the very cheap to the pricier ones.  When you are first starting out, it may be smart to stick with something more basic, to test the waters…

I have purchased at least five machines from Sewing Machines Plus.

You can make a quilt on ANY sewing machine, but you will find out that some sewing machines will make the process easier than others.  Some are even specially made for quilters, and if you are a quilter and the majority of your projects will be quilting to related, you WANT a machine that’s tailored to this hobby!

I’m currently using a Juki 2000Qi for all of my piecing and a Bernina Q20 for all of my quilting.



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What do you NEED

There are sewing machines that are made to be used for different purposes.  The majority of sewing machines are capable of doing everything you need a sewing machine to do, but some are created with a focus in mind.  Some are geared more to garment sewers, some to embroidery, and some are made especially for the quilter in mind.

You can literally make a quilt on almost any sewing machine.  The difference is some will frustrate you until you pull out your hair and some will make things smooth.

If you decide to purchase a machine and your focus is quilting find a machine that has the following:

  • Quarter inch foot.  Sometimes called a patchwork foot.  This is not a necessity, but it makes sewing a 1/4″ seam (which you will do consistently) a breeze.  There will be lines on a machine that you can use as a guide if your machine doesn’t come with one, so again not a deal breaker if you are new to quilting.
  • Feed dogs that drop.  This will enable you to free motion quilt.  If you purchase a machine that doesn’t have this capability, you will still be able to sew a quilt top, but you won’t be able to quilt your quilt.
  • A darning foot.  This will also allow you to free motion quilt.  This is the foot you put on your machine when you drop your feed dogs and want to quilt on your quilt.
  • A walking foot.  This is the best tool for straight line quilting and having even fabric feeding for complicated fabric and binding.  I rarely straight line quilt, preferring free motion quilting, so I don’t use this foot much, but still I doubt I’d purchase a machine that didn’t offer it.


Machine’s I’ve Used

When I first bought my machine I was into making pillows.  I didn’t make quilts, so I just bought a low price machine.  I still don’t think that’s a bad plan.  You’ll find my very first machine here.  It’s a little bitty thing and I still have it.  I bring it out when my niece comes to visit me and wants to sew something.  It’s gentle, slow and shakes if you press the foot pedal all the way down.

Still I learned to piece on it and for the money you can’t beat that.  I very quickly outgrew this machine.  Pretty much as soon as I started quilting.  It does do all the things you need the machine to do.  Even the feed dogs drop, but it didn’t come with any of the specialty feet.  I fell in love with sewing on it, so it has a special place for me.

I would eventually graduate to this machine.  I’m not going to tell you that I loved this machine.  It’s brutally basic, but it didn’t have the shakes like the one before it.  I could even quilt my quilt on it, but it didn’t have the feet I needed, so when I dropped my feed dogs it was a bit dangerous.  I made it work.

After about six years of quilting, I was so over not having a machine that was made especially for me.  I went to a local Bernina dealer and shelled out a ridiculous amount of money for a machine that I would ended up thinking was my very best friend.  I bought a Bernina 550 Quilter’s Edition.  This model is no longer available, but here is one that is very close to it. I never regretted this purchase and I still prefer Bernina’s for quilting.

But my very favorite machine is my Juki 2000qi, also made for a quilter and with a manageable price tag.  You might be wondering why I bought this machine when I had the Bernina.  Well, I needed a backup for when my machine was being serviced, so I bought the Juki intending to use it as a backup.  I now use it exclusively for all of my piecing and for binding my quilt in the end.  I actually have two of these machines just in case one is in the shop. Piecing on this thing is a DREAM. It’s extremely fast and smooth.  It is a manual machine and has mostly basic features, but there are a few gems that it does better than the rest.  You can read my review of this one here. I can’t see me ever giving up a Juki for piecing, in my opinion it’s the best at this task.

If you have questions about sewing machines, don’t hesitate to reach out or leave a comment below. I know just how overwhelming it is to purchase one of these lovelies.



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3 Comments

  1. I believe this is the machine I ended up with — I love Juki — I loved Pfaff for years and still do and have one… but the speed and reliability of the Juki is marvelous. I have never been able to figure out the needle threader, however. The very best needle threader, in my opinion, is on the Brother machines! They really have it figured out!

  2. I found your recommendation helpful when you told us to get a sewing machine with a patchwork foot since this helps make sewing 1/4″ seams for quilting much easier. I’m thinking of making quilts this winter, so I need to buy a sewing machine for it soon. I’ll be sure to consider what you said while I look for sewing machine service manuals to read before I buy a machine.

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