If you’re a quilter, you need a serious sewing machine. Big projects require lots of power, high speeds, and plenty of space to work. Above all, you need something reliable enough to get through lots of daily sewing without issues.
The problem is, if you’re a busy quilter, you don’t have time to sort through the hundreds of sewing machines on the market today. It’s hard to tell the difference between the flashily marketed lemons and the dependable machines that’ll last you for years of quilting. Given that a quilting model is a sizable investment, you really want to be sure you’re making the right choice.
We’ve gone searching for the best sewing machines for quilting on the market today. We looked for big, powerful machines with user-friendly features and smart designs to help you work quickly and precisely. We compared features, specs, and prices for dozens of top models, and we took the time to read through hundreds of reviews from real quilters who have put these models to the test in their own homes. In our own in-depth reviews, we’ll take you through all you need to know about our favorite models, and help you figure out which is the best choice for you!
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Best Sewing Machine for Quilting Reviews
- Brother Project Runway PC420 PRW: for the quilter who likes amenities
- Janome 2212: for the old-fashioned needleworker
- Brother PQ1500S: for those who use quilting to put bread on the table
1. Brother Project Runway PC420 PRW
The Brother Project Runway PC420PRW is for quilters who want a machine with all the bells and whistles. This computerized option costs a bit less than $400, and has a whole range of great functions to build all your dream quilts. The built-in stitch library contains an astounding 294 stitch styles, with custom stitches and several lettering types available. The massive library of stitches and the full suite of automatic features makes for a highly versatile sewing experience, and a very user-friendly machine.
The Brother Project Runway PC420 PRW includes everything a quilter needs, then some. The included accessory pouch contains the usual suspects: a seam ripper, a package of needles, a twin needle, a cleaning brush, two screwdrivers, three spool caps, and an extra spool pin. It also includes a few bonus items: an eyelet punch, sheets for designing custom stitches, a knee lifter, and a hard, protective cover. Finally, 294 stitches would be nothing without snap-on feet to match them…
…This machine comes with thirteen feet!
- Buttonhole foot
- Overcasting foot
- Monogramming foot
- Zipper foot
- Zigzag foot
- Blind stitch foot
- Button fitting foot
- Walking foot
- Quilting foot
- Stitch guide foot
- Adjustable zipper/piping foot
- Non-stick foot
- Open-toe foot
Some of the built-in stitches have a simple mirror option for simple symmetry.
The full bank of stitches includes: ten one-step buttonhole styles, 67 utility stitches,31 decorative stitches, 16 satin stitches, 5 cross stitches, 10 adjustable-density/decorative stitches for satin, and three font styles (gothic, script, and outline), each with 55 letters and characters. That’s a heck of a lot of options to choose from–enough to satisfy even the most ambitious quilter. Some of the stitches can be combined to create even more pattern possibilities!
Better still, if none of the preset stitches strike your fancy, you can draw out your own with Brother’s special sheets, then input your new custom stitches into the PC420 PRW’s computer.
You can make plenty of adjustments to fine tune the machine. Simply adjust the pressure foot dial to fit the thickness of your material. The balance wheel controls the needle as well as Grandma remembers from her first sewing machine. You can also turn on the automatic thread cutting setting. When this is on, it cuts the thread at the end of each stitch. This kind of control gives a lifetime quilter plenty of space to personalize the machine.
Push button controls make the machine easy to navigate. All stitch selection options are located right on the front of the machine, so you never have to reach around the back or go under the bonnet.
There are lots of automatic features which make this one more enjoyable and intuitive to use. The needle begins at a slow rate when you apply pressure to the start/stop button. The start/stop button also lights up: green, to give you the green light to sew, or to indicate that you are sewing; red, to tell you that it is not ready to run; and orange, to indicate that the bobbin winder shaft is in the correct position for winding.
It’s got plenty of lights to make sure you see what you’re doing. There are two separate LED lamps for illuminating the workspace. We prefer LEDs because they last infinitely longer than old incandescent bulbs. The backlighting makes the LCD display very easy to read.
It does lots of little things for you. Cut the top and bottom thread with the thread cutter button. No more winding thread onto a separate cutter, or reaching around the back of the machine. You can also pull the automatic threading lever to thread the needle,
You can control the sewing speed by sliding the speed selector.
It is easy to thread, and the top thread is housed beneath a panel. Even better, all of the thread is always on the front of it. Once you have the thread placed into the top and bottom guides and raise the presser foot to finish threading.
Just like other Brother machines, this one’s covered by a 25-year warranty.
Though the feed dogs can be lowered, the switch is on the reverse side of the machine. It’s a slightly annoying oversight for such an otherwise intuitive machine.
The letters can only be stitched in two sizes (small or large). Either choice is rather small, compared to other makes.
Some of the stitch patterns aren’t as precise as other machines. A few buyers got machines where the internal adjustments seemed slightly off. While the vast majority of buyers didn’t have any issues, you might be one of the few who needs to have minor tuneups at a dealer.
