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How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting

In the past year, I’ve been asked more than ever before for my favorite sewing machine for quilting. With people having more dedicated time at home over the past year, many people were taking up new – or renewing old -hobbies. If you are looking for a brand new beginner, entry-level sewing machine or you’re ready to update your previous machine for more throat space or other handy features, I’ve got lots of advice for you today. Scroll. down to learn more about the best sewing machines for quilting!

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter

Find a Sewing Machine Dealer

My first and most important piece of advice: find a local sewing machine dealer. Don’t buy a machine from a big box store (Target, Costco, etc.). Those big box stores like to make it feel like you’re getting a great deal.  But when it comes to well-calibrated machines that you’ll to enjoy year after year, project after project without any grief, the old adage is true: You get what you pay for.

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter - Visit a Baby Lock sewing machine dealer to test all of their popular machines

That is not to say that you need to spend a lot of money if you’re just getting started or maybe buying a first machine for a child or friend. There are some GREAT entry level machines at very reasonable prices. I’ll get to those below.

The reason you want to buy a machine from a licensed sewing machine dealer is that relationship is worth every penny. The A#1 reason to shop at a dealers is they let you try all of the machines before you buy one.

And then they will help you find the machine that is just right for your sewing level and budget. In addition to those invaluable reasons, they will often also provide access to free classes (in person or online) to help you learn how to get the most out of your machine. 

They also typically provide maintenance, repair, and trouble-shooting services if something goes wrong or when your machine just needs a tune-up.

And finally, a dealer will also allow your the opportunity to exchange your machine for new one when ever you are ready to upgrade! Dealers really are the best resource there is when it comes to finding happiness with a sewing machine.

They WANT you to succeed.

The machines at big box stores are generally lower quality and no one at Costco is going to teach you how to use your machine or help you troubleshoot when you run into a problem. (Which you most likely will sooner or later with one of those machines.)

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter

I have been working in a sponsored partnership with Baby Lock sewing machines for the past few years and have genuinely LOVED each machine that I’ve worked with. Baby Lock has provided me with a variety of sewing machines to sample and try out – from simple to super technically advanced – and I’ve loved every one. Since these are the sewing machines I’m most familiar with, I will be sharing my recommendations based on what I’ve learned and my own personal experiences.  

Baby Lock has a sewing machine that is just right for any level – a simple basic machine for a beginner or super high-tech, state-of-the-art machine will all the bells and whistles. They also have machines simple or complex to fit your needs! You can find your nearest Baby Lock dealer here.

Recently I visited My Girlfriend’s Quilt Shoppe – a local Baby Lock Sewing Machine dealer – and they walked me through all of the latest options and levels of machines. Here are some of their recommendations (and mine):

Best Sewing Machines for Beginners:

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter

Baby Lock recently released the the Genuine Collection – a refreshed collection of updated smaller, entry level machines. Here’s what I’ve learned and my experiences with beginner, entry level machines.

If you’re looking for a beginning machine and don’t want to spend a lot of money, a Baby Lock Zest is the perfect machine. It’s doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles, making it affordable, but still sturdy and reliable. Russell Conte – an experienced garment sewer and instructor,  who teaches sewing classes at a college, uses and recommends these machines for their beginning students. I highly trust his experience, opinion and recommendation.

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter - Baby Lock Jubilant - light weight, sturdy machine perfect for travel or a beginner sewing machine

If you are looking for a good just-beyond-entry-level-machine, whether it’s your first sewing machine, or you’re looking for a second machine that is easily portable, I highly recommend the Baby Lock Jubilant. It’s lightweight and easily portable (making it a great travel machine) but is sturdy with a consistent stitch. I have been sewing with the Jubilant for over a year now – especially when I am taking a machine to sew away from home. 

This machine has over 80 built-in stitches – including overlock, buttonholes, and a variety of decorative stitches. And it also sews a beautiful straight stitch at a decent speed- which is my biggest preference in a sewing machine.

Mid-Level Sewing Machines:

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter The Jazz machine is super simple to operate, sews 1,000 stitches per minute, has 28 different stitches, large throat space, and feed dogs that drop for free motion quilting. It’s another popular machine without extra frills that offers a lot of bang for the buck. It’s designed to be very easy to navigate and operate.

Another great mid-level upgrade is the Lyric. You can read Dana’s (from Dana Made It) review of her Lyric here.

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter - Baby Lock Accomplish Sewing machine - heavy-duty, fast straight stitch machine

If you’re looking for a one-stitch machine – as in you only need to sew a simple straight line and want to do it fast – the Baby Lock Accomplish is for you! This machine is sturdy and sews 1,500 stitches per minute and is perfect for any garment or quilting project. It also has expanded throat space and comes with a large extension table. This machine is a work horse ready for pedal to the metal.

Best Sewing Machines for Quilting:

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter

If you’re ready to upgrade to a higher-end machine, I recommend the Baby Lock Aria or the Crescendo. I’ve been sewing on the Baby Lock Crescendo for a few years now and it sews SO beautifully! It’s a bigger machine with lots of throat space for quilting and includes a dual-feed foot (an upgrade from a regular walking foot) and a free-motion foot. 

It also includes lots of other fancy features like a scissors button for instantly trimming threads – I love not having to remember to hold thread tails when I start sewing or long threads tails trailing from every seam. It makes for more efficient bobbin use. The automatic threader makes threading a needle SO easy. 

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter - Laser beam seam guide on Baby Lock Crescendo Sewing Machine

I also love the laser beam light you can cast on to the needle plate and beyond – perfect for making half square triangles or snow-ball corners. It also has amazing dual-feed stitching option for even feeding – perfect for sewing on binding or working with more slippery materials. 

