8 of the best free motion quilting machines 2023
Looking to start free motion quilting? You need a machine! Here’s eight of the best sewing machines for free motion quilting.
Here at Gathered we absolutely love free motion quilting. It’s a beautiful form of quilting and uses just a few essential pieces of equipment.
Arguably the most important of these is a sewing machine! We’ve collected the best free motion quilting machines on the market to help you find your perfect one.
First, let’s answer the most commonly asked question surrounding free motion quilting. Can any sewing machine be used for free motion quilting?
Can any sewing machine be used for free motion quilting?
Good news: you don’t need a specialist quilting machine to do free motion quilting. You can use the technique on most domestic sewing machines.
For a complete step-by-step tutorial on using your sewing machine for free motion quilting, head over to our how to do free motion quilting. You can also check out our complete guide to free motion quilting which is packed with tips, tricks, and useful information to help you explore free motion quilting.
However, if you’re looking to buy a new machine we’re here to help. Here’s some tips to keep in mind when searching for a free motion quilting machine.
First, keep an eye out for features that make quilt-making easier. Most machines (though not all cheaper ones) give you the option to lower the feed dogs.
It’s also helpful if sewing machines come with a free motion quilting or darning foot, and extendable or large surfaces for you to rest the quilt on as you sew.
Most sewing machine companies offer models designed especially for quilters. These should include everything you need for free motion quilting and more.
Here are a couple of our favourites…
8 of the best sewing machine for free motion quilting
1. The Brother FS100WT free motion embroidery and quilting machine
Best for price
Most free motion quilting machines come with a hefty price tag, but not the Brother FS100WT. This nifty machine is one of the most affordable quilting machines on the market but still impressive.
It comes with essential drop feeds for free motion quilting as well as speed control. The quick touch stitch selection and length/width adjustment make it easy for you to quilt projects of all sizes, shapes and styles. There’s also a wide table to spread your quilt out onto while you sew.
Plus it comes with a transparent free motion embroidery foot which you can use for quilting too. If you want something budget-friendly but reliable, this is the machine for you!
Pros: Affordable pricing, drop feed for free motion quilting, speed control, quick touch stitch selection, adjustable length/width, includes a transparent free motion embroidery foot for quilting.
Cons: Smaller throat space and not as large table as other machines listed, smaller LCD display.
Latest deals from trusted retailers
2. The Janome 5120QDC free motion quilting machine
Best for ease of use
The Janome 5120QDC pro quilting machine is a joy to use. It’s lightweight yet solid and it’s also quiet, so you’ll be able to quilt in peace.
It comes with a drop feed for free motion quilting and a jam-proof top-loading bobbin system plus lots more handy features, including an automatic needle threader and thread cutter button.
The speed control feature is great for quilters as you can go slowly over delicate fabrics or tricky areas.
We also love the extension table, which will hold your larger quilt projects comfortably. It comes with a range of accessories and a hard cover to protect your machine.
Pros: Lightweight and solid, quiet operation, drop feed for free motion quilting, jam-proof top-loading bobbin system, speed control, extension table for larger quilt projects, comes with a protective hard cover.
Searching for a different sewing machine?
For more machine ideas, see our full guide to the best sewing machines for quilting.
3. The Janome MC6650 free motion quilting machine
Best range of features
This computerised sewing machine is a brilliant piece of technology and is perfect for free motion quilting. The Janome MC6650 is known as a large throat sewing machine, meaning it has a wider frame and is typically more stable.
The Janome MC6650 has a 10″ throat space meaning there’s enough room to stitch large quilts easily. It also has a memorised needle up and down function, a superior needle threader and an automatic thread cutter. All helping you to create precise and neat stitches.
It’s on the pricier side of the machines in this round-up but comes with an impressive range of features. It has 70 built-in stitches, six one-step buttonholes, 12 accessory feet included… to name just a few!
The MC6650 is currently unavailable in the UK, but try the Janome 6700 for a very similar machine with 30 more stitches!
Pros: Ideal for free motion quilting, large 10" throat space, memorized needle up and down function, superior needle threader, automatic thread cutter, extensive feature set.
Cons: May be overwhelming for beginners, relatively expensive.
4. The Juki HZL-F400 free motion quilting machine
Best for beginners
This little free motion quilting machine is ideal for beginners, as it comes with everything you need. It includes a variety of quilting feet, extra needles, foot peddle and much more. There’s also a handy instruction manual teaching you how to use both the machine and accessories.
More like this
This machine has an 8” throat space making it suitable for larger quilt projects. There’s also 106 stitches and 16 buttonholes to choose from. The Juki HZL-F400 can stitch 900 stitches per minute too – impressive for such a small machine!
We also love how compact and lightweight this machine is. Weighing only 21.6 pounds, it’s perfect for quilting on the go and for beginners.
Pros: Ideal for beginners with included quilting accessories and instructional manual, 8" throat space, fast stitching speed, compact and lightweight design, perfect for portability and beginners.
Cons: May lack advanced features required by more experienced quilters, smaller size might limit the scope of quilting projects compared to larger machines.
5. The Brother HC1850 free motion quilting machine
Best for versatility
The Brother HC1850 sewing machine was designed with both quilters and sewing enthusiasts in mind. It’s ideal for dressmaking, quilting, and free motion quilting.
It has 185 built-in stitches, 170 stitch functions and a built-in monogramming sewing font. We also love the large LCD display and LED-lit area which make quilting a dream.
