Quilting sewing machines is all about using the best tools to help you on your way. I am often struck by just how expensive quilting can be. Buying sewing machines is the biggest single expense. You might be tempted to cut corners with your budget as well as snipping off those corners to turn a piece! Let me persuade you that this is not a good idea.
Yes, any sewing machine can do straight stitch. Technically that is all you need for quilting, so why not buy the cheapest machine you can afford? Cheaper machines tend to not be able to cope with the demands of quilting. I had a Singer Confidence when I started and because I sewed infrequently, it lasted 7 years. When I started stitching more, it had problems. It did give me the confidence to sew. Sadly Singer machines are not what they used to be. I will never buy another. I upgraded to a Brother and the difference is amazing. Sadly we cannot all afford a Bernina.
Let’s look at a few problems with cheaper sewing machines:
1. Tension – getting your tension right can present a problem
2. Throat space – this was the reason I upgraded – fitting that full-size quilt into the throat space of a cheap end machine is going to cause problems – we will look more at this next week.
3. Durability – a cheap machine is just not designed to take the tear and wear of daily quilting.
Price is the main factor for many of us when choosing sewing machines. It is the reason why I chose the Singer Confidence. The 7470 at around 300 gbp seemed enough to pay to learn the basics of quilting and do my dressmaking. If it had not had technical problems with the computer side of things, I might still be using it. However, putting my first full size quilt through it was a nightmare. So I was almost relieved when it broke down.
What to buy? My, those sewing machines are expensive! It is not uncommon to pay more than 2,000 gbp for a sewing machine. Obviously, most of us are restricted by budget and my budget was much lower than that. I have to admit that I went to twice my budget for a dedicated quilting machine with that extra throat space. I do not regret it. What does annoy me is that with many of those machines, we are paying for fancy stitches we will never use. I did not get the machine of my dreams, but I do have a far superior machine to the one I had. Choose a sewing machine that’s right for you. Here are some tips to help you:
A. Test drive it. Buy from a reputable sewing machine specialist – speak to them, get a demonstration and try out the machine. Take a quilting sandwich and see how the machine handles the layers, not a single fabric.
B. Most manufacturers run offers from time to time, especially when a new model is coming out – you might get a bargain price on the older model. I saved 300 pounds and got a bundle of accessories as well as an extra accessory and the store had a bonus offer too, worth a total of over 120 pounds.
C. I would avoid online retailers for the most part. My machine was under guarantee, but the online retailer would not honour it.
D. If you do not have a sewing machine specialist retailer near you, many manufacturers have machines at exhibitions for you to see and try.
E. Talk to friends – what do they use? What do they really think about their machine?
F. Decide how often you sew, if you also want to embroider and choose a suitable machine.
G. Look for bargains on gumtree/ebay – people who have bought an expensive machine and decided it is not for them.
What is a quilting machine?
In general a quilting machine has a wider throat space, comes with feet that a dressmaking machine does not and has features that the latter does not. Usually it will have a better auto feed system. Quilting machines tend to be more expensive but the features are worthwhile.
Domestic v industrial
All domestic machines are intended for occasional use. None are guaranteed for use by a business. Consider an industrial machine – they are intended for daily use. Unfortunately, you’ll see the words ‘heavy duty’ on cheap machines. Juki are reliable and sturdy but tend to be straight stitch machines only.
A longarm is probably most quilter’s dream machine for quilting full-size quilts. They take a lot of space and start at around 6,000 gbp.
Many reputable sewing machine retailers can offer finance, spreading the cost of buying your machine. Always check the small print.
Words copyright Karen Platt 2018