The mention of quilting conjures up images of hot chocolate, a cozy fire, and Grandma in a comfy chair, covered in a fabric that has half square triangles patterns. Quilting is a hobby that many people take up to fill their spare time and is enjoying a rise in popularity this year. It’s the kind of hobby that one can also profit from, provides health benefits, and gives you that sense of tradition and community.

Quilting versus sewing

Many people would say that quilting and sewing are the same things, but it’s not. Sewing is putting together fabric through stitching with the use of needle and thread. Quilting, on the other hand, is the process of sewing layers of fabric (usually three) together to make a thicker padded material. The three layers are the top fabric or quilt top, the batting or insulating material (this provides the user warmth), and the backing material. Traditionally done by hand, many people now use a quilting sewing machine.

Quilting machine and sewing machine: the same?

Based on our definitions of sewing and quilting, a quilting machine is a sewing machine. Sure you can use your regular sewing machine for quilting, but quilting machines are made specifically for that purpose as it has capabilities and other features that regular sewing machines don’t have. A quilting machine has a larger throat space compared to a regular sewing machine. Basically, the longer your machine is, the wider the throat and the bigger workspace you would need. Other features of quilting machines that make it different from sewing machines are the extension table which is perfect for larger projects, and a piercing foot add-on, just to name a few. With all that said, so what’s are the best machines for quilting?

Our favorite picks

If you are new to quilting, you don’t have to worry as there’s a machine just right for you. Popular with beginner quilters is the Brother CS7000i computerized sewing machine – affordable and packed with features that one would usually see in more expensive models. This machine has a speed of every 850 stitches per minute and comes with an extended quilting table. It also features an auto-threader function that makes threading easy, an LCD touchscreen stitch selector that has 70 built-in stitches, and an LED light to illuminate your work area. This easy to use machine is light and portable making it ideal for quilters on the go.

If you’re more of the “go with the flow” type, you might consider getting a quilting machine that allows you to do free-motion quilting. Free motion quilting allows you to have total control of the direction that you want to stitch over the quilt. It lets you add more to the design by not just having a straight stitch but lets you use more quilting stitches and decorative stitches to your fabric (you can even have fun with the stitch length).

One of the best machines for this is the SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960. This is a computerized sewing and quilting machine that is ideal for free-motion sewing and quilting. It has an easy to use bobbin system with 600 built-in stitches and 13 precise buttonhole styles available. It even comes with 18 presser feet including an open toe foot, a darning and embroidery foot, a fancy trim foot, and even a stitch-in-a-ditch foot – for perfect seams and edges for your quilting projects. It has a top drop-in bobbin system to make bobbin loading easy and a drop feed lever that lowers the feed dog for a variety of projects.

We also like the Janome Memory Craft MC6650 sewing and quilting machine for free motion quilting. It has a host of features that include170 built-in stitches (which you can select on its LCD screen), two alphabets, independent bobbin winding, and a tops out at 1000 stitches per minute.  It has a max stitch length of 5 mm and a max stitch width of 9 mm. This versatile sewing and quilting machine is a sturdy one given its 10-inch all-metal flatbed which makes it ideal for all sorts of projects. It has a Start/Stop button that provides control at your fingertips. And don’t forget about the favorite stitch setting default that saves you time and effort – turn the machine on and your favorite settings are ready to go. 

If you are a serious quilter, we recommend that you check out Juki’s line of machines. A true workhorse, the Juki tl2000qi gives you a sewing speed of 1500 stitches per minute and has an automatic needle threader. It has a large extension table and an even feed foot. It even has features like an automatic thread cutter, it has free motion capabilities, presser foot pressure adjustment, and a knee lift. This is one of the best sewing machines for heavy-duty use as its aluminum die-cast frame reduces vibration while you work. It’s also able to handle all sorts of fabric, thus making it a good investment.

Another Juki favorite of ours is the Juki HZL f600 – it has a large LCD screen display and easy pattern selection and loaded with 225 built-in stitches. It affords you speed control (via a foot pedal) where you can go as high as 900 stitches per minute and go even go low to 80 stitches per minute. The HZL f600 has a walking foot for sewing multiple layers and comes with a durable quilting foot and quilt guide. Aside from its 16 built-in buttonhole styles, the buttonhole feature uses a sensor – giving you a perfect button placement through any kind of material. It is a reliable, stable, and quiet machine that also great for heavy-duty work.

If you’ve taken up sewing and quilting because Project Runway is your favorite show (who doesn’t love it?), you can unleash your inner designer with Project Runway limited edition machines by Brother. The CS5055PRW modelis packed with professional features that let you create the projects you’ve been dreaming of. This machine has 50 unique built-in sewing stitches including five styles of one-step auto-size buttonholes. It also has 87 stitch functions and a brightly lit LED work area for more accuracy. It has a free arm for sewing cuffs and sleeves and has an advanced easy needle threading system, and an LCD screen with computerized stitch selection where you can pick from a range of decorative, heirloom, or quilting stitches to add to your designs.

“To machine or not machine?”

Now that we’ve shared with you our choices, the question now is, “Do you quilt by hand or by machine?” Well, it all depends on what you. To help you decide, quilters advise taking size, fabric type, and the final products’ use into consideration.

What are you making? How big or small is it? What is it for? For large items like bedspreads, machine quilting is the way to go, unless you want to make a single quilt into a long-term project, then doing it by hand should be fine. Sturdier and heavier fabrics are much better dealt with using a machine as it can be difficult to push the needle through. If you are working with more delicate fabrics and pieces like silk, sateen, and satin which are fine and slippery, going by hand is the best option to avoid damaging your fabric. You also need to consider the final products’ use – will it be functional or more decorative. Items that serve a function will be exposed to a lot of wear and tear, so using a machine for such items is best as machine quilting is much stronger compared to those done by hand.

If you want to keep things traditional – go with hand quilting. Quilting by hand is a centuries-old tradition and many go this route as they find much enjoyment and satisfaction. Many prefer to quilt by hand, especially if working with delicate fabrics and pieces. Quilts done by hand are often a source of pride by their maker, and a lot of these hand quilters find the whole process relaxing and even therapeutic. So if you have the time and enjoy the process more than the final product, go with hand quilting. If you want to create more functional and heavy use pieces and are considering this as a business venture, the right quilting machine will be your best friend.

Visit our partner store, Sewing Machines Plus, and get great deals on purchases like discounts and free shipping with a Sewing Machines Plus coupon code.