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What is a Straight-Stitch Sewing Machine?

For years I’ve been intrigued by the number of quilting friends I have who LOVE their high-speed, straight-stitch sewing machines. So when Baby Lock Sewing Machines gave me the opportunity to test-drive and experience their straight-stitch model, the Baby Lock Accomplish, I was SO excited. In this post I’m going to share what makes a high-speed straight-stitch sewing machine different from other sewing machines, as well as some of the pros and cons of a straight-stitch machine.

Just to be clear, I have a partnership with Baby Lock and have sewn on a variety of their machines – from the excellent, entry-level Jubilant to the higher-end Crescendo and Destiny machines. I have been impressed with every single one of them (which hasn’t always been the case with other brand’s machines that I’ve had on loan.) While I did receive this machine as trade for a review, all opinions and experiences are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

What are the benefits of a Straight Stitch, Mechanical Sewing Machine?

The Baby Lock Accomplish sewing machine is designed for speed and perfect for projects like quilts and simple clothing, but it’s also tough enough to sew with thicker fabrics for projects like multi-layer bags, upholstery, and costuming.

A straight stitch machine is a different animal from most other machines I’ve sewn with so far – in fact, it’s different from most of Baby Lock’s other machines. There is such a huge variety of sewing machines on the market now – you really can find the one that works best for both your sewing needs and budget. I go into a lot more detail about how to choose a sewing machine here. In this post I will focus on the pros and cons of a straight-stitch, mechanical sewing machine.

One of the pros of a mechanical machine is that they tend to be simple to operate (with minimal gizmos) and all mechanical – meaning no computerized parts. Think of an old-school sewing machine – the controls remind me of sewing with my mom’s 1974 Kenmore. For some people the simplicity is a huge asset. As a result, these purely-mechanical machines also require a lot less maintenance and fiddling. Even the tension settings are easier on a mechanical machine.

Another difference of the Accomplish Sewing Machine is obvious: as a straight stitch machine it only has one stitch – a straight line. (That said, you can change the stitch length from O to 7mm (for a great basting stitch).  For me, this is a pro. 95% of the sewing that I do is in a straight line, piecing quilt blocks, sewing on borders, bindings, etc. as well as the occasional bag, pillowcase, or machine quilting. This machine does not come with any decorative stitches – which is fine for me since I never use them, as I rarely make clothing/garments, etc.

Underneath the stitch-length dial, there is a needle-down button and an automatic thread cutter button.

The Accomplish features an adjustable pin feed mechanism, 4 feed dog settings for maximum fabric control depending on the fabrics and weights/layers being sewn, full range foot pressure adjustment and a easy-to-use lever for simple backstitching.

Speed – the Accomplish can sew up to 1,500 stitches per minute. That is fast. And as a pedal-to-the-metal type of gal, I LOVE that. It’s so handy for strip-piecing, sewing on borders, chain piecing, etc.

Here are more of the details:

Accessories

The Accomplish comes with 7 sewing feet attachments with the machine including: general purpose straight stitch sewing foot, rolled hem foot, adjustable zipper foot, invisible zipper foot, 1/4 inch foot, flex reaction straight stitch foot (useful for going over thick seams or heavy fabric) and an adjustable seam guide.

Also included: a spring action quilting foot for free-motion quilting and a walking foot. This is a great bonus as they are often usually a hefty additional price when you need to buy one separately.

Another reason it’s nice to have all of these feet included is that the Accomplish is one of the few Baby Lock machines that has full-shank feet – meaning the feet are attached to the shank, rather than interchangeable snap-on feet. However, there is a Master Shank attachment (BLQP-MB) sold separately that you can buy to make it possible to use other Baby Lock snap-on feet and accessories.

Bobbin – Another difference between the Accomplish and all of the other Baby Lock machines I’ve used is the Bobbin. All of the previous machines have all had a plastic bobbin that drops-in under the needle plate from the top, but the the Accomplish uses a slightly larger metal bobbin (far left) that inserts from underneath on the left side. 

Thread Plate: Another “pro” of a straight-stitch machine is that since the needle never needs to move, the opening in the metal needle plate for the needle to descend into the machine is a small, round hole. This helps so much with preventing things like corners or triangle tips from small blocks getting caught or sucked down below the needle plate when piecing.

I also love the attached built-in, telescoping Thread Guide Bar at the top of the machine. I tend to do most of my piecing with large cones of Aurifil thread and this works perfectly for those – no need to use a separate cone holder next to the machine. The Thread Guide Bar also works great with other spool sizes and comes with accessories to help all kinds of thread (cotton, metalic, polyester, etc.) feed smoothly.