Some buyers had issues with the automatic tension adjustment. They occasionally had problems with it bunching up fabrics. This seems to be mainly a question of using the wrong thread. Still, that’s one of the downsides of an automatic machine like this.
While it’s built around a metal frame, some of the internal components (like gears) are made of plastic.
Read more about Brother Products in our Best Brother Sewing Machines Review.
2. Janome 2212
Janome is known for building long-lasting, high-quality sewing machines. Janome’s 2212 model may not have as many features as the Brother, but it’s a very sturdy little machine for new quilters, quilters on a budget, or for a professional’s back-up/travel machine. It’s very affordable, compact, and has all the features you need to either learn quilting for the first time, or keep up the hobby on a budget.
It’s plain and simple to use. While the Brother is covered in buttons and switches, let alone an LCD screen, the Janome has just two simple adjustment dials, and basic switches. The simplified design makes it a more novice-friendly machine than the Brother or other machines that are usually marketed to quilters.
It’s available for a very low price, especially compared to other Janome models. At around the $150 mark, this one should be less of a financial burden for quilters on a budget. It also makes for a more reasonable purchase for people who are just getting started with quilting, and aren’t sure about committing for the long haul.
While it’s not as jam-packed with features as the Brother, the Janome has all the basics covered. There are 12 stitches built in, all of which can be adjusted for length and width. There’s also a simple 4-step button hole feature. There’s a chart guide on the side of the machine for selecting which stitch to use.
The drop feed is a must for quilting, and the Janome’s is everything you need it to be. It’s simple and easy to use, with sturdy hinges to help it hold up over time.
It’s powerful. This one works up to 260 stitches per minute–which is even faster than the Brother!
Even though it’s a manual model, it has a few conveniences onboard. There’s a simple reverse lever for locking stitches down when you’re done. The push-pull bobbin winder makes loading this one manually a bit easier. It also has a thread cutter built in.
The pieces look and feel sturdy. The needle plate and foot assembly are all solid metal, and just as nice as a high-end machine. The casing is all hard plastic. Since it’s so rugged, this Janome is a favorite of costume shops and sewing classrooms in high schools and colleges, where they need a machine that can take a beating.
The Janome 2212 weighs only 13 pounds. It’s easy to pack up and move out of storage, so it’s ideal for quilters who don’t have a dedicated workspace.
It comes with all the important accessories. In the box, you get a utility foot, blind foot, buttonhole foot, zipper foot, foot pedal, needle set, screwdriver, seamripper, and a dust cover. You can store most of them in the compartment that’s built into the end of the machine.
A downloadable instruction manual is available online.
You cannot adjust the foot pressure, or needle level.
Manual threading, with front loading bobbin procedure can be hard for beginners to get the hang of. This one doesn’t have all the convenient automatic features we like about the Brother. However, the Janome will certainly get you to master proper technique which you might skip out on with the Brother.
3. Brother PQ1500S
This one’s our recommendation to the most serious and ambitious quilters. It’s industrial strength, with a super-fast straight-sewing mechanism and an extension table to give you all the workspace you need. We love all the technical features, like the foot speed adjustments, feed dog controls, and automatic thread cutter. It’s a great compromise between the simplicity of the Janome and the versatility of the Brother, with as much power as both the smaller machines combined! If you make lots of quilts, and know what you’re doing, this is a machine that’ll serve you very well.
P.S. We know there’s a newer version of this model on the market. We don’t like it very much, to put things plainly. If you want our advice, either go for the older version of the PQ series while it’s available, or hold out for the next generation. In our opinion, the current model isn’t worth your time or money. This older model is less expensive, and it’ll last longer.
It’s extremely powerful. This baby cranks out 1500 stitches per minute, which means you’ll be getting your quilts made quicker than ever. It’s nearly twice the speed of the smaller Brother or the Janome. The speed factor makes this a great choice for people who earn their living from quilts, or make lots of quilts for charity. If quantity is a priority, this is your ideal tool!
There are 4 Feed Dog height adjustments, so you can compensate for different fabrics, fills, and textures.
The built-in knee lifter easily raises and lowers the presser foot, so your hands are always free to reposition or remove your fabric. We like this one for helping you keep working steadily, rather than having to stop and start every time you need to make an adjustment. The result is more fluid work, and more consistent stitches.
The extra-large extension table gives you plenty of room to create. We like that there are measurements marked out on the table to help you keep everything lined up as you sew up to scale.
The automatic thread cutter button makes it easier to tie off each stitch. It works at both the upper and lower end, so there’s no need for you to adjust. There’s also an automatic threading feature to help you start each new one.
The convenient thread tension dial helps you make your adjustments. This feature is ideally suited to the serious quilter who knows exactly which little tweaks will help things go more smoothly and steadily. It’s easier to prevent jams and runs than if you’re working on the smaller Brother, which is all automatic.
