A dedicated, long-arm quilting machine is large, expensive and probably more than you need if you’re quilting as a hobby. Thankfully, the best sewing machine for quilting isn’t necessarily huge or overpriced… you just need to know what to look for!
Unless you’re only planning on quilting pillow cases, you’ll need a sewing machine that’s large enough to handle some bigger items like full size bed quilts. It also needs to have some decent speed and power so you aren’t left stranded halfway through a quilt with stuck, bunched-up fabric and a handful of chaos to undo. The wrong machine will simply take all the fun out of the experience. And isn’t that the whole point… for it to be enjoyable?
I’ve spent hundreds of hours on several different machines, quilting with family and friends as well as on some late night solo missions.
In that time, I’ve learned exactly what you need and what you don’t. We’ll consider:
- Size (Extension Table as well as Throat Space)
- Stitch Speed
- Build Quality
- Value for Money
- Functionality (Available stiches, etc)
- and more
In the article below, I’ll show you the best sewing machines for quilting and general home sewing or clothes, as well as some clever tips and tricks on how to improve your quilting skills. (You can also our other sewing machine reviews here. as well as our best quilting irons.)
Best Sewing Machine for Quilting
1. Best Sewing Machine for Quilting Beginner – Brother CS7000X
The Brother CS7000x is a fantastic quilting sewing machine and includes a reasonably large extension table for quilting.
It’s by far the best option for the price. With it’s computerized functionality and LCD display, even larger quilting work is a breeze.
- Excellent Quality
- Push Button Controls
- 70 Stitches
- Computerized / LCD Screen
- Auto Needle Threader
- 10 Sewing Feet Included
- Pricier but Absolutely Worth It
2. Best Singer Sewing Machine for Free Motion Quilting – Singer Heavy Duty 4423
The very popular Singer Heavy Duty 4423 Sewing Machine, is a great choice thanks to it’s wide range of functions and the extra extension table making quilting a lot easier. It’s extremely good value. Be sure to check out the option that includes the extension table for quilting.
- 23 Built In stitches
- Automatic Needle Threading
- Fast and Powerful
- Sews Thicker Fabric Easily
- Tough Quality
- 4 Presser Feet Included
- 1 Step Button Hole
- Nothing Negative
3. Best Large Throat Sewing Machine for Quilting and Embroidery – Brother SE1900
The Computerized Brother SE1900 Sewing and Embroidery Machine is the absolute perfect choice if you have the budget.
This is primarily for people who intent to use it to make money with their sewing, quilting and embroidery work.
- Massive Design Catalogue
- LCD Touchscreen
- Embroidery Hoop
- 8 Included Feet
- Very Pricey
What Makes a Great Quilting Sewing Machine?
Not all clothes sewing machines are meant for quilting… even if they claim to be. Believe me, I’ve paid the price of trying to quilt on a sewing machine that was either too small or didn’t have the required accessories to make the job easier. In the following section of this article, I’ve made a list of the important things to look out for when choosing a sewing machine for quilting.
By the way, all the machines in this list also make great home sewing machines so you won’t need a second machine just for regular sewing work.
Whether you prefer straight line quilting or free motion quilting (where you can stitch any design into your fabric, kinda like drawing with a pen, which allows for very creative patterns to be stitched into your quilt and provides a very fun and experimental aspect to quilting) consider the following key points:
Large Throat Size
Weather you are pin basting or spray basting you quilt to keep the layers of fabric securely in place, you need a machine with enough throat space to accommodate the large volume of fabric. It must pass through easily without creating too much tension as the fabric folds and wrinkles as as it passes through the “throat”. This will make is easier to avoid misaligned fabric or ridges as you stitch across the entire quilt.
Obviously, dedicated quilting machines have very long arms for just this reason.
A long arm quilting machine will have around 18 inches or more space while mid-arm quilting machines have around 12 to 17 inches. The smaller the throat, the more you’ll have to move around the material while you’re quilting. It’s annoying, but not necessarily a deal breaker.
