The Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Sewing Machine

So you want to make a quilt? And you’ve already read our recommendations for sewing machines but you still don’t know which one is right for you.

It’s OK, we made some assumptions that you already knew what you wanted to sew and what features you wanted. This guide is for those of you who don’t know those things.

I’ve got ya! We will figure out which sewing machine is perfect for you.

beginner's guide to choosing the perfect sewing machine

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I’m not sponsored by any brand of sewing machine or any single sewing machine store. I do have partnerships with a few online sewing retailers but my opinions of the sewing machines below are my own.

Understanding Sewing Machine Features

Knowing what features you need, want, and might need is the first thing we need to figure out. The features will all depend on what you want to sew.

Needed Features for Quilt Piecing

If you aren’t sure that quilting is for you then you probably don’t want to buy a sewing machine with all the bells and whistles or if you know the only thing you want to do is piece quilt tops you’ll need a lot fewer features.

For piecing all you need is a straight stitch so any sewing machine in your budget will do this. My favorite is the Singer 301.

Needed Features For General Sewing

If you think you won’t just be making quilt tops you’ll need a few more features.

  • General Home Decor Sewing – You’ll want zig-zag and if you plan on doing curtains or drapes check the reviews for heavy fabric.
  • Mending and Alterations – You’ll want a machine with a blind hem stitch.

My favorite sewing machine for general home decor sewing is the Necchi BU. I don’t do any mending or alterations but I did buy Paul a class from Angela Wolf and she used a Brother sewing machine similar to this one.

Needed Features For Clothing

If you want to make clothing I’m going to send you over to The Sewing Studio. I haven’t made more than a simple skirt since I was in 4-H.

Needed Features For Advanced Quilting

So you’ve decided if you are going to do this quilting thing you want to go all in, make the quilt top, add some embellishments, and maybe even do the actual quilting.

If you don’t plan on getting fancy just some basic applique and basic quilting the Jazz II is a great all-purpose sewing machine. It has some built-in stitches to add a bit of flair and a large throat space to make quilting easier.

If you want to do the actual quilting you’ll want a large throat space, 8-inches or more is ideal.

If you want to do it ALL, embroidery, quilting, piecing, and some other sewing check out the Baby Lock Altair 2. It does everything but your dishes but it will text you it’s time to switch threads while you are doing dishes.

Other Features To Consider

There are some features you might want to consider no matter what type of sewing you want to do.

  • Needle Threader – my eyes aren’t what they used to be and I find myself using this more and more
  • Thread cutter – this helps save thread if you aren’t using leader-ender projects while sewing
  • Knee lift – this allows for hands-free lifting of the pressure foot.
  • Start/Stop Button – if you can’t use the pedal to control your machine they do have machines that have start-stop buttons.

Budgeting For A Sewing Machine

Now that you have an idea of what features you will need we can talk how much you are going to spend on your sewing machine. The farther you go down the list on features the more money you will spend.

The recommendations below are in addition to the recommendations I made in my sewing machine recommendation list.

Cost of Basic Piecing Sewing Machine

This is going to be the cheapest entry point in the world of quilting and sewing. If you are comfortable going vintage you can pick one up anywhere from $20 – $200, the exception will be a Singer 221, aka Featherweight.

If you want new there are a lot of great basic sewing machines available. Brother and Singer are the most well-known for their budget-friendly sewing machines. Baby Lock, Juki, and Janome all make beginner sewing machines now and there are the Evernsewn machines that are all in that under $300 range.

My Picks for Basic Sewing Machines

Cost of General Sewing Machine

If I could swing more than $200 I would go with a general sewing machine. You will find other things to sew when you start piecing quilts, trust me. You will also start to see needle threaders, needle up/down, and more built-in stitches.

You’ll decide that you want to make matching pillowcases or curtains.

Then you’ll see a bed skirt that you just have to make to match your bedroom.

My Picks For General Sewing Machines

Cost of Advanced Quilting Sewing Machine

This is where you can spend thousands of dollars on your machine. It all depends on what you want to do with your machine.

This is where we drop Amazon as a store to shop. If you are going to spend this kind of money you are going to want a shop that will help with warranty work standing behind the sale.

We are also going to break this down into three categories, wide throat, embroidery and sewing combo machines, and specialty machines.

I’m also not going to limit the suggestions to just the top five. I will be linking to all machines that I’m comfortable suggesting under each category.

Wide Throat Machines

These machines will work on several Grace Quilting Frames and they will make it easier to quilt not on a frame. I define a wide throat as 8 inches or wider. Also, features vary greatly and price isn’t indicative of the features.

Embroidery and Sewing Combo Machines

Unlike the wide throat machines we looked at in the last section these machines can be large with the embroidery unit attached. Keep in mind how much space you have for the machine when you are looking at them. All of the listings have machine dimensions listed.

Speciality Machines

There are a lot of specialty sewing machines on the market but I’m only going to focus on machines that we would use for quilting. Multi-needle embroidery machines, industrial sewing machines, sergers/overlockers, and coverstitch machines are too far outside of my knowledge for me to be comfortable recommending anything.

Baby Lock Sashiko $2499 – I have coveted this machine since my friend Carolina got one for Christmas a few years ago.

Quilting Machines

Now you can quilt on the wide throat machines, some of the embroidery machines, and the sashiko machine but we are going to focus on machines that are designed to do the quilting.

These machines come in two configurations, on a frame or as a sit-down machine. A machine on the frame, you move the machine and with a sit-down machine you move the quilt. Both are fine choices it depends on what works best for you.

Quilting machines used to be made by dedicated brands but now several sewing machine brands are making them as well. I’ve included both in my recommendations because there can be comfort in using the same brand as your sewing machine.

The prices below also don’t include any add ons. Also, many of the machines offer different frame options, the prices include the base frame. If no frame is included that will be noted.

Machines on Frames

Machines in Tables

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve found the perfect sewing machine or maybe a couple of them you are ready to start quilting. Be sure to check out of free quilting patterns to help you get started.

Happy stitching!

We've got you covered on your sewing machine journey! Check out this guide to help you decipher the features you need and select the sewing machine that's perfect for you. Gain insights on machines for quilt piecing, general sewing, clothing, and advanced quilting. Also, discover budgeting tips for your perfect sewing companion.

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