The pin feed mechanism allows you to switch off the feed dogs for a single pin that cleanly extends from beneath the machine, moving all the layers of your quilt together or moves a delicate velvet without leaving feed dog marks in the nap.
The easy threading system keeps you moving quickly, with no fiddling about between stitches. It’s not fully automatic, but many previous buyers said they enjoyed the fact that it’s actually more reliable than a lot of the cheaper automatic features.
It includes automated upper and lower thread cutting, just like the smaller Brother. It’s one of the many convenient little features which make this less industrial than it looks. It also comes with Push-button Auto Thread Trimmers, Auto Needle Positioner & Knee Lever for Presser Foot Lift
It’s also affordable. While this one will cost you more than our other two recommendations, it’s still vastly cheaper than the $1,000+ competition. We know that most quilters can’t afford to mortgage the house for a new machine, so this is a great compromise buy.
Although it does have some convenient, automatic features, it’s technically a manual machine. That means it doesn’t have onscreen help, which some people prefer.
It only has a straight stitch. Most quilters will be just fine with straight stitches, but if you’re making some more decorative or sophisticated designs, you might want something with a little more variety.
The other downside to the manual design is that there’s no thread sensor and no built-in memory. You’ll have to make all the adjustments yourself. Of course, many quilters prefer to do so anyway, and would rather a machine not get in the way. However, the manual knobs and adjustments do require a certain level of skill and finesses. This isn’t the best choice for newcomers.
So, which of these machines is right for you?
The Brother Project Runway is the best choice for quilters who like a lot of automatic features. It has lots of convenient little touches that make quilting much less of a chore, and help you cover ground quickly. The onboard stitch library and custom stitch options also make it the best choice for people who want to make more elaborate or sophisticated designs. On the downside, it’s fairly expensive, and doesn’t have quite as many manual adjustments for thread tension and such. You’ll mostly be relying on the internal computer to help you out.
The Janome is our recommendation for buyers on a budget, or new quilters. It’s also a good choice for quilters who simply like a no-nonsense barebones machine to cover all the essentials. It has fewer stitches onboard than the Project Runway Brother, but still gives you more variety than the larger Brother model. It has all-manual adjustments, and it’s very reliable. We like the price more than anything–it’s half the cost of our other choices! While it’s not as full of features as our other recommendations, the Janome is a good no-frills budget model for the average quilter.
The larger Brother model is our top recommendation for serious quilters who are cranking out lots of projects on a regular basis. While it’s the most expensive model here, it’s also the most powerful–by a long shot. This model stitches almost twice as fast as the Janome or the smaller Brother. We also love the ample workspace it provides. However, it does require a dedicated amount of space, since it’s not as easy to take down. Also, the strictly manual adjustments require a quilter with a good bit of experience and technical finesse at the reins!
How to shop for the best sewing machine for making quilts:
Look for lots of workspace:
Whenever you’re working on a larger scale, the more space you have to spread out your material, the better. That’s especially true for quilting. Having more room gives you the ability to line up squares properly, with no folds or overlaps. You’ll also be able to get a better sense of the whole project, so you can keep wonky lines at bay. So, buy as large a machine as you can fit on your table or countertop. You’ll be glad of all that extra room when you’re working.
Place a premium on precision:
Quilts are intricate, detailed creations that often become family heirlooms. You don’t want a ruffed edge or wonky line to be a obvious flaw in your masterpiece. No matter how good a sewist you are, you can be let down if your machine isn’t up to snuff in the precision department. That’s why we recommend spending as much as you are able on your quilting machine. The more you pay, the more precise a stitch you can expect, and experts will really notice the improvement. Focus on spending your dollars where they count, on precision engineering and metal components, rather than on lots of flashy extra features.
Know your work preferences:
Finally, since you’ll be spending so many hours at your work table, you should buy a machine that suits your own personal work style. If you like the machine to do most of the work for you, get something with lots of automatic and preset features. If you’re a stickler for technique, you will probably be better suited to a mostly manual model, so on and so forth. Think about all the features you enjoy using, and think about which design elements give you grief. Having a clear picture of your ideal tool in mind will help you shop more confidently.
How to Quilt
Our Final Thoughts
Like a lot of sewing, quilting is a very personal pursuit. So, no matter what you read, there is no one best sewing machine for quilters. A sewing machine is a long term, personal investment. Be sure to choose one that makes you happy!
Everyone has their own way to make a quilt. Some people love their drop feeds, while some prefer a machine without a drop feed altogether. You can also find models which let you cover the feed dogs, and control the feed manually under the foot.
If you are ready to take your quilting projects to the next level, check out our embroidery machine reviews! Embroidery machines make it “sew” easy to add beautiful custom embellishments and personality to each creation. Some models even let you digitize your own images for the machine to embroider for you!
Want to compare the rest of the best sewing machines for quilting? Check out the best sellers on Amazon!