Choosing A Sewing Machine For Quilting: A Beginner’s Guide
Chances are you are here because quilting is your new-found hobby. Of all the sewing projects that you can possibly work on, quilting is by far the most interesting. But how do you go about it?
We’re glad you asked. And you’ll be happy to know that we have all the info you need right here; from choosing the best sewing machine for beginners quilting to handy tips for beginner quilters. So let’s get you started, shall we?
Best sewing machines for quilting
What Is Quilting?
Simply put, quilting refers to the process of sewing several layers of material together so that the resultant structure is a thicker and warmer cloth. A typical quilt consists of three layers.
The first is the quit top. This is where you put your design. The second layer is the wadding. It acts as a padding for your quilt. Finally, we have the backing which holds the wadding in place. Just like normal sewing, there are various types of stitches used to quilt the layers together.
However, the basic running stich is the easiest and most common. So you may want to start with that one. FYI, you can either do hand or machine quilting. But today we are only going to focus on the latter.
How Is Quilting Different From Normal Sewing?
Sewing is a pretty straight forward concept. It refers to the process of joining fabrics together using thread. From the definition of quilting (given above), you can see than quilting is a type of sewing because it involves joining fabrics together in a sandwich-like manner.
So we can say that all quilting is sewing but not all sewing is quilting. For your sewing to be quilting, there must be at least three layers of materials joining together.
The 5 Basic Quilting Tips for Beginners
Now that you know what quilting is, we can go ahead and introduce you to some tips and tricks for beginners. Use them with the best quilting sewing machine that you find and you will see just how fun quilting is.
1) Start with cotton fabrics
Cotton is easy to sew, that is why you should start with 100% cotton fabric. Also, make sure the texture of all your materials is similar for easy management of layers and parts.
2) Large-piece quilt patterns are better
When you use quilt patterns that are made with large pieces, you will have fewer seams to sew and the pieces will fit together more quickly.
3) Go for quilt patterns that use rectangles and squares
Compared to other patterns that have stretchy edges (like triangles), rectangles and squares are easier to sew using a basic running stitch. Start with them as you progress to other patterns.
4) Use pre-cuts
When choosing your first patterns, go for pre-cuts. These are ready cut fabrics that come in a variety of patterns, shapes and sizes. They will make your work easier and save you some valuable time that you would otherwise spend in measuring and cutting (which you can easily get wrong and have to start the whole project from scratch).
5) Look for more resources
It won’t hurt to read books and websites that talk about quilting. You will be surprised at how much information is out there. If you still find it hard to master the art you can opt to take a beginner class.
What is the best sewing for quilting money can buy?
There is no umbrella value for the cost of a quilting machine. That said, the best sewing machine for beginner quilters should not cost you an arm and a leg. With as little as $100 to $500 you can get a great short-arm machine for beginners. Large scale and commercial machines cost as much as $10,000 with some high-end models going for $15,000 and above, especially long-arm and mid-arm units.
Feeling a bit confused about all these short, mid and long-arm terms? Luckily for you we are going to cover that in the next section. So keep reading.
Types of Quilting Sewing Machines
There are three types of quilting sewing machines: long-arm, mid-arm and short-arm. They are categorized and named based on the size of the arm. The arm is the top horizontal casing of the machine (the distance between the vertical part on the right and the needle on the left).
Therefore, it follows that a long-arm quilting machine has the longest frame. It measures anything from 10 to 14 feet in length. As a beginner you don’t need that. In fact most of them are used for industrial purposes.
Mid and short-arm machines feature an arm that measures 9 to 12 inches long. While a short-arm has a throat space that is about 7 inches wider than the conventional sewing machine, a mid-arm features an even wider throat space than a short-arm. Both are great picks for beginners but a short-arm is the least expensive. It makes more sense to pick that one as you perfect your skills.
Sewing machines for quilting reviews
Given the many brands and models in the market today, you might be confused as which is the best rated sewing machine for quilters. We have the answer for you:
If you’re serious about picking up quilting, the Brother CS6000i is a great choice when you’re at the start of the road. This product is also great if you’re experienced with sewing and quilting, but never laid hands on a computerized machine before. It will dazzle you with its feasibility. Needle threading is automatic, and the LCD screen is conveniently small but easy to read. The speed at which you sew can easily be adjusted – the slower speeds make for a great learning experience, while the impressive 850 stitches per minute maximum speed can help experienced sewists move quickly. The Brother CS6000i also features 60 stitches to get you started, until you find your own rhythm. Once you get familiar with its most basic functions, you can move on to the more advanced features it can offer you. The sewing patterns can be customized, with a maximum width of 7 millimeters, and maximum length of 5 millimeters. This machine is also made with portability in mind, weighing only 13 pounds, and comes with a container, making it very easy to carry around. Embroidery, quilting and sewing have never been easier to learn. The Brother CS6000i is one of the best tools on the market, and remains a top-notch choice for beginners and advanced users alike.