It includes a free motion quilting foot and an extension table both specifically designed with free motion quilting in mind. It’s both intuitive and user-friendly, so it's a great option for all types of quilters.
The Brother HC1850 is currently unavailable in the UK, but try the Brother FS100WT for a similar all-rounder option!
Pros: Versatile for both quilters and sewing enthusiasts, extensive stitch options with a monogramming font, large LCD display and LED-lit workspace, includes free motion quilting foot and extension table.
Cons: Not as specialised as dedicated quilting machines, may lack advanced features for professional quilters, limited workspace for larger quilting projects.
6. The Janome Horizon 8200 QCP free motion quilting machine
Best for large quilt projects
The Janome Horizon 8200 QCP is a sturdy, structured machine that’s perfect for sewing large quilts. This machine has an arm space of 11" and 11” throat space, making it the largest machine in our round-up.
It has a 1,000 spm sewing speed and 170 built in stitches up to 9mm wide. This machine has a range of features that make it brilliant for free motion quilting. The needle down button, speed adjust, thread cutter and knee lift all result in a smooth free motion quilting experience.
This computerised free motion quilting machine is on the more expensive side of the market. It’s also hefty which makes it great for quilting big projects but hard for beginners. We’d recommend this machine to experienced quilters who are looking to upgrade from basic to professional.
If you make a mistake while using your free motion quilting machine don't worry. You can use a seam ripper to unpick your work! Head over to our collection of the best seam rippers to find one.
Pros: Exceptionally large arm and throat space, high sewing speed and range of built-in stitches, features tailored for free motion quilting, such as needle down, speed adjustment, thread cutter, and knee lift.
Cons: Relatively higher price point, substantial size and features might be overwhelming for beginners, best suited for experienced quilters seeking an upgrade to a professional-grade machine.
7. Brother Innov-Is NV1800Q computerised sewing machine
The Brother Innov-Is NV1800Q computerised sewing machine, complete with the Quilting Extension Table WT12, is a fantastic choice for quilters looking to elevate their free motion quilting projects. With its spacious throat area and variable speed control, it offers the ideal canvas for creative quilting.
Pros: Ample throat space, variable speed control, quilting extension table WT12 included.
Cons: Relatively more expensive than basic sewing machines, beginners may find its features a bit overwhelming at first.
8. Qnique long arm quilting machine 15R
Elevate your quilting projects with the Q'nique 15R long arm quilting machine. Boasting a 15-inch throat space and a blazing 1,800 stitches per minute, it's designed for larger patterns and speedy quilt completion.
Fine-tuned controls, a variety of stitching modes, and easy access to settings make it perfect for free motion quilting. Backed by a 5-year warranty from The Grace Company, it's an excellent choice for advanced quilters seeking precision and durability.
Pros: 15-inch throat space, comfort grip handles, stitch regulation, quick-access buttons, up to 1,800 stitches per minute, four stitching modes, 5-year warranty.
Cons: Expensive, bulky, specialised machine not suitable for beginners.
What is the difference between quilting and free motion quilting?
Quilting typically involves using a walking foot for precise, even stitches, while free motion quilting uses a darning foot without feed dogs to allow freeform, hand-guided stitching.
What do I need for free motion quilting?
You'll need a sewing machine that has the ability to drop or cover the feed dogs, which are the teeth-like mechanisms that move the fabric forward. This feature allows you to move the fabric freely in any direction.
A darning or free motion quilting foot is crucial for this technique. This foot hovers just above the fabric, allowing you to control the movement while stitching. A walking foot is beneficial for regular quilting where you need layers to move together smoothly. For free motion quilting, the walking foot is not used, as it restricts fabric movement; instead, a darning or free motion quilting foot is employed to allow freeform stitching.
Use quilting-specific needles, typically size 75/11 or 90/14. These needles are designed for multiple layers of fabric and batting used in quilting projects.
Choose a high-quality quilting thread that matches or complements your fabric. Most quilters prefer 100% cotton or polyester thread.
Some quilters find it helpful to wear special quilting gloves with grip on the fingertips to help control the fabric as they move it under the needle.
An extension table or quilting table can provide additional workspace around your sewing machine, making it easier to manage the quilt's bulk.
Is free motion quilting hard?
Compared to regular quilting, dressmaking, and many other sewing projects, free motion quilting can be more challenging for beginners because it requires manual control of fabric and stitching, whereas the others often involve more straightforward machine-guided sewing.
However, like any sewing skill, it becomes easier with practice - and the results are all the more rewarding for the effort!
Start your quilting journey with these free motion quilting machines
Finding the best sewing machine for free motion quilting can be tricky but we hope our round-up has helped you narrow down the search.
Just remember to choose a sewing machine that allows you to lower the feed dogs. If it comes with a free motion quilting foot that’s also a bonus!
Once you’ve found the best free motion quilting machine for you all that’s left to do is find an inspirational pattern.
Discover the world of free motion quilting with Gathered
Now you have a new machine (or are primed and ready with your current one) you need something to stitch!
Head over to our collection of free motion quilting patterns to discover a range of beautiful free designs.
Phoebe has worked for Gathered, and our sister magazine Mollie Makes, for 3 years. She manages our Arts & Crafts section and specialises in social media and content strategy. She has a background in all things marketing, a flair for Pinterest and a knack for finding the next big craft trend. Previously she worked as Digital Campaign Executive for Fat Media. You may recognise her name from Mollie Makes Social Media magazine, where she shared her expertise and top tips on becoming social media savvy.
The Perfect Gift from just £22.49 - subscribe to any craft magazine today and Save up to 52%!