This is a very text-heavy post but contains lots of information that I hope you will find useful about purchasing a sewing machine. Before you get started, check out this post which discusses important sewing machine features for quilters.
I am excited to share this sewing machine guide with you! It is a combined effort of your comments (here on the blog and on Instagram), my experience, and lots and lots of research. While I feel like I have been thorough, there are SO MANY options out there that it is impossible to be completely comprehensive. If your machine isn't listed here, that doesn't mean it's not a great machine!
Some things to consider
This list is arranged by price point, but just a couple of quick recommendations about buying a machine:
- No matter how wonderful and reliable your machine is, you will need to have it serviced somewhat regularly and you may encounter issues that require the help of a service center. Buying a machine from a local dealer is a great way to establish a relationship with someone who can help you when you need it.
- Consider buying used from a dealer. I bought my machine from a dealer who had used it as a display model in a show and was able to get it for a substantial discount. Buying your sewing machine from a dealer that sells used models may get you more bang for your buck.
Buying a sewing machine - a little different than ordering from amazon
The process of buying a quality sewing machine is going to be a little different than how you normally buy things. This post does not link directly to a place where you can purchase these machines - for the most part, good quality quilt machines need to be purchased from a dealer and are not available at online retailers. If you read an article where all of the recommended machines can be purchased online, I would be a little wary - many brands sell their lower cost models online but not their more premium machines.
Compiling all of this information was a little tricky because I had to rely on so many different sources - this is particularly true of prices. Each sewing machine has an MSRP, but most dealers will sell the the machine to you at a significant discount or be willing to throw in accessories, discounted or free future machine service, etc.
I did my best to find prices for the machine using a combination or manufacturer websites, message boards, and online shops but these are just approximations and the price that most people end up paying may be completely different than what I have listed. You may find that your local dealer has the machines at a higher or lower price.
Sewing Machine Manufacturers
It might be helpful to know that Singer, Pfaff, and Viking are all part of the same company and Janome and Elna are the same company. I love my Janome and it was the most commonly recommended brand when I asked others for recommendations, but there are Elna branded machines that are essentially the same as the Janome models. Elnas are not as common in the US and I had a trickier time finding information about them so there is only one Elna machine on my list, but they are a very good brand.
Machines for Quilters
This list is specifically created with quilter's in mind. Features such as a larger harp (or throat) space were given priority and I didn't focus on features that aren't quilting-related (such as a free arm, buttonhole stitches, etc.). There are a couple of straight stitch only machines on this list - these are great for piecing and for quilting but don't have a larger harp space. They are mechanical, non-computerized machines and can sew very quickly - they are known for being workhorses and are a great, reliable choice if you are looking for a machine at a lower price point!
I am relying a lot here on recommendations from fellow quilters since it is impossible for me to thoroughly try all of these machines. A machine that one person loves may not be the right machine for you. I definitely recommend visiting a dealer to try out a machine in person before making a purchase.
Choosing How Much To Spend
Sewing machines can be very expensive. While I know we are all in different financial situations, you will be spending a lot of time with your sewing machine and it is worth investing in something that will suit your needs long term. That does not mean that you need to purchase the most expensive sewing machine out there, but I am not adding very inexpensive machines to this list because I do not think they will give you the pleasant quilting experience that you deserve.
The prices here range from very affordable at $199 to very outside of my price range at $6999. While I love my Janome MC6600P that I paid $1250 for a decade ago, I would be very tempted to upgrade to the Janome M7 if I could afford it.
Because I think it is important to have a quality sewing machine, the lower priced recommendations are missing some of the nice quilting features like faster speeds and larger harp space, but are solid machines and would make great backup or travel machines if you decide to upgrade at some point.
Now it is time for the recommendations. I have done my best to try to make sure the information is accurate - if you notice any issues with the table, let me know and I will make the corrections.
Click the image to make it larger.
I hope you find this helpful or that it at least helps guide you in the process of purchasing a new machine. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to buy a machine that suits your needs and your budget.
How did you purchase your machine? Any tips for someone who is looking to buy a new machine?