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Best Sewing Machines for Quilters

What features do you look for in a sewing machine?


Sewing Machines

I always hear lots of comments about which sewing machines are the "best" for quilters, but what's best for your neighbor might not work for you. Which features do you think are required to create a great sewing machine? I'll share some of my opinions, and I hope you'll use the link at the bottom of the page to tell us yours.

My personal number one sewing machine "must have" feature is a knee lift. For me, that's always been a Bernina, but other brands offer the handy apparatus. A knee lift allows you to raise the presser foot by pushing your knee against a lever, leaving both hands free to remain on the pieces you're sewing. My mom always had this type of machine, and although I wasn't a rampant seamstress I became accustomed to it at an early age -- once you've used a knee lift, it's hard to be without it.

Other things on my list are items you'll find on lots of sewing machines:


  • The ability to sew a precise seam allowance, using special presser feet as a guide and/or by adjusting the position of the foot


  • Speed regulation, which allows you to sew at a pace that's best for your project, slow when you're doing exacting work and faster when super-precision isn't an issue


  • A "free arm" machine with an extension table that fits flush with the arm to create an expanded sewing surface


  • An easy to use bobbin winder


  • A machine with reliable and easy to use tension settings, which make it easy to switch between regular sewing duties, machine quilting, applique and other types of tasks


  • A machine that can be fit with a walking foot and a free-motion quilting foot (can be as simple as a darning foot, but specialty versions are best)

Contemporary sewing machines are outfitted with many, many more options: automatic needle threaders, switches that let you run the machine without pressing on a foot pedal, sewing machines with loads of specialty switches, the ability to make the needle end up in the down position or in the up position when the machine is stopped -- those features are just a sampling of what you'll find when you shop for a machine.

Sewing machine manufacturers are constantly updating their lines, adding new capabilities and improving old features. If you want an options-packed machine, plan to explore as many different brands as possible before you buy.

Sewing Machine Reviews

ConsumerSearch Review: Bernina Activa 200

ConsumerSearch Review: Pfaff Performance 2056

ConsumerSearch: What to Look for in a Sewing Machine

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