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Great sewing machine for beginners?

leahloo | Posted in General Discussion on


I used to do quilting (20 years ago) and want to get back into it.  Can anyone tell me what sewing machines are great (not too expensive) and EASY to use!  Thanks!!!


  1. damascusannie | | #1

    All you need for basic quilting is a good, straight stitch machine, so if you have a working machine, you are good to go. I'm a professional quilter with a machine quilting business and I do all of it on treadle machines, so you can see that you don't need anything special for quilting. If you don't have a machine any more, I recommend that you try several models, but don't let the dealer talk you into buying something that has way more bells and whistles than you need, especially since you don't even know if you like quilting or not. A lot of fancy stitches are of no use to you if all want to do is pieced patterns. If you are thinking that you might want to try some machine applique, you will probably want a good satin stitch and possibly a blind stitch, but that's about it. On the other hand, I do straight stitch machine applique and it's beautiful, so even for applique the special stitches really aren't necessary. I can't tell you how many ladies I talk to at quilt shows when I'm demonstrating who are kicking themselves for spending way too much on new machines that have dozens of stitches they never use, when their old machines were working just fine and doing everything they needed them to do.Annie

    Edited 1/21/2008 10:56 pm ET by damascusannie

    1. suemolitor | | #5

      How do you find a good straight stitch sewing machine with a wide harp for quilting and good relability? Any suggestions on which machine to buy?

      1. damascusannie | | #6

        Well, I think that you have to decide which is most important, stitch quality and reliability or harp size. Let's face it, when it comes time to work in the middle of a large quilt, there isn't ANY machine that's as big as we would like it to be! I personally prefer a vintage 15 class machine. It's got room for half a king sized quilt, although it's a tight fit, it makes a very good stitch and seems to be more forgiving of the stresses put on the thread by free motion quilting than drop-in bobbin machines. You have to keep in mind that my quilting circumstances are fairly unique because I choose to do it on a treadle sewing machine, so I'm limited to vintage machines. They are easy to find once you know what you are looking for. Ebay has dozens of them listed at any given time, but I just keep my eyes open at thrift shops, second hand stores, flea markets and garage sales. Annie in Wisconsin, USA
        ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
        ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
        See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

        Edited 2/27/2008 6:48 pm by damascusannie

      2. MaryinColorado | | #7

        Check out http://www.patternreview.com for machine evaluations by owners.  It's a great site! You can also google search each brand and go to thier websites to get the lowdown on what machines they make and the features of each.  I'd check http://www.husqvarnavikingusa.com, http://www.pfaffusa.com, brotherusa.com, bernina, babylock, etc. 

        Some features you might want are: needle up or down setting, drop feed dogs easily, walking foot which may be built in or you have to buy it seperately, depending on the model and year.  Knee lift, presser foot, cruise control (is great feature), preference of drop in or front loading bobbin.  (I love my drop in bobbin, but some quilters rave about the old steel bobbin cases for using heavier threads), heavy motor, large harp and sewing surface.  You don't really need a fancy "fabric mover" in my opinion though some like it...a teflon ironing sheet with the hole cut out above the feed dogs works great to provide a slippery surface. 

        Once you have an idea what you want, go to several dealers and test drive them!!!  Just like a car, this is paramount!  You may want local servicing by an authorized dealer, some ship them out of state.  Free "know your machine classes?"  Customer service? 

        There are good used machines too, many people trade up to the latest model and you can get  a good deal on them, sometimes a warranty too.  Oh, also http://www.allbrands.com has alot of quilting machines on thier site with and without tables, and also longarms. 

        If you buy a very old machine, I would get a mechanical (not computer), they tend to have good strong motors and less maintanance cost.  Treadles too as Annie mentioned. 

        Then there are the ones with quilting tables and long arms too.  So many choices, have fun researching and you will be quilting along in no time.  Mary

  2. MaryinColorado | | #2

    I agree with DamacusAnnie.  With the newer machines you will want to look at the size of the opening (harp)and the flatbed as many companies are making them too small for a quilt to fit in there.   I've been helping my mother in law search for a new machine.  She likes the Brother NS2??, can't remember which model.  She also want them to work on it locally as some must be shipped out for service.  Check out http://www.patternreview.com where the owners rate and evaluate thier machines.

     Some features I like are a free arm, needle up/down, some have a knee press instead of a foot control, some have a "cruise control" button too so your hands are free.  I also like the thread cutter on my machine as it "ties off" at the end before it cuts the threads for me, and speed control.  You may want to purchase a walking/even feed foot or a machine that comes with it, they are called by different names such as Pfaff IDT.  I manage great without it on my Vikings.

    For free motion quilting, you want to be able to drop or cover the feed dogs. I bought a clear plastic table that was cut to size for my portable machine.  Several companies sell them.

    Stitches that I like are the "heirloom quilt stitch" that uses YLI invisible polyester thread in the needle and qulting thread in the bobbin so it looks "handqulted", crazyquilt stitches, satin stitches for applique. 

    I have done pieceworked and quilted clothing and home dec, but must admit I am new to making actual large quilts so take my thoughts with a "grain of salt" on this.  Mary

  3. Pattiann42 | | #3

    Almost every brand has a model for quilting.  I have not looked at any lately, but I am intrigued with the Berninas that have the BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator).  This feature controls the stitch length when you are doing free-motion stitching. 

    Some machines have a built-in, even-feed feature to reduce shifting of layers as you stitch.

  4. cookymom | | #4

    When I wanted a new sewing machine for quilting, I went to a Bernina dealer and bought a Bernette.  It was a klinker so I upgraded to the Bernina Activa, a series that includes a Quilters edition.   It's good to work with and much more sophisticated than my old girl.  

    Like you, I wanted to sew again but my Kenmore had stayed in it's case for 15-20 years and it was skipping stitches.   Berninas are a bit pricey and the even feed or walking foot is expensive at $125.00.

    However, I have been sewing machine shopping for a great-niece and looked at the Kenmore's on sale.  I know another company makes them and I think the basic model would work for quilting.  I've also looked at the Jenome Jem, a light-weight portable machine.  Go to patternreview.com to see info about all types of machines.  Also look for a site called Quilter's Review because the woman has written a book about buying sewing machines.

    If I had not been in such a hurry, I would have hunted for a second-hand, high end machine such as a Viking, Pfaff or Bernina with the biggest harp I could find.


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