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Which sewing machine should I buy for free motion quilting?

by Cheryl
(Pardeeville, WI)

What sewing machine should I buy to do free motion quilting? I have a Viking Rose and have always sewn on Viking machines.

Any recommendations?


Cheryl, first I apologize for being so delinquent in my response. I've experienced a problem with my host's software and your question (along with over 150 others) just recently appeared. I'm trying to get caught up.

On to the question at hand...

I'm partial to Viking, owning a #1+, a Designer 1 and the Designer SE, all with the embroidery units.

I was given the #1+ back in 1992. When it was time to upgrade in 2001, since I was happy with Husqvarna Viking, I stayed with the same brand.

Absolutely love the D1, it's a total workhorse and inherited the SE from my mother.

Putting my bias aside...

If you ask 10 different quilters which machine they'd recommend, you'd probably get 10 different answers. Not a bad thing when you think about it--it means there's not just one choice!

Test the machines you're interested in. First and most obvious, to make sure you like how it feels for how YOU like to quilt.

Test it also to 'feel out' the dealer. The dealer makes a huge difference in your satisfaction with the machine. You may need classes or to take it in to be repaired. If the dealer doesn't have time for you and your questions while he's trying to make the sale, he's certainly not going to have time after he's got your money.

You'll want a machine that makes a good straight stitch when you quilt, not one that wobbles. I'd try both free motion quilting and quilting with the walking foot installed. Does it come with a straight stitch throatplate (the one with the single round hole) or do you have to buy that separate?

What types of darning feet are available for the machine. Do they have one with an offset shank...personally I like an offset shank with an open toe for free motion quilting. Some manufacturers only make a closed darning foot. Can you open up the foot with a Dremel? It's nice to have the option.

If you are relatively new to free motion quilting, a stitch regulator might interest you. It keeps your stitch length uniform as you free motion quilt using a little laser light. However, if you've been quilting for awhile and your stitches are already pretty even, the extra cost may not be worth it.

Check for a quilting model of the machine you are looking at with extra room under the arm of your machine. This is one of the best improvements to sewing machines used for quilting. The extra room is terrific to have for those bigger quilts.

Will this machine fit your current sewing table or will you need a new table or an insert? Can you get it when you order the machine.

Stitch speed control...I shake my head at this one. You'll see high stitch speeds advertised, but frankly when I'm machine quilting, and especially when I'm following the drawn line of the design, I'm stitching at a slower speed so that I have more control. What I do want is a button so that I can LOWER the maximum speed the machine stitches when I put the foot pedal all the way to the ground...that way I can concentrate on the quilting and not how fast to move my hands...their movement is a constant rhythmic speed.

Are you interested in using an embroidery model to do quilting? There are a lot of digitized quilting designs by well-known, award-winning quilters. Have this technique demonstrated so you get a good understanding of how it's done. Then be prepared to take classes to learn how to do it and spend some time making projects to practice the skill on. Hooping a quilt is a skill to learn.

To sum it up...

...I want a machine for quilting that makes a good straight stitch with the types of quilting feet that I like. It needs to have speed control and extra space under the arm. I don't need the embroidery unit as I haven't used the ones I do have enough to justify the additional cost. Neither do I need the stitch regulator, I'm happy with my stitches as they are now.

Readers, what is important to you in a machine you'll use for free motion quilting? Just use the 'comment' link below to share your thoughts.


Julie Baird

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