The great thing is that many of these features are available in other Baby Lock machines at a variety of price points.

You can read more about a Crescendo machine in this review by Elizabeth Chappell of Quilter’s Candy. (We had very similar experiences switching machines.)

Honestly, there are so many handy dandy features on new machines these days. If it’s been a while since you’ve tried a newer sewing machine, you might have fun visiting a dealer and just seeing how far machines have come!

Versatile Sewing Machine Accessories:

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter - Baby Lock Sewing Machine accessories

Another one of the things I love most about Baby Lock sewing machines is that they come with a range of accessories and feet. And if you need/want to buy other accessories, their feet attachments are so reasonably priced – it’s easy and affordable to get the ones that you want.  AND many of these feet, bobbins, etc are interchangeable with the other machines. For example, I have a 1/4″ foot that works on both the Jubilant and the Crescendo machine.

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter

There’s a brief introduction to my favorite Baby Lock machines. A good, trusty sewing machine is worth it’s weight in gold. You will get so much more enjoyment out of your sewing experience when you have a reliable machine, as well as a reliable dealer for anytime your well-loved-and-used machine needs a little tune up.

If you’d like to learn more about the variety of Baby Lock machines, check out the Baby Lock YouTube Channel for loads of information and sewing machine tips!

How to Choose a Sewing Machine for Quilting, tips featured by top US quilting blogger,  Diary of a Quilter

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Jenny
    April 28, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    I just bought the Crescendo and I love it!! I’ve been sewing on the Sofia for 10 years so it was time for an upgrade. I’m most excited about the larger throat space. But the laser has been awesome for HSTs too!

    • Reply
      Amy
      April 28, 2021 at 5:15 pm

      Hooray! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the Crescendo! Isn’t it an amazing machine?!

  • Reply
    Jenny
    April 29, 2021 at 6:47 am

    Yes!! It’s definitely going to make quilting easier. I like to finish my own quilts rather than sending them to a long arm quilter, so a larger throat space was a must when I was looking at new machines. I also like that the Crescendo is very user friendly.

  • Reply
    Leslie K.
    April 29, 2021 at 8:48 am

    I LOVE my Aria….she has improved my quilting ability tremendously. I purchased it originally 3 years ago because I wanted a larger throat but there are so many wonderful features about the Aria that I have learned to love. I am still learning how to use a lot of the features!

    • Reply
      Amy
      April 29, 2021 at 12:41 pm

      Awesome. I have heard so many good things about the Aria!

  • Reply
    Sally
    April 29, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Another very good reason to purchase from a shop is that the machine will be in working order. I ordered a #brandname withheld which arrived with the belts not attached (fallen off in transit) but I didn’t know!! A couple of weeks of frustration followed, then I took it to the shop (merciful repair bill but minimum charge for their time $$$). Buy from a shop any time you can, the machine will work from Day One and there should be a grace period too.

    • Reply
      Amy
      April 29, 2021 at 12:41 pm

      Oh, yikes! Great example. What a pain!

  • Reply
    Paula
    April 29, 2021 at 4:30 pm

    My experience has shown me that I don’t need nor want the assistance of a dealer. When I’ve shopped for machines with a dealer, I find that they spend the bulk of their time demonstrating why their machines are superior to other top brands. I hate that, and found myself wanting to champion the other brands to bring balance to the discussion. This is not unusual, either–happens every time! A bit of research will tell you what the top brands are, but it’s nearly impossible to compare across brands because dealers are so tribal.

    I’m a fan of purchasing gently used machines on eBay. I know that sounds scary but if you do your homework you can end up with a fantastic deal. I’ve done it three times for myself and my daughters and didn’t regret any of the purchases. With the money I saved I can do it again, have a nice little upgrade without breaking the bank. Y’all can enjoy your classes and dealer support, and I’ll enjoy having money still in my pocket.

    • Reply
      Amy
      April 30, 2021 at 10:35 am

      Thanks for sharing your perspective and experience, Paula. I’m so glad that’s worked well for you! Doing homework ahead of time and knowing what you really want/need is such a smart move before any purchase.

  • Reply
    Ginny Clyne
    April 30, 2021 at 7:00 am

    I just upgraded from a Singer that I struggled with to a Jazz that I love. I just started quilting a year ago and mostly make simple baby quilts for the Linus Project.

  • Reply
    Stacy
    May 1, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks for this post. I appreciate your insight. I wish I could buy local but they start in the thousands.

  • Reply
    Dawn
    May 1, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    As someone who works for a babylock/brother dealer, I really appreciate your recommendation to shop local. We have a policy to never disparage other brands, it only makes you look desperate and petty. If our machines can’t sell themselves, then I’m in the wrong business. Buying a machine from a dealer has significant benefits, not the least of which is access to a factory-trained technician, ours has 23 years experience! we also offer 5 years free cleaning and lifetime lessons on the use of your machine. I take great pride in the relationships I have built with customers, and find it insulting when people use price as the only important factor in the purchase of a machine. Thank you for this post!

  • Reply
    Leeia
    May 4, 2021 at 4:49 am

    Hi Amy. I make a lot of quilts, mostly baby/lap size but I want to be able to free motion quilt and try ruler quilting. My machines harp space is too small. I REALLY want an Aria. That dual feed foot seems life changing. I’m very intimidated by all of the features and the price. All that being said I thought the Jazz II might be for me. I went to my local shop and they told me they don’t sell Jazz any longer because it’s motor tends to burn out. It doesn’t accommodate the weight of a quilt. ☹️ I’m so frustrated. Any thoughts or advice?

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