· 60 stitch patterns to choose from;
· LCD used for switching stitch length and width;
· A large table used for quilting projects;
· Drop-in bobbin;
· Free arm for sewing curved pieces;
PROS: Very easy to learn all it can do, with a user-friendly instruction manual. It also features guidelines to help you learn your first steps in the art of quilting. An impressive array of accessories are included, such as presser feet, a needle set, cleaning brush and the previously mentioned case. Modestly-priced: the Brother CS6000i offers immense value for its price, making it perfect for beginners. Somewhat small in size, and this model can be easily stored in its case and tucked away when you’re not using it. Easy to carry with you if you’re attending any sewing or quilting workshops.
CONS: A somewhat dim light can prove annoying when you’re concentrating on the details. This is easily solved if you have another lamp around, though. The machine being so light, it’s easily damaged if you’re not careful. Some advanced users might find the space provided too small.
The amazing Singer 9960 sewing machine will help bring out the creator in you. With a whopping 600 stitch patterns to choose from, this model will never give you a dull moment. It is a robust piece of hardware that can do almost anything you can dream of. While other models might be designed with portability in mind, the Singer 9960 is for dedicated artists who know what they want when it comes to stitching, quilting or embroidery. It weighs over 20 pounds and its quite large, so it is definitely for those of you who make it more than just a hobby! Creating clothing has never been easier, with the digital display helping you along the way. It’s quite nice to have such a bright LCD. This machine is a dream come true for those of you who want to dedicate yourselves to the art of sewing. It can help you learn your first steps, and as you fiddle with its amazing array of functions, you’ll find yourself crafting more complex projects in no time. One amazing feature is the fact that it allows you to detach a part of it in order to give you the freedom of free-arm sewing. The Singer 9960 is very easy to learn, hard to master, but we cannot recommend it enough, as it’s probably the most versatile machine you can find in this price range and we consider this the best Singer sewing machine for quilting.
· 600 stitch patterns, with adjustable width (maximum 7mm) and length (maximum 7mm);
· Automatic tension control and thread cutter;
· Adjustable speed, with a maximum of 850 stitches per minute;
· 18 different presser feet included;
PROS: From student to master – the Singer 9960 can take you all the way from the first basic steps, to the most advanced quilting projects you can think of. The intuitive design means you learn fast on how to use its plethora of functions. Helping you along is an extensive user manual that covers everything it can do. It’s built to last, with a hard metal frame and robust design. Furthermore, the LCD displays error messages if anything goes wrong, while the 25-year warranty ensures you made a good investment.
CONS: A plus can also be a minus, as its extensive array of features can be intimidating for a beginner sewer. Non-adjustable foot pressure, which can be a problem when working with special fabrics.
3) Janome 2212
As many sewists have come to agree, Janome is a reliable name in the industry. The 2212 model is the perfect starting choice for any beginner, as it doesn’t baffle the mind with extremely complicated features or endless arrays of patterns that you’ll never use. On the contrary, it is quite straightforward, which is a good thing in our book. Elegantly designed, this mechanical sewing machine is specifically designed for your first adventures in the art of sewing, and it doesn’t claim to be more than that. It does its job excellently, offering 12 stitch patterns you can choose from, using the dial to switch between them seamlessly. The Janome 2212 is easily installed, allowing you to get right to it without too much fuss. Loading the thread spools is a piece of cake, and the four step buttonhole is just as simple to understand. The perfect stitches you’ll make with it are a testament to its capabilities, and you’ll notice extremely smooth operation when starting it up. The width and density are both adjustable as you go, making it easier to transition from wide to narrow without making too many stops while working. What’s more, it requires little to no maintenance, as long as you keep it clean and oil it roughly once per month, along with the regular after-use cleaning. All in all, what makes this sewing machine special is its simplicity and ease of use, we cannot stress this enough. Janome 2212 is the ideal option for those of you who want to learn the basics of stitching. we think this is the best Janome sewing machine for quilting.
