8 Best Sewing Machines For Free Motion Quilting

A honest list of 8 sewing machines available in U.S that are the best for doing free motion quilting. Must have features are also included.

Recently, so many people have asked me which one is the best sewing machine for free motion quilting. There is no clear cut answer for this question. You simply can’t point your finger at a particular brand or model. The answer depends on your budget and features you need. You can buy a sewing machine that costs over $3000 and do free motion quilting, you can also do the same task on a $500 home machine and still be happy. So it all depends on your budget, “Money Decides!”. Even though budget plays a crucial role, you need to make sure that the sewing machine you buy has some essential features required for free motion quilting or quilting in general.

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.

Reliable Motor : What’s under the hood matters a lot, more so in the case of quilting. A powerful motor that is capable of delivering high number of stitches and capable of working flawlessly for an extended period of time 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 that cost under $500 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. Such machines will cost anywhere between $700 – $2500 or more. 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. This feature will be default on machines that cost over $500, but when you go under $500 not all machines have variable speed control.

Built-in Stitches : A sewing machine capable of delivering perfect straight stitches is a dream of a quilter. I have seen some $200 sewing machines deliver better straight stitches than industrial machines. So you need to be picky. Zig Zag and Blind Hem stitches 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. Under $500, you can get around 50 -100 decorative stitches on an average. Above $700, you can get even 300 decorative stitches.

Programmable Needle Up/Down : Must have feature for quilters. This feature gives you an extra hand, literally. 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.

Machine Throat : This is the space to the right of the needle. The machine with larger throat is always the best for free free motion quilting. So if you are planning to work on large quilts, you must settle for a $700 above machine, they offer the largest throat space (which is understandable from the price).

Knee Lifter : 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. This is a premium feature and you can’t find it in all $700 machines, some of them have this, but not all.

Welcome Features : A good sewing light is always a welcome feature. I have seen some poorly lit $3000 machines, in that case you need to rely on exterior lighting. An automatic thread cutter is another welcome feature. This is pretty much a default feature on $700 and above machines. However all under $500 machines do not have this feature.

5 Best Sewing Machines For Free Motion Quilting That Cost Under $500

1. Singer 9960

  • 850 stitches/minute sewing speed
  • Variable speed control
  • 600 built-in stitches
  • Needle up/down
  • Sewing light
  • Automatic thread cutter
  • Quilting table included

This is the best advanced sewing machine you can buy under $500. 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 in our list of “Machines You Can Buy With Your Eyes Shut”.

Cons : 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.

Read Full Review

2. Brother XR9500PRW

  • 850 stitches/minute sewing speed
  • Variable speed control
  • 100 built-in stitches
  • Needle up/down
  • Sewing light
  • Quilting table included

This is the second best sewing machine for quilting. This main highlights of this machine are its features and price. In fact, XR9500PRW is the least expensive sewing machine in this list.  It has also been voted as the best sewing machine for the money under $200. The quality of stitches are excellent and you can’t really ask for more.

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 on-board.

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3. Brother PC420PRW

  • 850 stitches/minute sewing speed
  • Variable speed control
  • 129 built-in stitches
  • Needle up/down
  • Sewing light
  • Automatic thread cutter

PC420PRW is a high quality, high performance advanced sewing machine from Brother. The selling point of this machine is the quality of stitches.

Cons : 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.

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4. Brother DZ2400

  • 850 stitches/minute sewing speed
  • Variable speed control
  • 185 built-in stitches
  • Needle up/down
  • Sewing light
  • Quilting table included

If you are looking for an affordable advanced sewing machine, DZ2400 is definitely the one to consider. It is a value for money product. The quality of stitches are as good as any other advanced sewing machine.

Cons : 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.

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5. Janome 8077

  • Variable speed control
  • 30 built-in stitches
  • Needle up/down
  • Sewing light

While Janome 8077 is less on features, it more than makes up for it in quality and durability. It is a sturdy workhorse.

Cons : 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.

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3 Best Sewing Machines For Free Motion Quilting That Cost Between $700 – $1500

1. Janome MC-6300P

  • 1000 stitches/minute sewing speed
  • Variable speed control
  • 66 built-in stitches
  • Needle up/down
  • 9″ throat
  • Knee lifter
  • Sewing light
  • Automatic thread cutter
  • Quilting table included

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 (in the price category). This is a heavy-duty model as well. You can’t ask for more sturdiness. It has a 9″ throat, which is the largest in the category. This machine has everything that a quilter needs.

Cons : One important thing to note is that, in order to do free motion quilting you need to use a special purpose bobbin holder called ‘Blue Dot’ which is not included in the box. The sewing light is dim as well.

Read Full Review

2. Juki HZL-F600

  • Variable speed control
  • 225 built-in stitches
  • Needle up/down
  • 8″ throat
  • Knee lifter
  • Sewing light
  • Automatic thread cutter
  • Quilting table included

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.

Cons : Getting the right tension needs practice. Also the throat space in not as large as Janome MC-6300P.

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3. Singer S18

  • 1000 stitches/minute sewing speed
  • Variable speed control
  • 400 built-in stitches
  • Needle up/down
  • 9″ throat
  • Knee lifter
  • Sewing light
  • Automatic thread cutter
  • Quilting table included

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. Recently it has also won the Women’s Choice Award 2014 as well. One interesting thing is that this machine is actually made by Janome for Singer. It comes with Janome accessories as well.

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.


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