A quilt can be a very personal item. Adding different designs and patterns to a quilt can bring a quilt to life.
A sewer will have more flexibility to choose more detailed and complex patterns. Swirls, intricate designs, and other shapes are all possible. It allows the sewer to get hands-on with their project without the use of rollers.
But can you use a regular sewing machine?
Yes, you can, but it will be quite a hassle.
The best thing to do is to look for a machine that will be able to accommodate free motion quilting. This article lists some things to consider when looking for your next sewing machine.
Most Recommended Free-Motion Sewing Machines for Quilt
Factors You Should Consider
It can be quite daunting to choose the right sewing machine for free-motion quilting. The important thing is to get the best equipment without spending a fortune. Here are a few things that you should consider before purchasing your next sewing machine.
Look for a Machine with a Wide Throat Space
Also known as harp space- throat space is the amount of space between the needle and the edge of the machine. The more area there is between these two points, the more room for a bulkier piece like a quilt or blanket to easily move through the machine. Most standard machines, or short arms, only have about 5 to 8 inches of throat space. But with the growing popularity, more manufacturers are producing much roomier options. Mid-arm options can come with 10 to 17 inches of space. And if the cost is not a concern, there are long-arm options that have over 18 inches of space.
Regardless of what size you decide on, keep in mind that a sewing machine with a larger throat space will make a better option for free motion quilting.
Quilting Speed - Why is this important?
When dealing with a large quilting project, speed is essential. Having a machine that varies in speed will allow you to complete many different projects.
A faster machine, like a straight stitching sewing machine, has a quilting speed to create 1000 stitches per minute. If decorative stitching is your goal, then a slow speed quilting machine would be a better option.
Stitches - Built-in Works Best
When looking at a quilt or blanket, straight lines are noticeable. You must be choosy when selecting your machine. Finding a machine that delivers straight and perfect stitches is very important. It can really affect the final product, turning a great looking quilt into something less attractive. For machine applique, blind hemstitches and zig zags are necessary. If you are an avid quilter, decorative stitches are a must. There is no shortage of decorative stitches with sewing machines today.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Yes, selecting the foot that is designed specifically for the sewing machine you are using is always a much better and safer option than going with a generic foot, using a generic foot will still get the job done.
When choosing a generic foot, keep in mind there are a few options available:
- Darning/free motion foot
- Feed foot
- A quilting foot
- Open toe applique foot
- And an edge stitching foot are some of the options that you can use for a free motion quilting machine.
Each foot works better for different sews. An edge stitching foot is excellent for patchwork piecing, while a walking foot is necessary for more straight-line work and ditch quilting. If an edge stitching foot is not available, a ¼ inch foot will be able to help do the piecing.
For machine applique, and open toe applique is required. Using this foot will give you an unobstructed view of where the needle pierces the fabric.
Flexibility is important. Although most free motion quilting is done using a darning foot, there are times you may want to use a walking foot to add binding or any stitch in the ditch quilting. Look for feet that easily snap off. It will pay dividends to have the flexibility of changing feet mid-sew. The ability to quickly swap the presser foot easily without sacrificing sewing time is a win-win.
Is Free Arm Necessary?
Yes. Having a free arm available will help you to maneuver fabric very easily under and around the needle. A free arm is located at the bottom of the machine and extends out from the body past the needles and feed the dog. A free arm will also give you the ability to sew pieces together, especially if you are attaching different patterns or shapes into a fabric. It will also help you work in a tight area with and putting on the final touches.
Bobbin- Side Loading or Drop-In?
For projects that require you to change the thread often, it is better to invest in a sewing machine that has a bobbin that is easily accessible. It is unproductive having to remove the quilt off the machine when it comes time to change the thread.
A top drop-in bobbin system that has contains transparent stitch plate over a side loading bobbin with an opaque cover.
There are a few options for sewing machines that have a large size bobbin. Look for a machine that allows you to adjust the tension of the bobbin. That is a bonus.
When equipped, a knee lifter makes lowering and raising the presser foot, making it completely hands-free. You use your knee and adjust the presser foot in one single motion leaving your hands where they need to be, on the quilt.
Some sewing projects may require you to have to start and stop. Especially when having to adjust working with bigger and bulkier projects. When finished, the needle should rest in the down position. Look for a model that has an up/down function. Machines with this option will keep the needle down when the machine stops. This will keep the needle in place and prevent it from ruining the stitch you were working on before stopping.
Without the up/down function, the needle will stop in the up position, which can lead to poor quality. The thought of having jagged and out of place stitches is not a good one. Similar to that of stitches that don’t fall into a straight line.
Drop or Cover Feed Dogs
The little teeth that are located underneath the presser foot are called feed dogs. They work by pushing the fabric through when sewing. When using free-motion quilting, you want to be able to push the quilt through using just your hands. With the feed dogs in the way, it will cause the quilt to bundle up, resulting in jams and unnecessary stoppage. Look for a machine that will give you the option to drop or cover the feed dogs.
Working on more substantial and more bulkier projects can be bittersweet. Where’s the fun in it if the machine is not properly equipped? When looking for a sewing machine, look for one that will make the project fun and not a hassle. Remember that every machine will be different as far as options and its functions. One thing to consider is that as the cost goes up, so does the machine’s capabilities.
Hopefully, this article has given you some insight on what to look for when selecting your next sewing machine. With the right machine, that quilting project that was just a dream now can become a reality.