Pin-Feed system option helps with sewing difficult fabric such as velvet, suede or leather (I’m going to give it a try with Minky too) as the mechanism includes a little pin that comes up behind the foot/feed dogs and passes through all the layers of fabric to feed the layers evenly. I’ve also found it really helpful for strip-piecing or any other long seams like added borders, etc. as the pin mechanism acts as a guide to keep the pieces lined up straight and prevents them from slipping side to side. It’s very easy to activate and deactivate the pin feed mechanism.

Photo Source Sewing Machines Plus

An easily removeable Extension Table that creates about 23″ of workspace. 

Other Accomplish assets:

Thread Cutter – Excellent. I LOVE a good automatic thread cutter. Saves time and thread, plus no long thread tails to have to trim later!

Threader – after having immediate success with the automatic threaders on every other Baby Lock machine I’ve used, I’ll admit that this one took me a lot more practice to manage. But it’s still a great feature to have once you get the system down.

Hands Free Knee Lift – to make it possible to maneuver and pivot with out stopping and using your hands to lift the presser foot. Also included is a detachable extension table with an additional 23-3/8 inches of space to accommodate larger projects. (And to keep the knee-lift handy, it stores neatly underneath the extension table.)

1/4″ seam allowance options

I’m a total stickler and believer in a scant 1/4″ seam allowance when quilt piecing. The Accomplish does come with a 1/4″ foot (below on the left), but to be honest, this was the one place I was struggling a little to get an accurate scant 1/4″. (I’m guessing my need for speed wasn’t helping.)

With other sewing machines I’ll simply adjust the needle slightly to the right to get that scant seam allowance. Moving the needle position is not an option for this machine so I did a little research. After some training from Baby Lock, I decided to use the general purpose straight-stitch foot paired with the adjustable seam guide. I set the seam guide just inside the 1/4″ mark on the metal needle plate. This gave me a great scant 1/4″. And I actually really like that the seam guide sticks out farther ahead of the foot and is easer to line up my fabric next to it well before it heads under the foot and feed dogs.

Quilting With the Baby Lock Accomplish 

The Walking Foot is available for straight-line machine quilting. I’ve also used the walking foot multiple times to sew a binding to a quilt or piece a quilt back (so the fabric doesn’t shift). It’s a little loud, but it’s not bulky and works great. (Hint, be sure to turn off the Pin Feed system before using it. And you will need to slow down your speed some.)

I haven’t tried the free-motion quilting foot yet (mainly because my free-motion skills are pathetic) but I’m feeling motivated to try it out – and to practice so I can improve those currently-non-existent skills.

Finally, because this machine is a no-frills, straight-stitch work horse, it is made of mostly metal (though some of the outer case is plastic so that it’s not too heavy). As I mentioned, there aren’t a lot of buttons or dials. As a result it feels like a sturdy, uncomplicated machine.

A couple of Cons – or just aspects this machine doesn’t include. No speed control setting. (This is fine for me since on my machines that do have one, I just keep it at the highest speed setting all the time.)

This machine says it comes with LED lighting, but it’s not as bright as the lighting on my other Baby Lock machines. (This is easily fixed by adding something like this LED lighting strip specifically for sewing machines.)

So to sum-up all of these thoughts:

Pros

  • 1500 stitches per minute (FAST!)
  • Works well with thick fabrics or multiple layers
  • Adjustable stitch length up to 7mm
  • Excellent Thread Cutter
  • Precision pin feed system
  • Presser-foot lift (hands-free)
  • Included extension table, walking foot

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer speed control
  • LED lighting feels minimal
  • Built-in needle threader has a learning curve – but there still is a needle threader!
  • Sewing Machine Feet are not interchangeable with other BL feet – unless you buy a Master Shank attachment
  • Straight-stitches only – no zigzag, buttonhole, or satin stitch options

Once again, not every machine is right for every person – which is why it’s so awesome that we have choices between such a huge variety of machines! 

If you are interested in a straight-stitch machine (or even just taking one for a test drive), you can find the Baby Lock Accomplish available from your favorite local Baby Lock Sewing Machine dealer. (I always recommend getting to know your local dealer!) If you don’t have a dealer locally, you can also find the Accomplish available online from Sewing Machines Plus.

Do you have a straight-stitch sewing machine? What are the features that you like about it? Leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

      What is a Straight Stitch Sewing Machine

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Sharon
    August 15, 2021 at 8:00 am

    Under pros you say “up to 7mm width”. Perhaps this isn’t what is meant

    • Reply
      Amy
      August 15, 2021 at 9:29 pm

      Oops! Good catch. That should definitely say length. Thanks for pointing it out so that it could get fixed!