· Push-pull bobbin winder, allowing easy threading;
· 12 patterns, with adjustable width & density;
· Free-arm sewing;
· Retractable spool pins;
· Manual tension adjustment;
PROS: Excellent construction from a leading name in the industry. Absolutely fantastic operation, with easy to follow instructions. The perfect tool for learning. Mechanical sewing machine means fewer maintenance problems, while also teaching you on the basic concepts of the art. The light is very bright, meaning you can work in dim-lit environments, or concentrate on details that require more attention.
CONS: It can become quite noisy at times. Advanced users will find the lack of features disengaging, but remember that this model is an entry-level one. The only reason an advanced user might find themselves buying this is if they appreciate the craftsmanship of a reliable sewing machine with an old-school look.
If you’re looking to expand your sewing horizons and try your hand at Brother SE400, this machine is exactly what you’re looking for. Offering an impressive array of features, the Brother SE400 is a great model for sewists who want more out of their tools. One of the first things you’ll notice about it is the large embroidery area – 4inch x 4-inch. This can give you the space you need to bring your vision to life. You can choose from one of the 70 built-in designs, or draw up your own and import it from your computer. Indeed, the SE400 can be connected to a computer in order to transfer additional models to it. The controls are arranged on a neat LCD touch screen, and its software provides the required tools for you to design beautiful patterns. Adjustable length, width, and featuring 67 stitches, there is not much that this machine can’t do. All of it displayed neatly on its screen, and the menu is straightforward and intuitive. Switching between sewing mode and embroidery mode is just a flick of a switch away. The Brother SE400 can bring to life even the most complex of your designs and patterns, and all sewists out there looking for new challenges will get excited at all of its features, which we love as the best Brother sewing machine for quilting.
· 70 built-in embroidery designs, with the ability to either import more from your computer, or from a Brother memory card;
· 67 built-in sewing stitches and 98 stitch functions;
· Automatic needle threader and cutter;
· A plethora of accessories such as seam ripper, screwdrivers, embroidery set, spool net, scissors, dust cover, accessory bag;
PROS: The large embroidery area provides all the space you need for elaborate designs. Free-arm stitching is easy to access, and switching between sewing and embroidering modes is just as simple. The vast capabilities of this machine means you’ll become even better at crafting the most beautiful garments. It allows you to grow as an artist, to experiment with different types of combinations of patterns made available (or the ones created by you). For what it brings to the table, the price is amazing as well.
CONS: A tool designed for advanced users; although beginners will also enjoy it, it can prove difficult to learn sewing on such a complex machine. Somewhat bulky design, yet surprisingly light at only 13 lb.
High-end quilting and sewing is at your command with the Brother HC1850. This machine has all you could ask for, from its 130 built-in stitches, to a foot controller and an instructional DVD. It is a perfect choice for any skill level. You won’t stay at stitching two pieces of fabric together for long, as this model can teach you all there is to know about sewing. All the while offering an incredibly flexible environment for you to experiment in. If you’re just taking off on your first projects, or want to expand your capabilities with increasingly complex designs, the Brother HC1850 is there for you. The LCD is well-lit and the menu is easy to navigate, allowing you to fiddle with the various options, until you find the right stitch for the job ahead. The wide table offered along with the machine is great for large quilts, while the presser foot designated for such project is of high quality. What’s more, free-motion quilting is available on this machine, meaning you can make your dreams a reality with such ease, you’ll be amazed. The Brother HC1850 has convinced us that there are still models out there that are of great value to both beginners and advanced users.
· 130 built-in stitches, including 42 garment construction stitches, as well as embroidery, heirloom and quilting stitches;
· Adjustable sewing speed (maximum 850 stitches per minute), automatic threading and drop-in bobbin;
· Well-lit and easy to use LCD menu;
· A great deal of instructional materials (including a DVD with tutorials) for beginners and advanced users alike;
PROS: Amazing flexibility, meaning the projects you can use it for are only limited by your creativity, from basic stitching to creating the most amazing garments. The accessory pouch contains: 3 bobbins, 3-piece needle set, ball point needle, twin needle, cleaning brush, eyelet punch, screwdriver, 3 spool caps, extra spool pin, seam ripper. User-friendly: the HC1850 is great for both beginners and advanced users alike, all the while not being too intimidating if you’re just starting. For its vast array of functions and capabilities, it comes at a surprisingly modest price. Incredibly portable – this machine weighs only 10 lb, meaning you can easily move it around or take it with you to a sewing workshop.
CONS: Larger quilting projects might be difficult to complete – however, keep in mind that this is a combo machine, not one specifically designed for quilting.