Sewing Extension “Table”
If you don’t have a sewing table where you machine is sunken into the table surface, a sewing machine extension is a good feature to look out for. It creates a much larger working surface and makes the entire process of sewing much more convenient while helping to avoid accidental pleats in your quilting project. This isn’t a “must” but it is really convenient to have. The only problem is that they can sometimes be quite expensive as an add-on. If the sewing machine has a larger area built in or comes with an additional attachment, you can save quite a bit of money and still have the benefit of space.
These extension tables will often also have a ruler marked on the side which is really helpful for measuring fabric on-the-go and come in clear or opaque versions.
Dropping the Feed Dogs
Feed dogs are the serrated edge metal pieces that protrude out from the throat plate and pull the fabric along while sewing. For quilting thinner pieces you should drop the feed dogs and allow the fabric to glide through using only your hands to push it along. If the sewing machine doesn’t have the ability to drop the feed dogs, you will have a hard time doing simple quilting tasks as well as the more fun ones like free motion quilting.
Thankfully most modern sewing machines have this feature. By the way, this doesn’t mean you won’t use your feed dogs at all. Some people prefer it for a little more stability while sewing.
Walking Foot, also known as an Even-Feed Foot
Remember, the feed dogs are serrated pieces of metal housed inside the throat plate, which drag the fabric along with every stitch. With quilting, when working with thick materials as is the case with rag quilting, the “sandwich” of layers can sometimes be quite thick and this could result in the bottom layer getting pulled along faster than the top layer. Unwanted pleats and misaligned patterns can occur.
A “walking foot” or “even feed foot” solves this problem by using additional feed dogs on top of the fabric pulling it along at the same rate as the bottom feed dogs. Your quilt will be smoother and straighter with much less chance of pleating unnecessarily. Depending on your machine, the thickness of your quilting materials and your personal preference, you’ll soon learn whether it’s best to use a walking foot or drop the feed dogs out completely.
Build Quality and Weight
Older machines usually have much more metal parts and this makes the sewing machines more stable, especially while quilting. The problem with older machines is that they lack many of the convenient features you need for quilting.
That said, it’s this high-quality feel that’s often the first thing you notice about more expensive, modern sewing machines and is definitely a defining feature of the top rated models.
Cheaper modern machines, with their plastic parts tend to shift around while you’re quilting unless you’ve embedded id securely inside a sewing machine table or fastened it down in another way.
I would be on the lookout for a heavier machine with a solid, sturdy feel, so that I can now I’ll be happy with the the overall feel for many years. It also goes hand in hand with quality as metal parts break a lot less frequently than plastic.
Automatic Thread Cutter
A convenient, built-in feature to look for is an Automatic Thread Cutter.
Once you’ve completed your sew on a particular piece of fabric, you can simply click the “cut” button and the thread it cut off right at the fabric. This definitely saves a lot of time but also saves money in the long run because you’re not wasting any thread. It’s not essential but makes sewing and quilting life a lot easier. If the automatic cutter isn’t included, you could also watch out for the manual cutter blade option usually located on the side of the machine.
I’ve hear many a seamstress say that the only stitch they’ll ever need is a straight stitch. For the most part, this is very true, but the unique patterns that the modern sewing machines for quilting can put out, makes it a whole lot more fun.
In some cases, you can even stitch letters into the fabric. Kind of like embroidery on a very basic level. It’s a nice-to-have for quilting little messages or names into your project.
If you’re planning on working into the night, a good light attached to the machine will help you see stitches much more clearly. You will be able to avoid mistakes and make small corrections much easier.
Even in the daytime, depending in the lighting in the room, I’ve often found myself straining my eyes trying to see exactly what I’m sewing after a couple of hours.
Presser Feet Markings
It’s nearly impossible to create a nice straight line along the edge of the fabric without a clear marking on the foot itself.
A great solution is a presser foot with clear 14″ inch marking engraved on it.
This helps you clearly see when you are a quarter inch away from the edge of the fabric and is vital for seam allowance while quilting. I’d say this is essential.
The last attachment or accessory you should consider is whether your sewing machine includes a free motion foot.
It makes it possible to move the fabric around in any pattern you desire, without bring pulled by the machine. It still allows for a light contact just for stability but provides much less pressure on the fabric, for smooth free motion quilting.