Must Have Features
Drop Feed Dog lever is what converts modern sewing machines into free motion quilting mode. So make sure that the sewing machine you buy, has this feature. Otherwise, you will be throwing it out of the window.
What’s under the hood matters a lot, more so in the case of quilting. A powerful motor that is capable of delivering a high number of stitches and capable of working flawlessly for an extended period is an absolute must for free motion quilting.
High sewing speeds work the best for free motion quilting. In U.S you can get two types of sewing machines, machines that can deliver around 750 – 850 stitches per minute and others that can deliver 1000 or more stitches per minute.
Most home sewing machines can deliver around 750-850 stitches/min. This will be enough in most cases, but if you are a perfectionist, you can go for 1000 stitches/min machines as they can provide that finishing touch which gives a professional finish to the quilts. Some of the best machines in the category are listed at the end of this article.
Variable Speed Control:
The ability to control the sewing speed might not sound much, but it makes a difference for sure. While you may need maximum sewing speed for free motion quilting, lower speeds work the best for piecing.
A sewing machine capable of delivering perfect straight stitches is a dream of a quilter. I have seen some affordable sewing machines deliver better straight stitches than industrial machines.
So you need to be picky. Zig Zag and Blind Hemstitches are also essential for doing machine applique. If you are a crazy quilter like me, you may also need a lot of decorative stitches. Modern sewing machines are never short on decorative stitches.
Programmable Needle Up/Down:
Must have feature for quilters. This feature gives you an extra hand. By pushing the button, you can choose the machine to stop with the needle in the up/down position. Stopping the needle in down position holds the fabric for you and the up position is handy while removing the fabric.
This is the space to the right of the needle. The machine with larger throat is always the best for free motion quilting.
This allows you to raise or lower the presser foot with your knee, you don’t need to use your hand in that case. You can raise or lower the presser foot in one single motion without taking your hands off the quilt.
1. Singer 9960
- Maximum Speed Control
- 600 built-in stitches
- Needle up/down
- Sewing light
- Automatic thread cutter
- Extension table
This is the best-advanced sewing machine. It has the maximum number of features that you can expect in this price category.
It is a mouth-watering deal for a crazy quilter like me, especially when you consider the variety of stitches on board. The straight stitches are as perfect as you can get on any industrial sewing machine.
A big reason why it is on our list of “Machines You Can Buy With Your Eyes Shut”.
the Old batch of 9960 had some bobbin jamming issues, but Singer has fixed it with an upgrade. It has been a flawless machine ever since.
2. Brother XR9500PRW
- 850 stitches/minute sewing speed
- Variable speed control
- 100 built-in stitches
- Quilting table included
Cons: The automatic needle threader requires some practice to get used. It doesn’t have an automatic thread cutter, which we listed as one of the welcome features, but it has a manual one onboard.
3. Brother PC420PRW
- 294 built-in stitches
PC420PRW is a high quality; high performance advanced sewing machine from Brother. The selling point of this machine is the quality of stitches.
The work lights are dim for my liking. Some might consider it as expensive, especially when you can get Singer 9960 for more or less the same price and sometimes even cheaper. It doesn’t come with a table as well.
4. Brother DZ2400
- 185 built-in stitches
- Including an extra wide table
Fragile looking thread holder. DZ2400 doesn’t have an automatic thread cutter, which is understandable for the price. And the manual thread cutter is awkwardly placed which is a little far for comfort.
- Extra-high presser foot lift
- 30 built-in stitches
Lack of features is the main thing that works against Janome 8077. Just 30 built-in stitches may not satisfy everyone. Moreover, it doesn’t come with a quilting table or an automatic thread cutter.
6. Janome MC-6300P
- 1000 stitches/minute sewing speed
- 66 built-in stitches
- Knee lifter
- Extension Table
MC-6300P is a quilters dream. This machine satisfies all the ‘must have feature’ requirements for free motion quilting. In fact, this is the most popular sewing machine among quilters.
This is a heavy-duty model as well. You can’t ask for more sturdiness. It has a 9″ x 5″ throat, which is the largest in the category. This machine has everything that a quilter needs.
One important thing to note is that in order to do free motion quilting you need to use a particular purpose bobbin holder called ‘Blue Dot’ which is not included in the box. The sewing light is dim as well.
7. Juki HZL-F600
- Light Weight Material
- 8″ throat
- Extended Sewing Table
This machine from Juki is slightly more expensive than the previous Janome machine but offers a lot of built-in stitches. The straight stitches look straight and perfect. It performs well with thick layers of fabric.
Getting the right tension needs practice. Also the throat space in not as large as Janome MC-6300P.
8. Singer S18
- 400 built-in stitches
- Extension Table Included for extra-large quilts
Singer S18 is the least expensive in this category. In fact, it has the maximum number of built-in stitches of all the three machines.
Feature wise (and cost wise) Singer S18 is the best of all three. But if you take stitch quality and performance, Janome MC-6300P and Juki HZL-F600 are slightly ahead.