What To Look For In A Quilt Machine

by fitzcharming

If you're looking for a quilting machine that is suitable for home use you will find some tips on how to choose your machine here.

It can be confusing to sort through all of the options and every quilter has different needs so I'm going to go over the basics and some of the most requested features. Of course you may have additional requirements but this is a good "get started" list. Do lots of research and read my advice but ultimately choose the quilting machine that you think will meet your requirements and make you a happy quilter.

Determine Your Overall Sewing Machine Needs

Buy The Best Machine You Can Afford

First, I recommend buying the best you can possibly afford. Do your research and if you think there is any possibility you will need a specific feature in the future try to include it on your list. You can expect to have your quilting machine for years to come and you don’t want to go for a great bargain now if it’s not going to have what you need a year from now. You will regret it. Having said that, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best price and the largest number of included accessories. Try to get the most value for the money you spend.

Make Sure The Quilting Machine Feels Right - Try It Out

Second, remember this is a machine that you have to feel comfortable with. Quilting involves many repetitive tasks so make sure the machine feels right for the way you sew; think ergonomics that work for you personally. Also consider how you will be using your machine. Will you be using it for specialty needlework other than quilting? For example making clothes, or adding embroidery to fabrics? Make a list of the features you will need for each type of sewing and take it with you to a dealer to try out some machines. Test out several and narrow down the ones that are the easiest for you to operate. Ask if you can try out light, medium, and heavy weight fabrics. Find out which machines can be serviced locally. Your warranty will likely not last the life of the machine and you will need to know where to have it tuned up and repaired.

Standard Quilting Options In A Sewing Machine

Quilting Area And Free Motion Quilting

If you are a machine quilter you will likely be interested in free motion quilting. This requires the feed dogs to be retractable, so make sure there is a mechanism for lowering them easily. A sewing machine that has a large throat area (the area between the arm and the base) is a must for handling large areas of fabric. I recommend a minimum width of 9″. Also opt for a quilting machine with an extended table that can be attached if you are buying a portable machine. This helps hold a heavy quilt in place so there isn’t a gravity pull on the fabric while you’re sewing.

Portable vs. Permanent Quilting Machine Options

There are a couple of good reasons for choosing a portable machine. First, if you like to take classes at your local quilt shop you’re probably going to want to bring your own machine instead of using an unfamiliar one that the dealer supplies. Second, eventually you may decide to use your quilting machine with a carriage rail frame. There are several home quilting frames that have platforms to house a standard size quilting machine, allowing you to easily quilt the largest sized quilts.

A built in machine has advantages as well. Having a large surface area to spread out your fabric is a big plus if you have the space to accommodate a sewing cabinet. And storage drawers for keeping notions and accessories handy will keep you organized. There are many options for setting up your quilting space so dedicate some time to consider one that suits your needs.

Modern Sewing Machines Have Many Built In Features And Options

Sewing Stitches And Styles
Today’s computerized sewing machines have many different stitching styles. You can find stitches for garment construction, embroidery, appliqué, buttonholes, basting, and lots more. Make sure to test them out before you buy. Try the zig-zag stitch and also stitch backwards and sideways if applicable. If there is an LCD or programmable screen, make sure it’s understandable. Or at least make sure you understand the instructions in the manual. Also find out what each stitch is for and think about whether that’s something you are going to need. Often the more stitches available on the machine, the more expensive it will be. Try to find a happy medium that will work for you.

Here’s a short list of the things that I think are important in a quilting machine. Do your homework though, you may find there are additional things you can’t live without, especially if you will be doing more than quilting.

Automated Sewing Features
* Automatic needle threader
* Push button top and bobbin thread cutter
* Programmable needle stop position
* Auto adjust for heavier fabrics

More Nice Sewing Options
* Thread holder that accommodates cone threads
* Knee and hand levers for presser foot lifting
* Bright sewing light
* Foot controller to control stitching speed
* Metal gears – quilting is hard on a sewing machine and metal parts last much longer than plastic

Presser Foot Wish List
* General purpose foot
* Rolled hem foot
* Zipper foot
* Invisible zipper foot
* ¼” foot for quilt patchwork piecing
* Quilting foot
* Walking foot

Choose The Perfect Quilting Machine For Your Needs

Looking for a computerized sewing machine that is affordable and has many of the advanced features in expensive quilting machines? Consider the Singer 7469Q.
I've been a quilter for many years, always sticking to the tried and true hand quilting methods that I knew best. Until recently that is. Now I'm a machine quilting convert.
Ready to make heirloom quilts on a sewing machine? This Brother quilting machine touts a sewing speed of 1500 stitches per minute, making it one of the fastest on the market.
Updated: 10/05/2014, fitzcharming
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fitzcharming on 10/06/2014

Thanks WriterArtist. I did a lot of research when I bought my sewing machine and decided to share.

WriterArtist on 10/06/2014

Plenty of information for those who love quilting. It is amazing to see how much can be achieved from this small machine.

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