I’ve had a few people ask me if you need a special machine to quilt and the answer is no.
Technically you can quilt with any good quality sewing machine but some machines just make it a little easier because of the features they have. So you may see these sewing machines referred to as quilting sewing machines.
Here are a few things to consider when you shop for a sewing machine for better quilting:
1. Needle up/Needle down – Most sewing machines stop with the needle up and out of the fabric. When you quilt it is actually easier if the needle stops down. Some machines have a specific feature where you can program it to stop down and this is helpful so you won’t have to adjust the needle every time. This will be listed as “programmable needle up / down”
2. Feed Dogs – If you don’t know what feed dogs are then here is a mini lesson because these things are important in all sewing. The feed dogs can be seen on the needle plate and look like metal teeth. They move back and forth in slots in a sewing machine’s needle plate, gently gripping and feeding the fabric to help it pass through the sewing machine.
When you free motion quilt (sewing the top, batting and backing together in a pattern – also known as a quilt sandwich) you need to be able to move the fabric freely under the needle. The feed dogs move the fabric in a single direction, so dropping them or covering them reduces the drag on the quilt.
Keep in mind that not all quilters drop the feed dogs. There are some very experience quilters who say you don’t even need to do it. They just set their stitch length to zero. Experiment for yourself to see what works best for you.
On modern machines there is a switch that lowers the feed dogs, while some older machines have a plate that is used to cover the feed dogs. If you don’t have this feature on your machine or if you find a machine you love but it is not specifically made for quilters then you can also use an index card or playing card to cover the feed dogs.
3. A Variety of Free Motion Feet. Just like you need different tools in your kitchen depending on what you are cooking, you will need a variety of presser feet depending on the quilting design, batting thickness, and the amount of piecing or applique. When shopping for a quilting sewing machine make sure it has options for various quilting feet. Examples are a 1/4 inch foot, which is what typical quilting calls for, a darning or free motion foot for free motion quilting, and a walking foot, which moves the fabric from above in about the same speed as the feed dogs.
6. Easily Changeable Presser Feet. – Speaking of various presser feet that you can use for quilting, you want to be able to change those feet quickly and easily. No one wants to have to pull out a screwdriver every time they want to change presser feet. Many modern machines have snap-on presser feet, which makes changing them a breeze.
7. Larger Work Space. – Many quilting sewing machines will have a larger working area or an extension table to accommodate big projects like quilts.
So these are features that you will typically see on a great quilting sewing machine. Although you can still make quilts without these features, many quilters will advance to a quilting specific machine to make their life easier and to make higher quality quilts.
Great Quilting Sewing Machines Under $600
With that said, let’s take a look at some great quilting sewing machines if you are on a budget.
I want to point out that I have done several articles on my blog about quilting machines and that is for a couple reasons. There are quilting machines that cost over $10,000! But you can easily find a great quilting sewing machine in the $300 to $1,000 range.
Your experience level will dictate what machine you look for. A beginning quilter is probably not going to spend $3,000 on a Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900QCP but an advanced quilter might shop for a dream machine like that.
So I have my quilting reviews organized by budget and brand because I couldn’t review them all in one post. This article will focus on the best quilting sewing machines for beginners or mid-experienced sewers – a seamstress who is looking to upgrade from a home sewing machine and buy something with quilting features and all of these machines are $600 or less.
Here are three awesome sewing machines for quilting, with a more in-depth overview of each as you read on.
The Brother Designio Series DZ2400 is a value packed computerized quilting sewing machine with 185 built in stitches including 55 alphanumeric stitches.
It has all of the convenient quilting features mentioned above- needle up and down, drop feed, snap-on presser feet, and an extension table for a larger work space.
This machine has 12 sewing and quilting feet included so you can get started on sewing and quilting projects right away.
- Zigzag foot (on machine)
- Buttonhole foot
- Zipper foot
- Button sewing foot
- Overcasting foot
- Blind stitch foot
- Monogramming foot
- Quilting foot
- Walking foot with quilt guide
- 1/4 ( piecing ) foot
One thing that stood out to me about the Designio DZ2400, besides all of the automatic features, is that it weighs under 10 lbs. It is very lightweight, which means it is easy to take to sewing classes and if you don’t have a dedicated sewing area, it is easy to put away and take out. It also has a built-in handle so if you need a quilting sewing machine that is easily portable, then this is the one for you.
Owners of this machine praise all of its features, pointing out how quiet it is and are happy with the stitch quality.
Overall this is a great option for a sewing machine with convenient quilting features, especially if you are on a budget. Brother is known for value and this is no exception.
Janome Magnolia 7360 Sewing Machine
The Janome Magnolia 7360 has a pretty flower on the front but don’t let that fool you – this is a powerful machine with dozens of convenient features for sewing and quilting. It is easy enough to use for a newbie seamstress, while it also has enough stitches and features to satisfy an experience quilter. This machines comes with a quilting bonus package that includes a walking foot and a 1/4″ foot.
Quick Buttons and Stitch Selection
There is an easy to read LCD screen on the Magnolia 7360 and a convenient s
titch chart which shows the 60 built-in stitches this machine has. Simply choose by pressing the corresponding on the stitch chart.