  • Reply
    Becky Turner
    August 15, 2021 at 8:41 am

    I have a Juki. Also on the pro side I was able to get one with more harp or head room for quilting.
    The other pro is I have had it for years and I am able to maitain it and keep it clean and running without spa calls for timing and such

  • Reply
    Rosemary B
    August 15, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this review, Amy! I would love to have a BabyLock machine
    I have never sewed with one. What do you think of the Jazz model?

  • Reply
    isquilting
    August 17, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    I had an Brother machine that was a straight stitch machine that I loved especially for piecing. It was a real workhorse. And I especially loved the cut function, but it kept unthreading itself at the needle. The shop owner from whom I purchased the machine told me the reason that happened was where the bobbin was since it was on the front of the machine. He went on to say I wouldn’t have that problem with a top loading bobbin and convinced me to buy a Crescendo model. I did and haven’t had any problems with the unthreading part, but the new machine is total overkill for piecing. I’d be interested in knowing if unthreading is a problem with this model.

    • Reply
      Amy
      August 20, 2021 at 12:41 pm

      That is really interesting about the explanation for the bobbin placement causing the unthreading with the cut function. I have both machines – and I have noticed the Accomplish can tend to unthread occasionally using the cut function – whereas the Crescendo never does. I guess that explains why. One solution I’m going to try is using leaders and enders to prevent the unthreading.

  • Reply
    Sandra B
    August 20, 2021 at 10:34 am

    Thanks for a great review! BabyLock sewing machines are the best!! I have a Presto II that I have had for 4 years and I love it….it replaced a Pfaff that I had had for a number of years and, it was problematic from the start.
    As for the straight stitch only machines, I am really glad that BabyLock came out with one, and, from your review, it sounds like it is a winner! I have a Featherweight that is a real workhorse so I don’t think I will be replacing it, but it if I did, the BabyLock would be what I would get.
    Thanks again for the review, and thanks to BabyLock for making such a great product!

    • Reply
      Amy
      August 20, 2021 at 12:36 pm

      You’re welcome! I’m so glad to hear that you enjoy your Presto!

  • Reply
    yvonnebradbury5454
    August 21, 2021 at 9:58 am

    I own the Brother PQ1500 SL, which is the exact same machine, and I love it ! My FMQ improved dramatically on this machine.
    You put the fact that it is a straight stitch only in your list of “Cons”. I would put that in the “Pros” as it is built to do one thing and does that exceptionally well.
    As to the thread cutter: position the telescoping thread guide DIRECTLY over your thread. If not, the thread is under just enough tension to make the thread “snap back” out of the needle when it is cut.
    The needle threader has a downward facing hook. When you use it, hold your thread slightly up and to the right and you will have no problems. I took a picture of the needle threader with my phone and zoomed in. Once you see the configuration of the hook, you will understand how it works.
    There is a FB group for these machines with lots of good tips and help.
    Cheers!

    • Reply
      Amy
      August 21, 2021 at 3:10 pm

      EXCELLENT advice! Thank you so much for sharing, Yvonne! And I agree, if all you need is a straight stitch, than one stitch is definitely a PRO! And you’ve given me motivation to try my free-motion-quilting again – maybe this machine will be my magic ticket to getting over my fear!

  • Reply
    Cary Ann
    August 21, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    I’ve been considering the Accomplish for awhile. Do you happen to know what the throat/harp space measures? I’ve had trouble finding that measurement online.

  • Reply
    Shelly
    August 21, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    Your timing on this post was perfect. I was literally just trying to decide between a straight stitch machine and one that has more bells and whistles. I ended up choosing the one that can do more, but I may purchase a straight stitch machine in the future and love hearing your experience. Thanks for all the deets!

  • Reply
    Cory
    August 22, 2021 at 7:29 am

    I think this is a common experience. I have the Brother PQ1500SL (made in the same factory as the Baby Lock Accomplish actually), and I have experienced this. I was just at a retreat last week and another quilter asked me about it too! I have found that if I wait for the machine to stop completely, use the cut button, and again wait for it to completely stop the cutting before I pull my fabric out, I very rarely have the issue. I guess it is just a chance for me to slow down a bit and enjoy the process while being mindful.

  • Reply
    Cory
    August 22, 2021 at 7:35 am

    I have the Brother PQ1500SL and fell in love the instant I sat in front of it and sewed some scraps. I’ve read a few different articles now that have said that Baby Lock contracts with Brother to build the Accomplish for Baby Lock, and Brother makes the Accomplish in the same factory that they make their own PQ1500SL! I think that is pretty cool. I have several machines now (mostly vintage), a Janome 4300 QDC, and my Brother PQ1500SL. The straight stitch machines receive the most attention from me. I love that I have the Janome for zig zag and other stitches when the occasion calls for them (I will soon be working on my first machine applique project), and when it doesn’t which is most of the time, you will find me piecing on the PQ1500SL or one of my featherweights!

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