Forget the fabric, a sewing machine is undeniably a quilter’s most important bit of kit. When many of us first start out on our quilt-making adventure, we still have a lot to learn about how to use our domestic sewing machines for quilting. Tension settings, thread options, bobbin-thread choices, how to feed a queen-size quilt through your machine’s workspace… we pick up a lot of these things up as we go but we’re sharing this article to help you if you’re reading and still feel you have a bit to learn to get the best results for your handmade quilts.
We’ll talk you through the best sewing machines for quilting, talk you how to choose a sewing machine for quilting and share our top tips for what to consider. We’ve combined our know-how with our favourite sewing machines for quilting to highlight everything you need to look for when investing in a sewing machine. From stitches to speed control, feed dogs to walking feet, we’ve got you covered.
If you’re in the mood for a spot of sewing machine shopping, but the machines in this round-up are a little too specialised, you might also like our guide to the best sewing machines for beginners, plus don’t forget to check out our 30 machine quilting tips. For a spot more quilty shopping, we’ve also got 18 easy quilt kits for beginners to tempt you!
How to choose a sewing machine for quilting
So what should you be looking for? First things first, if you want the best sewing machine for quilting – what sort of quilting? Whether you’re planning queen-sized masterpieces or marvellous mini quilts, having a think about your quilting style will help you find the right tech for your sewing room.Start by considering your sewing habits. If you like to attend classes, quilting guilds or sewing retreats, you’ll thank yourself for finding a lightweight and portable machine that you can pack up and carry around. For those who intend to sit and sew in an allocated space, a more sturdy, heavyweight machine will suit your needs better.
For basic quilt making, all you need is a quarter inch foot, a quilting foot and a walking foot. Look for a sewing machine where you can lower the feed dogs, to give you ultimate scope for free-motion quilting fun. A top-loading, drop-in bobbin is also handy, so you can see how much thread you’ve got left and don’t have to play ‘beat the bobbin’ too often!
What’s even more important for us quilters is space. Look at the throat width of a machine – will it be a tight squeeze to stitch a queen-size quilt in the space available? Consider the workspace size – does it have the option to add an extension table to help hold the weight of your quilt? The easier your machine can make your life the better!
Alternatively, it may be your quilting has got to the stage where you are regularly grappling with forcing large quilt projects through the limited workspace on your machine – and your quilting style is quite technical and detailed. If you are making a high volume of quilts or are looking to make more professional projects, perhaps it’s time to consider a longarm sewing machine.
Asking yourself these questions will help you decide how to choose a sewing machine for quilting that helps you take your quilt-making up to the next level.
Best sewing machines for quilting 2020
- Brother Innov-is A80
- Brother FS130QC
- Janome 4120QWDC
- Brother Innov-is NV1100
- Pfaff Quilt Ambition 630
- Brother Innov-is NV1800Q
- Bernette by Bernina B77 Sewing and Quilting machine
- Brother Innov-is VQ2
8 of the best sewing machines for quilting
Brother Innov-is A80
- Buy it now: Amazon (£239)
- Best for: Sociable, beginner sewists.
Sociable quilting calls for a portable machine – look no further than the Innov-is A80. Both incredibly lightweight and available with its own hard case, this sewing machine is just the thing to pop in the car and take to a friend’s home. The clear LCD screen provides all the information you could need and makes it an incredibly easy-use model to learn and develop your skills.
- Buy it now: John Lewis – £325.00
- Best for: Those keen to learn and hone their craft.
If you’ve recently started on your quilting journey and want something budget-friendly yet long-lasting, try the Brother FSC130QC. With drop feeds, free arm sewing and a large extension table, experimenting with free-motion quilting is certainly on the cards. It’s a truly versatile machine that will see you through any project, from start to finish.
- Buy it now: Amazon ($699)
- Best for: range of accessories
We love a machine that has a lot of different options to play around with, and with 120 stitches and a built-in alphabet, the Janome 4120QWCC is more than worthy of it’s place in this round up of the best sewing machines for quilting. You’ll also get all the extra comforts you’d expect for this price – including automatic needle threader (words we all love to hear), thread cutter button, easy-to-use LCD control panel and a jam-proof top-loading bobbin system (it automatically brings the bobbin thread up or you to save you a job). The best bit is the variety of extras that come with it – from the hard cover and extension table to extra feet for different stitches.
Brother Innov-is VQ2
- Buy it now: Amazon (£1999)
- Best for: Ambitious and confident quilters.
This machine is a big investment but perfect for those who want to achieve impressive quilting designs and make bigger-scale quilts from home. The extra-long 11¼in arm and pivot function of Brother’s Innov-is VQ2 give freedom to move your quilt around easily as you stitch, while the Continuous Automatic Pressure System helps to keep your stitches consistent for a professional finish. There’s even a range of distinctive stitches available, designed specifically for quilters! All your quilts will look like they’ve been given the special long-arm treatment.
Pfaff Quilt Ambition 630
- Buy it now: Frank Nutt (£899)
- Best for: Handling different fabric types
Enjoy a whole host of the latest sewing tech features with this nifty bit of quilting kit. It comes with a colour touch screen and a large sewing space – 200mm (7.87in) to the right of the needle, for large quilt projects. Play around with an impressive 201 stitches including buttonholes, plus enjoy two built-in sewing fonts (both upper and lower case), for easy programming. You can opt to use the start-stop button to sew without the foot control – making sewing long seams, free motion and buttonholes much easier, and adjust the speed control to control your sewing when you’re grappling with intricate work. It comes with eight snap-on accessory feet for a vareity of sewing techniques. It’s Integrated Dual Feed feeds all types of fabric from the top and bottom for perfect stitching every time.
Brother Innov-is NV1100
- Buy it now: Frank Nutt (£749)
- Best for: Hobby quilters of any ability.
For those looking for a reliable option that’ll see you through from beginner to pro, the Innov-is 1100 is the ideal machine. The advanced needle threader, automatic thread cutter and knee lift feature take the fiddly work out of the picture, while the accompanying hard case makes it easy to take on-the-go to quilting lessons and retreats. The Square Feed Drive System (SFDS) helps to ensure your fabrics feed through the machine smoothly and easily, for superior stitch quality with even the shakiest of starters. Plus, the sliding speed control lets you go at your own pace, no matter how slow!
- Buy it now: Head to Ebay for a variety of options
- Best for: Intermediate sewists.
If you’re looking for something a little more advanced, treat yourself to the Innov-is 1800Q. Both piecing and quilting are made easy – the machine is designed with an 8.3in workspace to the right of the needle, giving ample space for your quilting projects. For more surface area add the wide table accessory, included with the machine, to hold the weight of your heftier projects. Fully automatic thread tension takes the guesswork out of the picture for you, and ensures the stitching is neat and easy on both your patchwork and quilt sandwiches. Plus, all the quilting feet you could ever need are included!
Bernette by Bernina B77 Sewing and Quilting machine
- Buy it now (Singer Outlet, £1,199)
- Best for: space – this is a large throat sewing machine for quilting
The B77 focuses exclusively is a great choice if you’re looking for a sewing machine for quilting – this easy-to-use computerized machine will make light work of sewing through several quilt several layers with an impressive stitch quality. Features include a 5-inch color touchscreen, dual feed for fast, even fabric feeding, programmable foot control with back-kick function, semi-automatic needle threader, 500 stitches including 17 different buttonholes, 8 presser foot soles and a large extension table included. It’s a handy machine for winter quilting as it comes with four bright LEDs to light up the spacious sewing area (enjoy 230 mm of space right of the needle). The slide-on free arm extension table gives you extra space and comfort for large sewing or quilting projects.