Direct select buttons also allow you to change stitch width and length by pressing “plus” or “minus” to adjust.
There are Separate buttons to lock a stitch and sew in reverse, which allow you to create strong and professionally finished seams that won’t fray.
The Janome Magnolia 7360 also has variable speed control so you can speed up and slow down sewing using a speed control slider. Whether you are new to sewing or have years of experience, this convenient feature lets you choose the best sewing pace depending on your skill or the project you are working on.
A couple more handy feature this machine offers is a memorized needle up/down button and a start/stop button. This eliminates the need for a foot pedal (but there is a foot pedal included if you prefer to use it).
Overall Convenient Features:
- Top loading full rotary hook bobbin
- 60 built-in stitches
- 7 one-step buttonholes
- Automatic thread tension control
- One-hand needle threader
- Snap-on presser feet
- Memorized needle up/down
- 7 piece feed dog
- Free arm
- Drop feed
- Start/stop button
- Speed control slider
- Locking stitch button
- Easy reverse button
- Auto-declutch bobbin winder
- Extra high presser foot lift
- Backlit LED screen with easy navigation keys
- Maximum stitch width: 7mm
- Maximum stitch length: 5mm
You’ll get the following presser feet:
- ¼ inch Seam Foot
- Blind Hem foot G
- Buttonhole Foot R (automatic)
- Even Feed Foot (Walking foot)
- Quilting Bar for walking foot
- Satin Stitch Foot F
- Zipper foot E
You will also get a cover / carrying case, which can easily save you $20+ and is a great way to protect your investment.
Owners of this machine praise its simplicity of use and appreciate how light it is, making it convenient to take to and from sewing classes. Also the option to adjust the needle position from left to right makes it convenient to get the exact quarter inch seam allowance.
Overall the Magnolia 7360 is an affordable option if you want a quilting sewing machine but you are on a budget.
Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
Up next is a quilting sewing machine from the trusted Singer brand – The Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist Sewing Machine has a mind-boggling 600 built-in stitches and a myriad of other electronic features like an automatic electronic thread trimmer, extra-large sewing space, and a wide array of presser feet.
This is a phenomenal machine for sewing as well as quilting and the price is very affordable for most budgets. This amount of features, built-in stitches, and the included accessories and presser feet make this an exceptional value. I’ll go over some of the features in this article but I also have a full in-depth review that you can read here.
Singer 9960 LCD Screen and Control Panel
This machine has huge and crystal clear LCD screen, which is referred to as the ‘Digital Information Advisor’.
There are over 2 dozen buttons but it really is simple to use as you get to know it. The owners guide are very helpful in the beginning.
At the touch of a button you can quickly and easily select your desired stitch, length and width, and you will also see a recommended presser foot.
SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist Built-In Stitches
The Singer 9960 has 600 built-in stitches, which may be intimidating for a beginning sewer, but keep in mind that you won’t be using that many stitches on a day-to-day basis. Most people use just a few stitches regularly. This includes me – 90% of the time I use a regular straight stitch :).
But the fact that is has so many stitches and different buttonholes means you will have a stitch for anything you could possibly want to do.
The stitches are printed on a chart in the upper lid of the machine, which you then select using the LCD and touch button controls. Here is a breakdown of the stitches:
- 103 built-in utility sewing stitches
- 13 styles of buttonholes
- 34 decorative sewing stitches
- 90 upper case, lower case, numbers, and characters in 5 different fonts (450 stitches in total)
Presser Feet and Included Accessories
The Singer 9960 has convenient snap-on presser feet, which makes changing presser feet ultra easy. There are 18 presser feet included, which is a big plus because presser feet can cost up to $30 each.
- Adjustable bias binder foot
- Single-welt cording foot
- Braiding foot and guide
- Stitch-in-the-ditch foot
- Fancy-trim foot
- Clear piping foot
- Clearance plate
- All-purpose foot
- Zipper foot
- Button sewing foot
- Satin stitch foot
- Buttonhole foot with underplate
- Open toe foot
- Blind hem foot
- Overcasting foot
- Narrow hem foot
- Cording foot
- 1/4-inch foot
- Darning & embroidery foot
- Even feed foot
You will also get the following accessories: Needles, Bobbins (Class 15), Seam Ripper, Lint Brush, Spool Pin with Felt Washer, Screwdrivers, Spool Caps, Seam Guide, Quilting Bar, Power Cord, Foot Controller, Extra Wide Extension Table instructional DVD, and an operation manual. A hardcover carrying case is included, which is a nice addition that will easily save you $20+.
Overall, the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist is quiet, sturdy, and has many features for all levels of sewing. It is also a very lightweight and compact machine, which makes it easily portable to and from sewing classes or great for someone who keeps their machine in a closet instead of having a dedicated workspace for it.
The Bottom Line
Keep in mind that there are dozens and dozens of quilting sewing machines on the market, in various price ranges. I think the saying that you get what you pay for rings true here as well – You can buy a $300 quilting machine or easily spend over $1,000 so your level of expertise, the type and size of quilts you need to do, and the mandatory features you require are variables to consider.