How To Choose Sewing Machine For Embroidery Vs Quilting?

Buying a sewing machine can be tricky, especially if you are new to sewing. Some people are sewing specifically for their love of quilting. Others use their machines for many purposes and may even make clothing. But if you are new to sewing, you only know your intentions and you may not know what is needed or required.   

Ask yourself how you intend to use the machine. Sewing apparel? Do you want to use it to embroider names or designs? Will you use it for quilting or piecing or both?

If you are looking for a machine to sew apparel, look for one that has an over lock or zig zag stitch. You will use these stitches on the inner edges of your seams for a more professional look. They cut down on fraying that occurs with most seams over time.

Embroidery requires a machine that has been programmed for those stitches and designs. Usually, a sewing and embroidery machine combo comes with some preprogrammed designs and lettering. You can buy additional designs to use, as long as your machine has an outlet for adding such extras. These days it is as easy as plugging in a USB design or even hooking the machine directly to your computer to upload designs.

For quilt piecing, you will use a straight stitch. Look for a machine that allows you to adjust the length of the stitches. This will help you control your stitch work even on the smallest quilt block pieces.

For quilting, be sure the machine allows you to drop the feed dogs. You will need this option if you decide to give free motion quilting a try. Having them down allows you to freely move the fabric in any direction you choose – making waves, circles, feathers, etc.

Of course, if you plan to crosshatch quilt, you will want the feed dogs up. They will help keep your fabric straight and your stitches on track.

Armed with the knowledge of what you want to do, visit area sewing machine dealers. Look at what they have to offer and ask plenty of questions about the products. If you have a budget, tell them up front so they can help guide you to the right machine.  You may also discover that you haven’t budgeted enough for what you want. At that point, you have to decide whether to increase your budget or decrease your sewing machine expectations.

Be sure to ask about service after the sale. Is there a warranty? What is covered for free and what is the extended warranty worth? Does the store provide repair services? You may even find out that the shop offers free classes, sewing clubs, or regularly scheduled demonstrations!

If you plan to do your shopping at one of the big box department stores, be sure to keep your receipt and register the machine right away for the warranty coverage. Since the big stores often shuffle clerks among their departments, you may or may not get to talk with someone who knows a lot about the machines. Get online and read reviews from others who have bought the machine you are considering. You can learn a lot about a machine from the reviews it gets on shopping websites.

Also, look for a machine that fits your personal style. If you don’t like computers, you probably won’t enjoy a fully computerized machine. Opt for something more manual that still provides the features you will need. While it may sound trying, finding a machine to suit your needs has never been easier.  There’s a full range of products out there.

Quick Tips for Successful Machine Quilting

Machine quilting takes practice and good technique. Here are a few quick tips that will make your machine quilting easier and more successful:

  • To control your stitches:

Put your hands down on the area you are quilting, like a frame, with your thumbs touching. The area between your hands is the only area to pay attention to as you work.

Have in your mind where you will be stitching, and what kind of shape you will be making. Then watch the fabric where you want to stitch – not the needle as it is stitching.

Practice stitching on a fabric sandwich (2 layers of fabric with a piece of batting between) about 24 inches square. Practice stitching various shapes, and pay attention to the sound of your needle. The goal is to move your fabric about 1/8 of an inch as your needle goes up and down.

  • About thread:

As a beginner, it is better to use light thread on light fabric. As cool as it sounds to use dark thread on a light fabric, every stitch will be magnified – and every mistake will look worse. If you want your stitches to show, you could use light thread on a dark fabric. For some reason, that combination does not show the mistakes.

A lot of thread for machine quilting comes on a cone. That saves money and time (having to re-thread your machine). If your sewing machine does not have a built in thread stand, you could put the cone in a glass measuring cup, and let it bounce around in there.

Be sure that the thread is coming off of the cone from the top, not un-rolling from the side. (I use this method, and have found that I need to place the measuring cup on the side of my machine, instead of behind it. For some reason the angle that it feeds into the machine makes a difference.)

By Penny Halgren of

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