I am frequently asked for my thoughts on how to choose the best sewing machines for quilting. With people having more dedicated time at home over the past years, many people are taking up new – or renewing old hobbies. Whether you are looking for a brand new beginner, entry-level sewing machine or you’re ready to update your previous machine for larger throat space, variety of built-in stitches or other handy features, I’ve got lots of advice for you today. Continue reading to learn more about qualities to look for in the best quilting sewing machines!
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.
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 and satisfaction 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.)
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 Machines dealers– and they walked me through all of the latest options and levels of machines. Here are some of their recommendations (and mine):
Best Beginners Sewing Machines :
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 beginner-friendly, entry-level sewing 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 sewing machines for their beginning students. I highly trust his experience, opinion and recommendation.
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.
Most Baby Lock sewing machines have a handy top drop-in bobbin making threading the machine easy.
Mid-Level Sewing Machines:
The no-frills Jazz regular sewing 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.
If you’re looking for a one-stitch/straight-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! I shared more about the benefits of a straight-stitch machine and my experience with the Accomplish here.
This Accomplish is a heavy-duty sewing machine with a metal frame and all metal parts + knee-lift lever attachment that can sew 1,500 stitches per minute. This sturdy machine is perfect for any garment or quilting project.
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. As a result, these purely-mechanical machines also require a lot less maintenance and fiddling. Even the thread tension settings are easier on a mechanical machine.
This machine as its own selection of presser feet unique to this straight-stitch work horse, including it’s own walking foot attachment.
The Accomplish also has expanded throat space and comes with a large extension table which is great for machine quilting. This machine is a work horse ready for sewing pedal to the metal.
Best Sewing Machines for Quilting:
If you’re ready to upgrade to a higher-end machine, I recommend the Baby Lock Aria or the Chorus. I’ve been sewing on the Baby Lock Crescendo (prior version of the Chorus) for a few years now and it sews SO beautifully! It’s a bigger machine with a wide throat space for quilting and includes a dual-feed presser foot attachment with stitch regulator (an upgrade from a regular walking foot) and a free-motion foot as well as a knee lifter for fast transitions. Also capacity for a wider stitch width – and therefore more decorative stitch options.
It also includes lots of other fancy features like a scissors button (automatic thread cutter) 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. The automatic thread cutter makes for more efficient bobbin use. The automatic needle threader makes threading the needle SO easy.
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 with a stitch-regulator for evenly-feeding fabric layers– perfect for sewing on binding or working with more slippery materials.
The great thing is that many of these plus 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:
Another one of the things I love most about Baby Lock sewing machine is that they come with a range of accessories and over 7 sewing feet including a blind stitch and zipper foot. And if you need/want to buy other accessories, their sewing feet attachments are so reasonably priced – it’s easy and affordable to get the ones that you want. AND many of these sewing feet, bobbins, etc are interchangeable with the other Baby Lock machines. For example, I have a favorite ¼″ foot that works on both the Jubilant and the Crescendo machine.
Combination Sewing and Embroidery Machines
Baby Lock also has a range of Sewing Machines combined with Embroidery Machine functions. These machines can be used as a traditional sewing machine, but also have an embroidery attachment for a hoop for computerized embroidery designs. Many fonts and designs are included with the machine and there is also the capability to add other downloaded embroidery files.
I have been using the Baby Lock Destiny II machine (comparable to the current Altair) for about 6 years now and have loved it! One of my favorite features is being able to use files to foundation-piece traditional quilt blocks as well as computerized machine quilting designs to quilt my projects.
Once again, there is a large variety of sizes and price-points – based on hoop and embroidery sizes and machine capabilities. You can see the full range of Baby Lock Embroidery Machines here, but definitely talk to your sewing machine dealer as they will help you find the best machine for your budget and needs.
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!
Once you get your new machine, don’t forget to keep it properly maintained. Learn How to Clean a Sewing Machine here.
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!
Hooray! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the Crescendo! Isn’t it an amazing machine?!
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.
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!
Awesome. I have heard so many good things about the Aria!
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.
Oh, yikes! Great example. What a pain!
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for this post. I appreciate your insight. I wish I could buy local but they start in the thousands.
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!
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?
I replaced my 26-yo sewing machine (which replaced a 20-yo sewing machine) last fall. I needed to balance performance, features, and size as I have a desk in the corner of a spare room to sew at. I ended up with a BabyLock Soprano that is perfect for me! Raved about it so much my sister traded in her 5-yo machine of another brand and she got one too!
Oh, that’s so great to hear!
JULIE A FOSTER
Hi, I jùst finished my first quilt at Easter time. When I went looking for a sewing machine to start my quilting endeavors I knew I needed a big throat space. It is my intention to learn FMQ as soon as I have a quilt made for each of my 5 grandchildren. When I found the BL Jazz II, I knew this was my beginner machine for both the piecing and the FMQ. It sews fast or slow depending on what I need. I wish it had the scissor cut feature on it. That would speed things up and save some on thread use. Other than that, my Jazz II is perfect, I love my machine! I can’t wait to start the FMQ later this year.
Oh, I’m so glad to hear that! I’ve heard a lot of people love their Jazz machine. (But I agree – the automatic cutting butting would be the cherry on top.)